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The 2015 Bushnell Brawl has come to an end, and with it, my anxiety about my first “big” shooting match. The Brawl, for those who aren’t familiar, is a multi-stage rifle and pistol match held over two days in Kingsville, Texas. Kingsville is home to Rifles Only, a premier training facility catering to civilian, military, and LEO shooters. There’s a lot more I’d like to say about Rifles Only, but I think that’s best for a separate article once I’ve had the opportunity to spend some more time out there. Suffice it to say, it’s a top notch facility run by an excellent group of individuals. And they put on on hell of a competition. Stage 1 started bright and early shortly after 8:00 AM. But first…checking zero. And my first problem of the day . . .

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I was using a borrowed rifle and a loaner scope from Bushnell for this competition. And that might be a good place to start. Precision rifle gear is expensive. There’s obviously some gear snobbery that goes around, but expect to pay a minimum of $1000 (and likely much more) for a solid rifle and a similar amount for an optic. In my case, I was using a Remington 700 action rebarreled with an AAC .260 Remington barrel in a X-Ray chassis from KRG. I topped it with a Bushnell HDMR 3.5-21 x 50 mm scope.

After mounting the scope, doing some field testing, and establishing a solid 100 yard zero before the match, I took the whole gun home to clean it, give it a solid once over, and then pack it up for the match. In an incredible fit of stupidity, I assumed that I had been shipped an ERS from Bushnell. The two are very similar, the primary difference being that the ERS includes a zero stop. So I took to disassembling the HDMR turret so I could set a zero stop that doesn’t exist. I’m not 100% sure what happened, but due to my crushing fit of stupidity, I managed to screw up my zero mightily.

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Day 1 8:15 AM – Checking Zero

After waiting in line for 10 minutes or so, I laid out prone on the 100 yard line and found my assigned target. I pushed forward on my bipod, squeezed by rear bag slightly, took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes, breathed a couple more times, checked my natural point of aim, and then let my first shot rip. The target was a 1″ Shoot n See dot. I got my crosshairs back on target to see that there was no hole. I started looking around a bit on the target and saw lots of other holes from other competitors, but nothing even in the neighborhood of my target.

I exhaled, loaded another round, went through the same song and dance, and broke the shot. Again, nothing near my target. Searching around, I found two holes touching each other a great deal above my target. Fearing I’d found my point of impact, I loaded another round, and let it rip. Sure enough, a beautiful little cloverleaf appeared. Using the very handy mil hash reticle in the HDMR, I measured my group at 2.4 mils high. So I cranked the turret down 2.4 mils, and took another shot. I was on elevation wise, but hitting .2 mils to the right. I made the necessary adjustment to windage, and shot three more to be sure. The Shoot n See dot was no more. As was my meager confidence.

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“You know your elevation knob is cranked down 2.4 mils right”, I heard behind me. The voice belonged to the owner of the rifle, pictured above. I explained my problems, and he gave a consolatory nod. We headed back to the truck to reset the turrets to zero on my scope. Not even to my first stage, and my confidence was already shot to hell.

Stage 1 – Mouse Trap Mover

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 4 minutes
Pistol: Before entering the mouse trap, shooters will engage the steel pistol target with 5 rounds for score.
Description: Shooters will have 5 dots to engage from each position on the Mouse Trap. Each dot will be engaged only twice from each position
Position: multiple
Points 15
Distance 78 yards
Rifle Rounds: 10 rounds
Pistol Rounds: 5 rounds


Figuring that doing something difficult right off the bat might be a good shock therapy, our group headed over to Mouse Trap Mover, a regular stage at the Brawl. My two buddies insisted that it was an awful stage, but it was better to get it over sooner, rather than later. Those of you sitting in your chairs laughing at a 78 yard rifle shot would be surprised at just how hard it can be to do while scrunched into an awkward position. While the target moves. Hence the “mover” naming convention.

