Written by Nico Detour
As the helicopter lifted up and began to roll toward our stage area, I looked down at the suppressed Caracal USA AR in my hands and realized, THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME!
The Washington JC Steel Target Challenge of the National Rifle League was a match of epic proportion. I will break it down the best that I can so you can experience it vicariously through me.
The environment was a huge change for me, with the last NRL match being Owens Armory’s Sickness for Distance Battle Royale. Arizona is known for their sickness for distance, and moon dust that fills every crevice of your weapon system and body.
The JC Steel Target Challenge was held on a beautiful wheat farm with rolling hills for miles and miles around. The fields were knee high and brilliantly green, extending as far as the eye could see. Blue Ridge Ranch was a very well kept and managed property, with one of the original barns being built by the family in the 1900s.
Check in day before the match was similar to most matches and allowed shooters to confirm their zero using the U.S. Optics Academy supplied paper targets. What was an additional treat at this one was that if you paid the testing fee, you could show up earlier in the day and shoot off various barricades and positions at steel that went out to 1,000 plus yards. You even had the presence of skilled RO’s to help you!
As per normal the Ace of Spades Shot sponsored by B&T Industries was saved for Day 2 of the match for in-between stages to help keep things flowing smoothly.
We started with the normal business of safety brief and final instructions at the shooters meeting. After that we were free to begin and drove down the road to access another part of the property. In order to access the Day 1 stage area, we had to begin a small climb up a hill with our gear, to end up on a hilltop that was in the center of an enormous valley that was surrounded by hills in almost a 360-degree circumference.
Stages were setup all around the edge of the hilltop. The setup allowed for an easy trail skirting around the hillside.
I was lucky enough start on the Pickup Truck stage. The weather cooperated early in the morning with very little wind and it was a good way to start the match off. However the Helicopter stage might have been more of an exhilarating way to start the day.
My squad and I found our way to the helicopter stage early on after three great stages. I have not had the pleasure of being at any matches with a helicopter stage, but from talking to others, I was expecting it to be a long wait due to the complexity of the stage.
Thankfully the Match Directors Jake Vibbert and Nick Gadarzi had designed the match in such a way that it flowed as smoothly as any other stage.
Once you were clipped into the Helo, the RO would hand you the Caracal suppressed rifle and off you went. The helo would line up down its path of death and the RO in the front seat would tell you over the head set when you could begin engaging the JC Steel Pig Targets as you flew down the canyon. It was the most fun you could have with your clothes on!
Still high on life from the day before, we begun our second day back on the main range where we had zeroed.
With all the intricate and challenging stages setup by the diabolical match directors it really paid to have a Reasor Precision game changer bag handy for almost every stage. It was handy for shooting off the cargo net platform, to shooting off a lone post at those pesky JC Steel Rock Chuck T Post Poppers.
Probably the biggest unmentioned but appreciated part of the match was the ZERO target failures. One of the things that every single one of us have experienced in some match at one time or another is the constant repair of targets during the middle of a match. The target failures can lead to frustration for the shooters specially if you were on your way to cleaning a stage and the targets fall and cause you to redo the stage which normally doesnt go as well.
Like everyone, I never expect anything off the prize table, but maybe a hat or a sticker. The amount of quality loot that they had accumulated for the prize table was incredible. To put it into perspective, there were 15 stocks & chassis on the table, along with scopes, actions, and all sorts of cool swag. The lucky winner received a $500.00 NRL check along with their prize table selection.
Overall it was a truly incredible, smoothly ran match that will be close to impossible to top next year. All of it was made possible by the great sponsors that came together to help Jake and Nick make this happen.