Armistice Centenary Shoot

I discovered via the Forgotten Weapons patreon page that the UK NRA were going to be holding a WW1 style rifle competition at Bisley on the 10th of November 2018 and Ian was planning to be in attendance.  I had done a very small amount of competitive shooting through the military before, but never outside of work as I don’t personally own any firearms.  It’s quite a lengthy and complex process to obtain a Firearm Certificate for anything other than a shotgun with a max capacity of 3 rounds here in the UK and even with the Section 1 Firearm Certificate you’re not able to own self-loading pistols or rifles in any cartridge more energetic than .22LR.  When I saw Lee-Enfield rifles were available to simply rent for the day of the match however, it seemed like all the pieces were falling in to place.  After all the 100-year anniversary of armistice day only comes around once.

There’s an awful lot of things I could write about with relation to this day because it was quite a day to say the least, but I’ll try to focus on some basics of competing in rifle competition at Bisley, my experience of the No1 SMLE and the gear I was wearing/using during the event to try and keep myself as comfortable as possible.  This blog will also be quite heavy on the imagery, seeing as a picture paints a thousand words.  Special mentions to my buddy Ivan of KitBadger.com for the loan of the USMC issued Urban-T pattern BDU trousers I wore for the day and also to my mate Sid who I was shooting alongside, took a lot of these pictures and toughed out the entire event in the cold rain wearing basically just a desert climate uniform of the period.

I was up at 5 since match registration opened at 7am.  Signing-in was followed directly by a fairly lengthy service of remembrance and commemoration out on Century range – Bisley’s primary rifle range and the venue for the entire day’s events.

One thing to know about competitive rifle shooting in this discipline, at least at Bisley, is that you will only spend 25% of the time actually behind your rifle.  All competitors at this match were split in to 4 details, so for example during the first quarter of the day details 3 and 4 (of which me and my mate were a part) were down in ‘the butts’ putting the targets up and down for details 1 and 2 to shoot at.  This is a crucial aspect of traditional military marksmanship and competition with a rifle, as the whole idea is to become accustomed to the fact that in reality your enemy are going to only be out in the open for as little time they can be.  They don’t want to be seen and get shot, funnily enough.

When it is time for your half of the cadre to be out on the firing line you will spend half of that time writing down scores for your partner and buddy-checking their chamber is clear when unloading after a string of fire.  This all means of course that when it is your turn to pull the trigger you’ve got 2 people putting your targets up and down for you and another person taking your score.  There are electronic systems manufactured that can put steel targets up and down and even record scores and a small number of the lanes at Bisley even have such targets, but in my experience such luxuries are fairly rare on civilian and military ranges in the UK.

The boots worn by British military personnel up until roughly the 1970s-80s were truly horrendous.  An actual nightmare to endure.  Since the British military made the transition to the new selection of brown boots from the old standard issue black ‘assault boots’ that were just bare leather inside with no cushioning, poor quality soles and a ridiculous break-in period; things have improved pretty significantly, I’d venture to say we’re almost in the modern age now.

Targetry for the match consisted of modern re-prints of legitimate British Army standard marksmanship practice targets from the 1910s.  Given that the Machine Gun was only just coming in to popularity during this time period, the main weapon of war was very much still, at least doctrine wise, the individual man’s rifle and skill in accurate shooting was greatly emphasised.  By WW2 (and even late in WW1) this emphasis had changed somewhat in the British military given the advent and proliferation of automatic weapons and the Bren gun in particular, but before that point it was the bolt-action rifle that mattered.

2 of the 5 strings of fire were shot against targets similar to the one shown in the centre of the picture below, which as you’ll note is quite literally just the size of a standard sized man’s head and shoulders.  Frankly there are a lot of people in the military now (outside of combat roles) who would struggle to consistently hit a target like this using a 5.56 carbine with a magnified optic from 100m.  This entire match was shot from 200 yards (just under 200m) with the rather obsolete notch sights of the No1 SMLE, not even a rear aperture.  While the other targets were large screens as depicted here flanking the head target, the high scoring zones on said screens are only the same size as the head, as you’ll note from the size of the black area on the left hand screen.  The head-size target is 100% a real representation of a person who is only sticking part of their upper torso up over a ledge, so if you can hit that target you can shoot a person in their head or neck, which is a pretty ‘strong’ thing to imagine doing for want of a better phrase.

For me this targetry was quite a departure from shooting at either little white squares for zeroing, or the standard Figure 11 target board that’s been a mainstay in the armed forces for a long time now.  Although funnily enough there are similar head sized targets like the one shown below still used today during inter-services competitive shooting, also presumably for the infantry and other combat arms for whom marksmanship is a stronger focus.

