Shooting disciplines

The Southern Highlands Rifle Club offers a range of disciplines to suit most shooters - from beginners to veterans.

Rimfire & Centrefire

Field Class Target Shooting changes in the Firearms Act 1996 saw the emergence of many new target shooting matches designed around everyday, commercially available firearms. These target shooting activities provide the necessary "good reason" for acquiring and keeping firearms which may otherwise have been difficult to justify.

FIELD CLASS

Field Class first appeared in the early 1990s and is now offered by many rifle clubs which, up to recently, had only shot the traditional Fullbore target match. It is sanctioned by the National Rifle Association of Australia (NRAA).

Field Class is based loosely on the service or military rifle match and is designed around conventional off-the-shelf hunting rifles. Broadly speaking, all that's required is a centrefire rifle with a telescopic sight and a five shot magazine.

The match is shot over three distances but uses the same size target throughout. At 100 metres the shooter stands unsupported. At 200 metres the shooter can choose between sitting or kneeling and at 300 metres the match is shot from the prone position. Apart from a sling, no rests or supporting aids are allowed.

The Field Class match consists of 20 scoring shots at each of the three ranges. Two non-scoring sighting shots are permitted at each range. The match involves firing a number of shots at fixed times. The targets are exposed to the shooters for the series then turned away when the time has expired. Naturally, this match suits rifle ranges with facilities where the targets can be operated manually by people in protected "butts".

The 20 scoring shots of the match are fired in four stages of five shots. The first stage (Forced Application) consists of firing five single shots, each in one 20-second exposure of the target. The second stage (Trainfire) involves firing five shots in one 60-second exposure. The next stage of five shots (Rapid Fire) is fired in one 30-second exposure. The final stage (Snap) is similar to the Forced Application in that a single shots is fired per exposure of the target, however this time the target is exposed for only three seconds for each shot.

The same course of fire is repeated at the other distances. The only thing that changes is the shooter's firing position and the relative size of the targets.

Apart from the obvious benefits of regular practice, the Field Class Target Rifle match also provides an excellent opportunity for the hunter to get to know his equipment better. The matches can expose problems with firearms such as difficulty with chambering rounds or ejecting spent cartridges. Also the rapid cycling of the action under the pressure of a time limit can, and does, expose other problems with shooter and equipment.

RIMFIRE CLASS

A more recent off-shoot (excuse the pun) of Field Class is Rimfire Class Target Rifle. This match has exactly the same course of fire as Field Class except the distances are 30 metres standing, 60 metres sitting and 90 metres prone. Smaller targets are used and, as the name implies, only rimfire rifles and ammunition (.22 long rifle or magnum) are allowed. This is a challenging match and provides and excellent opportunity for junior shooters to participate.

The Field Class disciplines provide a variety of distances, calibers, shooting positions and time limits to give the hunter a thorough workout. The sport offers a mixture of slow precision shots as well as fast, almost instinctive, shooting. The Snap match for example, can be likened to the situation where the target is only visible for a fleeting moment and then re-appears briefly as it ducks and weaves behind bushes and other obstacles.

The added pressures of time-limited shooting may also uncover deficiencies in both shooter and equipment. For example, rapid cycling of the action may expose magazine feeding problems. Some of these problems are best sorted out on the rifle range rather than in the heat of the moment during the "real" hunt.

As with any organised shooting sport, there are regulations designed to prevent individuals from having an unfair advantage over others. For the NRAA Field Class match for example, there is a weight restriction of 5kg for centrefire rifles and 3.5kg for rimfires, however there are plans afoot to increase this to 3.8kg to allow for some of the newer and slightly heavier sporters appearing on the market. Rules relating to clothing generally restrict the shooter to normal hunting attire. Target shooting jackets which provide support the shooter are not allowed.

EQUIPMENT

Field Class was designed specifically for the hunter. Any trusty centrefire and/or rimfire hunting rifle will generally fill the bill. The lighter hunting style rifle is preferred over rifles with heavier varmint barrels and there are numerous off-the-shelf rifles available in a variety of calibers and styles to choose from. A 6X scope is fine for the rimfire distances and a 9 to 14 power is adequate for centrefire out to 300 metres. A regular cross hair seems to work well on the standard Field Class targets.

Although the sport is intended for commercially available rifles, it does not preclude shooters who want to use custom equipment. Some shooters may want to use rifles specifically developed for other hunting situations or long range target shooting events. Provided the rifle falls within the weight restrictions there is generally no problem with using custom or modified rifles.

The .223 caliber has steadily grown in popularity since it was first introduced as a hunting round in the early 60s. With a wide range of loadings to choose from, the .223 very quickly found its way to the rifle range as a stunningly accurate round for Field Class target shooting. The caliber is mild and quite manageable in terms of recoil - particularly important at the 100 metre standing position.

