2020 LERAA 303 We are Back….finally!

Welcome back LERAA faithful to the first shoot report for 2020. I must admit, I have stared at this computer screen for over a week trying to work out how to start this report with the usual enthusiasm and positivity in a year that has been anything but!

Can you feel it?

I have been scrolling back and forward searching through member photos for ideas and inspiration and I keep stopping on just one photo…  a selfie from our LERAA President Myles Woodward. A simple image of when he first got out of his car as he arrived at the Rankins Springs Shooting Complex. The expression on his face tells a story of the joy and excitement of finally allowing ourselves to break out, live a little and of course make some 303 noise.

So where do we start? First, special acknowledgement must be given to those who were involved behind the scenes who successfully negotiated the LERAA 303 Prize shoot sponsored by Condobolin Milling and Complete Crane & Electrical. Short time frames and the complexity of a pandemic certainly added challenges. Of course I express the gratitude of all the members and enthusiasts who made their way to the Rankins Springs Target Shooting Complex for the special two day event.

Early birds started arriving mid Friday and got to setting up their camps and help with target frames. It was with great relief and the word spread quickly on the message chat, that the Fly Pandemic of 2019 was no longer!

The weather forecast for the weekend was for a chance of rain and with eyes to the sky, shooters stayed hopeful that their front sights would stay dry. As the sun travelled west across the Riverina horizon, more and more shooters drove into camp and jostled for their favourite campsite positions. Well after dark, LERAA stragglers kept turning up late into the night. At first glance Peter Maher, gold tag hopeful, was concerned that we had been invaded by grey nomads and their caravans but it was just Paul Mac and Brett Bembrick who had brought their 10 meter long RV’s to take home their share of the prize money, a whopping $2000 courtesy of our sponsors.

As the stars began to lose their shine and before the sun had even begun to lift its head on that beautiful Saturday morning it started   ‘…MORNING!      …MORNING!    …MORNING!’

Graham ‘Murgo’ Murgatroyd’s voice echoed around camp which was soon drowned out by the sound of whistling kettles and crackling bacon. Late risers found it difficult to stay in their swags with the smell of breakfast and coffee drifting in the air.

Kyran Stokes-Hicks went for a walk to the top of the butts and using the early morning light, he managed to capture a stunning photo of the Rankin Springs Shooting Complex in all its glory.

It was a full board of 23 shooters, a “Kellogg’s all sorts” of mixed abilities and varying levels of experience. However there was opportunity for all to taste victory as each section had prize money for 1st ($50), 2nd ($30) and 3rd ($20) as well as the overall LERAA 303 Prize which included $800 First Prize $400 for Second and $200 for Third.

The 200m course of fire for the weekend in its simplest form was as follows,

Saturday – ANZAC Tag Event

MATCH 1 – 2 Sighters, Slow Fire Standing (Fixed Bayonet)

MATCH 2 – Snap Shooting Kneeling in the Attack

MATCH 3 – Rapid Prone 10 rounds in 60 seconds

Sunday – LERAA 303 Prize cont…

MATCH 4 – Slow Fire Prone

MATCH 5 – Snap Shooting Kneeling (Fixed Bayonet)

MATCH 6 – Rapid Prone 10 Rounds in 60 seconds

LERAA members and visitors all moved to the flag pole for the official start to the weekend’s proceedings. We all safely gathered at the length of one LERAA flag apart, to raise the colours and admire them once again, flying high in the wind. We were all eager to hear the President’s welcome address, acknowledgment of our sponsors and tributes for the successful weekend ahead. Rules, safety and regulations were all outlined for the prized shoot and once the dedication ceremony had finished, we moved off to our individual campsites to ready our rifles, check screws, run patches and count our crackers.

We waited our turn to take our rifles up to be scrutinised by LERAA officials and check licences, ammunition and registrations. Due to Covid-19 restrictions this weekend, we would be running a reduced firing line of just 4 shooters with seconds. With the RO and Scorer present, we maintained a maximum of 10 persons on the Range. The first round kicked off right on 9:00am with Match 1 taking a little longer in time as 2 throw away sighters needed to be patched out before continuing with 10 shots standing in your own time. This in turn needed also needed to be patched out, scored and marked.

Although we all weren’t able to stir, cheer and jeer each other from behind the concrete benches as in past events, we all understood the expectations of the day and had to let the score board do the talking. However time away from the firing line offered shooters an opportunity to return to their campsites to make coffees and have a second breakfast or early lunch.

Once the first match was completed, targets were changed for match two. This 3 second snap exposure while on your knee, is a real game changer and leveller. Even the most experienced shooters may only get 2 hits on the target (cough, cough Murgo…). LERAA Tags are often won and lost on this event. LERAA’s own Tiger Woods, Mr. Dale Baker was on fire in the first round and looking the goods. Then it was his turn on the knee for the snap. Let’s just say his target was “well suppressed” and he went from hitting birdies to bogies. 

a stiff breeze keeps the flags well presented

It was at about that time that the clouds began rolling in and the Rankin Springs skies started to looking dark and ominous. Shooters started to move through their matches quicker and patch their targets faster before the rain started.

