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What The Pros Use Top Shooter Spotlights

What The Pros Use 2023 & Top Shooter Spotlights

Ken Wheeler, New Precision Rifle Series Director

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:

  1. Every aspect of their competition rifle
  2. Everything they carry with them at a match
  3. Ammo load data, reloading process, and equipment
  4. 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! 😉).

View all of the “Top Shooter Spotlights” that have been published so far!

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):

PRS Shooters for What The Pros Use Shooter Spotlights

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.:

Location of Top Shooters

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!

Stay Tuned

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! 😉

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About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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35 comments

  1. David Unnerstall

    Glad to have you back. Missed your “what the pros use” series

  2. Looking forward to your Spotlight and use details Series. All good education.

  3. I’m glad to see this back as its very helpful.

  4. I can’t tell you how excited I was to get the e-mail with the link to this preview article . . . only to have that excitement eclipsed by the news that these two new series of top-notch information will be coming throughout the remainder of the year. Can’t wait to read it as it rolls out. Hope to hear about your underground shooting range at some point too. Thanks Cal!

    • Thanks, Pete. I’m super excited about all this content, too. And I will throw an update about the underground range in there at some point. It’s up and functional, but I’m still waiting on some new equipment and wanted to have all that in before I did an update.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Thank you Cal !

        Eagerly awaiting your follow-up about the underground range!

        Have begun planning on my own here in Switzerland after reading your article!

        Right now just a rough plan that will need refining. For sure you will come up with some improvements I can learn from, and not make all the mistakes myself! 😉

        Thank you!!!

        Marc

      • Hey, Marc! I’m sure building a tunnel in Switzerland might be more complex than on the arid plains of west Texas. I’ve never been to Switzerland, but I was in the Pitztal valley in Austria back in August, which is on the border. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life! Love that area.

        I’m actually waiting on a few last things to be imported from Germany now. At least your wait time would be shorter on those things.

        I do promise that I’ll do a post once I get all the equipment in. Sorry for the wait!

        Thanks,
        Cal

  5. Excited to read this series! Thank you in advance for doing this !

  6. Thanks for all the time you’ve put into researching, gathering the stats, and getting information out to your PRB readers. Since getting my first rifle back in 2019 I’ve gotten a lot out of your blog. I’m really looking forward to this next series!

  7. Thumbs up Cal

  8. Cal! Welcome back!

    I was getting concerned about where you went – or that you took me off distro. At any rate, I am ready to gobble up your new series and learn from the best – that includes you too!

    • Thanks, Dave. Still around … just been busy. Glad to be writing again. I enjoy it, and I enjoy reading and learning about this stuff, too.

  9. This sounds like a great new series, plus i am looking forward to the standard what the pro’s use. Also looking forward to the update on the range. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

  10. What’s with the “they” in the bios? It’s one person.
    Glad to have this back as I find the gear competitors use interesting and informative. Looks like 6mm is now the go to

    • Hey, Jon. It may just be a typo, but I’m not sure what “they” you’re referring to. Can you give a little more context?

      And there seem to still be a ton of guys using 6mm cartridges, but at least one of the 6 guys I’m doing the spotlight on runs a 6.5 Creedmoor. I was in a conversation with a few of them at a recent match and it sounds like they’re experimenting with new calibers, too. I’d say since I published the last “What The Pros Use” series a few years ago, the 6mm Dasher has been the go-to cartridge for the majority of the top shooters – which my stats showed: Rifle Caliber – What The Pros Use. But, I’d say in the past 2 years there has been a little shuffling or at least experimenting with different cartridges. I would still suspect the 6mm Dasher and the other 6 BR based cartridges (6BR, 6BRA, 6BRX) are the dominant favorites among the group, but what comes in after those will likely be different than it was when I last published the data 4-5 years ago. Of course, that is all just my guess from being at rifle matches, so I could be surprised. I can’t wait to see the hard data for myself!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  11. Glad you’re back, I’ve been worried a bit since last post was like aug last year 😀

    • Thanks, Rob. Busy time and I’ve been planning to do a follow-up on the underground range … but have had some delays on getting some of the equipment here to finish it out. It’s up and running, but I was hoping to show some of the instrumentation in my update … so I kept pushing it back.

