How to Survive the MGM Ironman

By Victor Gold

If you've ever been to the MGM Ironman, you know what competitors found at this year's match.

If you've never been, imagine an arid landscape wedged between western Idaho onion country and vast expanses of BLM land. Imagine high winds and dust the consistency of baby powder that covers every inch of you and your equipment. One-hundred degree temperatures are common around the summer solstice.

Now, imagine a match in this environment. Over three days of competition requiring 1100 rounds of ammunition with rifle shots out to 900 yards, pistol shots to 100 and the dreaded MGM Spinner targets engaged at 65 yards... with slugs! Faint hearts need not register.

I first attended Ironman in 2010 and have been back every year, save 2014. Despite (or perhaps because of) the challenge, it has become my favorite match, and I'm not alone. There is so much demand for the Ironman that MGM split the match in two a few years ago.

The first half of the week covers the Open, Limited, Heavy Optics and Trooper (OLHOT) divisions. Then, the popular Scope Tactical division follows in the second half. The last two years, I've worked the OLHOT match as a Range Officer and then shot Scope Tac.

As an RO, you see it all and learn a lot. This year, I watched dozens of different approaches on my stage and saw gun stoppages of all kinds. I also saw many lessons learned the hard way that couldn't be corrected until next year's match.

From an old hand, here's my advice for anyone looking to brave the Ironman:

  1. Have a good zero on your main rifle and know your come-ups out to 500.

  2. Bring plenty of ammo that you trust. Heavier rifle bullets are best, not only for longer-range targets but also for rifle spinners. Most competitors are running 69s or 77s for spinners and any targets past 100.

  3. Bring a long-range bonus gun. If you don't have one, borrow one from a squad mate. .308 and .260 are the most common calibers, but whatever you bring, have dope for 500, 700 and 900 yards.

  4. Someone on your squad should have binoculars or a spotting scope to help call corrections on long-range targets.

  5. Zero your slugs and pistol at 50 and know where they hit out to 100.

  6. Bring sunscreen and don't be stingy with it.

  7. Bring plenty of water and stay hydrated. You should be hitting the porta potty about every half hour.

  8. Bring a first aid kit. Everyone bleeds a little at Ironman.

  9. You're going to be tired, so don't count on cleaning your guns at the end of each day. Instead, apply a couple drops of oil to the critical bits to keep them running:
    • Rifle - carrier bearing surfaces, bolt lugs and gas ports
    • Pistol - barrel hood and gas ports
    • Shotgun – bolt, carrier and gas ports

  10. Keep your guns bagged as much as possible to keep them cool and out of the dust.

  11. Bring shooting mats or carpet strips. Ironman allows competitors to use these, and they're very handy for prone positions and rooftops. Just think of black shingles baking in the sun all day…

  12. Bring your shooting friends; make new ones. Good squad mates help each other by staging gear, loaning equipment and running down with extra ammo or a spare gun when yours breaks. You'll know you've got the right balance when the trash talk flows hot and heavy, the stages are getting reset quickly and you're making good memories. The longer I shoot 3-Gun, the more this is what it's all about.

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