Getting Match Fit

Getting Match Fit
Physical Fitness for PRS Type Matches
By Garrett Gee

Gaming a PRS stage, everyone has done it.  It’s part of a match.  Figuring out a way to make it just a little bit easier to gain that extra “impact” or two.  The entire industry has shifted focus to helping gain that little bit of an advantage.  Just look at the different types of bags on the market.  The amount is staggering.

With that all being said I’ve begun to feel that being physically fit can help gain an advantage on stages as well.  Now I don’t mean being SEAL Team 6 or run marathons fit; I’m talking go to the gym or a run a few times a week physically fit.  It hit me while shooting a local match here in Wisconsin last year.  One of the stages required the competitors to fire one round at a 400yd target from the shooter’s strong side, then hop over a bar and fire one round at the same/similar target at 400yds from the shooter’s weak side.  I watched a few competitors in the rotation go before me, while watching I decided to essentially do a “burpee” over the bar.  I fired all ten of my rounds and dropped only one or two shots with a little time to spare.  This isn’t to brag this is to show what a little fitness prep over the course of the offseason can do.  I feel that being physically fit and prepared can help competitors gain an advantage, both in PRS style matches and more endurance style matches like The Mammoth Sniper Challenge and the Competition Dynamics Sniper Adventure Challenge.

Cardio, cardio and more cardio.  Then when you’re sick of cardio, do more cardio.

Most people I know hate doing cardio, myself included.  That being said the benefits of cardio in precision rifle shooting cannot be ignored.  The most obvious benefit is a slower resting heart rate.  The textbook resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute.  At this heart rate the electrical nodes in the heart are generally functioning optimally.  The closer a competitor can get to that 60 beats per minute of even under if the competitor can safely do so, the better.  

The benefits of cardio workouts can have on a competitors respiratory system cannot be overlooked as well.  Breathing control is a fundamental of marksmanship.  Breaking the shot during a shooters natural respiratory pause is paramount.   Textbook resting respiratory rates are 12-20 breaths per minutes. Being able to slow that down helps lengthen that natural respiratory pause that shooters look to time the break their shot with.  On stages that a shooter must move, having a strong respiratory systems helps keep that respiratory rate closer to the normal rates of 12-20 breaths per minute.

Cardio can be anything that gets your heart rate up above 100 beats per minute for an extended period of time.  Most people picture running and it in general is the easiest cardio workout to do, simply go outside and run/walk.  But it is far from the only cardio workout.  I generally rotate.  I do cardio 3-4 days per week and I try to rotate my exercises so I don’t get bored or burned out.  

Get huge!

Lifting weights; people love to lift weights to “get huge”.  Getting ripped and being strong is great.  In fact, being strong is a job requirement of mine (I’ll explain more later).  However, in general PRS matches aren’t requiring competitors to dead life a 300lb mannequin before firing at a 66% IPSC at 1000yds.  Most of us are carrying a 10-20lb rifle and 10-20lbs in ancillary gear, clothing, food, water and ammo.  For some matches, the Mammoth Sniper Challenge, comes to mind immediately, competitors are required to carry all of their match gear for several miles between stages.  Even for PRS matches, lifting and moving a 10-20lb rifle from position to position in a repetitive fashion is the most common movement.  That is why muscle endurance is the key, in my opinion.  Being able to hold that Accuracy International AXMC steady enough in an off hand position long enough to break a clean shot requires a lot of muscle endurance.  It requires a lot of endurance with the lighter rifles as well.

The most strength based stage I’ve seen in person or on video is a stage at VPRC.  The stage required competitors to drag a mannequin a certain distance before engaging the stage targets.  That’s not to say that this sport does not require a level of strength but from my experience, it’s more about muscle endurance than pure strength.  

