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Misadventures at Red Oktober 2021, Part 1: You Can't Get There From Here

Red Oktober is not just a shooting match where competitors are required to use AK-pattern rifles, but a celebration of all things AK.

Misadventures at Red Oktober 2021, Part 1: You Can't Get There From Here

The Red Oktober isn’t just a shooting match where competitors are required to compete with AK-pattern rifles, it is a celebration of all things AK. Here someone gets to test out Pioneer Arms’ full-auto SBR.

Everything you are about to read is true and actually happened.

I had an opportunity to compete at the (third annual) Red Oktober match in 2020. This isn’t just a shooting match where competitors are required to compete with AK-pattern rifles, it is a celebration of all things AK. And it got cancelled. Due to, well, pick any and all nouns you think are appropriate: Covid-19. Government overreach. Plandemic. Tyranny.

However, the 2021 Red Oktober match was back on, come hell or high water. Or, in this case, despite the Nevada Governor’s extra-legal decree mandating masks in all indoor public spaces regardless of your vaccination status or knowledge of medicine, science, or actual facts about the virus.

The Red Oktober is put on by Rifle Dynamics, and the list of sponsors is filled with names that will be very familiar to regular Firearms News readers. I would be competing with my Pioneer Arms Sporter, a 7.62x39mm AK with a festive Cerakote pattern applied to it by Blackout Customs. Photos of it have appeared in previous issues. The rifle has a rail, onto which I attached a Trijicon SRO red dot (more on the gun in a subsequent entry). Ammo of choice was Wolf steel case. I was also bringing several Hawaiian shirts to wear, on and off the range. For some people it’s a costume. For me, Hawaiian shirts are a way of life.

Misadventures at Red Oktober 2021, Part I: You Can't Get There From Here
Part of Tarr’s road trip took him west over the Rocky Mountains from Colorado. You won’t find a more beautiful drive. Don’t take photos while driving—professional driver, closed course, use as directed, consult a doctor if itching lasts more than a week.

I was looking forward to the match, and only learned about the Nevada statewide mask mandate when booking a hotel room, and trying to figure out how to get a rifle case past anti-gun hotel security. The mask mandate was an issue for me, because I haven’t worn a mask yet, and won’t, and due to worry over losing their gaming licenses, the hotel/casinos have been very strict about mask usage.

Solution: book a room at a motel.

For those of you who aren’t up on the difference, a hotel has rooms whose doors open onto an interior corridor, and a motel has rooms whose doors open to the parking lot. I booked a room at an off-strip motel, which means no lobby/corridor/casino, and thus no mask worries. This motel shall remain nameless, because…ooh, boy.

Misadventures at Red Oktober 2021, Part I: You Can't Get There From Here
Eastern Utah (probably). (Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox /

The motel has a glowing two-star rating on Google it really doesn’t deserve probably because it’s nicer than the jail cells most of the guests have slept in. It was a cross between a spring break hotel (where everything easily broken has long been broken or removed, and blood/vomit/whatever is quickly hosed off the tile floor) and a no-tell motel where people married (but not to each other) spend a few afternoon hours engaged in activities other than sleeping. No desk. No toilet paper roll holder. No closet. Four locks on the door. FOUR.

In any other town, this motel would have been overpriced at $39 a night. In Vegas, it was $167/night, plus taxes and fees (and you’ve never seen taxes and fees until you’ve seen Las Vegas taxes and fees). My first day there I arrived early, and the guy in the room below me, where apparently he’s been living for a while, was getting evicted, all of his worldly possessions strewn across an empty parking spot—and of course one of them was a guitar. Half a mile down the street I saw my first honest-to-God Las Vegas hooker in hot pants, so cross that off the bucket list, I guess.

Since I’ve taken a hard stand against wearing a muzzle, I knew flying was out, which meant one thing:


From my house in Michigan to my destination in Las Vegas was a mere 2045 miles one way. But at least gas prices are way up. Let me give you the highlights:


Misadventures at Red Oktober 2021, Part I: You Can't Get There From Here
To avoid the indoor mask mandate Tarr stayed at an off-strip no-tell motel in Las Vegas. Here is the scenic view from outside his door. From this angle you can’t see the hookers or the homeless people.

