LERAA – Kapyong Memorial Shoot 2019 – Weekend Report
Last weekends camping trip (18-19th May) with my new Lee Enfield Rifle Assoc. Australia friends helped blow away a few shooting cob webs, and was an unforgettable experience in so many ways.
Shooting at the John Kell OAM Memorial Rifle Range located just outside of beautiful Hill End, an old gold mining town 4 hours drive West of Sydney, made this trip well worth the drive in my 1974 280e Mercedes. Stunning country scenery (albeit dry) and sights of an old abandoned timber slab house along the route enhanced the journey.
There were so many things along the way that I wished I had time to stop and check out, but limited time precluded me from taking up those opportunities until the next time I make the trip out.
Before camping adjacent to the range amongst very well established regrowth gum forest, which provided an abundance of firewood, I just had to stop for a beer at The Royal Hotel in town. The Royal is the last of 51 licensed hotels that serviced approximately 30,000 gold miners and various hangers-on back in the day. Hopefully a couple of the old photos will give you a small insight into once was here.
I love the character and history of old pubs, especially ones established in 1800’s like The Royal was, in 1872. It also one of the establishments in town that has accomodation 5 minutes from the range if camping isn’t your thing.
The omen’s of a great adventure were upon me as I was enjoying my perfectly chilled amber when a 1934 Harley Davidson rocked up. Photo time!!!,…. with the owners permission of course.
Interestingly the ubiquitous WWI memorial found in every small town around Australia differed slightly from others at Hill End. Instead of the usual stone statue of a Digger, this memorial featured the action and battle damaged barrel of German Maxim M08/15 welded firmly in place. It has remained there for almost 100years, well protected by the locals.
But I digress,….
The 3 target range has history,…. lots of it.
I understand it was first established in the 1800’s and used extensively by both civilian and military shooters until the 1950’s, after which the range was used less and less. In 2005 major renovation work was undertaken at the range and the range re-certified by NSW Firearms Registry inspectors.
The modest tin club house with nearby long drop loos is a focal point around which there is room for hundreds to safely set up camp on a gentle slope. Intermittent 3G phone reception can be sometimes found, however good showers, flushing toilets and good phone reception is found a short distance away at a nearby public camping ground about 1km from the range on the way to Hill End. It is said that $1 will secure a nice hot shower.
By around 4pm Friday, most of the 30 odd attendees at the LERAA – Kapyong Memorial Shoot had arrived and made camp in perfect Autumn temperatures under blue skies peppered with clouds.
As the afternoon light faded, and with most having finished early dinners at their respective camp sites, everyone drifted down to the log fire beside the club house with their favourite tipple,…. drawn by the flames as it warmed the cooling evening air, as well as the increasingly loud laughter of those already gathered.
Quite simply you could not ask for a more relaxed way to meet new friends.
As might be imagined, conversation and laughter became louder and more animated as the evening went on,…. and whilst I’d love to elaborate on the details and raucous, side-splitting nature of what went on,… I feel that discretion is the better part of valour here, in order to protect the guilty. 😉😆
Which brings us to the next morning.
Saturday started very honourably with an 8am flag raising ceremony, and a recitation on the anniversary of the defensive actions taken by Australian and allied forces at Kapyong, during the Korean War. This was followed by a minute silence in order to reflect on enormity of what had occurred and what those young lads had endured. In my humble opinion a very fitting way in which to formally start proceedings.
This was followed by a formal welcome to the assembled group of experienced shooters and first timers, outlining the shooting schedule as well as the mandatory range & safety briefing by the club President and Club Secretary / Treasurer / Armourer, before we dispersed to collect our equipment for the first shoot.
First up,….. clay target,….. d@#n it! I’m terrible at it.
It’s hard for me to hit the broad side of a barn with a scatter gun,….. let alone a tiny orange blob travelling in lord knows which direction at a million miles an hour! Terrible little teasing buggers that they are.
Mind you some people are natural instinctive shooters, amongst these gifted individuals was Kieron (second place) and Peter (third place) in the first shoot off. Followed by a second shoot off for first place between Alana, Ryan and Toby, which Ryan won. Well done.
