A new range of targets is now available from the NRA that has been specifically designed for  Historic rifle shooting.

 

Background:

For some years, those who shoot at Bisley with Historic rifles have used  a  variety of targets supplied both by the NRA and from other sources.  Some of them, such as the Cadet Tin Hat face, have scoring rings of very generous dimensions, but the NRA Round Bull faces have become progressively smaller in line with the marked improvements in both rifles and ammunition since the introduction of  7.62mm TR in the early 1970s.   The issue for Historic shooters is that many of the older rifle/sight combinations are incapable of grouping within the 'Bull ' of these NRA targets even with our much improved and hand-loaded ammunition.  The supply of HBSA dimensioned faces stored by the NRA has now been exhausted.

 

The problem:

In late 2015, the NRA announced that from 2016, for cost and efficiency reasons, they would only stock standard NRA Round Bull faces, the military style Fig 11 and Fig 12 faces and the usual Gallery targets.  NRA black and white Tin Hat faces will no longer be available. The supply of Cadet Tin Hats would soon be exhausted and the Sand and Sky types are expensive.   Also, they would no longer be able to store any privately owned or 'one-off'' style targets such as those that the HBSA used earlier, due understandably, to manpower reductions and the time consuming and cost requirements of pasting on faces and adding extra scoring rings etc. by hand.  For the HBSA and other Historic shooters this decision posed a major problem !

The NRA have always been most supportive in recognising that Historic shooting is an important part of the NRA heritage and that it requires specific targets that reflect the “golden era” of competitive Service Rifle shooting. Following discussions between the NRA and HBSA they very kindly agreed to obtain and fund a new series of Round Bull and Tin Hat targets for 200, 300 and 500/600 yards to be called the 'NRA/HBSA Historic Target' and held in stock.

 

The solution:

Examination of NRA records revealed that during the .303 era, the aiming mark and scoring ring dimensions of Bisley targets had  hardly changed between 1932 and 1971 even when they moved from Tin Hat to Round Bull.  However, when .303 was phased out and 7.62 came in, firstly a V Bull was introduced to reduce the number of 'possibles' in competitions, then the scoring rings were reduced in size from 1972 and on  two further occasions to reach the current 2016 dimensions.  At the same time, the aiming mark (black) was enlarged considerably as bladed foresights and 'laying-off'' for wind disappeared to be replaced by easier to centre ring foresights and click-stop adjustable rearsights.

If the NRA could produce one set of targets for 200, 300 and 500/600 yards to 1932/1971 dimensions, of which the Tin Hat was exactly one half of the Round Bull equivalent, and a V Bull could be added to both, to keep the best shots happy, then the problem would be solved ! Producing a Historic version of the 900/1000 yard Long Range target would not be feasible because of numbers used.   

The only restrictions that the NRA made on our faithful reproductions of the past were that both the 200 and 300 yard faces had to fit within the 36'' square 'bolt-on' panels that are now used on  Century and Short Siberia  ranges to replace the shot-out central portion of the target backing without replacing the whole panel. Of necessity, this has resulted in  the 1971 dimensioned 'Outer' scoring ring having to be slightly compromised (shrunken) at 200 yards and rather more at 300 yards to get it on the board.  The 500/600 faces are unaffected by this as they are not 'bolt-ons'.

These targets in both Round Bull and Tin Hat versions are now in NRA stock and have already been used at the 2016 Trafalgar Meeting.  They will become the 'Standard' target for NRA Historic events and may be ordered by shooters who do not wish to use NRA Round Bull targets at medium range when booking range space. Hopefully, they will satisfy most Historic shooters as they can be used with a wide variety of rifles from muzzle loaders to early TR and with both iron and telescopic sights.

 

Target Dimensions in Inches: Round Bull and Tin Hat

 

NRA /HBSA Historic  2016  (Based on the NRA 1971 Target with added V Bull)

 

 

200

300

500/600

Aiming Mark

12

18

36

V Bull

3.5

5

10

Bull

5

7.5

15

Inner (Black)

12

18

36

Magpie

24

30

48

Outer

35

35

72

Hit

46 x 46

46 x 46

70 x 60

 

Current NRA 2016  Round Bull  - for comparison

 

Aiming Mark

16

22

39

V Bull

2.1

3.3

6.3

Bull

3.5

5.5

10.5

Inner

7

11

26

Magpie

10.5

16.5

39

Outer

16

22

52

Hit

46 x 46

46 x 46

70 x 60

 

So we now have a set of Historic Targets for short and medium range that reflect the targets used by our predecessors  from 1932 until the start of the 7.62 era in the early 1970s.

Although the scoring rings are more generous, you will note that the Black (aiming mark) is smaller then the current NRA 2016 dimensions.  This is just as it was in the heyday of  .303 Service Rifle shooting and it is the same width as most SMLE/No 4 .303 foresight blades (6 m.o.a.) at all distances, making 'laying-off' easier. (Note: in 1932 the 300 yard aiming mark was only 12 inches wide - not 18 inches as it was in 1971!)

We must thank Andrew Mercer and the NRA, and in particular Rick Wells, Peter Cottrell and the range staff, for their considerable help and input in supporting this venture. Thanks also go to Mike Townsend, HBSA Range Practice Officer, for all his work and this article, and member John Fennell for his meticulous research into the history of target development and his assistance with this project.

Derek Stimpson

Chairman

HBSA

October 2016