After a couple decades in the shooting industry, I can gauge how successful and busy a day on the range with a select group of writers and editors was by the number of photos I was able to take during the event. My total during the shooting portion of the recent Athlon Outdoors 2nd Annual Rendezvous was eight photos.
The Marine Corps spent a lot of time and money to teach me the ways of a combat correspondent and even more to train me to be a photojournalist. Yet still, eight photos from the five-plus hour event? That’s probably crazy talk—or maybe I'm just lazy—but I'm leaning to the fact that I spent almost the entire day peering through the spotting scope. We had a constant stream of shooters—of all makes, sizes and genders—lining up to hit a 12-by-18-inch steel target at a distance further than 1,000 yards with the new Steyr Pro THB (Tactical Heavy Barrel) 6.5 Creedmoor.
The shifty winds at Paws-Up Ranch range, about 35 miles east of Missoula, Mont. were easily overcome, as shooter after shooter was able to put lead on steel with the uber-accurate Pro THB 6.5 CM.
Granted, my trusty Leupold Mark 4 LR/T 8.5-25X 50mm atop the rifle suffered a few jeers from both writers and fellow manufacturers for being almost an antique, but people—several of whom had never really shot on a 1,000-yard target—were getting consistent hits on the steel plate placed well into the treeline.
The 6.5 CM is a flat-shooting cartridge and real wind bucker, but everybody had to hold well over on the reticle since the Pro THB/Leupold was sighted in dead-on at 100 yards. For the 500-yard plate, they each had to come down to the fifth hash mark, and they had to use the thick lower portion of the reticle to cover over about a third of the plate at 1,000. Despite a seven-to-10-mph crosswind that turned on and off, our shooters were slamming steel at 1K more with amazing regularity. There’s a lot to be said for that, as I spent a few hours total behind the spotting scope, and I saw just one hit from a station that didn't have the Steyr banner hanging behind it. What I did see were hundreds of near-misses peppering the dirt around the target, as folks from the other stations attempted to hit it.
Migrating from other stations, shooters kept reporting that they were watching how successful their fellow writers and editors behind the Pro THB 6.5 CM had been smacking steel at that long of a distance They wanted to get hits on steel too, so they came to the Steyr Pro THB 6.5 CM to get their hits in.
It was an impressive sight watching shooters make more hits than misses at 1,000, especially considering they were shooting off of a Lead Sled atop a portable shooting bench.
While waiting for the 6.5 to free up, most of the writers and editors spent some time ringing steel with the Zephyr II in .17 HMR at distances from 50 to 400 yards with even greater regularity. The 400-yard hits with the rimfire rifle equipped with a simple duplex reticle were remarkable, to say the least.
So maybe my photo count for the event wasn’t very high, but it was an awesome trade-off standing behind a 32X spotting scope, calling shots for folks who were shooting a rifle they’d never touched before but were making consistent hits at 1,000 yards. Trust me, all those high-fives, fist-bumps and ear-to-ear grins were worth way more than a few more photos.