I thought it particularly good to see that first time shooters were always accompanied by an appropriately experienced and licensed shooter to ensure safety was upheld as well as providing helpful hints to get them on target. The support was great.
Unfortunately for me no such help was offered as they knew I was appropriately licensed,…. just not appropriately experienced or skilled in using two bits of plumbers pipe strapped together, one over the other.
After breaking for lunch and to put away our gear, we then reconvened for a fun informal .22LR competition in teams of four shooting at falling steel plates at approximately 50meters. Rifles were varied from a early WWI War Pattern Trainer to scoped Brno model 2’s, a few lever guns, Lithgow Model 1B’s, a lovely little single shot German Erma to my No.2 MkIV SMLE Trainer. 8 rifles on the line at a time,…. again with first timers being accompanied by an experienced shooter.
Many a “Ding” was heard, however not all targets fell to the standard velocity rounds being used. Adam was lucky enough to spin one 90 degrees so that he was left with a side on upright target.
Unbeknownst to many, the last detail shoot off between the two top scoring teams had a couple of rocks propped up behind the two white targets. Unfortunately for the perpetrators of this joke, their efforts were to no avail as these two targets fell in quick succession to the first shots. I,….. I mean “they”,…. were hoping to watch a great spot of fun and a frustrating finish, but it wasn’t to be.
We all retired as the shadows grew longer and the sun started to go down behind the butts on this West facing range. Dinner was calling, but first we had business to attend to with the scheduled official club meeting called.
This was quickly followed up with a Collectors Club meeting where I had the opportunity to present a Ross straight pull in .303 that had been part of the HMS Canada’s ships armoury with a matching numbered bayonet, along with an untouched P14 in a fatso/fat boy stock. I look forward to seeing other members unusual bits and bobs (not necessarily SMLE related) next time.
Although a new club, the executive are establishing traditions early which is good to see. Subsequently Saturday night dinner was a communal affair down at the range club house, on long tables beside the community fire. Everyone was encouraged to bring something to share, along with their liquid refreshments. No-one was left hungry.
As the night before, hilarity ensued with many an unprintable comment being made. Let’s just say that my memories of docking on the farm when I was younger has been forever tarnished. Professional therapy is now being sought,…. and the executive can expect the bill for extensive services in the mail.
Shooting at 200 yards (not meters) on a range that goes waaaaaaaaay back to 1000yds, was conducted on Sunday the next morning with No.1 Mk.III and No.4 Mk.I SMLE’s. I was now in heaven, as I’ve shot a .303 a couple of times before.
After sighting shots to get on paper, the first course of fire involved 10 rounds standing unsupported (slings were allowed) in your own time. Your target is a 6 inch black line running from the top to bottom of a 4×3 foot white target. These are stylised military targets for civilian use that are also used by fellow associations overseas so we can all shoot international postal competitions.
The second course of fire was another 10 rounds Snap, this time kneeling and shooting at much smaller hand held targets that only had a 3 second exposure. This is a much more challenging task as I try to concentrate my focus on the foresight / target and not on the pain as my right leg and foot as it went numb due to my tendency to place my weight on them in this position.
The last course of fire is in the much more comfortable prone position, albeit shooting uphill slightly. Again another 10 rounds, but this time starting with your rifle on the ground with a loaded magazine and the shooter standing. At the range officers instruction you have 60 seconds with which to get on the ground, shoulder your rifle, chamber a round and place 10 well aimed shots on the larger 4×3 target.
All I can say about this last course is to offer a few words of advice. Oil your actions people, just slightly. As might have already be seen by some here in Roberto’s post of my rapid fire efforts, towards the end I had to slap open the action as it became stickier and stickier as more rounds went down range. This is not good in helping maintain a sight picture.
Third place went to my new friend Murgo, second to myself, and first place,….. by one lousy point,…. to El Presidente,…. my other new friend, Woody.
I cannot talk highly enough of the company I shared, the new friends I‘ve made, the professionalism in which the event was run with an eye to safety and enjoyment, as well as the wild rugged beauty of the surrounds.
The shooting was great,…. but it wasn’t the best part for me,…. the overall experience, beautiful surrounds and welcoming camaraderie was.
The only criticism is that the weekend wasn’t long enough.