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Beginning driven shooting: the benefits of the BASC GSC1

The BASC GSC1 course for would-be game shots proves useful to Jim Old, but he can’t help but wonder what more experienced hands would make of it

Jim finds the range-estimation exercise very worthwhile for understanding his shooting limits

Let me conjure a little scenario for you. You’re on the peg on the maiden drive of your first shoot of the season. You’ve paid good money to be there. As you wait to start, you feel calm and quietly focused. You’ve done this 100 times before, after all. You acknowledge the Gun to your left with a nod. You don’t know him well but your paths have crossed on shoots before. Then you glance to your right, and you see me.

To you, I’m an unknown quantity. As we boarded the Gun bus, you heard me telling someone that this was my first shoot. Looking at me now, it’s obvious. It’s in my recently purchased wardrobe and my demeanour. I’m excited and nervous, and working hard to appear relaxed.

You start to worry about me. Do I have a clue what I’m doing? Can I be trusted with a shotgun? Will I be a danger to the beaters, the dogs, you? Will I be blasting low birds? Trying my luck with high birds? Or stealing yours? How will I behave on the peg? Will I whoop with delight every time a shot connects? Or stop mid-drive to answer my mobile? Will I post something unwise on social media when I get home? (Read more on shooting etiquette here.)

The gamekeeper walks briskly behind the line, whistle in mouth, ready to go. He sees you watching me anxiously and grins around his Acme Thunderer. “Don’t worry about him,” he says. “He’s been on the BASC GSC1 game shooter certificate course.”

BASC GSC1 training

Jim Old had been hopeful to shoot some simulated drives, but it’s a simple assessment instead


I felt a bit of a fraud as I turned up at the Southdown Gun Club in Sussex for the start of my two-day game shooter  BASC GSC1 experience. After all, I had no intention of attending a driven shoot; they’re far too expensive. Given how my wife reacted to the discovery that I’d quietly bought myself a second shotgun, I think she’d skin me alive if I dropped a grand or so on a day’s shooting. It’s certainly something I’d like to do, but it’s on the other side of a lottery win.

There were five of us on the course, being guided by two BASC trainers. The first day was entirely classroom-based and we started by running through everyone’s shooting experience. This was a surprise. Of the five, two revealed that they were already extremely experienced driven game shots. I eyed the pair suspiciously. They weren’t what I’d expected at all.

Our course leader was Richard Fussell, who I’d met on a previous BASC course. A former champion clay shot, he’s a font of shooting knowledge and great stories. He’s also endearingly obsessed with woodcock. He rattled through the course structure and then we got stuck in. (Read more on woodcock here.)

There was a lot to learn and absorb, but my concentration didn’t dip once throughout the whole day. In broad terms, the topics covered safety, firearms law, shotgun shooting, what to do before, during and on the day of the shoot, cartridges, taking the shot, gundogs, loaders and mentors, quarry identification and the law. There’d be a little exam at the end of day one, Richard said, to make sure we’d been paying attention.

BASC GSC1 training

The first day is spent learning theory in the classroom, while day two is at the clay range

Underlying agenda

As the day progressed, I formed impression that there was an underlying agenda. No one said it, but I detected a concern that standards are slipping among those who partake of driven shooting; perhaps not among those who’ve been shooting since childhood, but rather those like me who were coming to it later in life.

Helping out on the course was Nick Lane, head of training development at BASC. I asked him why they’d decided to introduce the GSC1. “It had been talked about for a few years prior to its eventual move from the drawing board to a deliverable course,” he said. “The main driver for me was that not everyone has grown up around the sport. For adults who are new to game shooting, there’s a lot they need to know about elements such as safety and etiquette, among other things.”

Certainly, safety and etiquette dominated most of the teaching and discussion. To me, a lot of this boiled down to simple common sense and basic good manners. I’ve met people who struggle with one or both of those things, and I imagine coming across them on a shoot would be disconcerting. While most agree that the sport has to welcome new blood, wherever it may come from, us newbies must also recognise that we have a responsibility to turn up on the day as well prepared as possible.

And that’s really where the BASC GSC1 course comes in — delivering recruits to the shooting line who are inexperienced but not clueless.

Richard imparted a vast amount of information on day one, dealing patiently with our questions and illustrating his points with well-chosen anecdotes. When I got home that evening, I typed out a solid three pages of notes. As I worked, I realised I’d become an enthusiastic convert to the idea of driven shooting. The instruction had covered everything from high-end (and expensive) formal days on pheasants, partridge and grouse, and had moved on to smaller days, either walked-up or informal, small-bag affairs. These sounded more my thing. Perhaps there was a way, after all?

The course is aimed at adults who are new to shooting, to teach important aspects such as safety and etiquette on a driven day

Shooting element

We’d been told that day two would involve a shooting element (the reason the course was held at a clay range), so we arrived the next day toting our shotguns. We were slightly disappointed to discover that this simply involved BASC’s Safe Shot assessment, the same thing you can do in 20 minutes at game fairs and the like. Anyone who’d read the course summary on BASC’s website would have known this was the case, but I think a few of us (myself included) had expected we’d be shooting some simulated drives.

I appreciate this would be tricky to organise with just two trainers, but it would have been helpful to put some of what we’d learned the previous day into practice. However, while we were outside, there was a useful range-estimation exercise, aimed at helping us new boys understand our shooting limits and thus saving the gamebird community from further pricking and pillowcasing.

As we walked back to the classroom, I took a moment to ask the two experienced Shots why they’d signed up for a course primarily aimed at the uninitiated. One replied that he’d come along mostly out of curiosity, the other said that he simply wanted the certificate. Both agreed they’d got more out of the experience than they’d expected.

A couple of weeks later, my own BASC GSC1 certificate arrived in the post. I can’t imagine I’d turn up at a shoot waving it about, and I can’t shake the feeling that a highly experienced Gun, who’s been shooting since he was a foetus, might find the whole idea somewhat ridiculous. But if my lottery numbers cooperate, you might find me standing beside you on a drive next season. And it’s better to know I have a little knowledge, rather than none, don’t you think?