I have crisscrossed the nation over the last decade participating and observing every shooting sport there is. That is, until earlier this year after discovering the new discipline that has taken western Kentucky by storm—Metal Madness.
Metal Madness is the brainchild of Ed White, founder of the Grand Rivers Shooting Range located just outside of Paducah, KY. The range is literally in his backyard. Metal Madness is the result of his experimentation with target layout and finding just the right mix of speed and accuracy. Although, White is quick to point out that it wasn’t just him, but a community effort that has made Metal Madness and Grand Rivers a success.
“It took a while to develop Metal Madness,” White said about the origins of the sport. “I started building the range in my backyard because I had the space to do it. We went through several different permutations before we figured out exactly how Metal Madness should work.”
The name kind of gives it away. In Metal Madness, *surprise* you are shooting at metal plates. The Madness aspect of the sport, however, is where it gets interesting. There are a predefined number of shooting lanes, which shooters rotate through sequentially. One moves to two, two moves to three, etc. Only one lane shoots at a time.
Each lane has four square numbered 12” x 12” shoot plates and a round 12” stop plate. The shoot plate numbers must be hit in numerical order and are randomized for each lane. If that’s not maddening enough—before every match, the shoot plate numbers are reassigned at random. The ability to produce 5,000 different combinations of target presentation for an exciting game that tests both speed and accuracy is what makes Metal Madness very interesting.
Scoring is time based, plus penalties for missed plates or shooting plates out of sequence. With misses costing 2 seconds each, hitting plates in the proper order is extremely important. The eight fastest times from 10 lanes fired are added together for each shooter’s bracket time. To put up a top score in Metal Madness, you must have seriously good speed and accuracy skills.
Shooters are classified in Open and Stock classes, and are further subdivided into brackets such as open rifle, stock rifle, rimfire open pistol, rimfire and centerfire revolver, etc. Each bracket is comprised of NRA-styled classifications for High Master, Master, Expert, Sharpshooter and Marksman. Even though the Stock class provides for those competing with out of the box production guns, there really is no need for any specialized firearms to shoot Metal Madness―chances are you have what you need to play in your safe already. Nearly all the shooters I saw were using a rimfire rifle or pistol, although some were shooting 9 mm handguns, .38 Special revolvers, and one guy was even using a Kimber .45 Auto. For the rifles, the Ruger 10/22 and Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 were the top choices.
What really amazed me about Metal Madness at Grand Rivers was the family friendliness. This was reflected in the participation―out of about 60 competitors there were eight families at the match I attended. There is a large meal served at every match for lunch (pulled pork with all the fixins when I attended). And, everybody there was shooting this game, and I mean everybody―from the grandparents to the grade-schoolers.
I think this popularity is because of two very important, but often overlooked factors: shooting a steel target delivers a satisfying ding that is appreciated at any age or skill level, and since there are no action movement elements required (running, kneeling, etc.), people that have difficulty with the rapid movement of say, action shooting can compete shoulder-to-shoulder in the same game at the same time. Rather ingenious.
Phil “Hoot” Gibson, a 71-year-old who traveled all the way from Ohio to compete, told me, “Metal Madness matches are so much fun. I enjoy all the camaraderie that comes from shooting with such a great group of individuals, especially all the kids!”
Ed White is definitely the heart and soul of every Metal Madness event at Grand Rivers. He functions as not only the Match Director but also Chief RSO and an emcee of sorts. Directly behind each shooter as they fire with timer in hand, in his pronounced Kentucky drawl he gently “encourages” shooters to perform their best. His mic is rigged to a PA system that you can hear across the property. Providing for many laugh out loud moments―the shooters love it.
People love this game
Mark Gill has been the preacher at Grand Rivers Baptist Church for 22 years. Gill began shooting Metal Madness the summer of 2015 at age 59. Prior to that, he only shot a gun a few times as a kid. I observed Preacher Gill completely shred every lane―wielding his Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 like a true pro and hitting steel targets with samurai swordsman precision.
Grand Rivers has a small custom shop, which upgraded Gill’s rifle with a polished bolt and bolt rails, fluted barrel, Ergo Super grip, Hogue stock, and Elftmann Tactical Trigger. Regarding the trigger, it is custom built for Metal Madness to run in the M&P 15-22. White elaborated on this aspect, “Art Elftmann took one of our guns, custom fitting a trigger and keeper system just for Metal Madness shooting.” He added: “We have started customizing the M&P 15-22 because they are light to start with. Then we lighten them a bit more to help with gun movement.”
Gill currently holds Metal Madness records for: fastest lane time of 1.21 seconds, and fastest High Master time of 15.54 seconds for the eight lane total. No one has come close to scoring within three seconds of his record time―yet.
“I just love it,” Gill said to me as we discussed Grand Rivers and Metal Madness over pulled pork sandwiches during lunch. “I started coming to Grand Rivers to see what the fuss was about. Now, I am a devotee and I recommend this sport to everyone I meet that is interested in learning to shoot. It worked for me and will for work for you!”
Metal Madness is a discipline ripe for expansion. The flexibility of conducting these matches is a plus―it wouldn’t be too difficult at all for clubs across the country to set up Metal Madness at their range. If you are ever near Grand Rivers, KY, on a weekend be sure to drop by this range―I guarantee you will receive some genuine Southern warmth and hospitality―from kids, to a preacher, and even a 71-year-old grandfather all celebrating a pastime they can enjoy together.
Metal Madness is governed by the MMSSA. Learn more at mmssa.net.
All photos by John Parker.