I was sitting on my shooting chair at the 800 yard mound last Sunday watching the targets rise and fall. I saw lots of X bulls, V bulls fives and fours being scored and I was happy. Happy also to be at Trentham on a sunny March day with fellow shooters showing how it is done with ex-military .303 Lee Enfield rifles. The request to shoot a 15 shot 800 yard match at the Dick Travis VC nationals was not misplaced and the resulting scores spoke for themselves.
It was in late February when I became aware that the response by invited shooters to the .303 Nationals in 2017 was lukewarm. I put some of this down to the worst summer I can recall for a long time that has seen poor turnouts in other outdoor activities. It has also occurred to me that the longer than usual 800 yard match might have caused misgivings with some. But despite this those who did attend not only had splendid weather but they enjoyed mastering the long distance match with aplomb. Well done those shooters.
The smaller than usual band gathered at the Karori Rifle Club at 7.30am for entry and scrutineering. A quick outline of the weekend’s event then it was down to 500 yards for the range briefing. Conditions were still and the flags offered little in the way of wind indication. But those who were able to read the signs well were rewarded with good scores with Mike Collings off to a great start with a two possibles – 50.4; 50.6. But he was not alone and was chased hard by Ernie Schuch and Collin Brown scoring 49.5 and 49.4 in the second match.
The two squads fairly rattled through their shots in the ideal conditions which allowed an early and leisurely lunch break and plenty of range talk at the clubrooms.
The afternoon saw the DTVC competitors join with the WRA club shooters for the usual Saturday afternoon match’s at 300 yards. Again there was little wind to start with and mirage reading was a go. But the wind did lift as the afternoon wore on and the usual difficulties that entails. Not to be outdone Mike Collings shot two superb possibles with a 50.6 and a 50.5. Again chased hard by Ernie Schuch who shot a 50.5 and a 50.4, Nicole McKee with a 50.7 and Stuart Brown with a 50.4. Things were heating up on the scoreboard with Mike Collings leading on 200.21 followed by the surging Ernie Schuch on 197.18 and twice previous winner Richard Liddell on 194.13.
The Karori Rifle Club hosts a combined dinner at this event each year and this welcomes all the WRA shooters and the DTVC shooters to a great social occasion. This year KRC was able to offer not only venison sausages but also legs of roasted wild pig and crayfish. A gourmet delight to those who partook. A few drinks and a few excuses were heard but all in good natured banter. The evening was a success with Stuart Brown and Steve Bain bringing their wives into the clubhouse to share the occasion. We were also graced with members of Dick Travis’s family who travel from Australia and Opotiki to be with us each year.
The traditional battle of the bar between Nicole and John Ball did not eventuate this year with John being a no show. The well-stocked bar did not get the hammering of previous DTVC shoots!!
Sunday morning and we were on the mound at 9am. I had arranged the weather again and we were off to a flying start at 600 yards. Conditions were much the same as Saturday morning – benign.
600 yards has in previous shoots has usually produced the match winner. Just that little further back makes or breaks some shooters. But this year the sores were still high with Mike Collings again shooting well with 49.4 and 49.2. Not to be outdone Ernie Schuch shot a 49.3 in his second match with Nicole McKee putting up an excellent 49.5 in hers.
And then it was all the way back to 800 yards. A first for DTVC shooters after 5 years of 300/500/600 matches. The spirit of this competition was ever present when a discussion about the likely elevations was had on the mound prior to shooting. Elevations for Parker Hale sights were different to Central sights but not by much. The result was everyone was straight on with Richard Liddell and Nicole McKee starting with V bulls!!
The introduction of the 15 shot match at 800 yards was an attempt to separate the top scoring shooters and at the same time give everyone a taste of being that bit further back on a gallery range. There may have been unintended consequences to this bold move. One is the unease with which some intending shooters treated this new test. The second is that when the scores from the last five annual DTVC matches were collated – some 4500 rounds downrange – and presented to the NRA and NZDF it was found that the dear old .303 was shooting well within the prescribed cone of fire required under standing orders at Trentham. The result of this is that these rifles in this trim can now shoot alongside the usual collection of .308 and other calibre rifles at all distances at Trentham. Great news and well done to those who helped this come about.
So onto the 800 yard scores. This distance did indeed change the order of things. Mike Collings shot an incredible 74.11 followed by Nicole McKee with 73.9 and Richard Liddell with 72.6. Earlier contender Ernie Schuch fell away with a disappointing 59.3 with all other shooters in the 60’s. Overall an astonishing result no doubt helped by the great conditions. But also aided by the preparation, determination and general good attitude of the DTVC 2017 shooters. Everyone enjoyed the 800 yard match including veteran .303 shooter John Hand who turned up to watch the final with a grin from ear to ear.
The prize giving was held after the shoot at KRC with winner Mike Collings taking away the DTVC trophy and a $300 purse. Nicole McKee certainly benefited from the 800 yard match rising to 2nd and collecting a $200 purse. Last year’s Richard Liddell came in a close 3rd and collected a $100 purse. All shooters were presented with a KRC blue cloth badge with the DTVC year and position attained – a very nice piece. Noel Bockett representing Dick Travis’s family also made a cash contribution for the Match Director to present to whomever he saw fit. This year it was to Sam Stevenson for 6 years of excellent scorekeeping. To Ernie Schuch for being the most improved shooter and also Collin Brown who shot his best this year by far.
For those who made the effort to prepare and attend the DTVC 2017 – congratulations on your sportsmanship and sense of history. For those who for one reason or another could not make it be assured this competition has a place for you. The Karori Rifle Club welcome all shooters to this competition each year. Start your preparation now and get those lovely old wooden rifles humming for 2018. Also bring a friend or two to share the travel expenses and the occasion, you will not be disappointed and will take away with you a great memory of what it is to shoot in such a historical match with a great bunch of people.
I have attached to scores.