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Sniper's Hide Cup
Written by Jacob Gottfredson
The Hide Cup Sniper Competition involves two dozens rifle events with targets from 15 yards at an acute angle down to targets at 900 yards and everything in between. The Hide Cup was held at the Rifles Only range south of Kingsville, TX. The 2005 Hide Cup will be held at the same range March 11th through the 13th.
In addition to match fever, stress was induced during the competition in two ways. First,
approached most targets without any clear understanding of what was required until he was on the rifle and given the scenario. Second, stress was also caused by short time constraints.
The course of fire ran three days with night shooting included. The various events gave the shooters some new, very possible situations for them to think about and practice in the future.
The Hide Cup is a team match. The team shooters help each other by spotting, forming strategies, helping each other set up gear, and all the
other duties of a sniper/spotter team. This does not completely emulate the sniper/spotter concept, but is close. Both competitors shoot all events. This allows winners in two categories: team and individual honors. The scores of both shooters are combined to determine the team trophy. The high scorer is the individual winner or Top Gun.
The Hide Cup was formatted to include military, law enforcement and civilian shooters. Several of the major sniper and tactical matches in the country are now allowing civilians to compete, and the mix is about equal. The thinking being that civilians represent a primary source of new products and shooting schools, and it is believed that have a lot to offer to the shooting discipline. Many of the regular military competitors were not present due to duties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The match is designed to meet the training needs of both military and law enforcement with some matches that are of civilian origin but represent good training drills for professionals. This concept is very similar to the popular Sniper's Paradise Sniper Challenge at TAC Pro Shooting Centers near Dallas, TX and Dave Lauck's match in Gillette, WY.
Sniper and tactical matches are about as opposite to that of traditional rifle competitions as could possibly be. In fact, sniper competition is a mind sweat. Range accommodations and physical demands are not only difficult, but they are meant to be. One might imagine then that the anatomy of a hit is as different as the fact that each target is different; requiring a different shooting position or technique, and often a different thought process for each of several events. This match consisted of 25 events, all of them designed to test the shooters' skills and to induce stress.
Both sniper training and matches for the tactical shooter are the product of the range officer's imagination. No two matches are alike…and should not be. Thus, since there is no strict process or rulebook procedure for determining a course or event, there is no strict process or rulebook procedure for determining a hit. A hit has to be productive. A hit has to be what the Range Officer tells you it has to be prior to sending the shot or shots. Another way to put it is: productive hit has situational significance. The process must challenge the shooter to determine how best to make the hit in all kinds of conditions, both fair and adverse.
More than half of the events were included to provide excellent training for law enforcement personnel.
5 Dot Drill
The shooter is given 20 seconds to engage five, 1 inch dots at 100 yards. This teaches the shooter to handle the rifle under the stress of a time restraint with confidence. It also helps to work out bugs that may cause problems in the operation of the rifle.
Know Your Limitations
Four dots are hung at 100 yards. The dots decrease in size from left to right. The shooter starts shooting at the larger dot (approximately 1.5 inches) and then elects to proceed to the next smaller one or stops and takes the points he has earned. If any dot is missed, the shooter takes a zero for the event. The last dot is approximately
The shooter must engage and hit three long-range targets from a tower before engaging a target at the foot of the tower. The paper target below the tower has five, 1inch dots. Only hits on the dots count toward one's score. Ninety seconds are allowed for this event. This teaches the shooter to perform under stress, to make quick aiming changes, and to learn what is required to shoot at an acute angle.
This is a recognition exercise. The shooter is given a shape, in this case a playing card, prior to the shoot and is expected to memorize it. The cards are hung at 100 yards along with all the cards from the deck. The shooter stands 50 yards or so behind the shooting line until a signal is given. The shooter then runs to his rifle, loads it, finds his card and shoots one round. This is often done with various shapes on an 8 ½ x 11 inches sheet with multiple shapes on it, or with several photos of people.
This event has the shooter engaging a target at 100 yards from the prone, sitting, and kneeling from the weak side. The shooter finishes by engaging the target from the strong side standing, then kneeling, sitting, and prone for a total of 14 rounds. Another similar event requires the shooter to hold his weak hand behind the back, working the rifle with the strong arm only.
The shooter engages a moving target at 400 yards. He must then proceed to shoot static targets at 220, 280, and 565 yards. He then must engage the mover again on its return. The shooter is given 90 seconds and two rounds for each target. This teaches the shooter to make quick sight adjustments, to engage movers, to make efficient use of time, and to develop confidence in his rifle.
