My first Gun Run was in Ellerbe at Dewitt's Outdoor Sports and so it was fitting that I return there for my first team event. The first step in attending one of these team events is to have a partner agree to go to the prom with you, and thankfully I was able to partner up with someone I knew was proficient. Red (AKA @snakeeater36) and I had met even before we shared our first Gun Run together back in April, but after that initial event we both kinda fell in love with the sport and spend a lot of time talking about it. Minutes after registration opened we had our ticket purchased and began to plan.
Most of our planning and efforts were just discussions about what we would carry, what we would do in certain situations created during stages, paces, and race preparations. Red and I both really favored a battle belt for these races after each of us used chest rigs in the past. There is nothing wrong with chest rigs but they tend to carry a little more awkwardly during a run, and often have capacity far exceeding the needs of these races. He carried one extra rifle magazine on his belt than I did, but our setup was very congruent. Based on our research it seemed like most stages either split up the shooters or put them on the same range sharing targets. We really didn't need to plan for splitting up but made sure that if we were on a stage together on the same target set, we would work outside to inside for our respective sides in order to save time and limit discussion. We also both took our egos out of prioritization of target type. Research on past events showed us that sometimes they have one shooter on a rifle and have the other shooting pistol. Red is extraordinarily great on a rifle, and fair on a pistol. I'm fair on the rifle, and have really improved on the handgun lately. We both agreed that if given a range briefing that said one shooter is pistol and one shooter was rifle it would go to me and him, respectively.
Red is capable of a much faster pace than I am, but he and I agreed that we would make all pace adjustments together and for the benefit of the slowest runner's desire. This basically meant that we would make my pace, which is rather slow and in the last few runs right in the middle of the pack. While this doesn't make us very competitive on the run, it ensures that we are not showing up to the stages smoked. Another pace decision made was no matter how fast we were running, if we saw a stage coming, we would walk into it from ~100m. This would ensure that heart rate and breathing were under control. It's not just for the shooting as one might assume either. A really important factor for this competition is listening to the range briefing. If you show up smoked, breathing hard, and mentally taxed you are not really in the best space to understand what can be a complicated range briefing. Showing up at a range walk pace is best.
The last important thing for Red and I was preparation. We both are a little obsessive on pre-combat checks and inspections (PCCs/PCIs) so we organized a link up a day early. This day was spent in the afternoon at the range, working pistol draws on metal targets at close and more distant ranges. We also wanted to ensure the zeros on each of our rifle optics was still as expected. Since we had a sleepover planned we came home, turned on some Hollywood Weapons with Terry Schappert, and did a full layout. Over time I have digitized a lot of my packing lists and pre flight checklists, so even though I planned to wake up early in the morning and go through them, I did it that night.
Around this time the night before I think I made a mistake. Concerned with hydration I hit electrolytes pretty hard all day. I'm not a doctor and am not totally sure that this was the cause, but I may have over done it. I have recently become a user of Nuun tablets and that day before the race I took one in a drink in the morning, and another before bed. In the middle of the night while sleeping I caught some really bad calf cramps. Thinking that this was still a lack of electrolytes I hit another Nuun tablet in the morning. Again I'm not a doctor but I think I was too heavy on salt to begin with, and that caused the cramps overnight. I can say for sure that the third Nuun tablet in the morning didn't help, because I was plagued by cramps throughout the race.
The morning was uneventful and we travelled to Ellerbe and got checked in with the admins. We were instructed to grab a shotgun shell when we took off from a provided box, and confirmed our takeoff time. The weather was perfect with high seventy temperatures and low humidity. We hung out, talked to friends, and stayed hydrated. At fifteen minutes to step off we got on our gear, ran our PCCs, and did some buddy checks to make sure we were both set. Showing up to the table we grabbed our shotgun shell, were instructed to be ready, and began watching the clock.
Upon takeoff we picked up an Airborne shuffle. The pace was comfortable but I noticed quickly that those nighttime cramps were not temporary. I still don't know what the cause is, but I now assume that it was an overdose of salts. I am not making an excuse but only calling this out because although I am not an endurance runner by any means, I should not have had an issue with cramps going into the first stage. But I did. Lesson learned I suppose. Definitely get yourself some electrolytes, but don't overdue it.
Stage 1 "Vehicle Drop Off (VDO)"
18" x 30 Torso at 0yds (pistol)
12" circle, 10" Square, 10" Diamond (rifle)
10 4" x 5" Rectangles (pistol)
On command go, shooter 1 (pistol shooter) will exit the truck bed and engage the 0 meter target with 2 pistol hits within 7 seconds, then move on and shoot all ten pistol knockdowns. Shooter 2 (rifle shooter) will bail out of the vehicle truck bed once Shooter 1 has shot the close range torso target, Shooter 2 will move to their shooting position and engage all targets across the pond with three hits each. Whichever shooter finishes first must begin to drag Rescue Randy to cover. The other shooter, when finished, may assist their partner. 180 second time limit.
