Thursday, August 27, 2015

Events: Melbourne Gun Club - Come and Try day

I was asked out to go clay target shooting by my step-father, as he is thinking of joining a new club, in order to maintain his shotgun license, and the club he selected puts on a regular "Come & Try" sessions for those interested in trying the sport of clay target shooting.

I've only ever been out shooting once with a .22, target and rabbit shooting with a friend of mine as well as lots of laser tag, paintball and the like, so going shotgunning was a new experience for me. The Melbourne Gun Club is equipped with a variety of ranges:
  • X2 Olympic Trench Grounds
  • x8 Down The Line (DTL) Ranges
  • x7 Skeet / ISSF Skeet Grounds
  • x1 Five Stand Layout

We were shooting Beretta under-over 12guage's supplied by the club, which were very cool, with shell extractors and nice actions, as far as I could tell. They had heated up a fair bit by the time the end of the hour and a half of shooting came to a close, with many hands having used each gun, there was a visible heat shimmer, and the metal parts had heated up quite a bit, making them uncomfortable to hold off the wooden parts, no surprises there.

To participate in the MGC "Come & Try" events you must be over 12 years old, wear closed shoes and no camouflage clothing or singlets, and adhere to a strict no alcohol policy. A firearms license is NOT required, which is very convenient given the difficulty in acquiring one here. Upon arrival and payment will need to sign the visitor's book for insurance purposes, but again, this was a very relaxed process, and my ID wasn't checked. Perhaps this was a mistake on the day, or I slipped through, but I found it odd, given the rather draconian personal ownership laws here.

The "Come and Try" introduction includes coaching and supervision by experienced members of the Club who were keen to make sure my time was safe and rewarding. That said, my safety briefing was "wear earplugs" and "point it that way" as two instructors flanked us, and hand-loaded us one round at a time. I was really surprised at this very lax seeming methodology, and can only presume it was because of the location and number of staff on-hand.

I got to shoot at two of the Down The Line ranges, where the targets come straight at you, arcing up and hanging in front of you, ready to blast into dust. We then moved down to the skeet range which was really challenging, as they were far less forgiving, and required a higher level of gun-skill, especially in calculating leads, something that laser-tag doesn't help with.

I found that shotguns were quite forgiving to aim, at the ranges and target situations we were using, which was also no surprise, but I had anticipated more than a simple dot sight at the muzzle end of the guns.

I hit more than I missed so I'll call that success. Proper shoulder placement and cheek weld was crucial, not only for repeatability and accuracy, but also recoil mitigation and cheek slap.I've heard all about it, and we've all seen some hilarious YouTube clips, but it was quite a different thing to see and feel it in person. Watching some little people get bucked around in their attempts made me glad each gun was only being singly-loaded, but experienced instructors.

I asked about the effective range of the guns and loads we were using, and unsurprisingly was told that it was around the edge of the ranges, up to the berm that marked the boundaries. "you'd feel it if you were up there, that's for sure". We were shooting 12ga #9 1250fps loads, which seemed to be very light, and my step-father agreed, commenting the rapport of the shots was quite a lot sharper than he was used to. Most of the rounds we fired were fresh, but some instructors also did reloads, which we could tell by the slightly differing rapports we heard.

I also asked about the chokes used, and was told they were set up specifically for the kinds of shooting offered, which was no surprise either. One interesting tidbit I asked about is that in side-by side, dual-trigger guns, each barrel often has a different choke pattern, giving the user a selectable option based on situation.

There were a range of people in attendance, from a gaggle of blokes all out for a lark, to several families with mum, dad and the kids all out for a blast, some for the first time it looked like, as well as some loners, and us. Apart from some of the little folks and less prepared, who sometimes took a bit of a heavy kick or cheek slap, everyone seems to have a really good time, and the cheers and applause from the gaggles at different ranges certainly made it seem like everyone was having a good time.

Unlike many other sports, there are very few physical limitations to participating, Gender is all but irrelevant, you need to be strong enough to wield and shoot the guns, and agile enough to track the targets as they cross your line of sight. You may fire up to 25 shots whilst at the "Come & Try" session, although I think I only got about 20, due to circumstances and crowds on the day. I also got to meet with a member of the Australian shooting team, going to San Antonio TX next month, good luck!

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