19 April 2016 – A shortage of target markers at the National Shooting Centre is causing severe problems for clubs, major competitions and even NRA overseas team training.
The marker shortage is hitting clubs’ pre-arranged bookings hard, with the London and Middlesex Rifle Association having to abandon the second half of a 2-day match at the beginning of this month because the NRA had no markers available.
Facebook posts on the UK Fullbore Target Rifle group indicate that the Great Britain rifle team to Canada, which is due to compete over there this summer, has been advised by the NRA that there are no markers available for the team’s short range training shoots this weekend.
Traditionally, the NRA has prioritised allocating markers to Stickledown first, then major competitions and then Century range.
NRA chief executive Andrew Mercer told UK Shooting News: “It is the traditional time of year where markers are hard to attract – too many are distracted with exams and the last couple of months of university term time. We advertise extensively, train hard and pay pretty well (as much as we think the shooters are willing to stand). The situation eases as we head into June and thankfully improves in time for the Imperial meeting.”
He added: “Not surprisingly we see electronic targets as the long term solution and are trialling a number of systems to test durability and reliability. They are expensive – typically £5-8k per target – and there are significant ongoing management and operation costs to bear. We have 6 targets on Century (100/200/300 yards) and are awaiting the delivery of five “traffic light” targets for the Olympic Pistol squads / gallery rifle shooters on Cheylesmore. Long range on Stickledown is next on the list.”
Mercer also told UKSN that the problem is being exacerbated by the growth in NRA membership, with the association receiving 300 enquiries in the first 3 months of this year.
Many clubs hire so-called private markers to get around the flaky NRA supply, though the more organised clubs shy away from doing so because of the legal requirement that even casual labourers should be registered with HMRC, trained by the club, insured, paid minimum wage, appropriate tax deductions made and paid to the taxman, and so on. Some individuals organise private markers on behalf of clubs, but it would be a very unwise club secretary who accepted liability for employing people through such an arrangement.
When the NRA switched from a self-employment model to a salaried model for markers a few years ago, it was noticeable that the supply and quality of markers took a big nosedive.
Target marking is unskilled manual labour. Workers pull the big Bisley target frames down when a shot is fired at them, insert a piece of coloured card on a piece of wire – a spotting disc – into the bullet hole, move the value panel at the bottom of the target to indicate the score, and then push the target back up for the shooter to see. Most Bisley markers are school pupils or school leavers.
According to the NRA website at the time of writing, the gross pay for markers is £7.51 per hour, with supervisors receiving a supplement. Applicants for marking work should email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.