Search
Close this search box.

WTF: You Just Have to Experience It

Tactical biathlon cannot be explained, you just have to experience it for yourself.

A while back, I hosted a guest post from Erik about Tactical Biathlon competition. It’s been a murmur of a topic in our own community, and a few folks have gotten out and started signing up for them. I’m planning on doing one at the end of April over in West Virginia, and the guys over at Waco Tactical Fitness (WTF) have built a name for themselves hosting events around Texas and other states.

Today’s episode is a bit of a sit down discussion with three fellow marksmen who competed in these events. Dave at the main Waco event, along with Alex and Al who both did a recent WTF event in Arkansas. Selfishly, my goal was getting a bit of an inside scoop on what to know before going to my own event next month.

During the discussion, we talked about equipment selection, fitness requirements, and lessons learned. What’s interesting about these events, to me at least, is that they resemble something much closer to traditional light infantry work. You’re on your feet and carrying a combat load the entire time as you hump it from stage to stage over a several mile course. Your score is your final time to completion, less any deductions for missed targets.

Equipment

Al, Dave, and Alex all ran fairly similar configurations of 16″ AR-15 rifles paired with magnified optics. Alex elected to use a 3x ACOG while Al and Dave both used LPVO optics. None had any real complaints about the rifles they ran, but some minor “nice to haves” were noted in the after action review.

A view from Alex’s GoPro footage during a pistol stage. Alex ran a S&W M&P with Aimpoint ACRO red dot.

For example, Alex ran into blooming issues with the fiber optic reticle of his ACOG on one stage that was looking into the direction of the sun. Dave would have preferred a first focal plane optic to manage holdovers throughout the match.

Everyone ran some variation of belt and chest rig, with varying strategies for reloading and administratively managing ammunition. Alex declared definitively that he’s done with trying to make chest rigs work for him, and plans to commit to a dedicated belt system in the future.

Al did run out of pistol ammunition later in the match, which cost him several Did Not Finish (DNF) events. Everyone suggested bringing about two times the stated ammunition count in the event rules.


Training

From a marksmanship preparation standpoint, nobody seemed to do anything particularly special with their training. Al attended a carbine class not long before to work on a customized zero for his rifle and ammo configuration. Dave studied the stage plan and worked some ballistic calculations to practice different sight pictures with his optic for each range.

Alex was loud and clear that a major failure he had was not practicing with his rifle firing from the support side shoulder. Some extra practice doing this would have gone a long way towards success.

Fitness

Every competitor stated the importance of cardio conditioning. The Arkansas event started with a two-mile uphill run before getting to the first stage. Combined with an approximate 30 lb competition loadout, this was very taxing on the legs as well as energy systems.

I tried to dig into whether endurance-style training or high-intensity burst training would have proven more useful, and every competitor said that it’s a combination of both.

Support This Episode's Sponsor
Today's episode is sponsored by Ammo Squared, a service that helps you stockpile ammunition like a squirrel stashes nuts- just a little bit at a time. Simply contribute an amount to your ammo account, tell them how to distribute it, and let them go find it and store it for you. In recent updates, they even let you sell back unwanted ammunition or send it to someone else. I've been using it myself for over a year to build up practice ammo, and you should definitely check it out.​
Support This Episode's Sponsor
Today's episode is sponsored by Ammo Squared, a service that helps you stockpile ammunition like a squirrel stashes nuts- just a little bit at a time. Simply contribute an amount to your ammo account, tell them how to distribute it, and let them go find it and store it for you. In recent updates, they even let you sell back unwanted ammunition or send it to someone else. I've been using it myself for over a year to build up practice ammo, and you should definitely check it out.​

Dave relayed a story about how difficult it was to complete a series of obstacles and then hold his rifle steady against a support structure. He suggested practicing by exerting yourself and then trying to run a VTAC barricade in between rounds of exertion.

Everyone said that they needed better leg strength to help be more successful. What wasn’t clear to me was whether this meant raw leg strength or improved strength endurance to keep working for extended periods of time. It’s probably both.

S.L.A. Marshall

As an aside, the comment about leg strength reminded me of something S.L.A. Marshall published for the Operations Research Office (ORO) in 1951. General Marshall did a review of soldier feedback and performance from the winter of 1950-1951 during the Korean Conflict.

Among many of it’s suggestions for improving soldier performance, he had a note about the importance of leg strength.

“The chief physical weakness of American infantry is in the legs, due in part
to underemphasis on the importance of the road march in the training schedule.”

I already built a fair bit of running, rucking, strength, and strength endurance work into my training plan, and this just further solidified the importance of it. That last two weeks leading up to the event are going to be painful.

Key Takeaways

So what am I taking away from this conversation? Well, the first thing is something that I already knew: fitness matters. Max at MVT always preached the importance of “cardio” but rarely gave examples of what the right kind of “cardio” would look like. From listening to Dave, Al, and Alex talk about WTF Biathlons, I have a better sense of what that means. I’d like to think my training plan already covers what I’m going to need, but that gets me to the second takeaway.

Al, from the interview, stopped to grab a photo while waiting to start a stage.

While I have a plan to prepare physically for the event, I was probably neglecting the marksmanship issue. It’s difficult to execute even simple marksmanship tasks when you’re completely gassed and sucking air. On top of regular try fire training from both strong and support side, I should plan to do at least some of that training in conjunction with conditioning workouts to simulate the challenge.

Third, everyone I talked to ran their load bearing equipment in a “go-to” configuration as they would in an emergency. Everyone also said that they would consider assembling a separate Run & Rig for future such competitions. I’ve already got a rig set up for just such a thing, and I’ll make another post about it, but until I get to wring it out then I don’t know what I don’t know.

That’s it for me, see you next time!

Picture of Matt

Matt

Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

Check These Out Too

Discussion

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 Comments
Oldest First
Newest First
Andrew
Andrew
Guest

Good episode, thanks for sharing. I get sometime to be in the woods with my rifle, but 5-6 miles is a lot with full kit and ammo and everything else. I’ve done some “run and guns” in the woods with my brother in law and buddies but we are talking maybe 400 yds back and forth with maybe 100 yds of distance on a old 4wheeler trail, and this sounds like it definitely test you.

Paul
Paul
Guest

Yeah – I would think all the running and obstacles in such a course would require a different ‘rig’ set up than the usual ‘door kicker’ rig (large chest rigs covering body core area, unbalanced, unsuspended and overloaded belts, etc.). A micro chest rig, if one at all, might work well for quick access reloads and a suspended and balanced belt kit – but hell – I’ve never run one of these either! Let us know what you come up with Matt!

Mic
Mic
Guest
Replying to  Matt

Very interested in seeing that!

Adventure Awaits

+ Newsletter
+ New Content Alerts
+ Deals and Sales

Subscribe now

To ensure you have the best experience possible, this website uses cookies. For more information, check out privacy page.