The one thing I always need more of in shooting is practice. The biggest improvement I can make is in my wind/enviroment reading. Sure I could drop a bundle of cash on better kit and probably pick up a few points.. Like many of you I am on a limited budget. If buying gear prevents you from getting to the range then you have things the wrong way round. Practice is not cheap, you have to hire range time and of course expend ammunition. It is also time consuming and sometimes uncomfortable due to unpredictable weather. Personally I find practice days huge fun. I get to shoot at my own pace and work out things which have been bugging the hell out of me. I have had a few days holiday from work and I set aside a day for long range practice. My shooting buddies for the venture were GnZ regular Sammy and his dear friend Les. We headed out to Bisley yesterday morning in the low winter sun and thick frost. The plan? 600yds in the morning followed by 1000yds in the afternoon with a cooked breakfast in between.
After just over an hours drive we arrived at Bisley shooting grounds. Bisley is known to many as “the home of target shooting”. It really is an amazing facility with a variety of ranges all the way out to 1200yds. Bisley complex is a warren of roadways, club buildings, shooting related shops, cafes and of course ranges. Many of the buildings are in the old colonial style and the place is just steeped in shooting history. Our first stop was the range office where I filled out relevant paperwork, parted with money and collected a radio that would put me into contact with the marker.
The view on century along the 600yd firing points.. It was cold!
We drove down to century range and were able to park directly behind our firing point. This is a real bonus for me as both Sam and Les have some health issues which prevent heavy lifting or carrying. I get the job of moving the gear so I am chuffed it is only a few feet away. Shooting sports are fantastic in terms of providing a level playing field for those of all physical abilities. Bisley ranges accomodate everyones needs very well. Les has some neck issues so he elects to shoot from a bench. Sam and I end up shooting from prone as usual.
It is worth a mention that Sam suffered from a variety of disabling medical complaints which had in the past prevented him getting comfortable in the prone position. I study health science at degree level and I run excercise classes for the over 75s as a day job. I gave Sam a diet and excercise program a couple of years back. He lost four stone, his diabetes vanished and his mobility increased so that now he is able to get down on the mat and shoot. If you want to keep shooting into old age, healthy living is a must.
I radioed through to the marker, a chap called Paul who proved to be fantastic. We watched through our scopes as the F class face went up down range. I was set up with my AR15, Sam with his Howa .223 sporting a new match barrel from RPA. Les was using his Parker Hale 7.62mm rifle. I wish now I am writing this that I had asked him more about it as he is a wealth of info on all things shooting. It looked like an M82 but I may be wrong. I was really keen to see how it would shoot.
Les shot from the bench with his highly accurate Parker Hale.
I began using GGG 5.56mm ammunition. This stuff is military surplus and often disregarded as innacurate. I use the 5.56 for the AR and 7.62 for my Remington and both hold an inch group at 100yds. My first shot of the day was in the 4 ring and the third in the 5 (bull) after which I stayed there consistently for around an hour. The wind was light to begin with but it soon began to swirl throwing us out into the 3s and 2s.
Les was able to get dialed in fairly quickly and I was really impressed with his rifle and his ability. He was also holding the 4/5 ring early on and getting blown about into lower scores as the weather changed. Sam had a rotten time. This was his first outing with the Howa .223 since he had a new barrel installed. I know Sam can shoot really well but his rifle was placing shots all over the target. It did not seem right. After the morning session had finished we had a good look over the rifle. The butt had worked loose and the forend had a lot of flex under light pressure. The Axiom stock on the gun is just not up to an acceptable standard, it might do for 50yd plinking but other than that – forget it. Sam immediately decided a replacement would be essential.
Sam and Les in position.
Just before breaking for lunch I ran some steel cased Barnaul .223 through the AR. I wanted to see the difference in trajectory and accuracy compared to the GGG. The Barnaul was exactly 2 Mils lower than the GGG. Nice info if you have to swap brands halfway through a shoot. The downside was that it sucked in terms of accuracy. The group sizes were 3 or 4 times larger than the GGG. While Barnaul is cheap I do have thresholds of acceptable accuracy. I would not choose to use it again.
