The U.S. Military has had a long-standing policy of downsizing between conflicts and within a context of existing threats. The practice of augmenting active personnel with Reserve and National Guard units is growing. Combat effectiveness is predicated on the quality of training troops receive before deployment. This cannot be accomplished without adequate training resources and cadre. The military has relied more and more on civilian contractors to bridge this gap. During the Vietnam area, no civilian trainers were used. Today, civilian contractors are used in almost all training and logistical requirements the military seeks. Civilian training facilities, logistical support units, and security companies have sprung up around the world to fulfill the ongoing needs of the military and LE communities.

Battle Is Payoff, Competition Is Indicator
Shooting is a perishable skill. The more matches one participates in, the more likely he is to maintain his skills and his confidence. Every March, Rifles Only, a training facility and Sniper’s Hide web site, join forces to run a three-day match called Snipers Hide Cup in South Texas. A similar match is run in October, but the last few years the latter has been a 25-hour match, beginning at 1000 hours and ending at 1100 hours the next day, shooting throughout the night.

The Sniper’s Hide Cup is extremely challenging. While some fundamentals prevail, the course of fire is always changing and the stress of this type of competition can be high. These matches are all about being productive under stress and on demand. It is much more about thinking than about shooting. On the other hand, the match is not extremely physical; it is more about shooting than running with 100 pounds of gear—although there is a bit of that, too.

Compete Like You Will Fight
The Cup is made of approximately 25 events shot over three days, some of which are shot at night. It emulates those shooting tasks one might encounter in combat situations with both precision rifle and combat pistol. A CQB rifle is often used in one or two events. It’s always interesting to see what the course encompasses, as it continuously evolves from one year to the next. If most competitors are shooting above the 50 percent level, the hosts are inclined to ratchet up the difficulty factor for next year. A shooter who has been to the match for several years does not always have the advantage of familiarity with the course, but those who have competed for several years do tend to post higher scores.

The competition puts a shooter under stress, keeps him out in the South Texas weather for three days, has him shoot from 0800 to 1100 at night for 2 ½ days, makes him carry his gear, rifle, drag bag, ammo, and then requires him to make snap decisions from 30 feet straight down to 1,000 yards, with the chance to fire at moving targets. These are the conditions our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq go through every day—for months on end.

Course of Fire
There are normally three distinct sections of the match (but who knows what their evil, creative minds will conjure up for next year). The short course is shot from 30 to 200 yards. To do well in this section, a competitor has to have a rifle that shoots well at those distances and a calm demeanor not to let his nerves get the better of him at the speeds at which this course is run. The long course does not require a half-inch rifle, but it does test the shooter’s skills in judging distance and wind. The third section is combat pistol. If you cannot shoot a pistol while you are moving, you are destined not to do well in these events. Stop moving, and you are disqualified.

The match usually begins with a cold bore, unknown-distance shot, often at ranges of 600 to 800 yards. Shooters are normally taken to the area in pairs. They approach the range officer, who gives them brief instructions. The shooter is given 60 seconds to prepare, find the target, and range it. He is then given 30 seconds to shoot two shots. Full points are given for a first round hit and no more shots are taken. If he misses, he takes a second and final shot, garnering half points for a second-round hit. This procedure varies, but normally runs as the first event to start each new day.

From there the match begins to really test the shooter’s skill. If your rifle and gear are not working reliably, and if your concentration is not spot on, you will find yourself sliding in the standings. The shooter must learn to make productive decisions quickly, thus the requirement for concentration and a clear mind. The range officers make demands that you have not heard before, thus the stress. Often the shooters are held in a position where they cannot see what is going on. When called, they have no idea what the shot(s) will be or the requirement, until the range officer gives brief and succinct instructions.

Sound Decisions Make Good Scores
The shooter must learn to make shots rapidly in a target-rich field of fire at different distances that often involve a mover as well as shots from 200 to 600 yards, all five to 10 shots taken in about 60 seconds. Impossible? Skilled shooters often clean this event. Some dial each shot. Some use hash marks or mil-dots for hold over. Moving targets at different distances are normally shot, but from year to year the event’s procedure is varied, making it impossible to reproduce from last year’s event. Like combat, this is not a static, high-power course where the targets are always the same at the same distances. The sniper is often called on to shoot with his rifle lying on its side, or from a hide he can barely see over, or through a window, or from a helicopter, or under a barricade, or …

This competition emulates the real-world situations our military and LE personnel might one day face. For shooters that rarely leave the training are, competition is a good gauge of their training.

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