Dane, Dale and I shot the 2013 Southern California Precision Rifle Competition last weekend. It is nice to be back in Las Vegas. The match in So Cal was pretty rough. The weather was not cooperating with us! It was a pretty cold, wet and windy weekend. We had to red eye it out of Las Vegas Friday night/Saturday morning. After I got off work and got my gear together I had planned on sleeping, but ended up just lying in bed awake. I did catch a bit of sleep in the truck but not much. I felt really bad dosing off. Dale and I were trying really hard to stay up during the drive to keep Dane from getting tired. Thankfully Dane got us there and back safe and sound. His truck is pretty bad ass for away matches. I was happy that my rain and camping gear held up.
Shooting away matches is always rough because of the toll traveling takes on you, and the fact you will be shooting in unfamiliar conditions. Ballistic programs serve as an aid, so do personal weather stations like the Kestrel. Ballistic programs work best when you put accurate information into them. Many accomplished military, law enforcement and civilian precision rifle shooters have told me, “If you put crap in, you will get crap out”. Using a personal weather station and inputting current data into your ballistic program is the best way to utilize them. I have had great luck with a Kestrel 4500 and the Android version of “Shooter”. I have been using a Kindle Fire to run the program. This combination has been very helpful, not only with shooting away matches but also making seasonal corrections to my D.O.P.E. (Data on Previous Engagements). Here in the Las Vegas Valley we have pretty extreme temperature shift between the highs of the summer and lows of the winter. I do my best to record as much information as possible in my Storm Tactical Data Book and Storm Tactical Pocket Data Book. Doing this gives me records of hard D.O.P.E. Hard D.O.P.E. is information you have confirmed by actually shooting the distance. Hard D.O.P.E. is very valuable, especially if you have dead batteries! I often will compare information generated using a ballistic program with my hard D.O.P.E. and take all information into consideration. When I shoot targets at different ranges I take notes on the conditions and corrections. Often times utilizing both resources will have me on target.
Before the Southern California Precision Rifle Competition, I would look up weather information and try to familiarize myself with the terrain using Google Earth and images on the internet. Same thing you would do if you were going to hunt a particular area but have not yet been able to personally scout it. Using more than one source for the weather information I would average the results and input that information into Shooter. I would then make a D.O.P.E. card and keep it handy. Once we arrived, I use the Kestrel to get current conditions and input them into Shooter. If I zero my rifle at the range I make sure to update the bullet profile section with the zero conditions. Comparing the information on the D.O.P.E. card I made before the trip, with current conditions and hard D.O.P.E. I am able to make the best S.W.A.G. possible (scientific wild ass guess). That method worked very well for me in Anza, California. The conditions were not drastically different than Las Vegas but the humidity and rain was something we do not see too often. Everything off the ballistic program was right on. I did not have to make any changes to the D.O.P.E. card I made before the trip. By the end of the match I was just happy to be dry and fed, I ended up in 8th place. This is was my second time shooting this match. I had shot it previously in 2011 at West End Gun Club. It took me two attempts to get a sliver coin. The 1st place gold coin still eludes me. The match had 39 registered shooters but only 26 finished. We had shooters drop out due to injuries, conditions and equipment failures.
Even though I finished in 8th place I was able to pick a great prize off the table. I won a Kestrel 4500 featuring the Horus ballistic calculator. Our friend Shawn Huges did an incredible job with the prize table. I am very excited about the Kestrel/Horus combination because it will take current weather information and incorporate that into the firing solution. You can also capture wind information, such as speed and direction to incorporate that information as well. I spent Monday evening reading the instructions and doing my best to get everything calibrated and set up. I have the ballistic profile for my competition rifle set up and compass calibrated. I did not attempt to calibrate any of the other functions and left “Weather Mode” with the setting it had from the factory.
Testing the ballistic calculator by manually inputting information from conditions during the 2013 So Cal PRC gave me the same D.O.P.E. as Shooter did. This was a promising sign so I continued to play with it and plan on testing it this weekend during the local Las Vegas Practical Precision Rifle Match. The Kestrel 4500/Horus gives me another resource to use while shooting in unfamiliar conditions. I can use the weather functions separately from the ballistic program. You have the choice to either manually enter weather variables into the Horus program or select to automatically use the weather variables detected by the Kestrel 4500. This is a neat piece of kit and the combination of a weather station and ballistic program is a great idea. I will keep everyone updated on how well the Kestrel 4500/Horus ballistic program works out for me. I will also include more details, as I am able to better familiarize with it. Despite the poor conditions and uncooperative weather during the competition we had a blast hanging out with fellow shooters. We got to visit with a lot of good friends and even made new ones! Dane shot really well (6th place) and so did Dale. On some of the stages we were allowed to help each other out by spotting with our rifles and communicating corrections. It was pretty neat getting to work together like that. I also enjoyed the natural terrain stages and night stage. We are very thankful to the RO’s and staff that put on the match. They forged through the crappy weather so we could have fun and shoot. The match sponsors were also very generous. Dane, Dale and I were incredibly fortunate to walk away with some very cool prizes!