Our much loved member Veronica is on a new shooting journey and she’s going down the rifle route. Veronica has written this brilliant blog for us to tell us how she’s doing!
On a chilly morning in April I set off to start a five-module NRA safe shooters course at Cambridge Gun Club. Rifle shooting was never something I had intended to take up, but the main reason for embarking on the course was to join my partner on the range and perhaps have a go with a rifle on occasion.
As a minority lady shooter, I had always thought target shooting would be dominated by disinteresting ‘male conversation’ and, not being an especially ‘mathematical’ person, I wasn't looking forward to learning about “minutes of angle” and other such things. My initial concerns were soon allayed however when I started to realise that a knowledge of shooting terms and their meanings was actually rather straightforward and intuitive. Much like shotgun shooting, although an entirely different discipline, that familiar addiction quickly developed as I progressively learned more and achieved better results.
Regardless of whether you shoot shotguns or rifles, you’ll doubtless agree that the shooting community is incredibly supportive and welcoming, always happy to help you develop new skills, adding to the interest and excitement as you quickly learn among new-found friends and your performance improves. Despite often being the only lady shooter on the range, I have rarely had so much fun in the very best of male company.
My course instructor was Kevin Pilcher, an absolutely super chap at the pinnacle of his profession, friendly, supportive, and encouraging throughout. On course modules 1 & 2 we shot smaller .22 and .223 rifles, and on module 3 it was .308. As soon as I was assessed as competent to shoot such rifles after combined modules 4 & 5, I was then permitted to attend the range at Cambridge Gun Club where the course was held, supervised by an existing firearm certificate holder, to shoot anything up to and including these calibres.
Kevin suggested getting in further practice between modules so I started off with a .223 club gun, with the added advantage of an adjustable stock that was sized to better fit my shorter reach. I was warmly greeted on the range by experienced club members Brendan, Shane, Trevor, Tim and others, all very focused on uncompromising safety standards as you’d expect, but a great sense of humour and exemplary help and support throughout.
I was soon thoroughly absorbed and popping off shots with confidence. I was both surprised and gratified with my shot groupings at 100 yards – particularly as a beginner, and I go away feeling rewarded and happy every time. I had a particularly good time on my Birthday, a very warm sunny day and, being a work day, the range was especially quiet.
Yep, I had definitely got the rifle bug!
The course ended late June with a 40-question multiple-choice test. There were a variety of questions that included setting up, safety, and a few questions specifically about the Bisley shooting ground. I passed without the challenges I’d once feared, meaning that I am now NRA-qualified to turn up and shoot at any range in the country.
Licence arrives – Yippee!
After a bit of a wait my licence dropped onto the doormat. Elated does not even begin to describe it, so I went down to the shops to buy a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate!
One thing about rifle shooting is that ammunition can be quite expensive for the particularly larger calibres. Much of this cost is accounted for by the brass cases so I started to save them and, with some trepidation, I asked an experienced shooter to show me the ropes.
Hand loading requires a diligent methodical approach and precise measurements, but as long as prescribed practice is strictly applied and published reloading data adhered to, it is quite safe and very enjoyable. The required reloading equipment can be built up over time and should eventually pay for itself, but the real benefit is the ability to optimise your powder load for improved shot-by-shot consistency.
Once experience has been gained it is possible to finely adjust the weight of powder to suit your specific gun so I usually load a few different weights to try out on the range. I am often surprised at what a difference a few grains can make to groupings (see grouping test target picture).
I never thought I would see the day when weekends or evenings would be given over to hand loading my own ammunition, but I find it so absorbing and more appealing than modern TV.
Record keeping of the ballistics data and also the amount of rounds you shoot each time should be retained for reference, enabling you to progressively zero-in on that very gratifying ‘sweet spot’.
Oops! I appear to have bought a rifle
It had to happen, I fell in love with and bought my very own rifle to shoot on the range at my local club! I’m sure I heard Tchaikovsky playing in the background at some point.
I feel so fortunate that I took those first tentative steps, and now to be able to keep my own rifle and hand load my own ammunition.
So to summarise I would say that if anybody is interested in trying rifle shooting, please do not be daunted. There are a wide variety of rifles and calibres to suit every budget, and many popular models are considerably cheaper than respectable regular shotguns. Furthermore, I have found everybody, without exception, incredibly supportive, kind, patient and extremely generous with their time when it comes to encouragement and advice, so why not jump in and go for it !
Victoria Says: “I literally smiled the whole way through reading this. I love how Veronica just got on with it and I’m so grateful to her for sharing her story. If you have a comment for V, do leave one below’’