Lever Action is a shooting discipline that caters exclusively for lever-action rifles. The discipline includes two categories: Classic Calibre for as-issued rifles in any centrefire cartridge produced up to 1938; and Open Calibre for rifles in any factory, handloaded or wildcat rimfire or centrefire cartridge. Lever Action aims to improve hunting marksmanship skills and includes contour animal profile targets and traditional paper ring targets. The matches require a variety of shooting positions and distances, and courses of fire can vary from 15 seconds to five minutes for five shots.
Lever Action is a rifle shooting discipline, which began in the late 1960s when SSAA members wishing to shoot black powder competition were having difficulty sourcing the appropriate firearms. They soon learned that there were a number of lever-action rifles with which black powder could be used. In 1976, the first Lever Action National Championships were held in Brisbane (using nitro powder by this time), with interest sparking in other states. These days, Lever Action is conducted in all states and territories.
As the name implies, lever-action rifles are used exclusively for this discipline. Apart from the historical and traditional intentions, lever-action rifles provide fast recycling for the timed events. The matches are designed to provide a variety of target types, shooting positions and distances, as well as varying time limits. This discipline is hunting-oriented, with familiar aspects taken from other SSAA disciplines such as Field Rifle and Metallic Silhouette.
Firearms and Categories
The rifles used in Lever Action competitions fall into one of two categories: Classic Calibre or Open Calibre.
Classic Calibre essentially requires a centrefire rifle as issued by the factory having a two-piece wooden stock, traditional open-type iron sights and chambered for any centrefire cartridge factory produced prior to the end of 1938. Wildcat cartridges are not permitted in Classic Calibre. Shooting with the traditional open sights is difficult, but is a great way to improve one’s shooting skills and to understand the various techniques required to shoot accurately.
Open Calibre is divided into two separate events at the National Championships level, with these being Centrefire and Rimfire, where competitors need two lever-action rifles. At the state and club levels, it is permissible to use either, as only one event is shot and is referred to as the Open event.
The description for the National Open event is any lever-action rifle with a wooden stock, with any calibre, handload or wildcat permitted. Pointed projectiles are not permitted in the rapid-fire events. Peep, vernier and target sights, with the exception of those using optical inserts and/or rubber eyepieces, are permitted.
The Open Calibre Centrefire event basically permits any calibre for which a lever-action rifle is available. Shooters are permitted to use the same centrefire rifle as used in the Classic Calibre event in the Open Calibre Centrefire event.
The Open Calibre Rimfire event currently permits .22LR, .22 Magnum and .17HMR calibres. The .22LR still reigns supreme on the national scene, probably due to the extensive research and development over the years on target-quality ammunition.
The targets used in the Classic Calibre match are all contour (animal profile) targets, with score zones marked on vital areas from 10 to five. Some of the contour targets used over the years include the small bear, buffalo head, pig, rabbit, feral cat, goat, crow, fox head and running fox. The competition is shot over distances of 100, 50 and 25m using the stances of any field shooting positions, including standing unsupported, sitting unsupported, standing post rest and sitting post rest.
Timing for the course of fire can vary from five minutes to 15 seconds for five shots. A typical match would consist of 35 rounds with targets at 100, 50 and 25m. Two targets that are always part of the competition are the small bear (100m any field position) and the fox head (50m standing unsupported), with five shots in five minutes for each target. The aggregate score for these two targets is the basis for the Classic Calibre Proficiency Medals and grading.
The targets used in the Open Calibre match are usually a combination of the 50m Precision Slow Fire Pistol target and a number of animal profile targets. The competition is generally a 50-shot match. A typical course of fire for an Open Calibre event would be the 50m target (100m any field position) and the 50m target scoring seven to 10 only (50m standing unsupported), with five shots in five minutes for each target. The aggregate score for these two targets is the basis for the Open Calibre Proficiency Medals and grading.
The 50m target is also used for the rapid-fire events, with the target for Centrefire placed at 50m (five shots in 15 seconds) and the target for Rimfire placed at 25m (five shots in 10 seconds, scoring seven to 10 only). These three targets are shot twice and the other 20 rounds are made up by other contour targets, with five shots at each in any time limit up to a maximum of five minutes per target.
Lever Action rules exclude clothing specifically designed for competitive rifle shooting, with the intention of this rule being that all competitors wear normal hunting or field wear. This excludes the wearing of shooting coats, trousers, gloves and boots, which may provide artificial support to the shooter. Similarly, other shooting accessories such as rifle attachments, butt-hooks, palm rests, spotting scopes, padded kneeling cushions or seats are also prohibited. However, a mat of up to 50mm-thick and ear and eye protection of any type is permitted and strongly recommended for participants.