Welcome to Service Rifle Shooting, certainly one
of the most exciting of the shooting disciplines available to
Australian shooters today. When you join the Military Rifle
Clubs Association (MRCA), you shoot with a collection of people
from all backgrounds who share the love of a great sport, one
that we all wish to see flourish and expand. So, if you know
responsible people who want to try shooting as an organised and
safe sport, get them involved and ensure the future of this fun
pastime for our children and their children.
The MRCA Inc., which is a District Rifle
Association and part of the New South Wales Rifle Association
Inc., is the peak body of three separate Service rifle clubs:
Australian Engineers (CMF) Rifle Club Inc.(or RAE),
Industry Rifle Club Inc. (formerly QANTAS R.C.) and
Services Institute Rifle Club Inc. (USI).
Each club has its own committee and constitution
and is represented on the MRCA Council which supports the clubs
by organising the calendar of events, running accounts for the
purpose of maintenance and target provision, and providing
representation on the NSW Rifle Association Council.
Types Of Shooting Conducted and Grading
The types of shoot conducted by the MRCA fall
into the following categories. Most days competitions will be
made up of combinations of these types of shoots:
– slow fire shoot, generally on a four foot square target
scored with concentric rings of values V
(central bullseye – 5 points value), 5, 4, 3, 2 and miss. Most
shoots consist of two sighting shots which may or may not be
kept to count to the final score and eight or ten counting
shots, each of which are marked separately. During this type of
shoot you may not adjust for windage but you may for elevation.
There is a limit of 45 seconds allowed for each shot.
(or snap, rapid and deliberate fire) – rapid
Rapid Shooting can occur on a four foot target
or other smaller targets as a particular competition rule
dictates; a rapid fire match occurs when the target is
continually exposed for a period of typically 40 to 60 seconds,
within which time the shooter must attempt to fire a maximum of
8 or 10 rounds at the target. Scoring generally is the same as
for application if on the four foot target and, on other smaller
targets, a hit may simply register a designated point value eg 5
Snap Shooting occurs when a smaller target is
held up on edge and exposed typically for periods of three to
eight seconds depending on whether one or two shots are to be
fired for up to ten individual exposures. Hits register a point
value designated for that match.
Shoots are, in effect, a slowed down form of rapid-fire shoot
where you may be given, say two minutes to fire ten shots at a
target generally used in application shoots.
· Walkdowns – these consist of a combination of different target
types being exposed for different periods with
shooters advancing down the range from, say, 300 metres to, say,
50 metres and shooting various numbers of rounds per exposure.
- consist of specialty one offs like rimfire shoots,
matches and sniper teams.
is based on scores achieved on designated grading
matches which consist of mostly service and
application type shoots. The grades within the MRCA are,
in ascending order:
60 to 69
70 to 79
80 to 89
Official gradings are assigned by the club
captain when shooters average their three best scores from grade
matches on each range over a twelve month period and achieve the
Safety is of paramount concern to every person
who handles a firearm and is taken very seriously in the MRCA.
We are using high powered military calibres; consequently,
breaches of safety have potentially fatal consequences and are
very serious matters. Offenders, depending on the severity of
the breach, will suffer disciplinary consequences ranging from
warnings through reprimands and suspension up to expulsion. Read
these rules and become familiar with them. If you do not
understand any of them, ask a senior shooter in your club or the
Firearms – all firearms carried at any shoot conducted by the MRCA must, unless
otherwise directed by the range officer (eg during the course of
a walkdown shoot) be carried unloaded with the bolt removed or,
in the case of eg lever action rimfires, with the action open
and a plug or cable through the action opening to clearly
indicate its inability to be fired. Rifles may only have bolts
inserted when the range is open and the shooter is on the firing
point. At all times, when the shooter is on the firing point (or
mound) with the bolt inserted, the rifle must be pointed
Carriage and Storage of Firearms & Ammunition – once a vehicle passes through the front gate of the range the rifles
contained in that vehicle must have no bolt in the action in
order to comply with range standing orders. If you are not in
the immediate vicinity of the vehicle in which your rifle is
stored while on the range, it must be locked. It is also
recommended that ammunition be carried in a separate locked
container in the car or that it be separated to a different
locked up part of the vehicle. The police can (and have)
attended and revoked licences on the spot for breaches.
