The Pecos Run-N-Gun is a shooting and foot race biathlon held in the West Texas desert. It has never really been advertised and if you Google it most of what you will find are old forum posts of people talking about it. The important thing to know about this competition is it is one of the few that equally tests both the competitor’s skill with firearms and their physical conditioning.
Don Langworthy recently won first place at the 2012 Pecos Run-N-Gun competition. I have known Don since 2002. Don is a competitive shooter, but he is also an athlete; a rare combination in the competitive shooting world. Most people in competitive shooting world neglect the physical aspects of the sport; or do just enough physical training to be effective in shooting competitions. Don has a passion for fitness and shooting, and those things are what drew him to the Pecos Run-N-Gun. Don recently placed first this year after a 2ndplace finish in 2011. Don currently works as Gun Manager of Shooter’s World, where he applies his knowledge and experience with firearms to better serve his customers.
I spoke with Don to get his thoughts on the match and what went into his win this year. My questions are in bold, Don’s responses are in italics
How many times have you done the Pecos Run-N-Gun?
2012 was my third time. I placed 5th in 2009 and 2nd in 2011.
How has it changed from year to year?
In 2009 and previous years the run was held in August, which was substantially hotter than the October dates for 2011 & 2012. Also, the course changed in 2011 to a slightly different location, but the the overall distance seemed to remain the same. 2011 and 2012 were virtually identical in all aspects except how the running order was determined.
What have you changed in regards to your equipment from the first time to your win this year and why?
This match doesn’t require much equipment-wise, but each shooter has to determine the balance between carrying too much or not enough. I scaled my gear down to what I confidently felt was the minimum safe level, but I certainly could have taken a smaller pack or less ammo. Overall my kit for all 3 years has been very minimalist, although I still carried a basic AR field repair kit (with 3-piece rod) and emergency medical supplies.
What have you changed in regards to your fitness routine to optimize for the Pecos Run-N-Gun?
It might sound obvious, but if you want to win a race you need to start running. In the weeks leading up to the match I tried to do a 3-mile run twice a week, and a 5-mile run every other week, in addition to my normal workout routine.
What does your daily/weekly exercise routine consist of?
Earlier this year I completed the P90X program, and was about 2/3 of the way through it a 2nd time prior to the Pecos trip. It is a pretty rigorous total body workout that alternates cardio, upper & lower body, core strength and flexibility to produce great results. On top of doing P90X 6-7 days a week I did the above-mentioned runs and generally bike 20+ miles a week as well.
What are some other extreme competition events you have participated in?
Does shooting Trooper Class at the MGM Ironman 3gun count? I’ve done that quite a few times. Earlier this year I began participating in various “Mud Run” events such as Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, which I’m also signed up for in 2013 as well as various shorter events. Last weekend I did the “Dirty 6” Mud Run in Phoenix, which was 6.5 miles, where I placed around 50th out of 500+ runners (final results are still being tallied at this time).
How does the Pecos Run-N-Gun compare to Tough Mudder or Spartan Race with regards to physical difficulty?
Other than running, the Pecos Run-N-Gun doesn’t really force you to do anything else physical, although shooting long-range targets when winded is incredibly challenging. Spartan Race and Tough Mudder are 8-12+ miles, and in addition to getting you muddy and freezing cold pushes your entire body through series of obstacles and phsyical challenges. However, you can power through them with brute strength, whereas Pecos requires you to settle your mind and body and make hits from unorthodox shooting positions out to 400 yards.
How much water/fluids did you take with you?
I carried a full 3-liter Camelbak, which I consumed about 80% of. I drank a lot of water before starting too.
Did you use any energy or electrolyte replacement products, if so how much did they help?
I had a long wait at stage 4, so I ate a pack of Clif Shot Bloks which was refreshing (along with a 15 minute wait which gave me time to recover before shooting). 5 minutes before my run I took a Clif Shot Double Espresso Gel which gave me a bit of a push out of the starting gate too.
You own many types and configurations of rifles, what rifle and optic combo did you choose for the competition this year and why?
Earlier this year I got a hold of a Larue PredatAR in .223, which I’ve been using heavily for 3-gun competition. I felt it was the perfect gun for Pecos because it is sub-MOA accurate, but ridiculously lightweight (only 6.5lbs from the factory). It has a long 15″ freefloat handguard that is great for shooting off barricades like stages One and Two required, because you can rest solidly without contacting the barrel and getting deflection. I topped it off with a Trijicon ACOG TA31H-G which is a great compact 4x scope that was ideal for the 100-400 yard targets at this match.
