Shooting is another great activity the Air Cadets has to offer and is completely voluntary. It’s a good way to build self-discipline and gives you a real sense of responsibility.
Cadets have the opportunity to become qualified on four types of weapons. The .177 Air Rifle is used on our squadron. This weapon provides cadets with the chance to home in on the marksmanship principles, leading to an improved shot. The .22 No.8 Rifle is a single shot bolt action rifle. It is the weapon most commonly used by cadets and is fired on a 25 meter range. The L98-A2 General Purpose Cadet Rifle is the weapon many cadets strive to shoot. It is a newly introduced rifle replacing the existing A1 variant, is magazine fed and can be used on long distance ranges. Finally there is the L81 7.72 Caliber Bolt Action Target Rifle.
As with all activities in the cadets safety is always the first consideration, this is very much the case with shooting. Before cadets are allowed to fire a weapon they must undergo extensive weapons handling training. Cadets our taugtrainedht by SAAI who are qualified members of staff. Training includes subjects from naming parts of the rifle, striping and cleaning, making a weapon safe and most importantly all the drills needed to safely fire the weapon on a range. At the end of your training, when you and your SAAI feel you are competent, it is time to take a WHT (Weapons Handling Test). On successfully passing the test you become qualified to fire that particular weapon for six months, after which your WHT has to be renewed. Not everyone passes first time, but with practice and guidance from your WI, you’ll soon be on a range.
In the cadets there are numerous opportunities to shoot throughout the year. Each squadron is part of a cluster that has two dates a year to shoot. This usually takes place on the 25 meter outdoor range at RAF Cosford. You will also have the opportunity to shoot on weekend and annual camps, along with long range shoots organised for the wing.
Safety is by far the most important part of shooting. Before they can shoot, every cadet must be taught how to use each weapon and pass a Weapons Handling Test (WHT) which shows they can handle the rifle safely.
All shooting is done under strict, military conditions at targets made of paper, card or wood on military firing ranges. At every shooting practice there will be a Range Conducting Officer (RCO) who is in charge of the safety of everyone on the range. Their orders must always be followed and if they decide a cadet is not safe enough with a weapon then they won’t be allowed to fire.
Scorpian 0.177 Air rifle
At our squadron you will use air rifles to learn basic marksmanship. The weapon is light and easy to use, letting you focus on hitting the target accurately every time. With an air rifle you will fire 5.5m or 8m away from the target.
Lee Enfield No. 8 rifle
This is a bolt-action, .22 calibre rifle. This weapon is made of wood and metal making it heavier, and a bit more difficult to handle than the air rifle. You will fire this weapon 25m away from the target.
Enfield L98A2 Cadet GP rifle (L98)
This is a semi-automatic version of the British Army’s L85A2. This rifle has much more of a ‘kick’ and is much more difficult to use and clean. The greater power of this weapon means you may find yourself shooting a target from several hundred metres away, not an easy thing to do.
Shooting is a skill that requires a lot of practice because a tiny movement, even from taking a breath, can put your shot far off target. In the cadets we use different shooting practices to build up your ability and confidence in weapons handling.
Grouping – The aim of this exercise is to get all of your shots as close together as possible, you are not marked for getting your shots close to the centre of the target. There is no time limit so you can focus on shooting accurately at the same point.
Deliberate fire – The aim of this exercise is to get each shot as close to the centre of the target as possible. Again, there is no time limit so you can focus on accuracy.
Rapid fire – You will be given a short amount of time to hit the target as many times as you can and as accurately as you can. This is a challenge on the No. 8 rifle and air rifle because each round must be put into the chamber by hand.
Snap fire – In this exercise the target will appear then you will have a few seconds to hit it before it disappears again. The target can appear at any moment so you need to be agile and ready to react when the target appears.