The art of smallbore rifle shooting

Home on the range . . . Smallbore shooter Stuart Murray coaches Clutha Leader reporter Nick Brook at the Balclutha Smallbore Rifle Club’s historic indoor range. PHOTO: EVELYN THORN

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A Zen›Buddhist koandescribes the connection of archer, bow and quarry: ‘‘Fundamentally, the marksman is aiming at himself . . .’’

News that local man Tony Black recently won the 2022 title of best individual smallbore rifle shooter in the South Island reintroduced me to the sport and I took the opportunity to meet him at the Balclutha Smallbore Rifle Club’s historic, indoor range.

Evening frost was settling on the discreet clapboard building, but potbellied stoves glowed inside, where club members relaxed between shooting sessions.

I chose to shoot first and ask questions later, and laid down with a club .22 rifle to face a card of 11 4cm circles, 20 yards (18.2m) down›range.

The cards begin with two shots fired at the central target to warm the rifle and adjust the sights, then 10 shots are aimed, fired and scored.

The rifle’s rear›sight was a little bowl with a peephole, the fore›sight a short tube, and the target a tiny black circle.

In a relaxed aim, the three roughly aligned in a series of light and dark circles, hovering and shifting within each other through a cycle of breathing.

Periodically the alignment was even.

Mind and body recognised it, dithered over its perfection then realised it was gone.

Here was the thing — knowing the moment and acting without changing it.

A hit at the edge of the target scores 5, but a shot through the tiny dot in the centre scores 10.1 for a possible total of 101.

In the range lounge, club members described their sport.

‘‘There’s no physical advantages. Target shooting can be learned and taught to anyone, any age, that includes people with disabilities,’’ club president Stuart Murray said.

At the Oamaru competition last July where Tony Black was the best of 220 shooters, teams consisted of males and females of all ages competing in open competition.

From teamwork to the technicalities of state›of›the art rifles and accessories, Mr Black and wife Diane share a passion for the sport.

‘‘Some of the best shooters are women,’’ Mrs Black said.

‘‘In clubs or at competitions shooting is very social but some choose to train hard and try to compete up to international levels.’’

I found the simple objective provided a real and present purpose for mental and physical focus and realised I had stumbled on a way to make the mindfulness and meditation now promoted easy.

With a small fee for equipment and supervision, casual shooters are welcomed by the club.

It’s a cheap, novel night out for friends and families to set aside worldly worries and have fun developing concentration and self›control.

‘‘In the end, we’re all shooting to better our last score,’’ Mr Black said.

The Balclutha Smallbore Rifle Club can be reached by contacting Target Shooting New Zealand online and via Facebook.