This coming weekend, I’ll be taking a brief trip into western Texas to compete in the annual Pecos Run and Gun in the Sun. It’s a run-n-gun match, as the name implies, using rifle and pistol and covering between 6 and 7 miles. There are six shooting stages along the course, requiring use of either rifle or pistol, or both – and the rifle shooting goes out to a maximum of 400 yards. I’ve been training for this match with practice runs of increasing length and weight for the last few months, and now go-time is just around the corner. I did one last full-length run with all my gear on Sunday, and took the opportunity to also get some video of the practice:
The toughest decision in preparation was deciding which rifle to use…there are so many possibilities to choose from! I know the targets are going to be relatively difficult, so I needed something that is conducive to good shooting – good sights and a good trigger in particular. I considered using optics, but I actually only have two scoped rifles: a scout-scoped tanker M1 Garand and a Yugoslav M76. The tanker M1 is a great gun, but not really appropriate to my interest in historical arms. The M76 is better in that regard, but has some magazine issues and a mediocre trigger. And it’s pretty heavy to run with for mile on mile.
Looking at my iron-sighted options, I realized that there was one group of rifles that were clearly the best suited for this (from my collection): the Swiss ones. The Swiss have a long tradition of marksmanship and designed their guns with that in mind. I have plenty of stripper clips to run a match like this with them, and the surplus ammo I have is of extremely high quality (of course; it’s Swiss). The K31 carbine is an obvious initial choice, but those are a bit common, aren’t they? Yeah, I’ll admit to a touch of gun-hipster. I’d rather use something a bit more esoteric. So sticking with the carbines (which are lighter), I moved to the K11. It meets the “less common” checkbox, and it has the longer bolt of the true Schmidt-Rubin actions – which I find to be smoother to operate than the K31. After a few trip to the range, though, I realized that I just wasn’t shooting well enough with it. This was partly because the sights weren’t quite regulated for my ammo (which seems odd, but the windage was both significantly off and the front sight was staked in place) and partly, I think, because of the short carbine sight radius.
The final decision was to use a Gewehr 1911, the full-length sister of the K11. It’s a flagpole of a rifle, but has an almost 31″ barrel and a correspondingly excellent 25.5″ sight radius to minimize sight picture error. The trigger is excellent (as they are on every Swiss rifle I have), and the G11 also has a bottom-mounted leather sling that I can wrap up as a “hasty sling” for shooting support – the K11 sling mounts to the side of the weapon and is much less conducive to this use). It is a bit heavy, coming in at 10.2 pounds unloaded according to my bathroom scale, but I can deal with that. Some of the other features the Swiss put into these rifles include a very sharp, square front sight to give the best sight picture, a nice deep crown to protect the muzzle, a semi-pistol grip for better handling than many contemporary arms, and a clip design that is extremely smooth and easy to use (better than any other stripper clip design I’ve used, and far better than some of them). It holds six rounds of 7.5x55mm ammunition, firing a 174 grain projectile at 2560fps (11g @ 780m/s). The surplus GP11 ammo is non-corrosive, and the combination of it and the G11 rifle are significantly more accurate than I am capable of. This will be my weapon of choice for the match.
Once I had reached that conclusion, I started to look for ways to carry ammunition. The downside of the Swiss chargers is that they are easily bent (they are made of waxed cardboard) and because they hold six rounds instead of five, they do not fit the gear designed for virtually any other rifles. The solution I found was a neat-looking Swiss bandolier originally issued to mounted troops (both horse and motorcycle). It has three pockets on the front and three on the back, each with space for two clips. Total capacity 72 rounds – about double the minimum number of rounds required for the rifle portion of the match. When the bandolier arrived from Liberty Tree Collectors, I was pretty impressed. It’s very sturdily constructed, the pockets are stiff enough to protect the clips inside from damage, and the flaps are easy enough to open but won’t come loose on their own. It can be worn either right- or left-handed, depending on which shoulder you want to have unobstructed for rifle shooting, and the bottom end loops securely around your belt (which will help prevent my pistol from bouncing around when I’m running). The one question I have been unable to find an answer to is why there are pockets on the back of the bandolier – they are basically impossible to reach – to access those I will need to undo the belt connection and pull the bandolier around so the back pouches are on my chest. That’s doable, though – I expect I will be doing so to move ammo to the front pockets while moving between shooting stations.
The rest of my gear is less interesting – a USGI 2-quart water bottle that will anchor to my belt and be supporter by a strap over the shoulder, my trusty Ballester-Molina sidearm and kydex OWB holster, and some spare 1911 magazines. Total with the rifle, it all comes to 28 pounds. Some might ask why I would decide to actually pay money to run for a couple hours in the Texas sun with all this junk (there is no prize for winning)…and that’s a reasonable question.
First off, if is a progression of activities I’ve been doing for a while now, and enjoying. I’ve been shooting a bunch of the 2-Gun Action Challenge Matches, and this is in the same vein. Simpler shooting stages, but much more strenuous overall. I’ve also done some local 5k terrain/mud runs, and enjoyed them as well. I like pushing myself a little farther each time, to see what I can achieve.
Secondly, I think that I learn more about weapons handling in the real world by doing this sort of thing than almost anything else I could do (short of enlisting in a military force and going to war). Shooting under stress is something you just can’t replicate from the shaded bench of a formal shooting range. I want to develop shooting skills that are universally applicable, and I believe that requires stress from a clock, competition, and physical exertion. I will be very curious to see how I perform in this event, and what new things I learn from it. Wish me luck!