The Final of the PRS 2016
Over the weekend, 140 of the top long range field shooters in North America met in south Texas at the FTW ranch for the Precision Rifle Series Finale.
A total of approximately 32,780 rounds were fired over 2 days and 24 stages at ranges from 300 yards to 1520 yards. This was without a doubt the most technically difficult match of the year.
Competitors competed at various venues throughout the year to earn a spot in the match.
Each shooter’s top 3 finishes were totalled together for points, and the top 75 were invited.
The rest of the field was made up of regional qualifiers, top level shooters in the Tactical and Production divisions, as well as the Lady, Senior and Junior competitors.
A bit about what PRS Is
The Precision Rifle Series, if you are not familiar with it, is a national level championship style match series which is held at various locations throughout the United States and Canada.
The PRS is a fairly new shooting sport in the States which is growing at a phenomenal rate. Shooters from all disciplines and walks of life have embraced the sport and it is exploding nation wide. Go to any match and you will find current and prior military, law enforcement, doctors, lawyers, farmers, professionals and hunters. If you can think of it, there is probably one on the range.
One of the largest attractions to the sport is the move away from the square range prone paper matches which historically have made up long range events.
Paper targets are used occasionally but generally the target sets are steel ranging from sub minute of angle to 2.5 minute of angle dependent on range.
Unpredictable Course Layouts
Stages are not just shot from the prone, but from just about every conceivable position. Barricades that simulate walls and window frames are utilised. Cars, roof top simulators, cargo nets, culverts, handrails and all sorts of man-made objects are utilised for firing position as well as anything that can be found in nature or is available to the match directors.
You never really know what you are going to get until you get there. Every match venue is different and the courses of fire are never the same. The most well rounded consistent shooter usually takes the day.
Typically a stage will focus on one or two primary skills set in a scenario that a shooter might encounter in the field whether it is in Law enforcement, Military or whether it’s primarily for hunting situations. It’s a refreshing way to compete with a long gun.
Competitors are not really competing against each other, but rather against themselves, the weather conditions and the shot timer.
This is an example of a typical stage one might encounter during a match:
Par Time: 90 seconds
Allowed Equipment: Run what you brung
Target Indicators: White
Left of windmill @ 760 yards @ 16” Square
Left of yellow targets @ 812 yards @ 20” Square
Left of white targets @ 890 yards @ 20” square
Left side of the right canyon rim @ 663 yards @ 16” square
Right side of the right canyon rim @ 657 yards @ 16” square
Starting from port arms, upon start signal go prone and engage targets 1-5 with one round each. Then repeat the engagements on targets 1-5 with one round each. All equipment that you brought must be carried throughout the stage.
On the surface this appears to be a fairly simple problem to solve, but in reality it was anything but.
In reality this stage was about time and data management as well as being able to determine what the wind value was going to be at various angles.
The targets are actually laid out in an approximately 120 degree arc.
When I shot the stage, the first target had a no value head wind with the last target having quarter value tail wind. As you might have surmised, the 2nd 3rd and 4th targets had varying degrees cross winds.
It’s a lot to keep track of in ninety seconds.
Time is definitely a factor, so dialing for elevation was not really an option. The correct approach was to set a zero and use the reticle to facilitate trajectory compensation.
During the 2016 season I competed in the Open Division.
Just as it sounds there are very few restrictions in this division. Basically if it has a muzzle velocity of 3200 fps or less and is smaller than .338” it is legal.
There are no weight or gear restrictions unless the individual match director decides to have them.
Gone are the days of the 308 Winchester being the premier long range target round in the US. The field is dominated by 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges.
You will typically see a variety of different chambering’s but they all are in the same performance band. Also rarely will you see the larger magnum cartridges.
The typical rifle is chambered in cartridges such as ;
6mm and 6.5 Creedmoor,
260 Remington and 243 Winchester
To name a few.
Shooters must see there own misses and impacts thus the use of highly efficient lower recoiling cartridges.
The tactical class is much more restrictive.
308 win/7.62x51mm NATO and 223 rem/5.56x45mm NATO are the only allowable cartridges with speed limit and bullet weight restrictions. 178 grains at 2800 fps for the 308 and 77 grains at 3000 fps for the 223.
Production class is the final division.
A value limitation of $2500 US total is applied to the rifle and optics.
This classification is geared towards the new shooter in order to facilitate growth and participation.
The price limit is to prevent the shooter using an off the shelf rifle from having to compete with a shooter using rifles such as the Accuracy International series or Sako TRG’s.
All shooters shoot the same course of fire at the same time and compete for the same overall positions during a match.
This year’s finale was a slug fest. Variable winds, small targets and tight times in combination with a stacked field made for a very dynamic two days of competition.
12 stages were fired on day one. At the end of the day, we were all actually surprised by how low the scores were.
Personally out of 108 planned engagements, I managed to connect with 61 for a 56.48% hit rate. Not really what I had hoped for going into the match.
My first day score placed me at 37th in the field.
That evening all the competitors gathered for a pizza and drinks. We discussed typical shooting issues and whether or not we had forgotten how to shoot.
Day 2 started with me being the first shooter on our first stage which was a 5 round big to small progression at 1510 yards.
Four targets big to small and you must hit to move on.
The first target was approximately 36” in diameter and I managed a 2nd round hit. I then hit the next smaller target that was 30”, but just couldn’t connect on the 3rd which was 20”.
Just for perspective my data at that distance was 17.6 mils of elevation (subtracted .4 for tail wind moving up hill), 2.5 mils of left wind, remaining velocity of 1113 fps and a time of flight of 2.653 seconds.
I was actually happy with that stage and felt that I would improve on the previous day’s performance, but in reality the wheels fell off after that.
I did well on about half the stages but the rest were just a train wreck. I made numerous mental errors and struggled with the course of fire. I quickly realised that day two was much more difficult as it should be for the level of competition present at the match.
At the end of the day, my total match points sat at 112 hits. Unsurprisingly I was disappointed in my performance of 52.09% hit rate. That’s a far cry from the 80%+ hit rate I was used to. I ended the weekend placing 40th in the match and 47th nationally.
Tyler Payne of the US Army Marksmanship unit took the match with a hit percentage of 68.37% as well as being the overall PRS champion for the year.
Jared Joplin, owner or American Precision Arms or APA, took the tactical division with a 49.30% hit rate.
John Herring of New Mexico rounded it out with the win in the production division.
All in all I’m looking forward to the 2017 series which begins in a few weeks. I’ve learned some things I need to improve on and I am in the process of developing a better way to train.
Gear used during the Match:
140 gr Berger Hybrid BTHP
Badger M2013 action
Hawk Hill barrel
Bix and Andy Marksman trigger
Vortex 4.5-27 Gen II razor
Manners T4A stock with heavy fill
Kestrel 4500NV with Applied Ballistics