The MPGS Gurkha on guard is positively beaming. He looks like the happiest man in Pirbright, and there is nothing he would rather be doing this early Sunday morning, than check in 100 civilians onto his base. He’s assisted by Fred from the NRA, who is armed with a list of names as he verifies the identity of the competitors and checks them off. Fred ticks his list gives directions to the Range Complex and the Gurkha says ” Good morning” and I’m inside the British Army’s Training Centre at Pirbright. Twice a year the Civilian Service Rifle shooters of the NRA are invited to compete at Nelson Range, the Urban Contact Training Range.
We assemble on the range for a briefing on procedures and scoring, and are sent away to find a firing point. Peter Cottrell, the Head of the Shooting Division, offers to give a quick demonstration to anyone who wants a reminder. Thirty people gather round him and another instructor as they brief us on position and hold. “Remember, shooting off a post, your shots will go high- so compensate” Peter tells us all. “Drop your left knee when shooting round the barricade”, “If you have not done it before, then act as Safety Supervisor and watch what goes on. It’s sage advice, that indisputably helps.
The layout at Nelson range is unique, it has a firing point every 25 yards from 100-25 yards. But there are no butts at all. There are four turning targets with a sandy valley behind. In the distance, to the right we can see the western end of the butts on Stickledown. This has the unique effect of the shooter seeing only a valley until a Figure 11 target appears for seconds in front of him or her. We place poles in the ground to simulate walls and red barricades to simulate low walls. The next firing points are marked spots on the earth close to the targets themselves.
“There is no other range like this anywhere in the world” says Mark Bradley; one of the team working behind the scenes to promote Civilian Service Rifle. He is correct.
Course Of Fire
The day consists of two practice runs and then two competitive runs. I act as Safety Supervisor for a retired soldier. The targets face us, and the valley disappears, my shooter steps forward, leans on the post and takes two deliberate shots at the Fig 11. There are four further exposures and he shoots at all 4. He conducts a make safe and we wait for a target flash- at this point he charges forward to the barricade and crouches down. The target appears again and all shooters on the 20 firing points unleash a well-placed 5 round volley. Even with ear defenders- the sound is deafening. The targets turn away and there is an eerie silence on the range.
The Civilian Service Rifle shooters wait, breathing quietly, leaning around the barricade, until the targets face again and another five round volley continues. Almost as soon as the volley ends, my shooter is making safe and loading another magazine. He has to dash forward again – but here he has to fire one round standing and then kneel instantly and fire again at a Figure 14 target. As soon as he has snapped off his two shots he returns to the standing position. Easy enough for a young person who frequently visits the gym but my man has grey hair.
At the end of this practice he loads his last magazine and prepares to run one final time. At 25 yards the tiny Figure 14 targets are exposed three times and the shooter has to get off all ten rounds, ideally a very small circle. When this is over the shooter unloads – shows “clear” to the Safety Supervisor who then indicates to the RCO who is checking the whole firing line – they ease springs and insert breech flags.
We all walk forward to count scores and patch the targets up for the next shooter. The entire practice has taken just 6 minutes. When it comes to my turn, I trip on the 50 yard mark. My rifle goes flying and the muzzle brake is engulfed in earth. Following my rifle less gracefully, I swan dive down onto what is thankfully soft grass. Now not allowed to fire as there is not time to check the muzzle is clear before making ready, I run on with my Safety Supervisor to the 25 yard firing point. And while the rest of the line engage the target, I unload, show clear, ease springs and insert my breech flag.
“Don’t worry” says my Safety Supervisor, as we count hits on my targets, “We’ve all done it”
A Quick Fix
Half way through the next practice, the targetry stops working. The RCO takes it in his stride and stats shouting “Face” and “Away” to simulate the targets turning. But after the practice, the Range Warden spends some time trying to fix the system. It’s a stunning day and we lie on the grass relaxing, eating sandwiches or chatting away. Soon enough the targets are fixed and we get on with the day. The format of shoot does not change, but it does not need to. The shoot is fast paced and gets the heart pumping every single time.
The standard of shooting is extremely high, (falls not withstanding) with some personal bests being recorded. Even with the temperamental targetry, the final shoot is completed well within the 4.00PM cease-fire on the army range. This is fortunate as there are quite a few winners. A quick tiebreak shoot has to take place to find the winner in the tied Service Optic Class; Adam Chapman and Gwyn Roberts both on 375. After a short prize giving, it’s all smiles at the gate again and we drive home.
Know and Go!
The Civilian Service Rifle competition is growing every day, every competition and every year. Part of this growth has to be the warm welcome that is showed to newcomers. The Urban Contact Match is one of its more challenging competitions and even here the directing team took time to coach and help people with hired rifles. Anyone interested in shooting CSR – should contact the NRA CSR Discipline Representative on CSR@NRA.org.UK or call the Shooting Division and ask for details. There are three introduction courses to CSR held every year at National shooting Centre and they cannot be recommended highly enough. The NRA has its own AR15 rifles which members can hire for use at Bisley through the Range Office.
Article by Raf Jah