I strode confidently to the line, pistol in hand, assured that I was going to pick up 5 guaranteed points on the pistol stage. My rifle shooting might be worthless, but I can run a pistol. Especially one as fine as the XD(m) 4.5 that Springfield loaned me. As instructed, I loaded five rounds, and started at the low ready. On the gun command, I brought my pistol up from low ready with a PERFECT combat grip, established my sight picture, and slowly squeezed off my first shot. And promptly missed. I slowed down even further, squeezed the trigger and scored a hit. Followed by another. Followed by a miss. And one more hit. Whatever confidence I had left fell to the ground with my spent 9 mm case. At the rifle, I established myself in a seated position, took up as steady a hold as I could, and squeezed off two shots. I racked the bolt back, dropped my mag, and moved my rifle up to the next shooting window seen above off the right shoulder of the pink shirted gentleman to the right. As there’s not enough room to have my body and my rifle at this stage, I was forced to lean over the side to take my shots. Two more down, bolt back, mag out. I was at least not going to be DQ’d on a safety violation.

Moving my rifle, mag and body up to the top, I inserted my mag, took two more shots from the top, flipped the bolt to the rear, dropped the mag and went to the left side of the platform. I started to insert the mag when the RO started shouting “MAG OUT!!” at me. I explained that I needed to shoot from the top. He told me I already had. I told him I’d only shot one position and that I was slow. He told me that the next stage was the one below me. I then realized that there’s only one shooting station from the top. As I started to make my way down, he shouted “TIME!!!” And like that, my first stage of the Brawl was done.

Result: 4 points (3 pistol, 1 rifle)

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Stage 2 – 5 Dots on Paper

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 20 seconds
Description: On the gun command, shooters will have 20 seconds to fire on round per dot on their target.
Position: RO choice (support side)
Points: 1 point per hit
Distance TBD (78 yards)
Rifle Rounds: 5 rounds

IMG_1562Next door to Mouse Trap was the 5 dots on paper drill. Seeing a short line, and not interested in moving further than we needed to, we got queued up. Having recently been kicked in the teeth on the Mouse Trap stage, I relished the opportunity to rest my gun on something stable that wasn’t moving. My happiness was quickly squashed when I saw that the targets were 1/2″ dots, the barrier was less than stable, and it had to be shot support side. Luckily, I got to watch other competitors go before me, and I saw that one gentleman seemed to have made good use of jamming his bipod into the barrier, stepping on the leg of the barrier frame, and cinching up his sling. During my prep time, I set myself up the same way and on the gun command, started letting them loose. I didn’t get an opportunity to check my target when I was done so I marked myself zero points. But once the final results posted, I saw that I hit a few.

Result: 3 points

Stage 3 – Rooftops from Hell

Prep Time: none
Completion Time: 3.5 minutes
Description: Shooters will engage the E target from each of the provided rooftops with three rounds. The shooters will only be able to use the rooftops themselves. No support structures can be used. Additionally, no bags of any kind be used for any purpose. Bolts can only be closed once the shooter is in position.
Position: multiple
Points: 15
Distance: 537 yards
Rifle Rounds: 15 rounds

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Rooftops was my first actual “long” range stage at 537 yards. Thanks to the corrections provided by “Shooter“, I had built a dope card which I had stuck to my left forearm using a quarterback sleeve. I dialed up my elevation before the stage started, loaded a five round mag and a ten round mag, dropped those in my belt pouches and got ready. I also shortened one of my bidpod legs.

On the start command, I sprinted over, loaded my mag and set up my gun. I then slipped all the way down the rooftop. I managed to catch myself, and haul my portly ass back up. Once it position, I held off 1.3 mils for wind and sent my first round. After what seemed to be an eternity, I heard “HIT!” from the RO. I racked another one, sent it downrange, and was rewarded with another “HIT!” Racking my last round, I rushed the shot and knew I had a miss before the RO confirmed it. I already had a mag out, my bolt back, and was on my way to the next rooftop.

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I managed to eek out one hit from my weakside, a small victory in my mind as that’s a very difficult shot to pull off. I worked my way over to the third rooftop, one that was slanted backwards. I managed to get in a good position, and let one go. The RO called a hit, I racked another one in the chamber, and right before I broke the next shot, my time was up.

Result: 4 points

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Stage 4 – Barricades on November

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 2 minutes
Description: Shooters will engage the N target with 5 rounds from each of the steps on the barricade. This is not a stress drill.
Position: multiple
Points: 15
Distance: 580 yards
Rifle Rounds: 15 rounds

Having actually practiced barricade shooting before the Brawl, I was nervous about this stage. I knew that I didn’t shoot well from a barricade, and 580 yards is a pretty far poke. Luckily, I watched a few competitors go before me to see how they approached it. About this time, the wind really picked up. One of our guys had a Kestrel, and was registering wind speeds upwards of 20 mph sustained. This had less of an effect on my terminal ballistics and more of an effect on my ability to get a stable rest as I was literally blown off balance several times.

