Results: Inaugural RPGi Shooting International Open

A USPSA Level 2 match, the first-ever RPGi Shooting International Open was held in Gaskin, Fla., in February.

by
posted on April 3, 2024
Rpgi International 2024 1
USPSA shooter Chris Workman competing at the inaugural RPGi Shooting International Open, held in Gaskin, Fla., Feb. 17, 2024. Workman topped the overall match leaderboard with a final time of 140.61 seconds, also garnering the Open title.
Photo by Jordan Binion

If you haven’t heard of Range Project Group International (RPGi) and what this small, scrappy club is doing to shake up the north Florida USPSA Section, please read on. Range Project Group International is quickly developing a reputation for putting on quality, well-run and challenging matches that are fun—both here in the United States and internationally. Recently, RPGi hosted a fantastic USPSA Level 2 match called the RPGi Shooting International Open, sponsored by Taurus, in Gaskin, Florida, on February 17, 2024.

While not his first foray into hosting majors, this match represented a noteworthy achievement for Range Project Group International’s founder, Brendan Souder, and his efforts to shape the future of the practical shooting sports. Having developed a strong working relationship with Souder over the last couple of years and helped him run a number of matches, I can tell you one thing is for sure—the reputation surrounding his matches is by no means an accident.

Caleb Giddings with revolver
Caleb Giddings topped the Revolver leaderboard at the inaugural RPGi Shooting International Open, held in Gaskin, Fla., Feb. 17, 2024. His final time was 333.19 seconds.

 

THE CLUB

Prior to retiring from a distinguished career in the U.S. Army, Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer Souder established Range Project Group International in 2019 to pursue his passion for competitive shooting, along with providing high-end training courses to those who want to take their fundamentals of shooting to the next level. Not long after his retirement, Souder found himself in a co-op relationship at the Element Training Complex in Holt, Florida, where he ran most of his local club matches and a few signature events over the past couple of years, while also purchasing land to build his own range on simultaneously. Now retired and operating completely autonomously on this purpose-built range, Souder has solidified his place within the north Florida USPSA Section and is quickly becoming a sought-after commodity in the broader arena of practical shooting sports.

Although not new to USPSA or organized practical shooting sports, Souder has drawn on more than two decades of specialized training, real-world experience in the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, and the network of personal relationships he developed while serving as a Special Forces operator around the globe to develop his own unique vision for how RPGi will differentiate itself from other clubs across the country. His motto “Train, Evolve, Compete,” essentially sums up his mindset and operational methodology. Training and teaching others are an everyday part of his routine. Training and being in a constant state of continual learning enables the evolution of oneself to adapt to change and develop a more refined ability to perform. And for what purpose? To compete! To compete locally, nationally and even internationally. Competing well in any discipline of practical shooting, and in life for that matter, is what promotes growth and lends purpose to our lives. As far as missions go, this is not a bad one to have—and Souder leads this mission by example.

Brendan Souder
The founder of Range Project Group International, Brendan Souder, competing at the 2024 RPGi Shooting International Open. He has developed a reputation within the north Florida USPSA Section, as well as the practical shooting sports community at large.

 

Although the substance of this article is about a USPSA Level 2 match, Souder doesn’t limit himself or Range Project Group International to one organizational allegiance or discipline over another, but rather has taken the stance that there is room for everyone in the practical shooting sports arena. By working together rather than against each other, Souder believes we can change the narrative and better shape the future of competitive shooting sports while eliminating barriers to entry and opening new doors for opportunities that haven’t been explored and/or wholly embraced within the traditional hierarchical organizational structures of the main governing bodies of the sport, writ large.

For Souder, nothing is off the table.

THE FARM

The 2024 RPGi Shooting International Open USPSA Level 2 match signified the first major match Souder held has his private range facility, referred to simply as “The Farm.” But before going into detail on the match and the success it represented for Range Project Group International, it is worth giving some contextual background on The Farm.

Situated on a rural 40-acre tract off the beaten path, and a fair drive from modern amenities and infrastructure, The Farm, located in Gaskin, Florida, is a bit remote. However, in less than a year Souder has taken what before would have barely passed for a modest hunting camp in the Florida panhandle to the casual observer, and turned it into a functionally sound, multipurpose practical shooting range—and he’s just getting started.