This was a fun stage. After the briefing we realized that our planned scenario for me taking the pistol and Red taking the rifle was realized. I placed my rifle on the toolbox of the truck and took a seat on the near side (to target) truck bedrail. Red took the far side and we waited for the beep. On this beep I was focused mostly on jumping off the truck bed and not falling. Having achieved this I was next just focused on draw and dumping those two rounds into the torso. Aiming at that distance was stupid and only torso hits counted. Dropping those two rounds I ran toward the pistol targets. The other pistol targets were like angle iron cutouts and they sat on a few pallets. The distance was short and they were hit easily.
At this point Red was out and hitting his rifle targets. I haven't really talked to him about how this went but I know that by the time I finished the pistol work and was dragging Rescue Randy off the truck and across the course Red was finished. Just before I drug Randy across the halfway point he was there to help. I've reviewed some photos of the our competitors and I will remark that people should practice dragging. I pulled Randy under the arms. I saw others dragging by the feet and can't imagine how tough that was for them.
Out of 68 teams we finished 4th by completing the course in 69 seconds.
Stage 2 "Car React to Contact"
6" Dueling Tree w/ 5 Paddles (pistol)
2 12" x 20" Torsos at 301yds and 308yds (rifle)
On the beep, two shooters will exit the vehicle. Passenger will engage the pistol dueling tree at the 3 o'clock, hitting all 5 paddles, and then all 5 again. After engaging Passenger will holster pistol. Driver will exit and move to the passenger side of the vehicle, and begin to engage the long range targets in the field to the 9 o'clock with three hits each. After each shooter completes their engagement the Passenger will then tourniquet Driver's leg and engage the long range targets with three hits each using Driver's rifle. 180 second time limit.
I loved this stage even more than I loved the first one, and I really loved the first one. There was a lot of action in this stage for me. After our range briefing again we were confronted with a pistol and rifle specific shooting scenario. Again I took the pistol work and Red took the rifle work. We also had the opportunity to discuss which rifle we would be able to swap. Red had a better reticle for trading so it was just a bonus that we were able to enable our prescribed dichotomy of ability and catch the bonus of using his rifle. I prepped the tourniquet by making it as large as possible and opened the velcro for the windlass to speed up the placement. After that I placed my rifle on the hood and we loaded the car with Red in the driver seat and me in the passenger seat.
On the beep I was focused first on getting out of the car quickly and getting into the shooter's box without tripping. Once in the box I was out of the holster and hitting steel. Again I have focused a lot on pistol work lately and with my new pistol RDS this was really easy. I was actually able to hit these five targets on the dueling tree twice before Red was able to hit his distant targets with a rifle. By the time he was finished shooting I was ready with tourniquet in hand. Once he was on the deck I pulled it above the knee and turned the windlass once (all that was required for the scenario). Once that was in place I snatched an extra mag from Red and just loaded it. I'm glad I did as the magazine he was shooting with had only a single round remaining. During my application of the tourniquet Red told me the hold I should use, and so once I was loaded I started taking shots. I can't recall how often I missed but it didn't seem that it occurred much. Red was dead accurate on his holds and the hits came easy.
There was something to learn here though. When you are working with others it is important to have some familiarity with their kit, especially their weapons. It was really helpful to know what his holds were and we were given the benefit of being able to communicate. If he had been hit elsewhere or was "unconscious" and couldn't talk to me to describe his holds I wouldn't have known where to place shots. He and I both have now started experimenting with ways to advertise our holds on cards, either taped to a buttstock or in a scope cover.
Out of 68 teams we finished this course of fire two minutes and 1 second for eleventh place.
Stage 3 "Fighting Position"
12" x 20" Torso at 100yds
10" Diamond at 100yds
12" Circle at 100yds
On the beep, both shooters will crawl under the barb wire. Lead shooter will stab the enemy sentry with a knife, retrieve the intel document, and continue crawling into the bunker. Once both shooters are inside, use the intel to both engage the targets in priority it specifies. Each shooter must take turns engaging the targets the specified number of times, which is 4 hits on the diamond, 3 on the torso, and 2 on the circle. 180 second time limit.
I feel like this was Red's favorite lane. When we met the cadre for the briefing we were asked if we wanted to use the provided knife or our own knives. Asking why we needed a knife and hearing that we would be stabbing a sandbag, it was easy to borrow the provided knife. Knowing I was the slowest between the two of us, I volunteered to go first and stab the "sentry." Getting through the sand and under the wire was easy, stabbing the sandbag was also easy.
Now this "fighting position" was a little box, so I climbed in and got comfortable right away and Red was smart enough to not crowd the space and let me get settled. As soon as I was in and ready, he climbed inside the box with me. By the time he was comfortable I was already calling out the first target and began engaging. He did a smart thing and was audibly reminding me of the number of strikes needed as I began to fire. As soon as I finished firing he took up shooting and I was back on reading the target list. Once I saw the next prescribed target and number of hits I scanned and started engaging, audibly and loudly announcing which target I was shooting and how many hits were needed. Red and I continued this until we hit all targets in the prescribed order, the required number of times, in sequence.
Out of 68 teams we finished tenth by accomplishing the lane in one minute and forty seconds.
