Nick began 2016 with the goal of someday winning a two-day PRS match. That journey took two years. Nick employed dedication that comes from a fiercely competitive nature and the knowledge that if he truly puts his mind to something, he can achieve it. He’d proven that in snowmobile racing competitions.
If you’re going to win you must do what winners do to win, so Nick called Joe Walls and asked him for his mentorship. Additionally, Nick requested a useful/effective equipment list to begin his journey. Joe obliged to both questions and responded with a gear that was similar to Cal Zant’s well-written "What The Pros Use" and "Everything a 2-Time PRS Champ Carries At A Match" articles.
Nick shot dot drills with his heavy CZ .22 at 100-125 yards three times a week in an underground range. This practice was all about trigger control and gun handling fundamentals. One of the things that becomes obvious amongst shooters at a PRS competition or on the hunting fields is who handles their guns the most, the least, or rarely. The act of safely carrying a rifle, safely building a position with a rifle, and purposefully hitting tiny targets with a rifle—.22 or centerfire—will better prepare you for PRS competition.
Then he took the .22 along to the outdoor range, along with his Dasher. He dry-fired the Dasher, live-fired the Dasher and while the Dasher cooled, he shot the .22 out to 150 yards in positional training. Every aspect was practiced on the timer, 60-90 seconds at a time. He became so adept at using a timer that his internal clock developed to the extent that he could run his stage time down to the last second without angst or feeling rushed.
Rimfire is an excellent way to train and a fun discipline for competition.
Nick used Troy Tyson’s DST Precision D.F.A.T. (Dry Fire Adaptive Training) device. This is a device attached to the front of your scope allowing you to focus at 7-15 feet throughout the full zoom of your scope. This allows you to practice dry fire indoors with targets created from pictures of actual ranges.
Employing the D.F.A.T. device and a timer allowed Nick to get his barricade times from over 90 seconds to under 60 seconds. Using it indoors in Minnesota and North Dakota extends the PRS practice season into a 12-month exercise. Distance-wise, Nick worked mostly at 450 yards to 650 yards. Joe explained that most matches were won at 650 and in, so it made sense to become competent out to 650 yards. After that, verify your dope out to 1100-1200 yards.
HUMILITY, PERSPECTIVE AND PRACTICE
In Joe Wall’s words, “The first thing you need is humility. Don’t think because you hit something from a stationary position that you’re going to stomp all over the guys who do this kind of match shooting at the top of their game. You’re not that good."
That’s not an accusation, but those guys are at a different level. It’s a level you might achieve if you do what they did to get there and do to stay at the top. Go to matches and compete against yourself. Train to the limits of your talent. Then start to work on picking up those points you’ve dropped because of something you did or didn’t do.
Learn to watch with the perspective of “what is” rather than what you thought it might be, should be, or hoped it could be. Look at what happened. Why did that guy move the way he did? How can I be more efficient moving from position to position, or building my first position so I can concentrate on impacting steel half a mile away while on the clock?
When Nick and Joe met at a two-day match to compete together at the end of Nick’s two-year quest they’d talked and texted numerous times a week for the entire journey. At the end of the two days of shooting, Joe finished a very respectable second overall, while Nick scored 20 points higher.
What’s the difference today? Shooters are a little faster. Mentors still wander the ranges. There’s more information available to the lone shooter than there ever was. Actions, stocks, glass, bags, etc., are better than they’ve ever been. You can search podcasts for tips, “What the pros use” for equipment ideas; companies like MDT produce short videos of demonstrated shooting tips by top competitors. The list goes on.
Some complain about the winner’s perceived sponsorships and shortcuts, but those complaints are born of perception, not reality. The guys at the top practice beyond their talent. They don’t all do it the same, but the trend is similar, and they’ll either tell you to your face if you ask them, or they’ve already done a YouTube video explaining what you’re seeing.
Chad Heckler, the 2021 AG Cup winner, in a conversation with another winning shooter, Francis Colon, advised dry-firing 30 times for each live round in practice. Practice positional shooting. There are seemingly little things that can break you loose for a few more points per match, like watching Tate shoot his first shot on a weird/switchy/wind-angle stage at the dirt at the base of the target hanger to check his wind - before cleaning the rest of the stage because now he gained an accurate wind call.
If your goal is the top you’ve got to be certain of nothing, watch everything, and listen to everyone. If you’re serious you won’t discount someone's wisdom. This writer was humbly reminded of this while being a range officer at a two-day match this year. An impression was that the man at the line was just an old codger putting in some live fire time during a two-day match. Then, the scrapes, scratches, and dents on his chassis and his very costly scope came into focus. Actual dirt was ground into the recesses of the rifle’s chassis, around the scope rings - and paint was missing everywhere.
And then I heard it - IMPACT, IMPACT, IMPACT. Suddenly becoming aware, I realized the man used that rifle more than most of the other 120-something competitors at the match. He knew how to make it do what it was designed/built to do! He cleaned that stage and woke me up.
If you think you can’t learn anything from someone—you’re probably right—but it’s more of a want than a can’t, or a don’t know how to—yet.
COMPETITION RESOURCES FROM MDT
- Team MDT 2023 PRS Season Results
- A Journey of Practice
- Mastering the Mental Game of PRS
- Crimping Handloads
- PRS Production Division Rifle and Setup
- Dry Fire Drills with Pro Shooter Allison Zane
- Starting Over
- Practical Considerations of Competitive Shooting
- Keep Calm and Shoot On: How to Manage Stress
- Maximize Performance with Mental Imagery
- Practical Considerations Of Competitive Shooting
- A Shooter's Checklist - Delivering The Perfect Shot
- Beginners Gear Guide for Precision Rifle Competition
- Expert Gear Guide for Precision Rifle Competition
- How Professional Shooter Allison Zane Sets Up Her Rifle
- How To Shoot PRS: Stage Breakdown With PRS Top Lady
- Dry Fire Drills With Pro Shooter Allison Zane
- Confidence Kills
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Les Voth was born in Canada and spent his youth hunting on his father's farm. In 1991, he settled in North Dakota and started a family. Les Started his long-range shooting journey in 2016 and has been active in the shooting scene as both an RO and a competitor.