About 150 enthusiasts headed to the SSAA Victoria Eagle Park range at Little River for the inaugural Winchester Australia Range Day. The blockbuster event, which was the first of its kind, allowed participants of all skill levels – from novice to experienced – to come along last November and try a wide variety of Winchester firearms, both rifles and shotguns. One of the main attractions, which had a long line of excited shooters waiting their turn most of the day, was the opportunity to shoot a .50BMG-calibre rifle.
Winchester Australia’s marketing coordinator Jackie Martin said that shooting the .50BMG was a major reason that several visitors came along. “Everyone loved shooting that,” she said. “Everyone was surprised that it was so quiet for the user because it makes such a big bang for everyone waiting in line.” The firearm is comfortable to shoot, due to a straight stock design, heavy match barrel and highly efficient muzzle brake. The big muzzle brake works well, but produces an extremely loud muzzle report and an area of overpressure blast.
But the day was about more than just the .50BMG, with each shooter given 10 rounds of .223 Remington, 10 rounds of .308 Winchester and three rounds of .338LM to use on a huge selection of firearms. They were also eligible to shoot 10 clay targets, as well as unlimited bouts on the rimfire circuit and the Daisy inflatable air rifle range. New shooters were encouraged to work their way through the numerous rimfire rifles and onto the centrefires. They got to grips with a Steyr SSG08 in .338LM and focused on targets at 200, 300 or 400m.
“We got a lot of really positive feedback,” Jackie said. “Everyone seemed to really enjoy that the day was professionally run and smooth sailing. They enjoyed trying things that they hadn’t tried before. Sometimes it’s hard to try things before you buy them, so it was good to give people the opportunity. We also had a few female attendees who had never shot many of the firearms before. So it was good to allow them to have a go in a safe environment, with coaching.”
Some of Australia’s leading sporting shooters, sponsored by Winchester, attended the day, providing one-on-one coaching to attendees. Among the ranks were Renae Birgan, ‘Sox’ Philipisidis, Anthony Panetta, Daniel Johnson and Brian Mortensen. Operating alongside the sponsored shooters were about 20 Winchester Australia staff members, all offering advice to devotees on the day. “It’s an expensive experience for us but it’s more about touching base with the users and talking about what they love to do and the guns they use. We really enjoyed getting out there and meeting people,” said Jackie.
After a successful inaugural event, Winchester Australia is keen to hold another Range Day in 2016. “We wanted to create an extreme value-for-money experience, more than the sum of the equation,” said Winchester Australia’s sales and marketing manager Jeff Gordon. “We will see how we go and we may be able to make it fly. By that, I mean expand to Sydney or Melbourne for the future.”