For several years, I surveyed the top 100-200 nationally-ranked precision rifle competitors and published stats on what gear they were running in a series of articles I called “What The Pros Use.” Each article focused on a single piece of equipment, like scopes, barrels, or actions, and broke down what % of those nationally ranked shooters used different brands. Those articles were always very popular and helped a lot of shooters. I recently connected with Ken Wheeler, the new Owner & Director of Precision Rifle Series (PRS), and we are both excited to partner together to publish a 2023 installment of the What the Pros Use articles on PrecisionRifleBlog.com later this year!
Those articles will likely start publishing just before or after the 2023 PRS Finale (Nov 3-4), but we’re still working to finalize the exact timing. You can subscribe to get an email alert when a new PRB article is published to be the first to know when those articles go live.
New “What The Pros Use: Top Shooter Spotlight” Series
I have an idea for new series of articles that will be in the same vein as the “What The Pros Use” series – but with a shift in focus. While the What The Pros Use data I’ve published in the past is fascinating, those articles never focused on complete rifle setups. They offered a lot of value because they’re based on a huge sample size of proven shooters, but they didn’t ever show if there were specific combinations of gear that seemed to perform well together or provide much context for why some shooters preferred one brand over another.
So I plan to publish what I’m calling a “What The Pros Use: Top Shooter Spotlight.” Instead of focusing on a broad group and analyzing each component separately, we will do a deep dive with a handful of the top shooters who have consistently been on the podium at major, pro-level rifle matches over several years. These deep dives will include details and photos of:
- Every aspect of their competition rifle
- Everything they carry with them at a match
- Ammo load data, reloading process, and equipment
- Shooting & Strategy Tips (stage prep, practice, mental management, etc.)
I will not only share what they use but also what they love about different pieces of gear and why they believe it gives them the best chance of winning. These articles will be more qualitative than quantitative. Each will provide more depth than simple charts/percentages can represent (although I do love a good chart! 😉).
Which Shooters Are We Talking About?
That turned out to be a more challenging question than it sounds! My goal was to identify maybe 4 shooters who have consistently finished on the podium at national, pro-level rifle matches over several years. I also thought it’d be helpful to try to represent shooters from different areas (east coast, central, and west coast) because the shooting styles and strengths/challenges can vary to some degree, and I was interested to see how geography might change equipment or strategy. For example, while Oklahoma has a ton of world-class shooters, I didn’t want only to represent what equipment guys in that group ran.
For anything I publish, I’m always thinking about how I can eliminate any bias – so, as always, I resorted to a data-driven approach even for this shooter selection process by compiling statistics from major rifle competitions over the past seven years (2016 through the end of the 2022 season). I analyzed total Precision Rifle Series (PRS) points accumulated over different periods, % of wins and top 5 finishes, lifetime PRS points, etc. – plus I also specifically looked at the AG Cup finishes, the IPRF World Championship, and results from the National Rifle League (NRL) over multiple years.
After analyzing all the data, I came up with a list of names – and I couldn’t just pick 4. Luckily, all 6 of the guys I asked were excited to be part of this! So here is the initial group of guys that I plan to do a spotlight article on (in alphabetical order, no ranking intended):
When you look at the total PRS points accumulated over the past 5 years, all these guys are in the top 10. There are 5 golden bullet trophies represented among this group, which are awarded to the top PRS shooter at the end of each season. There are also AG Cup winners, NRL champions, and World Champions represented. Plus, all of these guys still compete at the highest levels today and have either won or finished in the top 3 in a pro-level two-day match in 2023. Those were the most important qualifiers, but we did end up with a little bit of geographic diversity, too, with shooters represented from both coasts and the central U.S.:
Now, there are many other great shooters in this sport, and my goal wasn’t to exclude anyone or make claims about who was “the best.” My original goal was 4 shooters, and it grew to 6 – but I could’ve easily made this list 15+ people and would have loved to! But, I will likely invest 30-40 hours on each of these (in my spare time), so I wanted to be careful with how many I committed to upfront. No matter who you pick or how many, you’d inevitably leave someone out whose name arguably belonged on the list. So if you’re name or your favorite shooter wasn’t in this initial group, please don’t be offended!
If these six spotlight articles are popular, I may consider publishing spotlights on additional shooters in the future. I could even see myself doing a few of these spotlights every year into the foreseeable future. I’m excited to learn from these guys, and I suspect many of my readers might be interested in this too.
What Other Sport Does This?!
In what sport are virtually all of the guys at the pinnacle of the sport willing to share all these kinds of details?! You don’t see all of the top pro golfers getting together to share intimate details of how they go about their game. I’m pretty sure NASCAR or Formula One racers don’t openly share every detail about their cars (parts, tuning, etc.) or their strategy for a big race. Most competitive people keep things like that close to their chest and aren’t interested in helping others improve. What if sharing info helps someone get as good as they are?
One of the reasons I LOVE the precision rifle community is we will genuinely help each other. Don’t get me wrong – many of us have a competitive spirit and want to do as well as we can in a rifle match, but we won’t withhold something that would benefit another shooter. I’d say most people would lend you just about any piece of gear they have. I’ve seen that play out in most squads I’ve ever been part of. And even these top shooters don’t withhold knowledge or wisdom. That is insanely rare in competitive sports, but its one of the things I love about precision rifle shooting. Shooters helping shooters! I mentioned this in my article about multiple podcasts that have come out from top 10 shooters, but the fact that all 6 of the guys I asked were excited to share with all of us is another clear example of how this sport is different. Thank you, guys, for being so open and willing to help all of us!
So stay tuned for this “What The Pros Use: Top Shooter Spotlight” series. The first article will roll out in the next week or two, and I plan to keep them coming for the next few months. Then towards the end of this year, I’ll start publishing the latest “What The Pros Use” data to represent the larger sample size of 150+ nationally ranked shooters. I believe the combination of these two series of articles will provide new insight and bring a balance of both qualitative and quantitative information. I get excited about all this stuff, so I can’t wait to see the content myself! 😉