My past experience with most shooting competitions hasn’t been entirely positive. I’ve done a 2 gun a 3 gun and a few IDPA’s. In my experience its a little bit of high stress shooting. A lot of waiting around and an all day time suck. While the people watching is great, the experience is pretty lacking. Between the competition specific gear- racks of speed reloaders, 3 gun carriers, etc. And the fact that the majority of these contraptions are manned by shooters so out of shape that it is a struggle for them to finish even a single course of fire without needing to sit down for a breather. You feel like you are more playing a really loud round of golf, than actually doing something physically taxing.
Then Jake came across Battle Roads Zombie Biathlon. Which promised a strong mixture of running and gunning. I’ll be honest, from these past experiences and the fact that this was a “zombie” based course I didn’t really expect much. I was completely wrong. What the guys at Battle Road presented was a fun, challenging course. It was hard work, technical shooting and well run.
Did I mention it was hard work?
For those that don’t know, a biathlon is an event the from winter Olympics that involves shooting and cross country skiing. The winners being the ones that could run the course the fastest and shoot the most accurate. Battle Roads version is a much more redneck, much more fun version involving a pistol and a rifle and a lot of mud and lots of obstacles. It was like a mud run only you got to shoot a bunch of stuff.
The basic course rules are that runners go off every 5 minutes and run a 4.5 mile course with 8 shooting stages. The round count was around was listed as 60 pistol and 60 rifle. I was a little closer to 100 pistol, but more on that later. Needless to say you got to put a lot of rounds downrange.
You had to carry all of your gear, including water and extra ammo. Any assistance offered by range officers (RO’s) or other competitors was considered a punishable penalty. You could walk or run from each course of fire, but the scoring was based 50/50 on run time and shoot score. If you got backed up behind another competitor you were required to carry a stopwatch and record your wait time so it could be deducted from your total time after the event.
Jake, Chase and myself met up at 5am and drove out about an hour and a half to Buckholt, Texas. With little traffic on the road we made good time and got there about 30 minutes early for the safety brief. Like any shooting event, the colorful cast of characters around us made for amazing people watching in the down time. We learned that we would be sent out in a predetermined order every 5 minutes. I’m not entirely sure what determined the order, but Chase was going to be heading out 3rd and Jake and I were supposed to go out almost 3 hours later. This was a bit annoying, but gave us time for a nap.
Grins and Guns
The safety brief started late, they always do, and only went about 10 minutes. It was a little bit disorganized start, but the first runners started almost as soon as it was over which was only about 10 minutes past the posted start time. Chase got kitted and was sent out pretty fast. With nothing else to do, Jake and I took a power nap. Despite it being a chilly wet morning I fell asleep pretty fast and slept for about 30 minutes in the bed of the truck.
Between dozing in and out I heard the announcer call for competitors who wanted to move up on the list. I got up and went over to talk to him and he informed me that if we were kitted and ready we could roll out in the next time gap. I woke Jake up we got kitted and ready. Despite the cold I made the fateful decision to run in shorts. I would almost immediately come to regret this, but fear of overheating and a mistaken belief in how ripstop my skin was got the better of my judgment.
Shoes- Salomon Sense Matra Pros- Loved ‘em. Best shoe all around shoe I’ve ever owned.
Socks- Wright Anti Blister Socks- First time to use them, and loved them as well, will buy more.
Shorts- Lululemon – No complaints about the shorts, but I shouldn’t have worn shorts for the course.
Belt- 5.11 Battle belt attached to a AustriAlpin Quick Release. TAG MOLLE shingle/ pistol 3 mag. Maxpedition dump pouch. Leatherman MUTT. 5.11 Retention Holster. – Really happy with this entire setup. Everything was accessible and it was a user-friendly setup.
Shirt- Atomic Athlete, Stronger, Faster, Harder to Kill
Gloves- Mechanix garage gloves
Hat- Condor kryptek breathable mesh, great hat
Hydration- Platypus 50oz- worked well, easy to clean
Hydration Pack- Osprey Manta 25, fine for running, but too long. It wouldn’t let me get prone to take shots, had to take off before I shot the later rounds.
