Britain’s Civilian Service Rifle Matches

Civilian Service Rifle (CSR) matches are to the United Kingdom what CMP Service High Power matches are to the United States. Matches are held from 500 meters to 100 meters and consist of what the British shooting community calls “Full Bore”, designating anything larger than .22 LR rimfire. There are numerous divisions within the matches, for historical rifles, bipod mounted, non-bipod, etc… However the largest difference in actual firearms is that the CSR shooters are limited by the UK’s laws when it comes to the operation of the rifles. All rifles in the U.K. have to be manually charged for every shot. Most interestingly, this is done very effectively with ARs, using a sort of reciprocating charger drilled and tapped into the bolt.

Targets for CSR are actually silhouettes of German soldiers. The first one is an image of a running soldier, while the second one is simply an exposed head and chest. Both of these figures are essentially cardboard cut outs, instead of images against a paper background. So for all intents and purposes, shooters are looking at exactly what a human silhouette would look like at those ranges, instead of a large white square with an oversized silhouette. Targets are attached to poles and are held up by a single person in the pits. However, there aren’t any “Mover” sections where the people holding them up walk with the target and it has to be engaged while on the move. In addition, I believe that there are stationary target sets available in different matches, thus leaving very little to chance if for instance the target was accidentally moved or blown over while being displayed above the berm.

What I think truly sets the CSR matches apart from their CMP equivalent is the integration of running the yard lines. When I first watched a CSR match online, I almost jolted in my seat when I saw the entire firing line literally jump up from the prone at the command of an RO, sprint with rifle and equipment, and proceed to get in the prone on the next yard line, continuing the course of fire. At first I was quite baffled by the bizarre exercise. But then it came to me as a brilliant idea.P and Service Rifle matches initially started out as a way to maintain marksmanship proficiency with the military’s service rifles. However, it has evolved into a target sport all on its own, baring absolutely very little resemblance to the combat it was designed to prepare Soldiers and Marines for. IDPA, 3 Gun, PRS, have really filled that gap between target shooting, and preparing for a defensive mindset (although there are many interpretations and reasons as to why shooters participate).

Running between yard lines challenges shooters to be physically fit, in addition to exerting mental stress on a shooter, while catching their breath in running to the next yard line, while still requiring them to shoot as good as they can. Even in the Marines, probably the only running between yard lines is in Scout Sniper platoons, and the Recon/SF component. Within the infantry, yard lines aren’t ran while on qualification ranges, they are walked. Of course, there is an argument to be made that a shooting qualification should be a test of shooting ability, and not physical ability. But if the point of the competition is to test for shooting ability in combat, then how is attempting to replicate the physical rigors of combat in some minute way realistic at all?

The “Fullbore” rifles used in the CSR matches fall under a separate designation than shotguns and .22 LR rifles in the UK. This is because they are either bolt action or straight pull in some manner. Even the AR15s in use, which are by far the most popular rifle on the range at Bisley, have been modified before sale in the UK for use in CSR matches. Essentially the majority of them require the shooter to manually load a round for every shot taken, even if in an AR platform. On that note, it is illegal to bring into the country a barrel that has a gas port drilled into it, or any semblance of a gas system.The bolt action rifles of course are bolt action, and don’t require any further changes to the action. Similar to many of the legal hoops that we jump across in the United States, there is a company called Southern Gun Company that produces an AR15 that locks the bolt to the rear after every shot. A lever exists where the shooter’s right thumb rests, and to send the bolt home, the lever is pressed and the bolt is released, chambered the next cartridge. The rifle does have a gas port, but because of the bolt lock back feature, it skirts around the laws in place.

Callum from the Youtube channel English Shooting, very smartly pointed out to me, that such rifles are theoretically legal within the restricted states in the U.S. And indeed, what a brilliant idea, if someone were to sell such a modified rifle in California. It has the ability to take flash hiders, pistol grips, magazines, etc… And it almost matches the rate of fire of an actual semi-automatic AR15 as well.

