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.


    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.

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