There's ammunition...then there's Ammunition

First a little history. Target Rifle shooting has experienced a lot of change over the last 30 years, and, as with most sports, seen an ever-increasing standard at all levels. Scores that seemed superhuman then are now commonplace. Several factors have contributed to this, the first step change in standard came with the development of rifles specifically designed for Target Rifle shooting. Most notably the early 70s saw the advent of the 4 lug front locking bolt, the Swing or SIN action, designed by George Swenson. Variants of this design are now used by 95% of top level shooters in the country.

Probably more significant has been the improvement in ammunition. Until fairly recently all major competition in UK was shot using factory loaded ammunition, almost exclusively from Radway Green (RG), using a 144 grain bullet. However, ammunition quality was variable and often not good enough to allow consistent accurate shooting at the longest range - 1000 yards. Many of us remember having a 'compensating' Enfield No.4 rifle specifically for long range to reduce the effect of this variation. The quality of RG improve after incorporating a new design using a bullet of 155 grains about a decade ago. Other premium quality loads also became available and it is now possible, in reasonable weather, to shoot bull sized groups at 1200 yards with a target rifle, unheard of 20 years ago. The most recent development is the move to Swiss made RUAG ammunition at the Imperial Meeting, Target Rifle's premier championships at Bisley.  Using a 155 grain Sierra bullet, this ammunition is even more consistent. However, in the majority of overseas championships hand-loading is allowed.  In the UK this was the preserve of a few mavericks as it is largely not permitted in competition, but allows the most accurate bullet.

This then poses a quandary for any GB teams competing abroad. What ammunition to use when the majority of the team's domestic shooting experience comes from the use of factory-loaded ammunition. In a team of 20 there may be only 3 or 4 who have the knowledge and experience of developing and loading ammunition. Whilst they may be able to manufacture enough for their own needs while away, it is not a practical proposition for them to load for the whole team. A quick calculation of the time required to make the requirement of about 20,000 needed for a team gives a figure of about 150 hours, or 4 working weeks. Difficult unless you happen to be clinically unhinged!