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Celebrity Shooter September 2010


Rod Shehan is this month's celebrity shooter

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

 

Celebrity Shooter September 2010


I would like to welcome Rod Shehan to www.safclass.com.au as the Celebrity Shooter for this month. I have read posts from Rod in a number of forums that he contributes to and have read with interest about the Inch Action manufactured in W.A. by Woody Engineering. Rod is both a TR and F-Standard shooter and also has a family interest in the sport. Rod's wife competes and also his children who range in ages from 7 to 14 years old. Western Australia has some great shooting ranges and the Swanbourne Range with its Kongsberg electronic targets is up there with the best.

Rod is also a sponsor for shooting in W.A. and plays a part in supporting the Queen's event at Swanbourne. I have found Rod to have strong opinions about the sport he loves and about manufacturing Australian products and am hoping to get Rod to share some of his experience with us in this article. Thanks for agreeing to contribute to the Celebrity Shooter series and I have to tell you I'm looking forward to finding out a bit more about the man himself and his interest in long range shooting.

Firstly, thanks for the kind words, and especially the opportunity to tell our story. I am still kind of surprised that you have asked me to be this months "celebrity shooter". I hardly qualify as any sort of shooter really, but I have had some success as a target rifle shooter here in WA in lower divisions.

Q1.  What got you interested in long range target shooting?

Well, it was more a person than anything else. While working as a safety manager in Perth, another guy kept annoying me to come shooting at Swanbourne in some "long range" thing. This guy was Mark Hammersley of local F Class fame. Incredibly nice bloke, and a better than ok shooter as it turns out. I really liked the day at the range with Mark. I had been looking for a new sport or hobby to get into, my other choice was getting my private pilots license.

Funny thing happened when I got home; my mum said that her dad (my grandfather that died before I was born) was a keen target shooter and went into detail about how he would come home from the range and clean his 303 rifle on the kitchen table. My mum was 4-5 years old at the time, which would make this around 1950. This was a nice story for me, as it then showed that there was a history of rifle shooting in the family, unknown to me previously. She also said that he had gone to Bisley, which I also did this year.

Q2. What events do you and your family compete in?

Ian, this sometimes depends on the event, and what we are up to in terms of promotion etc. Generally, I shoot NRAA Target Rifle myself, Linda (my wife) F Class Standard and my eldest son F Class Standard. I do however, like the idea of F Class Open from a development point of view, so will have more of a go at that in the future. I did shoot FO in the 2010 WA Queens. We will be shooting more interstate Queens and other events this coming year.

We shoot Club days, Prize meetings when we are able, and some larger regional ones. We shoot in the Queens locally as well. My son has now expressed an interest in getting back into shooting, now that his "other" sports have ended for the year - typical teenager :) He will go back into FS when I put his rifle back together. My daughter has expressed an interest, so that could be very good to have a 12 yr old girl shooting in our sport, of course she will require a pink rifle! My 3rd son has shown the most interest of our other children. He shoots when he is allowed to by the club, generally using my wife's rifle, or the club rifle. He shoots some pretty good scores for a 9 yr old. I would like to see all our kids shooting at the range one day.

Q3. Are the W.A. shooting facilities family friendly or is there work needed to be done to encourage families and junior shooters?

Good question Ian. From my experience, and having 5 kids, we are a good test of facilities usually. Almost all prize meetings we go to here are family friendly, as they are based in country areas, which have family as their focus anyway. For example, some clubs (like ours) have TV's and game consoles for entertainment. We would rather the kids are doing something useful of course, like running scorecards back to the office or helping out around the club during the shoot. We will only attend prize meetings that cater for kids and families, and support the idea of kids being present. In an average day of say the Queens prize, a shooter will only be involved in the actual shooting process (shooting or scoring) for only about 1 to 2 hours (for 4 ranges in a day). The rest of the time is spent talking to other shooters, having lunch, doing stuff with the family (being in the bar) etc.

