The Goal

The Goal

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Imperial 2017 Retrospective

It has taken a while for me to get around to writing up my range report from the 2017 Imperial Meeting; a mixture of inertia, general business at work and taking a brief break from training before getting stuck back in got in the way. It's a lovely, lazy but rainy Sunday afternoon here in Laingholm with a roast in the oven and a small glass of red* next to me as I write, so it seemed like a good time to look back on how things went and where I have to go next. To summarise: I got done what I needed to get done, but still have a decent amount of work to do in the lead up to the Commonwealth Shooting Federation Championships in November and hopefully the Commonwealth Games in April 2018.

In recent years, it has been my technique and scoring at short range that has driven my aggregate positions; however this year it was a bit different. I seemed to be able to hold a reasonable group at short, but kept on sneaking them out the sides. Although the wind was tricky at times I have a sneaking suspicion that I had been helping them occasionally.

Century 600x. Elevation was mostly OK, but the wind wasn't that hard.
By contrast my long range worked very well and I dropped few points over the hill, which pulled me up nicely in the aggregates and I managed to win the Palma Aggregate only two points down, beating DC by a few vee bulls.

Corporation 1000x. Wind was slightly harder that the graph implies, but not by much.
By the end of the meeting, I had achieved what I needed to. I didn't deliver anything spectacular, but I did come away with 20th in the Grand Aggregate albeit after a rather disappointing 71.7 in the Prince of Wales where every decision I made on the wind appeared to be wrong (I had worked my way up to 4th by that point.) I made up for this minor debacle by shooting 105.15 in Queen's I and, while my 146.16 in Queen's II left the possibility of an MCS in doubt, the conditions on the Saturday were benign enough that I put in a 149.15 in the final to leave me with a Commonwealth Games MCS of 400.46

Job done.

Queen's III 900x - Shot values rewritten in pen as far as possible because the card got soaked.

Queen's III 1000x - Elevation not quite so good as 900x but good enough. If shot 10 had gauged in, I would have top-scored in the final.
The heroes of the meeting were, of course, my legendary pardner CJW who took away the Grand Aggregate (not a bad effort for a man who claims to be better at a sprint than the marathon) along with PMP who finally won his first Queen's Prize. Other notable results included Great Britain's 21st consecutive win in the Kolapore; although the only time I can see this run being broken is perhaps when the Palma Match returns to Bisley in about a decade's time**; without enough teams with enough strength in depth it is hard to envisage someone surpassing the team's professional approach and ability to select from the broadest group of eligible shooters. By contrast Wales were not able to repeat our winning National Match performance from 2016 and England once again dominated.

CJW GC #Legend
It was a good year, a good meeting. The only real regrets I have from it are that Katrina and the kids weren't able to join me, and that I didn't seem to get more than two minutes with anyone I wanted to catch up with.

* Fickle Mistress, a Pinot Noir from Central Otago.
** My apologies to the 2018 Kolapore Captain if I just jinxed you.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Thoughts on the role of the Wing Officer

This year, for the first time ever, I received in my squadding a special duty as a Wing Officer. I will admit under no duress whatsoever that I was rather pleased at this, as I have always rather naively perceived it as being one of the marks of elderhood on Bisley common. I had remarked as such to my friend HP shortly before the start of my stint during the first stage of the St. George's, and was overheard by well-known rifle shot and bon viveur DFPR.

Wing Officer on duty. Has power over the very fabric of space and time.
Our conversation went something like this:

"Is it your first ever time as a Wing Officer?"

"Yes! I'm rather looking forward to it. I get to wander around the range chatting to my friends for an hour or two and watch some shooting."

"Well there is that, but you know that you could have to completely ruin someone's holiday?"

I did not give this comment the serious consideration it was due and replied rather flippantly "Yes, so don't give me any of your crap R_______!"

Once I had excused my crass attempt at humour, we went on to discuss the very real possibility that I might have to make a ruling which could remove a significant number of points from a shooter's score. The most immediate situation I could think of was when a shooter had been unreasonably given a miss when they had previously been shooting bullseyes and no obvious cross shot had been observed; something which has happened to me on several occasions over the years, and which also happened to one competitor three times during the 2017 Imperial Meeting. Almost inevitably, the competitor is going to ask that the Wing Officer gets involved and, because of the rules regarding additional shots being awarded, it is also extremely common that the Chief Range Officer is asked to make a ruling.

DFPR's point went far beyond mere interpretation of the rules though, he remarked "Anyone can tell you what the rules are. The role requires experience and a deep sympathy for the shooter.*"

While I am in sympathy with the first statement but do not completely agree with it, I wholeheartedly endorse the second. In contrast to the bondage and discipline nature of the ISSF rulebook, which attempts to legislate every situation and aspect of the conduct of shooting, the philosophy underpinning the rules of fullbore rifle relies on the spirit of sportsmanship and good competition; an approach which necessitates interpretation of the rules by the Competitor Range Officer, Wing Officer and Chief Range Officer. In order for informed rulings to be made, the hierarchy need to know the rules; however for reasonable and just decisions to be made they also need to be enlightened by a sense of empathy and justice.

