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Shooting competitions and the equipment race (hunting based exercises)

s expensive equipment your only guarantee of success during competitions?

SA Hunters’ shooting activities give members the opportunity to participate at branch, regional, national and eventually at international level. The shooting activities at branch level enable everyone to participate – especially as part of a family activity – whether it is at an informal or competitive level. Having fun is still the most important part of this activity. The shooting exercises comprise hunting-based exercises at animal targets; sport shooting exercises with a variety of firearms and targets; and a variety of fun shooting exercises designed by the branches of SA Hunters.

President and inter branch team shooting competitions
It is at the regional shooting events where the competition among shottists really heat up and where one hears complaints that this level of shooting has become an equipment race. It has often been said that you require a rifle and scope combination to the value of R100 000 before you can compete with top shottists at the President shooting event for individuals or at the Inter Branch Team shooting events.

I share my perspective and readers can decide for themselves if success on the shooting range depends on the latest and greatest – or most expensive – rifle and telescope available on the market. Both the President and the Inter branch team shooting competitions comprise two shooting exercises, e.g. the Bushveld and the Plains shooting exercise. The Bushveld shooting exercise (with three snap shots added at 50m) with three shots from 150m from a kneeling position with shooting sticks; three shots from 100m from a standing position with shooting sticks; three shots from 50m from an offhand standing position; and three snap shots from 50m from an offhand standing position for a total of 12 shots on the blue wildebeest or zebra target.

The Plains shooting exercise (with three additional shots added at 100m) consists of three shots from 300m from a prone position with shooting sticks; three shots from 200m from a prone position with shooting sticks, three shots from 200m from a sitting position with shooting sticks; and three shots at 100m from an offhand sitting position for a total of 12 shots on the sprinbuck target.

For a total of 24 shots in this shooting competition, only three are at 300m on the springbuck target while the rest of the shots are between 50m and 200m. Consider the following equipment as an example: A Howa rifle in the calibre of your choice with a heavy barrel is readily available at a maximum of R12000 while good telescopes with a 14x to 20x maximum magnification is available from R6 000 to R10 000. To be able to compete in these competitions, the shottist should be prepared to spend between R20 000 to R25 000 (2019 prizes) on a rifle-telescope combination and reloaded ammunition for accuracy and affordability for enough practise.

Accuracy need skill
What accuracy is required from the rifle/telescope/ammunition combination for the purpose of this competition? A combination that shoots three-shot grouping of e.g. 25mm at 100m, 50mm at 200m and 75mm at 300m is a good start, but a more accurate combination able to shoot three-shot grouping of e.g. 15mm at 100m, 30mm at 200m and 45mm at 300m will enable a shottist to compete with the top shottists. Reloading your own ammunition is usually the only way to achieve this standard of accuracy. This combination of rifle/telescope/ ammunition is all the equipment one needs. There are many shottists with similar rifle/telescope combinations that qualify on a regular basis among the Top 100 that are invited to the annual national President Shooting Competition and that achieve very good results.

The shottists’ skills are often ignored when comments are made about the equipment race. Consider the following:

Firstly: Only three of the 24 shots at the sprinbuck target are shot at the furthest distance of 300m and it is with this exercise where people could argue that expensive telscopes makes the difference between a V-bull with a 30 score or a score of only 30 or 20 per shot. A score of 10 or -10 per shot has nothing to do with the equipment used, but depends entirely on the shottists’ skills, e.g. assessing the conditions such as wind, mirage, incorrect height adjustments of the telescope or a poorly executed shot.

Secondly: In reality, the biggest impact on a good or bad score depends on the nine shots from the offhand shooting positions, i.e.: three shots at 100m in the offhand sitting position at the springbuck target and two exercises comprising three shots each at 50m on the blue wildebeest target from an offhand standing position.

Attend these shooting competitions to observe the shottists that shoot consistently high scores and whose names are high on the regional and national ranking lists. Those shottists that were successful in the last nine shots (mentioned above) are usually the people that perform well on the day. These same shottists will tell you that a bad shot or two among the last nine shots can potentially change a very high score into a mediocre or even a bad score for the day. Expensive equipment has absolutely nothing to do with the success of these nine shots, but everything to do with basic shooting skills.

Xander Bailey (12 years old) qualified during the 2018 national President shooting competition for his Platinum award – here in action during the Bushveld exercise – 50m offhand item

Shooting skills depend on practice
Basic shooting skills are developed through regular practice and the development/ confirmation of basic shooting techniques! Centre-fire ammunition is relatively expensive, even if you reload your own. Frequent practice is therefore expensive! Shottists can improve their shooting skills a lot cheaper by using an air rifle or rimfire rifle and this specifically applies to the nine shots from the offhand shooting positions.

There is criticism by some people about the offhand shooting positions whithin a hunting-based shooting exercise – it is deemed as an irresponsible shot at game, when hunting and therefore it should not be part of these shooting competitions.

Consider the following perspective:

  1. The objective of the Plains and Bushveld shooting exercises is firstly, to teach and encourage shottists to use support (e.g. shooting sticks) when hunting to ensure a responsible shot at game.
  2. Shooting from a offhand position is an essential part of the shottists’ shooting skills. It usually requires a quick decision to execute the offhand shot when hunting. The ability to take such a shot successfully improves the hunter’s versatility. The shottist is prepared when hunting, ready to make an offhand shot, should the need arise.
  3. The offhand shooting positions is the foundation of all other shooting positions and if not developed, it will always be a shortcoming. Example: a deviation in the natural direction taken over shooting sticks will probably not affect your shot placement too much, but it will in all probabbilty have a major impact when shooting from the offhand position.

Equipment described above (with a value from R20 000 to R25 000) is only one element of a shottists success. The second part is the shottist’s skill which is evident at the shooting range during shooting competitions.

Do you reaaly need a rifle/scope combination valued at R100 000 to compete? You decide!

For more information regarding the Bushveld and Plains shooting exercises vist www.cw.co.za – SA Hunters regional shooting program – SA Hunters Regional shooting competitions 2019

For more information regarding shooting skills visit www.cw.co.za – Manual for the development of Shooting Skills for Hunters

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