Australian / West Australian 50 BMG Titles
Nick’s Pick - Widja Bandi / Ella Valla
They say that shooting is the Sport of Kings. They’d be right as it’s also an Olympic Sport. Shooting has been around for centuries. The fascination with it is amazing. Everybody has played Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers
Bagpipes, guitar, campfire, awesome people and 50BMGs
Yep that about sums the 2018 Widji Bandi Long Range National Shooting Competition.
What a week.
Imagine sitting around a campfire in the middle of nowhere in red dirt country Western Australia, with a whole bunch of people you haven't met before, and NO ONE is on their phones. They can’t be, because there is no mobile phone reception at the range on Ella Valla Station.
This is 50BMG country.
Its a big country - red dust and big horizons . Plenty of room to stretch out the 50BMG safely .
And there are VERY FEW places like this in the WORLD. And probably the safest place you’ll feel. It’s where they call 338 Lapua a Nerf Gun. Just joking fella’s ha ha, 338 is awesome, but it’s not a 50.
You wake up in the morning, have bacon and egg sandwich and mosey on down to the range while getting your double hearing protection ready. The Competition brief is precise, professional and final. Safety first, the Royal Doctor Flying Service Kit is easily accessible right next to the Sat phone. All rifles are weighed, measured and checked over. Competitors must be SSAA current financial members and most importantly, well,, just be a good bloke,,,,or gal. Yes, they shoot too.
Holy moly. There is no sound like it. When a 50BMG goes off, you know about it. When all the vibrations and things settle down you look around all you can see is big smiles and wide-open eyes. You know that emoji with the big smile. Yeah like that but times 100.
Ella Valla Station is in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia, 87km south-east of Carnarvon. Positioned in the area known as the "Goat Triangle", Ella Valla Station is almost 100,000 hectares in size and boasts large numbers of wild goats and other vermin. The property is available for hire to shooting and hunting enthusiasts. Recently it has been granted with a diversification licence which means it has become the home of one of the most exciting shooting competitions available as well as maintaining the natural land, improving infrastructure and managing healthy livestock and protecting the environment.
The community all around benefits from it in many ways. Wooramel, 48km away, is the last stop for fuel, bit of tucker and great coffee. Beautiful Carnarvon is a mere 87km on dirt road, “eh just around the corner” they say. Shark Bay, Monkey Mia all places you might as well stop at and enjoy.
You know you are in a good place when you meet someone and they greet you with a cheerful hello. It’s remote, people love seeing people. Water is precious and cherished. Food is precious, and showers are a privilege. You don't take anything for granted out here. It really puts things into perspective.
So back to the comp. At the moment, its annual. There were over 20 competitors, some drove over 1000km to be here. Some flew on REX and some hitched a ride somehow, somewhere but EVERYONE was on the same page.
The first Comp was the USA sanctioned Fifty Calibre Shooting Society comp at 1000m (Correction from original draft…..Editor.) The targets were set at 1000m and everybody had 5 minutes for sighting shots. Yes, including non 50BMG caliber’s. There were .223 as well !
Pre-competition scrutineering ensuring every one is on an even playing field
Of course, there were teething problems, but they got ironed out pretty quick. Uh hum cough cough especially people who mounted their scopes too far back. Nothing a bit of tissue and a can of “Toughen the hell up” couldn't fix.
And the Winner was
1st John B
2nd Greg W
3rd Aden K
The weather was magnificent. Clear blue skies at 28 degrees and perfect humidity. So, the sun started setting and everyone meandered back to the campfire. Probably lured by the smell of food. Like livestock flocking to water we all knew where to go. Stoked up the camp fire and the donkey.
A 44gallon drum laid on its side, on a stand with a small fire going underneath it. This is the hot water system and works amazingly well , and you can be assured that people kept the fire going underneath cos by now the temperature outside drops to about 8 degrees.
The Western Australian State titles. 600-meter range. By now everyone is really excited. Overnight a few more competitors made the journey. The score board was filling up, so it was time to improve on yesterday’s efforts. Safety brief completed again and the shooting started.
Pre comp safety briefing highlight how serious safety is taken .
But hang on something not quite right. People started getting bigger groupings than before. What the…? Someone’s scope came loose. Well tighten it up and Loctite the nuts. OK done. And then another scope came loose. “Where’s that Fat Wrench torque set?”
Here are some of the questions that were thrown around all day.
“What do you think of the Hornady AMAX?”
“Are you using the American Eagle ammo?”
“Where were you aiming?”
“Which way is the wind heading down there”
“Hey Birdy did you count sheep last night?”
“How good are those Night Force scopes hey?”
“Have your mounts moved at all?”
And the results ?
1st Nick P
2nd Greg W
3rd Jarrod L
Another successful day. “Alright everyone range is closed”. All firearms lock away securely it’s time to relax around the fire and eat and chats, with NO phones. Thumbs up emoji.
