The London Practical Shooting Club and its History

The London Practical Shooting Club (LPSC) was formed in 1978 by a group of multi-disciplinary shooters who were all members of the Marylebone Rifle and Pistol Club.  The newly emerging sport of Practical Pistol needed range facilities that were not consistent with those offered by Marylebone RPC’s City range premises. The LPSC’s principal aim therefore was to book appropriate accommodation at Bisley and other mainly MoD range complexes to provide for the fullbore action pistol and rifle practices. It was also to send teams to the many open practical pistol and shotgun shoots that were taking place all around the UK.  A proper constitution was produced, NRA affiliation implemented and Home Office approval obtained.

 

It rapidly emerged that though practical pistol shooting was well defined, organised and administered via the IPSC internationally and the UKPSA in Great Britain, and practical shotgun was in some ways similarly established, no definitions, rules or organisation existed at all for practical rifle shooting.  A number of practical pistoleers expressed an interest in establishing this form of the sport, particularly those from the LPSC, a few from the Norwich Club and Milton Small-Arms Club based near the Dartford ranges.

 

Nigel Hinton, who organised the Dartford contingent, John Hipwell (his counterpart at Norwich), and the LPSC’s leading lights together effectively set about establishing the necessary parameters and getting the sport of Practical Rifle shooting under way.  Well attended open matches were held at the Norwich and Dartford ranges, some with contingents from Europe.  The sport worked well and proved highly challenging, including as it does a considerable element of athleticism in addition to the timed regime added to the requisite supreme marksmanship necessitated by small, often moving and reactive targets frequently engaged at very long distances.  The LPSC managed to open up to civilians the use of certain MoD range facilities, including field firing ranges, which had hitherto never been accessed except by the Police and the Services.  This added yet another dimension to the practices.  Various shoots were held by the LPSC on those ranges, returning the hospitality of the Norwich and Dartford clubs.

 

On a snowy December weekend at Norwich in 1979, certain LPSC representatives managed to volunteer the club as hosts for the first National Championship to take place over the following early May Bank Holiday weekend.  Peter Sarony and his long-suffering wife Anne, set about devising a programme that would truly establish the sport as an eminent discipline. The Stoney Castle field firing and gallery ranges were booked plus Pirbright’s Chief Range Officer, Major Lou Drouet, was persuaded to allow their electric target ranges to be used, in addition to securing the temporary remission of the NRA’s ban, then in force, on self-loading rifles, so that Bisley’s Stickledown range could be used for the new 1000 Yards Snaps match!  Once the LPSC’s then committee realised the full extent of the club’s commitment in relation to the PR Championship, they resigned en bloc!

 

Suffice to say that, through the endeavours of the hardcore of the original members who stayed the course, together with those who rolled up to shoot PR ’80, some who only came to watch and who all finished up helping, PR ’80 was a memorable success instead of the abject failure that had been predicted by the outgoing committee.  Indeed, the team event in particular is still written about internationally as perhaps the most memorable civilian rifle shooting event ever, and those who participated are justly proud to have played an active part in that event, quite apart from the great enjoyment they experienced.

 

The LPSC thus became the pre-eminent body for the discipline world-wide, and the administrative base for the United Kingdom Practical Rifle Commission (UKPRC), the founding and controlling body.  Teams of LPSC members have travelled all over the world helping to set up and get the discipline off the ground internationally. In September 1994 the club sponsored Adrian Bull, a past PR champion, as the first civilian to be accepted as a member of the British Service Rifle Team, who also achieved joint top individual score and considerable success in this week long match in South Africa.

 

The annual PR championship has been hosted by the LPSC every year since, in addition to several other regular PR meetings, such as the Kemble.

 

As club chairman, Peter Sarony also persuaded the NRA to abandon their ban on the civilian use of SLR’s at Bisley and drafted the NRA’s rules in that regard, and in subsequent years Bisley became the principal venue for many PR events and championships of note. Not the least of these in the mid-1980’s was the LPSC’s initiative in creating the “Classic PR Championships”.  These embraced ancient practices such as the Barlowe and the Hamilton Dean with contemporary classics such as the supremely challenging 1000 yard snaps, the exhausting Rorke’s Ration, the Regina and Kabul etc., all shot in various classes of classic, post-classic and any rifle, and harking back to the origins of the NRA and the volunteer movement.

