Where TR lost its way

Discussion in 'Shooting, Hunting and Fishing' started by stoatman, Mar 3, 2009.

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  1. As an ex target rifle shooter who was really rather good back in the day (50.8 in the Corporation at 1000 yards on a fairly windy day, I thank you, so you know where I'm coming from), I got really rather bored of this type of shooting, since it had become less of a test of shooting than of wind judgment. This is why, at the end, I spent far more time on team shoots as coach than shooting. This is my take on how the sport lost its way, and I shall avoid NRA personality politics as far as possible...

    Back in the good old days, a good, target grade smle, P14 or No.4 was capable of shooting 2.5 minutes of angle with an average batch of Mk. VII ammunition provided for Bisley. Consequently, some wise chaps made the size of the bull at all distances of the order of 2.5 minutes of angle.

    All was well until the late 1950s.

    Then, the Army switched to the SLR, a four minute (plus!) of angle rifle.

    In contrast to the Swiss, who adapted accordingly to their new rifles on the target shooting scene, the NRA chose to slacken the link between target rifle shooting and Defence of the Realm, since they didn't like the fact that the new rifle did not shoot as straight as the old one, and enlarging the targetry to compensate was unthinkable. In addition, the new rifle was far more expensive than the old one, which would have made getting into the game more difficult (we shall return to this point in a minute...). As a result, they went down the route of heavy barrel 7.62 NATO conversions, and the traditional target shooting input into the service rifle was stopped in one fell swoop. One should consider whether the problems of the SA 80 would not have been solved rather more rapidly if the shooters and the trade had had free rein with private versions...

    So, standard equipment for many years after this was a converted Mauser or P14/M17 for short range, and a converted No.4 for long range. All affordable stuff, and capable of around 1.5-2MOA with the provided ammunition (on a good day).

    Over the years, the size of the bull did reduce ever so slightly, and once it became apparent that it was becoming slightly easy to shoot a possible, the V.-bull was introduced.

    Skip forward:

    By the mid-1990s, the old conversions, which were affordable at around £300 for a reasonable one, were not able to hold their own against a Musgrave/Swing/Paramount/RPA, the cheapest of which was starting at around £600 (which would need a new barrel in a few seasons), and you weren't getting much new for less than £1500 (see point about affordability above!). The accuracy of these rifles with the provided ammunition was now sub-MOA, and was only enhanced by the introduction of the 155 grain ammunition (possibly the world's most accurate FMJ [i.e. not HPBT] factory ammunition). However, the size of the bull has remained static at 1.75-2.5MOA depending on distance. So, you now have a bull which can be as much as five times as large as the inherent accuracy of the rifle and ammunition combination (0.5MOA is entirely possible; better with handloads).

    Hence, to be getting anywhere, you cannot be dropping a single shot into the inner, except on a really windy day.

    By the way, my 50.8 in the Corporation only earned me fourth place!

    When I raised this problem a number of years ago to an old chap, he couldn't see what the problem was: he thought it was great that even an old duffer like him could occasionally shoot a possible. I, however, argued that this was the entire problem, and while the size of the bull should be within the inherent accuracy of the rifle and ammunition combination used by the top chaps, it should be so tight that the world champion should shoot a possible occasionally, and then only on a calm day.

    Even though the possibility of a tighter "metric" target was mooted back in the 1990s, the old buffers didn't like it.

    As a result, target rifle is an inherently "negative" sport at anything above club level, in that you don't gain points by letting off a good shot, you lose them by letting off a bad one. Every shot is a bull unless you screw up.

    Psychologically, I don't see this as a good thing. In most shooting disciplines, e.g. ISSF air pistol, even a top shooter (570+ ex 600) who puts in a bad shot can work extra hard and pay it off, however in target rifle it is gone, never to be seen again. On one occasion, at a top-level individual match over three distances, I nearly went home after dropping a single point at 300 yards (premadonnaish, I know...).

    Also, this excessive bull's-eye size creates logistical problems for the NRA: when I was still shooting the Imperial meeting, they had to extend the length of the prize lists on several occasions since more than 150 people shot possibles!

