A Weekend in the Arena 2019 – Recap with Ash Hess

The “A Weekend in the Arena” semi-auto precision shoot was held recently at the Arena Training Facility in Blakely, GA. Presented by Quantified Performance, the event brought together a wide variety of shooters for two days of competition, learning, and friendship.

To learn more and to find out the date of the next event in 2020, we recently spoke with Ash Hess of Quantified Performance, one of the event’s organizers. To read more about the history of the event, Ash Hess or Quantified Performance, click one of the links below.

Q: Ash, we’ve heard a lot of good feedback from shooters who attended…can you give us a brief “A Weekend in the Arena” recap from your perspective?

Ash Hess, Quantified Performance – The event was held on the 5th and 6th of October.  We had a few things happen on the 4th as well, where we had a zeroing and all that sort of stuffOf the 77 slotted shooters, we had 76 attend.  67 of those were paying.  The other nine shooters were sponsored shooters. 

A Weekend in the Arena…

On that Saturday morning, all 76 shooters ran through a safety brief, and then we placed them into one of seven squads (pics at the end of article).  These squads then shot at eight different stages. The average target range was about 400 yards.

The first stage had a max range of 150, and it was a modified version of the Viking Tactics Chaos Drill.The range was 100 yards wide and the first target was at 100 yards and the fifth target was 250.  This is all with targets that are fairly small.

Viking Tactics Chaos Drill with Kyle Lamb

The second stage had several targets that were fairly tiny…the first target was a 6” target at 175 yards.  That can be pretty challenging when you’re trying to do it with speed.

The third stage was 750, 815, and 1,000 yard targets…it was a pretty fun stage that was challenging for the 5.56 guys because that’s a long way out there for them.

The next stage was the hardest stage of the match…targets at 300, 400, and 815.  They had to do this stage shooting from a variety of foreign positions…On that stage, we actually only had two people of the 76 get through all of the targets.  

After that, we had a stage that was dedicated to William Guesman, who was a really big match shooter and a Las Vegas Police Officer.  He passed away a few months ago, so we dedicated a match to him, and we made a trophy just for that stage. 

From there, we had a stage where there were two pigs that were about 8” tall…two coyotes, and a teddy bear that was about 9” tall.  All of these targets were at 250 yards. 

We then had a stage after that which was a pretty basic barricade, and finally, the last stage was one where we had shooters firing out of a horse trailer at about 500 yards.  That trailer had low tires and was situated in a ditch.

As shooters progressed through all of the stages, the scoring was time plus misses.  It was the overall time that they took to shoot it, and then each target that they missed was 30 seconds.

A more in depth look at the “A Weekend in the Arena” event…

Q: Can you talk about Sunday?

Sunday was an open range day on all the stages. Everybody got to go out and practice what they missed and try to shoot it faster. Most shooters stuck around and did that.  I think what that did is it helps them get better for the next time we have a match.

I did inventory on the prize table, and excluding the major prizes, 76 shooters took home 98 prizes…so some people got a several things, and ROs were also able to take things home. 

Q: Can you talk about some of the sponsors that were there?

Ash Hess, Quantified Performance – We had plenty of sponsorships.  And again, taking out the major prices, the average prize was worth about $125 dollars.    What’s cool with that is participants only paid $150 dollars to get into the match…I think our sponsors stepped up and really took care of us. 

A lot of this event’s sponsors have also signed on for the next event, so that’s very exciting for us.  Some of the prizes were things that you couldn’t order off the internet even if you wanted to. 

For example, Badger Ordinance provided two of their new mounts in 35mm, and I have never seen those on the internet.  So, a few guys were able to take home some stuff that’s basically brand new that no one had really seen yet. It was really cool to have things like that.  Centurion Arms also sent over a beautiful receiver set…

This appears to be a Vortex Razor in a Badger Ordinance Condition One mount on a Hodge...

Q:  What has been announced for the next event?

Ash Hess, Quantified Performance – The next one is going to be the same.  We’re locked in for the 8th and 9th of February, and it will be the same basic venue with a few new additions that should be very cool. 

The stages will be a bit different, because we don’t want it to feel like the same thing every time.  We have some tricks up our sleeve.  I would say that using standard carbine drills from Viking Tactics worked very well, just modified to better fit the range.  So, shooters can expect to see things like that.  They can expect to see some distance targets…but there will be other things we’ll do as well.

Some of the guys said that this past event was too easy. Never tell the guy designing the stages that it’s too easy (laughs). They’ll end up paying for that…I’m sure we’ll have some sort of devilish stage for those shooters.  That should be a lot of fun.

Q:  At the end of an event, there’s always things you can take away from it…things to do, not do, or improve on.  Can you give us some examples of things like that you saw?

Ash Hess, Quantified Performance – The biggest thing that we saw was that shooters need to go fast.  People don’t think about that.  They are thinking about precision.  They’re moving slow, doing yoga breathing, taking their time…you need to be moving fast.  If you are not shooting, you need to be moving.  

Some of these matches, if you’re not wearing knee-pads or wishing you were wearing knee-pads, you are not going fast enough.   I see a lot of people that are just moving at something close to their normal pace. I don’t think they realized that for every target they missed, they got 30 second added on to their time (laughs).  They figured that out when their order came out and we posted results online.  

So, you need to move fast in between positions, but the other big thing you need is data. You need to know where your bullet is in flight, because not all the targets are just sitting there at 100, 200, 300, 400, 500…you need to know your data and know where your bullet is at different ranges. 

Another thing is there was one stage that was prone out of eight.  There ended up being 17 different positions that you needed to shoot in.  Only one of those was prone. So, when you’re doing your practice and you’re laying there on your belly shooting off a bipod…well, that’s not helping you for this match.

In summary, guys were moving slow, guys had trouble firing from alternate positions, and guys didn’t know where their bullets were.  That’s pretty vague, but those are the things that we see that are wrong every single match. The guys that had these things right did very well.  The guys that didn’t…they did really bad. 

Q: So, what would you say to someone who is on the fence about coming to an event like this?

Ash Hess, Quantified Performance – We had a guy shoot the match that had one carbine class in his entire life. He had a gun that he didn’t think was good, but he came out after listening to things we had said, and after listening to a few podcasts. He came out with his home defense gun, and he did a good job.  He was not near the top, but he was not near the bottom either. 

He didn’t think he was any good, but just by listening and watching other people shoot the stage, he shot well.  His gun ran well the entire time…he paid attention to speed.  He did not know the data on his bullets, and he did not know how to move from position to position…he didn’t have any of gear that everybody thinks you need to have in order to win with, and he was able to be competitive in his class.

To anyone out there on the fence, I’d say that if you have a gun that has a zero on it, and it’s a gun that will run for about 90-120 rounds, they will have fun and they will learn a lot. 

The shooter I mention probably learned more during that day of shooting, with the level of shooters that he was with, than if he would have gone to a carbine class.  So, I’d just say to come on out and do it.  Come out…the price is right, and even the last place guy took home a LAW Tactical Folding Stock Adapter.   That’s something certainly worth showing up for.

Look at it this way.  You’re going to learn a lot, and its going to be a lot of fun.  There will be a prize for you…You’re also going to meet a bunch of great dudes.  It’s also a chance to see if you like the sport.  If nothing else, you got to shoot out to 1,000 yards with your AR under stressful conditions, which a lot of people never get to do. 

If you happen to get a hit…cool. Most everybody hit the 800 yard, but not the 1,000.  But that still means you’re hitting an 800 yard target with your home defense gun.   Come out.  Have a good time and meet good people.


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