OFs Best Ever Bisley?

The OF input into the school team’s training had obviously helped, and not only were they keen, but they were shooting well. Overall they finished a creditable 17th. Not in any danger of winning, but busy building a firm foundation for the future. We noted with delight 16-year-old Kim Pope found herself on the much coveted list of the Cadet 100 best shots with her score of 98.10. This was doubly impressive, as Steve McDowell pointed out, that she was upholding a great Framlingham tradition of coming in 100th place, exactly as he himself had done in 1985, and James Mehta in 1974!

OFs John Halahan & Steve McDowell check progress with the College. McDowell imparts dubious wisdom to Kim Pope

Once the Ashburton finishes, then the Old Boys can get on with the business of competing for the Veterans. Again this we had sufficient numbers to enter three teams of six firers, plus reserves. Our “A” team was awesome, dropping just three points from 250. Andy Gemmill, who last year scored a near perfect 50.9, did it again. This time he did not convert his 5-point bulls-eye sighter (to the bewilderment of his register keeper from a neighbouring school who could not understand whether this was “amazing confidence or breath-taking arrogance!”). Sadly he squirted out of the V-bull for a mere ordinary bulls-eye on his ninth shot.

OFs wonder at Gemmill’s scorebook. (L-R: Argent, Walker (hidden), Shanson, Gemmill, Halahan)

Although a superb score, such is the quality of the opposition that Gemmill’s effort was only enough for second place (somebody had a “better” 50.9, ie their 5 was earlier in the shoot), and the A team were beaten into fifth position.

A Team  
David Argent 48.6
Sandy Walker 50.6
Andrew Horton 49.4
Andy Gemmill 50.9
Nigel Burnip 50.8
Total (ex 250.50) 247.33

Other excellent scores were made: 50s from Burnip, McDowell and Walker, and 49s from Halahan and Horton Jnr. Equally satisfying are 47s from Brocks and Shanson•..who haven’t touched a rifle in twelve months!

B Team  
John Halahan 49.6
Steve McDowell 50.6
Ben Shanson 47.2
Nigel King 43.1
James Mehta 45.3
Total (ex 250.50) 234.18
Result 18th Place in B teams  
C Team  
Neil Joy 45.2
Brian Smith 42.0
Jon Ford 45.2
James Brocks 47.3
John Horton 43.0
Total (ex 250.50) 222.7
Result 13th Place in C teams  

Friday dawned, and the golden sunlight of the previous evening gave way to a biblical deluge. So serious was this that the range was flooded and parts of the butts began to collapse, causing shooting to be abandoned for the day. Even the old timers, the white-hairs who run the ranges, could not remember a time when an entire day’s shooting had been cancelled. Not to be outdone, the OFs did some impromptu moving target shooting (on the only open range) using their growing collection of vintage military rifles.

Sadly the weather proved to be unsettled and wet for the rest of the Meeting. Last year 25 competitors were carted off to hospital with heat-exhaustion: this year there must have been cases of Trench Foot, as the Surrey heathland began to resemble the mud of the Western Front. Shooting in the rain presents all sorts of additional problems. Not only is it uncomfortable, but visibility is reduced, shooting glasses get smeared with water droplets, spotting telescopes steam up, score-books are reduced to soggy sponges, and the wooden stocks of the rifles swell with moisture causing inaccuracy. And even worse there was danger that the now famous OF BBQ would have to be cancelled. Happily the Artists Rifles came to our rescue and generously allowed us to host our party in their Clubhouse, and even permitted us to import our own barrel of beer, fresh from the Suffolk coast. Our grateful thanks to the management and staff of the Artists.

Steve McDowell entertains Dave Dyson (Vice-Capt of GB Rifle Team) and Frank Bilton (Suffolk Rifle Assoc) at the OF BBQ

Shooting continued in these unpleasant conditions, but still the OFs put in some magnificent performances. Over a thousand competitors enter the “Grand Aggregate” of the Meeting’s eleven major individual competitions, and the results are a test of consistency over the entire week. Notable scores were:

Grand Aggregate Posn ex 705.141
Tom Chapman 121 685.69
John Halahan 131 684.76
Andy Gemmill 179 681.77

Halahan in particular seemed positioned to finish in the top 50, despite a pinched nerve in his neck until he inexplicably dropped seven points in his last shoot. Chapman seemed to have cracked the secret of success: no “possibles” (ie highest possible scores) but equally no disasters either. The winner, incidentally, only dropped six points. Mere mortals Mehta and McDowell mounted their traditional £1 a point bet on the other’s margin, with the famously tight-fisted McDowell distraught to find himself 1 point and five places behind. Halahan’s form ensured selection for the victorious English XX team -v- The Combined Services and the other Home Countries, and, dropping only a handful of points in appalling wind conditions surely has caught the eye of national selectors.

Halahan and Gemmill line up more yet bulls-eyes

Other successes included Mehta’s selection for the Essex in the Inter-Counties match, whilst McDowell’s experience of tight organisation was called upon, as he became Adjutant of the England XX team.

Tom Chapman sealed the Meeting by gamely fighting his way through to the final Hundred in Her Majesty the Queen’s Prize. This is where you are among the very finest shots in the world, the Queen’s Prize being the World Cup, British Open and Wimbledon all rolled into one. It is the closest shooting gets to a nail-biting spectator sport, with the area behind the firing point packed with several hundred onlookers. Vicious winds across Stickledown range ensured that Tom will have to wait another year before becoming the Queen’s champion.

Tom Chapman: what happened to shot 13?

As usual the OFs entered the Parting Shot competition: victorious gold medal winners in 2005, our workmanlike performance could only manage 7th position, and we had to suffer the further ignominy of being beaten by a team of Gresham’s pupils dressed as nurses

Finally, many OFs entered the Agincourt match, a final bit of fun, where the French take on the members of the British Alpine Rifle Club. The OFs were gladly accepted as French mercenaries for the competition, where 15 rounds had to be fired from a standing position in under a minute. The result is always fudged in favour of the French to make up for the loss of the original fixture in 1415, but who repay the competitors with cider and cheese on the range.

No arguing with David Argent, 15 rounds rapid, and an Enfield No 4.

So, it’s over for another year. Probably the best performance by the gathered OF clan for some time. And only another eleven months to go until we can do it all over again, this time with promises from College shooting master Roy Witham, that the best two shots from the College – aided fiscally by the OFs – will shoot the Meeting with us.


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