IF you want to try your hand at Target shooting in Britain, you have a variety of different options. One of which is to ask your local NRA affiliated shooting club if they will have you over at a guest day. (This can lead to an invitation to probationary membership). The other of which is to shoot mini rifle at a mini rifle range or you can book a day at one of Britain’s commercial firearms training centres.
It supposed to be the summer time, but this is wales. The wind is howling over the mountain tops and it’s a grim day. I sit in my landrover with the window up. Eventually Tim, our instructor turns up in a double cab pick up. I know Tim from other courses at Orion. He’s such a phenomenal instructor, that he’s often booked up for weekends many months in advance.
“you’ve brought the weather with you” he mutters. I don’t really have a reply to that. This is June in the United Kingdom. It could be sunny or it could be, well, like today.
Soon enough a car of five men turns up; young professionals, they’re here for one of their 30th birthdays for a fun day out. Tim checks to see if everyone who has booked has turned up. Once he is satisfied that all is in order, he organises us into a convoy- and we drive off towards the range. The road winds up into the welsh hills and onto private land. Deep inside the valley we climb up to the firing points which make up the Orion fire Arms training range in Llangurig. The last time I was here was to write about the maritime firearms training course; for Gunsnzen. (see blog article here) That course was about taking former military experts and honing their skills. This course is quite the opposite.
The five youngsters have little or no previous experience with rifles. We pile into the Shackleton hut out of the wind. Paperwork is produced and everyone signs declarations. Tim produces a de-activated Lee Enfield .303 and goes through the five most important safety rules. I am despatched to put the kettle on. I can hear him through the open door- he goes through the rules again and again, asking questions- repeating himself, making the potential shooters understand the realities of rifles and rifle handling. Tim does a really professional job- I find myself going through the safety procedures while hoiking out teabags.
After tea and safety briefings, we hurry over to the covered firing points. To my surprise, Tim produces a plethora of semi Automatic M4 type rifles. I look closer and they are Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22’s. A .22RF version of the famous American Carbine. We all load up magazines with the tiny rounds and take our places at the benches. We are divided into two teams, spotters and shooters. We keep these pairs all day long.
“Shooting is not about pulling the trigger, it is about spotting, its about seeing where the shots go. It’s about supporting your opposite number”
And with that, the lads start shooting at targets at 50 metres. Tim is very careful to explain the principles of marksmanship, stock weld and a steady hand. The shooters are all on at 50 metres then 100m and then to my amazement they are spot on at 200m. Tiny metal crows and foxes fall prey to the .22RF rounds. The shooting is very controlled and sensible; the lads are over the moon with their excellent progress. The wind picks up and the small rounds are affected by it. Tim then teaches the shooters to aim off- and they again succeed in hitting all of the targets. It is all I can do to not let rip on semi auto and “two tap” all the figure 11’s in quick succession. The S&W 15-22 is a phenomenally accurate rifle. Tim runs a series of serial practices- where the shooters switch from one target to another rapidly, in a mild form of civilian service rifle competition.
Satisfied with our performance we are taken to the drim- the bridge wing of a ship that has been constructed specially for the anti piracy maritime shooting courses. (Which we covered in a previous article) We line up on the rail spotters and riflemen alike and tim calls out a series of targets. We are using our .22RF rifles at 270 metres. Tim has brought along a Sig Sauer. I ask nicely if I might use that rather than an M4. He gives me a small smile and nods. I only realise after some time that I have iron sights and the novices have 4x optical scopes. They continue to shoot out to 300m and my shooting suffers.
At this point we are about to break for lunch; and Tim has one final trick. After all his training- he instructs the novices on how much to hold off, and has us all shoot out to 450metres and the far lake. The result is impressive. The rounds splash into the water giving instant feedback and the shooters bring their rounds to bear on the targets. The metal pings as the rounds smack home. I cannot see what I am doing too well at 450M so I stitch my rounds from left to right on the lack, eventually hitting the target. The Sig Sauer is a nice rifle, probably more accurate than the SW 15-22 (when scoped and in the right hands – i.e. hands other than my own) but I wonder if I prefer the ergonomics of the Smith and Wesson M4.
After lunch there is a progression to full bore rifles; just as the weather turns even worse. The wind gusts and drops, and the rain becomes relentless. The shooters take their places at the bench rests as the spotters stand behind them with their vortex binoculars. (a review of these products is to follow). They have a pair of 308’s and a remmington .223. The excellent magpul mag conversions have been done by Brock and Norris. The rain pours into the firing point and Tim reminds everyone to keep their ammunition dry. After some sighters at 100 yards and 200 yards, Tim allows the shooters to put into practice their lessons on rage calculation and scope adjustment. The shooters twiddle the knobs on top of the scopes, add MOA and fire.
At this point I rejoin the party with my 26 inch barrel Remington 700. This is mounted in a Macmillan A5 stock and has been rebarrelled by Mark Bradley of Bradley Arms. (watch this space for a review) of some of his excellent products. My rounds skip under and around the target at 800 yards. Earth is thrown up all around the big disk. I get rather annoyed-but keep adjusting my point of aim. I never hit the target. To my annoyance, and Tim’s glee, the novices simply ping and keep pinging the target! Maybe it’s Tim’s instruction of maybe its good luck; but half of them out shoot me.
All too soon for the new shooters the day ends. The rifles are cleared, double checked, and then removed to the estate vehicle. Then it’s back to the Shackleton hut for a debrief, feedback and a cup of tea. We all sit and chat – while Tim explains how to take up and continue sport shooting in the UK. We’ll be addressing that interesting subject in another article.
Article by Turkish Raf
Premier Shooting Experiences: (Tim Davies- bespoke shooting instruction)
Orion Firearms Training: (That amazing range and training establishment in West Wales)
John Bradshaw Guns: (Suppliers of my M&P 15-22)
The National Rifle Association of the UK: (Find your local NRA Affiliated shooting Club)