Keep in mind that the more muscle mass an individual has the more oxygen that individual will require to fuel that muscle mass.  This requires more blood flow through the body to transport that oxygen to the muscles that are active.  This is just a basic and small example of how the respiratory, cardiovascular/circulatory systems are tied together.  While going through school to get my paramedic license I began looking at them as one system with several branches to better understand the intricacies of how they interact.

Training Program

I touched a little bit on my training regime a little earlier.  My profession as a firefighter requires me to have some level of physical fitness as well as provides me with a means for maintain that level of fitness.  My training regime revolves around my work schedule (24 hour shifts) which is on a nine day rotation. This kind of throws things for a little bit of a loop when planning my workouts.   I lift while I’m at work plus one off day in the rotation. We have a gym at every station that is stocked through funding by the employees and the city. I also have a set of kettlebells at home. I do cardio on my days off. Here is a sample of my training regime based on this block’s rotation.  It is extremely important when lifting to use proper technique and protect yourself from injury.  If you are unsure of how to do an exercise or movement, consult a personal trainer.

Take the time to warm up and stretch before and after each workout.  This helps the body perform better and prevents injuries.  Injuries can derail the best athletes if not prevented.

Day 1:  Monday-Cardio
Day 2:  Tuesday-Lift  
Day 3:  Wednesday-Cardio
Day 4:  Thursday-Lift
Day 5:  Friday-Cardio
Day 6:  Saturday-Lift
Day 7:  Sunday-Rest

Day 1- Cardio
    -Ruck march with 50lbs of gear
Day 2- Lift
        -100-200 pushups, keep rest periods to a minimum.
        -Bench press 5 sets of 10-15
        -5 sets of 10-15 pull ups
        -Dumbbell pulls 5 sets of 10-15
        -Squats 5 sets of 10-15
        -Lunges 5 sets of 10-15
Day 3- Cardio
    -P90X Plyometrics

Day 4-Lift
        -Chinups 5 sets of 10-15
        -TRX Band curls 5 sets of 10-15
        -Weighted bar dips 5 sets of 10-15
        -TRX Band triceps extensions
        -Upright row 5 sets of 10-15
        -Barbell shoulder press 5 sets of 10-15
Day 5-Cardio
    -Run 3-5 miles at a comfortable pace

Day 6-Lift
        -100-200 crunches with minimal rest periods
        -100 butterfly kicks with minimal rest periods
    -Lower back
        -Dead lift 21-15-9  with perfect technique.
        -Kettlebell swings 10 sets of 20
Day 7-rest
    -I may do some light stretching or yoga.

This is just a sample workout that I use.  It fits what I’m trying to accomplish so that I’m prepared for my job and matches.  Please consult with your physician or a personal trainer if you are looking to develop your own program.

If you want a plug and play program there are a ton of them out there, from P90X to the Insanity workouts, the choices are endless.  Just remember something is better than nothing.


Resting is key to recovery.  Overtraining can cause injuries and hamstring progress.  Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  Those of you in emergency services or have kids know that it can be next to impossible get the proper amount of sleep on a regular basis.  It becomes even more imperative to let your body recover between lifting sessions.  

I usually take a week off of working out every 6-10 weeks.  It helps me from feeling burned out.  It also helps me get refocused on what I’m trying to accomplish.

In the end…

At the end of the day, it’s up to the shooter to decide if their fitness is where they want it to be and whether or not it’s worth it to improve.  My personal opinion is, that it is.  If being able to move a little faster, in a more fluid motion and with better flexibility; saves me a half second per shot, that’s an extra half second, minimum, to focus on my fundamentals or build a solid position. Not to mention the benefits of a more stable heart and respiratory rate contributing to a more stable position.  But that’s an evaluation each individual shooter will have to make for themselves.

U.S. Optics Team Challenge

As far as venues go, there can’t be many as beautiful and as accommodating as the ranches where the US Optics Team Challenge was held. It has the beautiful mountainous backdrops, crisp, clean air, and still has enough open space and distances to facilitate a match of this type and others that Competition Dynamics hosts on site. 