The above being said, more can always be done to attract families and young people. Strictly speaking, attracting young people means that their family needs to be attracted as well. Often younger shooters are thought of as under 25's, but this reflects more the current high average age of shooters, than the idea of having young teenagers as the target group as such. It is fairly obvious that without the support and/or direct involvement of the family of an interested young shooter, it is unlikely to work out for the either the shooter or the club. Issues like rifle ownership, licensing and travel etc are more than just logistics when dealing with firearms. Same goes with most sports and family support when you think about it.

Some ideas we use for families coming to our club: provide good food, cater for children in terms of food and drinks. Make sure to have typical small drinks available from the bar or whatever, such as fruit boxes, small cans or bottles of drink. Food can be made by making things like fairy bread (yes, I am serious), plain sandwiches (vegemite, jam etc) for very young children, so they will be happier to be there. Have games and things to do for the kids to keep them occupied and less likely to get bored and be in the wrong place, wandering onto the range etc. Non-shooting partners (not always women) need stuff to do or somewhere to relax, read a book etc. Depending on the climate, somewhere to meet during the day, a shaded area, BBQ area etc can be very beneficial. These areas can be cheap to setup, requiring only basic furniture under a tree.

To summarize, attracting young shooters means attracting that persons family. Until the shooter is old enough to legally buy, possess and store their own rifle, they will find it very difficult to be involved at any serious level in the sport. There are ways to get around this, such as club rifles, but they are often only a short term solution.

Q4. Sponsorship for shooting sports can be difficult to attract, as a sponsor, (Woody Engineering) can you offer any advice to clubs in how to attract sponsorship for events?

Ok, I will try to keep this short, but it won't be easy. There are many aspects to the sponsor issue, so I will try to show them in point form, from our perspective:

Q5. I have read with much interest about the Inch Action which is a rear locking bolt action you manufacture. How difficult is it to manufacture and sell to the world a product made in Western Australia?

Firstly, Australia these days is no longer the manufacturer it once was. This becomes apparent when one goes to order basic tooling from suppliers. It can be difficult to get things that are a bit out of the ordinary, for example long series drill bits. This is not insurmountable, but makes it hard to have things in place for production runs. Ordering ahead and giving tool suppliers time to get items is important. We are only a small business in terms of suppliers, which also does not help with them taking us seriously. We have tried many different ways to do some simple looking jobs, such as drilling the hole down the action. This is nowhere near as simple as it seems to the casual observer. Drilling one hole is not the same as drilling 1000 in the same size to a tolerance of 0,005mm diameter, which requires very specific and expensive tooling.

We use some fairly hefty CNC equipment, for which there is virtually no local support. I have learned a bit about testing and repair of our machinery, meaning we can get them going quicker and cheaper if it's breaks down than we could otherwise. There are some major advantages to being where we are: one being security, almost nobody knows where we are. Another being very low overheads, being away from town and major roads. This has no impact on supply, other than it adding a day for freight.

As we operate world wide, the issues we have locally don't really impact us as much as some may think. It makes no difference where we are, as in the whole scheme of things, it does not detract from the overall distribution of rifle actions into other markets.

Webmasters Note: I asked Rod to give some info on the Inch Action and heavy F-Class Barrels

On the INCH and heavy barrels: the INCH action would be close to (if not) the strongest unit on the market. It is made from tool steel, and is the largest diameter of all the commonly available specific target actions available in steel. No aluminium action will come close in stiffness or longitudinal strength of the INCH, or any other properly made steel action. The INCH has a 35mm long barrel tenon, which is much longer than most others. This is done to specifically provide more length on which to hang heavy barrels, as would be needed in F Class, and also to facilitate easy barrel changes, as they use two shoulders in the tenon, rather than just a thread. The F Class version of the INCH (called the F.INCH) is 40mm diameter, and is a serious piece of metal. It will handle any barrel people can buy. My own FO rifle (F.INCH action) will be sporting a 1.25" parallel 31" barrel in 6.5mm caliber (Pac Nor), which weighs around 4,7 kilos. I have no hesitation in screwing this barrel onto the action.

