A few weeks back, I ran the 2014 Pecos Run n Gun. Unfortunately, due to the freakish amount of rain the area received, the main event, planned for Saturday, was cancelled. However, because I’d volunteered to be a Range Officer for the Saturday event, I got to run the course on Friday between rain storms. It was everything I expected and a bit more. When I posted the preview article several people remarked on how fun the course of fire looked so I wanted to break off a separate post to deal just with the course of fire, issues/successes I had, and a few photos. Many thanks to my buddy Thomas for being my official photographer . . .
As I mentioned in my “Embrace the Suck” piece, there was a lot of rain. As such, there was some pretty decent flooding on the course. In fact, even though I’d put dry socks on right before the beginning of the race, there were soaked within the first 150 yards as I was forced to cross a flooded washout. Calf deep and moving pretty quickly, the water ensured that my feet were thoroughly soaked from the start. After slogging my way through the mud for a mile(ish), I made it to Stage One.
Stage One — The OK Corral: Pistol only (3 minutes) — the shooter will engage a dueling tree with six, six-inch paddles and must move all six paddles to the other side of the tree, and then back again. Shooter will then proceed to an obstacle, and engage one eight-inch gong from underneath some barrier Larry is making. Magazine change required.
Thankfully, this was my worst stage. And I do mean worst. If you’ll remember from the preview article, I took my FNS-9. I only own two magazines for that gun. So I packed two extra 19 round XD(m) magazines to act as backfill. My thought process being that I could refill the FNS mags from the XD(m) mags as I trudged through the course. On the command to fire, I began indiscriminately firing (and missing). I forced myself to breathe and take my time knowing that I only had 35 rounds to work with. About the time I started hitting plates, my trusty FNS started going click. I still don’t know what caused all my failures to go into battery, but it happened a lot. Wildly frustrated with my normally rock solid reliable pistol, I muttered, “The gun that never jams.”
The RO who was working the stage seemed to appear out of nowhere and said, “Its going to be like this all day.” I made my way through my failures and eventually got all of the plates to one side and then the other, though I found the 115 gr Blazer I was using lacked the necessary punch to move the plates from one side to the other. Sometimes, they required multiple hits.
After the dueling tree, I launched myself into the mud for the second part of the stage. The barrier in question was a piece of plywood supported by four cinderblocks. Instead of trying to shoot sideways, I buried the butt of my pistol in the mud and hit the eight inch gong five times with five shots.
With the stage over, I holstered my pistol and started slogging towards stage two. A few hundred yards away from stage one, I dropped the magazine in the gun to find it empty. I moved the slide back and saw that I had only one in the chamber. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I’d nearly expended both magazines on a stage that required a minimum of 17 shots. I grabbed one of my donor XD(m) magazines and started downloading and reloading. Chalk it up to dehydration, or frustration with how stage one went, but I managed to nearly fully load my FNS mag before downloading it, and reloading my nearly empty XD(m) mag. Stage one was cursed I think.
The hike to stage two was long. I didn’t end up wearing my GPS enabled iPhone, but I’d ballpark it at nearly a mile and a half from stage one based on the amount of time it took me to hump it over there. The hike there took me through my first taste of the low hills in the Pecos area, but finally I got to the second stage which had been the most concerning for me.
Stage Two— THE REDCOATS ARE COMING (3 minutes): Those of you familiar with the Appleseed Red Coat course of fire will recognize this stage. There will be four steel gongs in the shape of the black scoring rings of a Military “Dog” targets (head and shoulders). There will be one target at 100 yards, one at 200, one at 300 and one at 400 yards. On the RO’s command the shooter will engage the four targets, starting with the 100-yard target. Each target must be hit TWO times before the shooter advances to the next.
I had nightmares in the days leading up to this event about stage two. I’m a pretty decent rifle shooter, but 400 yards from a slung position after walking/running didn’t sound the easiest task to accomplish. On the way to Pecos, I stopped at my ranch to check my 400 yard zero, and with the wind a blowing I was not registering hits the way I wanted to.
I got to the stage, the RO reviewed the course of fire, I grabbed one of my Black Hills loaded magazines and made ready. When given the command to engage, I struck up a seated position with my Turner sling bound tightly to my arm and started firing. The 100 yard stage went down with two shots. I dialed a half mil for the 200 and took it down with two shots. I dialed a full mil and took aim at the 300 yard plate. First shot was a hit. I knew the second shot was a miss as soon as the trigger broke. I didn’t even wait for the RO, got back on target, and hit it with my third shot.
Then I focused in on the 400 yard plate. The one I’d been dreading. First shot. PING! “HIT!” I couldn’t believe it. Second shot. Again, I knew I’d missed as soon as I broke the shot. Third shot. Again felt I’d missed before I even got confirmation from the RO. Fourth shot. PING! “HIT!”
I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t shot the whole thing clean, and I definitely took my sweet time, but I’d had nightmares in the weeks leading up to it about dumping mag after mag downrange until I hit the three minute time limit. I packed up my gear, ran my turret back to zero, and took off down the hill. Once down, I went back up the hill and was at stage three. Maybe half a mile had elapsed.
