Potomac Precision Rifle Match
(Page updated 4/9/2018)

Match Results now located HERE)

(2013 and more recent Match results will be located HERE)

 Next match date - Third Saturday (see below)

(Generally the third Saturday of each month during the shooting season, April through October.  Note:  Send an email to gary AT marbut DOT com and ask to be on the Rifle Match email list if you want to receive pre-event announcements.)

Potomac, Montana

WHEN:  Generally, we will hold matches during on the third Saturday of each month, April through October (possibly minus July and August because of fire season).  Start time for the match is 9 AM.  Match registration will be from 9 to 9:30 AM.  The mandatory shooters' briefing/safety meeting will start promptly at 9:30 AM (PROMPTLY).  Only those who have attended the beginning and all of the meeting will be able to shoot.  Send an email to gary AT marbut DOT com and ask to be on the Rifle Match email list if you want to receive pre-event announcements and information.
WHAT:  This long-distance rifle match will have a Hunter Class with about 43 targets from 100 to 350 yards (about), and a Precision Class with about 68 targets between 300 and 1,000 yards (about) (optional new targets at 1,337).  Participants may enter whichever class they wish - not both classes.

All targets are steel plates, scored hit or miss.  Every shot will be scored.  No trophies; no prizes.  Just shooting.

There are eight shooting positions (designated places to shoot from), with targets at odd but known distances downrange from each shooting position.

Shooters will be squadded into groups which will rotate from shooting position to position.  Each squad will rotate after all shooters on the squad have engaged all targets from a particular position.  Squads will include a mix of Precision Class and Hunter Class shooters.

A time element is incorporated (see below) so that each shooter will not have unlimited time to engage all targets from each shooting position.  The time element will be set to be adequate for the usual shooter to engage all targets with a bolt-action, single-shot rifle, plus one minute of preparation time beginning when the shooter is called to the line.

WHERE:  Case Ranch (thanks to Glenn and Julie Hacker!!).  The match will be held near Potomac, about 20 miles east of Missoula along Highway 200.  Here is a MapQuest map to the match location.  Take the Bonner exit from I-90.

Here is a Google Earth aerial of the match location - Shooting Positions marked approximately.

We shoot north across the meadow on the north side of the highway.  Shooters will first assemble for a mandatory Shooters' Meeting near the (old log) buildings visible at the east end of the meadow - near Shooting Position 8.

Match Rules, Instructions and Information

Safety.  Safety is first and absolute.  All rifles will be unloaded at all times except when a shooter is on the line and actively shooting.  All shooters will clear their rifles under the supervision of a Range Officer after shooting, and dry-fire on an empty chamber.  Notwithstanding that, all rifles will be treated at all times as if they were loaded.  Muzzle direction will be downrange (North) at any time a rifle is not being carried in the muzzle-up position.

Shooters' meeting.  Safety practices for the match will be discussed further at the mandatory Shooters' Meeting before the match.  Only shooters who have attended the Shooters' Meeting may participate in the match.

Ammunition.  No steel-core ammunition is allowed.  It will damage the targets (besides, it's not very accurate anyway).  If you are unsure if your ammo has a steel core, test it on a magnet.  No incendiary or tracer ammo (duhhh).

Caliber/velocity restriction.  No rifle caliber larger than .34 allowed, except with special permission.  For example, a .444 Marlin or 45-70 would be allowed, but ask for permission.  Anything chambered to shoot factory ammo over 3,500 FPS (example: 22.250, .220 Swift) will not be allowed in Hunter Class.  Again, the issue is damage to targets.  We want to be able to shoot this match several times each year without having the expense and labor of replacing steel targets.

Shooting both Hunter and Precision classes.  Not.  This is because of the time it will take to get all shooters through the match, and as a courtesy to the majority of shooters.

