John Cranwell

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Vice President



Celebrity Shooter July 2010

Malcolm Hill is this month's celebrity shooter

Malcolm answers 10 questions and gives his views and insights into our sport


Celebrity Shooter July 2010

This month's Celebrity Shooter is the Club Captain of Pt. Pirie Rifle Club (SA) and he is a renowned F-Standard shooter and favours the little 223R calibre rifle. Needless to say shooting the 223R in competition requires good wind reading skills and this Malcolm Hill has in abundance. Not only winning at one time or another most of the state OPMs but putting his skill and knowledge back into the sport as a coach. I heard about Malcolm Hill from other shooters as someone who can win with the 223R at ranges out to 1000 yards. Malcolm's ability with his 223R and wind reading skills made him a valued member of the 2009, S.A. State Teams F-Standard Squad.

Malcolm is another innovative shooter, he makes his own rifle stocks and he introduced me to annealing cases and the merits of bringing brass back to its original neck condition. He is always ready to answer questions at the range about how to improve performance of the equipment and the shooter. We are lucky to have people like Malcolm who put back into the sport they enjoy by coaching others and being a sounding board for ideas.

Q1. How did you get interested or introduced to shooting?

Thanks Ian for the flattering introduction and also the privilege of being featured in your excellent celebrity shooter article. My introduction to shooting was back in the sixties when as a lad of eight or ten I would be allowed to go on the spotlighting expeditions that were part of rural life as much for entertainment as for getting rid of the large numbers of rabbits and foxes at the time. It was always something to be looked forward to and due to the fact that young eyes seemed to be better with the open sighted Lithgow single shots that were in vogue at the time and I had a steady hand I got to do a fair amount of the shooting. My interest in shooting carried on from there and I remember receiving a Gecardo air rifle for my 12th birthday and putting four packets of 500 slugs(as they were called in those days) through it on the same day and then wanting my parents to go into town to get some more.

Q2. What got you interested in shooting F-Standard?

I progressed to centre fires for  shooting foxes and rabbits at long range in the late 70' and early 80's when a night out shooting foxes for skins could make a few dollars, but the skin prices dropped after a few years and  the rifles were sort of put to rest for several years. It really wasn't until 2005 that  I got back into shooting when a mate said that the Port Pirie Rifle club had a 300 metre shoot once a month that was a bit of fun and that perhaps I should have a go. I dragged out a Tikka  222, loaded up some ammo and headed in there for a shot.  It went pretty well, but there was this other shooter with a fullbore 223 converted to an "F" class std rifle that used to clean everyone up. After a few months of this I decided with his help to build up a proper "F" class rifle in 223 based on an Omark and that was the start of my competitive shooting.  ( That 300 metre shoot  is still on the program at the end of each month and is still a magnet for bringing in new shooters)

Q3. The 223R calibre and the 80gr Amax bullets you are currently using, how well do you think the ballistics stack up against the 308W with the 155gr HBC projectile?

The 80 gn Amax has helped 223 users keep in touch with the 155 HBC's but in my opinion once the range gets past 800 yards the 308 has the edge. For shooting at the longer ranges everything has to be spot on with the 223 to get acceptable results whereas the 308 is much easier to get to perform at those distances. The 1000 yds which is becoming much more common at events these days really does stretch the 223 to its limits and is right at the extremity  of the useful range of the cartridge. The 308 still has plenty of useful range left for several hundred yards after that. Regardless of some of the stories from the US about 223's shooting accurately to 1500 metres I know from the results of trying them at Match Rifle that you can kiss any consistency goodbye past 1100 yards.

Q4. Do you think there is a need for the 223R to be allowed the use of higher ballistic coefficient bullets like the 90gr Berger VLDs?

The use of higher BC 90 gn bullets will probably not benefit the 223 users. The trade-off of the lower velocity with the heavier bullet will more than likely negate the slightly better wind drift figures. The case capacity is hard enough pressed to get the best performance out of the 80 grainers and I see enough problems around with people overloading  with those without introducing a heavier bullet. Add to that the fact that even faster twist barrels are required  and the pressure problems start to be a real concern.

Q5. Are there any changes or modifications you would like to see to the current SSR's (Standard Shooting Rules) for their application to F-Standard?

I don't think there are many issues as far as the rules go that can easily be changed now. I honestly think that "F" class std should have been regulated to a bipod only class back when the rules were formulated for a few reasons. It would have meant that any rifle could have been easily set up to shoot the class regardless of whether it came from the fullbore ranks or was a sporting rifle or anything else with a conventional type stock. Just add a $5-00 piece of rail and fit your choice of any number of well made local bipods for under $200-00 and away you go, no need for a new stock or any major modifications. It would have kept costs down overall for the class and made it a little more attractive to some of the new shooters who believe they need new stocks and joystick rests to be competitive. All the rest of the current rules seem to be working well with an acceptable 1kg trigger weight and regulated projectiles keeping competition very close. The introduction of the Super V is working well with its 60.1 scoring system which has been used with great success for a number of years at some of our South Australian Prize shoots. 

