Cadets at all levels of the Air Training Corps have the opportunity to participate in the sport of rifle shooting. Since the ATC was originally a recruiting organisation for the Royal Air Force it made good sense for marksmanship to be on the training syllabus. Shooting remains one of the most popular cadet activities.

A "range" is a location designed so that people can take part in shooting under controlled conditions and ranges come in many shapes and sizes. Initially, shooting takes place with the target 25m from the firer, either on a 25m indoor range or a 25m barrack (outdoor) range. As the firer advances through the weapons they will start to shoot at ranges of 100m or more.

Safety is paramount with all ATC activities and shooting is certainly no exception. Training is an integral part of the system and each cadet is fully trained in whichever rifle they will be using. Supervising staff are similarly trained to deal with any eventualities and to ensure that the range is run safely and efficiently. All rifles are fired from the prone position (the firer is lying on their stomach) at static, targets.


The first rifle that a cadet will be trained on is the No.8 bolt action rifle. This weapon started life as the Enfield No4 rifle as used during World War II. It was modified to have a shorter barrel and altered to fire the .22 long rifle round instead of the .303. It also no longer takes a box magazine holding 10 rounds - each round must be fed in manually.

"Dry training" is part of a cadet's initial training and they are shown the No8 rifle in detail. The commands and practices used on the range are also explained so that the cadet knows exactly what to expect before they come anywhere near the range. Only after the cadet has successfully passed the Weapon Handling Test (WHT) - which supersedes the Test of Elementary Training (TOET) - will they be taken to the range and allowed to fire ammunition.

The No8 rifle itself is a nice, simple weapon - ideal for training. The sights are simple iron-sights (as with all cadet weapons) and it operates with a manually fed bolt action. There is very little noise from the rifle, though ear defenders are always worn when it is being fired.


Cadets over 14yrs old may fire the L98 Cadet GP rifle (L98).

The L98 is again a modification of an existing design, but in this case it is modified from the standard British rifle on current issue - the Enfield L85A1. It fires the same ammunition (5.56mm) as the L85 but is manually cocked and can only fire one round at a time so it is just like the No.8. The primary difference in operation is that ammunition is supplied in a magazine which is fitted to the rifle rather than loose to be fed by hand each time the rifle is fired.

Since the weapon is different from the No8, firers must be retrained with this weapon and go through dry training and WHT again before they are allowed to fire. You fire rounds of a slighlty higher calibre. Because they are high velocity rounds (they travel faster than the speed of sound) they make a louder noise and give a more robust kick in your shoulder.

Serious Competition

Due to come back in to service is the L81 rifle. The L81A1 was a slightly modified Parker-Hale M82 rifle but was taken out of service in 1995 for maintenance. It is being reborn as the L81A2 rifle. A step back in complexity, this weapon is very much like the No.8 rifle in operation, though scaled up. It fires the 7.62mm round and is capable of considerable accuracy

The Future?

It is planned to replace the L98A1 Cadet GP rifle with a semi-automatic version of the L85A1. The basic L85A1 rifle can fire semi-automatically (one bullet each time you pull the trigger) or fully-automatically (It keeps firing until you release the trigger or the magazine is empty. The big advantage will be that the rifle will load the next round itself - most of the problems encountered when firing the L98A1 are due to incorrect operation of the manual cocking handle. This replacement will not take place for several years.

Hitting The Target

Although initially each shooter will concentrate at becoming familiar with the weapon, the eventual goal is to hit the target accurately and consistently.

Shooters with the ATC will typically be firing one of the following four practices:


The firer selects a single aiming point on the target and fires a number of rounds at that point. 
The aim is for all the rounds to fall as close to the aim point as possible and it is measured as the diameter of a circle encompassing all of the holes in the target. Grouping practice is excellent for concentrating on perfecting your technique. There is no limit to how long the shooter may take when firing groupings.

Deliberate Fire:

This practice is fired at a target with marked, concentric scoring rings. The shooter aims at the centre of the target with the intention of placing the shot as near to the centre as possible. 
The shooter's score is marked depending on how near to the centre of the target they manage to get. Common targets for application shooting are a large, single target or a card with 5 or 10 separate targets marked on it. When firing at a card with multiple targets, the shooter will aim to place one or two rounds on each of the targets. The shooter can take as long as they like to make the shots as the goal is optimum accuracy.


All that is required is that the shooter gets the round within the target area. However, they now have a time limit - for instance they may be required to fire 10 rounds in 40 seconds on a No.8 rifle and that really isn't too easy.


Again, all the shooter needs to do is get the rounds to fall within the target area. However, the targets only appear for a short time before vanishing again and the shooter must typically hit the target with two rounds whilst it is visible. A snap practice might be for the target to appear and disappear 5 times, each time for 5 seconds. It will appear at random intervals so the shooter cannot anticipate the 

Top Shot

Cadets qualifying to shoot at Bisley and Purbright competitions are amongst the best in the Country. There are several events for individuals and teams. The annual highlight is the Inter Service Cadet Rifle Meeting (ISCRM), a target shooting competition where Air Cadets (ATC) get to compete against members of the ACF (Army Cadet Force) and SCC (Sea Cadet Corps). There are also a number of other National and International target shooting competitions held each year.

The Cadet Inter-Service Skill At Arms Meeting (CISSAM) takes place annually on the ranges at Purbright. Like the rifle meeting at Bisley it is a top level competition for teams and individuals. Matches are fired with L98A1 rifle on long ranges including some with electrically operated targets some of which are designed to fall down when they are hit.

All Air Cadets have the opportunity to take part in competitive target shooting. As well as the national events there are also numerous competitions arranged at Wing level.

There are further competitive events available to ACO members including a postal competition arranged by the RAF (Reserve Forces) Small Arms Association (RAF(RF)SAA) which enables those who are unable to travel to still compete with other throughout the country. Details can be found at: