Big Bore shooting could have become India’s success story in the era post the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The government spent crores of rupees to build a sparkling new range to host the event on the outskirts of Gurgaon, splurged much more to organise coaching camps and bring in costly equipment and ammunition to train the home team shooters.
But with the curtain coming down on the Commonwealth Games, the sport, which has huge potential of earning medals at the international level, seems to have been conveniently forgotten. So much so that it is now only the preserve of the elite who want to own big guns and just want to shoot for recreation, or for a few die-hard shooters who want to keep themselves match-ready just in case the National Rifle Association of India has a change of heart and organises the national championship.
The Mhow shooting range had become synonymous with big bore shooting and hosted several national championships but it’s been four years since the NRAI organised the event in the category, though rifle, pistol and shotgun shooting are part of every curriculum during the nationals.
The last national championship for big bore was held in 2019 and since then, despite several pleas from the shooters to restart the competition, precious little has been done on the front. Several shooters who made substantial investment in big bore rifles and ammunition, have been out of competition.
In fact during the recent ISSF World Championship in Baku, Azerbaijan, India were lying in second position on the medals table until the big bore events started. With India not sending a single big bore shooter in its 53-strong contingent, they conceded a huge advantage to the other countries competing in the global event.
The end result: India slipped to third position on the medals table.
Big bore has always been associated with glamour in India with Bollywood celebrities like Salman Khan and Nana Patekar patronising the sport by taking part in the nationals. In fact, Patekar was a regular at the national championships.
Things were looking up for the sport when a massive big bore shooting facility came up in Kadarpur near Gurgaon at a cost of Rs 25 crore for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and huge sums were also spent on the Nicholson Range in Delhi for the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in 1995.
Sadly, both ranges have hardly ever been used once the purpose of organising the two competitions was served. Interestingly, between 1995 (Nicholson Range) and 2010 CWG (Kadarpur Range), there was no participation by an Indian big bore team at an international competition.
The story goes that the Kadarpur Range was built especially at the insistence of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), who said it was a mandatory event from the viewpoint of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and New Delhi, being the host city, had to make it part of the CWG curriculum.
But the same CGF could not take a stand when the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games organisers threw shooting sport out of their curriculum. While this double standard will hurt Indian shooters for decades to come, what our country can do is to make the big bore shooters feel wanted once again by re-starting the nationals in the event.
Just like the other ‘memorial’ shooting competitions organised by the NRAI, it would be great to have one in the name of Army man Fateh Singh, who sacrificed his life fighting terrorists at the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016.
Fateh Singh was a legendary big bore shooter and had won gold in the 300m rifle three positions and silver in 300m rifle prone during the inaugural Commonwealth Shooting Championship in 1995.