At first he was using The Farm as a private place to train for matches, conduct private shooting classes and develop his concepts for matches and stage designs. In effect, it was his personal sandbox to develop, test and validate ideas that he would then incorporate into the matches he ran at multiple locations across the country, and internationally on occasion, during the preceding couple of years. After he established a few basic action bays and brought in some necessary stage equipment, he began hosting small matches there, limited in size and scope, to assess the feasibility of eventually moving his whole operation.

In mid-2023, Souder made the decision to self-fund and to make some major improvements to The Farm. After hosting and running “Remember the Fallen,” a USPSA Level 2 match held at Element Training Complex in Holt, Florida, in May 2023, Souder decided it was time to take his club assets and infrastructure, and relocate everything to The Farm. Since that time, he has made substantial progress in expanding his ranges and putting in the required infrastructure that will accommodate bigger matches and crowds. Presently, RPGi is punching way above its weight class in terms of relative size and what capabilities and capacities Souder and his team have available at The Farm.

THE PLAN

The idea for hosting the first RPGi Shooting International Open was born out of several converging factors, but essentially boiled down to an opportunity to host a USPSA Level 2 match early in 2024 to showcase The Farm’s potential, as well as to announce to the broader competitive shooting community that RPGi was open for business.

The “international” naming convention of the match was intended to satisfy two purposes:

  1. Incentivize international competitors with a new venue and offer a better, more well-rounded match experience over other alternatives that generally happen in Florida around this same time of year.
  2. Continue forging strong partnerships with international competitors to share ideas, build experience and promote the future of the sport outside the United States.

Souder has run matches in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Colombia, and has participated in matches in several other countries in Central America and South America, where these relationships are vitally important.

Magnus Krohn
Magnus Krohn won the Carry Optics division title, as well as second place on the overall leaderboard with a final time of 138.18 seconds.

 

An organized shooting club has many attributes that are unique to that individual club, but some things remain constant across all shooting clubs—regardless of disciplines. One thing that remains constant is that most, if not all, clubs rely heavily on volunteers to provide the lion’s share of sweat equity that goes into preparing for and running a major match. Despite having a good track record running USPSA Level 2 matches by now, Souder realized, as the 15th century poet John Donne penned, “No man is an island, entire of itself,” and he would need to reach out into his extended network of talented match staff to pull this off in a manner consistent with what Range Project Group International represents.

Souder went into full planning mode over the latter part of 2023 to prepare for the first USPSA Level 2 match to be hosted at The Farm. As a result, Drew Coleman, the esteemed stage designer, match director, and newly certified range master from Dothan, Alabama, was brought on to be the range master for this match. Mike Howell, formerly out of the Wyoming Antelope Club in Clearwater, Florida, volunteered to assist with running registration and stats. Plenty of able-bodied and motivated Chief Range Officers and Range Officers were then identified to round out the critical match staff positions, including three Range Officers from Brazil who have supported Souder and Range Project Group International on more than one occasion. Coming off a big win the month before at the Florida State USPSA Championship, accomplished junior shooter Ashlyn Champagne stepped up and was responsible for the initial stage designs, along with assisting with a majority of the set-up and building of the match. Even the Director of the USPSA National Range Officers Institute, Troy McManus, came out to assist with last-minute preparations and work the match as an Range Officer.

Souder remarked that, “It is really humbling to have so many talented and motivated friends willing to help ... it really made a difference and took a lot of stress off my plate. I couldn’t have pulled this off without each and every one of them.”

THE MATCH

With 113 shooters (including staff), the 2024 RPGi Shooting International, sponsored by Taurus, was a success by all accounts. Competitors came from Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, and from as far away as Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil.

Despite a chilly morning and a sustained light rain until shortly before lunch, the match was well timed and went off without any major degrading factors. There were 10 stages in total, with nine squads, all equally balanced for an optimal match flow. The stages themselves were all well designed—constructed with a good mix of technical and speed and accuracy challenges. A fair mix of steel targets, USPSA and IPSC paper, swingers and drop turners were integrated throughout the stages.

