The Goal

The Goal

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Glory of the Bisley Imperial Meeting

Sitting in the departures lounge of LHR's Terminal 2 well in advance of my departure time - I always like to be early when travelling with Winona* in case of any of the risks which may crystallise - my social media feeds are filled with posts on the Imperial Meeting just completed. I feel much the same each year; that this year was in some way special; in some way better than the equally-perfect ones which have gone before.

Let me say this, then. This year was special in a multitude of ways, and it was perfect as a unique collection of experience, but yet could have been even better and I look forward to next year, the year after, or some future meeting topping it.

I shot well, but perhaps not as quite as well as I could have done. After all, I didn't win that elusive Bisley major and my final range in the Kolapore was a bit sub-par. The weather was interesting, having started off a bit on the cool and damp side, but soon came fine; even too fine towards the last few days. I got to spend a great deal of time with many of my friends, but it's never enough. How could it be with such people as ANRW, DAR, AMcC, CmcC, CJW, VW, SIF and so many others? How could it ever be?

Mistake not my intent. Above and beyond this was the quality of the experience of shooting at Bisley and the competition, which will have created memories that will keep us going until the next time. Jim took another Grand Agg, DC took another Queen's Prize, ANRW rounded out a solid meeting with his first St. George's Challenge Vase,  Welsh shooters took podium places in a number of major competitions. For me though, there is only one story and it's one that I'm still not sure how to react to simply because it hasn't made it through to me yet; big things take time to think through.

Wales won The National Match.

The winning team. Photo copyright Bob Oxford and reproduced on Gun & Run with his kind permission. 

Sure, England handicap themselves by their selection policy**; the conditions were easy; none of these facts matter to me or anyone else that matters because they are outweighed by the positives. We always struggle to get a quality team of 20 shooters together but this year contrived to pick the right people at the right time, with the result that our normal 98-ish bottom score magically became a 102, a sizeable majority hit 104s, and our normal one or two 105s suddenly blossomed into a round three-quarter dozen clean scores.

It is the one rifle match I never expected to win during my career. And so, it is all the more valuable and memorable and treasured as a result.

* My rifles have each had names: Rifle #1 was Marilyn, rifle #2 was Nariko and my current squeeze is  named Winona. Kudos to anyone who can spot whence the name originates.

** Although a more cynical person could argue that this is in itself a strategy to secure a long-term supply of talent and deny the other nations shooters who could compete for them; however that's an argument for another day, and possibly even a bit too cynical a view for my taste.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Range Report: CWG Trial 2

The British Commonwealth Rifle Club open meeting usually features some pretty stiff competition, not least because to become a member of the club you must have shot on an international team; however a majority of serious shooters also take part as by tradition the ammunition used comes from the same batch as that year's Imperial meeting.

The short range on day 1 was dominated by tricky winds and rain, with scores not up to their usual standard; although this didn't seem to phase any of the six people on detail 1 who managed to slot in 50.9s in the West Indies 300 yard shoot. Unfortunately I lost one out the top to a bit of early nerves, but held the rest in for a slightly loose 49.5.

A bit nervous at the start. Long time, no live fire.

Similarly, the first of two shoots at 500 yards, the India, was not all it might have been; I made a bold change at the start of the shoot and wound myself out to the left and was a bit more circumspect later on in the piece, only to lose one out right when I under-called a big change. Two down seemed to be a little off the pace, given the conditions, and I was already a shot behind.

Better elevation, but got the wrong end of the bracket twice.

We would revisit 500 yards after lunch in the Africa which went somewhat better. My position felt tight but relaxed and the rifle rested cleanly on target, with the result that the one shot I did help slightly clipped the lefthand edge of the vee-bull. My compatriot CJW managed to take the top slot with a superb 50.10 but I was pleased with my own 50.8. My hold had settled down after the very slightly shaky start in the morning.

Bring it.

Although the winds seemed to die back, they did have the capacity to surprise back at 600 yards. I pursued a strategy of shooting to the mean wind and trying to avoid firing in the lulls and gusts. My group was solid and I only lost one right at the end; I backed off a quarter as the wind appeared to be dropping, which proved a poor judgement call and cost me both the possible and the win. I ended up four off on the day, in 7th place.

A bit unlucky to finish on an inner, but could have been worse. A bit later and it could have been a magpie.

The Sunday morning dawned still, and there were expectations of high scoring. These were proved right on the first detail of the Falkland Islands at 900x, but the flags started to lift towards the end of the shoot and when the second detail got down, there was a very fickle lefthand wind with some big gusts and drop-offs. I shot reasonably well but couldn't quite keep up with the bracket of 4 to 8 despite recognising halfway through that I was constantly lagging the changes. I was unable to get ahead and finished with an OKish 48.5

Decent shoot, just not quite up to speed with the wind.

The odd wind conditions continued during the second 900x shoot of the morning. Fortunately my shooting was getting into the groove and I had more of a handle on the wind, and while I was unlucky to lose my 5th out left my 11th to count only stayed in by virtue of being a waterline shot. There were no 75s and I missed out on the tie shoot by a single vee-bull.

Happy with this. Got unlucky with shot 3, but lucky with shot 9. Honours even.

A long break before the shoot at 1000 yards afforded me the opportunity to have a decent lunch and a brief snooze in the vam before heading back up to Stickledown. The lazily flapping flags convinced me that this was going to be relatively straightforward; however as the previous details had found, the wind would pick up to a more typical value before ebbing back. The shifting winds, combing with a slack shot over which I took too much time, meant I lost 4 points; far from a disaster, but a little off the pace.

Shot 11 spoiled the look of the thing; I held on too long, but otherwise I'm happy with the shooting.

My consistent, if not exceptional, shooting won me 4th place in the BCRC Open but took me the top slot in Trial 2. This is heartening, as I'm still on the upswing but haven't yet hit top form, and with the Imperial Meeting making up trials 3 and 4, things are looking positive. A bit more SCATT and some livefire before everything kicks off next Friday, and hopefully I'll be able to make the most of my squadding.