We attend the Jack Jeyes-Blackburn Memorial Shoot and attempt the shot of a lifetime

This March saw the third annual running of the Jack Jeyes-Blackburn Memorial Shoot. The event is organised by Chris Blackburn of UK Gunworks and his wife Pip in memory of their young son Jack, who died just before his first birthday.

The shoot offers friends, family and clients the chance to come together and raise valuable funds for Northampton General Hospital Children’s Ward – and to tackle some serious long-range shooting in the process.

We are welcomed to our moorland location with tea, coffee and cakes and once everybody has signed in, Chris gives us a brief but no-nonsense safety talk before sending us out to have some fun.

Among the attendees is England and Northampton rugby star Tom Wood. Tom is a keen shooter but an even keener archer. Chris and the team have set up an 80-yard bow range on one section of the estate, carefully sited to shield the targets from wind. Tom is there with his fiancee Sarah (also a keen archer), enjoying a day off from England training before gearing up for the next Six Nations clash with Italy.

“I love shooting and fieldsports and it offers me the chance to get away from the pressure of the rugby field and the media scrutiny. I do quite a lot of stalking and foxing but I really have a passion for bow shooting. It has been useful for helping to rehabilitate my shoulder from injury and I like the challenge involved.”

Another familiar face on the day was John McLean, who assisted us on our Ferrari Macnab feature last year. John has a couple of UK Gunworks rifles that he uses for all sorts of shooting and enjoys the challenge of long-range work. “It is absolutely incredible what these guns are capable of. The limits are your own ability – not the rifle’s. On a shoot like this you are faced with tricky terrain, gusty winds – all sorts of variables. It helps to build up your experience and confidence so the next time you are faced with a 250-yard fox, you are certain you’ll make the shot.”

There were some serious rifles on display, such as a fully moderated DSR and some heavy-barrelled beasties. But not in all cases. Scott Armstrong was another Northampton Saints player in attendance and his choice of rifle was much more traditional – a Sako 75 in .30-06, still with the factory barrel and laminate stock, topped with a Zeiss scope and ASV+. Of course, it had received a bit of attention from Chris – re-crown, trigger work and a custom load for this event using 162-grain Hornady A-Max bullet heads.

“I use my rifle for stalking, mostly. Usually, the only target work I’ll do is three shots at 100 yards to check zero! But it is great to get the chance to push my ability to the limit and see just what the rifle is capable of,” said Scott. Using his drop-chart, the ASV+ turret and a bit of dead reckoning for the cross wind, Scott was consistently hitting targets out to almost 700 yards.

Interestingly, we noticed that many of the shooters are now using iPhones with ballistic data apps to calculate their shots – something we will be exploring in a future issue.

The event was also a chance to try the latest upgrades on the T3 RS project. You can read our load development feature on p68, but since then the rifle has been treated to a new 24” barrel and is now Ackley Improved. Chris worked up a load for the event using a heavier bullet weight – 105g A-Max – and the ‘eight twist’ Lothar Walther barrel (replacing the standard 1 in 10) provides better stability for shooting at long range.

After checking zero and borrowing some ballistic data from a fellow shooter with a very similar set-up, I dialled in my minutes for a target at around 350 yards. With Scott spotting my bullet splash I was soon on the metal, the satisfying ‘bong’ echoing back over the valley. Moving out to 500 and finally 688 yards, I was massively impressed with the performance and looking forward to further load development for hunting work.

The highlight of the trip for Chris this year is an opportunity to test his own rifle to the limit – and perhaps beyond. Chris’s 6.5x55 Ackley Improved is very much his everyday gun – he uses it for stalking and foxing on a weekly basis. But here he is planning to shoot a target at an incredible distance of 1,790 yards… just over a mile. When you think that most of us zero our rifles at 100 yards and would consider 300 yards to be a very long shot with a sporting rifle, you get some idea of just what a feat this is – especially on tricky terrain in the wilds of Yorkshire, with no flags or markers as you would get on a range. You can read Chris’s view of the action at the very end of this article.

The finale of the day for everybody is the charity prize draw. The event is sponsored once again by Zeiss, which generously donated a scope and rangefinder as top prizes. But many other members of the shooting industry supported Chris and Pip and there were some superb prizes for the assembled crowd, from signed rugby shirts and meals at top restaurants to stalking and fishing trips, not to mention rifle stocks, scope mounts and vouchers.

A huge thank you to everybody involved in making this happen and to the shooters and the industry at large who supported the event. A fantastic amount of just under £3000 was raised on the day and will be used to buy essential equipment for the Children’s Ward.

For more information about Chris and Pip’s charity and to donate, visit www.jackjeyesblackburn.co.uk


Chris says...

“A mile – 1,794 yards, to be precise – with a true stalking rifle?! Here’s how I did it…

After much debate with some of the lads and because of my own inquisitive nature, I began to wonder: could shooting a mile be done without firing numerous shots to ‘walk in’ to the target? I set myself a limit of just five shots to see how I fared.

First of all, the target we chose to shoot at was about 4ft in diameter; not to make it easier to hit but to be able to get a good aiming reference for the 5.5-22 x 56 Nightforce NXS. Next was to get an accurate range to the steel gong. Now I do know some folk trust Google Earth to do this for them, but personally I have never managed to get good, reliable results, so instead I dug out two trustworthy laser range-finding tools; a Vectronix PLF15C and a pair of Vectronix Vector binoculars. These two tools are military type issue kit that can range far in excess of any shoulder fired weapon in the world, so ranging one mile is a walk in the park.

With me sat at a distance of around a mile, the lads moved the steel gong around to get a good, safe backstop and a clear line of sight. After much toing and froing on the two-way radio we got a good position, and with the Vector binos mounted on the tripod I ranged the gong three times: 1794, 1794 and 1794, the Vectors displayed in red. Game on! 34 yards over a mile – that would do nicely.

The rifle I use on a weekly basis is one of my own full-custom tools; needless to say it’s a bloody good tool, but would it have **to minerals**? to get this job done?

A few days before the charity shoot I had chance to give my 6.5 x 55 Ackley Improved a good going-over and a quick load dev with some high BC bullets made by Berger of the USA. Now, these bullets do get used for deer, but I am not about to start to get into the politics that go into using ‘match type’ bullets on deer.

Anyway, with the Berger 140gr Hybrid bullets leaving the 27” Krieger barrel at 2,932 fps, my Kestrel Horus, Exbal and Ballistic AE all gave me firing solutions of around about 76 MOA of elevation needed.

Now these calculations are all well and good at home in Northampton, but what about at 1,200 feet above sea level with unknown weather conditions up on the grouse moor? So on the morning of the shoot I decided to give it a go, and with three of the lads helping by acting as forward observers ready to spot my shots, I returned to the place we had marked to fire the shots.

With my iPhone 5 I pulled up the data for my rifle and updated the atmospherics on the program: for 1,800 yards it gave me 76.5 MOA, and for the wind around 7 mph which wasn’t the best to try and read 11 MOA. With the adjustments dialled into the scope I got down onto the rifle. I shouted the boys on the radio that I was ready and to start spotting.

Shot one: half a target low and right.

Shot two: good elevation, just off the target on the right-hand-side.

Shot three: on target. Strike!

Shot four: on target. Strike!

Shot five: on target. Strike!

So three out of five hit the target!

76 MOA at 1,794 yards equates to the scope being adjusted 76” above the aiming mark at 100 yards. Or to look at it another way, you are aiming 1360” above the target.

Next up: two miles?”