Friday, 29 November 2019

Midnight Sun rifle Challenge pt6

Most stages begin with the instruction 
“Shooter will start with magazine in, bolt back and all gear on person” 

‘All gear’ relates to the rule, you can bring as much as you’re prepared to carry, everyone other than us has a bag rider and at least a butt bag, one of the Viking’s has a massive pillow rest which means he always has somewhere comfortable to sit when waiting to shoot. Some of the guys on on other  squads have shooting slings of various designs. The Polska Drużyna have their own tripod.

There’s a Milling Stage where you use your True Miller to calculate your known target size and distance into Milliradians. To Your Limit, where you shoot at targets of ever decreasing sizes, where a miss wipes your score. We shoot across steep sided valleys with varying degrees of success myself and OMR settle into the steady rhythm of bewilderment and frustration. Go Team GB.
During one of the hikes we’re surprised to see we’re not bringing up the rear. Once we’re stopped at the next shooting position the lad who wore wellies draws alongside his first question is 
Why are you watching us? 
I’m wondering why you choose wellies?  
These are very good wellies. 
How’s your foot? 
Fucking hurts. 
Your lucky day, I’ve got some Compeed, learned my lesson in the Highlands I’ll never travel without it again.

i manage to rustle up a lift back to the base and gift him a packet. I’ll freely admit I did consider sending the driver back with the Compeed and going back to bed. Go Team GB.

As the first ten hour session reaches its longed for end. We’re too far up the valley to walk back, too far down to seek shelter at other firing points. Some barbecue chairs have been abandoned  by the marshals who have long since vamoosed. The cloud level drops to encompass the taller members of the squad, for me it’s just above head height. A life-affirming drizzle starts to fall, the Viking’s take their Jerven bags out and we sit and wait. 
Every moment is being subtracted from the four hour sleep we could have had between valley stages.  The Vikings are able to switch seamlessly between stoicism and good cheer, they seem completely unaffected. They all speak almost perfect english, often that’s a lot better than the mud people of the Spoons,  and many of them have an english expression they favour over its direct translation. The cloud is now so low that people sitting 30 feet away have disappeared,  little snatches of english appear from the mist. Norwegen Norwegen Norwegen Learning By Doing, Norwegen Norwegen Norwegen, ha ha ha Learning By Doing!

The Vikings all have the Extreme edition, my Jerven is the Hunter, but I was really glad of it. The Jerven is a poncho liner, designed like your life depends on it. Camo that perfectly matches the lichen covered rocks on the outside, with layers of insulation, and aluminium coated cloth, Its got arm holes, sturdy zips and reinforced eyelets. Its at once a blanket; a pop up hunting blind, a tent and a coat. From the Arctic to the Sahara they’ve kept adventures alive for xx years.   

Wrapped in my Jerven, slumped in the barbecue chair,  I’m too deep into my happy place to do more than mutter ‘you’re representing your country’ as my eyes start to involuntarily close. Overcome by impatience OMR makes a run for it, more of a waddle actually. I’m just too battered to follow him or talk him out of it. An age later a minibus appears to take us back to the camp. 

During the sunlit night I dream of the walking in the highlands around Badenoch where Kompani Linge trained with Special Operations Executive for their guerrilla warfare against nazi Germany and their monument stands. There are loads of amazing tales of their daring and indefatigability  

During WW2 there were more decorated members of SOE drawn from the Norwegen resistance unit named after actor and hero Martin Linge than any other unit. If anyone has a claim to “if it wasn’t for us you’d all be speaking german’ its Einar Skinnarland and his compatriots. 

File:Kompani Linge Memorial.JPG

"Dere åpnet deres hjem og deres hjerter for oss og gav oss håp." "You opened your homes and your hearts to us and gave us hope." This stone was erected by the people of Badenoch in honour of the gallant company of Norwegian patriots who lived among them and trained in these mountains 1941-1945 to prepare for operations in occupied Norway. By skilful and daring raids on military and industrial targets they harassed the enemy and denied him vital supplies. These dangerous missions were not carried out without losses; 57 brave men of Kompani Linge gave their lives in our common cause.

I’d like to tell you that i channelled their skill, endurance and spirit, but sadly it was still the divorced walrus. 

Eventually we are picked up and dropped off at the base camp. After the all too brief sleep there’s a gathering of people making coffee and heating dehydrated meals. Most people look haggard. a few jolts of espresso and fried pork and I’m not exactly ready to do it all again but certainly fortified for what the day may bring, It all ends up being a pleasant surprise. 

These are the green and pleasant stages. Not quite Bisley no cucumber sandwiches or pints of old gobshite, or heaving plates of Mum-food, but at least this is where we shoot from barricades instead of lying on needle sharp rocks. 

Thomas turns up, talkative as ever. 
He conducts an interview with OMR who is huddled around  a camping stove shivering with tiredness, and cooking another dehydrated meal. Sadly Thomas later loses the data on his SD card so you’ll just have to imagine the sight of ‘Disgruntled - the grumpiest gnome’ wrapped in my Jerven bag, cooking his dinner with only his balaclava’d head poking out.  Of all the loses and indignities suffered the loss of that picture is the one that hurts me the most.   

