The Road to Mammoth : Part 2 A Dip in to the Mammoth Knowledge Pool
A Candle Loses Nothing by Lighting Another Candle.
Having been a competitive athlete for a large portion of my life, I’ve been immersed in the alpha culture of modern sports. By its very nature being engaged in competition, whether as part of a team or as an individual, lends itself to a sometimes ceaseless quest for a competitive advantage. A search for a secret formula, training schedule, piece of gear or technique that is yours and yours alone that will put you at the head of the pack. Having my life engrossed in the unique cultures of a few different sports, one thing they all shared was that if you found anything that was even remotely thought to (legally) enhance your performance, you kept it a secret. No one would ever think to share information with each other much less someone with whom you were in direct competition. I saw those at the top of their game take self-absorbed joy in seeing the less experienced fumble around as they “paid their dues.”
This was the world I saw in College Soccer and Elite Cycling. But my foray into the world of competitive long range shooting has proved to be diametrically opposed to my previous experiences. The support shooters give each other and the open exchange of knowledge and information is unique among competitive sports. There’s something about a shooter’s mentality that wants everyone to be their best and to have the overall level of competition continually raised. This is a phenomenon seen not only among less experienced shooters commiserating and trying to figure out how to gain their footing, but also with top shooters reaching out to elevate the skills of those starting their journey. In no other sport do those at the top tiers avail themselves so willingly to the newbies. It would be like Phil Mickelson asking you hop in the cart and play a few rounds with him.
I experienced the unique willingness of shooters helping shooters first hand when I reached out to some people who’d actually traveled the road to Mammoth that I was now starting down for the first time. Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Anderson and Scott Whitehead from Best Targets. As a team, Chris and Scott have shot more Mammoth Sniper Challenges than anyone in the event’s history. If anyone could give me the inside DOPE on how to prepare for a weekend of shooting, rucking and generally being joyfully uncomfortable, it would be these guys.
There’s a certain amount of anxiety that wells up when you start listing everything you have to consider just to gear up properly for the challenge. I liken it to facing a swarm of bees and trying to pick off one bee at a time. With choices needing to be firmed up on caliber choice, load development, DOPE gathering, gear needs and of course conditioning; I needed some sage wisdom showered over me. To be honest I was hoping to find the fast track to success.
Luckily Chris and Scott live and work less than an hour from me. With the promise of the best all you can eat sushi in the southeast, I set out to meet them and ask them about their experience with Mammoth. I expected to get a lot of information. What I didn’t expect was a professional level “coaching” session on the essentials of Mammoth.
Confident in their abilities, they know that helping others improve can only improve the sport overall and sharpen their game. If knowledge is power, then the knowledge they share is power multiplied. Nowhere is this more evident than the BEST TARGET after action reports (https://www.beststeeltargets.com/shooting-team/). There you can find the good the bad and the ugly of how Chris and Scott performed at various competitions over several seasons; including breakdowns of their Mammoth adventures. In their brutally honest and transparent self-evaluations, you not only will see where certain decisions led to success or failure but you can also get some insight as to why. That indeed is power multiplied.
So what did I learn in the two hours we spent downing raw fish and rice? What secrets and shortcuts were revealed? The first revelation was. . . Mammoth is going to be a truckload of fun with a bunch of great guys but HOLY *&!# this is going to be tough. I then learned from Chris and Scott THE secret of being successful not only at mammoth but any long-range shooting competition,
We talked a lot about the particulars of gear selection and strategy, advantages of certain must-have items and which items to leave at home. However, as much as I wanted there to be a specific caliber, accessory, optic or shooting techniques that would ensure high hit counts; the Best Target guys stressed that buying the right gear and investing in the best rifle shooting the flattest rounds means NOTHING if you haven’t developed unwavering consistency in the way rounds fly down range. The only way to make that happen is to develop rock-solid fundamentals and the only way to do that is by spending the time to repeatedly work on the basics of marksmanship, body position, trigger control, knowing my ballistics and knowing what we can expect from our system. That includes fine-tuning ourselves, getting stronger and minimizing our mental and physical weaknesses.
The two hours with Chris and Scott, (two of the best shooters you’ll ever come across) helped me further map out my ROAD TO MAMMOTH and how I can share my experience. For sure I’ll get into what gear my teammate and I are considering, our decision process and how we’re strengthening ourselves (turning a dad bod into a battle bod). But before any of that, I knew I needed to re-establish the fundamentals. If I didn’t get my fundamentals squared up, it wouldn’t matter how many miles I rucked before January or how awesome my gear was, without a solid foundation of marksmanship, I would fail miserably.
I knew I had to clear my mind of everything I thought I knew about shooting a rifle, to approach this journey with a clear mind and rebuild my fundamentals from absolute zero. Check back to see how I did that very thing and what I learned by spending 4 hot humid days lying in the dirt at one best facility in the southeast learning from two of the best instructors in the biz.