After only a couple rings, he answered in his typical jovial voice, “Hey buddy! What’s up?”
“So, you wanna shoot Mammoth with me? Chris Andrews is running it this year and I’d really love to support him.”
“Heck yeah! Sounds like fun,” Bronson quickly replied.
“We gonna shoot Regular or Toughman division?”
“Toughman! If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it all the way.” He had shot a Mammoth Sniper Challenge in “Regular” division previously so he knew what he was committing to. The “Toughman” division of this unique match requires two-person teams of competitors to step on the field early Friday morning with ALL the gear they need to survive for three days of challenging shooting stages, timed ruck matches, sleeping outdoors and lots of extra miles outside the timed rucks. Water stations are provided at various points but that is the extent of help teams can receive. This is definitely not a “match”. It very much is a challenge.
That call happened sometime in mid-October IIRC. This unique shooting event is one a lot of teams start training for months before the event. Bronson and I were both in pretty decent shape. He has been a “gym rat” for years and is generally very fit. Last year I got the bug to run Spartan and other obstacle course races so I had been training for those types of events pretty hard. Still, Mammoth is a unique mental and physical challenge. Thus, we put together a rough gear list of what we thought we’d need and decided to get together to test our camping gear and how we’d carry everything. Trust me, if the pack doesn’t ride well on you, you aren’t going to make those ruck times.
Fast forward past the holidays to the first weekend of January, 2019 at Fort Gordon, site of the event. Leaving the hotel that Friday Morning, our packs weighed just over 70 pounds.
We’d be stepping on the field in some nasty cold rain. And we were not packing a tent. Our bags were already loaded down with the food, weapons systems (both rifle and pistol) plus ammo and everything else we’d need for the three days. So, we knew Friday night was gonna suck.
The 79 two-person teams were broken into six squads. We were Squad 6 with 12 two-person teams. The way the rucks worked was simple. You have 16 minutes per mile. If you fail to reach the check-in point in time you are bumped. That simple. Also, the teams created the shooting order based on order of team arrival (BOTH people) at the check-in.
The first shooting stage had a little cover at least while waiting our turn. About 10 minutes after I snapped this picture we’d be shooting our first stage in the rain. It would start with pistol targets at 50 yards.
After a few timed rucks that totaled 10 miles, we were directed to a wooded area to setup whatever camp we could. Everything we had was soaked. Our gear easily weighed 10-15 pounds more due to the water. But, we setup best we could and heated up the only hot food we brought, some yummy Mountain House.
BTW, please don’t give me crap about the pink spoon. My daughter wanted me to use it so I’d think about her. 😉
Saturday was much nicer weather wise but we had a problem. Bronson’s left foot got a cut on it that progressively got worse. The blood soaked shoe caused some very large, nasty blisters that then started to rip open. Each squad had an assigned medic with us. Ours was super cool, but couldn’t help us. If he gave Bronson’s any medical assistance, we’d be disqualified. So, stubborn Marine he is, Bronson just dealt with it.
We didn’t take much time taking pictures. However, one of our squad mates snapped this one below of me and Bronson shooting the first stage of Sunday. On this stage teammates had to swap rifles. Bronson got to shoot ten rounds from my .223 and I would shoot ten from his 6XC. Since we both were running nearly identical setups, this was an easy stage for us. We both dropped a shot each and ended up with a 22 of 24 possible points. First round impacts were two points and subsequent impacts were one point. He shot the first 5-round string, then I went. Back to him for five more then I finished up.
In this match the “primary” shooter (Bronson for us) can shoot just about any caliber. The “secondary” must shoot .223 Rem or .308 Win. Primary targets were out to 1200 yards while secondary were to 800. We opted for a .223 Rem for ammo weight savings and lower recoil. On this stage the “secondary” shooter is engaging the far targets and I think that is what they are really testing here.
I’ll do a more specific rifle overview article but for now I’ll summarize as this…
Bronson’s rifle is a 6XC we built on one of our Defiance-made receivers. Chassis is the Masterpiece Arms “Comp” chassis. Trigger is a Timney Calvin Elite. Scope is a Nightforce ATACR 7-35 FFP.
My rifle is a .223 Rem built on one of our branded Stiller-made receivers. I’m running the same MPA chassis, same Timney CE trigger, Nightforce ATACR 7-35 scope. I’m also running the Rugged Suppressor’s “Razor” silencer.
Here is a glimpse at another stage to give you an idea of the format. This was no PRS-style event. Most of the stages were “blind” where you could not see targets until you were in the firing positions. On this stage, Bronson was in one foxhole and I’m in one to his right by about 10 yards. In my foxhole is a card with target order for Bronson. He had my card. I started the drill by calling the first target for him. For example, “White ruler!” He’d have to find that and engage with one round. Then he’d call my first target. We went through the lists twice for ten rounds each. It was a lot of “moving parts” for sure! Distance was about 350 yards. Those rulers are 2″ wide.
Here is one of the targets from another stage. This was at 250 yards and we had to shoot this with “butt on ground”. We used our backpacks for some forward support but it was still not very stable. Hit that “ruler” and it didn’t count BTW. We’d each impact seven times on this one and that was better than most for sure.
The last ruck of the match was an absolutely brutal five miles up nasty hills and through a mile of sand. Ever tried running on sand…with 70 pounds on your back? Yeah, it sucked. Now, do it with your foot bleeding so badly your team medic is telling you that you really should get medical attention. Bronson is an ANIMAL. I’ve never seen so much determination in someone. He wasn’t going to quit.
I mentioned earlier that only some of the miles we’d cover were timed. Here is an example of that. On Saturday we did over 18 miles with those packs. Only 10 of them were timed. And those calories burned don’t account for me carrying the weight. Kinda need to eat a LOT of Mountain House to make those up, huh? LOL.
When the scores were totaled we found out our good friend Andy Slade and his partner Steve beat us by two points. We were pulling for those guys all weekend and were thrilled to have them finish ahead of us in First Place. Just finishing this event is an accomplishment. We managed to finish in Second place.
Here is a quick shot of the top four rifles. These are what me, Bronson, Andy and Steve ran. See anything similar???? Folks, there is no chassis better suited to this game than the Masterpeice Arms. Period.
Vortex was the Title Sponsor of the event and they stepped up BIG with prizes on the prize table. Special thanks also to Lucas Gun Oil (my FAVORITE!), Eberlestock and many other companies that put up prizes.
This was a very physical and emotional event for us. Along the way I gave God thanks for all the strength and determination He gave me. There where times I felt I couldn’t take another step and when those times came, He gave me two without me even asking for it. I am so blessed to have friends like Bronson who stay positive through adversity and always see the bright side of life. I could not have had a better partner for this event. We were a great team and were truly there for each other.
Sunday when we crossed the finish line Bronson said, “Don’t ever ask me to do this again.”
And I quickly responded, “Yeah, don’t worry about that. I won’t!”
Then during a phone call that next Wednesday we were already talking about what to pack differently next year. 😉