What type of ammo did you use?
PMC Bronze 55gr FMJ. Although a heavier bullet may have helped fight the wind on longer shots, this is my default 3-gun load that my gun was zeroed for.
How do you think your experience in action shooting sports helped prepare you for the competition?
Knowing your hold for longer ranges, shooting from awkward positions, and shooting support side were all required for this match, and fortunately I practice those regularly at the local matches I participate in. Competing several times a month in events that push your speed, accuracy, and endurance on the clock prepares you for a match like the Run-N-Gun, where you might be exhaused and taking a 200+ yard offhand shot.
Tell us about the shooting courses, what distances were the targets at? Were they more accuracy or time based?
Most of the targets were between 100-200 yards, except stage 5 where we shot out to 400 yards. There were also close-range pistol targets on Stages 2 and 6. All stages had a 4-minute time limit, but most required less than 10 rounds and could realistically be finished in 30-60 seconds. I shot as fast as I could with reasonable accuracy, and was in the top 10% for 5 of the 6 stages.
What environmental factors did you need to consider when shooting the stages?
Most of the shooting positions at this match won’t allow you to go prone or even kneeling in many cases because of the brush and ground cover. Therefore the ability to make hits from an unsupported standing position is invaluable. Stage 5 had the longest targets, but had enough clearance to get fairly low to the ground and support your rifle; I shot from a kneeling position with an extended bipod. The wind was deceptive on that stage for me, because there was no breeze at my position, but a pretty decent crosswind at the 400 yard plate. I underestimated the wind (and was not heeding the RO’s advice), and wasted a lot of rounds before I scored my 2nd hit on that target.
What was the required round count vs the amount of ammo you expended?
I think the minimum round count would have been about 40 rounds. I always carry more than enough to be safe, and fortunately I did because I struggled with the 400 yard plate on stage 5 and expended almost 30 rounds before clearing the stage. Because of that I used about 70-80 rounds total for the match. There were approximately 15 pistol targets and I used about 25 of the 50 rounds I was carrying.
Did you use any accessories that made the courses easier?
At last minute I borrowed an extended Harris bipod (13-27″ I believe) with a QD Larue mount. I started with it mounted on the gun, but due to the weight ended up taking it off and on between stages and stuffing it into my pack. I thought it would help me out on some of the more rugged shooting positions but a few times I found it to still be too low to clear cover even when fully extended. Another competitor showed me his super-lightweight shooting sticks that folded up into a tiny pouch, and in the future I’ll probably try a set of those out.
Tell us a little bit about the load bearing gear and pack you wore for the match, why did you choose it?
I tried to keep clutter off of my belt, and use a pack that allowed me to access the items I needed on the move without a lot of fumbling. I wore a Wilderness Instructor Belt, a Galco Triton IWB holster (with Glock 19), and a single pistol and AR mag pouch on my support side. I also had a Maxpedition RollyPoly pouch to store my earmuffs on the move. My pack was a Camelbak Linchpin which was much larger than necessary, but the outer pockets are sized for AR15 mags, and there is a generous “dump pouch” area that was perfect for stowing the bipod.
What would you do different for next time?
Probably find a smaller backpack with a similar layout, and swap the bipod for shooting sticks. I wouldn’t reduce my ammo load because you never know what might go wrong, and an extra pound of ammo can go a long way on a tough course. Other than that I felt like I chose my gear wisely this year.
For the athletes reading this, how should they get started if they want to do these kind of physical shooting events?
Start shooting local 3-gun and carbine matches, and incorporate physical activity into your shooting practice as much as possible. Simply doing a light jog, or a minute of jumping jacks or burpees can dramatically alter your shooting, and knowing how to compensate for that fatigue can be a huge advantage at any match.
For the shooters reading this, how should they get started if they want to participate in more physical competitions?
The same advice as above applies to shooters as well. Push yourself out of your comfort zone during training, and find your limitations. Start hiking, running, or biking during the week and you’ll be surprised how much it helps you in competition. No one ever regrets being in better shape, or wishes that they couldn’t run farther or faster. Physical fitness is a very inexpensive discipline to improve on versus shooting, so use that to your advantage.