Competition Dynamics refers to the US Optics Team Challenge as a “tough team match”.  After having shot the match, I do believe that to be an apt description of the event.  As the name implies, this was a team event. There were 35 two-man teams. In this event, one man is designated the “rifle shooter” and the other the “carbine shooter”. My teammate, Collin Fossen, was the rifle shooter and I carried the carbine for the entirety of the match.

I didn’t exactly know what to expect when I agreed to shoot with Collin. I did know that the stages or “courses” were going to be timed, unlike most matches I have shot previously where each individual stage was timed and the movement in between was at a more leisurely pace. In the mornings each team had a scheduled start time for what are called “field courses”. I believe the first and most difficult field course we ran was almost 3 miles if I’m not mistaken.  Some of the positions were at the top of some rather steep inclines with the terrain being semi-rough with rocks and grass clumps, and even the portions where we could trek up a county road were rather steep. For some people it may not be a big deal, but I wasn’t exactly at the pinnacle of physical fitness and I do live in the flatlands, after all. So hiking is something I’m not very accustomed to.  I definitely was out of my comfort zone, but I must admit I was still having fun. Collin is in excellent shape and more accustomed to the terrain, so he was typically waiting for me for a short while at each firing position ranging targets for me. Great teammate to have, right?

We would have 60 minutes to do everything in the field courses, which includes moving between firing stations, identifying targets, ranging, and engaging. Teams that finished their courses early were given bonus points depending on how early they finished. Teams were started from the beginning of each course every 20 minutes.  If the team behind you caught up to you at a station, you had to immediately move aside to allow that team to play-through while your time was still ticking, or choose to sprint ahead to the next station to make up time, giving up the targets you had just left behind.  The winning teams in these types of events will not only be great shooters, but they will be in excellent shape. The top teams gained a lot of points by finishing early and catching competitors. We were never caught the whole weekend and we barely missed catching a team by thirty seconds or so. Even though I’m probably slower than most, we must have made up for it doing our shooting business quickly.

At our scheduled time we would be told which direction to head out in and our time started.  Once we reached each station the range officer would give a quick briefing on the current position, and allow you to start. All of the targets at this match were unknown distance. So, while on the clock team members must be identifying and ranging targets and preparing to shoot. This was also the first time I had been in the rush of doing all of those things against the clock, but I quickly got used to it as Collin is an expert when it comes to finding, identifying and ranging targets.  The field courses were more rifle-heavy in that most of the emphasis of the stations were more laid out for the precision rifle. So typically the carbine shooter would first engage something like 5 of 10 targets (any that he chose to engage) and then the rifle shooter would engage the same array of 10 targets. The carbine shooter could shoot unlimited times and the rifle shooter only once per target. Theoretically, the team shouldn’t drop any carbine targets for the match, but sometimes we just couldn’t get a round on steel and had to move on for time’s sake or because we were running low on ammunition.  The field courses continued this way each morning for all 3 days of the match. 

Author Justin Willhite (left) and his partner Collin (right)

Author Justin Willhite (left) and his partner Collin (right)

With a short lull in the mid-day, we would then be scheduled for what are called “assault courses” in the afternoons. The assault courses were much shorter in distance and were much faster. So we could do several assault courses each afternoon. They were setup much more similarly to “3 gun” type stages. There may be a couple hundred yards of movement, and the team would typically both shoot a pistol briefly, and then the carbine shooter had to do quite a bit of work. Sometimes there would be IPSC cardboard silhouettes, or closer steel targets. It had a “run and gun” feel to it, which I enjoy. I’ve done quite a bit of 3-gun shooting in local monthly matches over the past 2 years and I feel that helped our overall score quite a bit by the end of the match since we were used to that type of shooting and stage-planning.  Since Collin also competes in local 3-gun matches so we were on the same page there.  I heard small complaints from other competitors and friends that the assault courses should have had more rifle engagements, but I disagree as I feel the spirit of those was more about speed and bursts of movement.

