“Do you want to do Mammoth together?”
“Sure, I guess so.”
That was the simple dialogue between my husband, Daniel, and I about 6 months prior to the Mammoth Sniper Challenge of 2015. In previous years, Daniel had competed in (and won) the Extreme Tough Man division with Tyler Payne being his partner. Fast facts about Daniel and Tyler: they are both in the Army Marksmanship Unit, they each have extensive training and experience, they have shot several sniper matches together as a team, and won every match they’ve shot together. With all that being said, the bar was set pretty high for me as Daniel’s partner.
I didn’t know the first thing about sniper matches, precision long range shooting, or what Mammoth was really about. I trusted Daniel, and just figured everything would be ok and as long as I did as he said and didn’t quit. The advice Tyler gave me ended up being a recurring thought throughout the match, “Expect it to suck. You’re going to walk a lot, and every time you do, you’re going to think it’s stupid.” We did walk/ruck a lot, a total of 23 miles in two and half days. And at around the one-mile mark of each ruck, thoughts like “Why am I doing this? I could be in my bed, warm and cozy; this is stupid,” would cross my mind. I learned the match was just as much about mental fortitude as it was about skilled shooting ability. On day two, my body reached a limit of pain that was physically debilitating and mentally challenging. The decision to push through was a no-brainer, but the way I did it was to accept I would be hurting for the duration of the match and it will come to an end.
Cliff notes version of the match (Extreme Tough Man Division):
- We shot as a team, with me as the primary shooter and Daniel as secondary (which is only pertinent for target engagement). That meant I usually shot first and my targets ranged the farthest, this ended up being beneficial for my lack of experience.
- We had to carry all the guns, gear, ammo, food, and sleeping supplies throughout the match.
- The rucks (long walks between stages while carrying our gear) ranged anywhere from 1 to 5.5 miles, the max time limit was 18 minutes per mile. If you don’t make the time limit, you are cut from the division.
- The first ruck was the worst. It was 3.6 miles over 11 berms, several of which were up to 20 feet tall. I struggled thanks to these berms; at one point (more like three) I was literally crawling to get over them. During this movement, Daniel took my rifle for the sake of our success. We quickly learned my max ruck sack limit for an 18-minute timed mile on that terrain was about 50lbs. We moved gear between our packs at the first stage, and Daniel carried my rifle the rest of the time to ensure I wouldn’t make us fail. Thankfully this was a team event, and he was allowed to carry my rifle.
- We completed 3 stages on Friday and Saturday and 2 on Sunday.
- Each stage had an 8-minute limit to complete the course of fire. We shot from awkward positions and most stages had some sort of obstacle. Keeping track of time while shooting saved us from wasting too much time on targets that wouldn’t benefit us overall.
- The stage briefs were read very quickly and not repeated. It was important to take notes and understand which targets are worth more than others, because some weren’t even worth shooting at.
- We slept outside on Friday and Saturday night, temperatures were freezing. Our cold weather gear was extremely beneficial when we slept (and Benadryl). It was imperative to be well rested in order to shoot our best.
- We were part of a really great squad. The men on our squad were so experienced, it was educational to watch them shoot and to learn about them. I was very thankful to the guys who always finished the rucks first, because they decided the shooting order…and they always ordered everyone fairly.
- The staff were professional and well organized, they kept the match running smoothly.
- Before our last 5.2 mile movement, we learned that we had tied with another team and would have to participate in a shoot off for first place. Each team shot from 800 yards, with each team member firing 10 rounds to engage targets of various sizes.
- We ended up winning. This came as a huge surprise because there were some very legit competitors (36 teams total). I don’t think anyone would have put money on us to win. We won because we are a good team, communicate well, neither of us get our feelings hurt in moments of high stress, and we let the little failures go (like missing a shot). Those little failures end up being lessons in how to immediately improve. I can’t count on one hand how many times I shot at the wrong target, most of which happened on our first stage. Daniel was patient and corrected my errors without creating undue stress while on the clock.
Tips if you plan to shoot Mammoth:
- Practice shooting from unstable positions and use the gear you have to your advantage (i.e. your pack and multiple sand socks).
- Wear comfortable boots and good socks.
- Invest in quality sleeping gear (lightweight tent, sleeping bag, etc).
- Learn to read trace and give corrections.
- Have good guns and gear, know your dope and expect to shoot out to 1000 yards.
- Pick a teammate you care enough about that immediate anger or stress won’t affect your overall performance.
- Expect to be cold, in pain, and exhausted most of the time.
- Don’t quit.
Get the run down on our guns and optics: Precision Guns and Optics: A Winning Combo
Read another competitor’s AAR of the match: Click HERE
Check out the match website, 2016 registration is open: Mammoth Sniper Challenge
For more pics from Mammoth, check out the album on Facebook.
Stay tuned for one of my next posts about the gear and supplies we used.