Since the Ashburton District Rifle Club’s home range – affectionately known as The Butts – underwent a massive makeover, it has become an increasingly popular place to be.
A rebuild of the range, which was completed almost two years ago now, meant it is now a top range and the club has welcomed many new members who are making the most of it, says club secretary/treasurer Coby Snowden.
She says many of the new members had originally just gone along to sight in rifles but have stayed on and joined in the club’s weekly shoots on a Sunday.
“Although our sport is target shooting with .308 rifles, we welcome anyone with a rifle wanting to have a go at target shooting, and we have a handful of hunters turn up most Sundays to shoot alongside us.
“Most members of the Malvern club – whose range is near Coal-gate – also shoot here.
“Their club shoot Saturdays so their wives have real quiet weekends during the summer,” Snowden joked.
The new-look range has electronic targets which meant it is easy to set up and there is now no need for manual markers.
“It is the only range in New Zealand to have the no-danger classification, which does mean we have very strict range rules and a qualified range officer must be present at all shoots,” says Snowden.
The rebuild was a two-year project completed in April 2017, at a cost of more than $120,000, and Snowden said the club had received help from many corners of the community.
The Lion Foundation donated around $50,000 and the Community Trust of Mid and South Canterbury donated about $10,000, while local businesses like Bradfords and Greg Donaldson Contracting had given huge amounts of free labour, as did other local businesses.
They have created a new-look range that is now well utilised by members, who range in age from 18-year-old Megan Snowden, up to 82-year-old John Fleming.
The club meets for a weekly shoot every Sunday afternoon, and the most recent on Sunday was at 700 yards.
Although a misty drizzle and shifty breeze made their job a little more challenging, some shooters still managed good scores.
Ashburton’s most well-known fullbore rifle shooter in recent years is John Snowden.
He won gold at the Delhi Commonwealth Games back in 2010, and last year won his second Ballinger Belt – the oldest sporting trophy competed for in New Zealand, dating back to 1873.
It is a title he will shortly be defending.
Snowden is just one of the club’s members who are gearing up for a very big month ahead, which includes both the nationals and the world championships, which are being held in New Zealand this year.
Ashburton club members shooting at the national Ballinger Belt series in the target rifle class are John Snowden, Coby Snowden, Megan Snowden, John Miller, Darian Miller, John Fleming and associate member of the club Daniel Alexander, while Brian Graystone, Mike Chui and Murray Cook will compete in the free rifle class.
The New Zealand championships start on January 25, with the worlds to follow.