What is Gallery Rifle?
A relatively new shooting discipline, Gallery Rifle (GR) has grown from a relatively small group of target shooters over the past 15 years, to the point where it is widespread across the United Kingdom, and international interest is growing too, with annual Open matches taking place in Ireland, Germany and South Africa. Within the UK, there are four major Open matches held at Bisley Camp in Surrey each year, and various clubs around the country host annual or semi-annual Open matches for some or all of the GR competitions, in England, Scotland and Wales. The governing body for GR within Scotland is the Scottish Pistol Association, and within the UK as a whole, it is the National Rifle Association of Great Britain (N.R.A.). An International Gallery Rifle Federation is now in existence to assist the development of the sport beyond these shores. There are now GR squads representing the Home countries of England, Scotland and Wales, who regularly meet to compete at National level.
Part of the appeal of Gallery Rifle is that it does not require large investment in range equipment, nor does it need long distance ranges on which to conduct events. Matches are typically shot over ranges of 25m or 50m distance, both indoor and outdoor. It is desirable (but is not absolutely essential) to have turning targets for many of the competitions.
This low initial investment extends to the equipment needed to compete: a rifle perfectly capable of winning events costs hundreds of pounds, not thousands. No additional (and often expensive) equipment such as a jacket, scope, or glove, etc., is required, which makes it an easy sport in which to get started. This is particularly helpful to juniors (and their parents) and others who want to dip a toe into the water.
In common with many other shooting disciplines, it is not necessary to be in perfect physical health to be competitive in GR, so it is a very inclusive sport in this respect.
A gallery rifle is a relatively low powered gun, chambered either for .22LR rim-fire, or centre-fire pistol calibres (.38/.357, or .44). Since many of our competitions involve taking several shots within a short time, a typical gallery rifle has a magazine to hold ammunition, though for a few of our competitions, a single shot rifle is perfectly adequate. Many gallery rifles are equipped with a scope, though this is not required; competing with “iron” sights is perfectly feasible. Those with less than perfect eyesight do find a scope helpful, however. Though many keen gallery rifle shooters will own and use guns in both .22LR and centre-fire, it is by no means necessary. Both types of gun are used side by side in the same competitions, with the results separated by type to remove any advantage one has over the other in a particular event.
As to ammunition, we use standard target grade .22LR in our rim-fire rifles. For the pistol calibre rifles, however, we almost always manufacture our own ammunition (reloading). Though this does save some money, a key reason for reloading is due to the fact that much factory ammunition is far too powerful for our needs, and the heavy recoil it produces makes it very difficult to compete against shooters with light (self-manufactured) target ammunition.
The overarching theme of Gallery Rifle competition is combining accuracy with speed, in various combinations. The more challenging events add to the difficulty by requiring these skills to be demonstrated at multiple distances, ranging from 10m to 50m. Targets of different forms are also in use, ranging from the simple circular target with a central black aiming mark, to the more challenging, which are patterned to make finding the centre more difficult.
Some people are more comfortable with disciplines which emphasise accurate shooting, and the slow-fire Precision events (shot at 25m and 50m) are ideal for them. Others like a balance between speed and precision, and events such as the America Match (which combines slow-fire precision shooting at 50m with timed fire at 25m) are popular. However, the pinnacle of GR success and glory is to be found in events such as the 1500, which take the ability for precision shooting for granted, and stretch the shooter by requiring perfect accuracy under difficult conditions, such as the need for stamina over prolonged periods, varying shooting distances, short timings, and challenging shooting positions. Achieving a good score in the latter events is a very satisfying feeling, having coped with so many different problems.
There are a large number of different events which encompass this range of different styles at the main Gallery Rifle Open events, at distances ranging from 25m to 200yds. Regional Open competitions offer typically a smaller selection of events, focusing on those that tend to be most popular, and which can be accommodated with their facilities.
Within the wide range of matches on offer at the main Open competitions, there is always at least one event which a shooter considers “theirs”, though this often changes with experience and practice.
Since the majority of competitions take less than an hour to complete, most competitors will shoot several different matches during the course of a day, giving the opportunity to recover from a poor performance in one with a more satisfying score in another. Since many events very popular, they are run more than once; shooters are then allocated to “details”, and the results from each detail need to be collated by “Stats”, so a shooter will not know until later in the day how well they have done in a particular match. A visit to the “wailing wall” where results are published is a good way to wrap up the day.
Like all shooting sports, safety is paramount. All competition shooting takes place under the control of a Range Officer, frequently with the assistance of deputies. Firearms are inspected by an R.O. to be sure they are unloaded at appropriate points throughout each event, before moving forward to score or to the next stage, or being placed into the gun bag. Safe gun handling is paramount at all times, and the R.O.s, as well as other competitors, are rigorous in enforcing this. Newcomers to the sport, and juniors, are monitored and mentored on an individual basis by competent and knowledgeable shooters, until they demonstrate proficiency, and it is not an uncommon sight to see such pairings on the firing line, enabling both training provision and ensuring safety for all. Eye and ear protection is mandatory in most events.
Age is no Barrier
There is considerable scope for juniors to become involved in the sport, and subject to careful supervision, anyone 14 years or older is eligible to compete on equal terms in the National competitions. For those for whom fourteen is a relatively distant memory, it might be encouraging to know that one member of the Scottish GR Squad, in his eightieth year, regularly wins medals at the national events against shooters of all ages, and is still a strong contender for gold.
All shooters competing in N.R.A. accredited events are entered into the U.K. rankings, so shooters can access their performance on a National level. Selection for National teams is based on these results, so competition is always fierce. One significant issue Scottish GR shooters face is that the majority of the accredited matches are held in southern England, which adds considerably to the cost in both money and time Scottish competitors need to accept in order to compete at a national level. With GR being a relatively new discipline, some important regional matches are not accredited by the organisers, but this is slowly improving.
The high point of the national GR competition calendar is the annual “shoulder-to-shoulder” match held between the national teams, at Bisley camp in Surrey each August, in the event known as “the Nationals”. In 2012 Scotland triumphed, a performance repeated at the May Phoenix competition seven months later. Unfortunately in the 2013 Nationals, Scotland was defeated, but the Scottish Squad has been training hard, and we have high expectations of the two teams we are sending for the 2014 Nationals.
Several Scottish GR competitors hold record scores achieved in national competition, and one has recently joined the U.K National GR Squad, to compete against other countries (notably Germany and South Africa).
Within north-east Scotland, six (soon to be seven) clubs are now competing in regional GR matches (NESSCC), hosted at each club, throughout the summer season. This format has the potential to encourage club-level shooters to become more involved in competition, since there is no need to gain entrance to a team before taking part.
Joint Services Pistol Club (JSPC)
The JPSC has an outdoor 25m range near Lauder, which has capacity for up to ten people to be shooting at a time. The 25m firing point is roofed, to keep off the worst of the weather, and we shoot all year round, normally on Sundays. We host two accredited Gallery Rifle Open competitions each year, and the Scottish Gallery Rifle Squad often uses our facilities for their training days. We have a number of members who are active on the competitive circuit, including all the major GR competitions held in the UK, and a significant number of us are members of the Scottish Squad. Though competitive, we are a very friendly bunch, and there is a strong coaching culture within the club; aspiring shots will find a great deal of help and guidance available should they wish it.
Gallery Rifle is a safe and growing sport, cheap to enter and run, accessible to those who due to age or infirmity are unable to participate at the top level in other sports, and with a growing list of successes at national level behind it. It enjoys a strong group of competitors determined to win for Scotland.
Why not get in touch with the JSPC, or your local shooting club, and join us? You might find yourself representing Scotland if you do!