Gallery Rifle, Muzzle Loaded Pistol, McQueen Castle
The North has an active Gallery Rifle, Muzzle Loaded Pistol and McQueen Castle section of about forty NLRC members.
We shoot .22 single shot and semi-auto, .38/.357 and .44 underlever and MLP and whatever you bring along. Our shoots are practices, but we hope to organise team matches as we mature. A nice feature of our shoots is that members are happy for others to try out their firearms (with appropriate supervision).
The North's GR/MLP section is also running McQueen shoots - see Vince Bottomley's article below (click the down arrow to reveal it) and underneath that Alan Wey's shooter's guide.
Whether you are an experienced shooter in these disciplines, just want to try it out or want to develop your skills further, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the Fixtures sub-page for event information.
Sniping Origins and the McQueen Competition
Those of you who have had the opportunity to visit Bisley in July, at the time of the world famous Imperial Meeting, may have noticed a little ‘fun’ competition tucked away on Century Range and called simply, the McQueen. You may even have been tempted to have a go, for it is one of the few ‘turn up and shoot’ opportunities available to the casual shooter at the Imperial. The NRA even provide a state of the art Accuracy International sniper rifle, complete with Schmidt & Bender scope and bi-pod - just in case you forgot your own - and, providing you don’t mind shooting ‘ball’ ammo, a dozen rounds of 7.62 Nato ammo is included in the modest entry fee!
The format is quite simple. At a distance of 300 yards from the firing-point stands a wall. In the ‘wall’ are half a dozen randomly placed rectangular holes. The target is a two-dimensional life-size human head mounted on a long stick. Closer inspection of the head reveals that it bears a marked resemblance to a Second World War German soldier, resplendent in grey tunic and helmet. On the temple area of the target* is inscribed a four-inch diameter circle and five points are awarded for a hit in this circle and four points anywhere else on the target. Ten exposures of the target, each of three seconds duration, are given to the shooter, with an away time of 10 to 20 seconds and the head does of course appear randomly at any of the holes in the wall, for it is manipulated from the safety of a pit below the wall. The wall is really just a flimsy structure of timber and Corex to eliminate the risk of ricochets.
To get into the awards in Imperial fortnight however, with the cream of the world’s shooters on hand, not only is a perfect 50 required i.e. all 10 shots in the four-inch circle but the winner will inevitably have to produce another 50 in the shoot-off!
The McQueen competition is easy to set up and run at your own club and is popular throughout the UK and my own range is no exception but I have often wondered as to its origins. Is it just a fun comp? Why the Hun’s head target? Who devised it? Could it really have been a one-time sniper training aid?
The military sniper continues to fascinate the civilian shooter, who similarly has an obsession with extreme rifle accuracy at long-ranges. The role of the sniper in warfare has probably existed as long as the rifle itself though the term ‘sniper’ has its origins in the sport of shooting snipe in India in the nineteenth century.
There are well documented accounts of extreme long-range kills perpetrated by the Boers on the British Army during the South African campaigns in the last century. The Boers were but poor farmers and ammunition was a luxury item. Their rifles were primitive by modern standards and it was essential that every round was made to count when hunting game for the pot. By using their hunting skills against the vastly superior British Army they almost upset the mighty British Empire and in doing so unwittingly invented what we recognise today as guerrilla warfare.
About the same time as we were rampaging in South Africa, America had its own internal problems and there are many sniping incidents recorded by both sides in the Civil War. Strangely though, the British Army at this time considered sniping to be an un-sportsmanlike way of fighting the enemy and was content to engage their foe, be it black or white man, at more respectable distances with Martini Henry and Schneider.
In the course of my readings I recently came upon another interesting sniper treatise, simply entitled ‘Sniping in France’, which documents the eventual adoption of sniping by the British Army in World War 1. Following the devastating and demoralising carnage caused by German snipers, the British Army issued ‘selected’ versions of the Enfield P14 (.303 version of the Model of 1917) for so-called sniping. Although the rear ‘peep’ sight was a great improvement over the standard issue Mk 3 Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE), it was no match for the German sniper, using rifles now equipped with telescopic sights, some 20,000 donated via the hunting fraternity from their cherished rifles!