I managed to squeeze off 8 rounds before my time was up, making it to the middle barrier. The RO who was spotting my shots was a truly excellent guy. While I’d missed almost all of them, he told me that during the big gusts, my shots were all hitting just over the top, and that my wind calls had been about 1 mil off. Basically, had the target been ever so slightly bigger, I would have registered way more hits. That was encouraging to hear given that barricade shooting is my weakest position by far.

Result: 1 point

Stage 5 – 515 Mover

Prep Time: 1 minute
Completion Time: 1 minute
Description: Shooters will engage the moving target with a maximum of ten round
Position: TBD (prone strong side)
Points: 10
Distance: 515 yards
Rifle Rounds: 10 rounds

Rifles Only has two (count em two!) mover capable target areas. The first is the carbine pit where we held the “Mouse Trap Mover” stage, and the second is the hilariously titled “Short Range” which stretches out to 515 yards where there’s a large, permanent platform. Its that platform where the shooters would line up, ten at a time, prone, to shoot a moving target. In this case, the target was a small steel dolphin silhouette about the size of a 5 gallon bucket lid. Video of it is available on the Rifles Only Facebook page.  The total travel distance in each direction is about 25-30 yards, and while not sprinting, it moves at a decent enough clip. As you can imagine, I did very, very poorly at this stage. So poorly in fact that each of my six shots failed to connect. One competitor hit eight out of ten.

Result: 0 points

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Stage 6 – Hunter of Gunmen

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 90 seconds
Description: Shooters will engage the H Target with two rounds from each of three different positions using the Hog Saddle Rifle Rest
Position: Multiple
Points: 6
Distance: 515 yards
Rifle Rounds: 6

I’d never gotten an opportunity to shoot off a hog saddle before, but I’d heard good things. I quickly saw that they did not hold up well against the abuse of dozens of competitors so part of the challenge of this stage was keeping the gear together long enough to get a good shot off. I managed to work through this one pretty quickly making it to the last stage when the RO called time. The target was a full size IPSC situated at ground height at 515 yards. I do have to say that the Hog Saddle, when working properly, and properly fitted seems to be an excellent field shooting tool.

Result: 2 points

Stage 7 – Know Your Limits On Steel

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 1 minute
Description: 1 point for first target, 2 points for a hit on second target, 3 points for a hit on third target, and 4 points for hit on fourth target. A miss results in the loss of all accumulated points.
Position: Prone Support Side (actually shot strong side)
Points: 10
Distance: 600 yards
Rifle Rounds: 4

Given the wind conditions and the distance, I had some real stress about this stage. Six hundred yards is a pretty far poke when you get down to it, and the targets were small. I believe the first target was approximately the size of a 1/3 IPSC torso so six inches wide by ten inches tall. I made an agreement internally that if I hit the first one, I’d take my points and be done with it. I was the third shooter in line and both guys who went before me missed. I took a deep breath and on the “send it” command, broke my shot and got back on the glass fast enough to watch it center punch the steel target. “HIT!” I dropped the mag, rocked the bolt to the rear, and called it good. One other shooter got to the third target, and nobody ended up striking out on points. That much wind made for conservative shooters.

Result: 1 point

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Stage 8 – Standing Unsupported 

Prep Time: none
Completion Time: 1 minute
Description: The shooter will engage a full sized IPSC target from the standing position with 5 rounds.
Position: Standing unsupported. Slings and bags allowed
Points: 5
Distance: 440 yards
Rifle Rounds: 5

A gift from the course designers, this stage was situated in such a way that we had the wind at our backs at least removing that from the equation. I managed to get in a pretty comfortable position with the aid of a sand bag but heaving a heavy precision rifle into position was not nearly as nice as getting my Garand situated. As such, I missed a lot.

Result: 1 point

Stage 9 – 450 Kneeling

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 40 seconds
Description: The shooter will engage the 400 yard steel target with 5 rounds from the slung supported kneeling position. This is a traditional kneeling position. Don’t try any yoga poses or pretzel looking something or other. NO BAGS of any kind.
Position: Kneeling with a sling
Points: 5
Distance: 440 yards
Rifle Rounds: 5

This was actually shot back to back with the standing position since it was the same range and same target. Though I consider myself proficient in the slung sitting position, I blew it here missing all my shots. Or at least that’s what the score said. I felt like I hit something.

