Saturday 25 August 2012

The day started at 05h00 with another drag of a set of old tyres over the sandy access road of 5 km. The low level of soil humidity this year and the large number of cars expected represented a special challenge, which we planned to meet by dragging the road at least twice on this day. The road was allready quite churned up by the large number of campers arriving the previous two days.

As the trusty 1993 model Toyota hilux hummed along in 2nd gear low range, 4x4, I ran a checklist of all the things still to be done.

There were about 60 campers in the tent town on the range - mostly BASA members who had built the big bore range the previous day.

At the Muzzle loader range Mic and Santie were in there canvass home-office, with a car full of muzzle loaders, and two jars of Sannadex next to them. Their range was ready.

As I passed the rondavels of "Sekoko lodge" at the farm boundary, I could see the solitary light of oom Ken Stewart, our bulletsmith moving around his camp.
In the complex with him were : The SAS team of Camo7,62, Sean and JS4 tasked with doing the handgun range on this day.
Eugene Combrinck of Magnum Arms the agent for Krieghoff was also booked in there - ready for his live exhibit of quality hunting rifles.
Sharing their camp were visitors from Bethal and Pretoria.

The other ranges:ProAmm grouping range, .22 Active hunting range, Clay target trap and skeet range, Boer and Brit range, .22 junior training range, SAS handgun range were all silently lying ready in the pre-dawn. (After more than a week's hectic preparation.)
The big tent 9m x 15m was pitched, and the stage was built for the night's performance by John Edmond.

Marcel, Salome, Georgi, Pietie, Petro, Nichola and Kaye - the admin team had booked a large number of relays for the ProAmm shoot the previous day and evening. We were ready to start shooting the moment our range officers arrived and put up the targets.

Weather prediction was only 32*C and a 10 km/h North-easterly wind - perfect for an August day.

As dawn broke, the camp started coming to life.
At the tents kettles were steaming on little fires and gas stoves. Prospective participants were cleaning and checking their rifles, counting their ammo, getting ready.
A stream of vehicles started to pour in as the range officers started to take up their positions. Coffee was served from Thermos flasks, or bought from the tuck shop allready open.

The first range to open would be the ProAmm grouping. There are 14 concrete tables, with sand bags. Relays are numbered Alpha, Bravo, Charlie .....and the positions 1,2,3 ......14 . Relays A and B was used mostly to give the range officers a chance to shoot before commencing their duties. The first shots were fired at 08h05 - only 5 minutes behind schedule.

At the admin centre the shooters were queing - the quees were much shorter than in 2011, due to the Friday's pre-registration, and an administrative overhaul undertaken by Marcel, Salome and Georgi.
By 09h00 the other ranges were opening.

BASA (Big Bore association of Southern Africa) had set up a range with a giraffe, lions, buffaloes, a rhino and a jackal. The first prize here was a hunting package of two kudus for two hunters on Lemetfort farm. There was no number of entries, to try and win this prize - well there was :the depth of your pocket and the size of your ammo-box! But they kept on coming back. Only 9,3 mm and larger calibre were allowed.

At the active hunting range next door, the hunters were doing their thing. Our German "Weidfrau" had set up a blue wildebeest range and a buffalo range for .22 rifles. Enthusiasm was running high.

On the handgun range, Craig, Sean and Johan had everything ready.
As I was discussing the score sheets with Craig, the first shots rang from the ProAmm range. The smell of burnt nitro-propellant was carried to us by the light North-easterly breeze. Bliss. Now I knew how a gundog feels when a shotgun is taken from a bag.

The sound system was playing boeremusiek, and every now and then an anouncement was made to get someone to the right place at the right time.
The admin people were busy, but the system ran like a well oiled machine.

Shotgun range started a bit slow, but once they were up and running, they ran!
They had a group of enthusiastic shotgunners, who every year spend almost all their time at this range. This year the range consisted of 5 clays from a trap machine from different positions, followed by a double from the skeet machine.
Nobody could get a full score, but Wynand Botha got close with 6/7.

I was kept busy running small errands. A staple gun at the ProAmm; shotshells for the clay range; more score sheets for handgun; Oom Frikkie needs a decapper for his Martini Henry shells.

Reports came in that some saloon cars were getting stuck on the sand road. Chas Lotter (SAGA) got the oppurtunity to test his brand new winch on his Prado. I also sent my son Pietie to drag the set of tyres to level the road once more. Everywhere the spirit was just fantastic. Two participants arrived by helicopter, and the only sand they had to face was a short walk from the LZ to the shooting ranges.

On the demonstration range, Eugene Combrink (Magnum Arms) was showing his range of Krieghoff rifles. In the big tent there was a knife exhibition by Stephenson's knives. Paul, Rudes and Bushboy were representing Tac Shac and it proved a hit. Everybody wanted to try their SLR's.

The weather prediction of 32*C was a bit conservative. It felt more like 36*C.
The big tent had a line of microsprayers to cool it down. This helped, especially with the breeze.

Casualties: One R/O at the ProAmm cut his finger on a staple when removing a target. He got a plaster.
Marisia joined the half moon club, sustaining a deep cut on the forehead at the Big Bore range. She was attended to. After this she proved that she did not develop a flinch, by shooting a 18 mm group at ProAmm and winning the ladies division.
One lady got a blackout, probably because of the heat. She also made a full recovery, and stayed till the end of the performance that night.
(This list represents the largest number of casualties on a firearms festival - in 14 years.) Really nothing to complain about.

The kids were having a ball on the jumping castle.

By 15h00 big three legged pots made their appearance, and our butcher/cook started his magic on some open fires.

By 16h00 some of the ranges started to close. Our predictions were for the ProAmm to end at 16H30 to be followed by the grand finale of the Boer and Brit shoot. The three flags : ZAR vierkleur; Union Jack and OVS vierkleur were fluttering in the breeze - promising some action to come.

Eventually the ProAmm managed to take down the last targets at 17h15 - we were running a bit late.
Shooters and spectators started gathering for the Boer and Brit shoot. The rules are simple: 4 members per team, 16 falling plates at 100 m, standing position, no ammo limit, time from the command "fire", till the last plate is down. The "traditional" category specify iron sights (open or peep), whereas the "open" allows telescopic sights. Though it appears that you are competing against the team next to you, the real measure of performance is the time.

The action was fast and furious, spectators cheered as their teams managed to topple the last plate. The contest between old rivals: "Buller's barstids" and "De Wet's Donders" was particularly lively. This time "Buller's barstids" beat De Wet's Donders by about 10 seconds. Eventually the event was won by the "Manne met 'n plan " commando - a group who came over from the BASA range and didn't think toppling falling plates with .416 Rigbys and .375 H&H's was too expensive!

Now everybody gathered at the big tent. Juniors was handed their trophies, as the day was getting a bit long for the little ones.
John Edmond got onto the stage and told us the story of brave Rhodesia's stand against the world. The audience loved it.
On the fires the last touches was being added to the potjiekos, wors and sosaties.

Then came the prize giving ceremony where the best achievements on all the ranges were acknowledged. ProAmm grouping shoot is the main event, and everyone shooting a group smaller than 18 mm, qualifies for the national championship to be held in October at the PMP shooting range.

Tamboti Toyota Firearms Festival 2012 was over. It was only made possible by the hard work and dedication of more than 60 individuals, working for a common goal: "To celebrate firearm ownership!".
The date for the next TTFF has been set: 31 August 2013