If you are interested, I had a very informative and candid conversation with a British rifle shooter while I was in London. Mason really broke down some of the laws, and various practices within the UK, to include Fullbore shooting and CSR matches.





Miles

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv


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  • “The “Fullbore” rifles used in the CSR matches fall under a separate designation than shotguns and .22 LR rifles in the UK. ”

    Actually, they fall under the same designation as .22 lr rifles (“Section 1”, which includes all legal rifled long arms and some shotguns). Most shotguns are “Section 2” and have looser licensing requirements, unless they’re too short or are a pump or semi holding more than 2+1.

  • Andrew

    Poor bastards.

    • RavishedBoy

      It seems that stupid laws are everywhere.
      California, you are not alone. Save the United Kommiedom!

      • Tyler John Richards

        Dont forget us up here in Canuckistan

    • Tom

      GB is a great example of what happens when you give ground to the antis, first they come for the semi auto rifles, then the full bore pistols, then the rimfire pistols.

      Sadly for UK firearms owners (who are generally a very law abiding lot) they do not have the same sort of political clout as in the US so there was really no chance of fighting the ban.

  • Richard

    Ironically, they’re better off than Australians – who can’t own any kind of firearm, including an air rifle, that looks like an AR-15 or other ‘military style’ firearm.

    • Dave

      We can own AR-15 and military style looking firearms in Australia.
      Warwick Firearms makes the WFA-1 straight pull AR looking rifle which most some states allow you to own. it depends on which state you are in. I own an AIAX rifle with no problems and thats military looking. We can also get silencers now for sport shooting (also dependent on which state you are in). Plus we can own handguns (limited to 10 rounds) whereas in the UK you can’t own a handgun period. the rules aren’t great but its not all bad.

      • Lee M Attinger

        What exactly classifies a rifle as being “military style” in Australia? Is it basically any magazine fed, semi-automatic rifle?

        • Tassiebush

          In an Australian context it would mean something different depending on each person you speak to but might often mean something like an ar15. In my state Tasmania the firearm branch has difficulty with pistol grip stocks, skeletonized stocks. Some adjustable stocks, barrel shrouds and in some cases protruding magazine housings. Basically if a gun has those features it’s registration becomes a matter of getting their approval. If it’s just a conventional looking rifle with a detachable mag (15max for centrefires Bolt action, 10max for pump or levergun) it’s not contentious. Semi auto centrefire is only an option for professional shooters. Semi auto rimfire and shotguns are only for primary producers. Mag limits apply.

        • Dave

          Tassiebush is correct. in NSW you cannot own a rifle with a folding or telescoping stock but can look as military as you want it to.
          in SA I know you can own and buy a 30 round rifle mag but can’t import them. The laws are differ in every state greatly and most of the time contradict each other. in WA you have anything that looks remotely military and its a no. Some states also have calibre restrictions too

          • Lee M Attinger

            No folding or telescoping stocks? How does that make the weapon any less dangerous in the eyes of the law? Wait, dumb question. lol.

          • Dave

            Apparently a bolt action rifle with a 26″ barrel and a folding stock is concealable in the eyes of the police. I had to get my AIAX stock pinned so it wouldn’t fold to make it legal and register-able

          • FulMetlJakit

            As one from a “free” state (MI – although suppressors statewide and rifles, in the lower half(ish) of the lower peninsula, are still banned for hunting) all these “foreign” limitations (looking @ you Kalifornia) are fascinating and infuriating.
            The ingenuity of POTG to work around miserable laws is ingenious and inexhaustible though.
            Thank you all for your knowledge and god’s speed and patience to make them sensible again.

      • The Forty ‘Twa

        “whereas in the UK you can’t own a handgun period”

        I have a handgun on my firearms certificate, news to me…

        • Dave

          As far as I am aware I thought you guys were only allowed target type pistols like the Hammerli and such. should of made my statement more clear. If I am wrong consider me corrected. UK gun laws do fascinate me though. please elaborate if you can

          • The Forty ‘Twa

            I now have a handgun on my certificate for humane dispatch.