Pistol- Glock 19, 5 mags, 100 rounds, its a Glock, what else do you need to say
Rifle- PWS Mk1, ACOG, Off Set Iron Sights, Magpul Sling, great set up. Really liked the off set iron sights. I fought with the sling for the entire race. There also wasn’t any padding. Will probably get a different one.
Watch- Polar M400 with GPS, great watch, easy to use, easy to read and I could hit lap times for waiting on transitions.
Total Load – 22lbs
I started out at a fairly fast clip over some very uneven ground. It was wet and the grass covered the pitted road. Even though the trail was fairly obvious from the previous runners, you still had to pay attention for the orange ribbons that marked the course. The first checkpoint was 1.4 miles in and I was breathing pretty good. I settled into running mode and did my best to work through the moderately thick brush. I soon became very aware of my bare legs and had to pay a little more attention to all of the thorns and sharp pointy things. I was paying so much attention that I soon realized that I was suddenly running alone in the woods. There was no sign of orange ribbons and I had definitely already run off course!
As I back tracked I heard gunfire and started working my way through the brush towards it. I had to readjust my rifle several times to keep it from snagging, but overall was able to move pretty good. As I came through the brush the ribbons suddenly appeared again and I followed them to Checkpoint 1.
Checkpoint 1- Rifle, pistol- 3 rifle shots on steel, transition to pistol, 3 more shots, transition back to rifle, mag change + 6 more hits on steel. As I ran up gasping, they had me show my AR was clear and had me start my wait timer. There was one guy ahead of me. As I waited the course of fire was explained and I checked my gear.
SCREW UP #1 As I checked my pistol I suddenly realized that I hadn’t properly seated my pistol magazine on the start and it had dropped out on the run! Total rookie move, not only was I down a mag, I was down 17 precious rounds.
No time to dwell I reloaded and waited my turn. I handed off my time card and gave my wait time and ran the course. The short wait allowed me plenty of time to recover so I was able to work through the course with no issues. I cleared and presented my weapon and was back off.
I quickly ran down the guy in front of me and had to pay extra attention to make sure that I wouldn’t get lost again. As I rolled into checkpoint 2 I was breathing and sweating pretty heavy.
Checkpoint 2- Pistol only – 6 targets at varying distances each required 2 headshots. After 2 hits were called on each target the shooter needed to safely advance to the next piece of red carpet and engage the next targets.This was set back in the woods and it was the same routine as before. I showed a clear rifle, started my wait time and gave my card. This was to be the routine on every course of fire.
Locked and loaded I advanced into the woods to engage the first target. As I advanced the woods got much darker and my eye pro fogged up. Instead of taking my time and correcting my eye pro I started taking headshots at around 7 yards. And missing, over and over again. It took me almost an entire mag to get my first two headshots! My RO said I was shooting high so I kept that in mind as I advanced on the next three targets. I know it isn’t safe, but my eye pro was worthless. I couldn’t see so I pulled it down low on my nose as I engaged the remaining targets. I only had one more miss, but wasted more precious ammo closing out the stage. The stage had a 2 minute cut off, my time 1:58…
Holstered and showing safe I started off again back across the country road for Checkpoint 3. I dug an extra mag out of my bag and topped off my empties with what ammo I had in my pockets. Essentially I had wasted around 30+ rounds, now I was down to 1 partial and one full mag- around 25 rounds. I had completed 2 of 8 courses of fire and would have at least 2 more pistol courses coming up. I was struggling with what to do when I came up on the next obstacle: zip line over some of the nastiest water I had ever seen. Sweaty and wet I almost slipped getting set up, but somehow managed to not embarrass myself too bad. I quick flight over a nasty pond and I was running again. Right to Checkpoint 3.
Checkpoint 3- Pistol Only, 4 steel targets and a gong. Each steel required 4 hits from various positions (standing, kneeling, prone in a cylinder) and your time stops when you ring the gong with your last shot. This would take me 21 shots with no misses. I missed once, so I was now down to about 5 rounds. I had some decisions to make or my race was over.