The round count requirement for the full day was 66 cartridges and again we were able to purchase these direct from the UK NRA just to be used on the day alongside the rented rifle.  Standard ball rounds with 180 grain bullets, brass, rimmed cases and generally a very premium appearance to them by contrast to most military 556 ball and blank.  We certainly suffered no issues related to ammunition accuracy or reliability throughout the event.  Unfortunately the rims were not rounded off at the rear as per the proper old military spec, which means you can experience rim-lock stoppages if you don’t load your magazine properly and always place the upper rim in front of the one below it, however we took care to load properly and no issues of this kind reared their heads.

A lot of the shooters who’d brought along their personally owned rifles and ammunition were using stripper clips which we did not have, though that was of little consequence during the competition itself.  I do somewhat regret not enquiring about this before the day as loading a fixed magazine in a rifle with clips is not something I’ve been able to experience yet, outside of putting en-blocs loaders in to an M1 Garand.  I’m sure the opportunity will arise eventually though, which will certainly be interesting after playing a lot of BF1 in the past couple of years.

My shooting buddy and I were loaned out our No1 rifle after doing our turn down in the butts and moving back up to the firing line.  A 1941 production which of course makes it far later than WW1, though most likely in better condition than any rifle from the 1910s would be at this point.  Keep in mind the No4 rifle wasn’t officially adopted by the British until 1941, so the huge amounts of No1 SMLEs in inventory saw substantial active service during World War 2.  If I recall correctly both India and Australia never adopted the No4 at all, so given the number of their troops that participated in the conflict it goes to show how much use the No1 rifle from the first world war actually ended up seeing in the second world war.

The particular rifle we used for the day was made at the Lithgow factory in Australia as you can just about discern from the very shallow and worn stamping on the stock socket.  How it ended up in the UK I’m not sure, it could well have made its’ way here during or immediately after the war in some soldier’s hands as there is no shortage of Lee-Enfield rifles already in the UK, so I’d be doubtful it was imported specifically for civilian usage.  It may even have been sent from Australia to the UK as material aid during WW2, unlikely perhaps, but hard to say given everything that was going on during that time.  Far stranger things did happen.

While it pains me to say it in a way, I can’t pretend to be a huge fan of the No1 rifle overall.  This is in spite of the fact I would very much rate it generally higher than the 1891 Mosin, 1903 Springfield, Lebel 1886 and Gewehr 98.  Rifles of this era are just hard to shoot when you take in to account the last 100 years of firearms development for comparisons’ sake.  It’s not that you can’t connect shots and that the bullets won’t do what they need to, it’s just the nature of certain design elements from that period.   Ergonomic considerations have come along massively in the last century.

The primary culprits for me are the iron sights, which are of course basic notch and post types as still employed by some rifles like the AK-74M in service today.  Unlike an aperture type sight where the rear ghost ring is right back near the shooters’ eye, the No1 rear iron sight is roughly half way down the portion of the gun that lies between the shooters’ eye and the front sight.  You lose an awful lot of sight radius this way which is inherently less accurate, slow to acquire a sight picture without fairly extensive practice/training and you can’t see anything below or to the sides of the front sight blade (unlike modern iron sights).  I’m not saying this style of sight is unusable by any stretch and there are many historical accounts of very well trained and skilful people pulling off amazing feats of marksmanship with weapons like these, but the fact remains those people would have done even better with a rear aperture and it would’ve probably taken less time in practice to reach the same skill level.  The British military even experimented with rear apertures at least as far back as 1911 because they knew that was the way to go.

Fast forwarding somewhat – before the infanteers of the current British military moved over to ACOGs/Elcans on the L85 and the SUSAT was subsequently dispersed amongst the rest of the military (about 5 or so years ago), I spent all my time on the L85 shooting with the weapons’ iron sights, so using these comparatively obsolete predecessors was an eye opener and learning experience in a lot of different ways.  They certainly make the irons found on the L85, M16 and G36 seem very easy to use by comparison and that’s without even going in to red dots and other more advanced magnified optics.

The other aspect I personally struggled with is the low height of the sights combined with the very slim nature of the stock/handguard and, to some extent, lack of a bi-pod.  It’s perfectly easy to get your eye down to the sights with the drop of the stock of course, but in the prone position it is not immediately obvious how to actually use the sandbag support provided while still elevating the muzzle high enough to aim at targets on the horizon line, or indeed above said line.  This is admittedly hard to put across without a picture, but I was myself unable to come up with a prone position that allowed me to actually use the sandbag (even when the stage allowed for supported shooting) while still sufficiently elevating the muzzle.

The position I ended up using to shoot in the prone is depicted slightly further down in this post.  I found I really had to slide the support hand a lot further back than I would with any modern rifle in order to get the aforementioned necessary muzzle elevation.  Being raised high up on the elbows is not my usual prone shooting style as normally I flatten out as low and as wide as physically possible, with the elbows splayed and the magazine of and L85/AR acting as a mono-pod; but I couldn’t seem to make that work with the No1 given the long stock.  Some of the more experienced participants who clearly had a lot of years behind these guns could get in to positions such that the sandbags could take the weight of their support-side forearms with the rifle butts essentially dug down in to the dirt under their chests to get the right angle, but it would definitely take me some more range time to become accustomed to these older style rifles when shooting from the prone.