A brief review on the INCH action options:

The INCH TR version comes in 223, 308, Magnum and 338 Lapua Magnum bolt faces, is 38mm diameter and has one port in either left or right hand. The F.INCH is 40mm diameter and comes in 223, 308 and Magnum bolt faces only, has dual ports and an ejector as standard. The TR version does not come standard with an ejector, but remains an option. The INCH comes standard with PVD coatings, in Titanium Nitride (TiN), Aluminium Chromium Nitride (Alcrona), and Chromium Nitride (CrN), which are Gold, Blue/Grey and Silver respectively. These coatings are used on tooling and such to reduce wear, as they are extremely hard materials, and resistant to corrosion etc.

Q6. Being an F-Class based and biased website, can you let us all know just how competitive F-Class is over in the west and how much of a following at clubs are F-Std and F-Open getting?

From my understanding, and from observing the shooters in WA, it seems we do have a very high standard of shooter and also equipment specific to FS in particular. Most of this is driven by a few people in the sport, which bring the rest of the shooting standard up with them. This then makes the competition very tough, as people need to be shooting very well, and have good gear to win. In terms of F Open, we only have just restarted this here, so time will tell on what happens with that. A few die hard FO people that I see shoot infrequently, are also extremely good at what they do. It is always interesting to watch these guys with the "big bangers" shoot at long range, with high performance rifles and ammo.

When I first started shooting in 2006, FO shot it's last Queens here with very few people involved. FS was just then getting going, with a few entrants. Now, FS is really getting its own gravity and is a legitimate division/discipline in its own right. It is always good to see shooters new to the sport, whatever their history, shooting decent scores in F Class. F Class is growing here and elsewhere. We as a sponsor are acknowledging this in terms of supporting this upcoming discipline, which helps the discipline grow, and helps our business.

Q7. What calibres do you favour for FS, FO and TR?

FS: there is a high proportion of 223's shooting here in WA. They are low recoil, ballistics are pretty close to the 308 and HBC, cheap to run and good barrel life. I personally prefer the 223 anyway, as it is just friendlier to shoot than the 308. I have seen no evidence to support the idea that the HBC is somehow superior at longer ranges than the 80 SMK or AMAX for the 223. The ease of use of the 223 at short range often makes them very tough to beat. The 223 is however more finicky to load and tune than the 308 generally. From my own testing and what others tell me, a 223 going well in my opinion, will shoot inside a 308 all day at ranges under 600 yards.

FO: is something I have not had much to do with due to the lack of a competition here in WA. I am just now working on a wildcat that was initiated by Laurie Ingram - a match rifle shooter from the UK. Laurie died in January this year, and was also one of the initiators of the INCH action design along with Robert Chombart. This wildcat is a 260 Remington derivative, which is a cartridge that tries to get somewhere near the 6,5 x 284, but using common components. A 139 grain scenar at 2850-2900 fps should do the job that I need. Given a larger budget for FO gear, I would probably go right to a 7mm WSM. The 7mm WSM is now getting a lot of interest in the UK and elsewhere.

TR: I use a 308, but have not tried the 223 myself. As I had intentions of going to Bisley (and their 308 issued ammo), I did not want to be distracted by using another caliber meanwhile. I see a few people using the 223 in competition, and do quite well. The only thing that does stop me otherwise trying the 223, as I said above, they are more finicky to load and tune than the 308.

Q8. What do you think of the ICFRA targets? Do you think there would be any need or advantage in changing over to the international ICFRA rules as well as using the targets?

I think the new targets are good, and eventually will show improvements in both shooters ability and equipment. I have already seen extremely high scores on the new targets, some the first time they were used, just to prove that they are not necessarily too hard to shoot on.

The F/TR category in particular should be integrated at some stage, as this makes a lot of sense to me. The weight limits and bipod only rule will make for a lot of changes to the shooting style of people in the game now, but it would somewhat bring the big spenders back into the field a little, which is the point of the rules so it seems. To me, the current FS rules allow a bench rest style rifle and equipment, which is not really what the sport is about.

