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The Trials of a BFTA Summer Season.

Chapter 02 – GP1 Blackbrook By Andy Winch

And so the BFTA Season starts proper. A little day trip to the Blackbrook shooting ground near Birmingham. The last time Richard and Andy were here it was Summer and boiling before 11am. However, in mid-April it’s a much more comfortable mid-teens temperature and no rain forecast. Ha, if you believe them!

The 730am ferry makes for a early start with a nearly 2.5hr drive to come. Surprisingly the roads were fairly quiet with no real jams just the normal poor driving standards you see on the motorways.

W e arrived at just before 11am to a very crowded car park, which was a surprise. First things first, check in and get our cards and lane start numbers. Followed by a drink where we found Nikki again.

She does seem to have a wide area she covers, wish we had know and we would have brought change. Any with a cuppa in hand we headed off to the course.

This time the course was in a different part of the ground, at this time there was a light drizzle and a wind that did seem to vary in direction.

We wondered around, chatting with various shooters and checking the direction of targets. The course was laid out in a sort of inverted V shape. The first 10 lanes running up through a line of trees. Then down the other side with a slight kink in the middle.

W e had heard a number of whistles and thought it must just be sticky or tangled strings. No the cause of these we found was at the little kink. The shotgun side of the ground also had a competition and some of their stands could only be reached along a small path that ran between 2 sections of our course. Not ideal at all and I would have moved the lanes slightly which would have reduced this.

Anyway after heading back towards the car, we grabbed some food from Nikki and started to get the rifles ready for a little practice. Both of us took about a dozen shots to confirm that the sidewheel ranges matched the numbers dialled.

At 1pm the raffle was drawn, 6 tickets each worth £25, but as with what usually happens no raffle prizes for us. Richard started on Lane 10 and Andy on Lane 24. No long walk from 25 to 1 due to the course layout.

A s the GPs are ‘shotgun’ start once all the competitors are on their lane, two whistles to commence shooting. This is where Andy found he had dropped his glove, idiot, so took his first 2 lanes without only missing 1 very high that it only just clipped the top of the faceplate. After checking with his shooting partners Don and Phil, a stroll back to were he had walked and then booking area. Lucky him it had been handed in. Now the walk back to the course.

By the time he got to Lane 1 the heart was pumping at about 120bpm and for a pair of standers. Despite being the last of the 3, heart rate still high and missed both. From then on it was a case of take each lane as it came. At the halfway point he had dropped only 6 targets and was looking promising for a score starting with a 3.

R ichard was also making a good start, missing only 3 targets by the time he was halfway round. There are some goals that you wish to achieve on the scorecard, one of those being a row of 10.

At GPs there are 50 targets, so the score cards have 5 rows of 10. Getting a row of 10 X’s is one of those goals to tick off which Richard achieved between targets 31 to 40.

It was at this point that there started to be a number of sort rain showers, not enough to get you wet but enough to be an annoyance.

As Andy headed back towards his start lane down the side with the kink in it, he just went slow and steady missing another 6 targets all for wind direction changes. He also missed out on the row of 10 by missing one half way through. However a score of 38 was his personal best in a GP for years.

Richard however, had a little hiccup as he headed back towards his start lane dropping another 4 targets to finish on his personal best of 43. Both exceeded their expectations, looking for scores in the low to mid 30’s. Both of us know we had 2 or 3 silly misses and if Richard had gotten those 3 he feels he should have he could have qualified for the end of season Showdown in September on his first round. We are both aiming, excuse the pun, to carry on with this sort of scoring and make it a memorable season. You never know we might both qualify if we stop doing silly mistakes, but that’s what practice is all about.

A t the end of the day 47 was the top score with 4 competitors on that. That score was achieved in both Morning and Afternoon sessions which hints at conditions that stayed similar across the day.

At the end of the day a total of 119 competitors attended with Richard joint 11th and Andy joint 45th overall and 1st and 9th equal respectively in grade. A good start to the season but with another 8 rounds to go including 2 double headers anything can happen.

There is now a 5 week break before the next rounds in a double header in South Wales at Oaktree FTC on a Saturday and then Tondu on the Sunday. In the mean time serious practice will be carrying on using the 66 targets currently on the outdoor range. By practicing hard on these, we are building the stamina for those 50 shot course. The next chapter will be a bit longer as it will cover both rounds 2 and 3.

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