I also found I had a lot to get accustomed to in terms of the length of the weapon/barrel.  With the L85 the rifle’s chamber is almost under your cheek when in a firing stance, or at least behind the hand that’s pulling the trigger.  But with the SMLE the chamber is of course forward of the magazine, essentially in the region where your support hand will tend to be gripping the stock, whereas the support hand on a modern rifle can usually manage to take hold almost at the muzzle.  That’s a very substantial difference in the ‘starting point’ of the barrel and to your stance, which has a corresponding knock-on effect to the overall length of the rifle, which in turn moves all of the weight and balance much further out forward of the shooter’s centre of gravity.

This is not to say that the rifle is all bad of course, far from it.  You have double the magazine capacity of all its’ main comparable contemporaries, a fairly decent 2-stage trigger and the cock-on-close action with a nicely curved bolt handle and nicely manufactured parts makes cycling the gun extremely fast.  Anyone who’s fired a Mosin with it’s straight bolt handle, cock-on-open, ‘basic’ machining work and shoddy surface finish will find their bolt speed significantly higher with a No1 or No4.   This competition was also the first opportunity I had personally had to use the magazine release on any Lee-Enfield rifle and it is surprisingly not that difficult to remove or re-insert the detachable box magazine.  I say surprising as .303 ammunition was always issued as standard on stripper clips throughout both world wars and the ability to change magazines was basically never taken advantage of in either conflict.

We started the morning session down in the butts during which time the sun was out, but of course shortly after we transitioned from being under cover to being out on the field, the rain began.

I should mention at this point that although American shooting competitions tend to comprise of ‘stages’ that form a match and there are usually overall scores, a lot of the military style competitions here in the UK are comprised of ‘matches’ instead of stages and often the scores from the matches have no bearing at all on any of the other matches that for that day.  Even though you might only be shooting for a couple of minutes, if you win that match you get a gold medal.   Conversely, consistently doing fairly well but placing outside of the podium throughout the day will net you nothing at all.  Best to have an absolute disaster of a match then to truly shine in another if silverware is your goal.

The below images were taken during the first match before the clouds rolled over and the rain properly began.  Match 1 involved shooting with a No1-appropriate pattern of bayonet affixed.  Supposedly having it attached changes your zero quite a bit, although for us on the day there wasn’t anything noticeable in that regard.  One would expect shots to land lower than the aiming point given the weight hung on the end barrel, but that did not appear to be the case at the 200 yard line where the whole competition took place.  Perhaps it might be noticeable at 400 or more.

After a well needed curry lunch we headed back down the butts for the 2nd round of managing the targetry during which the weather held, but as in the morning it all changed come our turn back out on the firing line, though more dramatically this time.

Fortunately shooting with a hood up and in somewhat dim, drab conditions did not actually prove to be too bad using the sights on the No1, though I dread to think about how much harder it would have been in the true conditions of trench warfare and wearing the equipment of the 1910s.  After shooting at the target comprising only a head and shoulders in the morning, the man-sized target for the afternoon which actually had part of the torso and an upper arm showing was slightly easier to connect to, but I think the image below demonstrates just how small said target actually is at 200 yards without any magnification.  I got maybe 1-2 more hits on this target compared to just the head.  If you happen to be unsure what the targets actually are in the picture below I wouldn’t blame you, they’re the little black blobs contrasted against the sand berm and running from lanes 71 to (1)00.

Once the actual competition stages were over with, the day was finished off by a ‘demonstration’ shoot of a Vickers machine gun.  Nothing replica or reproduction about it, a legitimate functioning MG of the era with all the original matching water cooling gear, cloth belts and appropriate tri-pod.  Whether it was pulled from some armoury at Bisley, a military-owned collection or somewhere like the Leeds NFC I have no idea, but there it was and somehow  permission was obtained, in 2018, to blast off nearly 2000 rounds of .303 with the general public in attendance.  The MG fire was split down in to 4 parts and since the ammo we purchased for the day included some extra rounds to fire alongside the Vickers we were able to do just that.  Scroll right down to the bottom of this post for the video.


‘Loadout’

The good thing about being outdoors all day of course is that when it rains for a good portion of that day you can figure out how well any given piece of your gear deters said rain.  If you manage to stay fairly dry at your core then you’ll also stay warm and that’s what really matters.  You can be 100% soaked in warm water and be fine, but it’s always loss of heat that hinders your ability to perform and ultimately can lead to injury or worse in truly extreme situations.

-Salomon XA Pro 3D Mids, GTX – A really old set I’ve posted about previously here on the blog.  Manufactured before what I believe was the point when Salomon got too big and too popular and ‘did a Merrell’.  Quality dropped right off subsequently.  I don’t tend to go for GTX boots of any kind if I’ll be running around much in a temperate climate, but for a comparatively stationary match like this one they were ideal.  Kept my feet dry and are far more comfortable given their trainer styling versus 6-8″ conventional military issue style boots.

