A Bisley Bullseye for Canada

In which a former winner of the King’s Prize explains why Canadian riflemen have been able to make phenomenal wins at Pisley

DESMOND BURKE November 1 1927

A Bisley Bullseye for Canada

In which a former winner of the King’s Prize explains why Canadian riflemen have been able to make phenomenal wins at Pisley

DESMOND BURKE November 1 1927

A Bisley Bullseye for Canada

In which a former winner of the King’s Prize explains why Canadian riflemen have been able to make phenomenal wins at Pisley


THE marked successes of Canadian rifle teams at Bisley in the past few years and particularly the record of the 1927 team makes one ponder for a moment the casual remark of an interested English bystander, to the effect that there must be something in the keen Canadian air which makes naturalborn riflemen. This remark was occasioned by the splendid finish of this year’s team at the 500 and 600 yard ranges of the Kolapore Match, which resulted in a win with a record score in spite of the thirteen-point lead which the Mother Country gained on us at the 300 yard range.

Let us consider this and other wins which gave rise to such complimentary comment and then see if there are not other factors than the keenness and crispness of our northern climate, which explains our success as riflemen; see if the credit, to a very large degree, should not be laid at the door of those who have been responsible for the military training of our country and whose guiding hands direct the comparatively meagre estimates into those channels where the most can be made of money which has been allotted for such purposes.

Short Range Champions

OUR first and most important win at Bisley was the Kolapore team cups. These cups were presented in 1871 by the Rajah of Koiapore and are competed for annually by teams from the different colonies of the Empire. The match was confined to the shorter ranges of 300, 500 and 600 yards and the trophies became more and more coveted as time went on till now they are emblematic of the short range championship of the Empire. These cups have been held at one time or another by each of the overseas Dominionsj;with the exception of India, and on most occasions they have been held by the Mother Country. Over the long period from 1909 to 1925, the cups had not come to Canada, though several times our team was a close second; then there was a change and in 1925 we won our first victory in sixteen years by the narrow margin of two points. Again in ¡1926 we repeated,

this time with a slightly more substantial lead of six points and this year we accomplished the most notable victory of all—a win with a score of nine points above the previous record and thirteen points above the next team.

But in addition to these^successes at the short ranges, we have been almost as successful at the long ranges.

In 1925, after a close and hard struggle, we won the MacKinnon cup which is given for

the long range championship of the Empire and surpassed the previous record made by England in 1923 by one point. In 1926 Scotland won and this year the Canadians turned the tables and won by establishing a record score of twenty-one points above their previous one of 1925; much credit for our success here, being due to Capt. Alex Martin of Calgary, who, in the opinion of many, has no equal as a team coach both as to skill in wind judgment and ability to handle a team in such a way as to produce the greatest harmony and confidence—factors of extreme importance when a man may be called upon, by the coach, to fire a sacrifice shot in order to determine the new wind allowance after a big change.

Then in the individual competitions, we have also carried away more than our share of honors. On the opening day of this year’s matches, Lieut. K. R. MacGregor of the Governor General's Foot Guards, Ottawa, won the Stock Exchange Aggregate and tied for the Times Trophy. Two days later in the shoot-off for the cup against five other men, he

converted the tie into a win by scoring seventeen consecutive bull’seyes, being followed closely by the incomparable Arthur Fulton of England, twice winner of the King’s prize and a dangerous contender at all times. This win, in a shoot of the most trying nature, was what caused English papers to refer to MacGregor as ‘that imperturbable young Canadian.’ The shoot-cff will probably never be excelled in a shoulder to shoulder tie shoot, where, as a rule, five shots are usually sufficient to decide the winner.

Company Sergeant-Major M. A. Hawkins, of Toronto Kirg’s prize winner of 1913, this year ven the Frince of Wales prize under veiy trying conditions. At the last range, a steady driving rain rendered the visibility poor and made shooting very uncomfortable, nevertheless Havkins dropped but one point out of the possible hundred, a score, worthy of, much better weather conditions.

Even more deserving of mention than the other individual successes was the winning of both the All Comers

and the Grand Aggregate by Quarter Master Sergeant A. Parnell, of Verdun. Parnell, one of the seasoned veterans, thereby culmin-

Coi~tinued on page 68

Continued from jage 11

ated several years of brilliant shooting by a feat which, in my opinion is more creditable and more indicative of good shooting than the winning of the King’s prize itself, for the aggregates are the total of over a week’s shooting, whereas the King’s prize, though the longest single match, takes but three days to fire.

The showing made in all the other matches was very good as different Canadians tied for the Daily Mail Cup, the first stage of the St. George’s match and the first and second stages of the King’s and although unsuccessful in the shoot-offs they pressed the winners very hard.