Result: 0 points

Stage 10 – Know Your Limits – Paper

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 1 minute
Description: Shooters will engage 4 progressively smaller dots. 1 point for first target, 2 points for a hit on second target, 3 points for a hit on third target, and 4 points for hit on fourth target. A miss results in the loss of all accumulated points.
Position: Range Officers Choice (Prone Strong Side)
Points: 10
Distance: 100 yards
Rifle Rounds: 4

As deceptively easy as this sounds, it isn’t. I think the first dot was less than one inch in diameter and I “just” missed it. Subsequently, I wasn’t able to move to the next stage. I’m fairly certain that the last dot was .25″ in diameter and several people looked like they hit it.

Result: 0 points

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Stage 11/12/13 – 700, 800, 1000 yards

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 40 seconds
Description: Shooters will engage the 700, 800, and 1000 yard target
Position: Prone Strong Side
Points: 5/5/5
Distance: 700, 800, 1000 yards
Rifle Rounds: 15

This was the first stage of the second day and we arrived at the range to find that the wind had not abated. This whole stage is shot from the tower you see in the photo above and targets were “a small ass target” at 700, 1/3 IPSC torso at 800, and 1/3 IPSC target at 1000. The two guys I went with got in the same group as me so we set up next to each other so we could spot, talk wind, and help each other out. I was first in line to shoot for all three stages.

My 700 yard performance did not go well as the wind was threw my bullets all over the place and in some cases, it was changing during reloads. To give you some real world data on the issue. Using a .260 Rem, the wind hold for a 10 mph full value wind is 1.3 mils while the 15 mph full value hold is 2.0 mils. The difference of .7 mil at 700 yards is 17.64″ (1 mill @ 700 = 25.2 inches). It doesn’t sound like much, but the target was but a few inches wide and the wind switching from 10 – 15 mph had my shots landing on either side of the target.

During the 800 yard stage, things went MUCH better as the wind held steady long enough for me to squeeze off three shots in quick succession with the hold I used from the 700 yard stage. I cannot fully communicate how good it feels to hit 3 in a row at 800 yards on a 6″ wide target in a stout wind. I know for a fact I got lucky, but for those few moments, I was on top of the world.

The 1000 yard stage removed any good feelings I had as I only hit one, but the very nice RO told me that if the target had been “just a bit” bigger, I would have gone 5/5. He never indicated how much bigger it needed to be though. Several of the guys on the tower cleaned one or two stages though nobody went 15 for 15.

Result: 1/3/1 points

Stage 14 – Barricades

Prep Time: 1 minute
Completion Time: 2 minutes
Description: Shooters will engage the .5″ dot with one round with the rifle rested on the barrel on a wire. From the lowest step, they will engage the bottom 2″ circle with three rounds. After retrieving the next 3 rounds, the shooter will engage the middle 3″ target from the middle step. This process will be repeated for the highest step on the highest target. Muzzles are to be pointed downrange before the bolts are closed
Position: Multiple
Points: 10
Distance: 100 yards
Rifle Rounds: 10

I had heard from the guys who convinced me to go that this was one of the most frustrating stages as resting the barrel of your gun on a suspended wire changes your point of impact significantly, though I certainly wasn’t sure how much it would change things. I took a SWAG and held 1 mil low and ended up hitting about .3 mil low. A .5″ dot is hard enough to hit for me so I wasn’t surprised.

The transition to the barriers, like all the barrier shooting I had done over the weekend was frustrating. I spent about a minute getting settled, trying to adjust my sling, but try as I might I was just not stable. I ended up only engaging the lowest target and only scoring one hit.

Result: 1 point

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Stage 15 – Net Run n Gun

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 2 minutes
Description: Shooters will start at the bottom of the cargo net and climb to the top. From there, they will engage H target with 3 rounds, then exit the net by method of choice. Travel to the bus and engage the H target with 3 rounds
Position: Multiple
Points: 6
Distance: 593 and 560 yards
Rifle Rounds: 6

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This was by far my favorite stage of the entire match, even though I did very poorly. First, the line for this was long as it was taking several minutes to cycle through each shooter. During that time, I got to watch a dozen or so shooters approach the stage and I had some formed ideas on how I’d position myself on top of the net for maximum stability. I ended up being wrong, missing all 3 shots, but it was an excellent challenge.

