Rio Salado Spring Steel Shootoff 2023

Spring Steel at Rio Salado is an all-steel match that has been going on for over three decades in Mesa, Arizona, at the world-famous Rio Salado Sportsman Club. Over 200 people meet at the range in early spring to test their firearm proficiency on 10 intricate stages that feature only steel targets. The match loosely follows USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) rule set and divisions. So if you are already familiar with shooting matches, you are good to go!

Rio Salado Spring Steel 2023
Rio Salado Spring Steel Shootoff! After every Spring Steel match, competitors throw down cash to go head-to-head and see who wins some friendly head-to-head matchups!

Rio Salado Sportsman Club

Dating back to the 1950s, people have been shooting there decade after decade. In 1971 it was named Rio Salado Sportsman Club. Today it has nearly 7,000 members and functions as a not-for-profit club on 140 acres. The club features a public area where the average citizen can enjoy getting some trigger time and zero their firearms. But the real fun is with the competitions that are held there. 

You can shoot almost every day of the week at Rio Salado. They have every flavor of shooting you could ask for — shotguns, precision right, multi-gun, and, my favorite, pistols. I have shot a handful of Level 2 and Level 3 matches at Rio Salado and countless Level 1’s. One of the first matches I ever started shooting was Tuesday Night Steel (TNS), a friendly 4-stage steel match that occurs every Tuesday. Throughout the day, up to 300 people can come through and shoot the stages. 

The Tuesday Night Steel match-directing body is also in charge of putting together Spring Steel. It is basically a local TNS on steroids utilizing more bays at the range. I was told they used every piece of steel the range had access to this year. That is a lot of poppers and a lot of static plates. Overall, the match was around 225 rounds, depending on how many makeup shots you needed! Haha!

Let’s get into how my match went! 

Rio Salado Spring Steel 2023
A competitor works through an array of targets during the “jungle stage.”

My Spring Steel Match Experience

This match was spontaneous for me. I originally had travel plans the same weekend as the match that got concealed just three days before this match was going to start. Registration was closed, but I saw on Squadding that there were three open slots. I emailed the match director, and they said if I can sign up immediately, I can have one of those slots. Of course, I did just that and started to think about what gear I needed for this match. 

Match Equipment

  • Gun: Smith and Wesson M&P9 M2.0 5″ 
  • Belt: Dominate Defense Mach 1 
  • Holsters: Tier1 Optimo & CR Speed Mag pouches
  • Eyes: Hunter Gold HD 
  • Ears: Walker Game Ears 
  • Ammo: Handloaded 147 Grain on my Dillon Precision RL1100

Everything was ready to go besides the ammo. I got all my components filled and hopped on the reloading press. Using a progressive multistage press makes producing a copious amount of ammunition a speedy process. Generally, I can load 900-1100 rounds per hour on my press. I loaded up 1,000 rounds in preparation for the match, 500 for practice, and 500 for the match. 

I hit my local club to function fire my guns over the next two days and warm up my trigger finger on some steel. Before entering a larger match, I always like to practice a similar shooting style if I have the time to spare. Everything worked great, and my finger was itching to clock some fast times on stages. 

Rio Salado Spring Steel 2023
Competitor Eddie Rodriguez, the owner of the Pistol Parlor in Phoenix, Arizona, is preparing to shoot before a stage.


The morning of the match, I had a two-hour drive into the range. Being that the first shot was at 7:30 AM, I had an early morning leaving the house around 5 a.m. Jamming to some tunes and drinking my coffee, the two hours flew by. I was excited for the day and shooting with a great group of friends. One of the best parts about shooting sports is the social aspect of matches. It’s like golf, but you get to shoot guns.

To my surprise, when I showed up, all my preparation was short-sighted. I forgot my belt. My morale was shattered for a half second before I started brainstorming how I could fix the problem. Being that I am two hours away, this was not as simple as popping back home and grabbing my gear. 

The only reasonable thing to do is shoot with my everyday carry belt and holster. Luckily I truly embrace the division of Carry Optics and carry the same gun I compete with, so I could still use the same platform. Matched with the Constantine Concealed Carry belt, it is a combo I am comfortable with. Not to say that I wasn’t thrown off my rocker, being that I volunteered myself to shoot from a disadvantage compared to the rest of the people in my division. 

The match started off rough. I wasn’t setting my grip on my gun. All I was thinking about was how I practiced so hard with my competition belt, only to use my concealed carry belt instead. Battling through stage by stage, I kept having one hiccup per stage, a missed position, too many makeup shots, etc. My squad got through five stages, and we took a break for lunch. 

Refocusing My Game Plan

I slammed some chow and rehydrated, and thought about my game plan. My stages weren’t bad, but they weren’t at the level I am used to shooting. I looked within to see what I needed to do to focus. A little mental pep talk was all I needed. I thought about how many times I’ve practiced my AIWB draw, all of the countless rounds shot at Steel, and all of the rounds I have through my Smith and Wesson.

It all just clicked, and my focus returned. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have my belt. I was still in the running to win; I just needed to buckle down. The second half of the day went much better, securing three first-place runs, one second-place run, and one third-place run. Since the scores weren’t being updated live, I had no idea where my standings would be. But finishing the day, I knew that I had given it my all after that mental pep talk at lunch.

Rio Salado Spring Steel
Hunter Constantine mid-plate rack during a stage.

The dust settled, and all the competitors met around the main range as the squads finished. I connected with my other buddies and informed them of my belt fiasco. Given the circumstances, I got many laughs and daps for finishing the match under the circumstances. My division had some heat, and I wanted to know how they performed. So naturally, I went right up and asked. They said they had some strong stages and some decent stages. We wouldn’t know until we got the email that the scores had been posted.

Final Scores

When the notification came in, I was met with a bittersweet feeling. I took 2nd in my division and overall in the match. I was 2.67 seconds behind 1st Place, Grand Master Lee Weinstein. It was bittersweet for a few reasons. One, I knew I could have easily made up the 2.67 with my draws and reloads if I had used my competition belt. It was sweet because my friend won the match, and the rest of the homies were in the top 20. 

All in all, we had a great time, and we were all rooting for one another. That is what the sport is about, bringing up everyone around you and having fun on the range. Rio Salado made this all possible by hosting the match, and I am happy I got to participate.

Rio Salado Spring Steel
Hunter Constantine shakes hands with Match Director Steve Scaccia.
I am a professional competition shooter that travels the country sharing my knowledge, competing, and, most importantly, having fun. My love for firearms and the gear started at a young age but didn't come to fruition until later in life, in 2019. I have climbed the ranks in USPSA, achieving Grand Master classification in only 14 months. My educational background is in marketing, graduating with my MBA in 2017. At the end of the day I am someone who enjoys being on the range all day and being able to share that experience with other.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2023 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap