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Today i’m doing an after action review on my first precision rimfire match. I shot it on September 4th, 2021 at Peacemaker National Training Center in West Virginia. The PRS Rimfire match was sponsored by Lapua Ammunition (big shout out), and it was a great time.
This journey started in the spring of 2020 when I interviewed Mike Keenan about getting started in PRS matches. I had wanted to do it for a long time, but didn’t quite know where to start. About a month later, I wrote about the merits of 22LR as a stand-in for long range 308 practice.
From there, I started assembling my rimfire training rifle with an eye for competition. I published that article in July 2020. This rifle has become one of my most used items in the safe, providing a great platform for testing optics and other accessories on a limited ammunition budget.
I didn’t realize that it would be over a year before I finally got to attend a match and put it all to the test.
The Venue: Peacemaker National
This is my second event at the Peacemaker National Training Center (PNTC). The first was the NRA America’s Rifle Challenge in April 2019. The facility is massive, and is one of the largest shooting facilities on the east coast. It houses 17 ranges, and includes dedicated areas for everything including skeet/trap, pistol, tactical, and long range.
At my first event, we mainly stuck to the tactical ranges. I didn’t realize that there was a whole different section of the facility past the berms. For my most recent match, we went out to that part of the facility as well.
PRS Rimfire Competition
As far as I can tell, rimfire matches work the same way as regular PRS events- but at shorter distances. For this event, there were only three divisions: bolt action, semi-auto, and youth.
To be honest, I was a little put off by this because within “bolt action” there really isn’t any distinction between a newbie showing up with a brand new factory 22LR and budget optic or someone who has paid thousands of dollars for a custom rimfire rifle and top tier optics.
In all, there were 9 stages. With one exception, each stage had a “par time” of 90 seconds. Most stages also had a limited round count allowed. Once the timer starts, you have 90 seconds to hit all required targets or expend all of your shots.
For scoring, each hit on a target counted as one point. If the course of fire required hitting a particular target more than once, then you earned a point for each hit.
The one exception to the 90 second rule was the “skill stage,” where you had as much time as you wanted to complete the course of fire or expend all of your allowed shots. On top of the earned points, your time would be used as a potential tie breaker at the end of the match.
The Stages and Performance
There were 9 total stages, with a bonus side stage, with distances varying between 40 yards and 498 yards. The distances at the first five stages were typically shorter, between 50 and 150 yards, and the distances at the last four stages were between 200 and 350 yards.
The bonus stage was a single target at 498 yards.
Each stage tested some aspect of your shooting ability. One stage was simply managing wind and dope at long range. Another was transitioning between multiple targets scattered over 150 yards (all beyond 220 yards themselves).
Another stage involved a swinging platform. Every move you made caused the whole platform to swing, and forced you to time your shots. Another involved reading and shooting out of the cab of a truck. Yet another was simulating precision shots taken from an improvised position in the cab of a truck.
One of my favorites involved shooting four small targets from a standing position, and then running down a path to shoot four more off of a cattle gate.
In all, I finished just ahead of the middle of the pack. I went home with a prize, and I’ll certainly take that for my first precision rifle match ever.
One interesting thing is that the top five shooters of the match were all in my squad. On one hand, it was disconcerting to be “bested” at every stage. On the other, watching how they handled each stage made me a better shooter.
In all, I had about a year of run up to this match. I didn’t know I was going to compete in it a year beforehand, but I knew I wanted to compete in general. I spent a good chunk of time in money during 2020 buying gear that I thought would come in handy. As it turns out, not all of it was, but I am still glad to have it.
This is what I brought along with me:
- Tikka T1x rifle in Oryx Chassis topped with Athlon Cronus Gen 2 4.5-29×56
- Atlas Bipod
- Rifles Only FTW bungee sling
- Tyr Tactical low profile arm board
- Wiebad Mini Fortune Cookie shooting bag
- Cole-Tac Boss Bag
- Lapua Center-X ammunition
Rifle and ammunition aside, the only things I really found useful were the Wiebad Mini Fortune Cookie, some way to track dope, and a sling.
When it comes to tracking dope, I created three cards with drops going out to 500 yards. I never used any of these cards. Instead, I slapped a piece of masking tape on my arm board for each stage and wrote down my calculated drops for each target on it. I really didn’t need the fancy armboard for this, and others did the same thing with a small piece of plastic stuck to the rifle.
On that note, though, having a ballistic calculator app to get these numbers for every stage was invaluable. There are plenty of free and paid ones out there.
The sling was useful, but probably not necessary. Many other shooters didn’t use one at all, but I was accustomed to it for positional shooting and I think it brought just a little bit extra stability.
One of the really nice things was that every member of my squad was happy to lend their own gear out to anyone who needed it. So if you didn’t have a bag for something, it was no big deal to ask if you could use someone else’s.
Key Lessons Learned
There were several small lessons here and there, but I want to leave you with some of the most important ones.
First, really nice equipment does not automatically translate to success. While the best shooters of the day tended to also have really nice rifles, optics, and gear, that’s because this is what they choose to do all of the time. I saw other shooters who also had really nice equipment but performed mediocre at best.
I also saw other shooters with relatively modest equipment shoot quite well.
The most important thing was mastery of marksmanship fundamentals and position building.
Second, the clock matters- but don’t let it rule your life. I ran out of time on a few stages, but I did great with hitting my targets up until running out of time. I think it’s more important to focus and make your hits than it is to race against the clock. In fact, my worst stage of the day was the only one where we were encouraged to get the lowest time possible.
Make the hits, then get faster later.
Third, I need a better way to carry my magazines and reloads. As I ran into the need to reload, fishing mags out of my pockets took way too much time, especially from awkward shooting positions. I have dedicated pouches for reloads with every other rifle I own, but not this one. I need to fix that.
This was a great experience, and despite my nasty sunburn, I had a wonderful time learning from my squadmates and challenging myself. I fully plan to do another, and more, in the future.
Thanks to Peacemaker National Training Center for hosting the match, and to Lapua Ammunition for sponsoring it. I did walk away with a prize at the end, to have Lapua batch test ammo with my rifle and determine the most accurate available.
If you’re considering getting involved in a precision rifle match, whether its rimfire or centerfire, stop thinking about it and do it. The people are great and want to help you out, even if you don’t own all of the gear you want just yet. You will learn far more by getting out there and doing it than thinking about “someday.”
Did you find point of impact changes from your sighted in position (the dope on your cards) using I presume from the bipod versus the various assumed positions off the forearm, sitting, bags, etc.?
Hey Miguel, it’s actually be very difficult to answer that. In general, it seems that there was not a significant deviation from my established zero and calculated offset for each target. However, due to the pace and size of the targets, my own personal level of precision was low enough that any errors/deviation were covered up. I was “good enough” to hit the targets, but it’s hard to say what would have happened if I had time to be extra precise. From an equipment standpoint, I don’t think the bipod/bag/sling would make much a difference mechanically. But I do know… Read more »
Wow – sounds like fun Matt! Your number 1 ‘Key Lessons Learned’ – marksmanship fundamentals and position building takes me back to all the dry firing ‘in positions’ the Marines emphasize (probably more important as we get older). 500 yds. is a loooong waaaay for a 22LR – hell, 350 yds. is too! What’s the ‘drop’ for that (500yds.)? Due to the lack of recoil could you ‘see’ the hits through your scope and did they have camera set ups on target? Thanks for the summary – provides motivation!
Love the ‘toilet stage’ pic!
Hey Paul! It was a great time. The drop for the furthest target of the day, 484 yards, was right around 27.1 mils if I remember. My scope scope ran out of adjustment at around 21 mils, so I had to utilize the reticle tree to gain the additional elevation. The really tricky part was wind. 350 yards was about 17.4 mils. The math worked great for both distances. As for seeing hits, I couldn’t see much through the scope once we were out past 300 on the large targets. There was so little energy on the shot at that… Read more »
Incredible – that’s almost 14yds. (488 inches) of drop at 500yds! Yeah that little 40grn(?) projectile is going to move A LOT in any wind. Sounds like really good wind reading work! You were right on Matt about using a precision or atleast a really good 22LR/scope set up for getting some experience in ALL aspects of LR shooting!
Thanks for sharing!
Having actually gone through this now, I think more than anything it teaches to have confidence in the math. A rimfire definitely has shortcomings as a long range centerfire trainer, though, and that comes from recoil, or the lack of it.
That chain suspended ‘free swinging’ platform looked like it would be a challenge with recoil and of course staying on target in general – under time. A friend of mine had a custom muzzle brake made for and installed on his 300 Win Mag Winchester bolt action. We took it out the other day – I was truly amazed at the recoil reduction. It felt more like a 30-06 than the jolting 300 Win Mag which is significant! Still – I understand that ANY recoil that disturbs the sight picture hold plays havoc with follow up shots and ultimately one’s… Read more »
That looks like a ton of fun. Would love to do this someday. Thanks for sharing!
Hey Justin, it was indeed a great time. I highly encourage you to give it a shot if there are any close enough to you.