* A philosophy completely ignored by the Committee of Appeal at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, but that's a story for another day.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Belmont Range Report - Watch for the Drop Offs!

As I have previously noted, all rifle ranges have their quirks, so it's always a good idea to go and have a bit of a pop before you go and do anything serious on a particular range. As it had been nearly six years since I'd last had a crack at Belmont during the 2011 World Long Range Championships, I decided that it would be worthwhile to pop over with the NZ Commonwealth Games squad and have a shoot there to get my eye in. It proved a worthwhile venture.

Belmont Range, Brisbane. The terminal on the right connects to the HEXTA electronic target system.
After a bit of a logistical cockup with the course of fire to be shot alongside the Aussies, I was going to be a Queen's I short of a full HMQPCOF. Fortunately I was able to enter the short range of the Natives' Rifle Club Championships on the Saturday. Shot on the superb HEXTA electronic targets* in fairly benign conditions, it was a nicely gentle reintroduction to the range. I was pleased to slot them all in, even if the conditions weren't massively challenging, mostly requiring only a bit of centering and the occasional change.

300x - Not a bad start. The HEXTA electronics worked well also.

500x - Keeping it together well, and still sheltered from the wind.

600x - Ignore shots 8, 9 & 10 as they were tacked on the end using CWG ammunition.
After my arrival, I'd found out that the Commonwealth Games ammunition was available in the Q Store; albeit at a rather steep AUD47 per 20 rounds. I picked up a box so I could see how it would go and was able to tack a few rounds on the end of my shoot at 600 yards. It seemed to group OK, although about 1/2 minute lower than my Optimus 155 handloads**.

With the third round of the Australia Cup not taking place until the Monday, I'd get to have a day off with the family; we had rented a place down in Broadbeach on the Gold Coast which backed on to the beautiful golden sandy beach. In addition to being a shooting holiday and a chance to refresh my memory of the conditions on the range, it was a treat for Katrina who would be celebrating her birthday on the Tuesday. We spent the Sunday morning on the beach, before heading over to one of the many amusement parks clustered around the area.

Heading up to the range on the Monday morning for an 08:30 start, it was clear that the conditions were going to be a bit tougher; I could see the flags standing proud from their poles as I drove along Old Cleveland Road, although they were mostly coming from between 1 and 2 o'clock. It was looking like angle could be more important than strength if it started to mix it up.

300x went well.

500x continued in much the same vein.

600x finished well, but no idea what happened to that second sighter.
In the event, we were tucked over on the right hand side of the range. Coupled with the dip in the range and some tree cover, this minimised the effect of changes at 300x and 500x; however back at 600x a careful eye was needed to avoid the occasional wind change which could have taken a shot out of the very tight bullseye. I was delighted to put them all in with solid vee counts at all three ranges to take the highest score on the range by a couple of vee bulls.

While the shorts had gone well, it was obvious that the long ranges in the afternoon were going to be a bit trickier. The wind didn't look like it was dying down and the bullet would be much more exposed to the wind with the additional elevation from both the range to target and the rising backslope in the back half of the range.

900x sensible group, just losing a couple out the sides to small wind errors.

1000x acceptable group, but one poor shot and a major wind error.
In the event, 900x went reasonably well and I lost only a couple of points to minor wind errors; it was nowhere near as difficult as I had feared might be the case; however 1000x would be much more taxing. Even though the angle of the wind kept the numbers relatively low, angle and strength changes produced a couple of big dropoffs during the shoot and several of us got caught for magpies and outers. Having dropped 6 points in aggregate by shot #5 I needed to go clean for my remaining ten shots to achieve an MCS. I successfully navigated a second big drop off but I let a slightly slack shot go, possibly as a result of my trying to get them away quickly to avoid another change in the aim and picked up a 4 for my 12th to count, taking an MCS with it. I stuck the final three shots in the bull to end up on 398.47, a single point short of the magical 399 score.

While I didn't quite achieve my goal, I did shoot well; particularly well at short range; and there is much for me to be pleased with. I've also now got some of the CWG ammunition back in NZ to make a few measurements, establish some zeroes and check that my rifle will group at 1000x when using it. Massive thanks must go to Malcolm Dodson, Brian Carter, John Snowden, Rob Johansen and Bevan Mehrtens from the NZ CWG Squad, but most particularly to Kim Ologhlen from the Natives Rifle Club for sorting me out secure storage for my rifle and gear, and allowing me to go slightly off-piste with my course of fire during the Natives RC short range.

Kim Ologhlen from the Natives Rifle Club. A top bloke.
Well, in conclusion I've left myself some work still to do; however I've got further opportunities to shoot minimum consideration scores between now and November, and my preparations for the 2017 Imperial Meeting are looking solid. If you're going to be around on Bisley Camp for the TR meeting, I'll see you then.

 * Yes, I was nice about electronic targets. I'll cover this off in a future article.
 ** RWS Cases, Fed 210 Match Primer, 155 grain HBC Optimus bullet loaded 40 thou off the lands, with 46.5grains ADI AR2008.