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Long Range Operators Challenge – After Action Report

Roy Lin of Weapon Outfitters attended the recent Long Range Operators Challenge that was held near Colville, Washington, March 7-9, as a non-participant. This AAR consists of his observations at the event, including the weapons he saw were used, the challenges the participants faced, the participants themselves, and his overall experiences.

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A few months ago, I heard about the Long Range Operators Challenge from Tarrol Peterson. Tarrol is a retired Army sniper, who’s had a long and interesting career from going to Somalia with 10th Mountain to being the OIC at the US Army Sniper School. Given his past experience organizing the annual US Army International Sniper Competition as well as his experience working with industry, this competition seemed intriguing.

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The competition was designed to challenge shooters equally: the rules required two man teams to utilize whatever equipment they had on hand to engage targets of varying unknown distances in unknown terrain. Seems a simple enough challenge on paper, but field conditions in the north east corner of Washington definitely complicated things. Due to the unpredictability of Washington in Spring, there was a massive amount of snow dumped onto the match location the week before. Additionally, over the course of the match, fast moving low clouds, rain, and quickly shifting wind also proved to be challenges for the participants.

Participants in the competition consisted of US Army members from around the country, international military observers, and civilian teams. Equipment was diverse and a pleasure to see tested. Some teams ran issued equipment such as an M24 (“Where did you manage to get that!?” a RSO and young retired sniper remarked), and a refurbished Mk110 SASS. Non-issued equipment quickly got exotic and expensive. Among the weapons in use I observed: a Nemo Arms semi automatic 300 Win Mag rifle, a Desert Tactical Arms bull pup sniper rifle, a Primary Weapon Systems Mk2 (piston AR-10 variant), and a GA Precision GAP-10. Remington 700s of all flavors from the vanilla to the extensively customized were also in use.

Of note was the civilian teams seemed to have a lot more high speed rifles and gear when compared to the military teams. It made sense given their lack of restriction to military ammunition and equipment supply and logistics. In particular, it became clear that competitors who were able to use more specialized long range rounds had a very large advantage at longer ranges. Civilian long range enthusiasts are free to experiment with ammunition, rifles, gunpowder, primers, and reloading techniques to extract out accuracy that would be hard to issue en masse to military forces.

Teams were required to carry all their equipment between stages, and distance between stages could be deceptively long with elevation changes, snow, wind, and light navigation required. I’d estimate distance between stages to be 400 yards on average: not enough to make this a wholly physical event, but not so easy as so one could lug around needless equipment. Snow shoes were not absolutely required, but definitely helped on a number of stages. Some competitors did well simply with hiking boots, Gaiters and jeans… I went for the whole 9 yards myself with the Salomon Boots, Patagonia Goretex pants, and Arc’Teryx Alpha LT on top of synthetic base layers.

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Targets consisted of AR-500 steel targets in a variety of sizes from small head sized boxes to more traditional USPSA “popper” sized targets at longer ranges. A single laterally moving target on a rail system was also featured, used to maximum effect to challenge shooters. On the first day, it was placed at 485 yards away, moving at roughly 3-4 mph. The lateral movement was an insurmountable challenge to some, and an easily conquered one for those with the equipment and experience to hit moving targets. Each stage was manned by experienced long range enthusiasts of all types, who’ve gone to countless long range matches and served as stage directors as well as target spotters. The personnel intensive nature of this competition was necessary, given the difficulty of spotting and scoring long range shooting matches.

One stage, sponsored by Glock, required shooters to engage pistol targets while moving with a slung rifle, before engaging with rifle targets. Participants were allowed the use of the new Glock 41 long slide .45 ACP pistol. Match volunteers built a fire near this stage, and it became an unofficial break/rest area for support staff who got to handle Silencero suppressors, as well as an M24 outfitted with a Gemtech suppressor BE Meyers was kind enough to bring out.

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The first Long Range Operator’s Challenge was a great event that brought military and civilian long range shooters together, and allowed us to compare and note differences and advantages brought on by different techniques and equipment. I observed that civilian outdoor equipment was largely preferred even by the military teams. As a whole, trained military teams seemed to have an advantage with techniques, and had superior spotter support and fieldcraft in general. Civilian teams had largely superior rifles and ammunition, with all other factors being about equal.

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36 Responses to “Long Range Operators Challenge – After Action Report”

  1. ALO says:

    Looks like it was a good event, I expect nothing less from Tarrol. Sorry to have missed it.

  2. Billy says:

    Great CHALLENGE

  3. Nikeguy says:

    Sorry I missed this one.
    Tarrol and co. really know how to put on a match and the winds in Colville defy logic.

  4. Andy B says:

    Anyone know who makes that pistol transport case that is pictured? Or is it a custom job? Would love to get one!

  5. Ken says:

    I read that headline and was expecting something completely different.

  6. Lawrence says:

    Had two of my snipers (Army team) compete and place fourth. They agrees that the event was exceptional. Now if we could just get the funding to bring our equipment into the 21st century.

  7. MK EOD says:

    Mostly unrelated…anybody know what that wrap the one fellow has on his AR-10 rifle handguards is? It’s in the picture taken from the left, where the guy is shooting lefty. It’s OD green and looks like it laces on the top.

    Is that homemade or can you buy that somewhere? I think I’d like that for my own rifle.

    • Kevin Rogers says:

      The laced-on protection is called a skid plate from Triad tactical.

      • MK EOD says:

        Thank you!

