My First Trip to Bisley
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- Last updated: 28/02/2017
My list of shooting destinations and the types of shooting I have been doing has been getting longer since I have started to get more and more into rifle shooting. From fox shooting in Scotland, to shooting steel in Wales, to targets at Middlewick and Fingeringhoe ranges, I have until very recently somehow managed to miss out the legendary ranges found at Bisley! I am sure that there are plenty of shooters out there who would like the chance to go and test their skills and their kit at longer ranges and who would also like to know how to go about it, so I thought I would talk about my experience.
Now, Bisley is quite a significant size, with many, many buildings on the grounds, so I won’t try to list everything. We can start with the range offices, which is where you go to sign in and pick up your radio etc. You can also purchase ammunition here at pretty good prices. The GGG 5.56mm was only about £21 for 50 and shot very well indeed.
Next up are the various ranges that you can choose from. You can start by using the zeroing ranges, which do not need booking but it is worth phoning and checking that they will be open. There is a time limit on this range though, as its purpose is simply to make sure you are zeroed.
If you want to spend some time shooting at 100-yards or 200-yards, then it is worth checking out Short Siberia, which has 8x 100-yard targets and 8x 200-yard targets available.
Melville Range is for gallery rifle and pistol shooting and has four bays each containing 10 targets and a bay of advancing targets, with turning targets at 25- and 50-metres. Gallery rifles and pistols can be shot on this range, which sounds like fun!
So, after Short Siberia, Century range is the next step up. It is much more significant in size, with around 108 targets. The distances available here include 100-, 200-, 300-, 500- and 600-yards. There is a separate car park (at the 300-yards) for the shorter distances, so you don’t have to walk all the way from the back of the range with your kit! There is plenty of parking at the back of the ranges if you are using the 500- and 600-yard points, which is important as Century range is very popular and there are also toilets in the car park.
If 600-yards is still too short for you, then Stickledown is the range for you. Here there are 50 targets available at 800-, 900-, 1000-, 1100- and 1200-yards!
There are various ways that you can get into shooting at Bisely and you do not need a licence to get started. The first method is to apply as a probationary member in the NRA; following this, you will then embark on a series of training modules, which introduce you to safety and the safe handling of firearms, range regulations, marksman principles, zeroing, working the butts and using scoped and un-scoped rifle etc. This training will then conclude with an assessment for a safe shooter certification card. Following all of this, the individual can then apply for their very own firearms licence (FAC) and go from there!
It is important to note at this point that, no matter what position you are in, you will require a shooter certification card and NRA membership in order to shoot at Bisely. So if you have a licence already and are a member of a NRA affiliated club such as myself then you should be able to get trained up and pass the assessment for your certification card with your club. Alternatively, if you are already a FAC holder and not in a club you can join the NRA and get trained up and assessed at Bisley, simple!
To become a member or a probationary member, the cost for annual membership is £74.30 and for those of you over 65 it is £69.25. For 22-25 year olds it is £42.25, which is good to see because we need plenty of young shooters joining the sport! This is also reinforced by the junior rate of £0.00 for those lucky enough to be under 21.
The painful part, however, is for those who require the initial training, there are a few variables but essentially it costs £482.50 or £289 if you are under the age of 25. I am glad I did the training through my club!
If you are now an NRA member with a certification card and ready to go shooting, then you will need to book a lane on the range of your choosing. This is done by registering on the NRA website and then requesting whatever you want. So for example, you pick Century range, the date you want to attend, if you want morning or afternoon, how many people, then the distance and if you want to be able to fall back to longer distances. You can also request a marker for your session who will stay with you for the duration of your morning or afternoon session. The lane price is £20.50 to £50.00 depending on low or high season and AM or PM. Once this is done, then it is simply a case of waiting for approval.
Importantly, it is worth noting that once approved it is a good idea to login and check everything is still okay leading up to your Bisley visit, as your approval may well change, and this does happen!
Having decided to go to the range with my friend Mark, both for the first time, we decided that we would make use of short Siberia on a Saturday afternoon to make sure the rifles were zeroed. Mark would be using a new rifle for the first time, so we needed to establish what ammunition worked best and to generally give his setup a shakedown before moving onto Century range on Sunday morning.
Upon arrival at the range offices, we checked the boards to make sure we were on the lists for ranges we had chosen and what lanes we would be using. Then went in to sign on and pick up some ammunition. We wouldn’t need a marker for 100-metres, so didn’t need a radio.
Having got to Short Siberia, we had a quick look around to see what’s what and to find our lane. We noticed that there were approximately six lanes undercover and using benches, which are good for anyone who can’t keep getting up and down from the prone position.