Northern Ohio: boring. Flat. Ugly. In most every way reminiscent of the most mundane parts of Germany, only with cheaper cars and not quite as many Nazis.

Indiana: Stranger Things is set in Indiana. The first half of Close Encounters of the Third Kind was set in Indiana. Need I say more?

Illinois: geographically the state is the physical manifestation of a yawn. Politically it is actually somewhat conservative once you get away from Springfield and Chicago. However, Chicago runs the state, and as a result Illinois is the only state where gun owners are licensed like dogs. I try to spend as little time driving through that state as possible.

Iowa: nothing but rolling hills from one side of the state to another. I waved at Brownells as I passed by on I-80.

Misadventures at Red Oktober 2021, Part I: You Can't Get There From Here
As he had his own vehicle, Tarr was volunteered to pick up the ammo for the Pioneer Arms shooting team. Steel-cased Wolf 7.62? Check. Hawaiian shirts to live that meme life? Check.

Nebraska: flat, but beautiful. The Platte River is probably the prettiest river in the Midwest. I spent my first night in Lincoln after doing 800 miles.

Colorado: eastern Colorado is a bit hilly, with roads in surprisingly poor condition—in other words, boring. Western Colorado, on the other hand…. The drive west from Denver on I-70 through the Rocky Mountains and down through the Colorado River valley is the most beautiful and scenic drive I’ve ever taken. For two hours all you’ll do is gasp in wonder every time you round a curve in the road. Near the top of the Rockies (you’ll get above 11,000 feet) you’ll pass through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which is the longest (1.7 miles) in the interstate system.

Utah: the eastern two-thirds of the state is a barren wasteland that seems less friendly and habitable than Mars. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s a sign I saw on I-70: NO SERVICES FOR THE NEXT 100 MILES. At least the speed limit was 80 MPH. Between that and the polygamy the Mormons seem to know how to have a little fun. I overnighted in Richfield, Utah. Day Two: 940 miles completed. Posterior: numb.

Misadventures at Red Oktober 2021, Part I: You Can't Get There From Here
The 2021 Red Oktober Kalashnikov Championship was held at the Pro Gun Club in Boulder City, Nevada, about twenty minutes outside Las Vegas. Over 300 competitors showed up and had a good time.

From Richfield to Las Vegas is a mere 284 miles. Just a blink of an eye.

As I was arriving in town early, and in my own pickup truck, I was tasked with picking up ammo for the Pioneer Arms shooting team. Pioneer Arms is one of the sponsors for the match, and I know the owner, so guess who’s got two thumbs and got volunteered? This guy. I picked up four cases of 7.62x39mm ammo from Wolf Ammunition’s super-secret depot in Las Vegas. I believe the ammo was worth as much as my truck.

I was shooting the next morning, so I went to bed early. Then my phone started blowing up. Apparently other people hadn’t thought through the whole “carrying obvious rifle cases through the notoriously anti-gun casino/hotels” situation properly, and as a result I had a parade of people dropping off guns to my sketchy motel room until after midnight local (3 a.m. Michigan time).

Who needs sleep before a big match anyway, right?

Misadventures at Red Oktober 2021, Part I: You Can't Get There From Here
Tarr and his Red Oktober meme loadout: festively Cerakoted Pioneer Arms AK festively Cerakoted by Blackout Customs, smirk.

I ended up with four AKs, a Glock, 4000 rounds of ammo, some Tannerite, with an off-road capable truck, while 2000 miles from home. I can’t think of a better, more epic time for the damn zombie apocalypse to pop off, but…nothing.

Read Part 2: Baklava and Brendan

If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at

About the Author:

James Tarr is a longtime contributor to Firearms News and other firearms publications.  He is also the author of several books, including CARNIVORE, which was featured on The O’Reilly Factor.  His current best-selling novel, Dogsoldiers, is available now through Amazon.

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