Dividing shooters into Hunter and Precision classes.  It is our strong bias to allow shooters to choose their class, regardless of their equipment.  We assume shooters know their ability, and will prefer the more numerous and more challenging targets of Precision Class if the shooter's gear and skill are up to the challenge.  We want everyone to be able to shoot and have an interesting and instructive match.  Since there will be no prizes or trophies, any sandbagging will not matter.

Bathrooms.  There are none.  There are trees near some shooting positions, behind which a needful shooter may be able to step for some light stuff.  But, we will also be shooting from less than 100 yards away from Highway 200.  There is a quick stop a mile down the highway from the match.  Buy something to drink there and use their bathroom if needed.

Litter.  Absolutely no litter!  The generous private landowner has graciously allowed us to use their land for this match.  The land must be left in impeccable condition.

Modification of shooting positions.  It is okay to pull tall grass or weeds in the bullet flight path in front of shooting positions, or to clear obvious sticks and rocks.  Otherwise, no modifications are allowed.  This is supposed to be a field match (Spirit of the Game!)

Shooter's shooting position and gear.  Most Precision Class shooters will shoot prone off of bipods.  Most Hunter Class shooters will shoot over a pack on the ground, but may use bipods if available.  Shooting sticks are allowed, as are rear sandbags.  Adjustable front rests are deemed not suitable for these field conditions (Spirit of the Game).  Shooting from sitting, kneeling or offhand is allowed, although most targets should be available from the prone position (we reserve the right to throw in a target or two that cannot be seen from prone).

Distances to targets.  The distances to targets will be known and marked on shooters' score sheets.  This is to save time ranging targets when a squad arrives at a shooting position - to make the match run faster.  It is assumed that shooters will need to know exact distances to reliably hit targets.  We will provide that information.  Bring your range finder to double check us if you like.

Spotting scopes.  Definitely bring spotting scopes.  Spotters will be needed on each squad to spot shooters' hits on targets.

Timing scheme.  Here is the scheme we use to incorporate a time element into the match.  Each shooting position will have six to eight targets downrange (four or five for Hunter Class).  Our current formula is to allow a total time ("par time") for the shooter to set up and engage all targets that is equal to four (4) seconds per 100 yards per target, totaled for all targets from that position, plus an added 60 seconds of preparation (setup) time.  For example, if a target is at 1,000 yards, that will add 40 seconds of shooting time; a target at 500 yards would add 20 seconds of shooting time.  If, for example, a shooting position had four targets at 1,000 yards (160 seconds) and five targets at 500 yards (100 seconds), plus the 60 seconds of prep time, that would allow a total of 320 seconds (5 minutes, 20 seconds) for a shooter to engage all targets from that shooting position.  Thus, when a shooter is given the start command for that shooting position, the clock will start, and the last shot must be fired before 320 seconds have elapsed.  Any shots fired (or not fired) after the time ends will count as missed targets.  No other penalty will be assessed for late shots, such as failure to engage.  The shooting time for each shooting position will be rounded up to the nearest half-minute and marked on the score sheets.

Match fee.  The match fee will be $2.50 per stage for MSSA members and $4.00 for non-menbers (Hey, you can join MSSA for $25 - see:  http://mtssa.org/membership.phtml.)   MSSA is the lead organization asserting the rights of gun owners and hunters in Montana.  MSSA has now gotten 68 (yes "sixty eight") pro-gun and pro-hunting measures through the Montana Legislature in the past 25 years or so.  Some knowledgeable commentators with a national perspective say that MSSA is the most effective pro-gun organization in the U.S., maybe in the World.  Read about some MSSA achievements at:

PreregistrationWe no longer require preregistration.  We've found that we can accommodate the number of shooters who show up.  So, just show up in time for registration and the Shooters' Meeting.

Squads.  Shooters will be divided into squads of five shooters per squad, the optimum number we calculate to allow one person to shoot, one or two to spot, one to serve as range officer and scorekeeper, and one to fiddle, eat and kibitz.  With eight shooting positions and a shotgun start (one squad per shooting position), we should be able to accommodate as many as 40 shooters.  Keeping the squad size down will make the match run faster and let everyone get home sooner.  We deliberately mix Hunter Class and Precision Class shooters on each squad, both to keep all squads moving through the match at a similar pace, AND to provide Hunter Class shooters with the very educational exposure to the more knowledgeable and more well-equipped Precision Class shooters.

Squad leaders.  One experienced shooter will be chosen by the Match Director to lead each squad, primarily to stay on top of safety procedures, but also run the timer and to keep the squad shooting and moving.  That squad leader will also be the designated range safety officer (Range Officer or "RO") for the squad, a position someone else on the squad will assume when the squad leader shoots.

18. Targets.  All targets are rectangular steel plates, hung from frames with rubber belting.  There are three sizes of targets, large (12" X 24"), medium (9" X 20") and small (7" X 18").  Some are hung in the landscape orientation (horizontal) and some in the portrait orientation (vertical).  Most target stands have more than one size of target.

The targets are used track plates from tracked vehicles.  Here is what the three sizes look like, with a standard paint can and IPSC target for size comparison:

Yes, we know.  They already have holes in them.  Some of the holes will be plugged with the bolts we've used to hang the plates.  Some holes won't be plugged.  Don't shoot the holes is all we can say.  They won't score.  And, the plates have those danged insets shaped into one edge.  Oh well, "Spirit of the game."  If anyone wishes to provide us with and mount about two tons of armor plate or better steel, without holes or insets, we will be glad to shoot at those.

Targets are painted and color-coded for each shooting position.  For example, all targets from this shooting position are orange.

Targets to be engaged from this shooting position are blue.

All targets for Hunter Class shooters are identified with a diagonal black stripe.

Targets are all at irregular distances, but these distances will be marked on a shooter's score sheet.  So, the distances will be known at the match.

Again, most Hunter Class targets will be between 100 and 300 yards (hey, we threw in one long target for Hunter Class - Rocky's idea - blame him).  Precision Class targets will 300 yards and beyond.

About the level of challenge for the match:  Some discussion about the level of challenge proposed is in order.  We've spent a lot of time and gone through quite a bit of beer talking about and thinking through the level of challenge to provide.  We would like the match winner in both Hunter and Precision classes to be able to hit 90-95% of the targets (with no wind), but never 100%.  If somebody gets 100% in this match, we'll shrink or move the targets for the next match.  We'd also like any entry-level person with a hunting rifle to be able to hit a lot of the targets in Hunter Class.  Philosophically, we see Hunter Class not so much as a way to prove or vet hunting skills and equipment (although it may be that), but as an opportunity to learn and a stepping stone to Precision Class.  Of course, Mother Nature may get involved with wind and spoil our best-laid level-of-challenge plans.  Breaks of the game - welcome to Montana.

Discussion about match layout, conditions and timing.  Shooters will need to walk about a mile over the course of the match, over nearly level ground that is easy walking, most of that less than 200 yards at a time, going from shooting position to position.  Sometime during the match, every shooter will have to walk the full length of the line of shooting positions, going from position 8 to position 1, a distance of about 3/4 mile.  Because of match timing issues, it will be difficult to return to vehicles during the match.  A day pack is recommended for each shooter to carry necessaries.  We'd like to get the match over no later than 5 PM so folks can travel home.  Small squads, a shotgun start and the shooting, par-time element are all intended to help us move the shooting along and get done at a reasonable time.

What to bring to the match.  There are a number of things that would be good to bring.

Eye and ear protection mandatory.  Of course, eye protection and ear protection will be required for all shooters and spectators.

Amplified ear protection.  Amplified hearing protection may help in detecting hits on the steel targets.

Clothing suitable for the weather.  We have requested a sunny, clear, windless match days.  But, we live in Montana.  Bring what you will need.