Q6. As a country shooter, what is your view of the current state of country clubs in regard to membership, innovation and future?

I think country clubs are leading the way in South Australia as far as picking up membership is concerned. Most of the country clubs seem to have a more consistent roll up of their members each week and most are always willing to help out visitors and new shooters making them welcome and assisting them to get started in the sport. The popularity of "F" class in recent years has helped with membership and clubs that hold events that cater for new shooters to get started with their sporting rifles are reaping the rewards. Many people that start off with their sporting rifles and are encouraged and assisted to do well progress to proper "F" class rifles and remain valuable club members. The fact that membership has been increasing in several of the country clubs in the last few years , where for a time a lot were struggling, shows that things are on the way up for those clubs prepared to put in the effort.

Q7. A number of clubs (city and country) are preparing for the introduction of electronic targets and see this as a solution to enabling much faster squadding and less time spent marking in the pits. It would also lend itself to having the ability of allowing more than 20 scoring shots in a local club competition. I am often asked by new shooters and prospective (interested shooters) why we spend a whole day at the range for only 20 scoring rounds fired. Its a good question and one that electronic targets may one day change. What do you think electronic targets could change for the better or otherwise?

I'm not entirely convinced that electronic targets will have all positives for the sport. Certainly they will have advantages , specially for "F" class when they will allow fast shots to be sent down when conditions are steady. The initial set up costs will be high and this is where some clubs will struggle finding the cash to get them up and running so it will be a long time I think before electronic targets will completely take over, if they ever do. Over the years I've seen several shooters lose points when markers don't find a shot  and I've seen a Queens lost this way, so electronic targets may possibly eliminate this problem. On the other hand I've seen challenges won by shooters and I can't see  how a shooter will have any way of challenging for a hit if the electronic target doesn't pick up a shot for some reason. As with all things there are advantages and disadvantages with either system. I also think that new shooters gain a lot by being at the business end of the range doing their bit towards marking where they can get a better idea of what they are actually shooting at in relation to target size and see in real terms how far bullets can drift in changing conditions. It gives them a better appreciation of what happens and I think this aspect will be lost if they only ever shoot on electronic targets.

Q8. Case annealing is not performed by very many shooters at all, why should we change our habits and anneal our brass?

Years ago when shooting 17 and 222 Remington's most of the case failures were the result of split necks after repeated firings. Annealing the case necks overcame the problem allowing much longer case life. These days I anneal case necks for another reason as well.  As I've said previously, for the 223 to perform at its best everything has to be spot on. One of the things I believe is critical to achieving this is having consistent neck tensions when bullet seating. When using new brass this is not a problem but after two or three firings the necks start to harden up a little and variations in neck tension start to be noticeable when seating projectiles. If the necks are carefully  annealed the cases go back to that nice consistent new case feel with all bullets seating the same again, so not only do you get better accuracy from the cases but it will extend case life as well. It also makes life a bit easier on reloading equipment as the softer necks are much easier to work.  Annealing 308 cases has the same benefits and it also makes a noticeable difference to the effort required if you have trouble pulling the necks back over an expander ball when resizing.

Q9. As a coach for our State Under 25 Team what do you see as the skills most necessary for our young shooters to master. What is the current state of our youth coaching/training programs and are they being effectively managed by SARA, (SA Rifle Association)?

I was not actually the coach for our Under 25 State Team but manager this year although I have been involved with them for a few years previously. Being young shooters they just lack the knowledge and experience of those that have honed their skills over many years, but every one of them has shown that they can put in very good performances when things go right. The trick to becoming the best is to be able to keep all the good performances happening consistently  and that will eventually come given persistence and time on the mound. Due to the relatively low number of young shooters in S.A. most of their training and coaching is done at club level with more clubs starting to take an interest in organising training days targeting younger members. As far as further training is concerned we currently have access to more accredited coaches in South Australia than there are in the rest of the country, so the South Australian Rifle Association is certainly aware of the importance of having the necessary  assistance available.

Q10. What do you see as the future for F-Class and in particular for our country clubs?

I see a really bright future for "F" class right across the country and can see it as being the saviour of many small clubs that have been just surviving with a few fullbore shooters.  Several country clubs are steadily picking up new members who are starting out shooting "F" class and it is always good to turn up to a shoot at one of these places and find out there are three or four new members since you last visited. "F" class shooters have sparked new life into some of the clubs and there are probably quite a few now where "F" class numbers are in the majority. Regardless of what they shoot every member is an asset to the club and the more members we all have the more likely it will be that we will be allowed to keep shooting into the future.

Many thanks for contributing and agreeing to be this months Celebrity Shooter and I look forward to competing on a range with you sometime soon!



Article for by Ian Pavy 7-07-2010