Interview with Team shooter Walt Sailers

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with my good friend and Team Accurate Ordnance shooter Walt Sailers to chat about matches back in the “old days” (before PRS), shooting equipment, the camaraderie among competitive shooters and the joys of this sport.  Walt is one of our original sponsored Team shooters and we’re so blessed to have him on our team.

MK: My friend, how are you today?
Walt: Life is great!!..:feels good to be above freezing again!!

MK: Man, we’ve known each other for quite some time.  We used to shoot matches together long before the PRS came around.  What is your favorite type of match format and why?

Walt: It’s amazing how this genre of the shooting sports has taken off, and the advancements both in technology and supplemental gear. I really enjoy the Team matches and those matches with an eye towards the fundamentals, the field matches, blind stages, where there’s a field craft skill to be employed. Those early matches that had us working as spotter/shooter were so much fun, the bonds created remain strong today. Our mutual friend Jonathan O’Neal was and is instrumental in my development, the memories of Jon rocking a Mauser K98 with a period correct T post reticle and I was running the M1A platform together at this one match, We may not have won, but what a blast!! I like stages with movement, physical stressors, and a purpose built into them, I think it allows me to get “into the zone” and run on instinct, and not over analyze the stage. 

MK: Thinking about those old school events, we sure didn’t have the technology and equipment we have today.  We’d shoot matches with a homemade rear support bag, a sling, our ruck sack and a stack full of different “DOPE” cards, hoping we picked the card that best matched the current environment.  LOL.  What are your thoughts on the current amount of equipment and technology being used at matches?

Walt: The advancement of technology is inevitable, we must embrace it or be left behind. I feel we must also remember our heritage, not just in the sport, but in the sense that there’s a lot of men and women before us that qualified at 600yds with iron sights and a sling. The advancements in our understanding the science have driven projectile design, such as the Sierra 6.5mm 150gn and 6mm 110gn, and when coupled with the education of the shooters, we’re making hits on the clock that were unheard of 7 or 8 years ago. Youre right, the days of a stack of dope cards and checking impacts at every 20-50yds have been replaced by the Kestrel instruments with embedded ballistics apps…truly amazing pieces of kit. I’m torn on gear, I say let the stage design dictate, and let the MD design accordingly. I’m a big fan of “moving with all gear in hand”…let the shooter decide what’s truly necessary. 

MK: You got to shoot the ELR match last year.  What was that experience like and what special equipment helped you?  

Walt: Wow, what an experience!! I’d been to Colorado a bunch to climb n snowboard, but the Q Creek ELR match in Wyoming is like no other. Scott Satterlee and his Team designed an incredible course of fire in some of the most amazing scenery. I learned more about how to utilize my Kestrel in one day than I had the combined previous time I’d owned it. I was blessed to fall in with the Oklahoma crew the first year, they helped me a lot, Dean, Logan, Cory, JimPaul, true gentlemen. Last year Bronson Bartley and I went, both running Accurate Ordnanace 300 WinMags pushing 230’s pretty fast. Even though Jason and Dave built the rifles a couple years apart, our dope was consistent to within .05mils!!..good thing too cuz I sent a few too many at that darn unicorn the day before the match, last 2 stages I used Bronson’s ammo! Both rifles had Nightforce 5-25 ATACR’s, being able to see the splash of a miss at mile and allow for a follow up shot immediately for a hit. That is a memory I’ll forever cherish, and give full credit to the NF glass quality. 

MK: You were shooting a 6mm Creedmoor until recently.  What caliber(s) are you currently shooting in competition and why the move away from the 6mm?

Walt: I’m thankful to have a couple to choose from, the 300WM is just plain fun to run, it’ll make ya work for it, but the cannon is a blast!! The 6creed is a laser, no doubt, and it served me well. I equate it to a top fuel dragster, when they’re on it’s unreal, yet they require attention in terms of load and barrel life. My career places a heavy toll on free time, or lack there of, so I made a choice to switch to 6.5 Creed for this barrel to start the season. My goal is to really ramp up my practice time this season, and this change helps prevent worrying about barrel life. I’m really excited about the Sierra 150grain projectile, the BC is out of this world, and the consistency when I measured and weighed them is dead on. Coupled with the Alpha Brass, I may have found a new home for a while. 

