Posted by Jake on 10/21/2014
Getting started with NSSF Rimfire Challenge (Steel Challenge) Competitions. (Formerly known as Ruger Rimfire Challenge)
My name is Jake and I am the product development manager at TANDEMKROSS. For those of you that know me you know that I love to get out into the field and that I’m a firm believer that “the answers are not in the building”. This means that the best new ideas truly come from experience and trying something new.
I have been eager to get into shooting competitively for a while now. We have been making parts and accessories for Ruger pistols and KelTec firearms for about 2 years and we have many hours on the range testing and tweaking. However I have personally never competed in a registered match before. This past weekend I had my chance and it was a very educational event.
TANDEMKROSS was one of the sponsors for the NSSF rimfire challenge worlds competition at Old Fort Gun Club in Fort Smith Arkansas. As the product development manager I was in attendance and it was a perfect opportunity to register as a shooter and to learn with the best.
Starting out with any shooting competition can be very intimidating. There are a lot of rules to learn and you have to be very attentive and safety is paramount. It can be overwhelming especially if you have never had any experience with this type of shooting sport. I can personally tell you that the NSSF rimfire challenge is a perfect way to get into competitive shooting sports in a safe and non-threatening way.
Here are some observations and tips from my first attempt as shooting in a competition. Hopefully you find them useful and I encourage you to find a registered NSSF rimfire challenge event near you and to take the first steps, you will enjoy it!.
The first thing that you will want to do is ensure that you read the rules. They can be found on the NSSF website. http://www.nssf.org/rimfire/rules.cfm They will explain all the requirements for your firearms needed, the course that is being presented and the range safety officers commands and what they mean.
For a firearms you will need a .22LR pistol AND a .22LR Rifle. The Rimfire challenge is a course that challenges both pistol and rifles. Many of the competitors were using a Ruger Mark III 22/45 or a standard Mark III. These guns out of the box are good for a beginner and can be upgraded to perform even better. A close second in popularity was the browning buckmark pistol. These are a nice gun out of the box, but have fewer aftermarket parts to upgrade them for speed. There were a variety of other .22LR pistols on the course from the high end Volquartsen models to Ruger SR22 and everything in between.
As for the rifle, the number one rifle used in the competition was easily the Ruger 10/22. This rifle provides an enormous number of options for customization and is incredibly reliable. There were some Sig 522 .22LR as well as some M&P models, but hands down the dominant rifle for the competition was the Ruger 10/22.
There are 2 main divisions called OPEN and LIMITED. In the OPEN division your gun is allowed to have competition items such as RedDot sights, Compensators, Barrel Weights, etc... Items that help improve speed and accuracy. Check out TANDEMKROSS.COM for great after market items to improve your own gun. In the LIMITED division the gun can not have any ot these items and you will be using open sights.
An NSSF rimfire challenge match is run in a series of stages. Each stage will consist of a different number of steel plates in different configurations. The name of the game is speed. Shoot each plate as quickly as possible stopping the timer once the “stop plate” is shot. The interesting part about rimfire challenge is that every match is different. Unlike steel challenge where each stage is consistent from match to match... Rimfire challenge has different stages wherever you go. This makes it a lot of fun and keeps your skills sharp.
When you register for your first event you will be placed into a squad. A squad is a group of participants that will shoot a given stage together. They will remain together for the duration of the event. This allows for a large number of participants to start at different stages in the event and cycle through the stages.
When you bring your guns to the event you will need to have them bagged or in a hard case. You will need to carry them in this case from stage to stage so be sure that it is a comfortable to carry case and that it has external pouches for your magazines. Any handling of your gun at any point away from a marked safe zone or at the firing line is grounds for a disqualification.
Ammo requirements are different for each competition. You will want to know the number of stages and multiply that number by 55. 55 is the total number of bullets you are allowed to shoot at any given stage in a standard NSSF Rimfire Challenge event. You are permitted to load your gun with 11 rounds at the very first attempt and then 11 rounds on any subsequent attempt. 10 rounds in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. The TANDEMKROSS Plus1 bumper is very helpful in this situation as it allows for 11 rounds in the magazine and makes it easy to load up that 11th round. So for a 14 stage event you would need a maximum of 55 X 14 = 770 bullets. This assumes that you use all 11 rounds in each of the 5 strings at each stage.
A stage is shot by a competitor in a series of 5 strings. Each string allowing a maximum of 11 shots at the targets. You must strike all the targets in the stage before hitting the “stop plate” which will be clearly marked. Failure to strike a plate will result in a time penalty of 2 seconds.
After you have shot all 5 of your strings the slowest time will be thrown out and your score for that stage will be the total number of seconds added together from your 4 fastest strings. This means that consistent speed trumps 1 fast string. It is great to be fast, but if you are consistent it is even better.
It is best to watch a few competitors go up to the line and shoot a few strings first before you take your first turn. There is some etiquette and you will learn the proper commands from the Range Officer very quickly. If you are first on the squad order, simply let the RO know it is your first time and they will be very helpful. The mandate for these types of events is for safety and a positive atmosphere.
When it is your turn to approach the firing line your score keeper will announce your name. It is here that you need to be sure that you have your magazines already loaded and you are prepped. 5 magazines loaded to 10 total and an extra magazine to load your 11th round or a TANDEMKROSS Plus1 bumper will be great here. Be sure you have loaded them before your turn! You can’t waste time here and everyone expects that you will approach with fully loaded magazines. This is why you need to have magazines pouches on the outside of your gun bag or on a belt pouch where they are easily accessible.
