The Goal

The Goal

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Making the most of your firing point

One of the funniest adverts I remember from my teenage years depicts the wily Brit outfoxing a party of holiday-making Germans by hurling his rolled-up beach towel from his hotel room balcony, which then skips across the swimming pool in a homage to Barnes Wallis' bouncing bomb design* before landing on his chosen sun lounger, unrolling and then finally depositing his can of lager** in a bucket of ice.

The humor of the ad relies on the supposed German*** practice of laying one's beach towel in a spot to reserve it; however there's a lesson in it for Bisley-style rifle shooting outdoors, where there is more than one shooter per firing point.

Many of the firing points at Bisley (and at other ranges) are in a miserable condition because of years of neglect, and shooting on one such can ruin your weekend or your meeting. (I'm looking at you Stickledown firing point 37 at 900 yards.) Outside of the Imperial Meeting, where firing points are allocated as part of the squadding process, you have the opportunity to get to your target early and take a sneak peek at the firing point to pick your slot. When you reckon you've found which part of the target is best, get your gear lined up and be ready for the call from the range officer to move forward.

Now, some of you are thinking at this point "Steady on there chap! This all sounds a little unsportsmanlike and suspiciously competitive" and I do have a certain sympathy with that view. We're talking about rifle shooting, after all, and not soccer. On the other hand, you're probably paying something like 2 quid a bang in the UK or a couple of bucks a bang here in NZ when you include range fees, markers, ammunition, petrol and accommodation. It does not seem unreasonable to be able to shoot from a firing point without bloody great divots in it, and nothing is stopping your fellow competitors from being equally organised.

If you're stuck with an absolute shocker of a firing point because your target colleagues got there first or because of allocated squadding in the Imperial, you may wish to think rather carefully about the placement of your matt and equipment to make the most of what you've got. Very often moving forwards or backwards will allow you to avoid the worst of the lumps and bumps; however take care to ensure that your muzzle is in front of, and your elbows behind, the line of the pegs. If this doesn't work then a polite request to your compatriots may allow you to move over a bit to find a more amenable position. In extreme cases, it may be worth asking the range officer to move targets; very often they will be sympathetic to a polite request if your firing point more closely resembles the cratered surface of the moon than the hallowed turf of Wimbledon.

Your position is built from the ground up. Give yourself the best chance by finding a decent piece of firing point and setting yourself up consistently.

* Engineering geeks will note that the "bomb" should have backspin and not topspin, as depicted in the cut where the towel bounces across the swimming pool. 

** Ironically the word Lager derives from the German word Laager, meaning storage, because of the practice of storing immature beer at cold temperatures to condition. British lager is mostly piss. German, Czech, Belgian and some NZ lagers are wonderful.

***I hope my German friends, readers and members of the BDMP will forgive my crass humour.


  1. "you're probably paying something like 2 quid a bang in the UK or a couple of bucks a bang here in NZ when you include range fees, markers, ammunition, petrol and accommodation"
    Steady on! 2014 Match Rifle Imperial, £2.50/bang; 2014 Commonwealth Open, £2.30ins/bang; 2015 Match Rifle Imperial, £2.40/bang; 2015 Target Rifle Imperial, £2.00/bang. That's excluding the accommodation, travel and feed required...
    To be fair, though, for a fair comparison the 2015 Spirit of America (Raton, US) was US$1.03 per bang, assuming handloads and self marking. Rising to US$1.40/bang using JJ's top notch 2156 rounds...
    Otherwise, agree completely. Another solution: Unless it's an ICFRA competition (when you're not allowed anything under the mat) always take 2 beer towels with you, to fold up (not scrunch up) and place into the divots to smooth out the holes and get the levels right under your elbows...

    1. Indeed, this is just further grist to my mill! It has got horrifically expensive to shoot in the UK now.

  2. I have never understood why some people simply stick their mat on the ground and make no preparations about their position.

  3. As a Range Officer at the Imperial Meeting I am sympathetic to the trials facing the competitors but I have no say over the range I am allocated nor the condition of the firing points. With a full range I have had, at times, to stop competitors from shooting because they have protested against my safety / fair play ruling due to moving forwards or backward on the firing point to avoid the divots. As the article states, the muzzle must be forwards of the firing line to ensure that a) no-one gets shot and b) the dispersed air pressure preceeding and following the passage of the bullet from the muzzle does not affect the firers to the right and left hand sides. Often shooters have no consideration for fellow competitors. At this point I become a terrier with a rag doll and a stubborn one at that. The safety of ALL competitors is my concern, not just facilitating the range and the attached rules.

    Me casa, su casa :)

    1. Wotcher Griff. Grumpy, obstinate, stubborn - you? Surely not ;-) Safety absolutely must come first every time.