Originally published in November 2020
One of the largest areas of growth in rifle target shooting in recent years has been Precision Rifle shooting, the art of hitting small targets a long way away, from an improvised shooting position, against the clock! The combination of accurate shooting, movement, problem solving and testing individual marksmanship skills means there’s enough to test the abilities of every rifle shooter.
In the UK we’re lucky to have multiple options to take part, from local shoots held in private woodland, to shoots attracting shooters from all over the country held at purpose built ranges. Gardners Guns having recently moved to a new 2 mile range, have the extremely popular Send It Series which caters for centrefires (Big Sis) and rimfires (Little Sis) so there’s something for everyone.
The final Sis round of 2020 was held in mid October and was a great day out, some of the best rifle shooters in the country had shown up to see what the challenging course of fire had in store. We were all greeted with bacon rolls and hot drinks on arrival. Being Autumn in Scotland there was a wide variety of weather making appearances, as an additional test for competitors! One of the great things about the Sis format having two competitions running on the same course of fire means that shooters can enter both competitions and double up their trigger time – I chose to do this with my buddy Jack Crawford who shared my 22LR for the day.
Jack and I were squadded with other members of the Royal Marines Precision Rifle Association. It was the first time shooting a match for most of the squad, so Jack and I elected to shoot first and second at each stage. To give an idea of how to deal with the individual challenges they presented and act as a sounding board as the other guys planned how to approach each stage. This also meant that we had more time to get the rimfire ready between us, as we shot the Little Sis targets after everyone else had shot the Big Sis targets.
The day was split into two parts with the morning session being held around the club house which would offer some protection from the elements as the forecast was looking worst for the morning. Given the Covid regulations meant there was a lot of time spent hanging around in the carpark and provided a great chance to speak with other shooters including lots of other first timers. The Club House area included stages with a rope loop to shoot from, a blind stage with multiple objects to shoot from, a nearest to the bull stage using the electronic shot marker system and my favourite stage which was a really fast mover stage. The stage was shot from a strap, there were three targets, the first was to start the mover, which then started the mover off along its wire at 8mph which required 5 mils of lead to connect with and we got two shots at! At the other end of the wire was another target which again, once hit sent the mover off for another run and two shots! Given the speed and tricky position I approached this wanting to make sure I definitely hit the two targets sat either end, as such I probably shot the stage with too high a magnification setting on my scope – The usual 18x made it hard to pick it up when around 8-10x would’ve been easier to pick up the target.
A lunch time break for a buffet was a great opportunity for chin wag, the wind was being really tricky and swirling around the valley and gullies. One of the things I liked most was the use of red led target flashers on most of the targets which indicate when the target is hit, these make scoring more reliable and leave no room for errors, added in with each stage having a dedicated spotter with a spotting scope along with a stage officer things ran nice and smoothly.
For the final five stages in the afternoon were shot from further down the hill, the weather forecast was just for light showers and sunshine which meant not only were conditions great for rainbows but also spotting bullet trace (The wake as the bullet travels through the air). We started with an unknown distances stage that had 3 “Huns Head” targets stretching out along the track which goes down range, each one being shot in order three times. Having noted the distances from the morning for each target backstop, this allowed us to get a good approximation of the distances. The shooting position was from the bonnet of an old 4×4 which was nice and stable meaning especially on the further targets picking up trace for the wind was easy, most of our group only missing once or twice. One thing I did differently for this stage was to quickly swap the spiked feet on my MDT Cyke Pod for some spare rubber ones, spiked feet are excellent on most surfaces, however on a car bonnet/roof they can bounce around making spotting your shot tricky. Another interesting stage involved shooting from a beer barrel in a circle with nothing allowed outside of the circle, which made everyone conscious of making a small foot print. As well as a classic roof top style stage which for an added twist incorporated a positional change.
Once we’d finished shooting the scores were quickly totted up and verified, top score of the day in the Big Sis was John Morgan-Hosey and I’d managed to hit enough to win the Little Sis. The long drive back from Scotland to the Midlands meant a late arrival back home and next time I visit I’ll stay over on Friday and Saturday night with some of the other shooters, to make a longer, more sociable weekend of it!
Another terrific shoot is the “Practical Rimfire Hunters Challenge” held on the last Saturday of each month. As the name suggests the course of fire is a simulation of walking through woods hunting, in this case Squirrels; Every target is Squirrel shaped! Which makes for a good fun way to spend a day shooting a rimfire and is great practice under field conditions. Utilising fence posts, trees and shooting sticks as props to shoot from with minimal supportive gear allowed and excellent company. A typical setup will feature three squirrels at an unknown distance making range finding by eye a key skill for a successful day. With no timer to worry about the emphasis is on making good clean accurate shots as you would when hunting. With Squirrel hunting at its core being able to shoot freehand with no support is a very useful skill to have and one which is all too often left unpractised!
The final meeting of the year featured a long range squirrel shoot which was a for a meat tray prize! Each shooter took it in turns to shoot 3 times at squirrel silhouettes from a larger fallen tree, the first at 150y, the second 196y and the final squirrel at 253y. With the wind gusting from 15-20mph the worthy winner of the meat tray was Benjamin McIlwane who only missed once out of nine shots!
The rules of Precision Rifle shooting are simple, firstly be safe and prepared for whatever challenges the course designer is testing with the course of fire. Once you get to the firing line you’re presented with a stage that usually consists of at least one obstacle which is used to shoot from, instructions on how many shots are to be taken from which positions and in how much time. At the other end of the range will be one or more steel targets at a predetermined range, each time you hit the target you score a point and a spotter will shout “IMPACT” to signify a hit! The stage officer will brief the squad of shooters with how the stage is to be shot, once this is over with it’s time to get you gear prepped and ready to begin shooting.
If all of this has grabbed your interest here’s some more info on how to get involved. The Precision Rifle League runs a national series from Orion Firearms Training and Valhalla Precision.
Gardners Guns have announced the dates for the 2021 SIS events already and places are filling fast.
The Royal Marines Precision Rifle Association hold regular practice events for serving or ex service personnel and will be conducting multiple charity precision rifle events which are open to all throughout 2021, with all funds raised going directly into military charities.
Links To Get Involved
Precision Rifle League – https://precisionrifleleague.co.uk/
Orion Firearms Training – http://www.orionfirearmstraining.co.uk/
Gardners Guns – https://www.gardnersguns.co.uk/
Royal Marines Precision Rifle Association on Facebook and Instagram
Practical Rimfire Hunters Challenge on Facebook