Orders on the
firing point – The following orders occur in this sequence during service rifle
matches and their meanings appear alongside:
“Shooters on the
mound, this is a ….round (rapid/single tap/double tap snap)
practice. Load … rounds.” Those shooters
with a pre loaded detachable magazine may insert the magazine
into the rifle or those with inbuilt magazines may load the
required number or maximum it will hold if that is less than the
practice requires. The bolt remains up and to the rear with
rounds unchambered. During this period there may be a trial
exposure of the target in which time you may take aim but not
close the bolt.
– the bolt is closed and safety applied.
– the safety is released. In practice, these two commands are
generally combined as the one command.
shoot!” followed by a second command of “Watch and
shoot.” The first command alerts shooters to watch for the
appearance of targets and the second is transmitted to the butts
by radio to alert the butts party to be ready to expose the
targets. On appearance of the targets, shooters on the mound may
commence firing until the targets disappear or they are ordered
to “cease firing” by the range officer or,
alternatively, in the event of a safety breach, all firing must
cease on a whistle blast. The order to cease firing would
only generally be given in the event of a safety breach either
on the mound or if unauthorised people stray into the target
area during a shoot.
– on completion of a stage of service shooting, the range
officer will instruct the two safety officers to clear all
shooters’ rifles. At this time, shooters remove bolts and any
remaining ammunition from the magazine and present the rifle,
pointed downrange, so that the safety officers can see there is
no ammunition or other obstructions in the breach or barrel of
the rifle. When all rifles have been cleared twice, the range
officer will instruct shooters to leave the firing point and
shooters will secure their firearms.
At the completion of an application stage,
however, the check scorer clears the individual shooter’s
rifle for whom he or she is scoring and the shooter can then
retire from the firing point.
hangfires – it is possible at any stage to experience a misfire or hangfire,
especially when shooting old military rifles with old military
ammunition. A misfire occurs when the primer on the base
of the case is struck too lightly by the striker to cause
ignition or when the primer or propellent is faulty due to poor
manufacture or storage. You just hear a click. A hangfire occurs
when there is a discernible time gap between fall of striker and
ignition. This often happens with old .303 ammunition of
Pakistani or Indian manufacture but can happen any time.
you experience a misfire you must not open the bolt for at least
You may, if your rifle has an external cocking piece, recock the
rifle and try again, at which time the round may or may not
fire. If the round has not fired, wait for the mandatory 30
seconds, then carefully remove the offending cartridge and ask
the range officer for advice as to disposal.
– Headspacing is the amount of space that exists around
different parts of a chambered round in a rifle (depending on
the type of cartridge) and it is critical to the safe and
accurate use of any firearm. In the case of when you purchase
any rifle but most particularly old military rifles, it is wise
to get its headspacing checked by a competent gunsmith before
you fire it. It is sometimes a fairly cheap and simple problem
to fix, depending on the rifle.
– When you detonate a small explosion capable of propelling an
ounce of metal at 2 ½ times the speed of sound roughly 3 inches
from your face at 19 tons of pressure, a lot of factors built
into the rifle work to keep you, the firer safe from injury.
Hardened steel locking lugs, combinations of different
metallurgy used in different parts of the rifle all go to
provide a good measure of safety from catastrophic injury to the
It must be emphasized, however, that we are
using some rifles 100 years old, if not in actual years, then
definitely in design and we should all take measures to protect
ourselves from the occasional equipment or ammunition failure
(acute injury to eyes and face) or chronic injury that builds up
over time (gradual hearing loss).