The only prize of importance which we didn’t carry off was the King’s and five of our team competed in the final stage and we took second place so that, on the whole, the 1927 team may well be considered the strongest and most successful ever sent to Bisley. The showing is all the more remarkable when one considers that our team of eighteen members is competing in a field of about 900 competitors representing the pick of the Empire.

A Loser by One Point

T SUPPOSE every one interested in

rifle shooting knows that this year I lost the King’s prize by one point. In consequence, people by the hundreds have asked me what it felt like to miss this, the most coveted honor to which a rifleman may aspire, by a single point. It’s rather hard to describe one’s feelings under such circumstances, but at first I didn’t realize that I had come so close— and so far—from winning. Then, when I did realize how closely I had come, I thought of the lost opportunity, for one never knows whether or not he’ll be on the next year’s team and get another chance. It’s really almost harder to lose by such a narrow margin than it is to lose by being eliminated in the first round. As one prominent shot once said: “I don’t want to come any higher than tenth if I am not to win the King’s.”

My next thought was to forget about my being beaten and congratulate Captain Vernon on his well-deserved win. I knew that if I didn’t forget about my defeat at once, it would have a bad effect on my shooting in the matches still to come, so I tried to carry on just as if I hadn’t been near winning at all.

People often ask whether or not crack rifle shots are superstitious. Some of them are. Sergeant-Major Hawkins, whose exploits I have mentioned already, is seldom to be found guilty of the heinous crimej of passing fellow members of the

Canadian team on the staircase at the Bisley-Canadian-Lodge. Nor is he the only well known rifleman to pin a lot of faith on ‘lady luck.’ When we were shooting off the Walker match at Ottawa, five or six of us were tied for first place and after five shots had been fired C. S. M. Wood, Lieut. H. L. Rowlands and myself were the sole survivors. On the sixth shot I, most reluctantly, dropped out and on the seventh shot Wood lost to Rowlands.

The flag had hardly announced this result when Rowlands was surrounded by opponents and friends eager to be the first to congratulate him on his victory. Before anyone had time to shake him by the hand, even, he dug a rabbit foot out of his tunic pocket and waving it aloft, declared: “I knew it wouldn’t let me lose!”

In 1925, our 0. C’s wife pinned miniature black cats on the hats of each member of the team just before we started firing for the Kolapore Cup. Whether it was the added confidence these feline mascots may have induced or not I don’t know, but we won the cup for the first time since the War. Perhaps it is not surprising that this ceremony was repeated in 1926 and that this year an interested friend presented all of us with a sprig of white heather.

Our Youngsters Get a Chance

"DUT, let’s leave personalities and go D back to the extraordinary showing made by this year’s Bisley team. Why the outstanding success of Canadian riflemen?

I think, most decidedly, that the manner of election of our team has something to do with it, as it differs materially from the system in vogue in Australia, South Africa, Rhodesia and England. At the annual matches of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, held in Ottawa during the third week of August each year, there is what is known as the Bisley Aggregate which is composed of scores made throughout the whole week. To compete in this aggregate, one must be an active member of some military organization, either of a permanent or non-permanant nature. The highest eighteen men in this aggregate are chosen to represent Canada at Bisley the following year. Now it can readily be seen that this method of selection produces the men who, while they are the highest at the time of selection, may not be the best at the time of the Bisley meet, the following year. This is a serious and obvious flaw, which, unfortunately, cannot be avoided as climatic conditions in our country

prevent any outdoor competitive trials being held prior to the sailing of the team early in June. The Mother Country has the advantage here for she selects her team from those men who are shooting at the current rifle matches. The other overseas Dominions have a slight ad\ antage also, as their trials are held just before their teams sail for England.

The most important difference in the method of selection is that Canada picks her team with no consideration of a man’s previous experience or reputation. If he is in the first eighteen in the Bisley Aggregate, he is automatically chosen. This latter system has several advantages and but one disadvantage. It is a very encouraging thing for a beginner to know that if he wins his place he is certain of being chosen and he cannot be ousted by one whom he has beaten but who might otherwise be selected owing to greater experience or because he has enjoyed a better reputation. In the other countries mentioned, the men are chosen from their past record and reliability and may be selected in spite of a bad shoot in the try-outs. The object of this method is to eliminate the man whose performance may be but a ‘flash in the pan’, but in doing so they leave themselves open to much criticism in regard to favoritism in their choice. The authorities at Ottawa believe that their try-out is long and comprehensive enough to test thoroughly the competitors’ holding and wind judgment.