 

In 1990, during the NRA’s Centenary Year celebrations at the Imperial Meeting, the LPSC devised, trained and provided the most colourful and relevant contribution. Club volunteers white pith helmets and bandoleers, formed a squad of red-vested riflemen who paraded around camp in full marching order, down onto the ranges and proceeded to lay down front rank, rear rank type volley fire on command from their Martini Henrys.

 

In the 1985 PR Championship a new dimension had been added with the “Muddy Fox” Match.  In this mountain bikes were used in a timed chase where the shooters covered a three mile round trip of ranges from 200 to 300, then 600 and 1000 yards, to face a different PR challenge, including 5 position shooting and an identification shoot, at each.  This led to the LPSC’s Bikeathalon in 1990, a new discipline that may be regarded as a summertime and fullbore equivalent of the Winter Olympic Biathlon.

 

The LPSC, through its Chairman who was first elected to NRA council in 1988, managed to persuade Council to provide for separate discipline representatives on Council for Practical Rifle, Practical Pistol and Classic Arms.  A further achievement in this direction came with the Council finally agreeing that all discipline members would be entitled to take up a position on the NRA’s shooting committee, one of the four principal NRA Council committees.  The LPSC at times had four or more members on the NRA Councils endeavouring to ensure that the interests of its members and shooters primarily involved with disciplines other than NRA Target and Match Rifle, were well represented and taken into account by the UK’s pre-eminent national shooting organisation.

 

In 1991, after the withdrawal of the services from the Bisley Skill-at-Arms Meeting, which traditionally takes place during the first week of Bisley’s annual prize meeting, the NRA Council invited proposals for a replacement event.  The club officers jumped into the breech with their Bisley Masters Meeting.  This was conceived as not only Europe’s first true 3-gun match, but an event that would include an exciting programme of family entertainment and extravaganza, plus plenty of opportunities for members of the public to experience “hands-on” shooting.  Even the long defunct Long Siberia range was pressed into use as a superb sporting shotgun layout set up and run by John Bidwell, one of Britain’s foremost international shotgunners, who also put on a truly amazing trick shooting display on the Friday evening.  Field airgun was introduced to Bisley, and another “first” was the “Gatling to Gatling” event, a live fire machine gun display covering all historic types, from the Vickers to contemporary classic GPMGs, LMG’s, SMG’s and machine pistols, including silenced versions, from all over the world.

 

A trade show was included, literally along the lines of Bisley’s original Gunmakers’ Row, and Friday concluded with a Western themed quick-draw contest, mechanical bucking bull, barn dance and barbecue.  Added to this was a profusion of street entertainers who, whilst primarily geared to family entertainment, toured the camp as clowns, tumblers and jugglers (whilst also doubling as programme sellers).  Children were lining up for the bouncy castle, face painting, treasure hunt, and tug-of-war, whilst everyone was captivated by the regular displays of falconry and gundog training in the central camp area.  On the Saturday evening the Umbrella Tent, the largest of the several marquees erected by the club, became a theatre, with a cabaret by the street entertainers – with lots of non-voluntary audience participation, followed by the star turn – “An Evening with the hilarious, outrageous and inimitable “Blaster Bates”.   Sunday was a very busy day, particularly on the ranges where the three-gun aggregate was reaching the final stages.  Additionally, the Bianchi Plates, PR Championship, Practical Pistol, Field Airgun, Sporting Shotgun and “Birdbrain”, plus Long Range Pistol, Metallic Silhouettes, “Mad Minute” record challenge, and Bench Rest events were running, along with the individual Shotgun Clinic, Laser Clays and come-and-try handgunning galleries.  The day reached a crescendo on Century range as around 100 “volunteers” plucked at random from around the camp were dressed in WW1 regalia and given a crash course in drill by the members of the WW1 re-enactment society, in the preparation for the commemorative re-enactment for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

