I have been a firearm owner since the early 1990’s when I bought my first and, so far, only firearm. At the time I never considered getting into sport-shooting and the firearm was purchased for purely self-defence purposes. When the current Firearm Control Act was introduced I duly waited my turn to convert to the new white license. More years went by and in 2015 my white license came up for renewal. As part of the renewal I also had to renew my competency and I decided to do the training and apply for additional competency in rifle, shotgun and self-loading rifle competency in addition to my existing handgun competency.
I also decided I wanted to become involved in sport-shooting and joined the National Hunting and Shooting Association (then only known as the National Shooting Association). I also did their Dedicated Sport Shooter course and obtained Dedicated Sport Shooter status. Since 2015 I have been participating in NHSA activities using my section 13 (self-defence) firearm in order to maintain my status.
Early in 2018 I wanted to become more involved in sport-shooting and for the first time purchased my own eye and ear protection, I also had purchased a custom made sport-shooting holster and magazine holders. These had to be custom made as my firearm is not one of the major brands and hasn’t been in production for at least twenty years, getting spares and accessories has become nearly impossible. These newly acquired accessories and equipment then sat in my cupboard for several months.
Eventually I decided to join the Dedicated Shooting Club at Dave Sheer Guns in Bramley; they offer option for occasional shooters and dedicated shooters. The very next day after paying my joining fee I rocked up at Dave Sheer Guns for my first club shoot, with my equipment and ammunition for my pistol, only to realise I read the Facebook notification wrong. I read that it was to be a pistol shoot and when I arrived realised it was a rifle shoot. Luckily for me it was not a wasted trip as Dave Sheer offer their members the benefit of shooting with one of the clubs rifles if you don’t own one yourself, provided you have the required competency. The helpful range officer then went through the safety briefing with me and directed me where I can purchase ammunition to use in the shoot.
Even though I have competency for self-loading rifle I haven’t handled a rifle since the day I did the competency training back in 2015 and I was understandably nervous. My first run through the course of fire arrived; I loaded a magazine into the rifle and waited for the signal from the range officer to start. At the signal I picked up the rifle and proceeded to the first group of targets, only to have my first four shots fly completely over the targets. At the prompting of the range officer I adjusted my grip, acquired my sites and finished off the first group of targets. Then it was time for a magazine change and I proceeded to the second group of targets, which went off without a hitch.
I reloaded the magazines and waited for my second run at the same course of fire. This time I had my site picture correct. After the first couple of shots I decided to adjust my grip to something more resembling the grip the range officer used, not realising that, being a lefty, my new grip placed my right thumb in front of the rifles ejection port. The first shot using this new grip my thumb prevented the casing ejecting properly and I induced a malfunction. With the help of the range officer I managed to clear the malfunction, inserted a new magazine and completed the course of fire.
Despite arriving with the wrong gear, using an unfamiliar firearm and causing a malfunction due to my unfamiliarity and finishing dead last in the rankings (the second slowest person completed the course of fire more than a minute faster than me), I had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Some takeaways from my first club experience; 1) make sure you know what type of shoot they are having, 2) if you are shooting an unfamiliar weapon make sure you take enough time to familiarise yourself with it, 3) people in the shooting community tend to be friendly and helpful to new arrivals, 4) joining a club where you have the option of using their firearms will make it easier and cheaper to get into sport-shooting, 5) if you’ve been afraid of taking up sport-shooting as a hobby, don’t be, just go out there, be safe and have fun.