Traditional country pursuits reimagined for the modern world
Gary Turner talks us through his experience at the new Holland and Holland Shooting Ground, complete with its indoor shooting cinema.
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At the age of eight I was given my first air rifle –a .177 springer. Living in suburbia as I was then, I was also given a telescopic sight, some targets and a standard pellet catcher. Before long I was plinking tight groups at the full length of our garden. I would spend hours shooting at targets and anything else I could see. My party piece was to make the weathervane spin, in either direction! One summer, 1980 I would guess, I splattered a fruit fly that landed on the target while I was plinking and decided that it was time to make things harder.
An hour later I had removed every sight from the air rifle, stuck some blue tack and the phosphorous head of a match in the hole vacated by the foresight to act as a bead, and I had myself a shotgun wannabe, just like Dad’s. I spent the next years shooting at starlings which used to flight over the garden. In the space of perhaps five years, and I’m guessing 10,000+ pellets, I managed a single kill. The unfortunate starling presented a perfect driven bird. Swing through, build some lead and the .177 pellet hit its mark; my first flying bird was in the bag. Well, it was in the gutter on the roof actually but that’s another story! It was during that time that my love for shooting at moving targets started – one that remains with me to this day.
I have been very lucky. My Dad used to run a shoot and we enjoyed many days, evenings and nights squirrelling, roosting and lamping. I shot everything you might expect with various calibres. Despite this I kept coming back to moving quarry, pigeons especially, and my beloved Beretta 686s.
Hop into the tardis and what seems like yesterday was 35 years ago. I had not shot a rifle of any note for many, many years, and an invitation had landed on the matt to go and see the newly refurbished Holland & Holland Shooting Ground, complete with its indoor shooting cinema.
I don’t mind admitting, I was really looking forward to going, but more for the clay shooting than the rifle shooting. Turns out there was an awful lot to look forward to. Since my last visit the grounds have changed immensely. They are unrecognisable with significant investment and architecturally delightful buildings. Meetings, corporate events and dinners for up to 250 people are all possible in the state-of-the-art facility. The lodge and the gunroom are stunning and home to some wonderful history and shooting products. But it’s what lies beneath that really got my pulse racing...
After coffee and a chat, we descended down a couple of flights of stairs, through several doors and into the ‘cinema’. Wow! I had looked at the website and thought to myself, ‘30 metres isn’t very far, it’s a decoying pigeon, no more, and boar, deer, buffalo, hyena, whatever, would all be close.’ Wrong again! Thirty metres is plenty far enough and the perspective and technology is capable of representing shots much farther than that. A mandatory safety briefing followed, and then I drew the short straw of going first in the company of some regular rifle shooters.
I’ve watched driven boar shooting and wondered how it’s done with a red dot sight. As I took the rifle and rested my cheek on its comb, it was a revelation. This is shooting with both eyes open, a red dot sight and a moving target. We used a wonderfully soft and comfortable .308 with 150gr live rounds – this is real shooting, in a cinema!
The shooting technique is slightly different: a slightly more upright stance and a swing that comes from the hips. After a rehearsal or two, the first boar came in from the left... smoothly through, onto and just in front of the vitals... and my first shot for years, was good. Not great, but good, a little high and a tad too far back – you have three seconds to view the shot as the bullet goes straight through the screen and a laser illuminates your bullet strike, then the film rolls on again. Making the necessary adjustments, the second shot was good again, then the third, bang on.
More practice followed before we moved on to some more ‘unusual’ quarry: a walking red stag and then a running hyena which definitely needs some more lead! Too much and you miss it in front, not enough and it keeps coming. Speed, angles, distance – it’s as real and accurate as you can get, and it has to be the best practice available – all in the comfort and warmth of the indoors!
Address: Holland & Holland Shooting Ground, Ducks Hill Road, Northwood, Middlesex, HA6 2ST.
Contact: +44 (0) 1923 825 349
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