 

With aircraft of the period flying over the Bisley scene, dive bombing the German machine gun nests, and dog fighting over no-man’s land, the pre-battle barrage was laid down.  A smoke screen drifted across Century’s mantlet as a distant piper heralded the advance.  Whistles blew and a line of “Tommies”, with bayonets fixed to their SMLE’s emerged through the haze and advanced towards the German lines under a hail of machine gun fire and through nests of barbed wire entanglements.  At the conclusion, the piper’s “lament” was the signal for the players to slowly rise from where they had fallen. They lined out along one side of the range, where the final feu de joie rippled along the single file of participants, to the thoroughly appreciative applause of a crowd who nonetheless recognised the solemnity of this tribute to Britain’s volunteer movement.

 

Tony Bianchi’s dynamic aerobatic display and the Red Devils’ free fall parachute drop preceded the closing prize giving and prize programme draw for a colour television and a mountain bike – programme sales being the only direct source of general revenue that the club received from this event.  Despite the high costs incurred by the Club in organising this enterprise, the LPSC Bisley Masters was not only a huge achievement but deemed by all those who participated to be a great success, and the only event where the general public and shooters’ families could see the sport in its true light, whilst enjoying the myriad of entertainments available for all ages and interests.

 

The club has always played an active and prominent part in supporting the interests of bona-fide leisure target shooters, and continues to do so.  Regular induction courses are held to teach safe and effective marksmanship with rifles, as well as more specific training courses for PR instructors and range conducting officers, up to standards required for MoD approval as such, now formalised by the NRA’s RCO qualification.

 

In past years the club’s full allocation of family and open days was invariably fully utilised each year, before the major downturn in target shooting sports that followed the ’98 handgun bans in the UK.  It is intended that, with the help of its existing members and new applicants for membership, the club’s unrivalled history of solid achievements and established worthwhile traditions will continue to characterise the LPSC as one of the UK’s foremost target shooting clubs.

 

The club meets regularly for gallery and high power practical rifle events at Bisley and other nearby military ranges.  In addition,  the LPSC actively supports and facilitates Action and Practical type Shotgunning via its affiliation with Harlow PSG club.

 

The club published a regular newsletter, now superseded by this website with its commentary on relevant matters, details of fixtures and matches, plus reports on and results of all club shoots etc.  In addition the LPSC telephone “hotline” imparts more immediate details of fixtures, whilst providing members and applicants with a direct line for urgent messages.

 

The annual membership and subscription policy is to devote virtually all of the membership funds to shooting activities.  The annual membership fee is £80 which includes 6 range vouchers. Each range voucher will give you a full days shooting at either Bisley or Longmoor (you have to pay for your own ammunition though!).  When the vouchers run out we still only charge £10 for a full days shooting.

 

Comprehensive Public Liability and membership insurance is held, together with range licenses from the MoD.  The club has its own firearms so that members without equipment can participate in shotgun and rifle events.  Economic supplies of good ammunition are also provided.  As a Home Office Approved Club,  LPSC members also benefit from concessions set out in the firearms legislation which permits, amongst other things, a permissible element of sharing of members’ firearms at club meetings.

 

Despite the name, the LPSC’s membership includes men and women from all over mainland UK.  Applications for membership are welcome, preferably supported by an existing member of standing or an appropriate written character reference.  Full members of other Home Office Approved Clubs and existing certificate holders are also welcome.  Applications should be made on the appropriate form and must be accompanied by two passport type photographs.

 

The London Practical Shooting Club welcomes members of all ages, backgrounds, interests and origins.  It is not a vehicle for dealers to promote trade, or for the nourishment of over-grown egos!  Its safety record is impeccable, the traditional atmosphere friendly and its reputation is top rank.  If this appeals to you why not get hold of a form and apply for membership right now?

 

Peter Sarony – Chairman LPSC. July 2004 (updated Sep 2010)

smaller lpsc badge Intro to Practical Rifle (1986)