The 2014 Steel Safari

Posted By: Zak Smith on December 30, 2013

The Steel Safari has become something of a right of passage for precision rifle matches. The SS is probably the longest continuously running practical field rifle match in existence, having started in 1998, it is arguably one of the most difficult matches if not the most difficult when one considers the overall format, terrain, target size, and target distance. The Steel Safari is unique in that it is truly an individual effort where each competitor carries his or her gear through the desert alone while navigating from field stage to field stage and only sees their RO, or the competitor they RO, for a few minutes at a time. There is no collaboration between competitors or team members as are frequently seen in other precision rifle matches; at the Steel Safari each competitor is truly on their own, all day, every day, for three days.

The stunning beauty of the desert punctuates this solo experience. Competitors arrive at each shooting stage, “blind,” having no knowledge of the target locations or distances, and have five minutes to identify, range and engage reactive steel targets out to distances of up to 1200 yards.

Target arrays are of two varieties: one by six, or two by three. In the one by six configuration the competitor is shown the shooting position and the left and right lateral limit markers by the RO. All six targets are visible while standing above the shooting position between the limit markers. In the two by three configuration, there are two shooting positions and three targets, each of which is engaged once from each shooting position. All of this is done in five minutes total with a single shot per target, no “sighters,” no alibis.

The environment harsh, and temperatures frequently exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind is also ever present and often blows in excess of 30 MPH through the rugged escarpment of the Blue Steel Ranch. The wind driven dust of the desert also tests competitors and equipment. Frequently equipment won?t make it through the day and needs to be serviced by the solo competitor. You have to carry all your supplies, so you either fix your gear or your out for the day, or for good unless you can solve your gear issues and get back in the match.

The camaraderie of the Steel Safari is excellent. Many competitors return to the match year after year. This created a problem with long waiting lists and sold out matches until Competition Dynamics changed to a three-day format in 2013. Now the Steel Safari has the ability to accommodate up to 60 shooters, allowing more to participate. The match still fills up, but the waiting list in 2013 did not have 30 people on it.

In the evenings competitors meet at the Annex bar and grill in Logan for dinner and a beer and talk about the day’s shooting, or they meet in one of the restaurants in nearby Tucumcari. Overall, it’s a great community and all are welcome. If you have shot the Steel Safari before we welcome you back and if you are new we look forward to meeting you. This is truly an unique experience that we look forward to sharing with you.