All shooters, therefore, are held personally
responsible and must wear hearing protection (ear plugs
or muffs) and appropriate safety eyewear (either safety
glasses or prescription shooting glasses with non glass lenses)
when on the firing point and in the butts.
of Firearms Permitted
Basically any smokeless calibre rifle of 8 mm or less (that conforms to
current laws) can be used at Malabar in MRCA shoots but, in
order to be graded according to the rules and have a relatively
level playing field, rifles fall into the following competition
– any iron sighted rifle on a military receiver/bolt action in
most military calibres under 8 mm. Typically these include:
7.62 x 51 NATO
5.56 x 45 NATO
7.62 x 39 mm
7.62 x 54 mm
6.5 x 55 mm Swedish
7.92 mm Mauser
(Commonly known as 8 mm Mauser) etc
rifles can include conversions from original military calibres
to other military calibres eg .303 to 7.62 x 39 mm.
Non Service Rifle -
commercially available bolt action rifle that conforms to
Standard Shooting Rules. This includes
telescopic sighted and iron sighted rifles or military rifles in
the Service categories above but using tunnel foresights.
4. Ranges and
The following shooting positions are to be adopted at the firing point at
these corresponding ranges unless the type of shoot or the range
officer directs otherwise. People of extreme age or disabiltiy
can be accommodated with relaxation of these rules when the
range officer is consulted.
50 and 100 metres
200 metres sitting
300 and 400 metres
prone unsupported or supported depending on the shoot.
Shooters generally supply their own ammunition but
some clubs may sell cheap ammunition to their own members. If
you are shooting a caliber where factory ammunition is expensive
eg 6.5 mm Swedish, you may wish to reload.
you wish to start reloading, do not immediately take the advice
of hot shots who advise shooting maximum or above loads
published in handbooks. Take some time and work up loads from
10% to 15% below maximum, particularly if you are shooting old
military rifles. Use the slowest rated propellent that gives the
optimum velocity recommended for your caliber/projectile choice.
You will find a suitable, milder load that gives you better
barrel life, less recoil and better scores. Taipan
projectiles are inexpensive, accurate and Australian made as are
ADI powders. You can also buy excellent, inexpensive, reloadable
match ammo in .223 and .308 from the NSWRA Shop.
If you choose to shoot Sellier and Bellot .303
factory ammo and then reload, be advised that it has quite
brittle brass and three reloads are all you can reasonably
expect before the likelihood of case head separations ie where
the brass case splits in two; a potentially dangerous situation.
In order to keep costs down, we take turns to
mark our own targets at our shoots. This is not an onerous task
and provides the opportunity to get to know members from other
clubs and exchange banter, jokes, lies etc.
Exemptions from butts duty are granted to those
have a disability
which does not allow them to mark or
are of such
advanced age that mobility is a problem.
We would ask that you concentrate on your duty
to mark as quickly and effectively as you would like to have it
done for you. Then shoots will run more smoothly and
efficiently. Time adds up. When the Range Officer calls for
volunteers for butts duty, please willingly answer the call.
Marking Application Targets
The four foot square target has concentric
scoring rings with a crouching figure superimposed on its
When a shot goes through your target, pull it
down and place a spotting disc through the hole. If the shot was
a V or 5 place it white side up. For all other values place it
red side up.
Then put your target up and place the value indicator (ten inch metal
disc on a pole) over the spotting disc for a few seconds, then
indicate the value of the shot by holding the disc over the area
of the target that indicates the value of the shot eg 5 is
indicated by holding the disc on the bottom right corner of the
target. If a shot cuts the dividing line between two
values, you award the higher value.
Your fellow markers in the butts will observe and assist you in
Natural Point of Aim (NPA) – this is the place the shooter will direct shots if he or she relaxes
in their chosen position. You will get better scores if your NPA
(or relaxed body position) and the line drawn between the rifle
and target coincide. If your NPA is aligned to the left of the
target, and you happen to pull shots, guess where they will end
up – to the left of the target.
