OF Rifle Club season gets off with a (small) bang

Steve ‘Zero’ McDowell reports:

Since this column is fond of quoting former US presidents, I shall give you another.

“Greatness comes not when things always go good for you. The greatness comes when you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes.”

Richard Nixon, as it turned out, had rather a lot with which he could test his greatness. A fine and effective chief executive right up to the point where he got caught burgling, conspiring, lying and cheating, he ended up with more egg on his face than John Prescott crossing the Chicken Farmers’ Union picket line.

And so there we were, on a blustery morning and, in the fine eccentric tradition of Bisley, wishing each other a Happy New Year in mid April signifying the first meeting of the year.

April wind
Of course, having won the Q Match in four of the last five years there was a certain air of complacency about our coming together, you could almost hear the word ‘easy’ drifting across the range with gusts of April wind.

There was no reason to believe we would not again lift the trophy which we have come to call ours as we went to the 500 yard point for a morning’s practice. For most of us it was the first time we had picked up a rifle since October.

However, as is usual, in practice we concentrated hard and put in some respectable scores. As is also usual with practice, one expects to improve come proper competition.

But also, usually, this does not come after a splendid lunch of spicy lamb burgers at the Artists Rifles Clubhouse.

WAG’S trolleys
So ‘Zero’ McDowell – selected for the A team on the back of a 48.3 in practice – goes first to get the hang of the wind, which coach ‘Skipper’ Halahan gets hold of pretty quickly. He is, however, not able to account for McDowell going up and down like a WAG’s trolleys, dropping four for a 46.5. Hmm. It was, sadly, to be a bellwether for 500.

McDowell takes the coach’s seat. This has mixed results. Being as he is 1) the creative type and 2) male, he is completely and constitutionally unable to multi-task. In keeping with the presidential allegory in which George W Bush was described as not having brains enough to fart and chew gum at the same time, McDowell stops chewing long enough to get the wrong end of the wind, so to speak.

The wind was, to use technical shooting parlance, a *censored*.

Abruptly and without warning switching from anything up to four minutes right to about a minute and a half, this difference represents about 15 inches on the target face at 500 yards and about 18 inches at 600.

Battle of Jutland
Failure to spot changes means the shot will go left. And it did.

However, ‘Beloved Chairman’ Burnip was having problems of a different kind.

“That one is high at 12 o’clock Nigel,” says McDowell, relieved that he has called the wind right for the great man. Happily ear defenders prevent the coach hearing the stream of invective issuing forth as the next round is rammed into the breech with vigour not seen since the Battle of Jutland.

“Er and that one, come down a half.” The Chairman is not renowned for his cheery disposition when dropping shots and his 45.4 leaves everyone executing a nifty Riverdance across eggshells for a moment or two.

Barbequed meat
 James “Cholesterol” Mehta has enjoyed himself at lunch – and not only because half the staff of the ARC have submitted to his dentist’s drill – but now comes the payback as he is forced to lie down on about ¾ of a pound of impacted barbequed meat and chunky chips.

Having opened his season with six straight V-bulls in practice, his group is now more widely dispersed than the Sex Pistols. “Not very comfortable mate,” he says squinting at the coach.

Nigel ‘Hauptmann’ King seemed to be suffering from having used up his practice time making golf ball sized holes in the target with a 1948 8mm Mauser rather than the traditional target rifle and even with verboten 185gn ammunition there was nothing much could be done.

Even ‘His Excellency Generalissimo The Omnipotent Marksman’ Halahan is having an off day with a 47.3.

Angry complaint
Brian “Past President” Smith, stalwart of the club since the aforementioned battle, can be heard bellowing “There is simply no way I missed target 54 at this range!” followed rapidly by an angry complaint from target 56 that there was an unexpected inner on it.

The picture as we wander back from 500 is not so pretty. There is much gnashing of teeth. Except, that is, for our most senior member – Neil “Bodie and Doyle” Joy. Neil rarely picks up a rifle but showing that lack of practice is no barrier to talent he shoots like a sniper and displays elevation of which the engineer he was should be justly proud. He hits 48.3 and in doing show proves the adage that with years comes wisdom.

Meanwhile our youngest member, 20-year-old Maddie “Pocahontas” Bryant is barely able to contain her enthusiasm. So much so that with every shot she jumps like a jackrabbit as if to watch the bullet, which is travelling at 900mph, hit the target. Her scoring is promising and she looks like she could have a good season.

Ferocious bollocking
At 600 the wind really begins to bite. McDowell has his usual equipment malfunction but this proves no barrier to Beloved Chairman who has strode, Captain Oates style, into the woods after his 500 yard debacle and given himself the most ferocious bollocking.  It must have been Churchillian in dimensions as he comes back with a maximum 50.6.

Jonathan “Accessories” Cupper has ripped off a leaf from the Burnip self-motivation handbook by using sulking as a conduit and has bashed in a 48 from 600 and cheered up considerably.

McDowell, with a first-sighter miss discovers he has knocked his sights out. Halahan, coaching, threatens to knock him out if he does it again and expertly gets the tall twit into a 47.3. When the roles are reversed, however, the Skipper displays he is having a shocking day by opening with three straight V bulls and then a magpie at one o’clock scoring three points instead of five.

We lose the Q match to the old enemy by just two points, coming third, beaten into second by Cranleigh by a single point.

The teams meet on the firing point at 600 yards. Halahan graciously hands over the trophy to the victorious and delighted Old Lawrentians skipper.

Turning on his heels he can be heard muttering strong words as he heads for the woods…




(ex 400.80)

































Best shot of the day medal went to Neil Joy.


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