A short history of Precision Rifle Shooting in the UK

For the past decade a group of target shooters in Great Britain have been undertaking precision rifle shooting. No one had really heard of them, or their passion. Within the last 2 years, Precision Rifle Shooting has become one of the most popular disciplines in British target shooting. Here we look at the journey Precision Rifle Shooting has taken and how to do it safely. 

In 2009, inspired by a US competition named “steel safaris”, a group of F-Class shooters and deer stalkers decided to try steel target shooting. They went to a scrapyard bought some armour plate and placed it in a field. After firing a couple of shots at the targets, they realised that steel was not paper and that ricochets were a major concern. They rapidly constructed professional berms with a digger that had 100% bullet capture.  Safety was paramount and the range template was extensive with a large danger area. Precision Rifle Shooting in the UK was born.

The man behind the range was Christopher Dew. For the first decade, the sport grew in a steady and modest manner. As it did so Christopher saw an opportunity to create a British Precision Rifle Competition. Rather than copy the NRL or PRS of the US, he went for the middle ground and started the Precision Rifle League or PRL as it is known to us. In 2018, Christopher enlarged the league to take in ranges in Scotland and Wales. 

The Growth of Precision shooting and the issues that followed 

An NRA affiliated club in the North of England, Gardner’s Guns, joined the PRL and held a series of competitions at their Range in Southern Scotland. Following a divergence in strategy, Marc and Christopher decided to pursue different methodologies and the result was even more choice for UK precision shoot.  Marc went on to create the highly successful “Send it Series” in the north of England, and Christopher grew the PRL in Wales, and the South of England. The PRL then started building a new range in the north of Scotland. This energy continued driving the discipline forward to the extent that the US Precision Rifle Series saw the potential for growth in the UK, and have declared plans to open a series in the UK. Nothing could have been better for the sport of Precision Rifle Shooting; people were doing it all over the place.

Then the wheels temporarily fell off. Covid-19 stopped all shooting.  But then British Precision Rifles shooters were given the best piece of news, the National Rifle Association announced that the Precision Rifle League would be running competitions at the national shooting centre at Bisley. Suddenly shooters in London and the South East no longer needed to drive 5-12 hours to attend a competition. The PRL was going to be held an hour south of London. 

How and where to Shoot Precision Rifle Competitions in the United Kingdom

We are very lucky to have a diverse and vibrant shooting scene, but in order to make the most of it, and to be as safe as possible, potential shooters and firearms certificate holders’ alike need to know what they can and cannot do, and where to do it. The following paragraphs will attempt to address these questions fully.

Precison Rifle Shooting is the accurate shooting of steel targets, sometimes at considerable distances.Matches are competetive and shot from different firing positions. Therefore if you shooting at a steel target in an orgainsed competition of 20 plus competitors, it would follow that precision rifle shooting is a full bore target shooting discipline. Therefore you will need “target” condition on your FAC. The conditions on your Fire Arms Certificate vary, but they usually state:  “The firearms and ammunition shall be used for tarhet shooting on ranges which are legally and safely constructed and maintained”. The PRL organises Precision Rifle Competitions at Orion Firearms training, Valhalla precision, and soon the NSC at Bisley. All of which have been inspected and meet the stringent conditions of being “safely constructed ranges”.  There is also the excellent “Send it Series” organised by Gardners guns at theor range facility near Eskdalmuir. 

In addition to the dynamic precision rifle shooting from barricades, certain home office approved, NRA affiliated rifle clubs shoot Extreme Long Range at club level. (or as it is known in the UK, remarkably long range (RLR).  Most notable are the One Mile Club and the Transcontinental Rifle Association who both host long range precision rifle shoots. It is expected that the number of clubs offering PRL or RLR shooting will soon increase exponentially.

What do you need to Shoot Precision Rifle in the UK

If you want to shoot precision rifle, you need an accurate rifle with a magazine and telescopic sight in either 7.62 or 6.5mm or similar. You don’t need an expensive rifle, a Tikka or Bergara or Howa and Delta telescopic sight are quite fine. Once you get used to the discipline, you may choose to upgrade your rifle system, or you may choose to continue to shoot in “factory class”.

Precision shooting is just that, you need to be precise and to have confidence in your rifle. Long before you shoot steel targets, you should practice on paper on standard gallery ranges, which abound all over the UK. You need to be very accurate on paper at differing distances, and you’re your dope (or bullet drops). Only then you can progress to dynamic precision shooting from barricades. 

If you don’t have a firearms license, you will need to join a Home Office Approved target shooting club in order to use club rifles, and undertake training. You’ll need to learn all about firearms and then learn all about precision rifle and the techniques. This will take time. (see below).

Shooting Safely – You are responsible for every shot you take

These organised competitions,  should not be confused with a pair of shooters zeroing their rifles, or practicing on a a couple of targets in a field. The two stalkers, who are checking their zeroes are undertaking a safety exercise to make sure that when they shoot any legal quarry, they do so humanely. 

You need to remember that as a marksman, you are responsible for every shot you take. If you are shooting on a traditional gallery range, you should be sure that there is only sand behind your target. If you are shooting on a field fire range, or specialised precision rifle range, you need to look around the bullet catchment pit and make sure that there are no animals or worse people anywhere near your target.  You should also have a safety supervisor or range officer looking out for range incursion. Remember, only you are liable if you miss your target and damage property, livestock or worse, hurt a person. So be good and very careful. 

Those of  us who are lucky enough to have completed the Sharp Shooting UK Ballistics course will remember the sage words of chief instructor, Richard Utting: “Remember, if a target ever concerns you, be that for angle, backstop, whatever – you must not take that shot and no sensible shooter will think the worse of you”

If you like the idea of precision rifle shooting, and you do not have a firearms certificate, then you need to join a home office approved rifle club. This is an organisation that has been through thorough police investigation and is vetted. This club will give you training, and then take you on a series of organised target shoots until you become a full member. When you are a full member, you can either choose to continue to use club rifles, or do what most people do, and apply for a firearms certificate.  If you are not a clubby kind of  person, you can join the National Rifle Association, who will vet you, train you, and as long as you keep paying their subscription, will give you good reason to shoot target.

To Wrap it Up

Precision rifle shooting is growing in the UK every day. More and more people are signing up to shoot the PRL and dynamic home office approved clubs are gaining new members. The most important thing is for the British Target Shooting community to manage the advance of this new discipline with care as well as enthusiasm. Like all newcomers, the discipline will have its detractors, or worse people who wish to circumvent the existing legal framework. Use the links in this article to find the safe organisation and safe venue for you. And with that we wish you happy (and Safe!) shooting.