Last weekend I shot the Tarheel 3-Gun Challenge at Woody’s Hunt and Rifle Club in New Hill, NC. In just its 3rd year in existence, this match has quickly become one of my favorite major matches. It should definitely be on your “must-attend” list next year. Here’s why:
Half-day format. Adopted from the example of FNH USA 3-Gun Championship, half-day format means you get in, you shoot, and you get out without spending 12 hours on the range. Morning squads started at 0730 and were scheduled to be done around 1230 (although some squads did run later, depending on which stages they shot). Afternoon squads started at 1230 and were scheduled to be done around 1830. You shot 4 stages each day, back-to-back, instead of the more traditional on-of-on-off shooting format. This meant you had plenty of extra time to sleep in, get lunch, shoot side matches, observe other squads, or hang out with friends. I’m a fan!
Side matches and vendor booths. Speaking of that extra half day, Tarheel offered several things to do with your spare time. Remington had a booth where shooters could test out the Versa Max shotgun. DPMS had their new GII .308 rifle out for shooters to test drive. And One Team One Fight ran a side match to raise money for the Navy Seal Foundation and Travis Manion Foundation. There was a tomahawk involved; who doesn’t want to throw a tomahawk? A number of other vendor booths were around for you to check out products from Hiperfire, Spectre Targets, Freedom Munitions, Lancer, and HearPro.
Challenging stages. It’s in the match name…duh. The Tarheel stages offered shooters a fair amount of options regarding what targets to shoot with which gun, and in what order. But the real challenge came from the rifle targets. In a sport that’s increasingly morphing towards shorter-faster-burn-em-down stages, Tarheel stands out as a distinctly rifle match. Of the 8 stages, 5 had targets at least 200 yards away; most of those had targets nearly out to 300. There was off-hand rifle shooting at distances to 100 yards on 3 stages. And not to be forgotten, some stages did offer options to shoot rifle instead of pistol at close-range targets.
But the good thing about the challenge of the Tarheel 3-Gun Challenge was that the challenge came from the shooting itself, not from crazy starting positions, or unfamiliar prop guns, or poor target presentations. Starting positions were consistently from high port or hands at sides. There was only one prop gun, and you were only required to shoot 4 shots at targets 10 yards away. Rifle targets were clearly painted bright orange for every squad, and were sometimes backed with berms that helped you determine where you were missing. The match directors did everything they could to set the shooters up for success; the challenge was small or large based on the shooter’s ability only.
Experienced ROs. While the sport of 3-gun lacks a range officer certification body like other practical shooting sports, the ROs at Tarheel are as close to professional as you’ll see in the sport. The guys (and gals) ROing this match are out there repeatedly for Tarheel’s regular monthly match. Tarheel has been running a 100-person monthly match for several years now, so their ROs have had plenty of practice, know the rules, and run a tight ship.
Easy registration, squadding, and scoring. Tarheel 3-Gun uses an online registration process with payment via PayPal. Squadding is done via Squad Signup, and you get to choose who you want to squad with. Scoring is done via PractiScore and was updated regularly throughout the match. There was even a wifi hotspot at the match, by which you could sync your phone to the real-time scores using the PractiScore app. Tarheel’s embrace of technology means all of the match administration process is easy from the shooter’s perspective, and resulted in faster scores, a quicker prize table, and everyone getting on the road sooner. That’s an all-around win.
Prevalent sponsor presence. There are few matches that have such a strong sponsor presence as Tarheel 3-Gun. Title sponsor Bushmaster was out in full force, with several execs shooting the match and participating in the shooter’s meeting and prize table. Strong sponsor presence means strong support for the sport – and an opportunity for you as a shooter to thank those sponsors in person! The RO shirts were covered in Bushmaster logos, and there were banners everywhere. Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, Bushmaster raffled off a BA 50 rifle to one random winner. They even donated an M4 for a random draw of those who were disqualified from the match.
North Carolina spring weather. Anyone who’s been to the Rockcastle Shooting Center in August knows how miserable HOT, humid weather can be on the range. North Carolina offers low humidity and moderate temps in April, making the match a much more enjoyable experience. And after a long, cold winter, the sunshine is a welcome change.
BONUS: women’s only bathroom! This one is for my ladies! Tarheel provided a women’s only porta-potty this year (complete with a combo lock to keep the guys out). So rather than sharing with 250 men, we had our own (CLEAN) place to use the restroom. While most matches probably don’t have enough female shooters to justify the cost of doing this, I know the 15 lady shooters and other female spectators really appreciated the thoughtfulness of the Tarheel crew! As for the rest of the porta-potties, they were all clean and there was one on every stage.
In just a few short years, Tarheel 3-Gun has taken 3-gun from the grassroots level, to a regular monthly match that people travel up to 200 miles for, to a yearly Challenge match that rivals other major matches. Head on over to www.tarheel3gun.com and sign up for email updates; that way you’ll be the first to know when next year’s registration opens up! You won’t want to miss it.