In Britain at the beginning of the century, hunting with the fullbore rifle was rather limited, though there were a few Scottish deerstalkers and of course the odd big-game hunter. One of these was Major Hesketh-Pritchard who, as well as being a knowledgeable exponent with telescopic-sighted rifles, also had some first-hand experience of trench warfare.
The Major soon began to notice the morale-sapping effect of the enemy snipers on his troops: “the hardiest soldier turned sick when he saw the effect of the pointed German bullet, which was apt to key-hole so that the little hole in the forehead where it entered often became a huge tear the size of a man’s fist on the other side of the stricken man’s head”.
At that time most of the German sniping was carried out by shooting through a ‘loophole’ - usually a small elongated hole cut in a thick steel plate, which in turn was mounted on top of the trench and heavily protected by sand-bags and earth. This effectively made the sniper immune from return fire, for the iron-sighted P14’s could not hope to hit the tiny loophole or pierce the steel-plate. Immune that is until Hesketh-Pritchard began carrying out penetration tests on steel plate with his hunting rifles. He quickly found that the formidable .333 Jeffreys, a popular African big-game round capable of pushing a 250 grain bullet at around 2500 fps, would scythe through the steel plates “like butter” and so he took one, equipped with a telescopic sight, to the front.
One can only imagine the look on the faces of the enemy when that first round zipped through their ‘impenetrable’ loopholes, which were now about as protective as wet cardboard! But Major Hesketh-Pritchard was only just beginning. As well as copying the Germans and rounding-up as many civilian telescopic sights as he could, he also began to teach the would-be snipers not just to shoot but how to set-up and adjust their new sights. He was quick to analyse sniping as not just “hitting your mark” but also “finding and defining the mark” and he thus developed the two-man observer/shooter sniper team – still favoured by the military sniper.
Eventually, the results of the Major’s endeavours began to filter through to the ‘top-brass’, and a British Army ‘field’ sniper-school was established at the village of Bethune in France. Always on the look-out for talented shooters, the Major soon enlisted the help of a young soldier by the name of Gray, who appeared to be a little more knowledgeable than the average when it came to long-range shooting. Again, if the reader is ever fortunate enough to visit Bisley Ranges, you may see the name of Lieutenant Gray in the NRA pavilion, on the list of previous winners of the coveted Queen’s Prize.
Hesketh-Pritchard recalls that, as a school training aid, brick walls, with several random holes were constructed. The would-be snipers practiced by shooting at a life-size papier-mache ‘hun’s’ head mounted on a stick, which would randomly appear in any of the holes for a two to four second exposure - from a distance of two-hundred yards. Sound familiar?
Readers may like to think that modern sniping has taken on a different role in the intervening 80 years but Major Hesketh-Pritchard’s methods soon made the steel-plate loopholes too dangerous to use and the art of concealment became the new game. He did not of course have the ghillie-suit as we know it but he developed the sniper’s ‘robe’ and relates the tale of a sniper crawling into no-man’s land under cover of darkness and concealing himself inside the rotting carcass of a dead horse before making his shot in day-light, remaining concealed until darkness fell once again and then returning to his trench! It was a steep learning curve in those days, even to the realisation that rifles could become shot-out with too much practice!
If you don’t think the McQueens would make a good modern-day sniper training exercise, you are probably right but as a club competition it’s great fun! When you’ve shot a few perfect 50’s try our upgraded version. We increase the distance from 200 to 300 yards. Three seconds is just a nice time to locate the head as it appears at a hole, swing the cross-hairs onto the four-inch circle, hold your breath and squeeze off the shot. Do that ten times and a perfect 50 is yours.
But why, I wondered, is it called the McQueen? There exists in Galashiels, Scotland, the famous target printing firm of that name. Surely the two must be associated. The firm was founded in 1840 as a simple printing works but in 1890, John Stirling McQueen, the founder’s son, was asked by the sergeant-at-arms of the local volunteer force, to print some ‘penetrable’ targets for a forthcoming competition. Prior to that, all shooting practice was done on steel plates, which were painted in whitewash so that the shot-impact could easily be seen. The target was then simply whitewashed ready for the next firer (which is incidentally how the term ‘whitewash’ entered our sporting vocabulary).
In the early days of the NRA, the Association was more closely linked with the military than it is today. Firing practices were the same and civilians competed alongside the military as they still do in the USA. The NRA asked McQueen if they would print the Hun’s head targets. Not only were they pleased to do so but the also offered to sponsor the sniping competition and put up the magnificent Silver Eagle trophy which is still competed for to this day.