More unconventional events are included in the Hide Cup as well. Examples are engaging static targets on land from a slowly moving boat, unknown distance targets (usually from 400 to 800 yards), long range targets to 1000 yards, several cold bore events, 500 yard know your limitations, 500 yard five dot drill using 12 inch round plates, 300 and 500 yard movers, quick engagement standing to sitting, small disks at 100 yards across a pond.
The top five shooters in the first Sniper's Hide Cup shot 74, 61, 61, 61, and 59% through 25 events. The matches are developed to hold shooters near the 50 % level. The top shooter's performance was excellent considering the conditions under which they were required to perform. Targets ranged from one-inch dots at 100 yards, one-inch dots at an acute angle down at about 15 yards, to 12 inch LaRues at 900 yards. And from identifying small objects among many and hitting those assigned to the shooter to fast moving targets requiring alert concentration and considerable skill.
A standard LaRue steel target used in competition is about 11 ¾ inches wide by 22 inches tall. This includes the head, which is only 6 inches tall by 6 inches wide. Consider further that the standard 175-grain, .308 bullet moves sideways about 100 inches in a 10 mph wind and climbs to an altitude of about 145 inches. That's approximately 10 inches per one mph lateral movement.
The range officer tells the sniper to fire. He must do so in the next 10 seconds. If the wind changes or switches just one mph, the sniper will miss the LaRue 10 inches if he does not change his hold. A 1 MOA rifle is not the problem, the conditions are. The sniper is fighting conditions, stress, and difficult positions, not the lack of pure accuracy of his rifle. And at all distances the sniper must concentrate on technique if the shot is to be productive.
Equipment and Technique
Rifles, scopes, triggers, stocks and barrels vary considerably among competitors from high end Accuracy Internationals to custom built jobs to old Remingtons that look to have seen their last day. The standard .308 Win caliber still dominates, but a few competitors always show up with flat shooting, more exotic cartridges.
Having shot these matches for several years and logged the equipment, scopes, and cartridges for each, I have found that it is not the rifle, the cartridge, or the scope that wins these matches. It is the competitor. One might have a 1 MOA rifle that will not do well on the one-inch, five-dot speed drills, but is just fine for the rest of the course.
The top five shooters at every match
I have attended over the years have taken a zero on more than one event (this match being the exception). The courses are difficult as are the wind and conditions. Winning is primarily a matter of being able to think on one's feet and preparedness. This obviously translates to the officer's performance in a live situation.
Natural point of aim, positioning one's body behind the rifle to control the rifle's recoil to promote speed, familiarity with the rifle, a good knowledge of required wind and come-up adjustments, and last but not least, mental management are necessary to make successful hits under stress, on demand.
Terry Cross, owner of KMW Long Range Solutions, won this competition, shooting an Ackley Improved 260 Remington, also known as a 6.5mm—.308 Improved with a 139-grain Lapua Scenar bullet in a Krieger barreled rifle built by him. The rifle used an Accuracy International stock and a NightForce NXS 5.5x22 scope. However, it does not take an exotic cartridge and custom built rifle to win. A competitor with a stock 700 Remington rifle of the tactical genre using 175 grain Federal Match ammunition has the ability to win, and often does.
The 175-grain Sierra MatchKing (SMK) bullet, instead of the 168-grain SMK bullet, is noted because the match includes several events beyond 600 yards. The 175-grain SMK generally performs better at these longer ranges. At ranges to and less than 600 yards, the 168 grain SMK often shoots a little better. The anatomy of a hit is more dependent on the shooter's skill, ability to handle stress, and strategy than on a rifle and cartridge selection. Cross' partner was Jim Clark, the owner of Clark Custom Guns. Both are part time police (auxiliary) officers and both are professional gunsmiths. This was the winning team.
The Hide Cup was one of the most successfully and professionally run sniper matches I've been to. Congratulations on a great match. Shooters came from across the entire US. The organizers and competitors would like to thank the sponsors for their generosity and willingness to help their efforts.
Jacob Gottfredson is ex-Special Forces. He has written for major tactical, hunting, and shooting magazines for the past 18 years and has been active in sniper/tactical, pistol, and benchrest competition for more than 30 years. He owns and operates an engineering firm and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Frankie Icenote.
Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2005
Rating : 10.0
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