I also had a gear issue on this stage. As I dropped to prone, my backpack forced my head down at a funny angle. It was almost impossible to get a good sight picture and I had to severely bend my elbows so I looked like a high school girl shooting for the first time.
After I showed clear and moved onto the next station I made the decision to return to my vehicle and secure some more ammo. There was no mention of this being a foul or a time penalty in the briefing so I decided to risk it. This little run probably added another 6 minutes on my time. Not wanting to wait around I topped off two magazines on the run and did my best not to fall flat on my face. At this point the course had gotten extremely muddy and I was working through an extremely overgrown section of vegetation in ankle deep water.
Checkpoint 4– Pistol Only- 13 targets. 3 targets per point of engagement. Varying distances. All head shots. Really fun stage taking fast multiple headshots through moderately heavy vegetation and moving fast. Now that I had ammo I was willing to take some more risks and shoot faster. Funny thing I ended up shooting better. I only had two misses and was off to 5. At this point Jake had caught up to me so I was inspired to run a little faster.
Most of the long running was over, but now the obstacles were popping up. We had to run over multiple hills, climb through rings of tires and finally over a really bizarre chain link fence wall. All were good tests of gear, situational awareness and ability to move.
By now I had a nice collection of scrapes and nicks on my bare legs and was really regretting wearing shorts as I came up on the next course of fire.
Coach Saenz has a knack for finding lost magazines
Checkpoint 5– Rifle only – 5 hanging steel targets 100ish yards away. 4 hits from 5 different positions. From the previous backpack experience I ditched it and worked through the stage. The Acog made this a fairly quick stage and I think I only had one miss. The different stations had you folded into a variety of positions so some of the shots were tricky, but it was a fun stage. Another safety check and it was on to the next one.
Checkpoint 6– Pistol only- 4 steel targets outside. The first was a head only behind a hostage. All the others required multiple positions with 3 hits each. After which you enter a house and engage another target with 3 more hits after navigating some narrow hallways. Time stops when you return to the start. I managed this stage with no misses and was finally getting my stride with the pistol. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast! Also the stages were coming much faster now, so the heart rate wasn’t near as high. With at least one shooter in front of me on each stage I had plenty of time to recover and check my gear.
Checkpoint 7– Rifle only- CQB. 36ish paper targets engaged from multiple locations and some more on the move. This required at least one magazine change and a lot of head on a swivel. I really liked the canted sights for this course and was able to work fast and move. After showing clear and collecting my card I started for the next course of fire.
I ran up to a giant stack of tires. A woman instructed me to climb up and into them. Not knowing what to expect I climbed up and looked down to see that they had tunneled out underneath the tires. As I climbed down I really regretted wearing shorts.
SCREW UP #2 As I descended into the tires I thought a wasp hit the inside of my leg. As I yelped in pain I suddenly realized it was my rifle barrel after burning off 35+ rounds. It seared the inside of my leg twice before I was able to secure it and get out of the tunnel.
Checkpoint 8– Rifle only- Distance. 9 shooting positions with one target 250 meters away. You had to hit the target at least once from each position. More than 3 misses called for a DQ and time cap was 3 minutes. My main goal on this stage was to be calm and take my time. After some initial stumbles getting my magazine set I was off. I worked through each position and right when I thought I was going to shoot it clean I had 2 fast misses from an awkward half kneeling position. I took a long shaky breath, lined up and finished out the stage with no more misses.
A fast sprint back and the day was done. My time before time deductions for waiting was just over 1 hour and 50 minutes. I was soaked with sweat and mud. Cut, bleeding and burned and grinning from ear to ear. That was until Jake ran up a few minutes behind me with ANOTHER rifle magazine that I had dropped on the last stretch. SECURE YOUR GEAR!
All in all this was a really fun event. So many teaching moments. High stress, both mentally and physically. Pleasant volunteers and well run. I can’t wait to do another one.
Battle Road does two of these events a year, get your cardio up. Get your trigger time in. Get your boys together and do the next one of these. You won’t regret it.