            Handguns can still be held in Northern Ireland as well.

          • Peter Radcliffe

            The ban was not for “handguns” (we call them pistols). The ban was on short firearms that are not muzzle loading. There are long barrelled pistols and revolvers that are legal, there are plenty of nitro conversions of muzzle loading pistols around.

            The general population cannot have modern cartridge short pistols in their normal form. The British Olympic team have special section 5 licenses for their target pistols and then there are all the pistols that are artificially made long enough to get around the short firearms ban and the muzzle loaders.

          • Patrick Duffy

            I had to hand in my S&W 686 .357 magnum and my Browning HiPower. Got about half the value I have to pay used in the USA.

      • Tassiebush

        How do you find your WFA-1?
        It’s probably not an option for me going on the current thrust of police here but who knows whether they might moderate their position.

        • Dave

          It’s pretty well made. personally i would never pay retail for it (got a good deal at LGS) pretty much behaves the same way as the CSR rifles in the videos above. Only pain in the ass is that most the parts are proprietary.

    • Tassiebush

      Depends on the state. My state Tasmania has been relaxed about it until about the last 12months and now our stupid firearms branch seem to have trouble understanding that tube gun or something like the ruger precision rifle isn’t being made that way just to look like a semi auto. Not all other states have the same issue but unfortunately between our police minister and the new head of firearm services there’s a serious lack of understanding that features have practical applications.

      • iksnilol

        Tube gun?

    • Alex Agius

      WAY better than oz, as semi and pump shotguns are fine in the uk (even vepr 12s are legal)

      • Dave

        We can still get semi and pump shotguns in Oz mate

        • Alex Agius

          In the same way that you can get hand guns in the UK. The average gun owner can easily own a pump action or semi auto shotgun in the UK, not so in Oz.

  • Brian Mc

    I am the shooter in the first pic (12″ barrel AR) and can confirm this is a fantastic sport. Yes we are restricted in terms of straight pull rather than semi auto but having used the latter in USA, I can say I am just as fast and more accurate with the former !

    • Lee M Attinger

      Well this is convenient. I was just looking at that picture trying to figure out what was mounted on the end of your rail. Laser?

      • Peter Radcliffe

        Lasers aren’t allowed in CSR. It’s a bipod attachment stud.

      • Brian Mc

        Its a spigot for the Phoenix Bipod which I market myself. It is mounted over the bore for a lower centre of gravity.

    • Tassiebush

      It certainly looked fun! So do they have a return spring? A bit similar to a browning maral?

      • Peter Radcliffe

        The only part removed is the gas blowback system. Slot milled into the side of the receiver and a handle bolted to the side of the bolt that moves along that slot. You pull the handle straight back and let go so the buffer spring returns the bolt forward. The handle is extended backwards so you can do it without moving out of position or off the target.

        • Tassiebush

          It certainly looked like an efficient motion!

        • younggun

          Very efficient but we can also be honest, it is not as efficient as a semi-auto. Even if there is minimal movement in the trigger hand, there is still movement which breaks your trigger control and thus requires you to get back on target, reacquire the trigger without slapping it, and then proceed the firing process all over again. While im sure with practice on can get very good at this method and could probably shoot circles around myself, that same person is always going to be faster with a semi unlike what the OP suggests.

          • Peter Radcliffe

            The point is moot, we can’t have centre fire semi-autos so we work with what we have.

          • Graham2

            There’s plenty of time to cycle the action and get back on target for the next accurate shot. Semi autos aren’t an option here anymore, so for us it’s irrelevant.

          • iksnilol

            Eh, still have to reaquire target even with a semi auto.

      • Graham2

        It’s an AR, so yes, it does have a return spring, in the butt.

        • Tassiebush

          Well I know they usually do but it paid to ask because the law may have forbidden it.

