Back in March, when UK Shooting News interviewed NRA chief executive Andrew Mercer, he mentioned that Kongsberg electronic targets were being installed on Century butt 19. We’re now nearly in November – and there’s no sign of them being operational yet.
As UKSN reported Mercer telling us at the time: “Six new Kongsberg electronic targets are due to be deployed on Butt 19 for use between 100yds and 300yds, along with new target frames.”
While it is true that the right-hand side of Century has had new firing points laid at 100yds and 200yds, and the cabling for the electronic targets has certainly gone in (observant markers will have seen the terminations on the back wall of the mantlet), there has been no apparent progress on getting the things up and running.
At the NRA AGM, held in June, chairman John Webster told attendees: “Central to [increasing range capacity] is the planned installation of electronic targets on a couple of ranges, which we believe can change the nature of the shooting that we are able to make available. This will be very much a trial at first as there are real concerns to be understood about how these targets can and should be used, particularly with the volume of shooting that they can be expected to undergo.”
Four months later the targets themselves have yet to appear, much less any sign of trials taking place. UKSN thinks the growth of the ever-popular Civilian Service Rifle discipline, which makes extensive use of Butt 19, means it is a difficult prospect to install any electronic targetry which cannot be easily re-rigged for use with figure targets or removed to allow for handhelds.
Ominously, the current NRA range hire price list states that a £33 surcharge applies to any half day’s electronic target hire, meaning it will cost the same as hiring a target with a marker. In turn, this means the NRA will scoop a hefty 33% uplift in range hire income* for little or no extra work.
Old Bisley hands will remember the previous trial of electronic targetry on Century, which was scuppered by the theft of the shiny electronics from the butts – presumably by a crafty Luddite marker seeing an excellent opportunity to ensure his continued future employment.
Other NRA targetry news includes the apparent shelving of the steel buffalo reactive target on Stickledown, which has remained resolutely under covers since its initial trials, despite sustained interest from a number of rifle clubs in booking it. Your correspondent has a theory that this is due to ricochet concerns – certainly on MoD gallery ranges fitted with falling plates set into the mantlet, markers cannot be in the gallery while the plates are being engaged and must instead be safely shut inside a target shed or similar.
UKSN also hears that the NRA Target Shed is reducing the range of target designs it holds, presumably to devote more space to commonly used target faces.
* This is based on the high season weekend range hire price. £49.50 per half day per lane + £33 marker/electronics surcharge per half day = £82.50. The NRA takes £5 of the marker fee to cover overheads, meaning the uplift to the NRA’s income per lane for electronic targets is £28, or near-as-dammit one third.
Index picture courtesy of Darryl Stark via Flickr and reproduced under the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 2.0 licence.