Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle

Night Vision and Thermal footage courtesy of Western Precision Rifle.

Sept 17th, the Western Precision Rifle series put on its Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle match for the 4th year in a row at the Cody Shooting Complex in Cody, WY.  Cool name, but what is it?  The Muffle Shuffle is a precision rifle style match modeled after the PRS competition series, but with a twist.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
People shaped targets in a Suburban at 646 yards for Stage 3.

First, it’s a night match, second, all shooters are required to use a suppressor, aka a can.  If you did not have a can you could borrow one for the night from Elite Iron Suppressors.  After the match Elite was offering significant discounts if you wanted to buy the can you had borrowed. 

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
The Patented core of the Elite Iron Suppressor.

All of the targets were illuminated with white light so you did not need to bring or borrow night vision to shoot the match.  The lit targets also made it pretty easy to find them visually on the range; just finding targets can be very tricky at some PRS matches.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Elite Iron had loaner cans available, they also showed off their unique bipod.

The trick for shooters was finding a way to illuminate their scope dials so they could be adjusted during a stage as most stages had multiple targets at different distances.  Normally I use my reticle to hold over for various targets.   All shooters were limited to only red or green powered lights, though you could use other colors for chemical glow sticks.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Match Director Peter Kneip gives the shooters a walk through in the daylight.

Prior to the match I bought a bunch of cheap lights and glowsticks and experimented in my backyard after dark to find the best way to light my dials and dope card.  I settled on a couple of small keychain lights with a red LED, one taped to the stock to light the dope card and another taped to the scope tube to light the dial.  I brought a red LED headlamp, but taped most of it over so that it was not too bright.

After arriving at the match and checking in I went right to the zero range.  I had flown to the match and sometimes bag handlers at airports are less than gentle with our things.  My zero was off by .3 Mils in both elevation and windage.  I made the correction and was ready for the match, I thought.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
2 red LED lights allowed me to clearly see my dial and dope.

As a newish PRS shooter there is always a small amount of mental stress while getting ready to shoot a stage as there is a lot to do.  Find targets, verify range, find the elevation for each target in my ballistic solver, write down my holds and target engagement order on a DOPE card, turn my elevation dial for the first target, open scope caps, turn on reticle illumination, decide which bag or bags I am going to use, load mags and more.   

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Shooters added colored light sticks to make finding their rifles easier in the dark.

In the daylight this is simple but there is often a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I might have forgotten something.  I have started stages before with scope caps closed, turret not dialed and the like so there is sometimes reason to be concerned.  In the dark it’s way worse.  The mental pressure was ramped way up for me, made worse by the fact that we only had a squad of 4 people so you were always doing something.  When I am the on deck shooter (next to shoot the stage) I like to double check everything and mentally focus.  With 4 people that was not happening.  While one guy shot, the other 3 are acting as RO, scorekeeper and spotter, so there was no real downtime. I was also trying to shoot photos when not shooting.  What I had to do as a shooter was no different than other PRS matches. I have shot in the dark before and it changes things mentally.  If you ever shoot a night match, and I strongly suggest you do, keep it in mind.  Despite the difficulty, the match was still a ton of fun and I learned a lot about myself from it.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Stage 7 – The Tank Traps

There were 8 stages with a total of 77 targets.  These were my favorite stages.

Stage 3 was the most fun for me.  You started in the driver seat of a cargo van, then moved to the rear and shot out of the rear door window.  All targets were at 646 yards and person shaped in and around an old Chevy Suburban.  1 in the driver seat, 1 behind the driver and 1 in the cargo area.  2 more targets were outside the truck.  Shoot them all left to right, then do it again for 10 rounds.  My position was not all that stable and moving through the van was not tall guy friendly.  Despite the problems it was very cool to shoot steel that looked kind of like people in the windows of a truck.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Stage 3 – Vantastic

My squad started on stage 4, the long range stage.  Rifle is on the ground and you start standing.  Drop to the dirt and shoot each target 3 times from left to right.  The targets were 16×16 at 895 yards, 16×24 at 1138 yards and 16×24 at 1090 yards.  Normally these would be hard but nowhere near the hardest shots of a match as you are prone with a bipod and rear bag.  But this is Wyoming and in the long range shooting world Wyoming is well known for two things: lots of open space, and plenty of constantly switching wind.  Since it was nighttime there was not a good way to read wind as you would in the daylight like watching mirage, bushes etc.  My first shot was off target to the right.  I held a half Mil left and hit the next two.  At 1138 yards I took my best guess and hit 2 out of 3.  I hard trouble seeing the third target and did not get any hits.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Almost every shooter added lights to tripods, bags and all other gear.

