The farmer down the road who sold me some hay, said, what are you doing on Monday night? Why don’t you come down to the local Smallbore Rifle Shooting club and try your eye at target shooting?
So what is Smallbore Target Shooting?
Little did I know, the sport has very little to do with having a steady arm and a good eye, I will explain this a little further on!
So the first thing I did was I got given a Club rifle. Members of the club hunted around for a jacket that fitted me, yes you put on a jacket! This helps stiffen up your upper body so you can be more steady at holding the rifle. You also have a sling that wraps around your arm and latches onto the rifle. Next they give you a gigantic gardening glove, this is where you rest the rifle when you shoot. You also get a nice mat to lay on.
They give you some nice shiny bullets and they have a range officer watching you from behind. You get a safety briefing and then they tell you you can load and start. First you do your warmers, warmers are used to warm the barrel, apparently a warm barrel verses a cold barrel can alter where the bullet lands on the cardboard from 20 yards (18.288 mtrs).
If they see your style of shooting is consistent, and you are of target, they will recommend you adjust your rear sight on the rifle and they tell you to keep shooting the same way you did (like your previous shot). You always alter the rifle and train yourself to shoot the same way every time. The first time I ever shot, I shot out of a possible perfect score of 100.10 and I scored 71.1.
Each time you shoot there are 10 counting shots on a card. The goal is to hit one of the 10 targets on the card. The closer you get to the centre of the target, the higher the score. So if you hit the target your score could be out of 5-10, however if you take out the dot it is a 10.1, the ultimate shot. The sport gets more technical the more you learn.
When everyone in the club has done their shooting you help pack away all the gear and pick up all the copper (used cartridges). Then the ritual is into the club room, drink tea and eat cookies and cakes. Normally you would be there until midnight, chatting and talking about shooting, it’s a very social activity.
So over time I developed a passion for target shooting, it seems most of my passions turn into extreme hobbies.
Next minute I’m ordering myself a state of the art rifle, Feinwerkbau (FWB) from Germany. Also, I’m getting measured for a tailor made, custom built, leather Anschutz shooting jacket made in Germany, as well as buying all the fancy gear.
Now equipped with gloves, sights, sling, earmuffs, scope and basically anything that I thought would give me a more competitive edge.
I even said to my wife at the time, I want to build an indoor shooting range. Six months later I had my man shed. I was the only person I knew who had their own indoor shooting range to practice my sport. Just to top it off I started a website where others could chat about the sport and I had 800 active shooters talking about and discussing their theories on the sport.
Monday night was a club shoot, Wednesday night was an association shoot. In the winter months you will travel on the weekends to other clubs around the South Island and compete against them. If you get good enough you can make the South Island team which consists of 10 shooters. Once a year you can compete against the North Island team.
I was good, however after 10 years in the sport I never quite made the South Island team. I did win a few cups at competitions, my biggest achievement was probably the 500 badge. To be awarded this you needed to shoot five 100 score cards at various competitions over 12 months. However, I can say I represented New Zealand at the Australian Nationals at 50m, doesn’t that sound impressive. Basically, if you had the money to go, any New Zealand association shooter could enter the competition, however I shot like crap. If I was looking for an excuse, having my appendix out and doing prone shooting was not a good combination.
Let me tell you the truth about the sport!
You can have all the flash gear in the world, you can spend $10,000 on getting the perfect barrel for your Wifle (a lot of men call them that) but being able to stay focused and as cool as a cucumber is the most valuable asset you can have when shooting.
If I was describing the perfect shot, I will tell somebody, “imagine you’re sitting on the verandah in your rocking chair and you’re about to fall asleep and you’re about to dribble out the side of your mouth, at that time you would squeeze the trigger off and you’re probably get the perfect shot.”
Even though Smallbore Target Shooting is a dying sport, we would still get a lot of young people giving it a go. They had energy and excitement, and to be fair they could shoot quite well with their good eyesight, but the old bugger sitting in the corner of the room, not saying much, using a very old rifle, would often shoot better than anyone else. Years of experience, good stress control, maintaining a low heart rate and good technique will often outshoot anyone.
My proudest moment where I felt like I mastered the sport, happened one day alone in my indoor target shooting range. One morning living the dream in the country, life couldn’t get any better at the time, my ex-wife was out riding the horse in her arena. So here I am inside my man shed doing a practice card. I did my warmers and they were spot on, first counting shot 10.1, second shot 10.1, third shot 10.1. I now had a mental image of the first shot, I did the same again 10.1 nothing less was acceptable for the next six, all 10.1’s, one last shot and I started to think, ‘don’t stress, don’t think, same again, keep relaxed Danny’, and I squeezed off my last shot, I got a bloody 10! In Smallbore the very best card you can shoot is 100.10 and I just shot 100.9 it was the easiest card I’ve ever shot in my life. I just felt at one with my dear Wifle and that’s why I call it yoga with a rifle.
I was never going to master this damn sport but I had come so far. In 2018 I sold my rifle and all the gear I own because I was too stressed at work and if your mind isn’t in the right frame of mind you can’t shoot straight any more. I may return to the sport when I am an old bugger!
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