Every February (for the last three years anyways) there is an all knock down steel match in South Florida formerly known as “The Mark 7 Reloading Steel Match”, and this year named the “Extreme GM Falling Steel Match” but it is better known by its nom de guerre: STEELMAGEDDON….
In 2018, this match served as an opportunity for my shooting friend/rival “The Iceman” to shoot head to head in the same division for the first time. The matches we had shot together before, I always shot Production, and lost to him shooting Limited. STEELMAGEDDON only recognizes three division: Open, Limited, and PCC. Shooting in the same division, I was able to eek out my first win against The Iceman, as well as 1st Place Limited Unclassified.
2019 was a chance for a rematch, although The Iceman and I both shot Production together a number of times since the previous year, STEELMAGEDDON 2019 was the only matchup that really mattered. It was a very close match, with The Iceman and I trading the lead several times before the final stage. Thankfully, I was able to pull off another win and a second consecutive 1st Limited Unclassified. That would be the only match The Iceman and I shot against each other all year, creating even more anticipation for STEELMAGEDDON 2020.
I shot STEELMAGEDDON with my main competition pistol, a CZ Shadow 2 refinished in Cherry red by Moonshine Customs. I use Springer Precision 140mm base pads as well as a Grams slim follower for 22 rounds in each magazine. My Shadow 2 has approaching 10,000 rounds through it. In that time I have occasionally experienced issues with failures to eject, however that is usually down to me experimenting with different recoil spring and bullet weights (I’m still a gamer afterall). This year, I also added a Springer Precision Limited/Open Magwell to help speed up reloads, as well as add some contrasting black to the style of my Shadow.
I did not do much competition shooting in 2019, my last match was the Georgia State match back in September. As such, my basic marksmanship, gun handling, and stage planning skills had all suffered, and in December I realized I would have to put in a lot of work to be competitive. After starting my new job at a local shooting range I did at least one session of live fire practice every week. STEELMAGEDDON is a deceptively accuracy intensive match, most of the targets are 6” square steel plates with Poppers, Mini-Poppers, plate racks, and Texas Stars mixed in as well. The past two years, The Iceman and I struggled (sometimes embarrassingly) most with the 6” square plates. To prepare for this I cut out 6” and 3” square pieces of cardboard and used those to simulate square plates at varying distances as well as creating mini-strings of fire to practice switching from speed to accuracy. I also shot two USPSA matches, again with a focus on accuracy at acceptable speed as opposed to speed with acceptable accuracy. The results from the first match were promising, I finished 8th overall and 2nd in Limited. The second match I focused much more heavily on accuracy, and it showed in my results. I dropped to 15th out of 18 shooters, and although my hits were good for most of the day (only 2 Deltas, 1 Mike, and 1 No Shoot through 6 stages) my times were trash and for the first time I started to worry about how would STEELMAGEDDON would turn out.
STEELMAGEDDON 2020 was a rarity for me, it was only the third major match I’ve ever shot where I didn’t have to work the night before. I spent the night before prepping my range bag, cleaning mags, packing my cooler, and doing a little dry fire on my 3” cardboard squares. The Iceman and I were signed up for the 1:00PM start, so I slept in a little bit the day of the match, had a real breakfast, gave my shooting and video gear a final check before heading to the range.
When I got to the range, I met up with The Iceman and we started walking the stages.This year the stages were fairly straightforward, all five were loaded and holstered starts, no staged magazines, awkward start positions, or props. We compared notes on each stage, made our plans, and got ready to shoot.
The Iceman and I started on stage 2. This stage was 31 rounds, and had a healthy mix of square steel plate, poppers, mini poppers, and finished on a Texas star. The Iceman shot first, he had a solid run with a time of 30.63. I was two shooters behind him so I had his time on my mind as I made ready. My match should have ended after my second shot. Although I was aiming at the square steel, I hit the first popper a second time as it was falling, at this range that is supposed to be a DQ, and I froze for maybe half a second waiting for the “STOP!” command. It never came and I carried on shooting. I had few make ups, but I was really happy with how I cleared the star. I finished with a time of 30.45, less than .2 ahead of The Iceman.
This stage had a straight perpendicular shooting area, with lots of the targets only being visible through one port or one specific position. This time I shot before The Iceman, I had what felt like an absolutely crushing run 28.63 with only two makeup shots on the whole stage. Then as the RO was calling my time he let me know I left two targets standing. At 3 seconds per target, it took my run from stellar a 28.63 to an average 34.63, and left the door wide open for The Iceman. Luckily for me he had some trouble with the plate rack and Texas star, so he finished with a 37.71. I was still in the lead, but by less than 4 seconds with three stages still to go.
This was the fastest stage of the day. After the opening plate rack and small steel targets, the remainder were massive 18×18 square steel plates, full size IPSC profile steel targets, and full size poppers. The Iceman shot first on this one, he had a few make ups on the plate rack and small steel, but cleared the big targets quickly, and nailed his reload. He finished with a 28.31, I thought I could beat it but I wasn’t sure by how much. On my run I cleaned the plate rack one for one, and hit both small steels through the port without moving. When I came in to the big IPSC plate I knew that was my best chance to make up time, I shot them as fast as I could, just point shooting them. I fumbled my reload a little coming into the last position, but cleared all the but last target with only one make up shot. Unfortunately, I missed my first shot at the last full size popper, then missed with my first make up, before hitting it on the third try. Those 2 extra shots cost me almost 2 seconds, but I still finished with a respectable 20.50. I now had an 11 second lead over The Iceman with two stages left.
Arguably the most technical stage of the day, Stage 5 consisted mainly of mini poppers and square steel plates. The Iceman and I shot fairly similar stage plans, varying slightly in the order of positions we shot. He went first, and had a few too many make up, particularly on the squares, his final time was 36.59. I had a few hiccups on my run as well, including some embarrassing makeup shots on a full size popper. I finished with a 30.37, this put me about 17 seconds ahead of The Iceman heading into the final stage.
Our final stage of the day consisted of 32 6” square steel plates. There were several theories on which stage plan was the fastest. The Iceman and I, both being lefties, chose the same plan. As mentioned I had a sizable lead at this point, and barring some catastrophe on my part the match was in the bag …. Which is why I decided to try and burn it down on this stage. My time was 29.47 with no penalties. My brother, who is not a shooter, watched my match video and commented, “Man, you really went off on that last stage.” The Iceman finished the stage with a 35.32. STEELMAGEDDON 2020 was over, I finished 23 seconds ahead of The Iceman, 17th out of 45 shooters overall.
STEELMAGEDDON 2020 was a super fun match, although it was a little lightly attended this year. My performance at this match was a huge confidence boost for me after not shooting competitively for so long. I don’t know how many major matches I will shoot this year, but I am so far making good on my resolution to shoot two matches a month. The Iceman and I will continue our friendly rivalry throughout this year for best 2 out of 3 “Championship” we both plan to shoot the 2020 Factory Gun Challenge, as well as our own “Mystery Match” where we will shoot each other’s guns.