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Taking a back seat by Ryan Charlton

Originally published in May 2021.

This month has seen a temporary change of emphasis in my shooting, it hasn’t all been about me! To start with Mrs C has been learning to shoot and being one of life’s “still people” is already excelling. The key with introducing your significant other or anyone else to your hobby is patience, even if they’ve been around guns for years little things like correctly loading a magazine, finding a target in a scope don’t come naturally and need to be learned.

With all types of shooting safety comes first, last and always, this is especially true when shooting on private land with high powered rifles. Having the ability to identify a safe position for a target in front of a good back stop whilst getting set up is a good way to begin this process. Safe gun handling with an emphasis on muzzle awareness, whilst keeping the trigger finger off the trigger until ready is a sound foundation to begin with. Specific to Precision Rifle shooting is moving position or between props with the bolt open. Being a non-shooter with zero engrained habits to change meant the safety aspect very quickly became second nature to Mrs C, something which will stand her in great stead as she progresses through her own shooting journey.

The one key element with all of this is to keep it fun and challenging, resisting the temptation to spoon feed how to do things and allowing her to figure things out herself has been the hardest part for me. That doesn’t mean I haven’t provided a little steer or tip to help things along, just remaining conscious of not bombarding her with all of my experience at once and overloading her. Once she’d figured things out, she was quickly ringing steels in a safe, repeatable manner and although she’s not ready to take to the firing line just yet, it’s not far away!

One of the key values within the Precision Rifle community is “paying it back”, it’s what makes the community great and provides a welcoming, supportive atmosphere. As I enjoy shooting with the Royal Marines Precision Rifle Association so much, when they needed Stage Officers to run the first in a series Tri Services matches, I was amongst a group of civilian members who returned the favour by taking a day off work to ensure all of the serving members of the Association could take part. During the weeks building up to the event we all assigned roles, areas and stages to ensure the smooth running of the day. The RMPRA committee did a fantastic job of coming up with a safe and challenging course of fire, as well as taking care of planning for all emergency situations. With this being my first time running stages at a match I was glad for the military attitude towards preparedness.

I was assigned “Area 3” which was comprised of two stages, a long range prone stage and a slightly closer positional stage which was shot from a sheep feeder, my role was to keep time and make sure the shooters adhered to safety guidelines. My colleague from Highland Defence, Michael spent the day spotting impacts for me to keep score with another colleague Ben taking some photos and drone footage. Watching the different ways competitors tackled the two different stages was a great experience for me, there’s many ways to skin a cat and it was really good to see how everyone got stuck in.

The feeder stage called for 4 shots to be taken from one opening, before climbing into the feeder to take another 4 from the other window, the par time was 120 seconds with a 12” target at 540m. The initial temptation was to reach across the feeder in the first position to use the far edge of the feeder as support, however this caused issues with clearance as most mags were catching on the near side. The guys who used the near side of the feeder as support and just poked the muzzle through the window, were able to make a good position easier. Once inside the feeder the shooting position was well support and comfortable. Proving that thinking outside of the box can help hugely with getting into a shooting position and getting comfortable quickly.

The long-range stage featured two targets at 865m, the target sizes were 10” and 20”, the shooter had to nominate their target with the smaller one being worth 2 points per hit. The par time for this stage was 75 seconds, as an added stressor the shooter began with mag removed and no corrections dialled on their scope. The competitors who scored well here were the ones who had everything except their scope setup – Bipod deployed, legs extended and rear bag in hand with the mag. Due to the short par time getting the initial setup right quickly was critical!

The entire day ran like clockwork and to military levels of punctuality, the shooters were all in great spirits as there was minimal waiting around – We even finished early! With competitors from the Army, RAF, Navy and the hosting Royal Marines, inter service banter and friendly rivalry was as hotly contested as the shooting! By using the Practiscore app the RMPRA committee quickly finalised the scores. Some excellent shooting from all involved saw the top three comprised of Mr O Curson (RM Vet) in 3rd, CSgt C Harrison (Royal Marines) in 2nd with Flt Lt Owen (RAF) in first place. With two more rounds of the Tri Service series still to go and more branches of the armed forces looking to take part the competition will be hotting up and the participation levels increase.

The early finish allowed the competitors a chance to try some of the tricky stages again and as there were a couple of spectators who were non-shooters. I let them try the stages on area 3 with my match rifle. With a little bit of coaching on wind calls and careful supervision there were massive smiles and Impacts all round! Which was the perfect way to finish an excellent day.

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