The New Zealand Deerstalkers Association is one of the organisations that helps shooters and hunters in this country by providing facilities, as well as speaking up for us collectively when there are political issues that may affect our sport. With branches all over New Zealand and a culture that is inviting, it’s always worth checking out your local branch to see if membership is for you. However, if you’re just after a casual shoot or you need to sight in your rifle or test your reloads, the Auckland branch has a fantastic range you can access most weekends.
Access to the Auckland NZDA Range
The Auckland Deerstalkers Range is located in a working forest, and is accessible only at certain times during the day. This makes it essential to check the range calendar to find out when general practices are on, and what time the gates will be open. If there’s an organised shoot on, you will be turned away – so save yourself the hassle by checking the NZDA website or getting in touch with them.
There is a morning session and an afternoon session. I would recommend aiming for the afternoon timeslot, as there are generally fewer people around, which means more shooting for you. It’s still a busy range though, and safety is the number one priority. There are a few range officers on at any given time, and they are give you very clear instructions.
Shooting at the Auckland NZDA range
Shooting at this range is a real pleasure and is ideal for sighting in or testing reloads. There are a row of benches to shoot from, with plenty of room to store your gear. There are also gun racks behind the shooting line if you have more than one rifle. If you want to shoot prone, sitting, kneeling or standing, you can shift your bench over a bit and go for it.
Because the range is located in a working forest, there is no smoking at all – so keep that in mind if you’re fiending for a smoke after a couple hours, because there are controlled entry and exit times and you’ll just have to hack it. This also means no tracer rounds, and obviously no incendiary rounds or anything crazy like that. The backstop for the targets is a pile of old tires – about 14 tonnes of rubber – so setting that alight would probably be a bit of a problem…
The shoot is quite organised, with a detailed safety briefing beforehand. There are 25, 50 and 100 metre ranges that run at the same time. The 50 and 100 metre targets are shot off the same mounds, while the 25 metre range is separate. There is also a 200 metre mound, but when this is in operation all of the other ranges have to be shut down as it is behind them.
Shooting is done in ten-minute sets. You set up your targets, get ready and when everyone has their ears on, the range is ‘live’. You then have ten minutes to do your damnedest, after which ceasefire will be called. At this point everyone makes their firearms safe and steps away from the benches. The ROs check the rifles and when everything is deemed clear, shooters can go forward to assess and patch their targets. There are targets available for 50 cents each if you don’t have your own, and there are generally staple guns floating around. Try and take your own stapler if you can. For anyone intending on spending a decent amount of time at the range, a staple gun is a good investment. I use duct tape when I don’t have one on hand, but it’s not nearly as quick.
The afternoon (or morning) continues in ten minute increments until time is up – which seems to be much sooner than you want, but hey – time flies when you’re having fun.
The cost and experience
The NZDA range is located about 25 mins outside of Auckland city, and it took me just over 40 mins from East Auckland. The cost is $20 per shooter – a very reasonable sum. Bear in mind, this is not an organised club shoot, but rather an open practice day. Don’t turn up without a rifle expecting to shoot. If you don’t have your own firearms and would like to give shooting a go, you can get in touch with the NZDA via their website and arrange attendance at a club shoot. Otherwise, there are plenty of clubs in Auckland where you can give shooting a go. If you’ve never fired a rifle before, try starting off with smallbore first to get your bearings.
The range officers at the NZDA are friendly and knowledgeable, and very safety conscious. All of this adds up to a good shooting experience in my books, and I would recommend this range to anyone looking for a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The shooting mounds are covered, so weather isn’t a huge factor. If it is pouring with rain, your targets will be worse for wear. The rest of the facility is outdoors though, so unless you are shooting or on the benches behind the shooters, you’ll probably have to sit in your car to stay out of the weather. While it doesn’t have all of the trappings of an indoor range (like plumbing or coffee facilities), it’s certainly a good way to enjoy shooting.
If you’d like to tell us about your experience at the NZDA Auckland Branch range, or would like to find out about other shooting facilities in Auckland, leave a comment below.