Cadets at all levels of the Air Training Corps have the opportunity to participate in the sport of rifle shooting. Since the ATC was originally a recruiting organisation for the Royal Air Force it made good sense for marksmanship to be on the training syllabus. Though the military ties are not as strong now, shooting has been retained as a cadet activity and a popular one too.
A “range” is a location designed so that people can take part in shooting under controlled conditions and ranges come in many shapes and sizes. Initially, shooting takes place with the target 25m from the firer, either on a 25m indoor range or a 25m barrack (outdoor) range. As the firer advances through the weapons they will start to shoot at ranges of 100m or more.
Safety is paramount with all ATC activities and shooting is certainly no exception. Training is an integral part of the system and each cadet is fully trained in whichever rifle they will be using. Supervising staff are similarly trained to deal with any eventualities and to ensure that the range is run safely and efficiently. All rifles are fired from the prone position (the firer is lying on their stomach) at static, targets.
The first rifle that a cadet will be trained on is the No.8 bolt action rifle. “Dry training” is part of a cadet’s initial training and they are shown the No8 rifle in detail. The commands and practices used on the range are also explained so that the cadet knows exactly what to expect before they come anywhere near the range. Only after the cadet has successfully passed the Weapon Handling Test (WHT) will they be taken to the range and allowed to fire Live ammunition.
The No8 rifle itself is a nice, simple weapon – ideal for training. The sights are simple iron-sights (as with all cadet weapons) and it operates with a manually fed bolt action. There is very little noise from the rifle, though ear defenders are always worn when it is being fired.
Cadets over 14yrs old may fire the L98 Cadet GP rifle (L98).
The L98 is again a modification of an existing design, but in this case it is modified from the standard British rifle on current issue – the Enfield L85A1. It fires the same ammunition (5.56mm) as the L85 but is manually cocked and can only fire one round at a time. The primary difference in operation is that ammunition is supplied in a magazine which is fitted to the rifle rather than loose to be fed by hand each time the rifle is fired. Since the weapon is different from the No8, firers must be retrained with this weapon and go through dry training and WHT again before they are allowed to fire. You will notice that you are firing higher calibre rounds because it makes a louder noise and gives a bigger kick in your shoulder.
A cadet can qualify to be a squadron marksman by getting a grouping score with the No 8 rifle on our indoor range. Once a cadet is qualified as a Marksman, he or she must requalify at least once a year. The marksman badge is worn on the bottom of the brassard, on the right arm.
Once over 14 years of age and having passed the WHT test on the No 8 rifle a cadet is eligible to fire the L98 A1 Cadet General Purpose Rifle. Similar to an SA80, but without gas parts, the L98 is fired only on outdoor ranges from distances of 25 to 400 yards.