      • MK EOD says:

        Though I gotta say, I want it more so I can shoot my .308 carbine without gloves. I have an Apex handguard, and while it’s thin and light, it gets REALLY HOT after a while. Sometimes I forget gloves or an oven mitt when I go to the range.

  8. Victor says:

    The Rangers shot Larue OBRs with Schmidt & Bender scopes, so they were not limited by their equipment.

  9. Victor says:

    One of the Army snipers shot a Nemo 300wm which is $4500 rifle and the newest “thing”.

  10. lowandleft says:

    Great competion. I had the pleasure of lending a hand and the whole weekend was excellent. It was just a super group of guys. Very well run and organised! Can’t wait until next year!

  11. TW says:

    Long Range Operators Challenge, LROC for short. The idea for the LROC came after I retired and saw how the only shooting competitions around where stages where everything about them was known. I wanted to do something that bridged the gap between the Military and Civilian shooting comps. I wanted to provide an arena where former, current and regular guy civilians could compete and a have a good time doing what we enjoy. The LROC went off well; it was a good time for all. B.E Meyers came out and supported. Dave from GLOCK came out and made up a stage and ran it. Everyone got to shoot the new G41 .45 long slide. Roy Lin from Weapon Outfitters took a few hundred photos. In Motion Targets had the mover going all weekend long.
    I lucked into a great spot for a meet and greet. Northern Ales in Kettle Falls has a part owner who is a Vet and former Contractor who did something smart with his money. Bought in a brewery. If you get a chance stop into Northern Ales and give them a shout.
    The overall goal of getting Military guys with Civilians to share ideas and knowledge went well. LROC will be back again next year. Carl Taylor has been great as a partner in this adventure. Great debate between the Army and Marine Corps every day in the truck. We are thinking of having a couple of different ways to compete, promise it will be bigger and better next year. Come out and have good time in the Great Pacific Northwest.

  12. S. says:

    Anyone have any good recommendations on polyester or nylon pants for snow that isn’t $150+?

    • Bushman says:

      Snow at what temperature (28-33 ºF or something closer to zero) and what kind of exposure to snow (just walking/snowshoeing or resting on the snow for hours)?

      • Nikeguy says:

        A merino wool baselayer under a synthetic or wool- not cotton-pair of panta and then a waterproof overpant works for me for Search and Rescue and shooting comps in the Pacific Northwest. Backcountrygear.com is a great place to search for gear.

        • Bushman says:

          Hi, neighbor (PDX, right?). :)
          Three layers for Pacific Northwest feels like something required for Mt. Hood or Western Cascades, but I agree – wool pants could be useful in case you are using open fire.

    • Invictus says:

      Stoic makes good affordable gear in non-fluorescent colors like most outdoor manufacturers use.. looking at you Patagonia.. and they regularly show up on sale sites like Steep and Cheap. Also check geartrade.com for lightly used gear you can pick up inexpensively. Backcountry.com sells their returned gear there if it makes the cut.

    • Bushman says:

      Generally, some upland hunting pants (+ cold weather underpants) could be a great option. Cordura outer layer helps to save it (and your legs) even walking through the deep snow covered with ice. Costs ~$60-100 even for advanced models.

      • S. says:

        Thanks Bushman and Invictus.
        I’m dealing with 30+ degrees and being exposed to the snow for most of the day and hiking in it.

        • Bushman says:

          Then, personally, I’d stick to upland hunting pants. Some people prefer just regular pants with gaiters (photos above featuring a lot of those people) and sometimes it helps to stay drier, but for me, integrated Cordura protection works better.

  13. Roy says:

    I’m of the opinion the Army teams were definitely at a disadvantage as .308 can’t really compare to dedicated long range “wildcat” calibers and custom rounds. The shooter with the 300 Win Mag wasn’t familiar enough with his weapon system to take full advantage of it, as he had to run a borrowed scope when his scope failed. I heard that another military team also had a scope failure in the middle of the match.

    Quickly shifting wind conditions definitely put 308 shooters are a disadvantage, IMHO.

    • TW says:

      Roy, Your correct on that. The 7.62 has its limits when going against those other rounds. Couldn’t keep up with the 6xc and other wildcats. The 300 killed one scope during zero. He borrowed the spare Mk6 I happened to have laying around. Liked the scope but ran out of good ammo. The other MIL team had a issue with their scope…cost them the match. But that’s life sometimes things happen.

      • Victor says:

        Except for Adam, he won with such a large margin, he would have shot well with whatever caliber or gun. That man can shoot.

      • G says:

        we sure did

        • AW says:

          Yes thanks TW. I was very familiar with the weapon but it blew out my vortex scope that was given to me. Our team was also comprised of currently on duty Drill Sergeant who came straight from runnomg trainees to the compitition. No excuses but it was too tough to overcome the scope and lack of the correct ammo. I was happy that neither my partner or i gave up and we jist pushed thru the problems and figured out how to get the job done. Overall the competitors were a great group of guys and I felt like even though we were all out for the win it was a friendly place to be. I’m sure the top guys had a good boost when they knew they beat some experienced combat shooters. I loved the comp and look foreward to it next year.

          • Victor says:

            AW,

            Considering you had to use a borrowed scope and only zeroed with a few rounds, I think you and H did really well.

            How you or anyone placed does not matter as much as the fact that we learned so much from the competition. It was great meeting you.

            Plus you guys blew everyone away on PT and left us in the dust.

            I agree and wish that our military would get our troops better equipment and training, as your lives depend on that protecting our liberties. Thank you for your service and sacrifices.