Road to Mammoth: Episode 3 Back to the Basics
With more than a marathon’s worth of timed rucks plus physical challenges at every stage, there’s no question that the Mammoth Ultimate Sniper Challenge is one of the most extreme athletic events in the country. At its core, however, Mammoth is a shooting competition. It doesn’t matter how awesomely light your pack is, what new multi-functional gadget you’ve found or how in shape you are if you can’t make steel ring under whatever condition you’re presented with then you’ve failed the task at hand.
Every Mammoth veteran I’ve talked to has stressed the same thing. You have to have a solid base to build on. Overwhelmingly the single most important thing they told me to bring to Mammoth is a set of strong fundamentals in long-range marksmanship. That, however, is not a singular task, nor is it a milestone event where all the pieces of a mysterious puzzle suddenly fall into place and you are suddenly a “long range shooter.” It is instead a continuum that can’t be short cut. The Yoda-like wisdom imparted to me was to pay attention to the journey and not get distracted by the destination.
It was clear I needed to re-map my journey. It’s easy to get distracted with gear research and selection; to get mired in the minutia of all that eventually needs to be considered. There are a lot of concerns (real and imagined) to address that can divert you from developing the one skill set that will ensure higher point totals. Yes, you definitely want to make sure you can minimize discomfort with some wise gear choices (and in later articles, I’ll detail those struggles). But arock-solid consistency in putting hits on targets is what will make the difference between walking to the prize table and watching someone else make THAT trip.
Serendipitously I got an invitation from Bert Sorin with Sorinex Tactical Application Group to join him at his training complex in Lexington, South Carolina, to spend four days of long range shooting instruction from two of Leupold’s most experienced instructors. Not knowing entirely what to expect, I placed an order with the Ammunition Depot to get the required 400 rounds and with first day of school excitement bought a new notebook ready to write down all the insider tips and tricks these former marine snipers would bestow upon us. (Spoiler alert: there are no “tricks,” just practice, practice and more practice.)
Whether you’re a lifelong shooter or if it’s the first time picking up a rifle, a course like Leupold’s Precision Scoped Rifle course needs to be on your to-do list! The most valuable aspect of this particular course is that it starts at the very elementary level. Likewise, the best way to approach taking a course like this is to clear your mental slate. You may know your DOPE inside and out, and drive tacks from quadruple yardage, but there’s always something new to be learned. In my case that slate was easy to clean, only a few really bad habits to forget about.
The advantage of starting as if you have no foundation is that your base is built up carefully and purposefully with no assumptions or gaps. Only after a day and a half of delving into the way rifle optics function, how to properly mount a scope, and the external ballistics of projectiles flying through space did we head out to the range to establish fundamental skills and start gathering DOPE. What followed this was eye-opening, and completely changed the way I approached Mammoth.