    My personal opinion is that if you tightened the bull to around .75-1.0 MOA, and doubled the number of scoring rings at twice the density they are today, you would stop it being "easy" at the top level and would inject some life into it. it would certainly stop the boredom of loosing mediocre shots all day and yet still coming away with possibles. Merely reducing the size of the V-bull like they did in Canada (because there is no issued ammunition) is not addressing the problem at all.

    Just for comparison, the ISSF 300 m bull's-eye is 100 mm, which is 1.2 MOA (1.3 if you include the bullet diameter).

    Just my two penn'orth!
  2. I think that, as you state in the first half of your post that the demise of Service Rifle was the problem. TR today is more like what Match Rifle was intended to be.

    I'll try not to go on.
  3. ... which is why I gave up TR years ago and shoot historic.

    Proper rifles - correct targets, and if you don't get your drills right you f*ck up...

    all right & proper!
  4. What is interesting is that the Swiss appear to be now making the same mistake with their "standard rifle" competitions, although they do at least shoot them on the 100-ring targets.

    Had the targetry kept pace with the equipment in target rifle, I don't think it would have ended up quite so bad, but that really is just mitigating the original problem, which is moving away from the service rifle.

    At Bisley on a Saturday or Sunday, old service rifles outnumber target rifles on the club shoots by many to one -- they would certainly get a lot more interest at the Imperial meeting if they had a "veteran" rifle class alongside F. class. I think I may have even suggested this years ago, only to be pooh-poohed by the usual suspects (who shall remain nameless, even though you can probably guess who they are!)

    Jim Hallam offers a "first-generation target rifle" class on the shoots he organises, and has pressured the NRA to do the same of the Imperial, only to be pooh-poohed by the usual suspects.

    If the No.4 that I'm acquiring proves to shoot straight, I may even shoot part of the Imperial meeting with it next year in F. class, just because I can...
  5. Just put more scoring rings on a figure 12, string shooting and introduce a time element, say two minutes for ten shots, magazines permitted.

    Job jobbed!
  6. The NRA do have a first generatation class which I think is only shot at the Trafalgar; the frustrating thing is the NRA appear absolutely clueless as to what the discipline involves in regards what rifles should be allowed to participate, if they are pressed on the subject they tell you to look at an article Laurie Holland put together for Target Sports in June 2000.
    The article itself really just breezed over the subject without much content at all.

    The HBSA have a "first generation" class, as do LERA in the shape of "The Robin Fulton" which we do a mid range at 300 & 500 and long range at 900 & 1000.
    I was the architect of the "Robin Fulton" which with regard to LERA is only for converted Lee Enfields, anybody wishing to shoot say a converted P14 or Mauser would need to enter the HBSA mid range or long range, all HBSA meeting are "open" you just need the required "competancy" certificate! :roll:

    There is a NRA "Classics Committee" which sits on these types of issues, I just wish I could get an invite.
  7. Surely it should be something as simple as "built on military receivers or their commercial equivalents", which would cover it just nicely.

    Can you remember how they define it?
  8. The HBSA define it in the match conditions as this:

    "The "Green Spot" for post-veteran first generation 7.62mm TR (using SR Pattern bolt action iron sights, conventional (not thumbhole) stock: handstop and single point sling permitted".

    I defined the match conditions for LERA as this:

    "The “Robin Fulton” First generation 7.62mm Target Rifles.
    Any rifle with a No4 or SMLE receive pertaining to “first generation”, this does not preclude the use of Whittaker Specials, or rifles converted by GL & IJ Hart which have been fitted with hand stops and custom furniture, (not thumbhole)".

    The issue is, what exactly is first generation?
    Do we just confine it to service rifles, or do we allow things like Sportco Mod 44's, early Musgrave's or even (this will upset some people!) the first model Swing "SIN 73" which also shot alongside converted Enfields and the like, this (SIN 71) was first shot at Bisley by the inventor George Swenson in 1971.
  9. I forgot to metion that there are some No 4's which have much later thumbhole stocks fitted and even later stainless fluted barrels, these are in my humble opinion not in the spirit of the original.
  10. IMHO you are always going to have problems like this unless you have a proper forum for examining them and coming up with workable solutions...

    ..again we see the NRA lack of openness and elitism causing problems that should not occur.

    The plethora of national bodies and groups within the sport is a disgrace. The NRA should host standard setting activitity across the piece and other come in line. I am in no way decrying the work of the HBSA or the HARC, but the NRA should be picking up this issue by combining best practice.

