You’ll have the opportunity as you progress through the cadets to try your hand at military skills and drills, including rifle shooting. Some cadets and parents may be slightly taken back that we teach cadets as young as 13 to shoot. The skill of shooting teaches the cadets discipline and gives them an appreciation of the dangers of weapons but how when used in a controlled manner on a range can also provide competition of skill level in the form of marksmanship.
First up is the No.8 bolt action rifle. This is the weapon you'll begin with. It's a great all rounder that started life as the Enfield No 4 rifle, used as far back as World War II. Modified to have a shorter barrel and fire the .22 long rifle round, it no longer takes a box magazine holding 10 rounds - you feed in each round manually. It makes little noise, although ear defenders are always worn on the range, and is a great first step for your marksmanship skills.
'Dry training' is the first thing you'll do - exploring the No.8 in detail, and learning the commands and safety practices used on the range. After you've successfully passed the Weapon Handling Test (WHT) you'll be ready to progress.
Over 14? Then you can handle the L98A2 Cadet GP rifle (L98) - modified from the Enfield L85A2 which is currently in active service. It is re-cocked by gas from the previous round fired. Rounds are contained in a magazine fitted to the rifle. You have to be re-trained on this new weapon - as it uses high velocity rounds they make a louder noise when fired and give a more robust kick in your shoulder!
It's planned to replace this rifle with a semi-automatic version of the Enfield (the rifle will load the next round itself after firing) in the future. The L81A2 Cadet Target Rifle is very much like the No.8 rifle in operation, but scaled up with higher calibre ammunition and advanced accuracy.
Whichever weapon you are trained on our instructors will ensure you feel safe and confident handling it.
Marksmanship goes a long way back in the history of Air Cadets and is one of our most popular activities. Think you can concentrate on distant targets and fire with consistent accuracy? It's not easy. It requires focus, agility and a very steady hand.
We’ll teach you to handle a variety of weapons safely. Firing is always done lying on your stomach (the prone position) at static targets. Progress through the course and you'll experience different types of weapons and could even take part in shooting competitions if you really prove your skills.
Ranges come in different shapes and sizes but all are in controlled conditions with full training on any weapon that you handle - safety is our top priority. To start with you'll be firing at targets that are fairly close - around 25m away. As you advance through weapons and your skill builds, you will fire at targets 100m or more away.
Types of shooting
After you've familiarised yourself with your weapon and passed the WHT, the goal is to hit your target accurately and consistently. Sounds easy doesn't it? Try it for yourself and you'll understand why practice makes perfect. As a cadet shooter you'll be typically firing in one of four types of practice:
Grouping - You select a single point on the target and fire a number of rounds at it. The aim is for all rounds to form the smallest group possible. This is excellent for concentrating and perfecting your technique. There's no limit to how long you can take when firing.
Deliberate Fire - Firing at a target with marked scoring rings, your score is marked depending on how near to the centre of the target you manage to get. For this you use either a large, single target or a card with 5 or 10 separate targets marked on it. When firing at a card with multiple targets, you aim to place one or two rounds on each of them. Take as long as you need - the goal is accuracy.
Rapid Fire - Just like it sounds, speed is the thing here. Get the round within the target area, but within a time limit. For instance, you may need to fire 10 rounds in 40 seconds with a No.8 rifle – not too easy when you have to reload manually after each shot.
Snap Fire - Now it gets more challenging. For this you have to get all rounds to fall within a target area. But, the targets only appear for a short time before vanishing again. You must hit it before it disappears. By the end of the practice the target may have appeared - for perhaps 5 seconds - and disappeared up to 5 times. Just to make it even more difficult, it'll sometimes appear at random time intervals - so you can't anticipate it!
Do well on all of these and you may find you have a talent for marksmanship. Starting to feel competitive? Why not enter one of our shooting competitions?
If you're good, and we mean really good, then you could qualify to shoot with the best in the country at the Bisley and Pirbright competitions. There are several events for individuals and teams. The annual highlight is the Inter-Service Cadet Rifle Meeting (ISCRM), a target shooting competition where you get to compete against members of the ACF (Army Cadet Force) and SCC (Sea Cadet Corps).
All Air Cadets have the opportunity to take part in competitive target shooting and there are a number of other local, 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’s a top level competition for teams and individuals.
There are further competitive events available to you, including even a postal competition arranged by the RAF (Reserve Forces) Small Arms Association (RAF(RF)SAA). This enables those who are unable to travel to still compete with others throughout the country. Read more at
“Shooting was a great experience - I learned how to shoot accurately and now feel confident about doing so”