I don’t have many complaints about the experience of the match.  My biggest complaint would probably be about myself not being in as good of shape as I should have been, and I’m sure Collin would agree. But I had a great feeling of accomplishment and confidence after finishing the match in the top 50%, and not having been caught by other competitors during the course. 

The prize table at the match was huge. I heard something like $45,000 worth of prizes was on the table and that may be conservative. That’s excellent.  Collin and I ended up in 15th place. We both walked away with at least $500 worth of prizes and that didn’t include the match swag we received from US Optics before the match.

One aspect of these shooting matches that gets overlooked a lot of the time is management and staffing. I was blown away at how smoothly this match was conducted. Everything was on a nice schedule so nothing was thrown out to caution. All of the range officers were actual staff or volunteers with match experience. That meant that there were no bumbling, nervous RO’s making mistakes or headaches on score sheets and the like.  All of the staff had radios and great communication.  From the customer’s point of view, I didn’t see any major issues with what was going on. They were just all buzzing in the background on ATV’s making things happen, and that all added up to an excellent match and match experience. When I had first signed up, I thought $300 per competitor was a little steep for an entry fee. But now I see that those entry fees are not wasted and I was not bothered by it after seeing what it was all about.

I’m really glad Collin gave me the invite. He is an excellent shooter and was definitely taking on a less experienced shooter in me but he was a great teammate and taught me quite a bit that weekend. He has won the Team Steel Safari, and recently won the Nightforce 2 Rifle match in Raton, NM just a couple of weeks after our team match. I foresee him being near the top of the podium in the matches he enters in the coming seasons. 

I had a great time at this match, and I learned more than I had expected.  I will definitely do this match again in the future, and I really want to try one of the Steel Safari matches, which is also put on by Competition Dynamics. 


