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I just returned from my third outing to Pecos, Texas for the annual Pecos Run n Gun. While newer, shinier, longer, and “harder” biathlons have come online in the last few years, I consider the Pecos event the original and therefore the best. In years past, the weather has dictated that the majority of my writing be about monsoons or crushing heat waves. But this year’s race was moderately hot with only a touch of rain overnight.

The course of fire changed a bit from last year, but remained right at a hair under five miles, with six shooting stations that incorporated rifle shots from 100 – 350 yards and pistol shots from 10 – 15 yards.


Bringing New People

As Run ‘N Gun thrives and survives on an engaged group of shooters, it’s important to introduce fresh blood each year to backfill those that can’t make it or don’t want to give it another go. This year, I returned to Pecos with TTAG reader and sometimes contributor (Wes D), a buddy from college (KG) and a fellow shooter (JW). JW is a pretty active competitor in PRS shooting; for him Run ‘N Gun simply meant covering more ground between stages. KG had never competed in a formalized shooting competition. He’d spent very little time running a modern sporting rifle prior to this event.

I loaned KG everything he needed to compete, with a mandate that he show up, have fun and get something out of it. I’m pleased to report that he completed the race quickly and efficiently with no DNFs on any stages. I RO’d the dueling tree stage, where posted one of the fastest times of the weekend (seen in the video above). Based on KG’s text messages about rifles and pistols since we returned, I think I can count him in for next year.


Even GLOCKs crap the bed

Part of this year’s course included three mandatory low crawls through the Pecos dirt. The dirt is a peculiar mix of silt, sand and clay. In places where it has been disturbed and kicked around, like a place where lots of people have been crawling under fences, it gets to be the consistency of talcum powder. It has a way of getting inside every little nook and cranny.

I elected to use a high temp silicone grease on my pistols this year. They ran flawlessly — even though they’d been buried in the aforementioned sand. The picture above is of the inside of the M&P that KG borrowed. I’d thoroughly scrubbed it prior to heading out; it picked up that much grit in the course of five miles and 90 minutes in the desert.

As the dueling tree stage was at the very end of the course, the pistols I saw had seen the worst of it. About a third of the competitors had issues with their guns. Most were isolated to failures to return to battery — not a surprise given the amount of “crunch” inside the guns. The people whose guns came through dripping in oil did just fine. The guns that looked dry not so much.

For those that might say that a GLOCK doesn’t fail, I watched a statistically significant number of them do just that. I also watched one guy with a 1911 run the course of fire clean with no failures. Keep your guns lubed up, and try to avoid dragging them through the dirt. If you must, take the time to pull them apart and blow them out a bit first.

TTAG writers aren’t immune to gear failures either

The last two years at RnG, the only problems I’ve encountered were of my own making. Proper gear allowed me to focus on sight alignment and trigger squeeze. This year, I started off the day by looking through the window of my slide-mounted DeltaPoint to find that I had no illuminated dot. I swapped out the battery for a fresh one. Still, no dot. Luckily, I had the gun sent off for backup irons earlier this year, and I was able to compete. Things break, and they always do it at the most inopportune time.

There’s an old adage about the two loudest noises being a bang when you expected a click, and a click when you expected a bang. The first stage of the day included shooting from three points of cover at two steel targets. As I enjoy a challenge, I’d elected to run a bolt action rifle this year, the Mossberg MVP LR-T that I’d reviewed earlier this year.

I’d even worked up a dandy little handload for it. I joked with Wes D before the start that I couldn’t blame Federal if the gun didn’t go off. Thankfully, I’d been through about 200 rounds of handloads during the load development and practice leading up to the race as well as hundreds of factory loads during my review.

Sure enough, my first shot of the day was a click. Curse words. Rack the bolt. Bang. Figuring I had a dud primer, I ran to the next stage, got behind cover, flicked the safety off, and got another click. Curse words. Rack the bolt. Bang. This process repeated itself at every stage that required movement from one position to the next.

By the end of the course, I’d figured out that vigorous bolt cycling seemed to cure the issue. I recovered several of my “duds” to find faint primer strikes or none at all. Cursory reading on the internet leads me to believe that the firing pin can get gummed up and lead to light strikes.

After placing a call to Leupold’s warranty department, I put one into Mossberg’s tech support team. They told me that regular cleaning on the order of every 250 rounds should be performed. As you’d expect, I’ve been unable to reliably replicate the failure since I returned.


Mindset: Fear the man with a $600 rifle who’s shot $2500 worth of ammo 

One of the very best things about this event: it’s a true open class event. If you think that a red dot-equipped STI wundergun is the answer to your woes, you can run that. If all you can afford is a HiPoint, you’re welcome as well. I saw an Elcan in the wild mounted to a SCAR 16. I also saw a lot of beater AR-15s, a Mini-14 and a scoped AK-47. On the handgun side, I encountered a couple of RMR equipped pistols, a ton of GLOCKs, and the odd 1911. The guy running the scoped AK? He was rocking a Tokarev and ran a really respectable time on the dueling tree.

People who ran guns that were a little cheaper usually did better on the dueling tree. The best example: the Texas A&M shooting team on the dueling tree. All of them run fairly well-sorted GLOCK 17 or 34’s. For the most part, they did pretty well. One shooter though, was decked out in the fanciest Kryptek gear, sporting a very nice AR-15. He went through at least four magazines worth of ammo before hitting the two minute time cap and scoring ZERO hits. None. Zilch.

