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Gear Lessons from Desert Brutality

This is a guest post from Sunshine Shooter, who runs the Pro-Gun Millenial Blog. I’ve been writing so much about how to carry gear for different situations, and I thought it would be valuable to get his lessons learned from a recent match. Desert Brutality is a physically intensive event, and a great way to test out your gear.

If you would like to have an article featured on The Everyday Marksman, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Enjoy the post!

– Matt

Desert Brutality

Desert Brutality is an annual 2-gun (rifle & pistol) match in the American Southwest. It’s the brainchild of Karl Kasarda of InRangeTV fame. Unsatisfied with the modern state of 3-gun, namely how it has become a shotgun reloading match with rifle and pistol targets thrown in for variety.

Karl created a venue for people with real-world practical gear to come and put it to the test in as a realistic manner as possible. Events include running, jumping, crawling, mental challenges, and basically everything that modern ‘practical shooting’ matches have abandoned.

Karl has run a local club-level match in Tuscon every month for a few years that follows his “try to replicate real usage, not caters to gamers” philosophy. In 2018 he decided to spread the love and make a national-level match open to people from all over.

The inaugural Desert Brutality in Feb 2018 attracted almost 200 shooters from all over the nation and even some from Europe. It was so well-received that he ran it again in Feb of 2019. I happened to be at a place in my life that allowed me to attend. Enrollment was completely full for the 2019 match, so I’m expecting this to become a regular thing for the near future.

This post isn’t about the match, but about how I carried my gear during it.

This site has been doing a great series on different styles of load carriage and I was asked to contribute my experience at DB.

Desert Brutality Load Carriage

My load carriage for DB 2019 differed dramatically from what you’ve read on this site recently.

I only shot 144 rifle rounds and 98 pistol rounds over the course of 2 days. Loading up on ammunition wasn’t really a requirement. I kept a range bag with me between stages. That meant I didn’t even need to carry that ammo on me the whole time. However, if you wanted to, there is a division for that.

This really allowed me to set up my gear favoring freedom and mobility over firepower.

Basically, this setup allows a person to go hard for a couple of minutes and nothing more.

Desert Brutality 2019 loadout
Sunshine Shooter’s Loadout for Desert Brutality 2019

The gear shown is as follows:

  • Belt: Blue Alpha Gear Hybrid EDC
  • Holster: T-Rex Arms OWB/IWB convertible
  • Rifle mag pouch: HSGI Belt Mount Taco
  • Admin Pouch: probably Condor (received as gift)
  • Pistol mag pouch: HSG Double Pistol Taco

Gear Breakdown

The belt I ran is the same one I use for everyday carry (EDC): a Blue Alpha Gear Hybrid EDC belt. It’s a standard Cobra buckled belt made to fit through standard belt loops. It’s simple, useful, and robust.

Now let me explain my holster.

If a gun falls out of a holster during a stage, it’s an automatic disqualification. I did not own a retention holster, so I made one. The white strip you see is Velcro I modified attached via screws through existing holes. The Velcro added maybe 5 or 6 extra seconds throughout the whole weekend and never snagged on anything the entire time I wore it. Calling it ‘cheap insurance’ would be an understatement.

Rifle Magazines

I kept one rifle mag in a High Speed Gear Taco at about 4 o’clock [Marksman’s Note: Sunshine Shooter fires his rifle left-handed]. I also had a tall general purpose pouch at my 6 with a pair of full rifle mags in case I needed them, but I never did.

The highest round count for the rifle on a single stage was 48 shots, so three mags was overkill. The only problem I encountered with the Taco happened on stage 4, which required staging ammo for a mid-stage resupply. After fumbling with it for a second I just jammed that mag in a front pocket and drove on.

Pistol Magazines

The pistol is a similar story.

The most number of shots on a single stage was 40 rounds of 9mm. Now considering my pistol only holds 17, that means I reloaded twice. Knowing that pistol reloads are far more likely for a given stage, I always run a Double Pistol Taco from High Speed Gear, as opposed to a single rifle Taco.

Just like their rifle brethren, Pistol Tacos are ideal for this kind of usage. They have enough grip to keep your mags seated during running, crawling, and climbing, but are still open topped and allow for quick retrieval of the magazine when you need it.