Written By 

Justin Willhite

Wisconsin Precision Rifle Steel Challenge

Wisconsin Precision Rifle Steel Challenge
May 7th AAR
    The May 7th Wisconsin Precision Rifle Steel Challenge was my first match of the 2016 season.  I had planned on using this match as a warm up to gauge my abilities and highlight practice needs for the upcoming the South Dakota Precision Rifle Match.  The WPRSC is held at the Racine County Line Range which is a private club just south of Milwaukee.  This is the first year that the club has allowed these types of matches and for that I would like to thank them for their hospitality.     Our day started out at 0500 with around a two hour drive to the range.  The weather started out chilly and windy but the rain held off for the entire day, which Amy and I were thankful for.  The range is set up similar to most other 600 yard “high power” type ranges, with berms running along both sides and the down range end.  This presents interesting challenges for the match director with stage set ups.  The range is well kept and is an excellent facility from what I could observe.     John, the match director, did an excellent job of setting up the stages so that they were both challenging and fun despite being confined by the range dimensions.  Not to mention the overall layout of the stages helped keep the match moving along safely and efficiently.  The wind was a major factor in the difficulty of the stages this day.  The wind would play havoc with shooters all day. With the wind at variable speeds between 5mph and 25mph.  It definitely beat me up before I made my adjustments.     The first stage was a “Know Your Limits” or KYL rack at 300 yards.  I felt pretty confident jumping right into a KYL rack but I was soon humbled.  I totally blew my wind call and whiffed my first shot off the right edge.   Not a good start to the day.  All but one shooter in my squad scored a zero on the stage.     Stage 2 was a seated positional shooting stage set at 300 yards.  Shooting from a seated position was a known weakness for me.  That weakness reared it’s ugly head during this match.  Keep an AI rifle with a suppressor hanging off the end of it was far more difficult than anticipated.  Once again I whiffed on this stage and scored a zero.     My confidence going into Stage 3, “Tires of Pain”, had taken a pretty good hit at this point.  I was starting to get a little worried that all of practice had been for nothing.  Tires of pain consisted of 5 tires orientated in such a way that the shooter would have to shoot either through the tire or off the top of the tire.  To make the stage more challenging the shooter was forced to take two shots through the opening of the tire at a 12” square from 400 yards.  Once the second shot was fired, the shooter then had to transition to the next tire and fire two more shots from the top of the tire at a 66% IPSC target positioned at 400 yards.  The shooter repeated this a total of five times for a total of 10 shots.  I was finally able to get on the scoreboard with five points.  I had some issues with accidentally ejecting my magazine while positioning the rifle for the lower tire shots.  I also discovered the benefits of using a pump pillow or large bag.  One of the other shooters on the line was generous enough to allow us to use his and I immediately decided I was going to nab one as soon as I got home, in hopes of it arriving in time for the South Dakota match.     Stage 4 was also positioned at 400 yards and consisted of firing four shots from any two positions on the barricade then transitioning to prone for two shots followed by four more shots from any two positions on another barricade.  Once again the large bag came in handy and I was able to squeeze out six points.  For whatever reason, the wind didn’t play as big of a roll on this stage as it had on the earlier stages.  I’m not sure if there were just enough trees blocking it at the firing position or if it had died down a bit.  My confidence was starting to come around and I was starting to feel pretty good going forward.     Stage 5 was the “roof top” stage, a staple of “PRS” type matches.  The shooter was to start from a standing position.  Upon the command to engage, the shooter was to advance to the roof and fire five shots, after five shots they were to transition to a prone position next to the roof prop and fire five more shots.  Again the the large bag came up huge for the roof prop.  I decided to try laying on my side rather than using the “frog” technique.  I felt that I could get a more stable position from my side than attempting to be Frogger.  I managed six more points on Stage 5.     Next up was Stage 6, another 500 yard stage, consisting of one shot from your strong side, step or jumping over a low barrier and firing one shot off of your support side.  The shooter would alternate for a total of ten shots.  If I could shoot this stage again I would have used two rear bags, one on each side.  As it was, I ended up forgoing the rear bag on my support side shots to try to save time.  Also getting in and out of your firing position in as quickly as possible.  As one shooter put it, you’d best be doing “burpees” into and out of your position. In the end I managed a score of five on this stage.  My confidence was building quickly by this point and I was actually looking forward to the last two stages.     Stage 7 was by far my favorite stage.  It was was a “no dial” stage set at 600 yards.  I was a bit nervous about not being able to dial since I don’t have one of the fancy “christmas tree” reticles that are so popular but it turned out pretty good.  I held just over .5 mils of windage, basically bracketing the target with the hash marks in my Nightforce Mil-R reticle.  I managed to score a nine point stage, my best of the day.  One thing I did learn was that a “christmas tree” reticle like the Horus H59 would be extremely helpful.  Fortunately I was able to take car of that little problem after the next SDSC on May 14-15.  I’ll cover that in a different AAR.     Stage 8 was titled “Russian Dolls” aka Test Your Limits.  I managed to score a measly two points on this stage which was immensely frustrating after the previous stage.  For whatever reason I just could not get past the second plate.     All in all I had a really good time at this match.  It is limited by the fact that it is on a square range but here in Wisconsin we are pretty limited in our opportunities to shoot long range.  The best part about the match is that it forces to me to slow down and focus on fundamentals while allowing me to work out kinks in my game.       Lastly I’d like to thank Rock Creek barrels for sponsoring the match, Racine County Line Club and most importantly the RO’s; without them the match could not happen.

Prairie Dog Shoot

Last weekend I attended the Prairie Dog Shoot in western Wisconsin and first off it was a blast! this is a small shoot that is for fun and camaraderie (And bragging rights) than it is for prizes and trophies. Being a fun shoot I don't take it too serious but I do use it as a training exercise and shoot my best. My reason for righting this post is go over some of the things that I learned and noticed while there. I'm going to go over the shoot in order of how I shot this event and how each stage went down. 

