The picturesque Moselle region of France was location for the inaugural Precision Rifle World Championships in August, hosted by the International Precision Rifle Federation at the Militaire Camp de Bitche. The week-long event welcomed 250 competitors from 16 countries with SSAA members Phil Nash, Scott McMillan and Tristan Wright flying the flag for Australia.
Shooters competed both individually and as teams across six divisions in the tournament which will go a long way to cementing Precision Rifle as an internationally recognised discipline. The concept of the Precision Rifle World Cup was born three years ago immediately prior to the Covid-19 pandemic which meant this first match was delayed by more than two years and indeed athletes were given only six weeks’ notice to prepare for the event in France, the SSAA contingent travelling to compete in the Open Division.
For those unfamiliar with the Precision Rifle discipline (more commonly known here as PRS or Practical Rifle), it’s a dynamic and fast-paced sport which tests shooters’ abilities both mentally and physically. Shooting positions are often compromised which push competitors to their limits with sometimes complex target sequences and challenging timeframes. Those targets are generally steel plates ranging from 1.0-3.0 MOA in size at distances from 200-600m (range dependant), stages generally 8-12 rounds and all over in one or two minutes, shooting positions anywhere from supported prone to improvised barricades (farm gates or purpose-built timber frames).
Hot, dry and dusty weather in north-east France meant match conditions were tough throughout with a stiff and swirling headwind making for some difficult calls on targets out to 900m. Long flights and precision equipment being at the mercy of baggage handlers left two of the Aussies hampered by mechanical issues (even after post-flight inspections and a pre-match zero check), the problems eventually resolved late in the match which sadly proved too little, too late. Said Phil Nash: “Suffice to say we were just grateful to have taken SSAA Firearms Protection!”
As the match played out Nash finished a respectable 33rd in the Open category and 41st outright but in the process displaced some very talented shooters from around the world, McMillan placing 52nd in the Open division (75th overall) and Wright 93rd Open (181st). Perhaps unsurprisingly it was American shooters who proved dominant but not before being pushed all the way by athletes from South Africa and the UK who actually triumphed in a few of the lower divisions. At week’s end though congratulations were reserved for Austin Buschman of the US as he was crowned inaugural Precision Rifle World Champion.
Precision Rifle is becoming one of the fastest-growing SSAA disciplines with both centrefire and rimfire matches being staged by clubs across most states along with a national centrefire series. For those interested in trying it out, a quick web search will reveal your nearest club and all that’s needed is a rifle, a modest supply of ammunition and a can-do attitude but even then you can usually borrow a club rifle as the extremely inclusive and supportive community is always keen to welcome newcomers.