Shoot Report: Rankin Springs Slaters Knoll Milsurp shoot, 19/20th July 2020

Thank you Darren B for this great shoot report

So, the daughter and I load up the car in Bathurst and head for the red soil country. “How far is it?” she says. “A way” I reply. We get to Forbes and have lunch, “How much further?” “A while.” I said. We get to West Wyalong, put a bit of Go Juice in the family truckster and a comfort break. “How much further now?” “Bit more yet.” When we pass through Weethallie she just looks across at me…….. “Little more yet” I say. “You are kidding me right…?” I chuckle.
The weekend has begun……..

We enter the gates to the Rankins Springs Target Complex and we head over against the fence line to claim our spot, passing by a green ’11 x 11′ Army tent. We go over to make our greetings to some of the gang and introduce my daughter, Maeve. Familiar faces make us welcome as well as some that I haven’t met yet (Mr Gill, finally and Mrs Hale). Greetings made we set up our camp, put our dinner order in for the take away and make ourselves comfortable around the fire. A few frothies followed by a mixed grill and hamburger with the lot and chips and much conversation and laughter and it’s finally time for bed. When Maeve asks what time to set the alarm for I tell her not to worry about it………we’ll be right.
We wake slowly in the swag at 0600 and she says that no one else is up.

Sure as eggs, 0605, “MOOORNING” rings out loudly across the land
“Wow!!! ” she says.

Morning coffee followed by Coco Pops and we head up for the raising of the National Flag accompanied by a Present Arms by the LERAA juniors drill team and the shoot dedication delivered ably by Allaaaaan Sjarda.
All are gathered for the briefing and collection of paperwork and the signing of permits and introduction of a group of junior shooters who have headed up as a group from the south coast. Being an Air Force Cadets Instructor I can’t help it. Before the introductions are made I look at them and take a deep sniff as in scenting the air.
“Hmm…… Cadets!”, followed by a bit of a chuckle.

My daughter fills out a Form P650 along with the junior shooters and she lumps in with them and is allocated an adult coach, Naomi Reitsma, and I introduce myself to Zac, my junior who I have been allocated for the weekend. Details are made up, 1,2,3 etc and the days shooting begins. I’m using a 1941 Lithgow (FTR55) that I bought from Simon Hale and never fired until now. Two sighting shots see me hit the target at 200yds and away we go…….

Smoke drifts through the air and comforting recoil is felt throughout the day. In one prone rapid fire sequence beginning from a standing start the order to commence is given as “FIX BAYONETS!” Phwoar, love it!!!

One thing is confirmed by myself by the end of the day, my eyes are getting worse and kneeling still hurts!

After the battle for the Slaters Knoll Tag event is over, a black powder demonstration is given by Derek Height, President of New South Wales Muzzle Loading Association firing both flintlock and percussion rifles. A chance to fire these firearms is given to all present using the flintlock, a selection of repro 1853 Enfield rifles and even an ORIGINAL Pattern of 1853 Enfield made in 1858 with original bayonet fixed! Only one word could describe it……FAN-bloody-TASTIC!

After the smoke has cleared from the demo it’s time for the Cadets to have a taste of firing the .310 Cadet rifles and then on to firing the No2 Mk4 SMLE Training Rifles. All the Cadets (and my Daughter Maeve) rotate through and are soon knocking over steel plates left right and centre at 25mtrs. All the young uns listened carefully to their Coaches and did very well in their
first foray into the Lee Enfield series. Firearms are cleared and cleaned and put away for the day and the evenings Committee and Collectors
meetings begin with the awarding of the Slaters Knoll tags.

The Collectors meeting was the presentation of a genuine relic from the battlefields of Gallipoli by Gary Traynor. The blasted and twisted remnants of a No1 Mk.III SMLE receiver found sticking up from the ground behind an area known as German Officers Trench. Commonwealth troops never made it to that trench line in that campaign so, given the condition of the remnant it is rightfully surmised that the rifle was caught in either a shell explosion or mine blast that decimated it and threw it clean over the Turkish lines.
Such a horrid reminder of the savagery of war. I couldn’t help but wonder about the poor bugger that may have been holding that rifle……..

Saturday night is spent around the fire again downing a few more frothies and eventually we drift off to bed……well some of us did. The laughter and yarns could be heard continuing into the wee hours. Such a sociable mob, ‘twas lovely to listen to.

Sunday morning started a little slower, there being no hurry to start the day. We eventually gathered at the firing point in our original Details to start shooting the MilSurp round for the weekend. No requirement for SMLE’s today, shoot whatever you like. I shot my only SMLE but I was sharing the line with others the likes of a 1904 Portugese Vergaro, Swedish M96, a Boer Mauser, a 7.62 Rifle 2A (or A1) and a couple of Rifles No4. Even an OMARK made an appearance. Was interesting to take part in and watch.
After the Details had run through it was time for the young’uns again, this time mixing it with the adult toys, the .303!
Coaches again laid down with their charges and put them through their paces at 200yds. Yes they were loud and yes they kicked, all agreed. Twice they ran through for a total of twenty rounds. Again, all listened to their Coaches and performed admirably. At the end all juniors and Maeve were presented with their score sheets and congratulated on their efforts (well done Zac). I was particularly proud of my Daughters efforts. Being of slight build (as many of them were) she handled it quite well. Three hits on target from the first ten and all ten were on the second time around. Well done girl and many thanks to her Coach, Naomi.

After much back slapping and handshakes or elbow bumps (even the odd hug) it was time to pack up and
head for home. It was just coming on dusk as we pulled out for the drive home. “We need to keep an eye out for Kanga..ShiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIT!!!” Missed him, just, no less than two klms out of town!
Following a long drive home we gratefully dragged ourselves out of the car in Bathurst and went inside where we regaled the rest of the family about our weekends adventures. Again a great weekend with good friends and a
number of new ones. Maeve wishes to continue shooting as well, she had a great time.
What a great bunch of like minded individuals, all there for the same reasons, comradeship and the opportunity to share in the sport of shooting and remembering those before us who wielded the 303 on the battlefields and the home ranges of this beautiful nation.