Red Oktober is an entirely Kalashnikov themed competition that took place at Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range in St. George, Utah. It was primarily by Rifle Dynamics, along with a number of other industry sponsors that all pitched in to really support the two day competition. Essentially Jim Fuller from Rifle Dynamics, along with range staff from Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range saw the opportunity to create a competition in celebration of the Kalashnikov platform in the United States and brought it to reality. The divisions included Kalash Heavy (7.62×39), Kalash Light (5.56×45 or 5.45×39), Open Kalash for optics or drum feeding devices, and finally a ComBloc division for any non Kalashnikov design Soviet or otherwise within the Warsaw Pact countries.
The competition consisted of a number of very well designed and themed stages, from clearing a house, to long range shooting. Shooters came from all over the country, probably the furthest from Alaska to participate. Many stayed in hotels around the area but a good number also camped out on the range itself after the shooting was done for the day. Vender sponsors such as Dead Air Armaments, Kvar, Kalashnicohn, Circle 10 AK, Century Arms, Sabrewerks, Rifle Dynamics, in addition to others were staged around the range showcasing new products and allowing for test fire of their products. There was even a food truck at the center of the range selling hot meals to hungry shooters. At the end of the two day period, awards were announced and a number of rifles and optics were given out to winners. Century Arms gave a rifle to the top five shooters that were using Century Arms rifles in the competition.
As a platform, the Kalashnikov has experienced a number of stages of growth and decline since importation really began in the 1970s and onwards. In the 1990s importation declined due to the Assault Weapons Ban, but picked up after the ban was finished. Unlike the U.S. based AR market which has really grown because of its modularity, the U.S Kalashnikov has had a tougher time. Mostly this is because unlike the AR, putting a Kalashnikov together requires much more subject centric knowledge. Although the Kalashnikov is an extremely simple design, and very reliable, producing it can be cumbersome. Pressing trunnions in, folding receivers, punching rivets isn’t something that most gun owners can do at home that they could do with an AR build. Thus, many of the U.S assembled Kalashnikovs got off to a rough start because in-depth knowledge and quality of manufacturing was lacking. However, the last decade has seen an explosion of quality U.S builds, to the standard of Soviet manufacturing techniques.
Thus, the kind of person that becomes interested in the Kalashnikov, can sometimes come from a very different path than an AR aficionado. Some are fascinated by the historical aspects of it, with original wood and country specific versions very available in the market. Others approach it from the reliability and rugged aspects of the design, looking for a more reliable rifle than the AK. While others are intent on pushing the system as far as it can go by way of making it more accurate, and more modular with different receiver designs, and modern accessories. Either way, all these social genres have to maintain a commitment that one doesn’t usually encounter in the AR world due to the pure accessibility of options available. All were well represented at Red Oktober with their own take on what the ideal rifle is for them. There were semi-pro competitors that do competitions full time and wanted an outlet for their Kalashnikov interests, in addition to the guys who just liked good Soviet designed rifles and saw this as an excellent opportunity to run one in competition.
The scenery for the shoot was absolutely killer. Southern Utah consists of canyons, desert, and spots of civilization in between. It was absolutely the best competition I’ve been in when it came to the pure scenery involved. Looking over my shoulder, I could glance at far off mountain ranges, or St. George out in the distance. At night, the sky was alit with stars while I was sleeping underneath.
Being that it was Halloween weekend, there were a number of shooters that came in costumes for the shoot. Ian McCallum from Forgotten Weapons was there as a drug trafficker coming across the Arizona border, complete with padded boots to obscure footprints and bale of weed on his back. Another competitor was there as a “War Pig” in a pig outfit, complete with matching pink and blue rifle! There were also numerous guys with Afghan Packools as headgear as well. All the Soviet or foreign era inspired costumes really reinforced it being a quasi cross cultural/historical interest focused get together. I could not see any of that happening at a strictly AR themed competition (which most of 3 Gun is anyways in the rifle category).
The crew putting the competition together was absolutely spectacular. Unlike other competitions I’ve been to, the range officers here were actually calling out to shooters if they missed a target or not, in addition to guiding them through the entire stage and making sure everyone was was safe throughout.
Nine steel targets were set up around 75 meters away, shooters had to engage all nine at three different barricades, while carrying a water jug between them. This one was pretty straight forward and was a good stage to become familiar with the match rules and regulations. Because the safety on Kalashnikov rifles is much more difficult to operate quickly, safeties were intentionally left off on the majority of moving portions, while the ROs paid strict attention to trigger placement and muzzle discipline.
Paying homage to the battle of Stalingrad, here you start sitting in a trench, then have to crawl through a sort of tunnel, and working your way into a house where your rifle is. You have to engage targets from the house while crouching because of the low windows in it. Outside of the house, you kicked a steel silhouette target that engaged 2 pairs of swingers on the left and the right. The SBR guys really took it here.
Car Ambush Stage
Here you had to start from inside a car, engage stationary targets, which then activate a swinging target directly in front of you. Leaving the car, you push through the stage and engage stationary targets on either side of you while going through a net house set up.
The SKS guys managed to work inside the confines of a vehicle.
House Clearing Stage
This was one of the neatest stages wherein you had to clear a house, and push outwards for targets outside of it. The stage RO hands you a loaded 12 gauge shotgun, and you have to blow a wooden latch on the door open. Then you throw in a flashbang grenade and continue with the house targets.
Sometimes the wood wouldn’t break upon engaging it with the 12 gauge, so shooters would have to kick it open themselves.
Hands down, this is probably the coolest shooting competition stage I’ve ever participated in. You started off with 10 rounds from a match provided Class III PKM machine gun, emptied all of them downrange, and then pushed throughout with a satchel containing all of your magazines.
The Afghanistan stage started off with three steel targets 150 meters away. Engaging them, you push through a tight canyon, with stationary targets on either side of you as you move through. Ending it with the same three targets you started off with, but now at 50 instead of 150 meters away. On my particular squad it appeared that the SKS armed guys were better at 150 meters than the Kalashnikov guys of any caliber.
The night stage took place at the barricade portion, and was lit up by a flashing police siren, in addition to barrels on fire throughout the range. Even with the lights shooting this with iron sights proved to be tough, really tough! Here the optics mounted Kalashnikov shooters showed a stark advantage over the iron sights, easily hitting targets when the iron sights could barely align in the dark.
The closing ceremony was an excellent finishing touch, in addition to a final shoot out between the two contenders in each category. All the sponsors and winner said a few words a piece, some being quite humorous as well.
All the range staff and ROs that made the match go as smoothly as it did. All of these people performed excellently at their jobs!
Dingus, of Bad Element Customs trying out an experimental drum he is working on.
One of Circle 10 AK’s shooters with a customized AK74 build.