September Training

Graham Nelson
H.M. The Queen fires a shot at the Bisley Centenerary.

The team met early for breakfast on Saturday for the start of our training weekend. The excitement that might usually accompany the first training weekend now we are an official GB touring team was noticeably and appropriately dampened by the sombre national events of the preceding days; the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, not only our Queen but also our Patron.

A minute’s silence was observed across Bisley ranges prior to the start of shooting, followed immediately by a 96 gun salute, provided by those competing in the European F-Class Championships.

Short range was the first order of the day, with 6 targets of 4 or 5 firers each shooting 2 sighters and 15 shots to count at 300 and then 600 yards on ICFRA targets. Initially light winds allowed us to focus on rhythm and grouping and many of the team starting the weekend strongly. Glyn Barnett lead a host of maximum possible 75s with a 75 with 14 vee bulls (he called the 1!). At 600 yards and with the day warming up, the wind developed a more pronounced fishtail (coming from the left and then the right alternately). This was enough to keeps coaches on their toes and provided a good opportunity to practice communication skills through our wireless Swatcom Multicom headsets. Where possible coaches encouraged their firers to build rhythm. Much like 300 yards, performances and scores were very encouraging (13 scores of 75) with Glyn again top of the pile with 75.11, a single vee ahead of David Luckman.

Lunch in the Surrey Rifle Association clubhouse was provided by the very talented chef Piotr (his food proving almost too tempting for a number of us) and we were joined by fellow GB-shot Simon Shouler, owner of Clearview Scopes and Stands. He was joined by John McIntosh of Kowa. An informative presentation on the various types and merits of different optic set ups and materials followed, and then a generous invitation to trial any of the scopes and eyepieces available during the afternoon’s long-range session. We took full advantage of the offer.

In the afternoon the team moved back to 1000 yards to fire 2 details of 15 scoring shots. A combination of the tight ICFRA target face, our longest distance and periods of tricky wind linked to the patchy (and very occasionally damp) cloud cover promised to make for an entertaining afternoon’s shooting. Several of the target coaches took up the offer to try different optic equipment in their quest for a best view of mirage in the autumn conditions, with the Captain and Vice finding themselves playing a metaphorical game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ for the right to try out the Kowa ‘Highlander’ scope. The Highlander is a most impressive piece of equipment, comprising 2 independent 82mm scopes and eye pieces. The colour, mirage and 3 dimensional depth definition is spectacular (and sadly for this author, also the price tag). The ammunition continued to perform well (especially if the loader has remembered to put the powder in the case before seating the bullet!) . Matt Purdy’s 75.12 was the highest individual score of the afternoon, closely followed by 75s from Jane Messer, David Rose, Chris Watson and Parag Patel. Readers will note that the record in the Palma Match at 1,000 yards is 75.11.

Highest aggregate score of the day was made by Theo Dodds with a total of 299.35, dropping just one point on the whole day. Congratulations to Theo and to his coach Jason Pepera-Hibbert.

An excellent evening meal was again provided by Piotr and toasts were raised to Her Majesty and to our new King.

Sunday morning started with a thick fog. This was not related to the aforementioned toasts of the night before but more to do with the rapidly approaching autumn. The limited visibility meant that the start of shooting was delayed, and that the morning’s shooting was restricted to two details at 300 yards. Firing GGG ammunition at ICFRA targets is always fun and gentle wind conditions allowed for some more high scoring. Some team members were introduced to a longer, 20 counting shot shoot for the first time but all met the challenge well.

A number of maximum scores of 175 were made, with Chris Mitchell and David Luckman topping the pile with 26 vees each. Top target team for the 20 round detail, coached by Seth Dowley, finished with an impressive 499 out of 500, with just one shot sneaking into the inner.

The Captain watches over his team…

Lunch on Sunday signalled the end of squad training and the start of the ‘Friends and Family’ guest afternoon. 61 guests joined us for an afternoon of taster sessions under our ‘expert’ supervision; trying their hand at long-range match rifle, short-range target rifle and extra short-range gallery rifle. Coaching, hosting and ancillary support roles were shared out between team members based on a number of factors, including skill sets. This apparently meant that a certain GM2, GC3, SM, SB3, SC6 was felt best employed as a butt marker, his first trip in a working capacity to the Stickledown target shed.

Some impressive scores including some 34s (out of 35) at 1,000 yards started to appear on the team Whatsapp chat, prompting discussions about late additions to the squad. Jeremy stayed faithful to his selection decisions. The weather stayed dry for our guests and 56 smiling faces congregated for tea and prize giving back at the Surrey Clubhouse. Our thanks to them for coming to join and support us on the ranges, and to all those involved in running the day, particularly Jemima Hince and Rosanne Furniss.

A collection of tired minds and bodies ventured to our various homes around the UK, ready to return for our next session in October.

Complete weekend scores

Target teams line up at 600 yards.