Stage 5 was the mover.  A full IPSC at 410 yards moving perpendicular to the shooter at 3 mph.  I had never shot a mover before, so I was nervous.  I talked to some friends and thought I had figured out the math for my target lead at 2 Mils.  I was wrong.  The actual lead was about 1.5 Mils.  I also tried the trap method vs. trying to pan with the target.  Hold your rifle in place and as the leading edge of the target crosses the line in your reticle for your hold you break the shot.  Between my bad math and inexperience I only got 2 hits on the mover.  A mover is a unique challenge if you have never shot one before and trapping the target takes practice.  I am looking forward to trying a mover stage again.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
All target were illuminated with white light. Far left are the targets from the van. Far right is the mover.

Stage 6 was a 20 foot Conex box with a bunch of ports cut into the downrange side.  12 inch square targets at 575 and 646 yards.  Shoot each target once from 5 different ports, sounds easy.  All but two ports were very short, what we used to call Filipino ports in USPSA.  You had to use a short bag under your rifle or the scope would be blocked by the wall.  I opted for my Wiebad plate bag.  It attaches to the rifle’s Arca rail so there is one less thing to worry about when moving positions and it is thin specifically for short ports.  Most of the ports were also very low to the ground, not a great thing when you are 6’4”.  Still another fun stage that gave the shooter options on how to do it.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Stage 6 – The Conex

Stage 8 was the barricade.  More or less a standard PRS type barricade, shoot one target at 535 yards twice from 5 different positions.  Barricades at various ranges are often different with how stable they are.  Some are rock solid and you lean into and load the barricade to get very stable.  Others are super rickety so any attempt to load into it makes it move more.  This one was in the middle, you could load it a bit but it was tough.

I had some issues during the match.  Mainly not being able to see any dust kick up on a missed shot so it was hard to know how much to correct for the next shot.  I am not a good PRS shooter, so I did not have high expectations for my first night match, at a new range with wind I am not used to.  My goal was to not finish last.  I met my goal and finished 25th out of 32 with 47% of the winner.  I call that a personal win given the circumstances.

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Stage 1- The Rooftop

Full match results and stage descriptions can be viewed on Practiscore.

Don’t be afraid to shoot a hard match or have a bad day.  There is always something to learn about yourself and how to shoot better.  Even on days with a poor performance I at least still managed to have a lot of fun!

Zero Dark 30 Muffle Shuffle
Overall Match Winner Tyson Smith had a busy day shooting an NRL22 match in Montana in the morning, then driving to Cody, WY for the Muffle Shuffle.

Tyson Smith won the match overall with an impressive performance. He told us what he thought about the match “Another amazing match in Cody. Nighttime is a whole new experience, if you have not tried it, do it! I am from Lewistown, MT so its a bit of a drive, about four hours. Its always worth the trip to Cody for a match. Pete (Kneip – the Match Director) puts on a great match and he is a great supporter of the sport.”

The Muffle Shuffle will be back next year at the Cody Shooting Complex.  The Muffle Shuffle is part of the Western Precision Rifle series that runs 40+ matches a year in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and the surrounding areas.

My Gear for the match:

Rifle: MPA PMR Pro production rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor.  Full review coming soon!

Trigger:  Timney HIT

Optic: Nightforce ATACR 4-20×50MIL XT reticle

Rings:  Larue

Brass: Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor

Bullet: Hornady 147gr ELD-M

Powder: Hodgdon 4350

Press:  Dillon 550C

Bipod: MDT Ckye-Pod Gen2

Bags:  Wiebad Tater Tot (front), Mini Tac Pad (rear) and Grey Ops Plate Bag

Can:  Silencerco Hybrid 46

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  • Steve October 17, 2022, 11:53 am

    Now that’s combining three of my favorites: night shooting, suppressors, and a competition.

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