-USMC Issued Urban-Track pattern BDU cut pants  – Many thanks to Ivan from Kit Badger for the lend of these.  I had to make sure I wore them to some event that held some modicum of significance at least before returning them to him.

-Tactical Distributors Shooter’s T-Shirt + Under Armor synthetic boxers – Synthetic base layer items like these that wick any water quickly are absolutely foundational in temperate climates in my experience.  While your L5 and L6 kit keeps rain out, a good set of base apparel will move the water away from the skin.

-Gruppa 99 Lvl 5 Jacket – No camo or arm velcro.  Blocks wind like a champ, holds off some rain, breathes nicely and with more than enough pockets.  You cannot beat a good quality, non-insulated L5 jacket when it comes to all around performance in just about any weather and it makes a NYCO BDU or Field shirt seem obsolete by comparison.

-Berghaus Gore-Tex (i.e. PCU L6 equivalent) Jacket – I had a feeling it might well bucket down for the day and a non-insulated Gore-Tex jacket that nicely layers over a softshell was absolutely the right call.  I’ve owned the thing for close to a decade now and it does not bead the water the way it did when it was new, but that was a solid reminder for me to run it through a wash with some Nikwax followed by a spin in a warm tumble dryer.  Even with its’ age and lack of maintenance it kept the vast majority of rain out, with only some saturation in small areas of the extremities like the cuffs.  It’ll be very interesting to see how well the wash and dry has restored the waterproofing performance of this old workhorse of mine.

-The Redback Company, Custom Flexfit style Timmy cap in Desert Night pattern – This match was the longest period I’ve spent solidly wearing the Redback flagship product so far.  Extremely comfortable to the point of not feeling like it’s on your head.  Regulates temperature nicely, doesn’t hold much volume of water at all.  Definitely a warm weather cap yet still served me well in the cooler conditions and rain.

-3M Peltor Comtac XP Electronic ear pro – My go to set of hearing protection for all shooting (work and recreational) and indoor airsoft use for probably 5 years now.  Night and day compared to foamies that may protect your hearing but certainly do not help you in hearing range commands.

-SKD Tac PIG FDT-Delta gloves – I only wore these briefly at this match, but they performed just as I’d expect from a PIG glove.  Peerless dexterity that feels essentially no different to just bare hands.  They take some of those annoying cuts and scrapes you’d incur otherwise, but don’t impede manipulation of a firearm in the slightest.

-Mil-Spec Monkey CYOA Pack – Before I last deployed I spent a couple of days on ranges with my MSM BOSS Beaver bag that I’ve reviewed previously.  It was sat out on an entirely exposed field for many, many hours simply getting rained on and didn’t let water in from above or allow it to soak through from underneath.  This is the beauty of proper mil-spec 500D cordura, being nylon to start with and the fact it always comes with a permanent waterproof coating.  The CYOA performed just as well as the BOSS and quite literally kept my powder dry as I had my .303 ammo for the day stored inside it while the rain came down.

-Source 2L Bladder – I’ve only ever purchased a couple of Source bladders and frankly, unless some other company comes up with a miraculous new way to keep water warm/cool for days in any climate or defy physics in terms of mass or volume, I’m not foreseeing any need to ever replace them.  It’ll take a lifetime of regular use to wear out one of these bladders, let alone occasional usage.


Ian of Forgotten Weapons fame was very much swamped the whole day with people getting pictures and chatting etc, which I was not at all surprised by given the type of crowd present for the match.  I’d be very surprised if the majority of attendees weren’t subscribers of his channel or at the very least aware of it.  I’ve been able to meet him (just briefly) twice now and although he’s very much drowned in attention at SHOT show and the like he maintains a very friendly demeanour and always smiles in pictures.  I very much wish him the best of luck in maintaining that ability to be jolly with strangers, because we live in an age where more people are more famous than ever thanks to YouTube and other social media, even if they only get recognised when within their niche fields.  This is going off track, but something I do find interesting is the cult of celebrity just in the way it changes people and how it grinds them down in terms of getting approached a lot for pictures etc and the way it inhibits them living their daily lives when going above a certain level of fame; most people who don’t have that or rarely get recognised will very much enjoy occasional recognition, but the reality is it grinds people down after years of having too much of it.

Either way, credit to Ian and the many other people who shot the match in the heavy rain while wearing the awful woolen uniforms of the WW1 era.  Personally I’ll be sticking to all my DWR Nylon shells and comfy synthetic shoes.

Lastly, if you’ve missed it then be sure to watch what I’d say is the companion video to this article, because if a picture does paint a thousand words then a video paints ten thousand.

Thanks to everyone at the UK NRA who took part in running the match and photo credit to their photographer for all of the images that have their watermark in the corners.