YUM !! Are you ache'n for some bacon ? Yup Yup !
And there it was. The pig on a spit. Delicious. Into the night, bellies full, couple of quiet ones and out came the bagpipes. All banter ceased. The sound of the bagpipes echoed throughout the camp and everyone was silent. Bit by bit goosebumps found their way into every person there and when he stopped playing there was a roar of cheering and clapping. What do you think came out next? That’s right the guitar. You’d be surprised how many people wanted to sing or play. Everything from Pink Floyd to Eric Clapton to the blues. The songs rang out until bed time.
The amazing sounds of bag pipes rang thru the air - momentarily chilling everyone to silence and goosebumps
The Australian National Titles 600-meter Range.
More competitors, more spectators same Safety Brief and Instructions. By now everyone knows the drill. Everything is really efficient and flowing.
And the 50s just keep on impressing. No matter how many times you hear them, they ALWAYS put a smile on your face and a thought of amazement in your mind. But those darn scopes. They are still coming loose! Only on the 50s thought not on anything else , Where’s that torque wrench.
“OK range closed” the match official yells and he does his walk across each rifle. “Safe, Safe, Safe.. Right on the quads get down range score and patch out.”
Another successful day. It’s quite unique to see caliber’s from .223 to .338 competing at the same event. Do you think that everyone had a little something to say about the different firearms capabilities? Here’s a rundown.
“Wow the .223 made that distance”
“Sounds like a pop gun”
“This .308 is worth $xxxx and shoots like a laser.”
“I reckon this triple .223 is way more accurate”
“The ballistics of that 338 are far superior to a 50cal”
The response to all claims……… “Yeah, but they’re not a 50”
Campfire dinner time. Yum. Steak and chips and veggies, thanks to the chef. And again, everyone helped everyone and everyone cleaned up.
It must be noted how much respect each person has for each other person there, and their equipment. Very refreshing and very humbling to be around that level of care.
A brilliant feed - restaurant quality , million star rating !
Ella Valla's Eton Mess - farm-style food at its best
The Australian National Titles continued… 1 Km Range. Last day.
The men from the boy’s day.
Competition is close anyone can win.
Everyone is full of last night’s steak and chips.
The Hornady AMAX are doing just fine.
The temperature is 28 degrees and the wind has changed from left to right.
Was there competition tension. Yes and no.
It’s been a long week and people are simply still happy to be here at Ella Valla Station enjoying this very professionally run Long Range Competition.
Small caliber’s first. “Righto hearing protection on!”
“Pfft hearing protection” (We do recommend hearing protection for all firearms – Editor )
“OK Range open for 50s. Good luck gentlemen the competition is still wide open”
BOOOOOM, BOOOOOM…… “Yep double hearing protection needed”
(especially for 50Bmg- Editor)
In the end of the day it’s just a competition rifle.
It’s Big, 1.6m.
It’s heavy, 18kg actually,
so, no-one wants to carry it around.
You take it from the case and put it down on the range mound and thats it.
Its Steyr’s HS-50 M1
Oh, it’s expensive!! We’re talking the price of a small car here.
And the ammo. Well you wont get change from $1500 after a competition shoot.
It’s not for everyone but EVERYONE loves it.
Winners for Day 5
1st Nick P
2nd - Nick says it doesnt matter !
3rd- Still dont care !
(Editors note - I am sorry but sometimes Nicks gets a bit excited .....)
Nick 1st Place Trophy's - and the winning Steyr HS50 M1
Everyone gained best friends.
Genuine people who are regular Joe’s, farmers, city people with an age diversity of 20 to 70.
There will always be people for this and always be people against it.
Hopefully there can be good balance reached. Simple things like recognizing the injection of money into the remote rural Australian towns that depend on it for survival.
Widji Bandi and Ella Valla Station did an amazing job getting this Internationally recognized competition going.
This is an Elite club.
Every member has to be back ground checked and that includes a National Police Clearance. You have to be seconded by an existing member so not anyone can just rock up and play with these things. It’s a very professionally run club that emphasises the importance of safety, integrity and the genuine character of each member.
Of course, anyone is welcome, however there are stringent guidelines that need to be adhered to, to ensure that all is safe for all members and the maintenance of the environment.
So, all in all the competition was a great success. Everyone got home safe and has kept in touch.
P.S Not a single animal was hunted.
P.P.S. You should see the number of stars in night sky out there. Like the whole competition.
The Champ (Yes , He wanders about referring to Himself as ‘The Champ’ ….…. -Editor )
Claremont Firearms was proud to be able to be a sponsor - hopefully a larger portion of the Team get to go compete at the next one !
Special thanks to these guys for hosting a great event !
Working for all Western Australian Shooters - If your not a member , why not ?
If you are looking for somewhere to experience a great time in the Gascoyne - this is the place !