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After dismounting from the barricade, I made the sprint to the bus, changing my elevation along the way. Once inside the bus, I took a moment to get settled on an improvised table created from a bus seat laid across two other seats. I got settled, squeezed my shot, reloaded, and started to put pressure on the trigger when I heard “TIME!” from the RO. I trotted back to sign my score sheet to find out that I’d missed the first three and “center punched” the one shot I took from the bus.

Giving it thought on the way to the next stage, I realized that I should have rushed through the barricade stage to get to the bus where I knew there was a more stable platform. You live and you learn.

Result: 1 point

Stage 16 – 100 yard Barricade Mover

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 1 full pass of mover in each direction
Description: Shooters will engage the moving target with a maximum of 10 rounds
Position: shooters choice from barricade
Points: 10
Distance: 100 yards
Rifle Rounds: 10

Given my poor showing on a mover earlier, I hoped that a closer target might prove more beneficial. And it was! I chose the middle position on the barricade, making good use of my sandbag and my sling to firm up my position. I managed to get 9 shots off during the pass and scored 3 hits on a ~5″ diameter target.

Result: 3 point

Stage 17 – One shot Challenge

Prep Time: 30 seconds
Completion Time: 10 seconds
Description: 1 shot to be placed within the reticle in the Ace of Spades. Closest shot to the center will win $300 certificate from Accu-Shot
Position: RO choice (prone strong side)
Points: 1
Distance: TBD (25 yards)
Rifle Rounds: 1

Luckily, Shooter has the ability to give me an elevation hold for 25 yards, in this case 1.1 mils. At 25 yards, the parallax in the scope was certainly noticeable even at the lowest setting. I managed to break the crosshair, but ultimately, someone got closer than me to win the gift card.

Result: 1 point

Stage 18 – Pistol Mover

Prep Time: 1 full pass of the mover in either directions
Completion Time: 1 full pass of the mover in either directions
Description: Engage the steel target with a pistol
Position: Pistol standing offhand
Points: 15
Distance: TBD (25 yards)
Pistol Rounds: 15

Movers and barricades seemed to be my downfall the whole weekend and this was no different. I chose a hold on the leading edge of the target, a 2/3 IPSC I believe. A pass in either direction and 12 rounds later, I scored one measly hit. I also had two instances of my slide locking back. I’m guessing that my grip has me riding the slide lock from the underside.

Result: 1 point

And like that, my time at the Bushnell Brawl was over, along with my short term interest in Precision Rifle Competitions. I got 93rd out of 116 competitors, which I’m beyond thrilled with, but at the end of the day, PR is not for me. It is filled with nice people, and this is challenging stuff, but the cost to play is just too high for me at the moment. It became immediately apparent that like most shooting sports, the guys at the top were practicing three to four times a week, and that’s just not something I can practically accomplish at the moment.

Now here’s a bunch of pictures that didn’t fit in the article. 

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9 Responses to Competition Recap: Bushnell Brawl 2015

  1. Well, Hell. That was fun. It’s an interesting situation, I could afford the fun, but I’m too decrepit to participate. I am sure there are many who would excel, but cannot afford to participate. Perhaps someone could get us together!

  2. Tyler, I’ve been away from competition for a bit, but this got my ticker going.
    that looked like a gas!
    I’m looking for something in my area once I build a proper rifle.

  3. Cool competition details and photos. I bet that wind would’ve definitely blown some of my .308 rounds off target. Cool article.

  4. Tyler, if I did all that in a couple of days, I’d have to spend a month in traction. With IVs. And a resuscitator. Well done!

  5. Good write up Tyler and congrats on the finish for your first PRS match. For those not familiar with PR events the Brawl is among the top tier events along with the Gap Grind and Snipers Hide Cup. All are quite challenging and to say Tyler jumped into the deepest end of the PR pool is not an understatement. Yes, the top tier equipment is expensive, but so is most any other shooting sport. Your estimates on an entry level new rifle and scope are spot on ($1k each), however most PR shooters are gear whores and always tinkering and swapping in the latest and greatest. The second hand market has a plethora of good deals once you know what you want. You can certainly set up an accurate and reliable system for about $1500. For those considering the sport don’t be dissuaded by the sticker shock of a top end precision rig. Do your research, talk to PR shooters, and set a reasonable equipment budget. The sport is accessible and a LOT of fun!

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