I attended the 2012 Ironman 3 Gun Match in Parma, ID June 3rd-5th, competing in Trooper Division. Ironman sets itself apart from other 3 gun matches with its high round count and long stages; it is roughly triple the round count of other major events. Trooper is unlimited in terms of equipment restrictions; there are none, but competitors must carry all their gear from stage to stage on their person. You can see all the equipment I brought for the 2012 match here.
The match was well organized and ran efficiently. Shooting started at 7AM and we were generally done shooting before 7PM with two stages before lunch, and 2 more after lunch on days 1 and 2. Day 3 left us with 2 stages before lunch and one after lunch then awards/prizes. The weather in Parma, ID is very erratic and competitors need to bring clothing to deal with anything from freezing rain to temperatures in the high 90s. The second day of the match got into the high 90s, but at the end of the day storms rolled through with 45+mph winds that lowered temperatures dramatically and caused the match to shut down early (too many targets blowing over). The last day of the match was in the 50s with constant rain and wind. Despite the bad weather, the match continued on schedule.
Trooper Victories and Casualties
Trooper division had more participation than ever with at least 31 competitors starting in the division. Trooper gets bigger every year with more highly skilled competitors. As one of the founders of Trooper, this is something I am glad to see even though it means my personal chances of placing high are reduced. Competing against the best is one of the best things about the sport. Ben Fortin dominated Trooper division winning first place and high military category. He was followed by Travis Gibson in second Sean Smith in third. Complete match results are posted online here. I placed 6th, which is better than I expected given the level of competition at the match and some of the equipment issues I had (described below).
Several troopers were lost due to disqualifications for various reasons; including dropped guns or abandoning a gun that was still loaded with the safety off. Ironman is a marathon, not a sprint; It is well worth it to slow down slightly to make sure you do everything safely and make it through the entire match. Equipment problems cause attrition even amongst the best competitors. Iian Harrison, who has regularly placed in the top 3, unfortunately had to drop out of Trooper and move to Open division when his Saiga-12′s fire control became inoperable, and he did not have spare parts or a spare Saiga-12 carried with him. Shotgun breakages are the number one reason why competitors have had to drop out of Trooper over the years. Another competitor on my squad had the floating dust cover on his Saiga-12 break off inside the action and prevent it from cycling. I remove these from my guns due to this possibility and it also allows spent casings more room to eject. I was able to coach him through field stripping his gun on the clock and getting the debris out and the gun back into action.
I used my vio POV HD for most of the stages this year. Overall I liked used it and the quality of the video. I did miss recording two of the stages with it though, so stages 2 and 10 are low res substitutes. Watch the videos below with captions/annotations on as I explain whats going on during the stages. If you have not attended an Ironman watch them all to get a good idea of what is in store for you at the match.
Stage 10 (my camera didn’t record this one, so here is Don’s run)
|Ammo left over||339||252||89||20||30|
*I had to reshoot Stage 10, they called the match due to weather while I was shooting the stage, so I shot more rifle than I would have otherwise.
**No buckshot required or allowed on most stages this year
I took enough ammo so that I didn’t worry about running out, and not so much that it was overly burdensome to carry. Shooters considering participating in Trooper should consider their hit ratio at local matches and use that to determine how much extra ammo to take.
After each Ironman match I always analyze what I need to work on for next year. The biggest thing I did wrong this year was not use the same set of equipment for 3-4 months for all local level matches prior to going to Ironman. In years past I have done this, and not only does it make me more comfortable and familiar with everything I am using, if there is going to be a problem I can identify it earlier. I did not follow this practice this year because until the end of April I was preparing for the Tiger Valley team match and used different equipment partly due to rules for that match, and partly based on the problems/conditions faced in that competition. It’s hard to prepare optimally for two major matches so close together.
1) Slug Accuracy.
My slug accuracy started out bad and got worse as the match progressed. From the bench sighting in the best I got was a 5″ group at 50 yards. I thought this was good enough given that we normally shoot at large steel plates and the smallest slug targets are 10″ plates at the match. It ended up not being good enough. I wasted a lot of time and ammo on slug double spinners at 50-70 yards. The double spinner has a 8″ plate on top and 10″ plate on the bottom. It must rotate 360 or a 60 second penalty is incurred. Slugs normally rotate it in 2 hits, but I had to expend 10-15 shots on many to get my hits. By the end of the match my slugs were flying so erratically hitting the 18″ steel plates at 75 yards was a challenge. I pulled my choke off the end of the barrel when I got home and found a large amount of lead build up at the end of the barrel in the transition between the choke
I zeroed with slugs again after removing the chokes and the groups are now much better with the slugs touching or almost touching.
2) Primary rifle not reliable.
The primary rifle I intended to use had less than 1000 rounds through it when I took it to Ironman 2012. It had proven accurate and reliable at two local matches. The first stage of Ironman I had multiple failures to feed the next cartidge. The bolt fully extracted and ejected the spent casing, but would not chamber the next cartridge. With this being an intermittent malfunction, it was hard to diagnose, but I believe it was primarily from using a buffer that was too heavy with PMC .223 ammo which is not as hot as other .223 or 5.56mm loads. Another competitor on my squad experienced the same malfunction with the same ammo and buffer combo in his rifle, also intermittent. His rifle also ran reliably in AZ but not so up in ID. Fortunately I brought a spare rifle and used it for the rest of the match and it ran flawlessly. At the very end of the match I loaned my back up rifle to a Tac-Limited shooter whose rifle broke at the start of a stage and it ran fine for him too. I installed a lighter buffer when I got home and the primary rifle now runs reliably.
3) Saiga-12 feeding device malfunctions
My MD Arms drum malfunctioned on the first two stages, so I ditched it. The spring likely needs to be wound tighter. I had two malfunctions with my standard 10 round magazines due to weak springs; I’ve been using the same mags for 4-5 years and should have replaced the springs a while ago. The gun itself was reliable, this is the first time I’ve had zero malfunctions that were the fault of the gun itself with the Saiga-12 at Ironman.
Things to do differently next year…
1) More training, more exercise.
This year was the least effort I have put into preparing for the match in a long time and while I still placed reasonably well, I was not happy with myself for how I did on several of the stages.
2) Bring a Pistol Caliber Carbine.
Troopers can use Pistol Caliber Carbines instead of rifle and/or pistol on many stages. There were a lot more opportunities to use them to great effect this year. I had brought one a couple years in the past, but after getting my red dot Glock ended up not using one. This year the advantages of the PCC were obvious as several competitors on my squad used them to great effect; particularly on double spinners. They could get 3-4 hits on the plates in the same time it took me to get 2.
3) Bring a .308 rifle
A .308 is definitely not required, but I feel that it may be an advantage or help solve particular shooting problems. The rifle double spinners and dueling trees were handled much more easily by the competitors with .308s that I witnessed. There was not much close range rifle hosing where a .308 would have been a disadvantage, particularly when I could have used a 9mm carbine on those portions. Trying different combinations of equipment is one of the things that I find intellectually stimulating about competing.
The Ironman 3 Gun is a one of a kind competition shooting event. Every competitive shooter should go at least once. It gives me something to look forward to every year and focus my efforts towards self improvement and trying new types of firearms and shooting technology. If you’re planning on going to Ironman 2013, or even 2014 the time to start getting ready is now.