Spotting scopes.  Every squad will need one or two spotters to call hits on targets.  It will be a priority for spotters to be able to see well the target being engaged by the shooter, AND for the spotter to be able to follow the time-limited shooter from target to target.  Definitely bring a spotting scope if you have one.  (Clue:  Shooters, be sure to inform your spotter of your intended target engagement order before the clock starts.)

Binoculars.  Binoculars will be helpful to locate targets once you arrive at a shooting position, especially for Precision Class shooters.

Front rests.  Not!  Bipods are fine, in either class.  Shooting over a backpack is fine - what most Hunter Class shooters do.  But no mechanical front rests.  Shooting sticks are OK - some Hunter Class targets may not be visible from prone.  Spirit of the game!

Rear bags.  If you want to pack it, bring it along.  Some of the precision shooters are experimenting with rear bags filled with something light, such as popcorn, rice, oatmeal, plastic beads or whatever.

Family service radios for communication among squads during the match.

Non-alcoholic liquids to drink.  We've asked for warm weather.  We'll see.  Bring whatever you want to drink during the match.  Of course, nothing containing alcohol.

Bring your lunch (and maybe cookies to bribe your spotter).  There will be no specific lunch break.  Squad members can stagger eating lunch during the match when not shooting or spotting.  We'll expect this to slow the progress of the match just a bit between Noon and 1 PM.  No nap time is scheduled for after lunch.

Rangefinder.  You are welcome to double-check the ranges to targets we will print on the score cards.  We determined ranges with both a Leica and Swarovski rangefinders and split any differences.

Spectators, significant others, gun bearers.  OK, bring 'em on.  The same safety will be required for all, including any gun handling, and eye and ear protection.

Motel reservations in Missoula.  Moved to the bottom of this page.

Match Procedures

Shooting position procedure.  Each shooter will fire from along a line parallel to Highway 200 and within eight feet east or west (left or right) of the stake (rebar) which marks that shooting position.  This does not need to be exact, but the firing line is not forward of or to the rear of the shooting position stake.  The shooter must fire from within eight feet of the stake, left or right, and within a foot or two of the imaginary line parallel to Highway 200, left or right of the stake.  For definition, the bolt of the shooter's rifle must be on the firing line, plus or minus two feet.

Starting position.  The shooter must begin standing two paces (about six feet) to the rear of his selected firing position.  The shooter may begin with eye and ear protection already in place.  The shooter's rifle must be empty of ammunition, bolt forward.  The rifle must be held diagonally across the shooter's torso, at port arms.  If the rifle is equipped with a bipod, the bipod must be in the folded, carry position.  The shooter may pre-set any required extension on the bipod, as long as it is folded (not deployed position).  If a scope has scope caps, they must be closed.  The shooter may not pre-position any gear at the shooting position, but must carry whatever the shooter needs to shoot from the start position to the shooting position (spirit of the game)  (exception - you can throw a shooting mat down and then back up to the start position to start).

Upon start signal, the shooter may advance the two paces to the shooting position, set up, and engage appropriate targets downrange.

Late shots.  Shots fired after the par time expiration may not score as hits, and any targets not engaged during the par time score as misses.  Participants WILL be allowed to engage remaining targets after par time elapse.  Hey, we're there to shoot.  But, overtime hits won't count and shots not taken before par time elapse will still score as misses.

Clear rifle at line.  Upon completion of the firing from a shooting position, the shooter must, with rifle muzzle downrange, demonstrate to the Range Officer that the rifle is free of ammunition, both magazine and chamber, and then close the bolt and snap the trigger on an empty chamber.  Detachable magazines must be removed.