    • thedonn007

      Does anyone use a pump action upper? Also, I like seeing so many suppressors

      • Graham2

        Pump action rifles are only allowed in 22 rimfire, otherwise pump action ARs would be used by some I’m sure.

        • Peter Radcliffe

          There’s nothing I’m aware of in law banning pump action rifles larger than .22LR. I’m not aware of anyone making one here, though. It would be just another non-semi-auto action like lever action, lever release, etc.

          • Graham2

            They were banned in 1988, along with semi autos! When did you last see anyone in the UK shooting a pump action centrefire rifle?

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            I saw a pump AR ad for the UK only a couple of years ago.

          • Graham2

            You can’t have done, there would be no point anyone advertising something for sale that is not allowed in the UK. It would be like someone taking out an advert for 9mm Glocks or SIGs.

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            It was Troy, so it would have been US market for CA and such, not the UK.

      • Brian Mc

        No – pump action in fullbore is not allowed. Suppressors ( more commonly known here as sound moderators ) are easy to get – they are also used extensively by hunters and varminters here.

        • Sledgecrowbar

          Is barrel length limited by any law? I know in Europe suppressors and barrel lengths are not limited by any legislation because they weren’t considered criminal-related items at any point. In the US, sawed-off barrels were the mark of gangsters, thugs, and bank robbers looking to conceal rifles and sub machine guns under a coat during the Great Depression, and no lawmaker ever repealed the laws after that.

          • Peter Radcliffe

            The short firearms ban limited barrels to at least 12″ long and overall firearm length to at least 24″ long.

    • Patrick Duffy

      Hi as a Brit living in the USA I have a Mossberg Scout 308 – a bolt action rifle. If I return to the UK will it be legal then? I used have a Firearms license until 2000 when we had to hand pistols in. I had to sell my rifles for peanuts before coming here as I could not get the US Embassy to give me the forms. Should have just chucked them in the container!

      • Peter Radcliffe

        If it meets general section 1 firearms restrictions (at least 12″ barrel, overall length more than 24″) then bolt action rifles are perfectly legal when listed on an FAC.

    • CavScout

      Nope, unless you mean when shooting a certain way, with a gun that costs $5k+ vs a semi-auto AR that costs $1k here. Don’t lie to yourself…

  • Bradders

    Who is this Mason and what does he know about CSR?
    I’ve shot every CSR match since 1998 (except for five) and have never seen nor heard of him

    • iksnilol

      Do you know every shooter at CSR matches?

      • Bradders

        Yes I do. I am one of the main organizers and build the majority of the rifles used

        • iksnilol

          The plot thickens it seems.

          Are these comps organized at different places? Maybe different classes in the matches?

          • Bradders

            There’s a few different venues, but I still know who’s who

          • Pete – TFB Writer

            Paging Miles. He’ll be along with more info.

          • Graham2

            Still waiting!
            Come on Miles, tell us all about shooting CSR.

        • Peter Radcliffe

          My rifle, in the third pic, is one of Bradder’s and a fine rifle it is too 🙂

  • Data Venia

    No experience here but “run to your next firing position and kiss the ground” seems at least as practical as the modern games.

  • The_Champ

    Regarding running between firing lines. In the Canadian Forces there are different levels of the Personal Weapons Test(PWT). PWT-1 is the first, basic test, firing groups at 100m from various positions(standing, sitting, kneeling, prone). PWT-2 has various courses of fire, with timed exposure of the targets, some at 200 meters.

    PWT-3 is the next level up, and I believe only infantry are required to shoot it, although many other trades get a chance to shoot it. Part of the test is a ‘run-down’ where shooters start delivering rounds at 400m, run to 300m, then 200m, 100m, etc. Ends with several courses of fire inside 100m including several bursts on full auto at 25 meters.

    So running between firing lines is nothing new in the Canadian Forces. At the very least it gets shooters heart rate up a bit.

  • Ivan Vorpatril

    Well, this is what we’re going to be left with, probably, in Califronia when our legislature decides to just ban all semi-auto rifles in the next year or so. Oh well.

