I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun, in its 20th year, from Russell Phagen at KE Arms. I got to run the match with staff and other media the two days preceding the full competition. It was a little more relaxed of an experience and we ran through quite a bit faster (with less waiting between stages) as their were fewer squads.
Overall scoring was calculated separately for each equipment division and was awarded to participants according to their stage time relative to the fastest time on that stage. Specifically it was the fastest overall time divided by the participant’s time then multiplied by 100. The highest overall score winning the division. It was done this way to balance out scoring for stages which were much faster (like #11, which was a speed shotgun stage). If it was just based on total overall time, stage #11 would have been pretty irrelevant.
This year there were eleven stages that utilized the standard rifles, pistols and shotguns, but also incorporated things like a Milkor grenade launcher and tripwire “IEDs”. Each stage had a theme and backstory which made it that much more enjoyable (as some of them had an element on humor involved).
Stage 1 was the “Pool Pugilist” and required the shooter to first knock down a dummy with a pugil stick (while standing on a board over a “pool”) before drawing their pistol and engaging targets. After neutrailizing the pistol targets, the participant then retrieved a shotgun and shot a number of falling steel targets with buckshot.
Stage 2 was “Flying Third Class” which involved lobbing a grenade (chalk) through a window (using a Milkor) to engage the first set of targets. Next the participant picked up their rifle and shot both paper targets and steel gongs, before transitioning to shotgun and/or pistol to engage a number of falling steel targets.
Stage 3 was the “Parchin Meltdown” a semi-surprise stage where you could not walk the stage from the shooting lane (thus denying the ability to plan effectively). The shooter started with rifle and engaged a number of paper targets while moving through a “contaminated” zone. After neutralizing all of the paper, the shooter transitioned to pistol, with a requirement of retrieving an ammo can from the ground. Once picked up the ammo can had to be carried for all pistol shots (at risk of penalties) against some cardboard targets (including some automated ones activated by a tripwire) and falling steel.
Stage 4 was “Inside the OODA Loop”, a rifle only stage. It consisted of 22 rifle targets randomly set to shoot/no shoot for each participant. After engaging all of the paper, the shooter had to mount the bed of a truck and engage some targets out at 350 yards.
Stage 5 was a shotgun only target named “Siege of Firebase Sarah” and was a semi-surprise stage. The shooter had to enter through a heavy steel door and shoot a number of falling steel targets and a few clays (some of which were no-shoots based on how they were oriented). After running the lane, the last three targets were out at 50 yards and required engagement with slugs.
Stage 6 was “Act of Valor” and utilized shotgun and rifle. The shooter first engaged a number of falling steel targets from either side of a car using the shotgun. The final shot engaged a target that activated a “Rube Goldberg”-like contraption (complete with bowling ball), causing three of the automated rifle targets to activate. The shooter had to quickly transition to rifle, engage all of the targets (one of which had a single 1 second presentation) before mounting the bed of a pickup truck and engaging some steel targets out at 280 yards.
Stage 7 was a “Breach Gone Bad”. Using a shotgun the shooter had to knock down a number of falling steel targets while carrying a slung rifle. After grounding the shotgun in a barrel, the shooter then had to climb an extension ladder up to the top of a scaffold and shoot some paper targets down below with their rifle. After neutralizing the papers, the shooter had to engage a bunch of steel targets at varying ranges from 90 yards out to 250 yards.
Stage 8 was a pistol only stage called “Holiday in Hue”, which was one of the more fun stages, in my opinion. It was a semi-surprise stage set up with six walled corridors with targets at the end of each. Randomly placed on three of the corridors were tripwires attached to “IEDs”. If the shooter activated a tripwire, first time they lost use of support hand, second time was end of stage.
“Location, Location, Location” was the 9th stage and was rifle only consisting of twelve steel gongs out around 200 yards and a few close in paper targets. The shooter had to engage the steel from one of two platforms in the prone position. Missing two shots required the shooter to go to the alternate platform. Missing another two meant a trip back to the first platform, so on and so forth until all of the steel was engaged. Then the shooter had to move to a final area to shoot the paper.
Stage 10 was “Standards of Fortune” and involved all three weapons, with a string for each. Each string had a 60 second par (you only had 60 seconds with each weapon) and three mandatory shooting positions (standing, kneeling, and prone). First was a number of paper targets at distance to engage with shotgun (slug or buckshot) with varying levels of overlapping coverage from no-shoot targets. Rifle was against steel targets. Pistol was also against steel targets. Oh, did I mention the mandatory reloads between each shooting position? This one was my least favorite.
The final stage was a speed shotgun stage. Eight reactive steel targets (one to each side and six dead center). The shooter had to start with hands up, and retrieve their shotgun from a table. Each shooter got three chances, and only the lowest score was kept.
Team Side Match
The competition even had a side match allowing three shooters from a team to work together (simultaneously shooting) to clear a set of falling steel targets and ending by cutting a 2×4 in half, all with pistol.
As you can imagine there are two main classes of competitors. Those that are there to have fun and a good time, and some that take it pretty seriously, arguing technical details to gain that minuscule advantage.
The stages were generally well thought out and each had pros and cons for different styles of shooters.
The match staff ran things super fairly (and safely), and were very personable and approachable. I did not run into a single staff member that was not having a good time (and ensuring that participants were having fun).
It was interesting to see such a wide variety of gear and the sheer number of sponsored shooters, easily identifiable by their Nascar-like jerseys. Also, I’ve never seen so many freaking baby strollers in one place (sans babies of course).
Personally I was in the “have fun group”. My goal was to not come in last, which I definitely accomplished. I even placed in the top 300… Out of 355… 🙂
For my first actual competition, this was pretty fun. I was not sure what to expect and I didn’t really know anyone there. By the end of the match my squad and I were laughing and joking and ribbing each other like we had known each other for years.
Despite being a bit intimidating, going to a large match was definitely worth it. I highly recommend it if within your means.
[Disclosure: KE Arms did cover my entrance into the match and travel expenses.]