Squad procedure upon arrival at a Shooting Position.  Upon arrival at a Shooting Position, the squad or squad leader should determine where in relation to the stake most shooters wish to shoot from (Positions are generally set to allow the most convenient shooting from the right or East side of the stake).  The squad leader will then designate a place, along the firing line, for shooters to ground their rifles, not blocking the place from which the squad members wish to shoot.  Rifles should be grounded along the firing line with muzzles downrange.  If a shooter does not wish to ground his rifle, but hold or sling it in a muzzle-up orientation, that is acceptable.  If it is raining, carrying and holding rifles in a muzzle-down orientation will be allowed, but only if it is raining.

Once rifles are grounded, the squad should take no more than five minutes to locate all color-coded targets for that shooting position and determine a shooting order and who will be spotting.  Each shooter should have some dialog with his or her designated spotter about intended target engagement order and feedback information the shooter would like from the spotter.  Upon a shooter's request, it is acceptable for the spotter, the Range Officer, the scorekeeper, or another squad member to call off the distances to targets for the shooter, including while the shooter is shooting.  The Range Officer may coach the shooter about how much time remains during the shooting string.  Once a shooting order is established (by volunteerism or by shuffling score sheets) and targets are located, the squad leader may begin to run shooters.

Squad duties.

The Squad Leader will be the Range Officer for every shooter on the squad but himself.  Some other squad member, a volunteer or someone designated by the squad leader, will serve as the Range Officer when the squad leader shoots.

The Range Officer will be responsible first for safety associated with the person shooting.  The Range Officer will also run the clock for each shooter, determine when the par time is elapsed, and inform the scorekeeper if not all shots are fired upon expiration of the par time.  The Range Officer will also record hits and misses on the shooter's score sheet, unless there is another person on the squad available and willing to keep score.

The spotter only is responsible for determining hits or misses on targets.  More than one spotter may be used on a squad, depending on availability of spotting scopes and personnel.  If there are two spotters working, and they disagree about a hit or miss, the Range Officer will break the tie.  Only after the spotter has declared a "hit" or "miss," the spotter may provide the shooter with any information the shooter wants about the location of a hit or miss.

Squad movement.  Upon completion of a Shooting Position, the squad will move to the next higher-numbered position - the next position to the East.  Each squad finishing Shooting Position 8 will move to Shooting Position 1.  All squad movement must be to the rear (South) of the firing line - through that area between Highway 200 and the firing line.


Match Results
Match results moved HERE

(2013 and more recent Match results will be located HERE)

Narrative.  The September, 2007 match ran well, started on time, and finished at a reasonable hour - about 5 PM.  The targets held up well - only one array of two targets was lost during the match.  Despite windless, sunny days both before and after the match, winds were gusting up to 20 MPH on the day of the match.  Still, everyone had a good time and got in a lot of long-range trigger time.  Participants were pleased with the match format and scope.  Feedback about the time element invoked was very positive.  Few shooters were unable to make all shots during the times alloted per shooting position.  All shooters felt at least somewhat pressured by the time constraints applied.  If there were any serious complaints about the match (other than the variable winds), the match organizers didn't hear them.


Motel reservations in Missoula.  When we select match dates, we don't check to see if there are any Little League tournaments in Missoula, exotic dancer competitions, Kiwanis conventions, or other gatherings.

On the east end of Missoula, closest to the match location, there are two motels that are suggested.  These are both just east of the Van Buren Street exit to I-90.

The Thunderbird Motel
1009 E. Broadway

The Holiday In Express
1021 E. Broadway

There are a bunch of hotels/motels clustered around the Reserve Street exit to I-90.  These are:

Ruby's Reserve Street Inn
4825 N. Reserve (south of I-90)

Best Western Grant Creek Inn
5280 Grant Creek Rd (north of I-90)

Come On Inn
2775 Expo Parkway (north of I-90)

Motel 6
3035 Expo Parkway (north of I-90)

4-Bs Best Inn
4953 N. Reserve (south of I-90)

Super 8
4703 N. Reserve (south of I-90)
There are more motels in Missoula on the south side of the Clark Fork River but not listed here.