After a slightly dodgy season in 2014 where I had real problems holding any kind of group consistently, I decided that it was time for a new jacket which would fit my rather slimmer frame. Training for and running two half marathons had melted away over a stone (6.5kg) and my old Truttmann jackets weren't cutting it any more, even after some radical alteration by a skilled tailor. After a bit of thought and conversations with a few top-flight shooters, it looked like a full leather Creedmoor Hardback Shooting Coat might be the way to go. After a bit of worry-warting, I bit the bullet and ordered one from their website on August 11th and after speaking to a few other folks, promptly amended my order to request a few alterations to the basic product a day later. Creedmoor's team were more than accommodating, and promised to make the desired alterations. Fast forward a couple of months and the jacket had arrived in New Zealand; however I had to wait until our big move to Auckland to give it a go, and it wouldn't be until January that I'd get a chance to bang some rounds down with it.
Having opened up the package and taken the jacket out, my initial impressions were favourable. The quality of the leather was pretty good, the finish of the stitching was neat, and the rubber on the elbow and shoulder pads felt grippy. I also checked that the modifications were in place that I had been advised to make by Tony Sultana (a Creedmoor import agent in Australia who I met during the 2011 WLRC) and all looked to have been made exactly as requested:
1) Reversed Buckles - For reasons unknown, the buckles on the Creedmoor jackets are set up on the lefthand side of the jacket (from the point of view of the wearer) which means that right-handers shooting in the modified Estonian position get them in the ribs. Ask for them to be swapped over.
|My first impressions of the Creedmoor Hardback Shooting Coat were positive.|
2) Long Sleeves - I'd been advised that the sleeves are quite short and to get sleeves 2 inches longer than standard.
3) Modified Compression Straps - The default straps on the right shoulder are a bit wimpy and need an upgrade. I asked that they use the same straps for the shoulder as for the sling hook.
|Chunkier shoulder compression straps.|
4) Adjusted Sling Hook - The strap for the sling is a bit far back on the shoulder by default, so I asked for it to be moved forwards slightly.
|Sling hook on the front of the shoulder.|
5) Positional Upgrades - These are zips in the sides of the jacket. They make getting it on and off a bit easier. No more "Truttmann Shuffle" on the back of the firing point.
6) Ventilation - Panels of loosely-woven nylon which make the jacket more breathable and less sweaty in hot weather. Important in the Southern Hemisphere.
|Positional upgrade zips for standing and kneeling/sitting in highpower, or easier entry/exit in fullbore! Also, not the ventilation panels.|
Fitting and Dryfire
Not having all of our possessions from the UK in NZ (most of them were still drifting their way across the ocean) I picked out one of my tighter-fitting hoodies and used that in place of a more normal shooting jumper. Fortunately I did remember to air-freight over my glove, sling and hat.
Putting the jacket on properly for the first time with a view to doing some dryfire, I was interested to feel how stiff it actually felt, and the level of support that the quilted back would give. My key goal for the session was to work out how much tension I would need in the chest and shoulder straps to give a good level of support without interfering with my natural position or breathing. Even though I had gone for a 36 inch chest I still needed to tighten the chest straps to a surprising degree and, as I had worried, the shoulder felt quite loose when standing up, so I needed to put a high degree of compression into the shoulder straps also.
As is normal for such a session, there was quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing from trying the jacket in the prone position to removing the jacket and adjusting the straps before getting back down into the aim. After about eight or ten iterations I felt that I had found a sustainable and natural-feeling position, and did a 20 shot dryfire session. I didn't have the SCATT available at the time, so wasn't able to make a quantitative comparison with my best form using either of my two Truttmann jackets (I'll probably do this for a future blog post) but it would have to be good enough, as the NZ Nationals down at Trentham were looming fast.
While I had wanted my first time out with the jacket to be on the range with my new club at Clevedon, near Auckland; however it was straight up into the Masefield 300 yards shoot down at Trentham. The Masefield is roughly equivalent to the pre-Grand shoots in the UK, as they do not count for the NZ Championship, which is concurrent with the Ballinger Belt series. Very often when making a change to equipment, and particularly something so fundamental as a jacket, what feels good when dryfiring turns out to be less than ideal on the range, even wholly unworkable sometime. Fortunately, it seemed that the position I had worked out suited the range as well as my living room carpet and I squeezed in a solid 35.5 ex 35.7 with only a few minor niggles.
Probably the most significant of the niggles was the removable towelling collar, visible at the top of the photo below, which I could never seem to get right. Sometimes there are little sequences of actions that can deal effectively with these niggles, such as putting the jacket on in a certain way like left arm first and then the right, but in this case nothing seemed to work. No matter what I did, it always ended up tucked inside the collar of the jacket and not hanging out over it. In the end my perseverance came to its limit and I removed it. That said, I don't think it's a bad idea per se, it maybe just needs a little alteration. I'm going to try putting in some more Velcro on the outside of the jacket to hold it in position more firmly. I'll let you know how I get on.
The removable towelling collar proved troublesome and I discarded it at the Kiwi Nationals.
Getting in and out of the jacket was initially almost as difficult as with my old Truttmann jackets, but I soon worked out a trick to this: undoing the positional upgrade zips made the jacket a bit more flexible and easier to get into. Doing them up just before getting down tightened everything back up nicely.
|Shooting at Trentham. Image reproduced with the kind permission of Richard Rowlands.|
I was very happy with the performance of the jacket overall and will continue to refine my position and technique with it. I ended up 3rd in the Ballinger Belt and 5th in the NZ Grand Aggregate a couple of points off the lead, despite firing a shot on the wrong target at 300x in the first day of the Ballinger series. All (of the very few) shots lost to elevation I can conclusively say that I knew where they had gone and why, and points lost to wind corresponded very well to the conditions.
|Shooting in the Ballinger Belt Final at Trentham. Maybe I need to think about mat position more carefully! Image reproduced with the kind permission of Richard Rowlands.|
Will a Creedmoor work for you? I can't say for sure, but given the solid built quality of the jacket and the recent pedigree of performance behind it, it's got to be a contender if you're in the market for a jacket. The mixed leather/Cordura and Cordura-only models will bring the price down further. They do have a couple of issues, but these are minor and can probably be rectified fairly easily. Keep an eye out for them on the ranges and go ask other shooters what they think.
Disclaimer - I have no commercial relationship with Creedmoor or any of their agents. All thoughts are my own.