Sport Shooting in Britain

Going to take me a little while to do the write-up on the NRA Armistice Centenary match, but in the mean time if you’re in the UK and never shot before but would like to, I’d encourage you to check them out.

If you’re a civilian there is a short safety course you’d have to take before you could turn up to a competition and use a rented weapon/buy ammo for the day, but if you can get that course done it’s actually no more difficult to be a ‘rental’ at one of these matches than it is to be a rental at an airsoft game. This was something I personally had no clue about until just a couple of weeks back and had I known previously I certainly would have partaken in the occasional match with a rented weapon a long time ago.

I know quite a lot of you reading this will be in the UK and won’t have shot before but will be interested in trying, so I thought sharing this might bring some awareness in the same way my own awareness was recently raised. There are a few ranges you can go to in the UK and shoot bolt action rifles and shotguns if you literally just want to blast a couple of rounds and only spend a short time doing it, but if you want to get a lot more out of the experience and gain at least a small amount of good marksmanship practice then doing what I did for this match is a solid way to go about that.

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Posted by NRA of the UK on Sunday, November 11, 2018

MG-42 – Basics and Firing

Last piece of footage from 2018’s visit to Battlefield: Vegas. I should actually have one more video to upload since I paid to shoot the Reising SMG, but the person working the till/reception clearly didn’t know what that was, didn’t articulate it correctly on the receipt that the RSOs work from when pulling the guns from the racks and I got so caught up in things I forgot to remedy the issue myself before leaving. This also came close to happening to me in 2017 when I shot the BAR since that also was missed from my trolley though luckily on that occasion I realised the mistake myself just as I was about to leave the premises.

I know it’s an incredibly busy venue and there’s a TON of weaponry floating around so this isn’t me saying the staff are all out to scam you by any means, but this was something I meant to mention in a full updated review of BFV which I never got around to so I’ll mention it here instead. If you go just remember you’re paying a lot and it’s a unique experience so don’t get too carried away in the moment and miss out on anything you’ve shelled out for.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Since I mentioned the MG-42 in the previous post about the Garand I might as well slightly elaborate here. As discussed previously there was a stark contrast between US/Allied doctrine and German doctrine for the infantry. The US standardised on a self-loading infantry rifle (the Garand) in the 1930s, but Germany focused heavily on the MG and manufactured over 14 million K98 pattern bolt-actions for the majority of their forces to use with only around 1 million self-loaders produced – and that’s if you combine the G-41, G-43 and Stg44 production numbers all together.

Now the MG-34 that preceded the 42 had already been a successful general purpose machine gun (unlike the more specific weapons of WW1) however the 34 uses an incredibly complex receiver painstakingly machined from billet, which Forgotten Weapons of course has a great video showing off. Germany naturally wanted a gun that could be produced far faster and more economically, so the 42 makes extensive usage of stampings. The Stg44 is also a largely stamped gun and as we know an infamously successful one. On a related note, original AK-47 type rifles were in fact stamped but when the Russians couldn’t get that quite right they temporarily switched to heavy, expensive machined receivers only to then go back to stampings for the AKM a few years later (as soon as they’d figured the stamping out, likely with the help of a few former Nazi engineers).

The MG-42 fires the same 7.92x57mm cartridge as the K98 that most troops were equipped with and does so at a rate of roughly 1200 rounds per minute – for reference an ROF is more like 600 is typical of other guns of the period. The locking of the action is accomplished via roller delay very much like the entire G3/MP5 family of weapons that came after WW2, so there is no gas piston or gas system of any kind on the MG-42, unlike the Bren gun or BAR. Just one of a great many of examples of how this weapon’s legacy post WW2 is surprisingly wide in scope. Being stamped with looser tolerances than the MG-34 and featuring an ingeniously simplistic operating mechanism, the 42 proved to be a lot more rugged and reliable in use, although the fact it fires so quickly and requires frequent barrels changes made it less than ideal for use in the cramped confines of tanks and the like so the MG-34 was pushed in to vehicular mounts in most instances.

Doctrine placed the MG at the heart of the German squad. In the ‘light’ role the 3 man team for the MG-42 consisted of not just the gunner himself but an assistant gunner and another man dedicated to carrying ammunition. Other riflemen in the squad could also potentially carry a tri-pod or more belts of 7.92 for the MG alongside their K98ks. Given the very high ROF logistics was of course an issue so the gunner had to keep his bursts short and controlled, but even then keeping the beast fed was very much a team effort.

A great number of nicknames emerged for the weapon on account of the fact that at 1200 RPM the human ear cannot pick up the individual shots, instead a continuous cutting or ripping noise is heard when the gun runs at its’ intended speed. Even the incredibly old and well worn example I am firing in this video is still firing at a higher rate than is normal for the vast majority of small arms throughout history.

Many elements of the 42 live today within the MG3 and FN MAG series (e.g. British GPMG and US M240). With the MAG for example the bi-pod and trigger mechanism are almost literally identical to those on the 42, the top cover/feed mech is also incredibly similar as is the attachment for the butt stock. The 50 round drums that were originally produced for the MAG also share characteristics with drums used on the MG-42.