Shortly thereafter, a gentleman came through wearing khaki shorts, a denim shirt and a very cheap chest rig. He was carrying a fairly beat up SOCOM M1A and a full size 1911. He was very clearly bordering on heat exhaustion, so he took a few minutes to sit in the shade, suck down some water from his CamelBak and get his heart rate and breathing under control.

And even though he was a little unsteady on his feet, he went fourteen for twelve on the dueling tree. His pace was modest, but he scored good hits. And while he might not have finished the race in less than one hour, he did put up a good score on that stage, ranking him higher than the ammo dumping teenager from A&M.

Know what a broken gun looks/feels like and how to fix it

I can’t tell you how many people I saw have weapon failures and then look at their gun like it was some sort of evil creature. I watched one of A&Ms shooters dump half a dozen rounds on the stage as he repeatedly cleared a failure to go into battery by ripping the mag out out, and vigorously cycling the slide. Each time, he’d reinsert the magazine and take a shot. The gun would fail, again. He’d rip the mag out, and repeat.

This took massive amounts of time and wasted precious ammo. There are a lot of valid ways to diagnose and clear malfunctions. Find an instructor, have them break your gun, learn how to diagnose and fix what ails you. I don’t often say this, but it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Mindset and strategy eat youth and exuberance for lunch

At the end of the day, Pecos Run ‘N Gun and any of the other biathlons are shooting competitions. They just happen to have a long distance between the stages. The scoring for RnG is pretty simple. Half your score is based on your run time and half is based on shooting time. Last year, run times ranged from sub-hour to over three hours. This year wasn’t much different.

With a hard time limit of two minutes per stage, there were only twelve “shooting” minutes available. Cutting five seconds per stage by getting your heart rate under control was worth way more than sprinting like a crazy person to shave five minutes off your run time. Besides, slow hits are always more fun than fast misses.


Final Thoughts

Run ‘N Gun is without a doubt my favorite shooting competition for one reason: it favors the planner. My favorite things in life require hours if not days of planning and seconds/minutes/hours of performance. It’s why I fell in love with running the hurdles in college, why I love long range shooting and planning long road trips.

Run n Gun is not the local carbine match you decide to enter the morning of. It is equal parts desert camping trip, road trip, laboratory, and marksmanship competition. I spend all year planning for it because the gear and humans that do well out there do well in a variety of other disciplines. I highly recommend it.

Natural gas flares off in the distance.
Payment for being a Range Office – Steak & Potatoes
Snake Warning at Balmorhea State Park
JW was nice enough to smoke some brisket for us to eat all weekend
Sunscreen, bug spray, and Pecos Dirt
The sunsets in West Texas are worth it

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  1. “My favorite things in life require hours if not days of planning and seconds/minutes/hours of performance.”

    Days of planning and seconds of performance. My marriages in a nutshell.

  2. “They told me that regular cleaning on the order of every 250 rounds should be performed.”
    There are far more reliable firearms out there, dump that prissy “city” gun.
    Thanks for heads up to never buy a Mossberg. Period.

  3. I wonder if a full flap holster, military style, would make any difference in the gunk in the guns? Is there any rule that says you can’t case your long gun between stages?

    I’ve spent some time in Texas. The environment there can be rough on machinery.

    • I don’t know, that’s a good question. The flaps are nowhere near dust tight (think pelican case), but I imagine it would help some. Would it be enough? Sounds like there is some real world testing that needs to be done.

  4. That looks like a ton of fun. That, and a gun that needs thorough cleaning every 250 rounds is good for nothing but looking at and indoor competitions.

  5. The people whose guns came through dripping in oil did just fine. The guns that looked dry not so much.

    That sounds counterintuitive to me. I thought the conventional wisdom was that piling oil into a gun then exposing it to a really dusty environment would cause that oil to trap more dust than a dry gun. At least, that’s the way I was taught. I don’t live in a particularly dusty area, perhaps I was taught wrong.

  6. I would be so lazy about a game like this. I’d walk from stage to stage like it was a day hike with some plinking.

    On a side note, I wonder how Hoppies Dri-Lube would fair in that environment.

  7. An interesting post, something that just looks like fun. I will say as someone who has spent a lot of time in Eastern Colorado that the soils out there can turn into such a powder that the slightest moisture can cause significant issues. I don’t know Pecos, but have been through NW Texas. Those who were running heavy oil and had a quality gun could break through the mud mixture. The people who ran “dry” need to protect their firearms. I would probably trust military minds on this seeing that our last 2 wars were in wet Vietnam and dry Iraq.

  8. If I ever get back down to that part of Texas, I really want to try this out. I don’t get enough time off to take trips for shooting events right now.

  9. Was it allowable during the “run” portion of it to break down your action, clean with a brush and rag that you carried, relube and keep going? After a good army crawl through some dirt/dust, doesn’t sound like a bad idea if your life depended on it.
    Want to try this event next year. I have family in Alpine and Ft. Stockton.

  10. The match was tons of fun, I ran the tavor and fnx combo. They both have yet to fail me. I will keep an eye out for you next year. You forgot to mention the rattlesnake that was on the trail on the way back to finish line. That was entertaining.


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