Since the match was being sponsored by Taurus, while on a recent trip to company headquarters for coordination purposes, Souder somehow made away with the bronze bull statue sitting in their lobby to use as a prop on Stage 3, which was aptly named “By The Horns.” It isn’t clear how he got the bull back to The Farm in his little truck, but for a retired Special Forces guy, it’s probably better if we don’t ask. A local food truck serving tacos among other fan favorites was available to provide food options for competitors throughout the day. Even though The Farm is still a work in progress, parking and comfort facilities were not a problem. In total terms, this was an outstanding effort and solid start to RPGi’s ability to host more major matches there in the future.

Tanner Liang
Tanner Liang was the runner-up in Limited Optics division with a final time of 178.63 seconds.

 

One thing Range Project Group International matches are well known for is the custom metal trophies that Souder has commissioned for each match. These match-themed trophies are precision cut and painted by local vendor Knudsen Fabrications and are quite aesthetically pleasing. Those lucky enough to take one home truly have something to brag about. While it may seem a little over the top to some, Souder would disagree. Winning in a respective division or category is an achievement meant to be celebrated and marked by something special, particularly for those who train and work hard to improve their competitive shooting skills.

Those who earned one of these coveted trophies for the 2024 RPGi Shooting International Open are noted here. Master Class Open shooter and regular patron of the RPGi circuit, Chris Workman, outperformed everyone and secured High Overall and first Open, as well as topping the High Military category leaderboard. First place in Carry Optics went to Magnus Krohn. Drew Coleman came away with first place in Limited division, while Zach Joyce did the same in Limited 10. Tyler Nelson beat out the competition in Limited Optics for the win, and—no surprise here—Ashlyn Champagne cleaned house in the Pistol-Caliber Carbine division, taking High Lady and High Junior as well. Our friend Victor Choi from Brazil easily took first place in Production and High Foreign. Although not the most popular division these days, Caleb Giddings showcased his talent in Revolver division for the win. AJ McCartney and Richard McManus took top honors in Senior and Super Senior Categories, respectively, both shooting PCC. Brent “Meatball” Viator claimed High Law Enforcement. Finally, Dean Cross’s performance earned him the top seat in the Distinguished Senior category. Congratulations to these winners and all the rest who performed admirably for the wins in their respective classes.

As the title sponsor of the 2024 RPGi Shooting International Open, Taurus came in strong with prize certificates for several of their most popular firearms, which were awarded at random within each individual squad throughout the day, giving everyone who participated an equal chance to leave the competition with a prize.

THE FUTURE

As far as the future is concerned, Range Project Group International has a jam-packed schedule with a variety of practical shooting match offerings for the remainder of 2024, both at The Farm and at a few other select ranges around the country.

Tyler Tharp, owner and operator of Synergy Training Group and match staff regular for RPGi, said, “RPGi matches are the pinnacle of the southeast’s practical shooting matches where everyone from regular Joe’s to SOF can come put their shooting skills to the test. If you haven’t been to a match put on by Brendan Souder of RPGi, put that high on your list of priorities this year.” I couldn’t agree more.

Coming up soon is Range Project Group International’s signature SOF Match, the 2024 “Luck of the Irish” taking place at The Farm on March 15, under the Practical Competition Shooting League rule set. RPGi’s SOF Match format is a physically demanding, intense and technically challenging match that tests one’s skill under pressure and stress. This format is fun and attracts competitive shooting enthusiasts from many different backgrounds.

If you are interested in trying your hand at shooting in low-light and dark conditions, Range Project Group International has you covered with its safe and proven Day-N-Nite match format. These matches are guaranteed to be a departure from the normal, while still retaining all the elements of a fun, challenging practical shooting match, albeit drawing on some additional skills that most competitors don’t normally get a chance to put to the test. Fair warning, it’s addictive and you might find yourself in the market for some new gear. As a teaser, RPGi has plans to host the first ever USPSA Level 2 match under this rubric in the near future, so stay tuned for more information to come on that.

Souder and the extended Range Project Group International team are looking forward to growing their footprint in the north Florida USPSA section and testing new match ideas and concepts along the way. There is always room for more, so come on out and join RPGi next time you are in the Florida panhandle for fellowship and spirited practical shooting. For more information regarding RPGi’s match and training schedule or to learn more, please visit rpg-international.us. See you on the range, and remember to train, evolve and compete.

See the full results of the 2024 RPGi Shooting International Open at the Practiscore website.

Article from the March/April 2024 issue of USPSA’s magazine. All photos by Jordan Binion.

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