2019 SSAA NSW Big Game Rifle State Titles

There's nothing quite like the acrid aroma of gunpowder in the morning and so what better way to start the 2019 Big Game Rifle State Titles than with a bit of canon fire. It was a case of “The fuse is lit, what will be will be.” and hope that the powder was dry. It was, and the bang that ensued was most satisfactory, so much so that we all wanted it done again, and done again it was by canon enthusiast James McDonald who kindly provided the bang with which the Big Game Rifle State Titles was begun.

The 2019 BGR State Titles was again held at the Rankins Springs range of SSAA Griffith. The branch had done such an excellent job last year they were invited to host again this year and they did an excellent job again. About the only disadvantage of hosting at Rankins Springs is the long drive required for Sydneysiders to undertake. The actual driving time from the “City of the Rusty Coat-Hanger” to Rankins Springs is six and a half hours. So with a couple of stops for food and refreshment that journey takes around seven and a half or eight hours: a significant commitment of time, energy and fuel money, and if you decide to take a caravan up for camping all the more so. That being said, given the time, distance and expense required for the journey, not many competitors from Sydney made it up to Rankins Springs.

The competition began on Saturday 5th October with the Pot Rifle (2) event. Despite being a Big Game Rifle match this event is shot with .22 rimfire rifles and is designed not only as a practical competition but also is intended as a way to introduce new shooters and junior shooters to BGR. It is a 15 round match which comprises 5 shots at 50 metres from any position, 5 shots at 50 metres standing unsupported “off-hand”, and five shots “off-hand” at 25 metres.

This event was won by Andy Mallen with a score of 144.03, in second place was Ben Doherty with 143.03 and the bronze medallist was Laif Forman with 139.03.

One junior shooter participated in this event, fourteen year old Thomas Shields, and managed a respectable 108/150. Thomas would go on to surprise everybody by participating in most events and shooting full power big game rifles up to .458 Winchester Magnum, and he would manage third place outright in the Bore Guns event shooting a 12 gauge bore gun.

The second event of the day was the Special Snap. This match duplicates a “Problem Animal Control” or vermin control shoot scenario and requires eight shots in 35 seconds at a 25 metre target. Shooters may only have a maximum of four rounds in their rifle at any time and so both the shooting, and the reloading are fast and furious, and if you mess up a reload and drop a round or two then you are unlikely to have time to recover from your fumble. Most shooters are using either double rifles or big game rifles with integral magazines so reloading is normally not as simple as dropping a magazine and inserting another one.

This event was won by State Discipline Chairman Ben Doherty shooting a classic 1960's vintage BSA chambered for the .358 Winchester gaining a score of 64.02. Second place was a draw between Adriaan Shields and Laif Forman both scoring 64: so there was very little difference between first and second place-getters.

The last events for the Saturday were the Group One for nitro rifles of .330” on up and Black Powder Express for black powder cartridge rifles. This 20 round match requires shooting sitting and off-hand at 100 metres, and off-hand slow fire and rapid fire at 50 metres and 25 metres.

The Group One match was won by Laif Forman with a score of 148.04, in second place was Andy Mallen shooting a rather nice German Merkel bolt action and scoring 147.01 while in third place was Ben Doherty with 136.01.

The Black Powder express event was won by Andy Mallen shooting a British Empire classic Martini Henry 577/450 with a score of 90. In second place was Sydneysider Graham Picton with 64 and the third place-getter was James McDonald with a 58.

At the end of the day's shooting it was time to head back to the Rankins Springs Motel for a shower and change to shed the dust and grime accumulated at the range and then off to the Rankins Springs Hotel for a pub dinner, a bit of yarn swapping, and quality time with old friends.

Sunday's program began with the Stalking Double Rifle match. This fourteen round match can be shot with a centrefire double rifle from .228” on up. The event is shot at 100 metres, 50 metres and 25 metres and includes slow fire precision from sitting/kneeling and off-hand, and rapid fire sections at the shorter ranges.

Gold medallist for this event was Griffith member Herman De Waal with a score of 86.01. In second place was Andy Mallen with 76.01 and in third Ben Doherty with a 62.

The second event of the day was one that most people will associate with the Big Game Rifle discipline, the Stopping Double Rifle event. This ten round event requires a double rifle of a minimum calibre of .400” with a minimum bullet weight of 400 grains and generating a minimum muzzle energy of 3,900 ft/lb. Suffice to say that if you want to shoot this event with a 600 Nitro Express you are welcome to do so and those of us who qualify for the “no brain no pain” label have such an experience on our “bucket list” of things we want to do before we shuffle off this mortal coil and go to join the choir invisible.

