David Henry here, and I wanted to go over some of the things I do before shooting a competition stage. This process allows me to put the first round on target as fast as possible. My stage prep starts by ensuring my magazines are topped off and my scope turrets are zeroed out. This process is essential, especially if I am in between stages. A stage can come up faster than you think, or you're the first shooter but topped-off magazines and zeroed turrets are something I obsess about.
Make note of unique terrain features near your targets during your prep stage.
After my rifle is ready to go (zeroed out with turrets and magazines loaded), we go over the stage brief, so I understand the order of targets and the positions. And, of course, they guide us on the targets with glass to make sure we know where they are. Next, I build the foundation by moving my binoculars from one target to the next in the order that we're supposed to shoot them. I glass the targets and look for landmarks that I can reference. In the Southwest, where I primarily shoot, landmarks can include unique rocks, sagebrush, and cactus.
Now that you have your landmarks go ahead and verify that your dope is correct. You can check yardage if you need to fill out your dope card, then attach it to the rifle (or put it in your armband) to ensure it is readily accessible. If I'm not the first shooter, I like to ensure I'm spotting the targets. At that point, I can look for wind, see where the current shooters are hitting (particularly if they miss the target) and make a mental note for my turn. Alright, you're up!
Not shooting first? Competition permitting, get on some glass and note your fellow competitors hits or misses.
APPROACHING A BARRICADE
When approaching an obstacle or barricade, I first find that downed cactus or shiny rock that is my reference on the hillside or mountain. Then I step up to the line and square my shoulders to the target, keeping my eyes on that landmark throughout this process. The person with the timer will ask, "shooter ready?". I confirm I'm ready with my eyes still on that reference point on the hill and my shoulders 100% square with it (not with the barricade). With my support hand, I set the bag on the barricade, ensuring it's settled while maintaining my square shoulders to the target and my eyes on my reference point. I drop my rifle down onto my bag- still looking at my reference point- as I drop my head down behind the rifle. I look over the top of the turret at my landmark, making sure that it is squarely straight above that turret. I then drop into the scope, and guess what? We're on target! Reach up, grab your bag, grip the front of the stock, close the bolt, and complete that perfect trigger squeeze.
STAGE PREPARATION - DRY FIRE TRAINING
When I am not competing, I like to practice stage preparation. Depending on your personal setup, this can be done at the range or at home. I stand behind a prop with a target about 400 and 500 yards away. I use a shot timer and will start the timer with a 10-second par time and a delayed start time. I'll start the timer, and then when the beep goes off, I make sure I'm squared to the target, drop down to look over the top of the turret, look into the scope, steady on the target, and then squeeze the trigger. Whether dry firing or live firing, my goal is to get on target and complete a nice smooth trigger pull with the reticle on target within 10 seconds. This will do wonders for you, especially when shooting on a new range.
Dry fire training can be invaluable.
If you're using a red dot sight, check out Ryan McLean's MDT video called Why And How To Use A Red Dot Sight On A Bolt Action Rifle.
COMPETITION RESOURCES FROM MDT
- Mastering The Mental Game Of PRS: An Easy Way To Achieve A Higher Score
- A Shooter's Checklist - Delivering The Perfect Shot
- Beginners Gear Guide for Precision Rifle Competition
- Expert Gear Guide for Precision Rifle Competition
- How Professional Shooter Allison Zane Sets Up Her Rifle
- HORNADY 6MM ARC For Competition
- How To Shoot PRS: Stage Breakdown With PRS Top Lady
- Dry Fire Drills With Pro Shooter Allison Zane
- Building a Custom Bergara B14 for Competition
- Building a 6mm GT for Competition
- How I Got Into Precision Rifle Competition - PART 1 and PART 2
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have 20+ years in the automotive industry- first managing shops in the northwest for over 13 years and now as a factory rep for Hunter Engineering. I love my family, my faith, and my firearms. I've shot competitively in the PRS southwest region for two years. I also compete in long-range AR-15 competitions at least once a month and am an avid reloader. I have written for Ballistic Magazine's 'Ballistic Best' precision rifle edition for two years. My other hobbies include photography, videography, woodworking, and knife making. You can find me on Instagram @davidinthesun