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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

Advanced Rifle Handling Training: My Experience at Bushwise

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

This blog about advanced rifle handling was written by Charlotte Nicolson, Bushwise Professional Field Guide student.

After a demanding third semester filled with the nerves of our final practical drive, I thought it would all be downhill from here. That thought instantly disappeared with the first sound of a rifle. 

From Theory to Practice: Learning the Basics of Rifle Handling


A student readies to put cartridges into a rifle while doing advanced rifle handling training at the Bushwise campus.

This week was Advanced Rifle Handling training or ARH. Before the course started, whenever someone from home asked about my course, I would slip into the conversation that I was going to be doing advanced rifle training . Needless to say, when the week finally arrived, I was super excited! We studied for our theory test during our off week. On our second day back at campus, we headed off to Tzaneen to get our basic rifle handling certificate – which allows us to then begin our advanced rifle handling on campus. 

It’s April now in Limpopo which means the temperature is dropping, and this year is particularly cold. On our drives to Tzaneen, I wore three jerseys, a beanie, a scarf and I even climbed into my bright blue sleeping bag and zipped it all the way up so that it covered my head. Each day we stopped off at Mugg & Bean where some of us got coffee or hot chocolate – by far my favourite part of the morning. Just when my fingers can’t bend anymore and I think they have frozen, a hot chocolate in one hand and a bit of a biscuit in the other seems to solve my problems. 

After the theory tests, we started with the .22, which is similar to a pellet gun. Even so, when I picked it up for the first time, my hands were shaking. We shot ten bullets with the .22 and then moved to the .223. This time there was a bit of a bang, but it felt good to take the first baby steps.

A Different Kind of Range: Bushwise ARH Training

Some of the Bushwise rifles used for advanced rifle handling and training placed next to each other for proper cleaning before use.

On Thursday, we started with our proper Bushwise ARH training. The Bushwise range works a bit differently to the indoor range at Tzaneen, and looks a bit different too. 

As camp manager I had to make sure we had everything we needed to set up. This was done by filling the Cruiser with targets, boxes, gazebos, poles and lots of other things – I didn’t know how they would all fit in until they did. We drove the cruiser to the top of the campus where we set up. I also had to make sure there were hot boxes prepared each day with tea and coffee. 

We started off with dry handlining the rifles to practice loading and unloading, getting our stance right and working towards doing it all with some speed without having any actual live ammunition inside. By Friday, we were ready for some real action. 

A Bushwise student practicing advanced rifle handling under the supervision of one of the trainers.

The first time we loaded the .375 with live ammunition we had to shoot five shots onto a paper target, standing 12m away. We each had one of the trainers standing behind us in case the recoil knocked us off our feet and to make sure we were handling the rifle safely at all times. 

We started each day at 7:30am and ended the day around 5:00pm with a lunch break from 11–12:30. Each day was extremely tiring and yet extremely exciting. The adrenaline that runs through everyone when it was their turn to pick up the rifle and use it was very evident. At one point, I could hear my heart beating in my ear protection muffs and could feel my heart beating in my head. By the end of the week, we were all ready for a day off. 

My Camp Manager Week: Balancing Responsibilities and Learning

I loved my camp manager week, despite having to tell people to do their duties or clean up after themselves. It was a week full of being grateful that I chose this path, a week of laughing and a few tears but overall, I learned a lot and would do it over again if I could. 

Would you like to learn advanced rifle handling like Charlotte? Join the next Bushwise Professional Field Guide course and you will!

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