Running A Precision Rifle Match: Match And Stage Design - Inside MDT

Posted by MDT on 2023 May 18th

Running A Precision Rifle Match: Match And Stage Design - Inside MDT

Editor's Note: This is a multi-part series. Part 1 can be found here.

In the previous article, we covered the first hurdle that every match director must overcome; the location or venue at which they will run their match. With those details worked out, the next challenge new match directors face is stage design and match flow. Hopefully, the match or series director has shot other matches in multiple series or leagues and can draw from their experience to plan stages and have a fun match. If the MD hasn't shot any/many other matches, formats, or series, then their matches typically suffer due to poor planning or contrived stage design. All this being said, shoot some matches and get some experience before running a match!

More: Running a Precision Rifle Match: Location


Based on your venue, you may be limited by various factors like stages that can run concurrently, distance, target placement relative to the shooter, or available shooting positions. In all of these cases, it is your duty as a match director to be creative and provide what you believe is the most fun and challenging event for the shooter. Below, I will break down some common questions that match directors (and myself) at times have asked, with some fairly straightforward guidelines.

"I can only run "X" amount of stages at a time at my range; should I only have an "X" stage long match?"

Not necessarily! We have run club matches where we can only shoot four or five stages simultaneously. As such, we have separated the day into "morning" and "afternoon" stages, thereby having larger squads and having them shoot through all the morning stages in the morning and switching out props and shooting positions for the afternoon. This is an effective way to use the range to double or triple your stage count, depending on the number of shooters you have.

"My range only has 200 yards available for rifles to shoot! That isn't enough to run a match, is it?"

If you want to run a centerfire match, no, but that is PLENTY if you want to run a precision rimfire match! To run a fun, challenging, and competitive rimfire match is much easier and has a lower barrier to entry than a corresponding precision centerfire rifle match. It is a great way to dip your toes into being a Match Director. Rimfire competition mirrors centerfire on about a 20% scale, meaning targets at 200 yards with a 22LR are roughly equivalent drop and wind numbers to a 308 Win at 1000 yards. For local competitors and ranges wanting to be more involved in precision rifle shooting, this is the perfect way to build a community and focus on Centrefire when venues and shooter demand become available.


Here are some useful tips for ranges (rimfire or centerfire) that are distance limited: maximize the amount of movement a shooter has to do in a stage, lower the stage time limits, and err on the side of slightly smaller targets to increase the difficulty level! Remember, a 1" circle at 25 yards is still a 4 MOA target for a rimfire!

"According to the range, I can only place my targets in front of these berms or these bullet traps. Doesn't that limit my stage design?"

The short answer here is yes, but you can still get creative. Much like the last point about being distance limited, you can still be creative when laying out stages based on target placement. Creativity must come from shooting position, time limit, and target size considerations. For example, your target array is in front of a big berm marked "400," and no steel may be placed outside a certain backstop. In that case, you may use something like a standard barricade or stack of tires to engage an 8" (20 cm) or 10" (25 cm) target in 90 seconds or less with 8-10 shots from 3-5 positions.

“Target Chaos” can be fun and challenging.

By lowering the time, increasing the movement, and reducing the target size, you can challenge shooters in ways they may not have anticipated! Another good challenge is to have a mixed-up firing order, such as three banks of targets at 300, 400, and 500 yards, in which the shooter must engage the small target at 300, then the large target at 500, and then the medium target at 400 yards from multiple positions. The danger of "target chaos" is when it becomes too hard for the shooter to memorize, and you encounter too many misses due to confusion!

"My range will only allow us to shoot off of a bench or from prone; no movement with a rifle is allowed. What should I do?"

Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality that many clubs face and something that can really stifle the growth of precision rifle competition. If you are very limited by the range you are shooting on, I suggest trying to find a different venue, but failing that, do what you can with what you have! Maybe there is an opportunity to run an extended long-range (ELR) rimfire match shot completely from prone at 200 - 500 yards. Alternatively, you can invite local shooters with PRS rifles to shoot a bench rest-style accuracy match on paper. At the end of the day, growing the sport, building a community, and presenting shooters in the best possible light is the goal. Whichever way we can reach that as a collective force should be the end goal. Hopefully, these tips keep the wheels turning and match directors upping their game. The more quality matches we have to attend, the better we'll all become! - Josh

Some ranges can be draconian when it comes to positions.



Josh Botha is an Engineering Team Lead for MDT Sporting Goods and works in the headquarters in Chilliwack, BC, Canada. Josh and his family immigrated from South Africa and England in 2006. Josh enjoys competitive shooting disciplines and can often be found after work at his home range in BC. You can find Josh on Instagram @jbotha_ or somewhere out at a match.


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