Tom Lubnau: Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship – A Hidden Wyoming Gem

Columnist Tom Lubnau writes, "One of the most intense competitions of skill, concentration and physical ability will take place on the Wyoming-Montana Border in mid-July. Thirty teams will compete in the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship."

Tom Lubnau

May 29, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

From July 12 - 14 one of the most intense competitions of skill, concentration and physical ability will take place on the Wyoming-Montana Border. Thirty teams will compete in the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship. The competition pits some of the very best athletes in the world against each other in a competition for bragging rights for who has the best rifle team.

The firearms skill competition, run by the nonprofit corporation Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship, takes place on the Bliss Dinosaur ranch in an area Frank Bliss lovingly calls Wyotana. Frank normally begins preparing his ranch for the competition months in advance. 

Yesterday, Frank was mowing the pistol range, in preparation for the July event.

This group advances firearms use and training through practical experience by providing an excellent, professionally run venue for tactical rifle competition.

Each team will have one rifle shooter, and one carbine shooter. The rifle shooter engages targets from as near as 900 feet, to as far away as 3300 feet. The carbine shooter is responsible for engaging targets from very close range to 1650 feet away. Both shooters have to hit pistol targets.

Shooters are tasked to hit 5-inch triangular targets or ten-inch square targets throughout the eight mile groomed courses. The challenge is to find, and hit targets, in thirty mile per hour winds three quarters of a mile away, hidden in the Wyotana prairie.

In additions to shooting, each team will carry thirty to forty pounds of gear around the course, including rifles, tripods, rangefinders, ammunition and water.  Each competitor must be prepared in shape for physical exertion in the hot July summer.

Thirty teams will compete for three days  working around the rifle courses, shooting at 275 reactive metal targets. Somewhere around 16,500 rounds will be fired in the competition. 

During the competition, the carbine shooter and the rifle shooter are accompanied by a volunteer Range Officer to keep score and safety a priority.

The event has very strict safety protocols, and teams can be disqualified from the event based on  safety infractions. 

As with any firearms competition, the underpinning of safety rules are the four rules of firearm safety: i. All firearms are considered loaded at all times; ii. Never point a firearm and anything you are not willing to destroy; iii. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire; and iv. Be aware of your target and what is beyond.  

The competition does not lend itself to spectators because it takes place over an extensive eight-mile rifle course. Due to extensive safety protocols, no one is allowed downrange.

Major weapon manufactures are sponsors of this world-class tournament and so the prizes are significant and worth winning.

Additionally, the competition has raised over one hundred thousand dollars over the last ten years for wounded warriors and their families. Much of that has been used to take disabled warriors on special game hunts here in Wyoming. 

Landowners donate tags and grant special permission to access areas not normally available to hunters resulting in a chance of a lifetime hunt for these wounded heroes. 

Most of the dozens of wounded heroes who receive these hunts have trauma or battle injuries -- some in wheelchairs, some with prosthetics, and some with PTSD. 

The competition has also paid medical bills and helped wounded veterans in many ways over the years.

All the 30 volunteers who start planning and working months in advance donate their time for a good this good cause. By all accounts, their efforts foster a world class event.

For 21 years, this outstanding competition has been held in the boondocks of Wyoming and Montana.  These types of competitions, and the volunteers who make them possible are a credit to the state of Wyoming.  In a state that exemplifies gun rights, this group is providing a vehicle to hone tactical rifle skills.

Wyoming is lucky to have folks like Chuck McIntosh and Frank Bliss and their friends who quietly, year after year, make this world a better place in which to live.

Tom Lubnau served in the Wyoming Legislature from 2005 - 2015 and is a former Speaker of the House. He can be reached at:

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Tom Lubnau