    I have had a lot to do with trying to sort out vintage shooting north of the border, and I and more than willing to support a proper UK forum for this (if anyone is interested...?)
  11. I like those definitions.

    I was also thinking of "where do you draw the line", and would argue that the early swings, sportcos etc are the early second-generation. On the other hand, you could certainly argue that the Parker Hale M82 is also first-generation, since it hardly differs from the Mauser 98. Plus, it is crap.

    Maybe a suitable catch-all would be " built on military receivers or their commercial equivalents with a design date of before 1970, no barrel fluting, no thumb hole"
  12. This is why I prefer smallbore TR to fullbore. Quite apart from the reduced cost of ammunition, the ability to train indoors in the winter, and the fact that a barrel will last for at least 40,000 rounds (if not more) and not 2000... it's the ultimate test of the principles of marksmanship.

    For smallbore, the maximum capability of barrel and ammunition is about a 12mm group edge-to-edge at 50m; and kit that does it is achievable for a domestic shooter for a price similar to that of a new fullbore rifle. The bull is 10.4mm across, but it's "inward gauging" - hit the line, score a 10. With a 0.22 bullet (aka 5.6mm), this gives you an aiming error (or wind judgement error) of about 5mm each way before you're into the 9-ring.

    Unfortunately, the wind can change enough in a few seconds to shift your fall of shot by a good couple of centimeters; so wind judgement is important, but only as part of a well-aimed shot.

    When the ISSF shrank its targets back in 1989 or so, and the NSRA shrank its targetry to match, there was a howl of anguish from some club shooters for just that reason.

    The Americans do their smallbore like we do our fullbore - their 10-ring is about the size of the ISSF 9-ring, and matches are regularly decided by X-bulls (same idea as a V-bull, just a different name). Unlike the NSRA's classification system, which runs downwards from X-class through A, B, C, and D class; the USA went to "A", "AA", "Master", "Expert", "God of Marksmanship" (OK, I made the last one up).

    The ISSF targetry is calculated in just the way you describe. This has the advantage that you rarely see a "possible" ("highest possible score") in international prone or air rifle matches; and no-one has ever shot one in the three-position match. The British record for the ISSF prone match is currently 599 (shot last year at the Munich World Cup). Before that, five people had shot 598s over the previous decade. I watched a 600 shot in the UK a decade ago, but it didn't count because it was shot on patched targets.

    Oooooh, (he says dusting off his sports psychology) that's a very negative way of approaching a competition. Concentrate on the next shot, not the last one. If you've dropped a point, so might everyone else - and make your next shot a bull.

    It's also a very practical way of looking at any performance "above club level", regardless of how big the bull is - the easy way to improve scores is not to turn all of your bulls into X-bulls, it's to not pull the trigger when you're aiming at the 9-ring. I could go all teaching-mode about shot-routine, but I should start a different thread...

    The ISSF 300m target didn't shrink along with the 50m and 10m targets at the beginning of the 1990s - the 50m 10-ring is now about 1 MOA.
  13. The Dutch 100m fullbore rifle target has a 28mm bull. That's suspiciously exactly 1MOA. But, it's then gauged to 8mm :doh: which is a strange thing the Dutch do to make things "fair". Frankly, if you're shooting 8x57, you deserve any advantage you can get! In reality it just means that the 308's can't compete with the .223's.
  14. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    E_S knows my view of the NSSC etc and I feel that only by a wholesale change can we look at going forward. There is a need for the HBSA and LERA as membership has proven and the main difference between Lera and the HBSA is that the HBSA actively encourages the study of historic arms without limiting itself to any particular brand, to be honest even artillery and rangefinding gets covered. If its historic from the breach loading era we have a good chance that it will be discussed at a lecture. Sometimes we even get to fire them and without clubs and associations such as mentioned then Bisley would have folded financially about 10 years ago!
    The NRA doesnt really deserve its self imposed supremacy over rifle shooting that it seems to believe it has and it certainly doesnt deserve it in light of its performance during the 88 and 97 ammendments!
    We could do with an organisation that defends our sport but not one that is in a position to stuff up our sport for political reasons.
    Still enough said, time for my medication!