Competitive Precision Rifle is a shooting sport that has pushed the future of new cartridges, new equipment, and new shooting styles. Normally when showing up to a precision rifle match you are given a match book with each target array, distance, and course of fire description. Unfortunately, having all competitors informed of information took some advantages of the marksmanship ability out of the game. In fact, it actually turned into exactly that: a game. Stage plans were already made, shooters could cheat off other competitors for wind calls, and there were other disadvantages as well. For some shooters this game became less fun over the years. This is not an issue with a National Rifle League (NRL) hunter match.
The Hunter Match
National Rifle League (NRL)
Thankfully for the sport, along came National Rifle League Hunter. It’s a shooting sport where every stage is blind. NRL Hunter brought the significance of marksmanship back to what it was while paying homage to our Hunters. Success in this competition involves finding your target (which is usually animal shaped steel), ranging your target, building your own position in that environment, and engaging that target all within four minutes. It is truly an individual sport again.
No more cheating off of your squad mates for the best way to attack a stage or a wind call. In this sport there can be ten shooters and ten different ways that positions were set up and shots were taken.
Course of Fire (CoF)
The CoF is simple. The shooter will be held in a holding area before waiting to shoot. This holding area ensures that the shooter cannot see the shooter that is currently shooting the stage to keep the stage truly blind. In this holding area there will be a sign that states what target or “animal” you are looking for, how many of them, and how to engage them (left to right or near to far) If there are 4 elk to be found there will be one position, if there is one elk to be found there will be 4 positions, 2 elk, 2 positions and so on so forth.
The shooter will then walk onto the stage with all equipment stowed. Each position will be labeled with spray paint or a stick but it is up to the shooter to decide how they want to mount the position (with a tripod, off of a rock, etc). On the stage there will be 2 sighting limit sticks. This shows you where to scan within to find your targets. You have 4 minutes to find each target, range it, build your position, and engage your targets. First round impact gets you two points, second round impact gets you one. If you miss both times you have to move onto the next target.
After the stage is complete the shooter will walk to their next stage without talking to the person behind them. This is to keep the integrity of the game.
Hunter Match Details
Where: Anywhere that has open land, this is not a flat range game.
When: The 2023 season runs from January usually until November (hunting season) but we are still waiting for the match schedule to be released.
Cost per Match: Match dependent, usually from $200-250 for a two day match. This usually includes a T-shirt, an activity on sight in day, a dinner on Sunday, and a lunch on Saturday. An annual membership is a one time cost of $100.
Round Count: This works a bit different in NRL Hunter vs other precision rifle competitions. Usually the round count is around 150 for the match. However if the shooter gets first round impacts on every target or doesn’t make it to every target it could be less. For example, if one stage has 4 targets, an 8 round maximum, if the shooter makes a first round impact on each of the 4 targets he now used 4 rounds instead of 8. Or, if the shooter gets to target two and time expires, they now used only 2-4 rounds instead of 8.
Note: There were times that I went home with 80 rounds left over just due to timing out on some stages and there are usually 20 stages for a NRL Hunter 2 day match.
How to qualify: To qualify for the finale each year your best score in the division you are shooting will be taken and the top number of shooters for the season that the venue can hold will be invited to the finale
Shooter difficulty: This series was meant to reach out to hunters that don’t necessarily shoot competitive rifle. With that, new shooters are welcome and appreciated. The skills division is a perfect place for those newer shooters to show up because it’s a cheaper entry rate and you can run what you got before looking at a specific build for the hunter series. That being said, new shooters do show up every match and some do pretty well.
Divisions and Classes
There are three rifle divisions with NRL Hunter. Factory, Open Heavy, and Open Light. Not including the Teams Division and Skills Division.
Note: The rules are numbered here directly from the NRL Hunter rulebook so that the reader knows where to find them.
Divisions are determined by the weight of the rifle, with all dedicated support equipment attached. Rifle consists of barrel, muzzle devices, trigger, action, stock, scope, bipod (if used), and sling (if used).
Ammo and detachable box magazines (if equipped) are not included in the weight. MD’s will have wristband colors that indicate equipment division and class.
10 round maximum magazine capacity all rifles shall start the stage without rounds in the magazine area (this is a safety consideration to prevent loaded firearms outside the shooting area.)
• Factory is described as completely original from the factory configuration of any SKU, from the following list, as long as it is unmodified in any way and under 12 lbs.
