The 5.11 Challenge is one of the most popular and widely known organized law enforcement competitions in the country. Yearly, more than 22,000 officers throw their names in the hat hoping to get a chance to participate in the event. Every summer, 32 two-officer teams make the trek to compete by the Bighorn River in eastern Montana. The three top-scoring teams, along with their families, are flown back out to the 5.11 lodge for a final shootout to determine the winner. Winning comes with big rewards; this year, the top team received not only $100,000 in equipment for their department, but also a deluxe all-expenses-paid African hunting safari along with Glock pistols and Remington rifles. After all the preliminary contests, the final three teams in this year s shoot-off came from Minnesota, Arkansas and Georgia.
Bill Berry, the 5.11 Challenge executive director, explained that this year s event had some surprises in store for the finalists; seems the course was a little different than the one they had previously shot. The biggest change was the addition of a 16'-long, low-light shooting tunnel. The tunnel measured only 2'x2', and the officers had to shoot at multiple 3"-circular targets. This new twist to the competition was a big surprise and caused quite a stir when the officers first saw it and shot the course, Berry said. Another added challenge required several transitions from weak to strong hand, and from shotgun to pistol.
In the end, the team representing the Bloomington (Minn.) Police Department, Peter Dahl and Jared Taylor, claimed the gold, finishing more than 200 points ahead of the second place team. (Dahl is a member of the Rice County Police Department and Taylor is with the Bloomington Police Department.) The final event was running pretty close until the trap portion where the Minnesota team surged ahead by knocking down 37 out of 40 clay birds. Dahl competed in spite of a disabling back injury and was in visible pain during the shoot, according to Berry. Dahl s name had been drawn for the 5.11 Challenge, and he chose Taylor as his partner.
Taylor, a relatively new officer, has been a cop for a little more than four years. In spite of this, he and Dahl formed an unbeatable team. When Pete asked me to be his partner, I could hardly contain myself, said Taylor. I had already done some research and found out how amazing the 5.11 Challenge had been for other officers. From the second we found out we were going, they (5.11) started taking care of everything we needed to prepare for our trip. It s no exaggeration to say that being a participant in the 5.11 Challenge is the experience of a lifetime. The best part was meeting the other officers from around the country. I made friendships that will last a lifetime.
Taylor also mentioned the incredible fishing that was organized for the participants: The guided fishing trip down the Big Horn River was definitely world-class. My partner and I boated over 50 trout while floating down one of the most beautiful rivers in the world.
Last year s teams donated their winnings to departments that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and Berry says some portion of this year s prizes will go to help departments that are still struggling.
Law Officer is a proud sponsor and partner of the 5.11 Challenge. You can catch the finals later this year on The Outdoor Channel s show The Shooting Gallery. By the way, if you haven t thrown your name in the hopper for next year s Challenge, now s the time to do it. In just a few months next year s participants will start getting those life-changing phone calls. Check out the details at www.511challenge.com.
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