Christmas 2008

So today I was reminded of an occasion at Christmas in 2008. Amanda and I had travelled down to my parents farm for the holidays and as has occasionally been the tradition we did a spot of clay pigeon shooting.

Dave and the trap

When I was quite small we used to have a hand trap, like a short cricket bat that you placed a clay pigeon in and swung to launch. When my Dad first started teaching me to shoot he didn’t even use that, but tossed the clays by hand so I had a sporting chance of hitting them with the .410 I was using at the time.

Any way, later on my Dad went out and bought an actual spring powered trap that could throw the clay more than 30 yards, and this has served us well ever since. It is bolted to a pallet and we would usually load the pallet onto the fork lift of the tractor, surround it with hay bales and more pallets, then with the shotgun in the cab we would set off for which ever field had been chosen that year.

Robert and Jasmine

This year (2008) we (or maybe I) decided we should dig out the trap and that old collapsing box of clays and have a bit of a shoot.  My friend Dave lives a short distance from my parents farm in the town of Henley-on-Thames, and he likes a shoot when he has the chance, so I invited him to join me. And so with my brother Robert and his wife Jasmine we made up the party. I met Dave when we were both members of the local Air Training Corps Squadron in Henley. Which is where I first shot .22LR rifles.

The advantage of the trap being attached to the pallet is that it can be manipulated to give a variety of different targets. We usually start off easy and then make it progressively harder as people get warmed up. Jasmine has not done much shooting so Robert was giving her a few tips. It was a fairly cold day as can be seen by the photos, but a fun time was had by all and some good pictures were taken, including an especially good set courtesy of Dave, which caught the full sequence of tracking the clay and breaking it. As shown below.

Step One

Step Two

Step Three

Step Four

At the end of the day we returned to the house having put the trap away and while I thought I was being a good son, my Dad couldn’t understand why I had brought any ammunition back.

In a coincidental piece of timing my parents are selling the farm where I grew up (and this shoot took place) at the same time as I am organising my departure to the USA. As can be expected I have a great attachment to that land and I will miss it when it is sold.

The farm sits in the Stonor Valley in the Chilterns. Below is a view of the Stonor valley south of the farm. taken on that same holiday in 2008.

The Stonor Valley

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Bearsden and District Rifle and Pistol Club

In 2005, a few months after I arrived in Glasgow, I joined Bearsden rifle club. The secretary at the time was Niall Macdonald. I got his number through the NSRA who I had contacted before I moved. 

400yd firing point and shooters

Niall is on the left, with Simon Melville and Len Bornman.

The first time my wife and I went to find the club we didn’t find it. It is off the main road beside the railway track and a tennis club. We got off the train and walked all over the town, we must have walked several miles, but never found anywhere that looked like a rifle club. I don’t now remember what I was thinking it should have looked like, but a few days later I called Niall and he gave me the directions again. It turned out we had walked right past it within 500yds of leaving the train station.

When I first joined the club I hadn’t yet brought my target rifle up to Glasgow so I was borrowing a club rifle. When I eventually got the rifle up to Glasgow I had to take it into town to store it at a local shop as I hadn’t yet installed a gun cabinet. We didn’t have a car at that point so I walked the two miles or so into town with my gun case.

Where we live is considered my many Glaswegians to be a rough part of town, but luckily for me my gun case is fairly subtle and the only interest I aroused was from a guy sitting outside a pub at Glasgow Cross who asked me to play him a tune on my guitar. 

Once I had a cabinet installed the police came out to inspect it and the house, but later called to say that after discussing the situation with the local police station, they weren’t happy for me to keep my rifle at home. Their main objection was to me walking through my neighborhood to get to the train, which was the only way I could get to the club at that point, so they had arranged with the club to let me store my rifle there. I didn’t really mind as it is quite heavy and saved me a fair bit of effort to transport it every week.

The cabinet was given to me by my dad, who had transported it all the way from southern England. When the police advised me not to keep my rifle at home my dad decided he might as well have it back so we unbolted it from the wall again and he later drove it all the way back south. 

The Swing rifle. Looking vintage.

After being at the club for a few years and doing a bit of full-bore shooting using the club’s .308Win target rifles, I decided that I would like to get my own full-bore rifle. The police approved the variation of my certificate and with the help of a well timed tax rebate I bought myself an old but good British target rifle called a ‘Swing’. Look here for the Wikipedia entry. I stored this at the club as well. 

This caused me more trouble because unlike the small-bore rifle, which I was mostly using in the club range, the full-bore is mostly shot at ranges out in the country. This meant I would have to get up extra early to give me time to get to the club and collect my rifle, then go shooting, and when I was done for the day travel back to the club where I would clean the rifle and store it before returning home. Combined with a nearly two hour journey time to the range and the same back; in the early days I was getting up before 6am and not getting home till after 9pm. Also at the beginning I had to borrow a cleaning rod and jag from the club and by accident I had picked up a .32 cal jag instead of the correct .30 cal and had a hell of a time getting the patch down the barrel. I was using half patches and still having to nearly hammer the rod to get it to go through. I had a lot of skinned knuckles.

Hand made case

As I only had the one case to store my rifles in, I decided to make another one to allow me to take the swing away for a day and leave my Anschutz safely tucked up in the other one. I did a very good job, it is very pretty, but it weighs a ton.

We would usually go to the range at Blair Atholl, which is run by the West Atholl Rifle Club. We often went as a group in one or two cars and after a days shooting would drop in on the Moulin Hotel in Pitlochry for a pint of the ‘Ale of Atholl’, probably one of my all time favourite beers. I like the place so much that my wife and I stayed there for our honeymoon.

I have had a lot of good times and made a lot of good friends while I have been a member of Bearsden rifle club. It will be one of the things about Glasgow I will miss the most.

At the Moulin Hotel in September 2008 with Simon Melville (L), Niall Macdonald, Len Bornman (back), Me (front), Amanda (R).

importation approved

The form I submitted to the ATF in January came back this week and it was approved. This is quite exciting and no small relief. I was uncertain exactly how to fill in the form but I seem to have satisfied the requirements. So, Thank You ATF, I appreciate the service. I can now be more confident that in a few more months I will find myself and my guns reunited on the other side of the pond.

Now I can start to worry about how to make sure they arrive in one piece.