Good, Better, Bisley!

Interest in long distance shooting is ever- growing in South Africa and discussions on the topic keeps popping up on forums and in the media and often they are sizzling.

However, this editorial is not about the ethics debate on long distance hunting or about “legality” of shooting at 700m to targets with animals photos printed on it, nor is it about the heartburn of hardened hunters about a telescope with 25x magnification and its place in the shooting arena.

This editorial focusses at the start and the end of it all. Where should preparation for long distance shooting start and where should one return to for recollection to improve yourself and your equipment? Whatever happens in between resides with the individual and each shooter should accept responsibility for his/her actions, especially in the midst of ethical hunters and animal lovers where respect for our fauna and flora is the norm.

Bisley is the origin and home of official long distance shooting in South Arica and it is here where it starts and ends. Bisley is shot from 300m to 900m and certain ranges allows for 1200 yards. There are different classes to choose from which means that a great variety of shooters and equipment can be involved.

Target Rifle is a peep sight class and the origin of the sport. It was and at times still is shot with military bolt action rifles chambered for .303 Br. Later it progressed and today it is mainly shot with specialised rifles chambered for standard .308 Win and .223 Rem. There is a limit on bullet weights of 156gr and 81gr respectively. Target Rifle is shot from the elbows without any rests supporting the rifle.

Jan aims his target rifle in .308 Win at 900m. His favourite bullet to load is Lapua 155gr Scenar.

F-Open is a class where riflescope equipped rifles built on the Bench rest approach are used. Caliber is limited to 8mm and smaller and rifles can weigh up to 10kg. These principles lead to extremely accurate rifles and require dedication to keep up with the high international levels of shooting.

Gert is a Bisley shooter competing in the F-Open class at 700m with his .284Win.

F/TR is a fairly new class in Bisley where riflescopes and bi-pods are mounted to rifles chambered for standard .308 Win and .223 Rem. Currently there are no limits on bullet weight but rifles need to weigh 8.25kg or less. F-Open and F/TR is shot on targets with smaller dimensions than that of the TR class.

The accuracy required in F/TR inspired sturdy bi-pod designs. Sias is shooting a .308Win and trusts the Nosler 155gr Custom Competition to shoot the small groups required in F-class.

The latest addition to Bisley is the Sport Rifle class where targets with photos of animals on it or the black and white Bisley target get shot at in the traditional Bisley format. It depends on the club that hosts this class which target will be shot at. This class gives owners of commercially available rifles the opportunity to put their long distance shooting skills to the test and improve it. This class is getting extremely popular, is growing fast and creates a lot of excitement amongst shooters with an appetite for modern shooting equipment.

An example of the blesbuck target used in the Sport Rifle class
The F Class target for 500/600m.

The nature of the sport created ample opportunities for shooters with an interest in technique, accuracy of rifle/ammunition combinations as well as internal and external ballistics, to exercise these aspects and enjoy it.

There are many other formal and informal opportunities and bodies to facilitate their interest but the fact remains: Long distance shooting is an art, a science, a calculated deed. Not a gut-feel or intuition. Nor is it a game of aiming up or down. In order to be able to make a well-thought through shot, there are fundamental processes that should be in place. Bisley teaches shooters these processes.

Shooting technique: The level of accuracy required in the different classes and to shoot good scores forces shooters to perfect their skills. Bisley is shot from the prone position. Each class offers its own challenges to the shooter with regards to technique and the skill to keep the rifle on target, before, during and after the shot was made.

Rifle and ammunition: Carefully selected components, accurate workmanship, dedicated preparation and consistency are the underlying processes on which long distance shooting is based. On top of this a lot of attention is paid to the accessories that complement this equipment for example the rifle rest or the shooter’s jacket. Considering the above mentioned, it is impressive to notice that the trusted RSA Lyttleton single shot action is still used by Bisley shooters from all over the world.

The integrated act of shooting: To participate in a match requires shooters to concentrate and this emphasizes the fact that shots made over long distances entail observation and calculation. A tried and tested routine and thought process ensures success, but it needs to be adapted when circumstances change between shots, between distances, between seasons and different rifle ranges.

Long distance shooting comprises of a world of permutations and the art lies within the ability to distinguish between variables and to be able to adapt your approach accordingly. It is exactly here where Google fails to match theory with practical application. In order to understand the law of probabilities and to work with it, you need a reference model that remains constant as far as possible. More simply put: Come and participate in Bisley.

Bisley’s shooting format and rules provide shooters with the optimal opportunity to accumulate such a reference model and to use it during days where the variables test your skills to the limit. The skills learnt from Bisley can be used in several other disciplines and to hone or perfect your arsenal of theory, equipment and skills, you simply return to the Bisley range and do exactly that.

Bisley provides an opportunity for shooters currently participating in air rifle, .22, hunting rifle disciplines and long distance gong shooting to broaden their horizons and extend their skills in a discipline that also competes on international level. Bisley also offers shooters that are still in school an opportunity to compete against international teams as well as our senior citizens who prefers to keep the flame of competitiveness burning to the young age of 80 and beyond.

To become part of the Bisley family visit our website at or phone Janine, our executive officer in the SABU office at 012-361 4966.

SA Bisley is the home of long range shooting and served since the early 20th century as a platform for organized sport shooting in South Africa. Clubs and provinces are well established all over South Africa and committee members are eager to welcome interested shooters at the range and expose them to the oldest shooting sport in our country.