MK: You and I don’t take matches as seriously as most people.  One match that comes to mind was one in 2016 when you ran your 300WM at a PRS Club match.  What was going through your mind, brother?  LOL.

Walt: Oh man, that was a blast!! I’ve run it a couple times at PRS matches, always fun to turn a flash target into a spinner, or turn a prairie dog inside out (it was close, I felt threatened!) I go to matches to have fun, and spend time with like minded folks, escape the trappings of work for a while. Besides, who can say they’ve seen what color the back of the moving target was painted! (Sorry Jim!) 

MK: Tell us a little about your rifle setup.   What action and stock are you running?  What muzzle device(s) do you like to use?

Walt: I learned a lot from Frank Proctor about the mental and physical aspect, ya know, squaring your hips to the target, points of contact for stability. Also muscle memory, that’s why I’ve standardized on the Manners T4A. It’s just right, for lack of a better description. The way it fits me, the feel, the reliability. Even the look, guns still need to be sexy to some degree, I have a soft spot for M14’s, Springfield ‘03’s, MG34’s…they just look right, ya know? The Stillers TAC30 action has been very reliable, buttery smooth. The APA Gen 2 series of brakes ride all of my bolt guns, extremely effective, and allow me to quickly remove them to install a can. I’ll be running a ThunderBeast Ultra 7 on the 6.5 once it escapes NFA jail, Both the 300WM and the 308 are set up to use an Allen Engineering AE30, man I just love the sound of that can!

MK: You RO and help run events too.   For example, last year at the Guardian charity match you helped organize a training day for some of the newer shooters who were attending the match.  What do you like about ROing events? 

Walt: I firmly believe we all need to give back, to help those coming along, and those we regularly compete with. One thing I really like about our sport is how much we’ll help each other. Need a piece of kit to get thru a stage? 3 guys try to lend you theirs without being asked. Love that. ROing offers a chance to see everyone at the match, not just my squad mates. It also helps to teach you, if you’re observant. I used to believe that getting into a position and breaking the first shot in 15sec was good. I RO’d a 2 day at K&M for Shannon, and while timing the shooters, I realized 15sec was avg, the better shooters were at 13sec, and top tier at 10-11sec…that time is what they needed at the end to finish the stage, a good lesson and one I likely wouldn’t have learned otherwise.   

MK: You also recently hosted your own match for a very worthy charity.  Tell us a little about that? 

Walt: Whoever coined the phrase “there’s no such thing as it can’t be done” knew somebody like Maj. Bryant Knight. I’m blessed to have become friends with he and his family when I moved to ‘bama. He’s a good man, a good father and a good soldier. When I first heard he was a partner in Fight OAR Die, and the four of them would row across the Atlantic Ocean in the Talisker Whisky Challenge, I thought “that’s nuts”…and immediately after my mind said “yep, he’ll do it too”. In the back of my mind  knew I wanted to do something, but what?… then a Team match that Scott Holsenback and I were going to in Florida was cancelled, and the idea took off, that we’d do a benefit match for FOD at my home range, Brock’s Gap. What they’re working toward is raising awareness and help our service members who are both separated and still in to realize there’s nothing beyond they’re grasp, they can achieve what they set their mind to, that the Team they were a part of while serving still exists. I’m just happy we could help them to help others. 

MK: Lastly, on your shooting jerseys you have a couple spots for custom logos or whatever you want.  You have a Jesus fish symbol on your shoulder.  As a fellow Christian, I applaud you for your outward expression.  Why is it important to you to have that symbol on your jersey?

Walt: First, without Him, none of this would be possible. I wouldn’t be where I am without His guidance (and Lord knows I didn’t always listen!) I’ve got to give credit to Jason Greene too, wonderful person, great competitor. He has a verse on his rifle stock, I admire him a lot for that. Pastor Steve teaches that the way to reach people, and plant the seed of their faith, is to get them to think “ I want some of what he’s got going on”…that’s how you draw folks to having a relationship with Jesus. Jason is that guy. When we talked about doing jerseys, that was the one thing I required above all else. I’ll take a knee before a stage at times to get my mind right & give thanks. I get a kick when someone asks “is it gonna be that bad?” …I just smile and think….no, it’s gonna be that good my friend. 

MK: Walt, my dear friend, thanks so much for taking some time out of your day to speak with me.  I look forward to seeing you on the field this year.