Running Stealthy at Superstition Mountain

By Kelly Neal

The first weekend of April marked the 20th (!) Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun at the Rio Salado Sportsman's Club in Mesa, AZ. This year, the SMM3G went back to the roots of 3-Gun. The match format paid respect to the granddaddy of the sport—the Soldier of Fortune 3-Gun match.

SOF presented a very different format from most current 3-Gun events with very challenging standards:

  • Minimal or no stage walkthroughs
  • Changing target presentations from shooter to shooter
  • Severe penalties for missing

All these were present at the 2016 SMM3G much to the consternation of many a modern 3-Gunner. I personally enjoyed the match and the format. But the 2016 SMM3G showed how much the sport has changed, and it was not without controversy, as you'll see.

This year's match also inaugurated a new 3-Gun division: Stealth. That's what I shot this year, landing a 2nd place finish.

What is Stealth division?

Lake the match itself, Stealth division is a modern take on the classic SOF. The match staff decided to revisit SOF's old rules, which tried to make the guns as "practical" as possible.

Of course, a lot has changed since the last SOF. A real effort was made to update the rules to recognize the changes in technology. Interesting to note that the Resurgence match is planning to use the old SOF equipment rules intact.

Stealth could, at some level, be called "Practical Open" or "Open Light," but those aren't really accurate labels. So, what are the rules and how do they change the shooting experience?

I'll run down just what's legal across all three guns and give you a taste of how that played out across some of the more classic SOF stage designs at the SMM3G.

Stealth: Rifle

A Stealth rifle is basically an open class rifle with two major differences:

  1. The rifle must stay in its declared configuration throughout the match
  2. Magazine capacity is limited to 31 rounds.

The rifle can have multiple optics. It can also have a bipod, but the bipod must remain on the rifle in the same location for the entire match.

I chose to complete in the match with a JP ORRC (Optics Ready, Rapid Configuration) with a Leupold 1-6x VX-6 and a Deltapoint. For mags, I used Magpul 30-rounders with Mag-Pod's excellent base plates.

I elected to go without a bipod. I knew that the difficulty of the long-range shooting would be limited by the Rio Salado facility. For most of the stages, I didn't want a bipod hanging off my gun.

For this match, that was the right call. For a different match at a different venue, I might elect to have the bipod.

Stage 9 was a rifle-only stage that definitely harkened back to SOF. The shooter was presented with two shooting positions and twelve plates--six 12" and six 8"—at about 200 meters. Shooting was from two elevated platforms about ten feet apart, and the shooter could easily shoot prone rested on the platforms.

The shooter started in position and on target. The stage rules allowed only two misses on a barricade. After that, the shooter has to move to the next barricade to engage. So on and so on, back and forth, every two misses.

Accuracy was therefore premium on this stage. Two misses required movement and another setup and lost time. Of course, the stage could be completed from just the first shooting position if the shooter had no more than two misses.

This proved no problem for my JP ORRC (and shouldn't have, as the targets are nearly 4 MOA). But you could certainly tell who had a solid zero and could fire accurate shots on command and who could not.

This stage really wouldn't be a problem for the run-of-the-mill high power/smallbore/PRS shooter, but it was havoc on many a 3-Gunner. This made the stage controversial with some. I would note that the SOF matches that I attended had stages which were even less forgiving.

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