There should be more focus from the shooters on reading conditions and firing good shots, than having an advantage in that they can afford better gear, like rests and BR type rifles. 8,25 kilos for rifle and bipod is a big shift from the current 10 kilo limit, which in my opinion is much too high. Given a rifle of the new weight, people might change their view of the low recoiling 223, and have a new respect for firing a good shot.

Q9. Do you think the projectile weight and manufacturer limits in F-Std should be lifted to help alleviate the BC differences between 223R and 308W?

I do not honestly believe there is any real difference between the two bullets. As stated above, I have seen no evidence to support this idea. What I would like to see, is the bullet weight limit be replaced by an "any bullet below a certain weight" type rule. Much like the 156 grain limit for the International Palma Match - there is no limit on maker, only on the weight. This gives manufacturers a chance to improve the bullet design within the weight limit, which they certainly have in the last couple of years. Imagine an 80 grain high BC bullet in .224 caliber from BJD?

In FS, this bullet limitation really does produce a real and measurable leveller for the shooters. If one guy had the finances to use Berger 90 grain bullets as an example, and a 6,5 twist barrel against the 308 and HBC's, I think you will find the game would switch the other way a bit. Even though the 223 would have a lower MV, it would still have a very good performance, and also the much lower recoil to boot. In typical rifles, I think the 223 is reaching its potential now, as it is very easy to reach maximum pressures with the standard case capacity, where the same cannot be said for the 308.

Q.10 What has been a highlight in your competitive shooting career so far and what do you think you would like to achieve in long range target shooting?

The first would have to be shooting at Bisley this year. I am very lucky that our business gave me the opportunity to go. Although not shooting that well, it was great to go to the formal functions in the clubs there, meet so many great people from all around the world, and get some tips from some legends in the sport. The next is my 900 yard shoot last year in the WARA Queens leadup, where shooting from division 3 I was counted out from 3rd place overall in the field by an Australian Palma Team guy from Western Australia. Before that, winning the Tyro Cup and Grand Agg. in 4th division in my first year shooting after having started only 3 months before.

In the future, I hope to get into shooting a few different things. The first within Australia is F Class Open. The reason is this is a good place to show our work, and ability to build a good rifle. We would travel to the East in order to get some more competition, and also to promote our business as usual. I would like to at least finish near the top, winning at this stage of my shooting career is probably asking a bit too much, we shall see. People like Alan Fraser are very helpful in getting people into the sport, and I will certainly be meeting up with him again in the future at competitions.

The second thing I would like to get into is ISSF smallbore, and specifically prone shooting (prone 60). I have the bits to build a good rifle, and want to use this as a training platform to improve my other prone shooting skills. The technical aspects of this sport will most certainly be a good thing. I know the guys in the UK Palma Team shoot smallbore and am positive this helps with their extremely good range performances these days.

The other thing I would like to get into is ISSF 300m. While travelling in Europe this year, there would have been opportunity to do some shooting in Germany or in that area. We do know some people involved in the sport in Germany and elsewhere, so is something to look forward to. 300m is also a lot less restricted in terms of chamberings than other fullbore prone type disciplines. I know people that use 220 Russians, others standard 260 Remingtons, 6BR etc. The two sports of smallbore and 300m are very complimentary to our version of NRAA TR or fullbore in Australia.

Thanks for the opportunity to state what I believe in the sport. I hope some stuff might help others in the sport and particularly club committees with sponsors. People can contact me through our website if they have any further questions about the information above, or just want to catch up.

Thanks again Rod for taking the time to contribute as the Celebrity Shooter, hope to catch up with you one day at Swanbourne and tryout those electronic targets with my FO rifle.

In discussions with Rod prior to him answering the questions, he made it clear to me he did not want any "advertorial" type article plugging Woody Engineering. I would just like to say to Rod I have never intentionally set out to produce an "advertorial" but its my intention to always give links to the websites of the Celebrities interviewed. Anyone reading these articles will always want to dig a bit deeper and find out more about the person by following the link to their website.

Find out more about Woody Engineering and their range of products here: http://www.actionclear.com.au/


 

Article for safclass.com.au by Ian Pavy 30-09-2010