Stage Three— INTO THE VALLEY OF WOE (3 minutes): There will be two gongs situated 200
yards from the beginning firing line. On the RO’s command, the shooter will engage both targets with as many rounds as necessary to score one hit on each. Shooter will then advance to the second, third and fourth firing lines, repeating the process at each firing line. Each gong must be hit once before the shooter can advance. When the last gong is hit at the fourth firing line, time stops.
Knowing that I’d have to be on the move, I slung up and assumed a kneeling position for each firing line. Stage three was fairly unremarkable. I called my misses again though which was a shocker to me. I’ve never considered myself a top shot by any stretch, but I felt like I was in the zone. I was still missing, and I definitely wasn’t beating a lot of people, but I was shooting outside my capabilities. I was feeling confident. Stage three came and went and I headed off to stage four.
Stage four was a seemingly long way away. It felt like I’d been walking forever though my wristwatch told me it had only been 30 minutes when I saw a shade tent in the distance. I assumed it was the next shooting station so I put my earplugs in, but when I got there, I found that I had misunderstood. Instead of a shooting station, I found a low crawl stage. 10 yards through the dirt under a piece of cattle panel. It seemingly existed only to break my spirit. I went forth undeterred.
Stage Four — MICHAEL’s AND MARK’S WALL OF SHAME (3 minutes) — There will be two gongs at 200 yards. There will be five marked shooting positions behind a barricade. Each shooting position will present the shooter with a fresh challenge. Each gong must be hit once before the shooter moves to the next position.
Stage four was a bit of a doozy. There was a wall of pallets, old car tires, and barrels. There were the assigned shooting positions. Some of them allowed me to simply kneel and shoot. Others required me to wedge my gun in at an angle. There was a magazine change along the way, and I finished by lying atop a pallet resting on something. I expended a lot of rounds along the way, but made it through. Again, I knew my time wasn’t the best, but I felt really good about how I shot.
The distance between stage four and five seemed to go on forever. Part of it was through a mud flat broken up by bushes that insisted on stabbing me. Some places had great traction while others had me sunk to my ankles. I desperately wanted it to end.
I saw the shade tent that indicated Stage five was close at hand. Unfortunately, there was a river that needed crossing. I found a part that looked calm and started across. About halfway, I suddenly fell in a hole up to my delicate bits. The cold floodwater ever so slightly kissed my bits, and I let out a little squeak. Very manly I assure you. I checked my barrel to see that it was dry, and made my way to the fifth stage.
Stage Five —FIGHT YOUR WAY TO A RIFLE (3 minutes): At the the beginning of this stage shooter will ground his safe rifle on a mat, and then proceed to firing position A. At Position A, after receiving the “Fire” command, shooter will draw his pistol and engage 10, 8-inch gongs. When the last target is hit, shooter will immediately proceed back to his rifle, load, and engage one or more targets at approximately 200 yards until each target has been hit one time.
I knew I had another pistol stage ahead, but I had two fully loaded magazines and hope in my heart. This stage required a magazine change along the way. I hit the first and second plates with my first shot. About the time that I started feeling confident, stage five sucked me back in. I started missing. Five in a row. I slowed down, took my time, and squeezed off a shot and was rewarded with the ping of steel. It went on like that for the rest of the course of fire. I just couldn’t hit anything. I finally ran out of ammo, and switched mags. I hit the last three finally, and holstered my pistol. I headed over to my grounded rifle, got in the seated position that had done me so much good, and hit the rifle gong with my first shot.
Over the hill and on I went to the sixth and final stage. About fifteen minutes later, I arrived.
Stage Six —PEEKABOO (3 minutes): There will be one gong at approximately 100 yards from the firing line. At the firing line there will be a barrier with five holes cut into it, designed to piss you off and make it difficult to shoot the target. The target must be hit once while shooting through each of the holes in the barrier, and holes must be worked from top to bottom.
The aforementioned barrier was a VTAC barricade. While it managed to piss me off I only needed seven shots to complete the five part series. Again, I’d seemingly shot way beyond my capabilities. I showed a clear rifle to the RO, threw my rifle over my shoulder, and proceeded to haul ass to the finish.
Unfortunately, the road was still very muddy and my progress was slowed a great deal. When it dried out towards the finish line, I was finally able to kick it up a notch and get a good run going. I crossed the finish line at two hours twenty minutes. It was a fairly respectable time given the circumstances. I’d wanted to go sub two hours, and I think on dry ground, I could have made it happen, but the mud was not my friend.
Overall, I thought the course of fire went well. I’d really only wanted to not DNF on a stupid technicality, hit some steel, and finish in a respectable time. I managed to not DNF any stages, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well my rifle shooting went. I truly felt like I was thoroughly in the zone with my rifle in my hands. I doubt I could go out and shoot that well today if I needed to. My pistol shooting however was a different story. I was seemingly unable to hit anything with my FNS and it managed to jam quite a bit during the course of fire. Next year, I’ll be running a XD(m) platform in 9 mm shooting some heavy 147 gr. ammo that will actually move the plates.
If you’ve been fence sitting on running Pecos Run n Gun, I highly recommend you do it. It was grueling for sure, but totally worth it. If you can, get out there and go do it.