The way to check if your NPA is aligned with the
target; line up as if you were going to fire a shot, then close
your eyes and relax for 5 seconds. Open your eyes and you will
see where you naturally point. Adjust your body position
accordingly and retry until you think you could hit the target
with your eyes shut.
There are 5 positions that are used in MRCA competition. They are, in
ascending order of steadiness (see diagrams):
Without going into a complex explanation of how to achieve the positions
in the diagrams, it is sufficient to say you need to get a coach
to instruct you to get into them and then to find the position
in which you can just hang relaxed and comfortable without
having to hold the forend of the rifle up. As much as possible,
the combination of the sling and supporting arm should make a
rest for the rifle and it should not be gripped nor should you
exert any conscious upward muscular effort on the rifle to align
with the target.
The trigger hand should rest naturally around the small of the butt
(pistol grip) and the thumb can rest alongside or curl over.
There should be a slight pressure from the trigger hand to make
the butt rest lightly but firmly on the cheek. This helps to
stabilize and balance the whole position.
To shoot effectively from all but the prone supported position it is best
to be able to make use of the sling. Slings can be of three
Two point or
traditional sling which is useful for carrying the rifle
slung over the shoulder and of some use, with
practice, to steady the rifle. For SMLE specialty shoots, this
is generally the only sling allowed.
Two point target
rig which has a swivel just forward of the
Magazine and one at the forward barrel band.-
useful for prone shooting but fairly complex to use seated and
standing – not permitted in service shooting but was common
some years ago in fullbore.
single point sling – is just a loop coming off the forward
band swivel. This is the easiest to use in all
positions due to it not coming across the upper body to the
armpit and constricting mobility.
The two main types of sight in use in Service
Shooting are the aperture and leaf sights. In some SMLE matches,
the original leaf sights are mandatory because, to shoot with an
aperture sight gives an unfair advantage. The reasons are that
the aperture is easier to use, particularly if you have less
than perfect eyesight and the distance between front and rear
sight (the sighting radius) is greater, thereby allowing more
precise aiming. Although this makes little difference at short
ranges, when you move back to 300 metres the difference can win
The idea of military shooting is to be able to
hit a man sized target anywhere up to 300 metres when aiming at
the centre of mass. At 100 to 200 metres you go close to where
you aimed and at 300 metres shots fall but still hit in the body
area. The Baltic school of thought was that a 300 metre
zero would allow you to aim at the belt buckle at any range up
to 300 metres and get a body hit. Who can see a belt buckle at
over 100 metres???
If you zero your rifle at 200 metres, then your
bullet should drop anywhere between 8 and 15 inches at 300
metres. In this case you could hold over at 300 metres
(impractical). You could also zero at 300 metres and hold under
at the other ranges but this is imprecise. It is best if
you practise shoot at the three ranges so you can alter your
sights by a pre known amount at each range. In effect you can
hold point of aim at 100 and 200 metres but it is practical to
use a 6 o’clock hold at 300 metres because you just obscure
too much target with the foresight blade when using point of
Technical Stuff that Helps
your sighting shots count. Without over-concentrating, ensure that you take enough time to make
your sighters as perfect as possible. Then you have a firm basis
from which to adjust or aim off to ensure your group is centred.
is paramount. Once you are on target, you must strive to release each successive shot
exactly the same as the last and you should develop the skill of
calling where individual shots will fall on the target. Practise
this during application shoots.
is important. There are two measures of effectiveness in shooting. They are consistency
refers to the shooter / rifle combination’s ability to put all
shots fired at exactly the same point of aim into a very small
area known as “the group”. That group need not fall on the
point at which the rifle is aimed.
a totally different concept that means that the rifle hits the
center of the target at which it is aimed.
What all this means is that, when you have moved
your group to coincide with the centre of the target, you have
accuracy. If the group is relatively small, you have
consistency. The shooter who understands this and regularly
combines the two concepts in practice will be almost unbeatable.