At day two’s shorter ranges the big chunk data table is less noticeable, but my woes weren’t over yet . Considering the exorbitant price they ask for them Tika really could have done a bit better with shipping magazines worthy of the name. First the magazine doesn’t seat properly into the mag well, then the plate that the rounds sit on binds rather than sliding up and down smoothly and sometimes the spring doesn’t seem strong enough to push rounds nine to one up to the lips. Failing to chamber a round. So working the bolt produces click and not bang. For £120 each I think Tika could have made more of an effort. At Bisley if you get click when you were expecting bang, you leave the bolt closed for 30 seconds + and signal to the range officer, at Midnight Sun if Vikings get click they work the bolt at a speed to have your next bullet on target before the ejected round hits the ground. Several times I’m habitually hand-in-the-air awaiting instruction when BEEP  I time out.

After the fact. 
There are plenty of Youtube videos dedicated to getting them to work, the simplest tweak with a pair of needle-nosed pilers means that now, after the event obviously, the magazine sits squarely in its well and doesn’t rattle about, my rifle can almost be guaranteed to scoop a round off the stack every time you work the bolt. I’m now getting bang more than click. Bah!

My favourite stage was one overlooking what looks like a quarry surrounded by reactive targets at all kinds of ranges, and the BlinkTroll target.

BlinkTroll is a completely awesome system where you hook a little motor onto a pice of 550 paracord, it will tow a target back and forth.  At MSRC back and forth is across the quarry, the motor is controlled from your smartphone, and its powerful enough to tow a delta archery target. Even the base model can run for about 1000m. If you could afford the ammo, and had the space, a BlinkTroll would be a great time sink. And cash. Last time I enquired it was about four grand. Ouch.   

Without changes in day light the session trundles on and on. Its actually more disorientating than I expected. After a while we’re beyond caring and each new disaster becomes just another painful lesson to mull over with the squad.

“When a Norwegian hears, ‘stop’ to him that’s a signal to take a last shot, you two actually stop shooting. you are very safe, and thats to your credit but its acted against you on nearly every stage.”

The shooting positions for day two are used much more often, its an army range, and there’s mountains of brass on the ground, Norwegians all seem to live with walking distance of a range where they can collect as much once fired Norma 6.5 as they could ever need, so half the squad don't even bother picking it up.  Welly boot man and I are both using Lapua cases that cost north of a pound [or ten krona] each, so us and the .260 boys search the firing points like Gollum looking for a ring after each session. 

With the second 10 hours completed and my eyelids drooping we go to the dinner, or what was billed as the dinner, its turns out to be two trays of lasagne of the kind you’d get in an english motorway service station. The aperitif is a stern lecture about not serving yourself too much, so there’s some for the next person. As last year there wasn’t enough to go around. Its a bit of a low point in the much heralded renaissance in Baltic cuisine.   OMR announces he’s allergic to all forms of cheese. Garlic bread is the only garnish, and OMR’s dinner. 

A jovial Swedish chap gives us a ride back to the camp and tells us of the 18 hour drive his crew endured as the airline wouldn’t confirm wether they could fly with hand loaded ammunition. 

A bit of a sleep later and the Tall Fella reappears to take us back to the site of the first stage
The drive up though the mountains is stunning, the cloud has lifted and in bright sunshine the cliff faces and scree runs are straight out of the observer book of Northern wilderness’.

At the prize giving, after the top three get their plaques, the table of things donated by various makers with varying degrees of generosity from Wow! right down to Really? is raffled off and the people standing on either side of me both win prizes.  Clearly all I’m getting here is practice.

We buy our commemorative T Shirts and hang out with some of the the other competitors, and we run into the chap who marshalled the first stage 24 hours before.

“The Plumber! So you survived? When you arrived at my stage I thought you were having a heart attack and we’d be getting the helicopter out, but you ate that sandwich and came back to life. Don't be too hard on yourself everyone has a terrible first year. Your rig is fine, you just need to develop your load and data.  We all noticed you and your mate are really safe shooters, we hope we’ll see you again next year”
“Thanks man that’s actually quite encouraging, I never asked you what do you do for a job ? 
“I’m a paramedic”

We slouch back in to the hotel and find they’re not serving food, the only option is a kebab shop opposite which must survive by being the only place you can go to eat for miles in any direction, its staggeringly bad. Even though its broad day light its defiantly feels like time for beddybyes, we stop off to chat with he kids on night porter duty at the front desk and get them to book us a cab for the morning’s first flight. I give my used cases a cursory rinse in the hand basin, mainly to check for unaccounted for strays and fade into a deep sleep. I’m a bit regretful that we leave too early to re visit the breakfast buffet, and even more regretful the we have to give norway’s surest cab driver a couple of hundred krona to run us ten minutes down the road, he passes the time berating us for not being outside waiting for him before his expected time of arrival and the fat fuck has the temerity to sulk when its pointed out to him that if he’s busy the common courtesy of announcing his arrival by telephone, instead of hiding out of sight, would have speeded up proceedings for both of us. Its clear that the cafe in the airport also holds its customers in contempt, I don't know if they call the young soldiers the mud people, but mud was defiantly the main ingredient in what they were selling as coffee. We check our toy boxes and packs, no mention is made of any further payment so it seems rude to ask. The dude even says ‘you collect these again at Gatwick’. Bardufoss to Oslo, Oslo to Gatwick, you don't need an EU firearms permit to return, just your regular firearms certificate. We shamble up to the the Border Farce desk to collect our guns, the woman in charge checks our papers and serial numbers match. Do you get much of this? Oh yes guns pass though the airport every day, you guys are always flying with them.  

Next the autopsy 

your pal