SCORING

After each shot is fired, the target, which is mounted on a moveable frame, is pulled by the target marker who is positioned under the target protected by an earth wall or "butts".
The marker places a spotting disc over the hole to indicate the position of the bullet hole to the shooter.
Each time a shot is fired, the previous hole is covered by a patch and the spotting disc is moved to the new bullet hole.

Target Rifle

Target rifle class rifle shooting is a long standing discipline and is sanctioned by the National Rifle Association of Australia (NRAA).
You may know this discipline unders its old name of fullbore.

The NRAA is the governing body for target rifle shooting which is the original long range precision event dating from the late 1800s and involves single shot 7.62mm Nato (.308 Winchester) or 5.56mm (.223 Remington) rifles with peep sights.

Target rifle rules also impose restrictions for weight, ammunition, sights and other equipment used.

Target rifle and Free Class are shot at the same distances; 300, 400, 500, 600, 700 and 800 metres and competition takes place most Saturday afternoons.

There are three divisions within the target rifle discipline; A, B and C grade divisions are used and in some cases handicaps are applied to insure that everyone were possible competes on a equal footing.

SCORING

Southern Highlands Rifle Club uses electronic targets and each shot is shown on the screen beside the competitor and is scored automatically by the software system.

F Class

Free Class Open and Free Class Standard rifle shooting is sanctioned by the National Rifle Association of Australia (NRAA).
Free Class and Target Rifle are shot at the same distances; 300, 400, 500, 600, 700 and 800 metres and competition takes place most Saturday afternoons.
Unlike Target Rifle, the Free Class rules allow for a wider range of calibers, rifle weights and styles and includes the use of telescopic sights.

F CLASS OPEN

The F Class Open rifle may be any rifle that may be legally held by the competitor, excluding return-to-battery rigs or similar, and subject to the following conditions:
  • Any caliber up to and including 8mm.
  • The overall weight must not exceed 10kg including all attachments such as, but not limited to, its sights and bipod, if any.
    • NB: An attachment is defined as any external object (other than the competitor, his sling (if any) and his apparel) which recoils (or partially recoils) with the rifle, or which is in any way joined to the rifle for each shot, or which even slightly raises with the rifle when vertically lifting the rifle from its rest(s).
  • Rifles must be manually operated and all shots must be loaded and discharged singly. A magazine, if legally permitted and fitted, may only be used as a loading platform for single rounds.
  • Muzzle compensators or muzzle brakes are not permitted.

F CLASS STANDARD

The F Class Standard division is any bolt action rifle chambered for use with the 7.62mm x 51mm NATO (or .308W), or the 5.56mm x 45mm NATO (or .223 REM), is approved for all F Standard competitions, subject to the following:
  • Maximum weight of rifle shall be 8kg, including sights and all attachments, but excluding the front rest. With the front rest attached, the overall maximum weight must not exceed 10kg.
  • The stock may be of any material, and be shaped so as to be comfortable to the shooter with a maximum width of 76.2mm (3 inches). A flat plate not exceeding 76.2mm in width and 10mm in thickness may be fixed to the underside of the rifle's fore-end.
  • Any sight system may be used which must be aligned by eye for each shot. A spirit level may be attached to the barrel or foresight, or to a telescopic sight.

SKILLS

F-Class matches require the shooter to be able to "read" the weather conditions. The high power scopes used in Free Class exaggerate the mirage effect and in severe conditions and at long range the target appears to move in all directions. The direction of which way the target moves depends on another environmental enemy of the shooter; the wind. The correct interpretation of the flags is a critical skill required in these sports.

SCORING

Southern Highlands Rifle Club uses electronic targets and each shot is shown on the screen beside the competitor and is scored automatically by the software system.

How much does it cost?

Once you have purchased a rifle, all that remains is to feed it. Most shooters have a pretty good idea of how much it costs to reload or buy ammo for their rifle.

Standard velocity target ammo works quite well for the rimfire matches however most hunters prefer to use the same high velocity ammo they use on game.

The Field Class match requires a total of 66 rounds to shoot all three ranges. Home loading of the .223 calibre works out at around 45 cents each, however this can be reduced to 32 cents with some of the cheaper ammo available.

F Class and Target Rifle ammunition costs vary and generally most shooters reload their own to keep costs down and to also help with accuracy and consistency of the ammunition.
Saturday afternoon shoots consist of two 10 round stages with 2 additional sighters allowed on each stage. You will need to have 24 rounds of ammunition for the afternoon shoot but it's a good idea to have a couple of spares.

Rifle clubs normally impose a range fee of between $5 and $20 per match. Some clubs may charge casual shooters a little more than its members. Naturally, rifle clubs encourage visitors to join and participate on a regular basis.

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