AAR: Carolina Run and Gun 8k

The 2018 Carolina Run and Gun was a new event run by experienced Run-n-Gunner Kelly Anderson. It took place the first weekend of August 2018, at the Clinton House Plantation in Clinton, SC. Run and Gun (RnG) events originated out of the Texas and Oklahoma areas, but have expanded rapidly in the last few years. The idea is simple, mix in a trail run, some obstacles, some shooting stages and a little mud and you get one good time. Earlier in the year I had run/shot in the River Bend Gun Club Run and Gun 5k, and when I saw this come up I knew it would be a good time.

As the Run and Gun sport is still new and the Carolina RnG was one of the first in the south east region, multiple course lengths were offered for competitors to test themselves on. The Clinton House Plantation is a 2000+ acre, year-round facility that hosts 3-gun, sniper and pistol matches, and features shotgun shooting and multiple hunting options. It was a perfect venue to match natural terrain running and shooting. For those wanting to get their feet wet, a 3k/1.8 mile run with three stages was offered. Many RnGs have a 5k/3.1 mile option, and this match had one with 5 shooting stages stages. If you wanted to push yourself, all 8 stages across 8k/5 miles was the final option.  As I like to shoot, my brain said go the 8k while my legs said 5k…in the end I figured the 8k had the most bang for the buck!

This event was towards the end of the summer shooting season for myself, and while I’m not a long distance runner I had been prepping for cross-country shooting and moving for some of the team events I enjoy so much. My experience at the River Bend RnG validated my thoughts on gear selection, except now I had my 16″ rifle ready and I decided to run a Glock 34 for a pistol. My belt kit was identical, complete with HSGI Taco pouches and Safariland ALS holster. The round count was going to be higher according to the pre-released stage information, but the Kavu rope bag was able to fit the extra magazines of ammo.

Official Carolina Run and Gun CoF

On race day, the Clinton House was about a two and a half hour drive from home. I filled up my Camelbak bladder with a mix of Gatorade and water, made sure I had a trusty travel mug of coffee and set off. Upon arrival, run times were assigned at random. There are always pros and cons to your start time, earlier in the day usually has better weather conditions while later in the day can allow for short breaks in the running with wait time on stages. I ended up with an 8am draw as the first person out. Kelly had welcomed everyone to the event, went over some house-keeping items and safety rules and then it was time to get started. As soon as she was done, I went to the car to get kitted up.

At the start line the pistol and rifle were verified clear, then a 1 minute warning was given before the final 10 seconds and GO command. There was quite a bit of running before the first stage, which followed the road from the starting point around shooting bays, running past ponds, up hill and through the camping area and then up and down to the north side of the property. Once reaching the first stage, rifle and pistol were again checked for clear, followed by a crawl under some barbed wire before the stage brief.

Stage 1 was a simple VTAC barricade, requiring two hits from five different ports with both pistol and rifle. All stages had an unloaded start. At the buzzer, I loaded the pistol and started at the tallest port, firing a few extra rounds with heavy breathing. Then it was kneeling for two ports and then knees and elbows through the bottom ports. After the pistol was done it went into the dump bucket and the rifle was loaded. The rifle target at 100ish yards was engaged in the same order. My time finished at 67.95 seconds and a clean run. I was a little disappointed in that I fired more shots than I should have, but I was pretty gassed from pushing hard on the long run. Looking at the score later, this was a second place run on this stage, only 5 seconds off of the best run.

Shooter engaging the pistol target from the barricade. Photo from Carolina Run and Gun Facebook Page

Because the run time included your administrative time such as getting your score card, unloading and stowing your guns and anything else not done on the shooting clock, I didn’t waste time on chit-chat. Stage 2 was not very far away, and was the only one-gun stage of the match. Upon arrival I was given a quick brief before getting started. This stage had two rifle steel targets about 150 yards on the other side of a pond, which needed one hit each from three window ports of a wall. Between the two targets was a white sign, which gave a nice visual index point for finding the targets at each position. I loaded the rifle and engaged the steel only needing 2 or 3 extra shots and finished the stage in 22.88. This proved to be a stage win for me.

Shooter engaging plates on Stage 2. Photo from Carolina Run and Gun Facebook Page

After collecting my gear it was a decent jog to Stage 3. We had been pre-warned that there would be a slack line to traverse at some point, and it was found waiting at Stage 3. Before we could proceed to shooting, we had to cross it by any means necessary. I had a climbers rope sling and carabiner on my belt, which I promptly clipped over the line. It was then easy to just hang underneath with legs on the line and pull myself across. The stage brief for Stage 3 was simple, engage a dueling tree with the pistol until the plates flip across, then engage a 100 yard plate rack from any position but prone with the rifle, I completed this stage in 55.31, originally trying to hit the plates standing before deciding to kneel. The best run was in the low 40 second range.