Stage 4 "Enter and Clear"
7 8" and 10" Circles at Short Ranges
8" Circle at 10yds
On the beep Shooter 1 will perform a ballistic breach the door by firing the shotgun into the cardboard door lock. Shooter 2 will draw pistol and move through doorway engaging the 7 steel targets with two pistol hits each at no closer than 7yd. Concurrently Shooter 1 will place shotgun on pallet and will follow shooter 2 through the door. After Shooter 2 has engaged all targets and holstered, Shooter 1 will move up to the barrier, and engage the 8" target through the round hole with two hits. If shooters failed to bring their shotgun shell they must perform a mechanical breach by smashing the pallet. 90 second time limit.
Showing up to this lane we were first confronted with a weighted litter. Told to pick it up and follow the signs we placed our weapons within the straps securing the load and began to walk. It was quickly pretty obvious that this unknown distance litter carry was going to be pretty long. Rather than keep carrying just on hand and forearm strength we swapped to shoulder carry. Red is stronger than me so luckily he was on the tail end of the carry and I was able to put the litter on my back. I don't think he was able to mount the litter on his chest and can only assume he carried it by resting the handles on his palms and locking his elbows into his abdomen. However he carried it though he and I did it without resting. We were told later the weight was 130 pounds. According to my GPS the carry was over four hundred meters. This seemed to smoke a lot of teams, and reviewing some photographs I see that some teams disassembled the litter and weights for individual carry. I sort of feel that this should have been disqualifying but either way we finished and so did they.
We brought our shotgun shell and we were thankful. We also had avoided smoking our hands which was going to be important for pistol shooting. After the stage briefing we decided that I would run the shotgun breach and Red would get the majority of the shots. Breach was easy and I rotated out of the door frame and let him enter and begin clearing. I ejected the shell and left the shotgun open and on the pallet where I was told to stow it. After Red got his pistol hits in I ran past him and to the aperture cut through the barrier and made the last pistol shots, which were really easy.
Out of 68 teams we finished eleventh with a time of thirty seconds.
Stage 5 "Treehouse Teamwork"
2 12" x 20" Torsos at 80yds and 100yds (rifle)
1 12" x 18" Torso at 50yds (rifle)
12" Gong at 25yds (pistol)
The enemy is infiltrating your position using camouflage and concealment, targets are not painted. On the beep, Rifle Shooter and Spotter will scan the sector looking for three enemies that need to be engaged three times each by the Rifle Shooter. Once the Rifle Shooter has completed their hits, Spotter will draw their pistol and make three hits on the close steel gong using one hand only and no support. Time limit is 180 seconds.
If you have read or heard me talk about the first gun run I completed in Ellerbe, you know I finished second in this treehouse last time I was there. It seems to be a lucky place for me and that luck was demonstrated for us again. Knowing that Red was the better rifle shooter I took spotter duties. The range officers did a good job in keeping us from looking for targets on the way to the treehouse and while getting the briefing. Once we head the beep we turned and started searching for targets.
The truth about this lane is that Red did almost all the work alone. He found the first target right away and I was only able to spot the second target about a half second before he began to hit it. I never even saw his third target before he was hitting it. Upon his final shot I drew my pistol and hit the gong three times. I actually think I hit it twice and had to be told to hit it again by Red. Either way we performed really well and quickly. Red is the fastest follow up shot artist I have ever seen work. All the credit to this lane goes to him, save only my contribution of good luck.
Out of 68 teams we finished second in this stage by completing the course of fire in 43 seconds.
Stage 6 "Bounding Overwatch"
2 12" x 20" Torsos at 115yds from Start
Two shooters start behind the same barrier. Subsequent barriers are arranged in a V shape, separated apart by about 20 yards. Shooters can only advance while the other is shooting. Each shooter must hit each target three times before they can advance. Shooter 1 must make 18 total hits and Shooter 2 must make 12 hits. Bounding stage, we used a diagram so didn't really have a write up for it. Time limit is 180 seconds.
This lane was really simple in concept and I think was easy for us because it was something we had each practiced in our units in previous lives. Being the better rifle shooter he took the bulk of the work and was the first to engage. My focus was just getting to my first barrier, gaining a good rest, and taking my time to get hits that count. We each moved and fired well and finished really quickly. The only lesson we learned in this was to better communicate on completing the required shots. There were a few moments where we had a lull in fire because one of us would finish our hits and the other was unsure if we were just missing. Lesson learned. Announce for your runner that your complete, and if you are a shooter announce when you commence firing.
Out of 68 teams we finished third by completing the last stage in one minute and five seconds.
This was the best gun run event I have completed so far. It wasn't my fastest but wasn't the slowest either. Even with cramping calves we managed to keep a good walking pace and an adequate Airborne shuffle at times. Out of 68 teams we finished just to the right of the middle team on running, and fourth overall in shooting. These scores were averaged for an overall placement of lucky 13th. With a little more practice and better dedication to physical training from me, Red and I will be real competitors in future events. But most of all I have a good friend whom I know I can run and gun beside if I ever need it.