The MG3 was used extensively in the German military right up until the early 2010s and as far as I can tell is still in quite extensive service with various countries around the world even though is it borderline identical to the MG-42. It is finally entering the era of being phased out by newer designs like the HK MG5 in some places, but it’s taken a great many decades of development for anybody to come up with something objectively better.

SVT-40 Shoot

Quick magazine blasted through an SVT-40.

I was really impressed with this rifle compared to the G-43, which is certainly a contemporary equivalent or rival design. Both self loaders with 10 round detachable box magazines and short stroke gas pistons, really quite similar manuals of arms and sighting systems too. The cartridges are also very similar indeed, yet the recoil from the SVT felt like nothing comparatively.

Granted in the modern US there’s a plethora of ammo available with different loadings and I can’t account for that in my perceptions because I don’t know the brands or loadings I fired. The lubrication state and age/wear on the guns could also come in to play to an extent, but I have to say I think even when considering all of those factors I’d sill find the SVT to be the better all around rifle with a much softer recoil.

Of the bolt actions rifles I’ve fired, the Mosin-Nagant has been by far the worst/least pleasant in terms of recoil, action of the bolt and trigger pull, as well as iron sights (and I’ve fired a few different Mosins to check). I don’t know how reliable the SVT was in field conditions, but in terms of recoil and sheer volume and rate of fire going down range I’d be one very happy comrade if somebody handed me this instead of the Nagant rifle before I stormed Berlin.

FS Range Day – TRIARC SBR + Aimpoint + Silencio

Couldn’t get an angle on the ‘good side’ of the gun sadly, but here’s a few frangible rounds going through a TRIARC Systems rifle with Aimpoint optics during the FirstSpear range day just as SHOT was kicking off.

Cheers to Femme Fatale Airsoft for running her camera for me, also for an interesting observation. A lot of the guns that were out for this event were equipped with silencers so it was a good opportunity to really compare the difference actually ‘in situ’ vs shooting a standard muzzle one day then a suppressed one later. Kelly commented on the significant disparity between the suppressed and non-suppressed weapons and generally how much more comfortable and pleasant it was to simply be in the vicinity of rifles running suppressors compared to those that weren’t.

Having been around firearms somewhat frequently myself for coming up on 11 years now but rarely having shot suppressed weapons, it really wasn’t something that occurred to me immediately I have to say, but the second it was pointed out I found myself in complete agreement. When you’ve been stood around watching and chatting to folks for a little bit while the firing line has been running entirely suppressed it’s notably strange how quickly you become accustomed to that decibel level, then all of a sudden when an unmoderated shot fires off it feels surprisingly egregious to the senses.

Review – Shoot Las Vegas Guns

The video from Shoot Las Vegas is up on YouTube already, I said I’d review them and I do what I say. If you happen to go to Vegas (which is possibly the best machine gun tourism destination in the world) I have to say I think you’d be remiss to not set a little of your budget aside to check out SLV. Certainly if you’ve either never shot before or never shot full auto.

To preface this I will say I’ve spent hours pouring over other reviews of every MG rental place in Vegas and there are at least a dozen, however I’ve only been to 2 and there’s a reason for that. Of the many of reviews I’ve looked at and comparison lists I’ve read that are up-to-date, there are consistently 2 businesses topping the charts. Now personally I know I have integrity when I review things and only publish the truth, but I take reviews from any source I’m not intimately familiar with with a large pinch of salt. It’s not physically possible for me of course to physically visit every location, however after sorting the wheat from the chaff I have spent a long time looking at the websites of all the businesses who have at least decent reviews to compare 2 key attributes – pricing and selection. Location and staff are important too of course, but for me it’s about what I’m shooting and how much I’m paying, I simply expect the staff to be professional and polite and the location to be safe as a minimum.

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With all that in mind, many of you will know I’ve been to Battlefield before and the only competition I could find to the quality of Battlefield was SLV, so I put my money on the table, purchased a 9 gun package + the Barrett .50 and headed on over. When I say headed over I mean took a fairly lengthy drive in the yuge limo they pick you up in, because the first thing to know about SLV is it’s situated out in the mountains and valleys a good way outside of town. This is a slight double edged sword as it’s a bit of a drive, but one edge is no doubt sharper than the other. The vehicle is either about to be upgraded to an insane monster truck limo or will have been already and frankly that alone is almost worth the entry fee. Check their site to take a look at the beast, you will be impressed. If I go to SHOT again next year I look forward to checking it out in person.

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The first image is the selection of 9 I picked out which I’ve discussed previously when I posted the shooting footage, so go back if you want to read what’s there/why I chose it. The location itself is, as I say, a decent little drive out of town and that’s about the only disadvantage or criticism of sorts I might have of SLV. Bearing in mind that the land around Vegas is eerily flat for miles and of course the shooting range needs hilly terrain to actually catch bullets, so if you want that outdoor experience you simply have to drive a good distance, there’s no getting around that.

