Vicki Butler shares the history of the first British Open Air Gun Championships.

Originally called the British Air Weapons Championships, the first British Open Air Gun Championships (BOAG) were held on 19th – 20th October 1974 at the National Sports Centre for Wales, Cardiff.  They were created as a way to recognise and pay tribute to ‘Air Weapons Shooting’ and to gain valuable experience for hosting a European Championships.

At this time the NSRA was still at Codrington House in London and both NSRA Aldersley and NSRA Bisley hadn’t been built yet.  So, Wales National Sports Centre with its state-of-the-art facilities, having only been built 3 years prior, was a natural choice for hosting such a large event.

There had been much advertising in The Rifleman publication and an informative booklet, complete with an entry form, had also been made to introduce the Championships and provide rules and guidance.

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The NSRA was proud to announce the Championships were a huge success and promptly booked the same venue for the following year, adding another day for competition!

With 162 entries and a selection of trade stands, it was a bustling event with plenty of opportunities to socialise and shop.  The large hall in the sports centre housed 48 firing points at 10 metres and 14 points at 6 yards.

As with most large competitions, volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure smooth running of the event both before, during and after, with a large majority working until 04:30am to set up the electrically operated target equipment from Dick Cross of RX Products, that had unfortunately been held up in transit.  These largely unsung heroes, our volunteers, both then and now give so much to support our sport, their contributions are immeasurable.

3 trophies were donated by Frank Dyke & Company Ltd who also very generously gifted an Anschutz 335 Air Rifle to the Welsh Small-Bore Shooting Union in recognition of the considerable assistance they had given to bring the Championships together.  Milbro Sports Ltd kindly gifted another rifle, this time a Walther LGR, to also honour the efforts of the Welsh Small-Bore Shooting Union.

Competition was very close, and the Scorers found it quite challenging at points with the Chief Stats Officer initiating a system of ‘all in’ bulls to separate some scores.  Dr Laslo Antal’s score of 389 during the aggregate not only gave him a new British Air Pistol Record, but also an aggregate win and first place for the Air Pistol Championship.

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Malcolm Cooper took the Air Rifle Championship win with a score of 370 and Malcolm Thickbroom took the aggregate win with 742.  Irene Daw won the ladies Air Rifle Championships with a score of 688 and Trudy Henry was ladies Air Pistol with 717 points.

Junior Rifle title went to P Burgess with a score of 718 and M Hardyman won the Pistol with 697 points.

Air Rifle 6 yards - Class A was won by A Tidman with 800, Class B - T Clack with 800 and Class C - S Fellows with 799

Air Pistol 6 yards - Class A won by A Howls with 789, Class B - C Meech with 787, Class C - C Read with 767

England and Wales were the only two entries in the Home Countries International Matches with England taking the win in both – Rifle = 1454 and Pistol = 1498.

Staffordshire won the County Team Rifle event with 1417 points and Lancashire took the County Team Pistol win with a score of 1465.  James Gibbons won the Rifle Team match with a score of 1063 and Bradford win the Pistol event with 1109 points.

50 years on, this year’s Championships, with 215 entrants, is a staple of the air gun calendar and a well-supported, much-loved event.  Here’s to another 50 years of competitive air gun target shooting!

We hope you can all join us in a competitive and celebratory weekend of air gun target shooting at NSRA Bisley.
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