A friend offered to take me to Catterick military garrison for .308 target shooting. Previously, I had expressed an interest in deer stalking and so needed to know how to use high calibre rifles. This was the perfect opportunity for me to build the foundations for deer stalking.
The morning start was extremely early (for a teenager) and I couldn’t count how many times I dozed off in the car. After arriving at the garrison we went through identification and gained access to the target ranges.
On the way to the range, the untouched fells were bathed by the warmth of the orange sunrise and extended as far as the eye could see. Once at the range I celebrated by enjoying a scotch egg, while sitting comfortably in the warmth of the car, with anticipation building for what was to come.
I was sharply interrupted by muffled shouts and rising movement from other Guns. I clumsily climbed out of the car, scotch egg in hand and was immediately greeted by the sharpness of the wind. We were called to be the first to man the targets. The targets were attached to a type of pulley system to counterweight the targets, so it was relativity easy to raise and lower. We were protected by a concrete parapet that only exposed the raised targets. The targets when raised stood tall and were enormous – how could anybody miss that?
A safety flag was raised to show we were out of sight and it was time to start. The first crack of a bullet whizzed past the top of us, hit the raised target and stopped abruptly in the sand bank behind the target. When pulled down, a neat hole could be seen in the target and we placed a big red marker for the Gun to see. After a couple dozen times of lowering, marking, then raising the target it was finally our turn to shoot.
I jumped into one of the foxholes, a .308 already stood there, patiently waiting. A safety flag was raised down range, signalling for us to start. I had shot .22 rifles beforehand, but a .22 doesn’t even compare to the ferocity of a .308. I entirely underestimated the power, especially the recoil of the rifle. I looked back down the scope to search for the marker. I had missed.
Nevertheless, my determination increased with each shot I took, I was getting closer, learning and understanding how to compensate for drop and wind direction. I finally hit a bullseye and was flushed with pride. However, that was quickly extinguished by only hitting the board right after.
After a couple more shots, we packed up and headed for the pub. I completely underestimated how much fun shooting a .308 could be and the experience increased my confidence in shooting high calibre rifles. I can’t wait until I get the opportunity to go deer stalking.