By: Ultimate Reloader
For a long time I’ve talked with friends about trying out a PRS-style match. Life has been busy, but when the right opportunity came, I decided to give it a try. My friend and shooting partner Jim Findlay offered to help me prepare, and told me it would be “fun to shoot gas guns together”. I decided I would shoot an AR-15, and thought that would be an ideal opportunity to try something new: the 22 Nosler. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting myself into, but that’s typically the way things happen when you’re really trying something new. It was a great experience, and it taught me a lot about shooting. I also made some great connections and friends during the match. If you are at all interested in PRS (Precision Rifle Series, or just Precision Rifle in general) I would suggest you enter and compete in a match. You most likely won’t regret it.
In this post, I’ll talk about preparing for the match, and the experience of competing in the match. In a follow-up post, I’ll go into more detail on the gear we used, and some of the gear we’d like to try in the future. So stay tuned for that!
Preparing For the Match
There were a few things to take care of before I started practicing with Jim in earnest for the match. I decided on the rifle platform I’d be shooting: it would be the AR-MPR AR-15 rifle, but with a 22 Nosler Upper. While I was waiting for the upper and components to arrive, I started practicing with 5.56 ammunition that I thought would be close to what I’d be shooting with 22 Nosler. I signed up for the match and paid my entry fee, and then downloaded the Practiscore Match App.
Practiscore is great, because you can read about each of the stages in order to prepare for each activity within the match. Here’s an example from the match I participated in:
After reading up on the match, it was time to create a game plan with Jim, and start practicing!
Practicing For the Match
Jim and I spent quite a few range trips preparing for the match, and I did quite a bit of practice up at my place, the “Ultimate Reloader Outpost”. First up was to sort out our gear, and get on target- we started at 600 yards. As I mentioned, this initial practice was performed with a .223/5.56 AR-15 configuration. With distances going out to 700 yards on match day, I chose to load 77 grain bullets for practice in 5.56 cases. At our 600 yard practice distance, these rounds did fine, but I wasn’t as confident about going out to 700 yards as they were getting into the trans-sonic zone.
Enter the 22 Nosler. The added velocity provided by this new cartridge combined with the extreme performance of the 70 grain Nosler RDF bullets I decided to use were a great combination. Here are the first shots I fired at 600 yards after the 100 yard sight-in and testing (see bottom group on target). The first round fired at 600 yards was on-target thanks to the G7 BC supplied by Nosler and Shooter App dope I had calculated. That’s a great feeling!
During our practice sessions, Jim and I focused on prone shooting, barricade shooting, and even shooting at a moving target at almost 600 yards. It was a lot of fun, but 90 seconds (the allowed time for each stage) was proving to go *very* quickly. Would I be ready on range day? I couldn’t wait to find out. Here we have Jim (far) and myself (near) shooting at 400 yards in preparation for one of the stages:
On match day, I was fortunate to have friends Eric Peterson and Carl Skerlong running the camera and drone respectively. That meant I could focus on the shooting stages, and final preparations. I had printed out the courses of fire, had printed a dope card and zip tied it to my rifle, had dialed in the shooter app, and had all of my gear ready to go.
Overall, the match was more fun and more laid back than I thought it would be. The guys in our squad were all really helpful, and even loaned me gear to try out when they noticed my gear wasn’t right for a particular shooting activity. One such case was when Ken Gustafson (of KYL Gear) offered to loan me one of the bags he had made. Below you can see me shooting off the infamous unstable tippy tank trap with a KYL Gear bag, and I’ll have to say- it was amazing. It helped me lock down my rifle and get on target. What a great feeling!
I did run into some trouble- I had loaded my 22 Nosler rounds to max charge weight with Varget powder and experienced some failure to feed issues during the match. Initially I thought my bolt needed more lubrication, but after the match I discovered pressure signs on the rounds I had fired to investigate what went wrong. While I didn’t have malfunctions in practice, the match day was between 96 F and 100 F at the hottest part of the day- the same time I experienced issues. I was over pressure! I switched to a slower powder after that discovery (H-380) and found 22 Nosler to run perfectly (and at higher velocity), even in similar temperatures. I learned that you have to test everything you plan to use on match day, and take into account things like weather conditions as well. I also had my bipod fly off the rifle while shooting off a barricade- but continued with the stage and did alright. Even with these challenges, I kept on “giving it my best”, and I still had a ton of fun.
PRS is all about pushing your rifle skills to edge. You may have to hit targets at four different distances in 90 seconds- and dial in your dope between each shot. These kinds of challenges are super-difficult, but with enough experience and practice, it’s amazing what you can do. I saw guys that were so smooth, steady, fast, and accurate, it was mind blowing! It doesn’t come easy, and the guys at the top of the heap are super-dedicated. One such guy named Sheldon Nalos (in my squad) told me about how he dry fired off scale replicas he made of the T-Post Fox Hunt stage- practicing again and again until he was confident he was ready.
I don’t have the goal to be at the top of the heap within the PRS community, but I do think I’ll compete in more matches- they are super fun to experience, and the friends you’ll make may just last a lifetime. If you have any thoughts of trying PRS, I say “do it”! Stay tuned, because in my next post, I’ll talk about the PRS gear I used (and wanted) and then after that it’s time to go deep into 22 Nosler.