Acceptable SKUs: Barrett, Bergara, Berretta, Browning, Christensen Arms, Colt, CVA, CZ, Fierce, FN, Henry, Howa, Kimber, Marlin, Mauser, Mossberg, Nosler, Remington, Ruger, Sako, Savage, Seekins, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Springfield, Steyr, Thompson, Tikka, Victrix, Weatherby, Winchester.
Muzzle brakes: only if the original SKU has a threaded muzzle. Anything else that is a bolt on attachment is fine, but must be on the rifle at the time of weigh in.
• Open Light will be any rifle configuration weighing up to 12 lbs, not meeting the factory division requirements.
No restrictions on gear, equipment attached, build, or configuration, as long as it is under the prescribed weight for this class.
• Open Heavy will be any rifle configuration weighing 12.0 and 16.0lbs, not meeting the factory division requirements.
• Skills Division is for anyone that wishes to compete at a NRL HUNTER match purely for the experience. There will be a discounted match entrance fee. Competitors may use any rifle weight or caliber that they choose that does not exceed .30 caliber or 3275fps. Competitors do not need to meet the minimum power factor requirements. Competitors may be coached on the clock after they have had the opportunity to try the stage on their own. Competitors will not be competing for points or the opportunity for awards, or prizes.
• NRL HUNTER TEAM DIVISION is for Teams consisting of 2 individuals. Scores will be the sum of both team member’s scores (possible 16 points per team per stage). Teams will be allotted a total of 6 minutes per stage, instead of the individual’s 4 minutes. If one team member is disqualified from competing the second team member may continue to compete but not for score. Team member #1 must complete the stage or pass, and unload and show clear, before team member #2 can begin firing. Once team member #2 starts shooting the stage, team member #1 may not shoot again.
• Ladies Classification is for a competitor who is female. Ladies must abide by Factory, Open Light, or Open Heavy division rules.
• Young Guns Classification is for the youth competitor between the ages of 8-16 years of age, and the youth competitor must abide by Factory, Open Light, or Open Heavy division rules. Age requirement is allowable as soon as a child turns 8, and no older than 16 at the time of the first match of the season.
See more Rules Here
All rifles used to compete in the NRL Hunter series shall meet a minimum power factor requirement, unless excluded below.
Minimum Power Factor (PF) is 380,000 and calculated by taking the Bullet Weight in (gr) multiplied by Muzzle Velocity in (fps). For example, 143 gr @ 2670 fps = 381,810 and makes the minimum. With a Muzzle Velocity maximum of 3275 fps 6mm with 115gr will not be able to make the minimum PF.
Use of factory sealed box ammunition, .264” (6.5mm) and 130gr or above, is not subject to meeting the PF requirement under this section.
At the minimum a gun with bipod and high powered scope, tripod, binoculars, rangefinder, shooting bag, wrist coach for data, and pack that can stow everything but have it easily accessible as you will be grabbing things from the pack while on the clock.
My Personal Equipment List:
• Vortex Fury Rangefinding Binoculars– Rangefinding binoculars enable you to have a wider field of view while searching for targets and also keeps your eyes in one piece of glass rather than switching between binoculars and then a rangefinder to get the range. The furys also give ballistic data within the binos. While it is very accurate, I have been finding myself using my hard data on my arm rather than the data from the binos.
• Vortex Radian Carbon Fiber Tripod– Ensure that you purchase a tripod that is strong enough to shoot off of. Meaning it won’t bounce or have a lot of movement when the shooter is firing but even more importantly, the adjustment pieces on the leg and ball head STAY TIGHT when throwing a 16 lb gun on it. You don’t want to slip and have a AD or ND.
• Hunter Match Rifle
• 6.5 Creedmoor built by Curtis Custom Weapons
• Magpul Industries Corp. Hunter Stock
• Vortex Optics Strike Eagle
• ThunderBeast Arms (TBAC) Bipod
• Zermatt Arms Origin Action
• Bartlein Barrels, Inc Carbon Fiber 22” 8 twist
• Triggertech Diamond pro curve set at 13oz
• Hawkins Precision ACE muzzle brake
Total weight: 11lb 14 oz in current configuration
Cartridge– 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr. Hornady ELD-M with Lapua Brass
Bag– Gamechanger OG
Pack-Stone Glacier Avail 2200
National Rifle League
Where to Find Information
To find more Information on gear, match flow, rifle builds, or future matches join the Facebook Group listen to their podcast, and visit NRLHunter.org
Equipment selection in this long range sport is just as important as traditional 2 gun competitions; read some more of our thoughts on the matter.
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