In practice, this is not so important for
application shoots, where you can chase shot after shot as a
result of the feedback from the butts. Where it is vitally
important is in service shooting where you fire a string of
shots quickly with no feedback from the first to last shot.
Watch the groups of master graders on the targets when they come
up after snap and rapid shoots and you will generally see small
clusters of spotters close to the center of the target – this
is the ideal to strive for.
What should I look for in Grouping?
Most shooting magazine writers will carp on
about rifles shooting 3 or 5 shot Minute of Angle (or 1” at
100 yards) groups from a bench rest over a ten minute period.
This is fine as a measure of a sporting or target rifle’s
inherent consistency but not for a knockabout service rifle that
has to put 10 shots in a 12 inch circle in 60 seconds at
anywhere from 100 to 300 metres.
Once you have developed a good crisp
consistent trigger release without a flinch, you should lie down
at 200 metres on a still day with a sandbag rest and shoot 5
shots over a couple of minutes. If they fall in a 5 to 6 inch
circle, you should be happy, if they cut 4 inches or smaller you
should jump for joy. When shooting you should take care to place
your hand under the fore-end so that the rifle does not jump
away from the solid surface and give you a different zero than
when you are competing.
After you have established the consistency
potential of the rifle, alter your sights so that your group
falls in the center of the bullseye by firing successive three
shot groups on the same sight settings and then adjusting and
It is important also to establish your
points of impact in the four different shooting positions that
you will adopt. You will most probably find that there is a
significant variation in your points of impact (for the same
point of aim) between most particularly prone and sitting
positions. Practice these at the same range and work out
appropriate separate zeroes for 100 standing, 200 sitting and
kneeling and 300 prone
All military rifles are equipped with a two
stage trigger ie a trigger with a light and long travel of
first pressure followed by a heavier second pressure with no
discernible movement (if you’re lucky).
While breathing and acquiring the target you
should take up the first pressure and when steady on the target,
you should suspend breathing for a second or two and firmly
squeeze the second pressure to fire the rifle. The trigger
should not be jerked even when involved in rapid fire shooting
as this will result in misses.
If you think you are the only shooter with
terrible wobbles then think again. I know one master grader who
wobbles horribly – he just knows when to let go. Use down time
to take up the first stage and when you pass/wobble or get blown
by the target, squeeze off your shot. Your trigger control will
improve only with practice.
Assuming your natural point of aim now coincides
with your designated target, how do we make sure that we stay on
our target. Continual reference to the numbers above the
targets is the only way you will not shoot on someone else’s
target and even the best master graders sometimes let one go to
their neighbour’s target.
It is enough to say here that you need to have a
sight picture that includes the numbers above your target,
particularly in service shoots. If you have that much space
around your target you may think that this gives room for
inaccuracy. That is not the case because the eye naturally finds
the center of the rear aperture anyway and any errors are
So select a large aperture instead of choosing
to get your eye really close to it because you need to see
what’s going on around you during service type shoots. You
also choose to keep your non aiming eye open between shots to
maintain that awareness needed.
13. Gear Needed
In order to be self contained in rifle shooting
with the MRCA, you will need to invest in the following as a
serviceable, accurate bolt action military rifle. A good
standard is a Lee Enfield No 4 action in .303, 7.62 NATO, .223
or 7.62 x 39mm. People are selling them for reasonable prices
all the time in the MRCA.
small pair of cheap, compact low power binoculars so you can see
the spotters at 300 metres
pair of ear muffs, shooting glasses, hat and sunscreen.
jacket to provide some padding and friction while shooting. Many
use variations on the
Australian Army “Coat Mans Field Olive Green” and
others have purpose made jackets. Whatever you choose, padding
must not exceed 10 mm compressed at any point.
screwdriver that fits your rear sight attachments and bedding
screws – they work loose.
lockable box for storage of your ammo and bolt at the range
gear: a cleaning rod with brass jag, bronze brush, flannelette,
good powder solvent like Hoppe’s No 9, Sweets solvent, Sweets
oil and a box to put your bits in.
car to put it in.