When it is your turn there will be a few things to be aware of when you approach the line.
Layout out your magazines on the firing line table or if you have a Magazine pouch such as the QuickGrips magazine pouch from TANDEMKROSS you can keep them in the pouches for easy access. This is a lot easier to manage than laying them on the table.
One of the dangers of putting magazines on the table is you could accidentally reach in front of the gun to get a magazine and sweep yourself with the barrel. This would be a disqualification and its avoidable with the use of magazine pouches.
When getting ready to remove your gun from the case be 100% sure that your pistol or rifle barrel is pointing down range while it is still in the case or bag. It is grounds for disqualification if you take it out of the bag with the barrel pointing the wrong way.
Once you are sure that the barrel is pointing down range, unzip your bag and take out your gun.
You will now have a short moment to view the stage through your sights. Take a moment to look at the plates and think about how you will play the stage. You should also look for the aiming stake. This is typically on the ground in front of the plates. This is where you will aim your gun in the “Shooter ready” position once you are ready to shoot the stage. This was something that was not clear to me until I did it for the first time.
Once you are happy with your sight picture you are ready to load a magazine into the gun.
Load up 11 rounds MAX and aim at the starting pin. The range officer will Ask “Shooter Ready?” No response is an assumption of “YES” There will then be a loud BEEP as the signal to begin the stage. This BEEP is from the shot timer and it goes off usually 2 to 3 seconds after the range officer announces “Shooter Ready.”
Once you hear the BEEP you are on the clock. Any shots before the BEEP will be grounds for a penalty and any accidental discharges will be grounds for disqualification. Its imperative that you know how your gun functions and that you are aware of your trigger position, and have full control of the gun.
Once you have shot the stop plate the timer stops. The Range office will announce your time and the string number... It is at this time that you should remove the magazine and replace it with a new one leaving a round in the chamber to again being the next string with 11 rounds. This is very important to practice because it is here that people make mistakes.
In one of my very first strings, I was happy with my time and I was getting ready for the next one. I forgot to replace the magazine and I only had 4 rounds in the gun for the next string. I was unable to strike all the plates and hit the stop plate so I had to score the maximum of 30 seconds for the string. This is important because once you start a string with a magazine in steel challenge it CAN NOT be swapped for another one... Even in the event of a jam or problem with the magazine. The string must begin and end with the same magazine.
Take care to remember to swap that magazine each and every string. This is why you need 5 loaded magazines when you approach the line. By leaving a round in the chamber and loading a full magazine you can always ensure that you start each string with 11 rounds. While watching the other competitors, this was the number 1 thing that caused problems. If you shoot all the rounds from the magazine from the previous round and forget to chamber a new round or if you forget to swap a magazine it will cost you time. So practice this at the range! We typically practice shooting a magazine until all the rounds are expended and then replace it with a new one. This is typically not the case in rimfire challenge. You will often remove the magazine with 4 or more rounds still in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. Its something to think about and practice at the range before hand.
After you have completed your 5th string for the stage, you will show that the gun is clear and be asked to drop the hammer down. This is a problem with guns that have a magazine safety. Its one of the reasons that we recommend that you remove the magazine safety from the Mark III and 22/45. It allows for the hammer to be safely dropped down and for the gun to be considered “Safe” and properly stored between stages in the event. I highly recommend looking at the TANDEMKROSS videos about the hammer bushing for the Ruger Mark III and 22/45 for a full explanation.
Now you are ready to place the gun back into the case ensuring that the barrel remains pointing down range the entire time and then move away from the firing line.
Its now that you can move to a safe place to re-load your magazines for the next stage. This was something that was not clear to me right away, but you can take your magazines out and load them as long as they are not inside the gun case. If you open the case you will be disqualified so keep those mags in a belt pouch or in a pouch on the outside of the case.
Once you have completed your strings you will have plenty of time to watch other shooters, cheer them on and learn a thing of two about how to shoot the stages faster and more efficiently.
As you become more comfortable with your squad you will start to notice that at the end of each shooter while they are scoring and switching out shooters a few people on the squad will grab some spray cans and head out to paint over the bullet strikes on the steel plates. This is a great opportunity to get a nice up close look at the plates and to strategize how you will shoot the string. It is both beneficial to the squad and to yourself to help out and grab one of the spray cans between shooters. Always be sure to listen for the commands from the Range Officer for when it is safe to go down range and paint the steel plates.
NSSF Rimfire challenge is a lot of fun and it’s a great way to get introduced into the shooting competition sports. Its fun for all ages and we had shooters of all ages participate. The divisions allow for junior shooters, women and seniors alike to all have their own competition class and be competitive.
At the end of a competition the scores will typically be posted and then winners are allowed to go to a prize table. Some events the prize table is completely random and some its the final order of the shooters. In this way everyone gets an opportunity to walk the prize table and come away with something.
All in all this was a great day and a great way to learn how to shoot in a Rimfire Challenge event. I’m grateful to the opportunity given to me by TANDEMKROSS for letting me go to the event and to be able to participate in the competition. I have come away from the event with many new ideas for the Ruger Mark III and 22/45 as well as the Buckmark and Beretta Neos pistols. I’m ready to start on new products that will help competitive shooters gain an edge and upgrade a favorite gun to be more competitive and more fun.
So I say thank you! My name is Jake and this is TANDEMKROSS, Making good guns great!