Century Range Butt 19, Bisley. Pic: Darryl Stark, Flickr

Marker shortage hits Bisley matches and NRA team training

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 markers@nra.org.uk for more information.

5 thoughts on “Marker shortage hits Bisley matches and NRA team training

  1. Nicholas Harman

    And the ones they have aren’t always the best. Last Sunday my target was pulled down 4 times during a 12 shot competition shoot despite my not firing on it. This of course is very off putting because every time I was in the aim I was wondering if the target was about to go down and once you start thinking that you actually can’t stop seeing the target ‘move’ even when it isn’t.

    You might say it’s unskilled but it does require a bit of concentration, something the kids aren’t too good at. I know I never was!

    Electronic will be the answer but I don’t know they can ever afford it. It will be a bit of shame too, as now one can see how others are getting on which will not be possible with electronic.

    It never was much of a spectator sport, but it will be even less so with electronic targets.


  2. JR

    On less “hallowed” ranges marking is done by the shooters themselves who take a turn of “Butts Duty”. This also usually makes for better scoring! (poachers & gamekeepers)


  3. Phil

    Autotargets “They are expensive – typically £5-8k per target – and there are significant ongoing management and operation costs to bear.” at £6k ea thats 166 paid 4hr sessions is capital payback from the marker charges, add some for installation & set up & then ongoing maintenance & payback is possible in 2 years. The only problem with them is no physical indication on the target frame (paddle) that shooters sometimes use to predict wind. It could be done but few would pay for that.


  4. Private Marker

    Do not think that electronic targets are the answer. They aren’t suitable for all types of ammunition, and break down. Regularly. They need maintenance, and if the manual targets are anything to go by, it doesn’t happen too often.
    $ince this was published, the hourly rate has gone up to £8.61, but it’s not exactly executive salary.
    Not all markers are flaky teenagers! Some of us are mature and actually care about the job. As for private marking, shooters are happy to pay more than the NRA to get good service.



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