This past weekend was the November monthly long range match with the NorCal Practical Precision Rifle group. As usual, Saturday is a practice day and Sunday is the match. I had a pretty good practice session, and was pleased with the dope I was able to collect. (In this context "dope" refers to "data on previous engagement," i.e. how much elevation I needed to add to my scope to hit the target at various distances between 200 and 1,000 yards.) My new handload is proving to be quite accurate and consistent, and when I do my part I can shoot around 1/2 MOA accuracy with it, meaning the bullet impacts within 1/2" of where I'm aiming at 100 yards, 1" at 200 yards, etc.
After the practice session a group of us headed over to the pistol range to play with some new guns that folks had recently acquired. In particular, one of my buds brought a Smith & Wesson M&P in .45 ACP that had been worked on by Salient Arms. They had lightened the slide and recoil spring, hand-fit a titanium nitrided match barrel, installed a Trijicon RMR red dot sight on it, installed a lighter trigger, and stippled the grip. He waited a very long time for the pistol because Salient Arms is very busy, and went through a lot of hassles because of California's ever-changing gun laws, but he finally had it in his possession. We all ooh-ed and ahh-ed admiringly at it, and took turns shooting it. It turns out it's quite the little shooter. The center diamond on the target is 10 shots at seven yards with Winchester white box ammo. Yes, I did flinch a little and throw one round low, but that was my fault and not the pistol's. One ragged hole with cheap plinking ammo? Fantastic!
Sunday morning I was assigned to shoot the first relay of the match. This is typically the easier of the two relays, since the wind usually is a little calmer first thing in the morning. The wind starts picking up as the day goes on, so the shooters on second relay are usually challenged by trickier winds. Newer shooters tend to be assigned to the first relay, and as this was only my fifth match, first relay seemed appropriate for me. I shot it pretty well; the dope I collected from Saturday held well on Sunday, and by now I'd become more familiar with my equipment and all the things I needed to do at each stage. This allowed me to spend more time reading the wind instead of futzing with my equipment, and it really helped.
While I was pretty happy with my performance, there are a lot of good shooters in the club and I figured I'd maybe broken into the top third. However, as the second relay shot the wind became very tricky and mislead almost everyone at multiple points. By the end of the day the best shooters on second relay had scored in the high 300's. I had scored 415 points, but I knew that there were some better shooters than me on the first relay, so I figured they had outscored me and it'd be one of those days where the first relay managed to outscore the second relay.
So imagine my surprise when they announced the top five scores, and I was number one!
Yes, I did have an easier time of it since I was on the first relay, but hot damn did it feel great to win! I got a nice little plaque and some good-natured ribbing from folks ("Hope you enjoyed first relay—you'll never be on it again!"). And, honestly, I'm probably at the point where I'm comfortable with the basic mechanical aspects and need to work more on my wind reading skills, so being on second relay will give me that opportunity. But, for now I'm just going to enjoy my win and not worry too much about the future.