Out of respect for our No.1 mk3’s, these old war girls and the soldiers who relied on them,  LERAA keeps shooting! Just because there is a little wet weather, a bit of mud, wind storms, snow, flies or meat ants, we don’t stop. This is what make us unique as an Association, we just get on with it and shoot!

If you want the proof here it is! Peter Maher and Murgo are both shooting in their 3rd and final match of the day and in the middle of a rain storm. Their wet and soggy scores were added to their overall totals which placed Murgo 3rd and awarded with the Bronze Tag. Peter Maher 1st overall and the highly prized LERAA Gold Tag for the ANZAC shoot! The Silver Tag went to Myles “Woody” Woodhouse, but I will write about his weekend exploits later in this report.

Kyran Stokes-Hicks added to his glorious morning photo!

For the rest of the afternoon we received a few more short rain storms. Some of us tucked ourselves under our canvas canopies, while others soaked in their spas and saunas and enjoyed the RV life. Dave Baker our weather man, used his phone to keep everyone up to date on how many millimetres of rain we’d had. On a side note talking about phones, Dave might get a new patch named after him because his phone went off with some Justin Bieber/Tik Tok/ Snap Chat notification while some unlucky shooter was is the middle of a match, causing everyone on the line to burst out laughing.

Anyone for a ‘leg ‘o mutton’ ?

It was now late in the afternoon and it was time to hold meetings and conduct the AGM as best we could given the current circumstances. A matter of business that all associations need to complete. We also held our first collectors meeting for the year, Gary brought in a heap of memorabilia related to Australians at war and with help for our re-enactment enthusiasts it made for an informative meeting. The first firearm donated to the LERAA Collection was presented and the story told of the original owner, a brave digger of the 1st AIF, who sadly gave his life so that we have the opportunity to live as we do. A report on this significant firearm shall be written by Gary Traynor, our Collector Captain.

From there we moved off to our campsites it was as this moment and with great sadness that we all realised that the LERAA family dinner, a time when we all come together to eat as one, share food, wine and stories was unable to happen. Family groups ate alone. A sobering reminder and reflection of the difficult times we are living within. A post dinner fire with spacing brought some cheer later on…

A cold and fresh Sunday morning rolled into the range and it was straight into Day Two and the competition was tight and fierce! To start the day, everyone’s favourite 10 in prone in your own time. It was very clear from these opening shots that it was game on as the first three shooters Dale, Paul and Myles were smacking tin hats and patching out scores of 38, 37 and 40.

This high scoring trend continued with shooters outperforming their personal bests with scores well into the high thirties continuing to being chalked on the LERAA score board. It’s in this round that our own Trans-Tasman representative Allan, began to make his move on the leader board. He started to make groupings the size of a smashed kiwi fruit into the centre of our handmade LERAA targets and notched a score of 39 to take out 1st place for Match 4.

The cold, fresh air continued throughout the morning. Young fresh faced military enthusiasts and shooters alike took turns to warm up around the fire in the huge wheel hub and enjoy a fresh brew of coffee before their turn on the firing line.

It was back to the knee for match 5 and to make things interesting we added our bayonet to our No.3’s and reunite these old empire war horses. Allan again, performed well on his knees to take out 1st place, with Myles only 1 point behind for second. It was now clear that it would come down to the wire between these two members who would take out the competition. Another closely fought battle was between Peter Maher and Murgo who tied in Match 5 with a score of 28 and were overall only a handful points apart.

It was time for the last round of the competition, Match 6. The prize money and competition winners would all be determined in just 60 seconds of rapid fire! Tensions were high and nerves started to creep in. When it was all done, Murgo had out shot Peter in the round with a score of 30 but when scores were collated for the weekend, Peter Maher was awarded Third Place with 180 points. The battle had come down to just 1 point!

Allan, who was in hot form Day 2 had fought his way up the through the leader board to take out second and take home a whole man bag full of prize money with a score of 186.

As for the competition winner I think the photo says it all! Now why wouldn’t anyone be smiling from ear to ear with first place, $800 worth of prize money and a score card of 194. Congratulations Myles!

It has been a crazy year so far and we need these positive images of exuberance and joy to strengthen our resolve. Thank you again to our sponsors Tony Slade of Condobolin Milling and Paul Mc of Complete Crane & Electrical. Thank you to everyone new and regular who showed up. I sit here finishing this report on a day people are preparing for border closures and lock downs which will and are, directly impacting on members of our LERAA family. Keep in touch and check-in with each other and of course stay safe.

See you next year for the 2021 LERAA 303…date to be confirmed