I’ve been expanding the range of my shooting lately [ber-boom], trying my hand at a few new disciplines, I’ve shot some short range Gallery Rifle where pistol calibers and .22LR are shot in what used to be pistol competitions before they were banned [for the most part – we’ll come to that later]. I’ve tried shooting Fullbore out to 1000 yards, and I’m hoping to shoot some Civilian Service Rifle.
When I first heard of the Service Rifle competitions, I’m not sure why but, I thought red tunic’s and pith helmets would the dress code. Or at least wearing those itchy green army jackets and the soup-bowl helmets. I imagined reenacting the shooting drills of WW1 with SMLE’s in chambered in the venerable .303British. Events like the legendary ‘mad minute’ where even with a ten round magazine you’d have to reload 3 times to beat Sergeant Major Jesse Wallingford's record of 36 shots on target at 300 yards.
It turns out what’s become the fastest growing Rifle sport in the UK is now Civilian Service Rifle a service rifle competition ‘civilianised’ i.e. without the semi automatic rifles used in today’s service rifle, which isn’t open to the public.
Shots are taken prone, sitting, kneeling and standing at ranges from 25 to 500 yards. Targets are engaged against the clock, and with a few ‘jog downs’ to get your heart rate up between shots.
You can use a bolt action or straight pull rifle, with most people shooting straight pull AR15’s in 5.66 NATO topped either with iron sights or in two optic classes; service which it limited to 4.5X magnification for Service Optic, unlimited magnification for Practical Optic. There’s also a Historic class for SMLE’s etc.
If you want to wear a pith helmet you have to bring your own.
As usual with anything to do with shooting in the UK there is a hilarious controversy, with a well-known shooting writer having a war of words with a well-known competitor. They both feel the other is bringing shooting sports into disrepute. I’m paraphrasing a bit here – The chap who likes to shoot standing up in a fedora and tweeds called the fella who shoots lying in a muddy field in army surplice clothes ‘selfish and weird’ telling him that the public were put off by his ‘playing soldiers. This was rebutted ‘your great white hunter act is loathed by the public.’ I’ve no idea whether either of them is selfish and/or weird in real life. However practical army surplice clothes are in a field, wear ‘em and you’ll be accused of being a militia wannabe [trust me on this one]. Just as if you insist on rocking a fedora, checked shirt, and tie you’ll look like you’re an Edwardian fieldsports re-enactor. The public find it hard to see behind the caricatures guys.
At any UK shooting event I’ve ever been to if you mixed and matched a badge strewn fedora with some tweed breeks and a couple of camo layers from more than one nation, you’d just be yet another harmless shooting eccentric.
Trigger pull is from 4.5lbs – the sticker shows this rifle was tested at the start of a competition. Bradley Arms who built this rifle have been competing in CSR and building rifles for other competitors have acquired a great reputation for the reliability of their guns and the modernity of their customer service. I have it on good authority that, in an innovation unknown to the English gun trade, if you leave a message they will actually return your call.
Where the sport wins out in attracting new entrants is you can spend anything from very little on a SMLE with open sights, all the way to spending a fair old lump a fully bespoke AR15 customised to your needs and wants. The options when choosing and accessorizing an AR are endless. There’s plenty to study and source. Even the ammunition has a big choice of permitted rounds. For budgetary reasons surplice 5.56 or 7.62 NATO are the obvious choices, but you could home load 6.5 Grendel, or .300 Blackout.
Earning yourself extra points in the game of ‘more obscure than you’.
For the optics there’s also plenty of choices, you’ve got to balance your needs between standing snap shots at 25 yards, and shooting prone all the way out to 500 yards. Iron battlefield sights look like a challenge. Reflex sights are the middle way between spending a grand and up on a used S&B scope and the open sights that came with your rifle. CSR even has a division for 4.5X magnification reflex sights. The guys at alloutdoors have a list for the best reflex sight, there are lots of options. The Gallery rifle guys tell me they’re unbeatable for the close stuff, I’m yet to see how they perform with shots beyond the first 50 yards.
Some of the enthusiasm for these rifles defiantly comes from their modular build, they are a marketing guy’s dream with their never ending list of tweaks and accessories, the cube-jockey can surf for his ‘perfect’ spec all day and then assemble the gun at home. Things that for the sporting rifle require a trip to the gunsmith are plug and play with the AR. While it may not appeal to the traditionalists, with the cultural place that the AR platform has, in movies and video games, I think Civilian Service Rifle is set to grow in popularity. For the kids like my son who grew up playing warry video games it’s a rifle and sight picture that’s an extension of something they already know.
Ties and fedora’s are alien to them.