Although the sun had made a few appearances we were all feeling the cold. We decided to head to the NSRA for lunch. We normally pop into the clays cafe but Les persuaded us otherwise. I am glad he did. I have never been into the Lord Roberts centre and I must say it was a pleasant experience. The place is spotlessly clean, the food was good and superb value. The centre itself holds smallbore ranges, rec rooms, function rooms and the NSRA shop. I only wish fullbore shooting recieved such brilliant funding! I went for a vegetarian breakfast and Les opted for a full English. Sam tucked into a portion of chips and we left feeling human again…
The Lord Roberts Centre. Home of the NSRA.
The ominous view downrange at Stickledown.
Stickledown or “sticks” as it is affectionately known is Bisleys longest civillian range. Targets are available out to 1200yds. We were booked for 1000yds. Les and Sam spent a while readying kit. I got straight down and began shooting. My cold bore shot hit the 3 ring at about 2 o’ clock. By now the wind was running at around 15-20 mph full value left to right. My follow up shots were a 4 followed by a Vbull which caused Sam to curse loudly when he saw the marker through his scope.
Les struggled in the prone position and after a few shots decided to stop before he injured his neck or back. Before packing up he offered me a shot with his Iron sighted .303 Enfield. I have shot a few Enfields but only out to 800 before. Unbeleivably I managed a first round hit in the 1 ring. Good enough for me! By now Sam had his RPA “green monster” set up and was putting shots into the 4 and 5 ring consistently. I joined in on the Remington and our performances were virtually identical. The wind is very tricky on Stickledown. The landscape encourages the wind to swirl which often pushes shots up and down as well as horizontal dispersion. As the sun was shining I was able to see mirage pretty easily which helped a lot. I was using my handloads for most of the afternoon but nearing the end I tried some factory ammo just to note the differences. I used some Lapua 155g first as I had 20 knocking about in the range bag. They were dreadful in my rifle. The first shot hit to the left by about 15ft and the second hit about 2 feet right with no changes made by me. The rest of them tightened up a little and produced a group about 3 feet in diameter. Then I tried a couple of MEN milsurp rounds. They were almost identical to my handloads in terms of trajectory and wind dispersion. Pretty suprising as they are cheap and ugly looking (dirty and horrid green primers). The last rounds I used were GGG which also matched handloads trajectory wise and produced a pleasing group (about 1.5moa).
We certainly had great fun which I think should be a priority. We all tend to improve at things we thoroughly enjoy. The practice also provided useable data regarding trajectory and accuracy of different ammunition in my rifle. I should stress that other rifles will be different. Something that shoots horribly in mine may be excellent in a different rifle. That is why doing your own testing is vital. Do not just go with what others say no matter how experienced they are. Every rifle (even the same models) are slightly different and have their own particular quirks. Testing allows us to exploit that and find the most suitable.
In a perfect world I would just stick with my own handloaded rounds but sometimes that is not possible. Consumables run low in stock and can take weeks to come back in. Some weeks I just do not get enough time for reloading because of work, study, family ect… It is nice to know you have a couple of reasonable backup propositions.
The day was also useful for diagnosing problems. Sam left the range with a clear idea of his rifles problem and a plan to solve it (new stock). Les was able to get an idea of limitations posed by muscular/skeletal issues and also left with a plan in mind (healthy diet, excercise and physio). This gave me an idea. I am considering a mobility class for the older shooters who are starting to find their physical ability is effecting their shooting. I currently run mobility classes for the over 75s which include stretches, seated excercises, postural awareness, yoga, meditation and diet advice. I could easily package my current class to be suitable specifically to the shooting community. It would be a single class which can be repeated at home and over time would deliver significant mobility improvements for the majority (as long as they keep up the hard work in their own time!). If I do it then I shall write an article first and try to see if it produces any interest.