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Still going full bore after 40 years

Veteran John McLaren topped the leaderboard at Wairarapa’s open rifle championships for the eleventh time in his competitive career last Sunday – a good start to a year that will soon see him flying to South Africa to compete as part of the national team.

Seventeen competitors took to Masterton Rifle Club’s new range at Longridge Rd in Wainuioru, shooting over 800, 900 and 1000 yards.

McLaren, who shoots with a large 7.62 calibre full-bore rifle and has competed for over 40 years, faced variable conditions to take the top spot.

“It was fairly still for the first range [800 yards]. Conditions became a little bit trickier for the second range of 900 yards and at 1000 yards, the wind got up. And then on Sunday afternoon, it got colder and darker as the rain threatened, so it was quite tricky at 1000 yards.”

It didn’t stop McLaren, who’s in his mid-70s, from securing a total score of 148/150, including 14 centrals [hitting the inner bull’s eye on the target], three of which were at 1000 yards.

Competing in the World Long Range Championships, which start in March, will be far from a novelty for McLaren.

He’s been part of the New Zealand team since 1979, an achievement that has taken him to competitions in England [19 times], Canada, America, and Australia, and bagged him one silver and five bronze medals.

A gold medal remains elusive for the national long-range team, and McLaren expects stiff competition this time around: “We’ll be very lucky” to bring home silverware, he said.

Factors that influence shooting performance include the range’s terrain and elevation, and atmospheric features such as wind speed, temperature, and humidity.

“It does vary. In South Africa, we might be 3000 feet; in America, we were at 6000 feet. It affects the flight of the bullet, the speed of the bullet,” McLaren said.

“This range in South Africa is going to be wide open. You just have to adapt.”

The 16-strong team – which includes an under-25s contingent – will compete in individual matches, with a two-day team event scheduled for the final days of the event that starts in the South African judicial capital, Bloemfontein, on March 07.

McLaren’s long and successful rifle shooting career owes a great deal to his passion for the sport, which he mastered alongside running his busy Masterton veterinary practice, The Animal Hospital, and raising three children with his wife, Jan.

“If you’re mad enough and have got passion enough, you make time”, he said.

“I would practice just inside using a spot on the wall. It’s a matter of perfecting the technique to shoot, and once you do that and you start competing, then it’s just in your blood. Your desire is such that you make time.”

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