 

The selection of weapons to choose from will certainly please 99% of folks out there. I may potentially be in that 1% who’s already shot a lot of modern stuff and is primarily interested in much more niche/older weapons, but I still managed to pick out 9 guns I most definitely wanted to shoot to tick off my list and that’s good going for someone who’s as big of a nerd as I am. Also you have to consider the remote nature of the location in all aspects of the business, as having everything that they do in the location that they do is no mean feat.

The physical firing lines are trailers of sorts, which means you don’t quite have the 100% outdoor shooting experience, however it is the desert and it’s windy so if you didn’t have some sort of cover or hide to shoot from you’d spend a lot of the time going ‘pffff’ blowing sand out of your nose and mouth. More importantly the actual range is just straight up fantastic. You can simply blast sand if you like and honestly I think I might do just that next year as I go to these places to pay for an experience of shooting in a way I’ll never be able to in work. Safety is still crucial of course because a lot of these are automatic firearms, but as long as you follow the 4 rules of safe weapons handling I see no reason not to just aim at a large area down range and hold the trigger back. But as I say the range area you have to shoot at is superb with tons of steel targets setup. The trailer with the bolt-action rifles has target stands starting at 100 yards and then at 100 yard increments all the way to 500 proceeding up the hillside, which is a world away from anything you might get at an indoor range. Searching for those steel plates out on the sides of the hills through your scope is a hell of a lot of fun. Personally I also find the scenery just awesome as it’s totally different to almost anywhere in the UK.

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Most crucially, all the guys I met who were running the place were absolutely faultless. Professional, courteous, yet highly enthusiastic when it comes to safely enjoying the shooting experience and making sure you have a bloody good time at their range. The time does go quickly there’s no doubt and as I’ve often said with machine gun tourism it’s a crazy ratio of dollars per second of entertainment, but you have to understand that going in. That’s simply the nature of the beast.

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Pricing wise I can tell SLV have set out from the start to really be the tops dogs. Not only is the basic price per gun/round extremely competitive, but you’ve got your limo ride included, they have have video cameras setup to get the down range angle no human could ever record, you’ll get a 50 cal case cut in to a beer opener at the end (hand made from a round shot on their range) and honestly just the entire feel of the location and the setup they have going is a huge plus point; lots of other little details too. To circle back to something I mentioned at the start, I’ve spent a lot of time comparing prices and weapon selections of different MG rental places in Vegas and SLV beats most of them in a simple price per round match, yet also throws in a boat load of extras the competition simply do not (or cannot) beat.

Overall it’s an easy 9/10 from me, maybe a tentative 9.5, just because nothing in life is perfect (but they get close). Getting hold of the guns I’m personally really in to like genuine Stg 44s etc is of course a seriously big deal and I’m not deducting points from SLV for not having all the WW1/2 era guns I’m most interested in, but sufficed to say if they did have all that stuff I’d never go anywhere else. If anything the only other minor nit I could pick here is that SLV will massively spoil you in terms of shooting experiences and almost anywhere else you might try will be lacking by comparison. I genuinely hope any of you who might read this and subsequently find yourself in Las Vegas will put this company at the top of your list, because end of the day what I care about most is folks getting the best they can from their money and this business right here is the one to go with.

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Shoot Las Vegas (Not Literally, Obviously)

Just straight up gratuitous phone footage of me blasting stuff at Shoot Las Vegas. I’ll write a review of the business later, but right now I’ll score them an easy 9/10 if not higher. If your personal belief is that using good looking women to promote your enterprise is a bad thing you won’t like them that’s for sure, but that’s not my personal outlook on things. Especially when the lady they post the most online also runs their social media and more importantly is one of their RSOs and works as such 6 days a week. But anyway, here’s the break down.

Single Action Army:
I realised I’d never fired any sort of revolver before this trip, but I’ve used SAAs many times in games and I bloody love that old school feeling of spinning the cylinder to load each round through the gate and cocking the hammer manually each time with the single action trigger. This model is obviously a slightly longer barrel than the US military variant that was adopted. Surprisingly not too much recoil for a big old cartridge and no slide to reciprocate.

Henry Repeating Arms Lever-Action:
Chambered in .45 Long Colt, same as the SAA. Again I’d never fired lever action before this, but the rifle is an early variant of the Henry without the King’s loading gate, so loading was done by dropping cartridges down the magazine tube from the front. You notice the rear site is a gigantic, cavernous notch with multiple angles inside it? Well I had no idea where to put the front bead inside that cavern so I started with it lined up at the top, then later realised it had to be at the bottom and got a hit. The subsequent miss is presumably just the fact I suck.