      But, it sounds like with all these different “What The Pros Use” articles, I may have over a dozen articles published by the end of the year – so you can probably expect a new article to come out about every 2 weeks, if not a little quicker at times.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  12. Omar Abdelrahman

    Is there a category for precision factory rifles, rather than fully custom rifles? I’m thinking of something like AI, SAKO-TRG, or SIG SSG.

    • There is a “production division” in the PRS, and I believe the original idea was that would allow guys to compete in a separate class with factory rifles. I went and looked at the 2023 PRS rules, and it says: “Production Division rifles shall not exceed $3,000 USD as listed on the company’s website. The optic shall not exceed $2,500 USD as listed on the company’s website.” So I don’t think any Accuracy International rifle qualifies for the “under $3k” rule, and I’m not sure about the others you mentioned.

      When I publish the What The Pros Use data this year, I’ll try to specifically do a article on the factory rifles that guys are using, if there is enough data to support doing that.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  13. Add me to the list of supporters, I very much enjoy reading about what the pro’s use. One of your great articles I often reflect on is “What difference does it make?” As there is new technology on wind doping it will be of interest to see what the pro’s use.
    One stat that would be popular is money spent on gear vs. rankings. Who is the guy/gal who is doing the most with the least?
    Thanks for all the great info you have made available and look forward to more!

    • Thanks, Marc. That is one of my favorite content that I’ve written, and I still think about it a lot. I’ve even thought about doing a post to simply reference people back to that, because I bet there are a lot of people who haven’t seen it … but would find it interesting. For those reading this that may not know what he’s referring to, here is a link:

      How Much Does It Matter?

      It basically takes a data-driven approach to showing how much improving different areas would likely contribute statistically to improving your hit percentage at long range. If you’ve never read it, I promise there are a few surprises in there!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  14. oh my god , you finally update , it’s soooooo long time ago from last post . hope everything is fine with you . alway look forward your great reviews ,test and post.

  15. Humberto Claudino

    Carl
    How long chê!
    Thank you for sharing this new text.
    Greetings from Brazil

  16. Humberto Claudino

    Thanks “Cal”.

  17. Charley Hanson

    Thank you for all of the great information I look forward to everything you send to us.
    You’re a very thoughtful and caring person Please keep up the fantastic work.
    Thanks again.

  18. Hey Cal, glad to see you still posting. I’m curious how the underground range is working out?

    • Hey, Matt. It’s up and running … and SOOOOOO nice. I’m still waiting on some new equipment for instrumentation and measurements. I was wanting to wait until all that stuff was in place before I published a full update on how I finished it out and the “finished product” (as if I won’t be incessantly improving it forever). We’ve got a ton of rain over the past 5 weeks, and it’s bone dry inside … so I’m thankful for that! It’s honestly everything I was hoping for. I’ll share more details when I get all of the equipment in another 60 days.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  19. Cal, I have always really liked the “what the pros use” articles and I look forward to these new ones.

    I’d love to see another “high end scope field test” like you did nearly a decade ago. Since 2014 there have been quite a few great scopes released – Nightforce ATACR and NX8, Leupold Mark 5, Tangent Theta, Zero Compromise, Vortex Razor Gren 2 and Gen 3, Leica PRS, plus more Schmitt & Bender and Khales scopes. I’m sure there’s more I’ve missed.

    A “medium scope field test” would also be good for those on a tighter budget, with scopes at the level of the Vortex PST Gen 2, however I realised that this is a lot of extra work.

    • Thanks, Ben. I appreciate the kind words. I’d love to do another one of those scope tests again one day. I’ve already committed to what sounds like 30+ posts over the next year, so I won’t be able to fit it in for a while. But, I won’t rule out doing it again at some point.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  20. Thanks so much for all your effort on this, looking forward to being able to see what these young guys and gals are doing these days!