This year's outdoor shooting season has been interesting so far, not least because we've finally received the L81A2 target rifle to replace the Cadet GP in the target rifle competitions.
The target rifle (TR) differs from the GP in many respects, both in its calibre (7.62 mm rather than 5.56 mm) and its accuracy (far greater). With the TR we shoot from 300 m and 500 m, rather than 200 m and 300 m with the Cadet GP. The TR is also a lot heavier, and no-one in the team is entirely comfortable shooting it yet.
We also have a much younger team than usual. We started the season with only one marksman from the Upper 6th, Matt Turley, who's since left to concentrate on his studies. Fortunately for us, there's a lot of third and fourth formers who show seriously talent for the sport, so next year the team is sure to be as strong as ever.
The season kicked off at our annual Easter training camp just before the beginning of term. With the target rifles having been delivered in the nick of time, we tore ourselves away from our Easter celebrations to spend a couple of days at the Pirbright and Stoneycastle ranges familiarizing ourselves with the new weapons.
Apart from the regular Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday training sessions, we've shot in four matches so far this term. The first match was the London and Middlesex Rifle Association Match, shot at Bisley on the 3rd of May. Despite a couple of minor setbacks, including some loose sights and the fact that most of us had never shot at 500 m before, our Eight came fourth overall: not bad for our first TR competition. The Four and Pair fared somewhat better, coming second in their respective competitions behind our perennial rivals Epsom. Tom Gray shot especially well, with an aggregate of 61 with 4 v-bulls.
Our next match was the Surrey Schools Match. Our Eight fared very well, finishing second overall and winning the Bellhaven Challenge Trophy for non-Surrey schools, beating both St Johns and Uppingham. Notable was Nick Davies 34.3 at 500 m, but Tom Goldsmith's performance was unequalled, taking second in the Drayson Challenge Cup.
The last weekend before half-term was our busiest so far this season. On the Saturday we were at Bisley, where we started off at 300 m to shoot the Sawyer Cup. It was a close match, and our Eight finished fifth overall, but our Pair and Reserve Pair came second in their competitions. When we moved back to 500 m it rained heavily, and visibility was very poor, but the Eight shot well, coming runners up in the Cox Cup by one point. The Pair (Alex Davies and Ollie Peggram) improved on their performance at 300 m to take the Cusack-Smith Memorial Challenge Cup, while the Reserve Pair came second again.
The Sunday saw us at Ash Ranges near Guildford, where we had four teams competing in the 4th Division Target Rifle Match. This match was shot with Cadet GP rifle, as the TR had not yet been issued to all the units competing. This hampered us, as we hadn't done any real practise with the GP this season, although it did give those members of the team too small to fire the TR successfully a chance to get some valuable competition experience. Nevertheless, our A team still managed to come third overall, only four points behind the winners, Sutton Valence. In the individual competition, James Waghorn came third in the senior class, while the juniors cleaned up: Gregory Brett and Alex Davies were joint first, and Tom Gray and Johnny Wheeler joint second.
We're now looking forward to the Bisley Schools' Meet, where we hope to get our own back on Sutton Valence and Epsom and walk away with the Ashburton Shield, the Grand Aggregate and every other prize we compete for. For the first time, members of the shooting team will stay on to compete in the Imperial Meeting and compete for places in next year's Great Britain youth teams.
Indoor shooting goes from strength to strength. Last term, the third form competition was won by Alex Davies with an average of 92.6, the under-16s was won by Robert Mackenzie-Smith with 95, and the seniors by Peter Brett with 91.4. Top score badges went to Peter Brett, George Wilkins, Robert Mackenzie-Smith and James Vincent.
Thanks must go to Huw Twiston-Davies, who is completely indispensible as our scorer, and Bill Sanderson, our indomitable chief butt-marker. Also to Dr Danks, Mr Womersley, Mr Bosher, Mr Upton, and last but not least the tireless Mr Topham, without whom none of this would be possible.