What Lies Beneath?
3GN Points On The Line at "The Rock."
With much of the state of Kentucky suffering severe flooding—to the point the governor is close to asking President Obama to declare a state of emergency—the 3-gun world turns its attention to Park City’s Rockcastle Shooting Center, home of the DPMS-Bushnell Blue Ridge Mountain 3-Gun. It was last year at this event where severe weather, including tornadoes in the area, shortened the match and forced 3GN to hold an unprecedented 32-man Shoot-Off. As of now, weather reports are calling for a break in the month-long rain just in time for the main match to begin on Friday.
If dubious weather wasn’t enough, competitors will be faced with what is undoubtedly one of the toughest courses of fire in all the sport. High round counts, prolonged movement over natural terrain, numerous long-range targets and possibly the most demanding scoring system in use today. All totaled, Blue Ridge stands as a major match that has its own unique flavor—one that very much reflects the personality and demands of its match director, Andy Horner.
“I do like to shoot if I go to a match,” said Horner. “…If there is a theme or a style, I hope it reflects the best of some of the matches we shot when first getting involved with 3-gun, such as the N.C. Recon, the North American 3-Gun Championship and the Ironman. While this is an overused word, but descriptive of a necessary part of a good 3-gun match, maintaining a ‘tactical’ aspect is a goal of the match. Maybe not in emphasizing the speed required, but instead, the techniques that help one finish well. I guess I try to push competitors to develop a lot of tools and push the envelope. I’ve heard shooters say they want to ‘just shoot,’ not have to climb hills or run an obstacle course. That’s great—and there are matches that emphasize such shooting; but to me, that’s not what 3-gun is all about.”
Blue Ridge is all about shooting, but of a certain ilk. Not a typical “run-and-gun” course of fire, Blue Ridge puts a premium on the ability to shoot well out to extended ranges with all three firearms, with even pistol shots going past 50 yards. Slings figure prominently for both rifle and shotgun, and everyone will be challenged physically. Ultimately, it takes a certain type of competitor to win this match.
“A shooter who can combine speed and control with good center of mass hits will do well,” Horner said. “… Hopefully, one result achieved is that the competitors who have the best combination of speed, control, technical ability, physical ability and mental toughness will be the ones who finish at the top of the match.”
While most “Outlaw” matches employ the use of the I.M.G.A scoring system, or a variation thereof, with the supposed end of the Fort Benning 3-Gun Challenge, Horner’s Blue Ridge is the now the only major match using the Horner scoring system. However, that doesn’t mean the system is without a following.
“Our scoring system differs primarily in the scoring of paper targets, and in the penalties associated with long-range targets,” Horner said. “It requires greater accuracy more than the ‘1 alpha or 2 anywhere’ types of scoring on paper, so accuracy is rewarded and conversely, hosing targets and barely hanging shots on the outer scoring rings does not score as well. By having higher penalties for misses on long-range targets, shooters must take the time to hit them in order to score well. With some scoring systems, it can be advantageous to quickly fire a round at a target and take a miss penalty rather than take the time it takes to hit the target. We have tried to create a system that allows the folks who can shoot fast and accurately to finish the match with a better score.”
Scoring aside, the defining quality of Horner’s matches is the stage designs themselves. Long, challenging, technical: in short, by the end of the day, competitors are likely to be tired and bleeding. But it’s the different evil ways in which Horner challenges competitors that keep them coming back.
“Variety,” Horner said in describing Rockcastle. “Something that is more ‘real’ than square bays. Being able to use whatever one comes across as a prop or obstacle in a stage to create interest or difficulty. When I design stages for the BRM3G, the setting of stage (typography, vegetation, buildings, etc.) has a huge impact on what turns up on each stage. Often just walking an area and imagining what would be fun to do there results in a stage popping into view.”
Match competitors should expect lots of long-range challenges, tough terrain, and of course a prize table at the end buckling with sponsor-provided guns, gear and gadgets.
“The industry amazes me with its support,” Horner said. “While the dire state of the economy is affecting all of us, our sponsors have been very generous. This year DPMS and Bushnell came onboard as our co-match sponsors. These companies are great to work with, have fantastic products, and are dedicated to the sport of 3-gun competition. Our Gold Level sponsors are Adams Arms, MGM Targets, Larue Tactical, Swarovski Optik and Barrett Firearms. We have many other returning sponsors listed on our website sponsor page (www.brm3g.com).