A 5 target single load speed shoot was the first event that I did that day. It consisted of five steel targets from somewhere around 250 yards out to just shy of 500 yards and the goal was to get the best score in the fastest time possible. The fastest time was 30 seconds even. When it was my turn go shoot I set my rifle down with a round sitting ready to get fed bolt open as the rules stated. This stage should have been fairly simple making holds with little to no wind on targets that were large enough to allow for some error at those distances. When start signal went off I got down to start shooting and couldn't close my bolt. There goes an easy what felt like 5 minuets on the clock but I'm guessing it was closer to one minuet. I'm currently shooting a model 10 Savage and the rear baffle on the bolt had rotated between 90* and 180* and wouldn't let the bolt close past the rear of the receiver. After figuring that out I had a pretty decent run but missed a first round hit somewhere around the 350 yard mark trying to make up some extra time. Moral of this stage is make sure all your gear is ready to roll before it's your turn to shoot the stage!

Next was the dueling varmint challenge! Two plate racks with 5 steel prairie dog cutouts each set up at 100 yards where two people go head to head in a single elimination race to knock them all down to move on! I did pretty well at last years making it all the way up to second place but this year didn't go as well for me and I got my butt kicked in my second round by a .308 even! (gasp a .308 in a competition!) but it was all about speed at 100 yards and he beat me fair and square. What was different this year is that there was a plate rack with steel targets on it instead of 5 thin concrete "prairie dogs" hanging by nails and every once in a while two dogs would fall with one shot. it was explained in the rules earlier in the day that that was just luck and would count as hits. My first round I got lucky and had 2 targets fall with one shot or I don't think i'd have made it. that was a close one. round two I went up against my partner for the team challenge and his trusty .308. Now usually people would argue that the .308 would put shooters at a disadvantage but not here! I'm guessing it was his big heavy bullets knocking down several targets at once and he made it all the way to the end for a solid 2nd or 3rd place finish I don't remember exactly where he finished. The first place winner had a full on bench rest rig set up on and was very effective at being quick here. The moral of this stage is don't think your gear is holding you back. Ken had his stock Remington .308 figured out and ran it all the way to the end for a solid finish.

The dialing varmint challenge plate racks at 100 yards

The dialing varmint challenge plate racks at 100 yards

The third stage was a group shoot at 200 yards and there isn't much to explain about this stage other than don't suck and wait for the wind to be in your favor!

Stage four and the final stage of the day was a team shoot shooting 12 oz water bottles from 100-500 yards with a random teammate. My teammate Ken had everything pretty figured out for his .308 and we ended up doing pretty well for us. This shoot was prone and each competitor has 40 rounds and targets were placed every 5 yards starting at 100 yards out to 500 yards. We had a solid start and were making good hits until if I remember right around the 250 yard mark where Ken dialed on a little too much wind and was missing off the right side of the targets. There wasn't much wind and it took us a little bit to fugure out what had happened but after we figured it out we were back to making solid hits! Ken had dialed on .2 mil of wind and was taking my advice on a wind hold on top of that thinking that I knew he had two tenths dialed on. I probably didn't hear him tell me that he dialed wind and I assumed he held wind like I do. we ended up being pretty solid out to about the 300 yard mark before starting to shoot the 500 yard bottles just for fun. We both had good hits on the furthest bottles out there and I had a lot of fun shooting with Ken! The takeaway from this stage is if you're shooting with a teammate especially one that you have never shot with before make sure there is a steady stream of communication between the two of you. With the targets being water bottles and and leak in the bottle counting as a hit its very easy to have a hit that counts and not be able to see it after you recover from the shot where your spotter will maybe see the water drain from the bottle if it isn't a solid hit. You can't share enough info between teammates on the firing line!

Me and teammate Ken taking a little break from being in the scopes.

Me and teammate Ken taking a little break from being in the scopes.