Slackline to cross before shooting Stage 3. Photo from Carolina Run and Gun Facebook Page

The run to Stage 4 was fairly short, and the stage brief revealed this to be the long-range stage. There were 5 rifle targets between 2-400 yards, requiring one hit each in left to right order, then repeating the sequence again. The rifle firing position was on top of an improvised roof. When finished an unloaded rifle was placed on a board next to the roof before engaging 6 pistol plates. For the rifle I shot on about 4x power to keep my field of view open, but easily able to make the holdovers needed to hit the extended distance targets. After finishing, runners had to reset the pistol plates while your score was recorded. My time on this was 112.83, a fraction of a second off of the best run.

Simulated rooftop from Stage 4. Photo from Carolina Run and Gun Facebook Page

There was a short run along the same road, until a sign pointed down a long cut in the trees to Stage 5. The cut in the trees had quite a bit of mud and standing water, so I slowed down to prevent any ankle injuries in the slop. Stage 5 was the only stage shot by all of the 3k, 5k and 8k runners as the best time won a Thunderbeast Arms suppressor certificate. Before the stage, there was originally intended to be a shallow creek crossing…but with rain the 48 hours prior the creek turned into a rapidly moving river. There was a safety line to loop under your armpits, and the water was chest deep to the point of holding onto the line and swimming across. On the opposing bank an RO was waiting for a quick brief. I had taken the time to fold up some dry paper towels into a plastic bag, and it payed off in giving my glasses and rifle optic a quick once-over to clear water off. Once the stage began, a low crawl under barbed wire and through mud was made, followed by left and right hand only pistol shooting on 8 plates. There was then a 75 yard plate rack to be shot off of a rock pile with the rifle. When it was all said in done, I ended up finishing with 66.37 on this run.

The creek, the obstacle and the rock pile from Stage 5. Photo from Carolina Run and Gun Facebook Page

After resetting the plates, there was a long run through the woods to get to Stage 6. Along the way I consolidated a couple AR mags into one as a backup in case of any failures due to submersion, and checked that my other mags still looked decent. By the time I got to Stage 6 I was starting to feel gassed as everything was non-stop to that point. The RO’s gave me a brief upon arrival, and Stage 6 began with a crawl through a large culvert and then a run to the pistol firing position. A series of pistol plates required knocking down before moving to the rifle barricade. At the rifle barricade there were four targets about 125-150 yards away. These had to be shot once each from the left and right shoulders. My time on this stage was 71.29 with the best run coming in at 51,44,

There was a decent run to the school bus at Stage 7. This was the final shooting stage, featuring a spinning pistol target to begin. Once that was shot to spin over, the rifle targets were engaged out of the window of choice from inside the bus. Rifle targets were spread out in a 20 degree swing, ranging from 150-300 yards away. I was able to finish this in 53.89, about 5 seconds off of the best run. While I didn’t get scared of running out of ammo as my consumption was about what I thought it would be, I found out later that there were quite a few shooters that didn’t get to complete or even start the stage due to running out of ammo.

Shooter engaging the pistol spinner on Stage 7. Photo from Carolina Run and Gun Facebook Page

The run to the end was a decent distance, but knowing it was the final stretch gave me a push to finish strong. By the time I made it across the finish line, it had been an hour and 36 minutes of shooting, running, resetting plates, crossing rivers and all. As I was first, I didn’t have anyone in the way to wait on, which would have been a little bit of help along the way! After I finished, my gear was shed pretty quickly and fluids and a snack were quickly consumed. I took some time to cool down and stretch a little bit.

Muddy rifle at the Carolina Run and Gun

With the scores added up, I finished in 2nd place on the 8k run. My shooting performance was enough to take 1st place on the shooting portion but my run time was 11th overall, hurting my overall score. It was a very fun experience as it was a challenge of shooting, running and toughing it out. It was also a good test of gear, mental planning and other skills not always tested. As a bonus, I ended up with the best run on Stage 5 and the very happy recipient of the Thunderbeast suppressor certificate. Kelly and the ROs did an excellent job getting shooters through and planning a fun course, even for their first time out. There is already talk of a 2019 Carolina Run and Gun, which will end up on my shooting season calendar.

Post run gear dump

Photo from Carolina Run and Gun Facebook Page

Post-match spray down

CRNG Final Scores