Laurie Holland reports from the two-day, 1,200-yard F Class league stage at Bisley.
Some years back, a Bisley regular said words to the effect of: “You’ve not really shot at long-range at Bisley until you compete in the summer with a heavy mirage and light fishtailing winds,” I kept missing out on these conditions as it always seemed to be cool, wet and windy whenever I found myself on Stickledown irrespective of season. But this event, held over the last weekend in June, finally gave me the mirage condition – though precious few light winds.
I was one of 57 souls, split almost exactly 50-50 F-Class and F/TR, who’d entered the annual long-range meeting, so-called as its five matches comprise one each at 1,000, 1,100, and 1,200 yards on day one, and two 1,000-yarders to conclude on Sunday morning. Three matches consisted of 15 score shots, the final match each day getting the full complement of 20 shots. Conditions were bright, often hot, throughout, competitions shot on the extreme right-hand firing points over target numbers 38-50, often referred to as ‘magpie alley’ as the firing line rises steeply in this section making shots more exposed to wind changes.
This wasn’t the first day of shooting for most of the entry. With the importance of getting reliable 1,100- and 1,200-yard ‘zeroes’, many arrived early to participate in a long-range practice session organised on Friday. The main F/TR group had drawn Detail 1 in the 1,000-yard Match 1 and got the lightest winds, just getting going and swinging around mostly across modest amounts of right wind covering a 3MOA range. Altcar 101 RC’s Paul Harkins took the stage on 68.2v over fellow club-member Steve Donaldson on 67.3v. The light but variable winds weren’t easy as demonstrated by low V-counts, fourth-place place Russell Simmonds ahead of anybody else with a mere five.
The ‘Open’ lads and lasses shot last and got the strongest winds, which had now moved around to the left. Ian Boxall took this match with 71.4v ahead of Tony Marsh and Darren Stewart sharing 70.5v. Again, nobody exceeded five Vs.
Sticking with ‘Open’, but now at 1,100 yards for 15 shots late Saturday morning, Marco Been took the stage by two points from Hugh Inglis on 63.1v to 61.3v, the extra 100 yards and strengthening winds taking a heavy toll on points. Jim de Kort and Mark Daish were the only others to break 60. F/TR found the going harder with their .308 Win rifles, but not by as much as you’d think, producing another Altcar 101 RC winner, Adam Bagnall taking this one on 60.2v ahead of yet more 101 shooters, Richard Jones (59.3v) and Billy McIntyre (59.0v).
Saturday finished with the 2+20 1,200 yard stage, the leading F/ TR group second detail and their ‘Open’ counterparts last on. We got wind and mirage for this hot weather match, but nothing “light and fishtailing”, a variable left effort giving the .308 shooters windage ranges in double figure MOA-values over the course of the match and changes between shots that ran as large as 6 or 8MOA. Unsurprisingly, there were many complete misses, and plenty of ‘no score hits’ (on the frame, but outside of the 1-ring).
Paul Crosbie, who’d whitewashed the rest of the F/TR field in this match 12 months earlier, repeated the trick with 65.0v, but had a companion in 2013 in the form of reigning European champion Tim Stewart who’d the same score but got second place on ‘countback’. Of the rest, only 101 RC members John Cross and Paul Harkins broke 60 at 63.1v and 61.1v with a huge drop to Russell Simmonds in fifth on 54.1v. This result saw Paul Crosbie lead F/TR on aggregate a full eight points ahead of Adam and nine ahead of the other Paul (Harkins).
The ‘Open’ competitors’ sevens gave them a huge ballistic advantage at this distance in these conditions, and this showed in the scores, with Gary Costello’s 77.2v winning score over Paul Sandie on 76.2v. Apart from Gary, few of those who did well at 1,200 had shone in the earlier matches.
The day dawned clear, sunny and warm, a strong mirage running across the range ahead of the targets. The top ‘Open’ shooters got detail 1 in Match 4 before the heat and left wind really got up, and made the best of these conditions with some excellent scores. The two Davids, Lloyd and Kent, only dropped a single point, each finding the five-inch V-ring on seven occasions, David L getting the match on 5-ring ‘countback’. Mark Daish got bronze with 73.4v.
Overnight leaders Costello and Been were a bit off the pace with 68.1v and 69.4v respectively, which eroded their positions against Tony Marsh’s 72.3v, putting stress on the final 20-round match. With heavy mirage and rising wind, scores fell back relatively so only David Kent, Gary Costello and Tony Marsh broke 90, taking the top three places in that order on 91.7v, 91.5v and 90.2v respectively. This was more than enough for Gary to win overall, and Marco Been’s 88.7v just kept him ahead of Tony overall.
F/TR saw three competitors share 67 (ex 75) in Match 4: Adam Bagnall, Dean Wallace and Paul Harkins in descending V-count order. The other class-leading Paul (Crosbie) was down in 11th with 63.0v halving his lead over Adam to four, making the final class results more open, especially with 20 shots in the fifth and final match. It was 101 RC’s John Cross who got the class medal here with a fine 86.5v in tricky conditions, but Paul was third, sharing 85 with Alan Baldry, and it was now Adam’s turn to drop back, his 81.3v returning the aggregate score gap to eight. The ever-consistent Paul Harkins was close behind for a well deserved third F/ TR overall.