Competition, Culture, Kalashnikov
The October sunrise peered down upon the Pro Gun Club Vegas in Boulder City Nevada bringing a welcome bit of warmth to the competitors as they ran through their final gear checks. The 2019 Red Oktober Kalashnikov Championship was about to begin. At any one of the 8 stages could be found any number of the three hundred and thirteen registered competitors adjusting pouches, loading magazines, and discussing their strategies. In the distance, the familiar and undeniable “klack, klack, klack” of Kalashnikov pattern rifles could be heard singing through the cool desert air as some of the nation’s most prominent manufacturers were holding demonstrations for fellow enthusiasts of Lieutenant-General Mikhail Kalashnikov’s famed design.
The Red Oktober Kalashnikov Championship is an annual competition based around the Soviet designed rifle. Starting in 2016 Brian Nelson, a well-known Three Gun competitor and instructor at Tactical Performance Center, joined forces with Jim Fuller and Rifle Dynamics to create an event that celebrates the rich culture surrounding the once hated rifle. Together, they would develop a themed course of fire with emphasis on historically relevant moments in which the weapon had immense impact on the battlefield and global politics. The Stages would be challenging to seasoned competitors yet engaging to shooters new to the world of competitive shooting.
As the event entered its third year the venue changed from the Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range to Pro Gun Vegas in Boulder City. The change was spurred by noise complaints and unsubstantiated allegations of stray rounds vacating the venue. The validity of the stray round claims have garnered much suspicion from the organizers of the event and participants alike. After hearing the extent of the allegations and the lengths to which they stretched to disrupt the event, I cannot blame the organizers for moving locations.
Pro Gun Club Vegas boasts a plethora of shooting bays and granted the organizers the freedom to design appropriate competition stages. The competitors are split into morning and afternoon groups and shoot four of the eight stages each day. My team was shooting in the afternoon each day. As competitors make their way to a station, they would hang their shooter’s card on a piece of yarn hung in a “zig-zag” manner across a target stand. This would dictate the order in which you will shoot the stage. As you approach, two Range Safety Officers explain the course of fire and confirm understanding with each shooter. Once the shooter is in the designated starting position you will hear the all too familiar “SHOOTER READY?, STAND BY……BEEP!” and the time for the stage begins. Time based penalties are assessed for failure to engage any target as well as for failing to neutralize certain targets by not engaging them with the appropriate amount of hits. Each stage has a maximum time limit, which I found out about rather quickly, as I reached maximum time on the second stage I shot.
The competition quickly drew interest from high level competitors and AK officiandos from all over the country, and has grown in attendance each subsequent year. Names you would recognize from this year’s event include the overall winner Josh Froelich, third place finisher Nils Jonasson, or Corinne Mosher who ended up in thirty seventh place after some unfortunate equipment malfunctions. My teammate Kyle Moore finished twentieth overall with an impressive rebound from a dreaded Magpul magazine malfunction. He promptly discarded the troublesome magazine by smashing it with a steel ammo can like any ordinary AK gentleman would! I finished two hundred and seventh, which is terrible but I had fun getting out to the range with fellow members of this unique culture.
During the event you will find industry powerhouses like Rifle Dynamics (the title sponsor of the event), APEX Gun Parts, and Ammo Supply Warehouse displaying their products for retail consumers, which really brings an element of commercial success to the event. You will also find many newer players in the game showing their contributions to the Kalashnikov culture. True innovators like OCCAM Defense had their MERC Freefloat handguard on display as well as their ODS1775 complete production rifle. Other highly respected manufactures such as M13 Industries were showing their capabilities with custom builds and full auto samples such as their RPD, Mini Monster, a PP-19 Bizon, and even a three round burst AK-74.
The third element of the event is centered around the collection of personalities that have become synonymous with the AK culture in America. Walking around the event you will find people from all backgrounds adorning costumes varying from Russian Tank Commanders to a version of Leeloo from Fifth Element. You will see “Slav” tuxedos in multicam, and very accurate portrayals of Spetznaz Alfa group commandos. It is absolutely incredible the amount of painstaking detail these people go through to get the costumes just right. The best costumes are also recognized during the events awards ceremony. The hosts also contract food trucks to serve the shooters with some very delicious and needed substance. My favorite was the taco truck (sorry the name escapes me) which had burritos damn near the size of a DShK. Delicious.
Sunday after the competition is complete, the awards ceremony is held, where winners got their due recognition and their crack at an extremely healthy prize table. A prize table that included a rifle from Rifle Dynamics, silencers from both Sandman and Dead Air, (a silencer I could have won if I would have stuck around for the raffle after the awards ceremony by the way…idiot…. Lesson learned, always hang around for the prize table announcements and raffles…)
In summary, the Red Oktober Kalashnikov Championship is much more than a competition. It serves as a rally point for all of the "freaks" out there that dance to slightly different beat. People who aren’t scared to stand on their own, carve their own patch, or color outside the lines. Individuals that come together to create a counter culture to the world of five hundred dollar AR-15s with three hundred dollars of cheap shit barely bolted to them. The event provides this group with a chance to bring their counter culture mentality to a mainstream venue of shooting sports, and I have to say, they throw a hell of a party. These are my people, and I imagine you will find they are your people too.
*** Special thanks to Mr. Brian Keeney of OCCAM Defense for giving me a slot on his team so I could contribute this article.