  • Pilum57

    As I recall there are a few places in the “UK” where you can still own semi auto rifles and pistols unless the laws have changed recently. The Isle of Man is one along with Guernsey and Jersey Isles I believe. The reason for this is that they are not actually part of the UK but are direct fiefdoms of HM and are not subject to the laws of Parliament but to the crown’s appointed Governor. I think there might be a few other weirdo places like that, in/around the UK, but what they are is escaping me presently.

  • .45

    Hmmmm… Those scopes look big and honkin’, what magnification do they have I wonder?

  • Bubba Ham

    This Mason guys has not really got a clue about any shooting outside of what he did at his private school. He has never shot anything other than Target Rifle with the cadets, so anything he says about anything else is rubbish.

  • nick

    Targets are, I would think, the same as we use here in Canada on our ranges, Figure 11’s, otherwise know as “Herman the German, or “Tommy the Commie”
    🙂

  • Bubba Ham

    Whats the best rifle out there for this type of stuff? I’d ask mason but I doubt he’ll know.

  • tCotUS

    It’s nice seeing the queens subjects being “allowed” to shoot at all. But obviously under strict Government Supervision & it’s extremely expensive….Meaning, very few can afford to shoot…
    When the final stage arrived in 1997, and virtually all handguns were banned via the Firearms Act, the promise was a reduction in crime and greater safety for the British people.
    But the result was the emergence of Britain as the “most violent country in Europe.”

    • Graham2

      It’s a shame that you don’t know what you’re talking about! Shooting in the UK is not ‘under strict Government Supervision’! Where did you get that weird idea from? When I go to the farm to control vermin or down to Bisley, there’s nobody from the Government looking over my shoulder!

      Who said it’s extremely expensive? I’ve never met anyone who’s said that they’d love to take up shooting but can’t afford it. Most people that I know who shoot have normal jobs with average sorts of incomes and they all manage to buy what they want, when they want it. We do get stung for some things, due to import duty and VAT etc. but we just got on with our hobby the best we can. However, we don’t get screwed over when we buy silencers/ suppressors either and don’t have to pay $200 just to be able to buy one.

      Britain is not the ‘most violent country in Europe’, it’s just that even the mildest incident can be recorded as violent. If the UK compiled statistics like it used to, we would not appear very violent at all. In 2015, the police discharged firearms 7 times! Not 70, or 700, or 7000- just 7!

  • Graham2

    I’m not a twit, I just live in the UK and know what I’m talking about. I don’t need anyone to tell me about UK gun laws thank you, whether typed slow or fast.

    Just because idiot politicians said that gun crime would be reduced by, as they said, ‘getting the guns off the streets’ it doesn’t mean that it was ever going to happen! The handguns legally owned in the UK were very rarely used in crime, so they have never really added to gun crime statistics here. Gun crime is usually carried out by gang members, targeting members of other gangs- it’s the same with knife crime.

    Also, an airgun or BB gun that is used in a crime, or even just used in a public place, adds to the overall gun crime statistics. I should know, as I have regular meetings with the Metropolitan Police regarding this subject and i’m up there next week in fact. I am trying to implement an airgun awareness campaigning to address this problem. The majority of ‘gun crimes’ are actually carried out by non-cartridge firing guns but they distort the overall figures, therefore making ‘gun crime’ seem more common than it is.

    Violent crime statistics in the UK appear high, I will grant you, but that is because of the way crimes are recorded. An altercation that does’t even come to blows is often recorded as a violent crime. It’s stupid but that’s the way it is.

    Most people who apply for an FAC are successful and what’s wrong with keeping guns secure? A £150 cabinet is money well spent, if it’s a requirement or not. Very few people would want to carry a gun for self defence, or even have on handy in the house, as the threat just isn’t there.

    Of course things like ARs are cheaper in the States, there are hundreds of companies making them and components are made locally and don’t have to be imported.

    England is a very nice, safe place to live, no matter what the twats at the Daily Mail would have people believe.