20″ AR/M16 style setup with Spike’s Tactical 37mm launcher:
The selection at SLV is very good considering it’s waaay out in the sticks, but I’ve obviously been in the service a while and fired a few things along with visits to other rental ranges and range days during SHOT Show trips. I basically just wanted to shoot an M16 clone with the heatshield around the barrel that you only see on M16s with UGLs. It’s as iconic as they come. I had an Action Man with that gun as a kid (the 203 fired green plastic ‘missiles’ via spring that cocked on loading, amazing).

Kahr Firearms Group/Auto Ord M1928 Thomspon:
I’ve fired this exact setup before, but it was the time I took my PivotHead glasses to the range and they let me down worse than any other piece of gear in history. If you’ve ever held a Thompson (real or replica) you’ll know the stock and controls make it a competitor for least ergonomic gun ever made. I presume it was setup to be hip fired after jumping in to a WW1 trench. So I don’t think I hit anything but I do not care a single jot – It’s a Chicago Typewriter *with* the drum.

FN America/Herstal P90:
I did not know this PDW had an AUG style 2-stage trigger as well as the fire selector, very, very odd. Also no idea where the EoTech was zero’d so I probably entirely failed to take in to account that huge bore offset, but it doesn’t matter because it fires rapid as hell and barely moves so I had a great time blasting sand. Which is all I do care about in this context.

Heckler & Koch G36:
I didn’t really expect a lot from this since it’s just a plastic assault rifle in 556, but it’s the easiest to control in automatic of just about any rifle I’ve fired, which makes little sense given how light it is. Felt like firing an SMG. Obviously you’ll note ALL of the shots hitting low but at least they’re fairly consistently low in the ground, so I can only imagine the sights were set for a lot further out than I was aiming.

FN F2000:
Same super freaky selector + dual stage setup as the P90. Do not ask me why that automatic ROF is so insanely high, it makes no sense to me, especially since I’ve handled the rifle previously at the Leeds collection and it weighs about 4lbs at a guess; all plastic body. Genuinely fits the bill when you say ‘feels like a toy’ in relation to a firearm because it feels like budget airsoft or a NERF gun.

FN SCAR Light/Mk16:
Fitting squarely in to the ‘boring, 556, short stroke, metal upper + polymer lower, AR layout’ modern assault rifle category, I was going to pick something else initially. But then SLV had the short version in sandy colours exactly like my TM replica and I changed my mind very quickly. Great controls, very light recoil. I can see why these guns are so pricey and so popular.

Mosin-Nagant:
Just a regular 91/30 from what I can see in he video but I didn’t look the rifle over in person. Honestly the worst shooting experience I’ve had, the only gun that’s ever bruised me. Nothing to do with SLV of course, it’s just an old bolt action with no muzzle device and a beast of a round from the late 1800s, back when range and power was king. Combined with a metal butt plate of course and zero padding so ALL of that x54R force is going in to smacking a piece of metal right in to you. I guess I’m just a masochist.

The .50 I’ll throw in to a separate video because I want to have a nice big thumbnail on YouTube with the Barrett front and centre, because why not right? I probably could have got a ton of views over there if I’d uploaded each gun separately with big thumbnails and capitalised video titles, but then they hate guns and I’d make nothing from it. I’ve also had mostly just bad experiences with trolls on any video that has gotten large numbers of views.

Yours, Says, Replica

Getting there on the footage from Shoot Las Vegas (inbetween writing maaaaany e-mails and messages).

First round of fiddy cal I ever fired. I dearly wish the camera could’ve picked up the pressure wave both myself and my buddy holding the camera there felt, even worse for him than for me being directly behind the gun. It may have only been semi-enclosed at the firing position but that was enough to feel like you were getting slapped in the head from both sides at the same time upon firing each shot. Beast of a muzzle brake, less felt recoil than a full power WW2 era 30 cal round with a bare muzzle.

.50

Getting there on the footage from Shoot Las Vegas (inbetween writing maaaaany e-mails and messages).First round of fiddy cal I ever fired. I dearly wish the camera could've picked up the pressure wave both myself and my buddy holding the camera there felt, even worse for him than for me being directly behind the gun. It may have only been semi-enclosed at the firing position but that was enough to feel like you were getting slapped in the head from both sides at the same time upon firing each shot. Beast of a muzzle brake, less felt recoil than a full power WW2 era 30 cal round with a bare muzzle.

Posted by The Full 9 on Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Most British Gun

Imagine a Venn diagram, the type with the linking circles. There’s 2 circles, one with avid Battlefield 1 players in, the other containing avid fans of Forgotten Weapons. Right in the middle there’s a teeeeny tiny inter-section of folks who will maybe care about this news.

As seen here in my screen cap of LevelCap‘s video uploaded yesterday, the 1915 Howell rifle is coming to BF1 in the next DLC. What is it? Only one of THE weirdest and most interesting firearms ever to have ever existed. It’s an SMLE, with what I suppose would qualify as a long stroke gas piston just slap-dashed on to the side to open, cycle and close the normal bolt handle that the shooter would usually operate with their hand. I very strongly encourage you to check out Ian’s video to see this gun working:

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