The inevitable result of this method of selection is the inclusion of many young shots each year, who go across and in most cases receive sufficient training and experience to be expert and reliable shots. Thus, the system encourages the youthful competitor and if he is at all successful at Ottawa, he becomes a Bisley shot and another experienced though youthful marksman is added to Canada’s long list.

The combination of age and youth is very good for the general steadiness and good spirits of the team. There is always a tendency for the older men to be more serious and less sociable than the younger ones whose eagerness and buoyancy is suppressed to a more desirable pitch by the veterans and a cheerful and congenial atmosphere prevails in the Canadian Lodge.

Another factor in the success at Bisley is, I think, the emphasis that since the war, has been placed on the military training of Canadian youth. When, as a natural reaction to the war, the estimates of the Department of National Defence were reduced to a minimum,’thosejresponsible for military training decided that the most effective and economical way to use the rather meagre means at their disposal was to devote it largely to the promotion of cadet training and in encouraging the youth of the country, in general, to partake in some form of military training. This was done with the idea that the youth of to-day would be the citizen of tomorrow and if trained while young, the time when this training interferes less with their work than any other, he could be trained for the purpose of defence, if the necessity arose, very much more easily than the person who had had no previous training whatsoever. New corps were formed and establishments of old ones greatly increased and now they are realizing the first fruits of this system

in the success of the Canadian Rifle Teams. They have produced a well balanced team of youth and maturity, which can give a good account of itself anywhere. This year six members of our team were under twenty-four years of age.

Why Be a Crack Shot?

jDUT, after all, if we are returning home

laden with trophies and accomplishing nothing else, we may well be asked: “What good are you doing?” To answer this question, one must know just what constitutes a good shot and what a person must do to be a marksman.

The average person considers a shot to be an individual with nerves of steel, a naturally steady hand and a keenness of vision far beyond the average. The truth is, that these are not necessarily the attributes of a good shot. Rifle shooting is largely a mental performance and depends on the degree to which the man can concentrate under all circumstances. He mentally resolves to keep his foresight aimed at the bull, as exactly as possible and is alert for the slightest deviation from the correct aim. If the foresight moves off the bull, his eye signals to his brain that something is wrong and instantly his arm muscles respond and the sight is brought back to the bull.

At first the sight will shift quite a bit due to ‘bad holding’ but as the beginner advances and his degree of concentration increases and his muscles become more expert, the co-ordination between his eye, brain and arm muscles improves. Due to his increased powers of concentration and co-ordination, he can ‘hold’ and aim ‘steadily.’ The final process in firing the shot and by far the most difficult one is that of releasing of the trigger. This must be done in such a way as not to disturb the aim in the slightest as all the good resulting from a careful aim may be thrown to naught by a bad release. The shooter must keep on concentrating on his aim and release the shot without getting his mind away from the aim and on to the trigger or the explosion which is to occur. It is very difficult to accomplish and is the pons asinorum of the majority of unsuccessful shots.

We can readily see that the rifleman’s success depends on his degree of concentration and his determination to hit exactly what he wants and not to release instead of being exactly right in as far as he is able to make it so.

When it comes to keenness of vision, any good optician can fit a man with spectacles suitable for shooting. Many good shots are helpless without their glasses, as for myself, I cannot see the target numbers when my spectacles are off.

The rifleman, who is really in earnest is one who is training his powers of concentration in his daily vocation. He must be able to concentrate under annoying circumstances—to smile and carry on when tempted to do quite the contrary— to take his beating in a quiet and sportsmanlike manner as it will all tend to increase his own ability to concentrate and remain cool and thereby serve as training just as effective for him as running is for the track athlete.

From my own observations, the beneficial result of this training on others has been quite apparent. Four cadets from the Ottawa Collegiate, all of whom were on the Cadet rifle team, have subsequently won scholarships at Queen’s University and I have no doubt that investigation would prove that the academic work of the student who was a rifle shot would on the average be better than that of him who followed any other sport.

This reason, in addition to the fact that the youth will be a useful citizen of the future, from the viewpoint of national defence, is, I think, sufficient justification for the continued maintenance and promotion of rifle shooting in the cadet corps and among the youth of Cañada in general.

Lucan, Ont., Oct. 4, 1927 We sent Ma,(-Lean’s to my sister in Berkeley, Cal., and in her letter yesterday she said: “My! isn't MacLean’s good this year.” She is a Canadian at heart and loves the Canadian Confederation and other series you give. Keep up the Canadian end. You are doing a great work for Canada. She is keeping all the historical parts for history reference. We sent MacLean’s to Scotland also, and they. too. enjoy it ever so much. MISS B. M.