By Peter Moon
THUNDER BAY – A nine-member team of Canadian Rangers from Northern Ontario has competed against some of the best military marksmen in Canada and “performed well,” according to their team captain.
The team shot against top shooters from the Canadian Armed Forces, including other Canadian Rangers, as well as military teams from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in the two-week long Canadian Armed Forces Small Arms Concentration. The competition attracted 450 shooters and support staff and is held annually at the historic Connaught Ranges, near Ottawa. The Rangers competed using their .303-calibre, bolt action Lee-Enfield rifles.
“Considering four of our team were tyros (first-time competitors) they performed well,” said Sergeant Richard Mifflin, the team captain. “They performed well considering the limited time we had to prepare this year. They shot against Ranger teams from other parts of Canada who trained throughout the year, who had gun camps, and two to three weeks to train prior to competing.”
Unusually heavy operational demands meant the Northern Ontario Rangers had only three days to train together at Canadian Forces Base Borden before travelling to Ottawa. Suicide crises in two Northern Ontario communities – Wapekeke and Nibinamik – tied up a lot of Ranger manpower when Ranger teams went into both communities to help prevent children from killing themselves. While the Rangers were in the communities no suicides took place. The Rangers were also involved in a number of other major tasks during the summer.
All the Northern Ontario team members said their shooting improved as a result of the limited training and their competitive shooting. During the competition they shot at still, moving, and briefly visible targets at distances ranging from 25 metres to 500 metres. They shot within strict time limits while standing, kneeling, sitting, and lying prone on the ground. Sometimes, they had to run 100 metres to get from one shooting position to another.
A highlight of the competition for the Rangers was shooting at a new target consisting of a charging bear that was 25 metres from them. Called “Bear Attack,” it required the Rangers to fire five quick shots, replace their magazine, and shoot another five rounds.
“Shooting is one of the favourite things I like to do as a Ranger,” said Master Corporal Christopher Keesic of Moose Factory, a Cree community on James Bay. “It helps me as a hunter. Sometimes, when you shoot at the competition targets they are so small compared to a large animal like a moose. If you can hit something the size of a grapefruit 500 metres away there’s definitely not going to be any issue if you do shoot at a moose.”
He said he learned to shoot when his grandparents gave him an air rifle. “They didn’t teach me proper trigger pull, how to control my breathing, how to shoot from different positions, all things the army teaches you to make you a better shot.”
Sergeant Mifflin said competition shooting is more precise than the kind of shooting the Rangers are accustomed to when they are hunting. “It’s at longer distances than they are used to,” he said. “They wouldn’t engage a caribou or a moose at 500 metres. We teach them how to hold their rifle, proper breathing, and try to keep them shooting repetitively, because they have to fire 10 shots from the same position in a limited time, compared to one or two when they are hunting.
“They are good shooters at short range. But you could see them improving and gaining confidence as they shot more. They did well.”
Team members were Ranger Hondy Nadj Atlookan of Fort Hope, Ranger Leonard Beaver of Webequie, Master Corporal Christopher Keesic of Moose Factory, Rangers Amanda and Pamela Machimity of Mishkeegogamang, Ranger Craig Sainnawap of Kitchenuhmaykoosib, Ranger Brendan Sawanas of Sandy Lake, and Master Corporals Darren and Roland Shewaybick of Webequie.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)