It also helps when adverse weather conditions come into play! The remainder of the lanes were uncovered, with shingle underfoot and a wooden board along the front, which is always useful for bipods, we would be using one of these lanes.
Before bringing our kit over, we made our way down to the butts. There is a side track that is safe to use even during firing that allows shooters access to the butts. This means that there is no pause in firing during the day to go forward and check your targets. More time shooting and less time patching, sounds good to me!
Once set-up, it is just a case of waiting for the klaxon that can be heard across the whole of Bisley to sound, signalling the beginning of shooting. This afternoon session would run from 13.30 to 17.30 (be aware these timings can vary depending on the season and what day of the week it is). The weather was fantastic and our goal was simple, my zero was spot-on, so it was just a case of practising my firing cycle and working on my technique, while Mark tried various types of .308 ammunition in his Tikka T3 CTR.
This was only interrupted to allow the cooling of the barrel and moderator and to check out another shooter having great fun with his VZ58 MARS rifle- he was certainly making a racket!
Top tip of the day is to bring plenty of water, as you can get a lot of shooting done in four hours and it does affect your eyes if you get dehydrated. My old TA pistol coach always made sure we were hydrated before shooting. Once the klaxon signalled the end of play, we packed up and headed home.
Our goal for the day was to essentially confirm the drops at 300- and 500-yards with our rifles, in tandem with a ballistic app called Strelok. At these ranges, we would also be able to start gaining experience with the effects of the wind on the two calibres we would be using (.223 and .308) and of course we would also find out how accurate we and our rifles would be! Oh and don’t forget, having fun!
As mentioned previously, there is a separate car park for the lanes at 300-yards which is useful and having signed in, found out what lanes we would be using and getting a radio, we were quickly set-up. As a new shooter, you can print of a list of the radio commands between you and your marker, thus making communication pretty easy. As we would be falling back at some point, we were given a different lane to use at the 500- yard point when we were ready.
While waiting for the klaxon, we had a chat with a husband and wife shooting duo, who very kindly gave us some advice on the wind on this range. They had a very handy wind meter, something I shall definitely be investing in!
With the sound of the klaxon and having made contact with our marker, we proceeded.
Having both previously put as much data into Strelok as possible, we used this as well as basic ballistic information to make initial adjustments to our scopes and were thrilled to find that we were both very close to the mark straight off the bat.
There is a fantastic feature on the app that allows you to work backwards to work out your muzzle velocity and amend your drops; so having put in a guess, I was in fact shooting high at 300-yards. So I took off some elevation until I was consistently hitting the V-Bull. At this point I was able to tell Strelok how many minutes of angle (MOA) was actually required at 300-yards and it simply readjusted my muzzle velocity and recalculated my drop charts!
Having both done this, it was soon time to move to the 500- yard point, so we stood down our marker and moved him across to our new lane, while we packed up the car and moved to the car park at the back of Century.
Once set-up on our lane, and having consulted our friendly wind gurus, I was up first. So armed with my Mossberg MVP, some 62gr GGG and Strelok, I dialled in the necessary and achieved exactly what I wanted – a V-Bull with my first shot, which was closely followed by a second and a third. Next up was Mark with the .308, and he was damn close, so after a quick adjustment he was soon bang on as well. This was a fantastic feeling and thoroughly enjoyable. Of course, there was a bloke with iron sights, no bipod, a sling and no Strelok getting V-bulls all day long as well.
We had both confirmed our data and were consistently hitting the targets and getting V-Bulls, which is what we had set out to do. We were both ready to push back further, though unfortunately that would have to wait until another day!
I believe Bisley is a good place to start when it comes to shooting in general, with training for beginners and experienced shooters available in all the major disciplines, ranging from F-Class to practical shotgun, certainly enough to keep you busy and to make the most of your membership. There are also many opportunities to enter all sorts of competitions and to get stuck into disciplines such as Civilian Service Rifle (Editor’s note: You’ve not got any excuses now, Ed!). There are places to eat, shops such as Fultons, William Evans Gunmakers and the NSRA shop where you can buy ammo, air guns, rifles, shotguns etc. Basically, everything you could need! I think it goes without saying that I think it is best to get trained up at an NRAaffiliated club, as this keeps the cost down. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there and will be going back to push my .223 Mossberg a little bit further! Check out the NRA website for further information.
All information is available at www.nra.org.uk, email: info@ nra.org.uk. Markers can be booked at the cost of £36.00 per half day. Strelok Pro is available from Google Play Store for around £10.