If you’re in a jungle with a squad of guys who can give you cover fire, run a retention strap. If it’s just you against the clock, that strap is a liability.

Other Accessories

Finally, let’s talk about my rifle sling. I run a Magpul 2-to-1-point convertible sling with a sliding retention adjuster. I’ve found that this allows me to cinch it tight to my body when I’m running and loosen it up on the fly mid-stride to actually use the rifle.

Future Expansion

This setup is easy to build upon as needed.

I don’t use up a lot of space on the belt itself, and my back & chest are both open for a backpack or a chest rig/plate carrier. Adding additional load bearing equipment and customizing my loadout is a matter of just putting it on.

When I do my local 5k Run ‘n Gun I load extra ammo into an assault pack with a water bladder in it. I opted not to bring that to DB 2019 since I could just bring water in my range bag.

Each stage had cases of bottled water, so even bringing my own was unnecessary this time.

I would like to get into a plate carrier or chest rig in the future (Matt’s load carriage series has only made this worse!), but what I currently run fits my needs.

I never needed more ammo than I’ve got on me and I’m always near some sort of resupply from my range bag. My background is also 100% competition and video games, so you guys with mil/LEO backgrounds probably find my rig to be awfully sparse.

Wrapping Up

I found Desert Brutality to be a very valuable experience.

If you want to see what your strengths and weaknesses are, this is a really good event to attend. If that sounds even halfway interesting, I’ve written about it on my own blog. Feel free to click over there and read a little more about how I ended up doing and some lessons I learned from it.

Thanks for reading. -S_S

Note from Matt: Don’t forget to check out Sunshine Shooter’s blog and Instagram!

Picture of Sunshine Shooter

Sunshine Shooter

I run the Pro-Gun Millennial blog. I've participated in a half-dozen different kinds of firearms competitions in the last few years, both sanctioned and outlaw, club-level and nation-wide. I've also got a family and a regular 9-to-5 desk job.

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Mark C
Mark C

Very nice. I’m a bit envious of the folks who get to participate in these types of events. I’ve got a lot of training but the competitive nature makes it a great testing ground, to your point, for gear and ability…plus it’s just down right fun. Maybe in a year or so I can explore some of this. Also there’s the benefit of seeing what you guys are doing here to find the right kind of competition…once again, to your point, some competitions are a bit, uh, non-realistic. It doesnt appeal to me personally, but also it was pointed out… Read more »

The Marksman
Replying to  Mark C

I’ve heard the same thing about training scars from competition for a while. I see where they are coming from, but at the same time I don’t really agree with it. Much of it comes down to the rules laid out for the match.

At the end of the day, I think most people are pretty good at separating the two. I can’t really think of any situation where being better in a competition setting doesn’t translate to better shooting in a defensive situation, provided you have the right mindset.

Mark C
Mark C
Replying to  The Marksman

I think the things that were share with me was specialized guns that sacrifice durability for efficiency, tactical reloads and the magwell flares and bases adding weight (plus stripping mags as opposed to rocking them out with weighted bases), and, more directly to your point, rules and regulations that are not conducive to training. Also, the racing aspect…shock and awe is great for the teams but for civilians slow and steady win the race. Or that’s how I was taught. As for my actual experience, I don’t compete outside of doing repetitions and scenarios with training partners so I couldnt… Read more »

The Marksman
Replying to  Mark C

It’s funny you mentioned the specialized race guns. I’m actually making a commitment to run my normal gear and let the chips fall where they may. I’m nowhere near the high level where fancy mag wells and monster muzzle brakes will make much of a difference for me. And even if I was, using that stuff usually puts you in a different division against other people using similar gear. I like the factory and limited groups. I think you touched on something important though: these things shouldn’t be looked at as training events, per se. Rather, they are opportunities to… Read more »

Mark C.
Mark C.
Replying to  The Marksman

I’m right there with you on that one. “Run whatcha’ brung”…I have one set-up for cqb and the other for everyday, but I have one that I sweetened the trigger, put an adjustable gas block on and put an STD linear comp (not for any benefits other than it’s more acoustically comfortable to shoot). Not sure what the future holds for that one but theres a MaTech rear iron on there and so I’m going to focus on irons with that one for a while. I’m also going to take a course with it, no optic, and just see how… Read more »

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