After a late session lamping last night the alarm clock was a very unwelcome visitor in the bedroom this morning but my first visit to the Carlton Moor range was booked and after a meagre breakfast / elevenses I was in the shooting bus and on the road North.
The address on the website is too vague for sat nav so I put in the village of Swinscoe and hit the road. After a tootle up the M6 I was soon in North Staffordshire and as the evil technological device announced that I had reached my destination I found myself at a crossroads with no sign of a village. Deciding to call the owner, Mike, to my dismay I discovered that apparently Orange mobile communications have no interest in providing a signal in that particular neck of the woods. Cussing I decided to turn around and drive back into the future where a signal could be found. Fortunately Carlton Moor Farm turned out to be the most convenient place to do so.
I must admit that I am not a regular user of shooting ranges, I suppose that they have a purpose for some but the thrill of punching paper is well beyond me and all of my zeroing is generally done in a convenient field or pasture using the bonnet of the truck with an appropriate backstop provided by mother nature. Unfortunately our Lord and Saviour had seen fit to swathe my locale with winds of truly biblical proportion and I just invested in one hundred rounds of shiny new Lapua brass in .243 for my deer rifle. As Carlton Moor is an enclosed tunnel range it seemed a fitting place to defy Gods whimsical weather. The classroom is well fitted out including a kitchenette for the all important brew to drink surrounded by neat examples of the taxidermistís art. Situated in one corner is a reloading bench with all of the requisites for further developing a load while actually at the range.
The range is accessed by a curved downward sloping path and once in there the scale of Mikes and Dweebs hard work and foresight are evident the dry walled entrance is a particularly nice touch. Inside the two tunnels have large solidly built benches with integral right and left handed seats. These can be utilised for all shooting positions not just bench rest. There are fans fitted on to both firing positions which are extremely useful for cooling down the barrel and moderator thus saving time on the range. As I said the purpose of my visit as I said was to test loads in my new brass and as I donít possess a chronograph Mike had informed me when booking my visit that one was available for hire at a very reasonable rate of ten pounds. About a half hour in Mike came back from an appointment elsewhere and joined Dweeb and myself to sit in on the testing session. It is not often that I hit it off with people straight away but both of these chaps made good company for the rest of my time there with Mike offering sound advice as I went along.
Half way through the day we stepped back into the daylight for a brew and to watch a heavily pregnant hind who was giving signs that a new member of the herd is imminent. Mike keeps a small herd of red deer at the farm along with a couple of fallow and I gather that sika are to be added shortly. As they run DSC courses at Carlton Moor having live deer in residence should help to make identification in the wild a breeze.
I find that when visiting a place it is often not the inventory of the latest flashy gizmos but the attention to the small things that make all of the difference. The vast majority of shooters do not reload and as we know many rifles can be fickle when it comes to the ammunition they will shoot accurately. With the current price of ammunition the option of buying boxes of twenty that may well produce a pattern rather than a group is a painful one financially. At Carlton they have a large selection of rounds that can be purchased in small batches easing the cost of finding the one that your new rifle loves.
After a good solid afternoon of throwing lead at the inedible it was time to bid farewell to the chaps and the herd and head home safe in the knowledge that my new brass had an accurate load.
In conclusion Carlton Moor is a superb facility staffed by great people and whenever I need to deal with our Lords capricious weather again I know where I shall be headed.