This year's competitors were either using .470 Nitro Express or 450/400 Nitro Express double rifles for which the recoil is as gentle as a maiden's caress by comparison with the fabled 600 NE.

This event was won by Ben Doherty using his Merkel 450/400 double rifle to shoot a score of 62.01. In second place was Adriaan Shields just 1.01 behind with a score of 61, and in third place Laif Forman with 48.

Following on from the Stopping Double Rifle event came the Group Two and the Bore Guns and Rifles event. Group Two requires a rifle chambered for a cartridge that would qualify for the Stopping Double Rifle event while the Bore Guns and Rifles match requires a minimum of 16 bore and the gun must not use Brenneke or sabot type slugs, but only bore riding ball, bluff nosed or Paradox type projectiles. A popular and affordable gun for this event is the Greener GP, an icon of the British Empire: this was the type of gun Thomas Shields used to take third place outright in this event.

The Group Two was won by Ben Doherty using a Ruger No. 1 in 450/400 single shot to shoot the winning score of 120.02. In second place was Herman De Waal using his .458 Lott to score 100 and  in third place came Andy Mallen using a BRNO ZKK602 bolt action in .470 Capstick to score 96. With this sort of firepower on the firing line we can assure you that the paper targets were well and truly dead, and that they died very humanely.

In the Bore Guns match Herman De Waal took the gold with a score of 58, Adriaan Shields came second with a score of 38, and Junior Shooter Thomas Shields was snapping at his Dad's heels with a score of 25 to gain third place outright.

As the day progressed the winds picked more and more and so by the time we shot the final event of the day, the Light Nitro match, the range flags were standing out sideways and looking as if they might come loose and fly away. On the plus side the wind helped ensure that the exceedingly friendly local flies were having trouble landing on people's faces.

Light Nitro can be shot with a centrefire rifle from .224” on up which includes the popular .223 Remington. This event saw a genuine current production Rigby Stalking rifle in .275 Rigby at the firing line as well as some other gorgeous classic rifles that included an original Mannlicher-Schönauer full stock carbine.

The Light Nitro event was won by Graham Picton using a 25-06 for a winning score of 151.01. In Second place was Jon Branch using a Winchester Model 70 in .300 Winchester Magnum to score 150, and the third place-getter was Mark Welsh using his Rigby in .275 Rigby (aka 7×57 Mauser) for a score of 143.01.

The final results saw the Big Game Rifle Champion for 2019 to be NSW Discipline Chairman Ben Doherty with Andy Mallen earning the second place silver medal and Laif Forman coming third and taking home the bronze.

For the elder shooters who’s silver hair and advancing years qualifies them for the Veteran’s Championship the winner was Andy Mallen, with Jonathan Branch in second place, and with Graham Picton and James McDonald in a draw for third.

At the end of the day the star of the shoot was young Thomas Shields who, despite his slight fourteen year old frame, was able to get in there and shoot full power centrefire rifles which included a .458 Winchester Magnum in Group Two and in the rapid fire Special Snap, a 12 bore Greener GP for the Bore Guns event, and a 6.5×55 for the Light Nitro. Many people assume that Big Game Rifle is not for young shooters, but Thomas Shields proved them wrong at the 2019 NSW Big Game Rifle State Titles, becoming the Big Game Rifle NSW Junior Champion for 2019: a great result.  We hope there are a few more young people out there with the determination and commitment to succeed in this demanding SSAA discipline.

2020 Big Game Rifle State Titles

The 2020 Big Game Rifle NSW State Titles is scheduled to be held over Friday 5th to Sunday 7th June 2020 and will be the first Big Game Rifle State Titles to be held in Sydney, so there will be no need for shooters to make a long drive out to the country as has been the case for the last decade or so.

The venue will be the new Southern Highland Regional Shooting Complex which is located at Hilltop in Sydney’s south west.

So if you have a big game rifle or two gathering dust in your safe this is your opportunity to dust it off and bring it to the 2020 State Titles to blow the cobwebs out of it.

Big Game Rifle is intended to be enjoyable and provide an opportunity for people to use their big game rifles in fun events created to allow the shooter to practice in a way that duplicates the use of a big game rifle in the field. The 2020 Big Game Rifle State Titles is being run to be a fun event without the pressure normally associated with competitive shoots.

If you are interested in coming to this event please contact either Ben Doherty or Jon Branch so we can record your interest and send you more detailed information.


State Discipline Chairman: Ben Doherty

E-mail: [email protected]

Alternate Discipline Chairman: Jon Branch

E-mail: [email protected]

All Disciplines