Back by popular demand: Welcome to What The Pros Use 2018 Edition! I recently surveyed the top ranked precision rifle shooters in the country to learn what gear they’re currently running in long range rifle matches. I’ll be publishing the results over the next several posts.
I’ve done this for a few years, although I skipped last year. This year there will be a few new, exciting twists!
Results for PRS & NRL
First, I surveyed the best shooters in both the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and the National Rifle League (NRL), so it’s based on an even larger, more widespread group of shooters. There seems to have been some fragmentation that has occurred, perhaps unintentionally, between the PRS & NRL and I didn’t want to contribute to that by only presenting one or the other. That’s a big part of why I didn’t publish this last year. I want to help unify, not divide.
Both the PRS and NRL help organize and promote a championship style point series race for national-level precision rifle matches. These aren’t matches shot from a bench or even on a square range. They feature practical, real-world field conditions, and some improvised barricades and obstacles to increase the difficulty from “hard” to “you-have-to-be-kidding-me.” You won’t be able to take all shots from a prone position, and time stressors keep you from getting too comfortable. Typical target ranges are from 300 to 1200 yards, but each match has a unique personality with creative stages that challenge different aspects of precision shooting. For a shooter to place well in multiple matches, they must be an extremely well-rounded shooter who is capable of getting rounds on target in virtually any circumstance.
The PRS and NRL are similar, but presenting them as equals would be misleading. The PRS has been around longer and currently has about 2-3 times as many shooters participate. But the NRL still has some of the best shooters in the country represented, and there is even some crossover with competitors shooting in both leagues. It’s not like a guy who finished 50th in the PRS finished 2nd in the NRL. For example, Jon Pynch got 1st in the NRL and 3rd in the PRS, and Austin Orgain got 2nd in the PRS and 3rd in the NRL. The level of competition is comparable in both series, but the organizations are simply different scales.
Basically the NRL is a similar entity that helps organize rifle matches and tracks shooter performance across matches to establish an overall season champion, but they’re currently much smaller. I’m not saying one is better or worse – just different.
I’ve heard people describe the NRL as mostly a “west coast deal,” which seemed to imply the PRS was more central U.S. and east coast. Being a data-driven guy to my core, I didn’t just take someone’s word for it, but instead looked up where each organization had major matches in 2018 that counted towards their points race and used that info to create the maps below:
As you can see, there is significant overlap between the organizations. The NRL has added a few states in the western U.S., like California and Idaho, but it wasn’t as clear-cut as it’s sometimes described. One of my takeaways from that map is that Oklahoma and Washington look like pretty sweet places to live, because there seems to be a lot of options there for major matches! I do know those Okies love to shoot – and a couple of them are even good at it! 😉
A couple of years ago, the PRS started a “Club Series” initiative to support smaller, regional matches. Their national-level matches were well established, but for many shooters the time, travel, and costs can discourage active participation in large, two-day matches. The PRS Club Series hoped to organize, promote, and support regional clubs in hopes of creating more awareness and giving more shooters access to this sport we’re all so passionate about. The PRS still tracks scores for these smaller, local matches, and establish overall season ranks for the shooters competing in that area. They currently track scores for over 5,000 shooters through the PRS Club Series across the 85 PRS Clubs across the nation.
I plan to publish results for the top 125 ranked shooters in the PRS, and the top 50 ranked shooters in the NRL. Each organization invited a little more than that number to their season finale, and I feel like those break points represent the top-tier of shooters in the sport, while still being a relatively large sample size. The ranks were based on the overall points for the entire 2018 season.
New Questions & Insight
Another exciting thing about this year’s results is that I asked several new questions, like what ballistic engine they use to calculate their data at a match, what rangefinder they use, what reloading equipment they use, and other non-product related things like how much they practice and how frequently they clean their barrel. So that should add some new insight.
I’ve also seen significant shifts in the products these guys are using, just based on my initial cursory look at the data. It seemed like the last few times I did this there weren’t large swings year-to-year in terms of what they guys were running, but there certainly has been a few significant shifts over the past two years that I’m excited to share those with you guys!
Here are the topics of the posts I’m planning, and each one will show what these top shooters are using:
- Calibers & Cartridges
- Scopes & Scope Mounts
- Chassis/Stock, Action & Barrel
- Muzzle Brakes & Suppressors
- Bipods & Tripods
- Shooting Bags
- Ballistic Calculators
- Reloading Components & Equipment
- Tips & Advice
I’ll be publishing one of these every couple of weeks, as I work through the data. As soon as I analyze the data and create the content, I’ll hit publish – so you’ll be getting them as close to real-time as possible. There is more work that goes in behind the scenes to organize all this than it may seem, but I promise I’m just as anxious as you are to see the results!
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