Anyone who would like to obtain a reprint of Major Hesketh Pritchard’s splendid book is invited to contact the publisher, Leo Cooper, Pen & Sword Books Ltd. 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2BR Tel 01226 734555.
*Genuine Hun’s head targets (order as fig. 14) can still be obtained from the original McQueen print works at Galashiels, Scotland. Hurry though – rampant political correctness has forced the NRA to ditch the genuine Hun’s head and replace it with a new version which is just a mess of pink, black and grey triangles! Is Major Hesketh-Pritchard turning in his grave?
With thanks to Vince Bottomley at targetshooteronline
The McQueen – A Shooter’s Guide
Welcome to this friendly, fun and extremely addictive form of ‘snap’ shooting. The McQueen competition has its origins in an early form of sniper training. For a fuller account of the history of the McQueen go to the club’s website (www.nlrc.org) ‘competitions – other fixtures’ and scroll down for an in-depth article by Vince Bottomley of targetshooteronline magazine.
The McQueen is shot at 200 and 300 yards with different scoring systems used to compensate for the difference in distances. The target is an NRA DP 14 which has replaced the non PC ‘Hun’s head’ target. By squinting, a degree of imagination and in poor light this vaguely resembles a humanoid shape. The overall size of this and the NRA Fox Target (see below) is A4 – 210mm x 297mm.
NRA DP 14
200 yards Scoring
First 4” black circle – 5
6” blue circle is ignored
8” black circle – 4
Rest of the target - 3
300 yards Scoring
6” blue circle – 5
8” black circle - 4
This target makes a 3 second appearance at intervals of 10 – 20 seconds at random positions in windows and crenellations on a green painted screen that resembles a castle.
The McQueen ‘castle’
When shooting a Sporting Rifle a fox target is used. What a fox is doing running around a castle and looking out of windows and over the battlements has yet to be explained to me!
NRA Fox Target
Each shooter is allowed 2 sighters on a separate target which are spotted and marked before commencing their shoot. When the shooter has confirmed that he has complied with the command ‘Load and Make Ready With 10 Rounds’ the command will be given ‘Watch and Shoot, Watch and Shoot’.
After shooting the score will be radioed from the butts, the buttmarker will ask if the shooter wishes to observe the target before it is patched for the next firer. After showing ‘clear’ the shooter will promptly leave the firing point ready for the next person. During club shoots it is good practice for the next shooter to adopt a prone position to the left of the competitor and dry fire or ‘snap’ on the same target to get used to the course of fire and then move to the right and get ready to shoot.
In NRA organised shoots such as during the Imperial, Phoenix and Trafalgar meetings there are classes for the following rifles:-
McQueen A – NRA supplied sniper rifle
McQueen B – Target Rifle (includes Match Rifle) fitted with any sights
McQueen C – Classic, historic sniper rifles and sights with a design date prior to 1945
McQueen D – Sporting, NRA Sporting Rifle, supplied by the NRA
McQueen E – Open, any sniper rifle
McQueen F – Any Rifle, any rifle within range limits
McQueen G – Civilian Service Rifle
There are also competitions for pairs of shooters and combinations of the above classes. These classes apply in NRA organised competitions, for further information please check the ‘Bisley Bible’ – The NRA Rules of Shooting and the Programme of the Imperial Meeting or go to the NRA website.
An ideal scope for the McQueen is one that has a magnification of 13x for 200 yards and 20x for 300 yards. An objective lens of 50mm will enable all of the ‘castle’ to be observed. A sandbag is provided but for club shoots most people use a bipod. During NRA organised competitions such as during the Imperial, Phoenix and Trafalgar meetings the use of the sandbag is obligatory in certain classes. No rear rests are allowed and the use of F Class bipods is distinctly frowned upon! In short, if you have a rifle that can reach 300 yards you already have the right equipment and are more than welcome to come along and have a go.
An ideal number of shooters is 8 – 10 per 4 hour session, this enables each participant to have at least 3 - 4 attempts at a perfect 50.10. How many other competitions allow you to get through nearly 50 rounds per session? As with other shoots run by the same crew as the North’s Gallery Rifle shoots, tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. Club rifles and ammunition will be available to those not yet possessing their own equipment.
Alan D. Wey