Apart from the car, you should be able to
get away with well under a grand to start.
Little Tricks that Help
Bitter experience teaches us all lessons that we
wish we could have known beforehand, so that we could improve
without pain. Well we are giving you a few little tips that will
help you get better, quicker.
your buttplate by glueing on a piece of emery paper. This will prevent washouts due to
instead of lie. There are a few walkdown shoots throughout the year where you can adopt
any position to fire on the appearance of the target – do not
go prone because you do not have the time. Kneeling works really
your eyes between shots to avoid fatigue. Look at grass in the middle distance.
Green refreshes the eyes.
not peer through binoculars for long periods
waiting for marked targets to come up. When you see them come up
with the naked eye, look through the binos with your non aiming
eye to see your spotters.
prepared from shot to shot. You can often see the posts holding up side on
snap targets between shots. Line up on these with your first
pressure already taken up and when it appears, whammo! You then
have all the time in the world to reload, rest and set up for
the next exposure.
not detach your magazine on the mound before a service shoot. If you drop it in
sand, you might as well just walk away because you won’t be
able to feed rounds and, if you could, would you really want to
do that to your rifle?
practice at home with a drill round or previously fired case so you can
develop the secret of service shooting, “smooth
repeatability”. Ensure that you point the rifle in a safe
direction at all times and ensure that it is unloaded before
to the range early some Saturdays and do a morning practice with other
shooters; you will know your rifle is zeroed for the afternoon
shoot and relax away from competition. This is when you get to
know your rifle.
scoped matches, do not alter your sight settings – aim off.
Many scope sights adjustments are notoriously inconsistent but
once zeroed they will hold it.
time wisely at the range before your shoot to practice in the position you will be
shooting in without a bolt in the rifle. Practice aligning your
body and achieving your NPA, get your sling tension correct and
work out how to support the rifle with minimal muscular tension.
the ground to your advantage. When on the mound, reconnoitre a space that
will give you correct support for the position you will adopt.
For example, if you shoot cross legged in the sitting position,
you may want an upward sloping section of mound so that your
need to elevate the barrel to align with the target is
minimized; conversely, if you shoot in the classical sitting
position with legs apart and heels planted in the ground, then
you may prefer to have a downward sloping piece of mound.
to others’ advice but look at how they shoot.
Sometimes they may be throwing you off the trail because you may
seem like competition or else they just may not have a clue. Be
sure to observe the good shots and read widely about
marksmanship and technique so you have a firm theoretical base
to advance your shooting. Remember though, once you have gained
that information, share it with the new shooters who come after
you. You’re there to help others, make friends and socialise
as well as win medals and your attitudes will be passed on by
them. Generosity of spirit in sport is more important than all
the possibles you could achieve through mean spiritedness.
forget to have fun.
1. The New
Position Rifle Shooting by Pullum and Hanenkrat
published in 1997 published by
Target Sports Education Center, Oklahoma. ISBN
0-9655780-0-3. Highly recommended
Rifle Shooting by Jim Sweet OAM published in many
editions from the 50’s though to the 80’s. The early to late
sixties editions have some great stuff on shooting the .303.
Rare as rocking horse poo – ask if you can photocopy
someone’s in your club.
Winning In Mind
by Lanny Basham published in 1995 by the author. ISBN
1-885221-47-9. An Olympic champion shooter explains a “mental
management system” that helps to lift performance in sport and
other areas of life. Good stuff.
Lee Enfield Story by
Ian Skennerton. Definitive work on the Lee Enfield, its history,
Textbook of Small Arms – 1929.
you really get into it, this has some invaluable information
about ammunition and service rifles particularly the No 1 Mk III
Psychology of Marksmanship by Edward Leong published by the author. A rare blend of hokey self
referencing to MRCA characters but with an interesting and
effective, if sometimes confusing treatise on mental attitude
and its effects on performance.
Appendix 1 - Shooter’s
(right handed shooter)