Match Report – Steel Challenge at Creekside Firing Range

On Saturday May 7, 2011, I traveled to Creekside Firing Range in Taylorsville, Georgia, a little way outside Cartersville. This range is owned and run by Joe Harris, a former US Army Ranger sniper, whose penchant for his former vocation is reflected in the 600 yard rifle range and the monthly long range rifle tournaments, and periodic 2-man sniper tournaments. It has a very nice covered pistol range, and covered 50 yard and 100 yard rifle ranges. During our match there was a tactical rifle class going on at the 50 yard rifle range, so there were a lot of people there, but it was not crowded at all.

This day I shot their Steel Challenge match. This does not follow the standard Steel Challenge format, nor are they members of the Steel Challenge Shooting Association, but in my experience it was every bit as fun, and I had a great time.

The match was shot in four stages on the same range, which gave the shooters the advantage of not having to move equipment from one bay to another. Time between stages was spent setting up the next stage, reloading magazines, and chatting with other shooters. There was no moving required, which allowed for shooters of all physical shapes to compete, valuing shooting skill over running speed.

There were 18 competitors, and they seemed to range in age from a college grad student to a couple of retirees. A quick equipment inventory (done by watching people shoot) showed 2 SIGs, 2 Smith & Wesson M&Ps, a Ruger, a Walther, a revolver, and 11 Glocks. From the brass on the ground it was clear the prevailing caliber was 9mm. I was surprised there were no 1911’s. Chatting with the shooters I found that the cost of ammo was on concern, but magazine capacity turned out to be a big reason, as we will see.

Stages consisted of a number of 3 inch steel plates, 4 inch steel silhouettes, mini steel poppers, and a Texas Star, in various orders, plus a 4 inch steel stop plate, and shooting ranged from 10 to 17 yards. Scoring was all time, since all the targets could be knocked over. The match was also kept interesting by requiring mandatory reloads or limiting the number of rounds in the first magazine used. This also had the effect of leveling the playing field for the revolver competitor and his 8 shot Taurus.

Here’s what we shot:

Stage 1: First magazine limited to 8 rounds, then unlimited rounds. I loaded 19. (Oh, yeah.) 1 popper, Texas Star, 1 silhouette, then the stop plate.

Stage 2: 8 rounds in 2 magazines, then unlimited. 3 plates, 1 popper, mandatory magazine change, 3 plates, then the stop plate.

Stage 3: 2 poppers, 1 plate, the Texas Star, then the stop plate. The first magazine is limited to 8 shots, so there is a quasi-mandatory reload. I see what you did there . . .

Stage 4: 3 poppers, 4 plates, and the stop plate. No limit on the rounds loaded, and I shot this one in 10.4 seconds for my fastest stage.

The match lasted a little over 2 hours, and was very enjoyable. I ended up coming in fifth, with a total time around 75 seconds. First place went to the Walther-shooting grad student, second to a Cobb County policeman shooting his own Gen 2 Glock 17, and third went to the only semi-pro in the group, who was sponsored by the gun shop he works for. His Glock was the closest to a race gun, with a ported after-market barrel and flared mag well.

This was a very enjoyable format, and it was run very efficiently. A couple more stages would have been welcome, but I could probably say the same of any match with less than 10 stages. As with any good match, there was a continuous emphasis on shooter safety, and as a result there were no incidents.

Creekside Firing Range was definitely an excellent host. While the range doesn’t offer a fancy clubhouse or pro shop, for someone in the north Atlanta area looking for a nice outdoor range that doesn’t cost a great amount, I think it more than fits the bill. I will definitely be back next time.

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