Fullbore Target Rifle at Bisley
Overlooked by the iconic Bisley clock tower Stickledown range consists of 50 targets from 800, to 900, 1000, then 1100 yards. The Bisley Camp National Shooting ground is synonyms with Fullbore Target Rifle. A target sport that’s unusual, in that it’s a team sport.
I recently got the chance to shoot out to 1000 yards, it was a helluva long way. Without binoculars I had trouble reading the massive numbers above the targets, through open sights the targets themselves were tiny dots.
Fullbore Target Rifle
Fullbore is a target discipline that grew out of the service rifle competitions of the late 1800’s. Single shot bolt-action rifles, assembled from parts ‘readily available in quantity’, and fitted with heavy 30 inch barrels and aperture sights. Which are shot from the prone position wearing a shooting jacket, sling and glove. In days gone by the rifles were .303British now they’re chambered 7.62x51NATO.
The 800yard target is 48 inches with a Bull of 20 inches. 20 inches is quite big but 800 yards is a long long way on a windy day. Some competitions go beyond 1000 when the targets look really tiny.
Leveling the playing field
Some club's have nice 'club rifles' than others
As well as ‘parts readily available in quantity’ another aspect of the sport that keeps the price down and levels the playing field [a bit], is that ammunition is ‘as issued’, you can’t compete with your own accurized home loads. The number of rounds required for sighters and shots to score, are included in your entry fee and issued at the RO’s desk. To keep it random some competitions go as far as serving them from a bucket. The range officer keeps a testing weight of 'about' 1500g [3.3lb] on his desk and your trigger mustn’t break any lighter than that.
Fullbore is a lot of fun, and refreshingly egalitarian. Men and women of all ages compete in the same competition. There are some high-end handmade rifles by the likes of Accuracy International and RPA but I hit the V.Bull with a rifle that you’d have trouble selling for £200. You can have a shooting jacket made for you from £550 or you could wear a 9/10ths sling for £90. Glove and Sling - £40-100 the pair.
The game is played in teams of two, with the Shooter doing the shooting and the Windage Coach doing the steering.
You lay on the ground wearing a shooting jacket, sling, and a semi-rigid glove to protect your supporting hand. With the sling making a triangle between your hand, and your shoulder. The triangle supports the rifle. Get it right and it works like a dream.
I’m still at the varying-degrees-of-discomfort stage myself.
Over the last 30 years the sport has shed itself of drab cotton shooting jackets and adopted jackets that wouldn’t look out of place in a production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'.
From the firing point
You’re now lying on the ground with what looks like a multi coloured S&M jacket on, squinting at a target at least the best part of half a mile away.
You’ve wriggled about to get yourself settled and the rifle on target. Meanwhile the windage coach, wrapped up warm or under a parasol as the season dictates, has made themselves comfortable on a little stool and surveys the target and wind flags through a spotting scope. You shoot, and provide feedback to the coach on how you felt the shot was taken. The windage coach must now take your feedback, the position of the range flags, and the bullet hole’s position on the target in to account. And then give your aperture sight the right number of clicks for elevation and windage to steer your next shot to the center of the center, the V Bull. Meanwhile the view through the sights is so small that you’re looking at the concentricity of a tiny white ring around a tiny black dot.
Jedi target shooting in clown costumes.
At the club day I shot at I was on a detail of five. So there’s plenty of time while the other four are shooting to convince yourself you were more comfortable before and readjust your sling and or position before the next shot. A process I was to repeat between every shot. Not helped by endless changes to my position and the wind picking up, and then really picking up. I would have benefited from the calming influence of a windage coach. As you can see it all started well enough but the string of shots moved ever rightwards across the face of the target. All in all encouraging enough to have another go as soon as I get the chance.
The Queen’s Cup is Fullbore’s most coveted prize, clubs from across Europe, the US, Eire, and the former commonwealth have met every July at Bisley for the last 147 years [world war years excluded]. On the final afternoon the field has been whittled down to 50 shooters. Who must draw lots for target position. The higher numbers at the score board end are actually quite well sheltered from the wind, at the other end of the line the wind gusts, twists and turn blowing every way except in line with the targets.
David Calvert GM SC CGM CGC, Queen's Prize 2010, 2015 & 2016
With the understatement you'd expect from a Wing Commander triple winner David Calvert described the win 'They say whoever wins the grand aggregate is the best shot, and the winner of the Queen's the luckiest"
More soon, thanks for reading