Originally published in March 2020
Following the PRL season finishing, I needed to get my Precision Rifle fix and luckily Tiff Dew arranged for one of the top American Precision Rifle shooters – Scott Satterlee to host a two day clinic at The Roundhouse Firearms Training Facility. Fifteen shooters from all over Europe attended. The clinic began with some classroom discussions to establish the theory and discuss things in detail. The topics included everything from marksmanship fundamentals, reloading methods, rifle building and focussed heavily on environmental effects, along with how this affects ballistics. Armed with the newly acquired knowledge we went to the firing line to establish a precise zero and begin the process of truing our ballistics data. Given that ballistics is key to pointing the rifle in the right place, it’s crucial that this data is verified and proven – The only good data, is proven data.
The data in my Kestrel had been good all season, so at 600y I was able to establish that my muzzle velocity and zero was spot on the water line showing no variances on the vertical point of impact. We made our way back to the 1000y firing point and we spotted that my impacts were slightly higher on the target that the aim point. This shows that the bullet hasn’t slowed down as much as predicted as it has a higher Ballistic Coefficient than I was using. With that corrected we moved to 1100y and with the data in my Kestrel now “trued” I made a first round impact dead centre on the target and repeated it to prove it wasn’t a fluke! With the rain and fog coming in to restrict vision, we retreated back to the classroom to wrap up what we’d learned. The Saturday night involved a barbeque and social, with shooters from Norway, France and all over the UK in attendance a great night was had by all.
The second day began with a hike to the 1200y firing point for a quick confirmation of the data we’d collected the previous day, again my Howa steered a Nosler RDF into the centre of the target in tricky conditions. Full of confidence the group moved downhill to the barricade firing point for the Precision Rifle aspect of the clinic, where Scott shared his wealth of experience on tackling the barricades. Some of the techniques included using a tripod for a rear support, using a bipod to act as a barricade stop and lock everything in position. As well as dealing with restrictions that old injuries and medical conditions place on individual shooters. Following the general overview we split into smaller groups, to help each other figure things out and problem solve with Scott offering his insights. Everyone made plenty of impacts and improved as the afternoon went on, pleasingly this was from barricades that are used regularly at the Roundhouse. Training opportunities like this are rare in the UK and everyone who attended had signed up immediately, for good reason. The entire weekend was a gathering of like minds, everyone took lots of great information away to help improve and practice for the next competition.
In my case this was the Pennine Tactical Cup, held at Diggle Ranges on a Sunday and Monday late in October. Never one to miss a chance to fill a weekend with shooting I arranged to shoot a local rimfire competition named the Squirrel Cup on account of all of the targets being Squirrel shaped. With the PRL22 due to start in the next season lots of shooters are looking for a 22 rifle to go with their centrefires and this has been the perfect way to practice positional shooting. In very heavy rain and strong winds a small group of hardy shooters turned out to engage Squirrel shaped gongs from field positions, out to 240y dotted around a stunning setting in North Leicestershire. The competition was a wash out as the rain dissolved the score cards, however our spirits weren’t dampened and we all had a great time and made a surprisingly large amount of impacts which was a good confidence boost for our journey to Diggle. At the beginning of the new year and season the Squirrel Cup will be evolving into a league, whilst remaining true to its field shooting roots the rules will remain simple with an emphasis on safe fun.
After stripping and drying out my rimfire and the rest of our clothing, Alex and I spent the Saturday night in our Air BnB, with the fire on performing dry fire practice to get ready for the next day. This competition was totally different to anything I’d done before as it was more of a sniper style competition with the targets being a mixture of steel plates and paper. Alex is a veteran of this style of competition so gave me some new ideas to try, like dialling wind to keep the point of aim in the centre of the target instead of holding off like I usually do.
After signing in as a guest at the club, being assigned a shooter number and listening to the safety brief, the field split into two groups. With one group shooting and one on butts detail to keep the targets presented to the shooters. After my first experience of butts detail I was excited to shoot the first stage as it was ten shots from the sitting position using a tripod which is something I’m very comfortable with so expected to do well. One thing I never usually do is try something for the first time away from a practice session, but excitement got the better of me and I dialled my windage correction on. Unfortunately I dialled the wrong way and made things worse by not noticing until I was halfway through my ten shot string. The next stage we moved from 200y to 300y to take ten shots from an oil drum, at a McQueens target. I added to my bad start by not resetting my windage turret and holding off! Following my first shot I chastised myself and reset the windage turret on my scope so I could carry on as I usually would to recover some points!
The final two stages used steel targets at 400y, which is more my thing as the instant feedback from how the steel reacts when hit, gives information on what the bullet is doing in the wind. Following a quick lunch break our group started off with a PRL style stage involving 5 shots from a roof top, a mag change and 5 shots from a tank trap with a time limit of 2 minutes. Pleasingly I cleaned the stage in just over 70 seconds, which in a tricky wind had caused a lot of the good shooters some issues. Our next stage involved taking 5 shots from the rungs of a ladder onto the 400y steel plate before dialling back and engaging 5 Halloween Zombie targets at 100y with our shooter numbers. There were bonus points for head shots and the par time 2 minutes. I hit steel with every shot and made 3 head shots on the zombies. Unfortunately for Alex who hit every shot on steel and made all five Zombie headshots on another shooters target!
The final stage saw us dress back to 600y to engage the steel plate with 10 shots, all of the shooters were in a line in number order. With Alex next to me hitting with every shot, I had a tough act to follow as the last shooter of the day, thankfully I made every shot count making 10/10 hits on target. We tidied away the obstacles and barricades as the competition organisers tallied up the days scores, a small group of us waited in the clubhouse for the standings at the end of day one. Alex was in second place by just 5 points having gifted 50 to another shooter on the Zombie stage! My strong performance on the steel targets had got me into fourth place despite my earlier windage dialling errors! With the guns safely stored we had a quick shower and change, before meeting up with the other competitors at a local Indian restaurant for dinner and some story swapping!
Day two was far more technical being 100% paper targets, which aren’t something I ever shoot past 100y to establish a zero. We began the day with an 800y cold bore shot from the prone position without a bipod in 30 seconds. Before moving back to 800y to shoot a group, at 900y we shot animal silhouettes and at 1000y we had a small group challenge. Sadly for me the Diggle wind hampered me all day, switching around either side when I was attempting to shoot the kill zone of the animal silhouettes but heart breakingly pushing a shot out of the scoring zone and zeroing any points from what would’ve been the smallest 1000y group of the day! As we waited for the scores to be counted the more experienced shooters had climbed the leader board with Alex dropping to sixth place and me to eighth. With Alex driving back we talked about how we could improve for next time, shooting paper had exposed some big flaws in my technique so I needed to practice far more on such an unforgiving target.
Away from the competition circuit all of the time behind a rifle has had a pronounced effect on my regular fox and deer shooting. The ability to get an accurate shot off from an awkward position quickly has kept pheasants safe and the freezer full.