Greatest Hits: Rockin’ the ‘Mad Minute’ with Gary Eliseo
We were talking with TubeGun builder Gary Eliseo recently, and the subject of his “Mad Minute” fun match came up. A while back, at our suggestion, Gary re-created the one-minute rapid fire marksmanship training drill done by British riflemen. Using a Competition Machine TubeGun, Gary managed 24 hits in 60 seconds on a 300-yard target. Gary told us that people often ask about his “Mad Minute” experience, so today we’re reprising the story (with video) for those guys who missed it the first time around. Forum member Laurie Holland, who hails from Great Britain, also contributes a brief history of the “Mad Minute” and the Lee-Enfield (SMLE) rifle.
Last year, the Top Shot TV show featured the “Mad Minute”, a high-speed drill requiring shooters to place as many hits as possible on a steel plate set at 200 yards. The time limit was one minute, and shooters were using historic Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles. Top Shot’s “Mad Minute” was based on a British Army training drill. Soldiers were expected to get at least 15 hits on an bullseye target at 300 yards. Top Shot cheated a bit, placing the target at 200 yards (instead of 300 in the real British Army “Mad Minute” drill). Still the two Top Shot shooters managed only six (6) shots each in one minute. Consider that a “passing score” for a Brit soldier was 15 hits, you have to give credit to those WWI-era Tommies.
Watch Gary Eliseo Shoot the ‘Mad Minute’ (Starts at 4:47 on Video)
Eliseo Gets 24 Hits on 300-yard Target in One Minute
Using an Eliseo RTM Tubegun chambered in .308 Winchester, Gary Eliseo attempted the “Mad Minute” last weekend. Gary ended up with 24 hits on a bull target set at 300 yards. That’s four times as many hits as the Top Shot competitors. Gary actually had 25 hits in 25 rounds fired, but the last round hit just after the 60-second time period expired. Note how Gary pulls the trigger with the middle finger of his right hand. This allows him to work the bolt faster, using his thumb and index finger. The straight-through (inline stock) design of the Tubegun allowed Gary to maintain his cheekweld and head position throughout the minute-long drill.
Gary told us: “This isn’t easy. I came away very impressed with the training of the Tommy soldiers if they could make 15 hits in one minute. We had some skilled shooters who brought their own Lee-Enfields and they only did as well as the guys on Top Shot — making six or seven hits in a minute. The problem is that, with the cock-on-close operation of the Lee-Enfield, the gun would push away when the shooter closed the bolt, so the shooter would lose his sight picture, and have to re-center the rifle. I am truly astounded that the record for the ‘Mad Minute’ is 38 shots. That is hard to do with an AR, much less any bolt gun.”
Gary Hopes to Beat the ‘Mad Minute’ Record in the Future
The record for the “Mad Minute” — 38 shots on target at 300 yards — was set in 1914 by Sergeant Instructor Alfred Snoxall*. In the subsequent 98 years, that record has never been broken by any shooter with a conventional bolt-action rifle. Gary told us: “As long as that record still stands, I’m going to keep working at it. I know I lost a few seconds with mag changes. I think with some additional training, I can increase my score. Still, 38 hits is phenomenal. I am very, very impressed at what that guy did — it’s really mind-boggling to do that with an Enfield. Contrary to what has been written, those old Enfields are not that easy to shoot fast. Our club shooters found that out.”
* There is some uncertainty concerning the size of the target used by Snoxall. Some internet reports say the target was 12″ x 12″. Other posts, from England, suggest the target was 36″ by 36″. If the target was a 12″-diameter bull, Snoxall’s achievement is even more amazing.
‘Mad Minute’ and British Marksmanship with the SMLE (Lee-Enfield)
The original military requirement of the ‘Mad Minute’ saw the soldier ready to fire with a round in the chamber, 9 in the magazine, safety on. This course of fire is still followed by the GB Historic Breechloading Arms Association and other bodies in their recreated ‘Mad Minute’ competitions.
The first 10 would go quickly, but reloads were critical, this not done by a magazine change as Gary did with the RTM or in a modern tactical or semi-auto rifle, but through slick use of ‘chargers’. It is this aspect which fouls so many of my colleagues up as it’s very easy to cause a jam and a large part of 60 seconds can go in sorting it out!
As well as the training Gary mentions and commends, there were pay incentives / penalties for certification or failure, and there were valuable monetary and kudos benefits in achieving very high hit counts in the 20 + range. Tommies could draw their rifles from the armory any time when off duty and spent hours in barracks practicing using inert rounds and dry firing. For instance, a common practice was to balance a halfpenny coin on the foresight blade between the sight protecting ears and take shot after shot prone on the barracks floor until the trigger was pressed and the ‘shot taken’ without the coin falling off its perch.
Charger clips were selected for those that just held the rounds firmly enough to stop then falling out, were sand-papered and polished with a stove / fireplace polish called ‘Zebrite’ so that the rimmed rounds would slip through the clips like corn through a goose.
If you’re unfamiliar with the cock-on-closing Enfield action, it seems clumsy. With intensive practice it is very smooth and can be operated incredibly quickly. The trick is to whip the bolt back onto its stop and initiate a rebound movement that takes it and the cartridge well into the chamber thereby reducing the effort required to close the bolt and chamber the round.
None of this is to detract from the skill many of these guys had and the fantastic results they got both in rate of fire and accuracy out to 500/600 yards. That came from long days of live firing at full distances — far more practice than I’ll warrant US doughboys got at that time. The result was when the small British Expeditionary Force acted a blocking force against two advancing German infantry corps in Belgium in the autumn of 1914. Kaiser Wilhelm predicted confidently that his highly trained ‘Landsers’ would sweep this ‘contemptible little army’ aside. Instead, the Germans advancing in the open at ranges they felt was safe from rifle fire ran into a wall of lead of such a rate and accuracy that regimental commanders explained their failure to advance and massive casualties through the British having far more automatic weapons than their intelligence had briefed. The British survivors of that period adopted the self-styled title of ‘Old Contemptibles’ as an ironic rebuke to Wilhelm, one still used today. By Christmas 1914 that small and highly professional British army had been destroyed through attrition and army rifle competitions aside never achieved those riflecraft standards again — but of course that’s what a machinegun is for and it was criminal that BEF battalions (600-1,000 men) went to war with an establishment of only two Vickers-Armstrong machine-guns — a fraction of that in the opposing German units.
- Gary Eliseo Runs ‘Mad Minute’ Drill with Modern Tubegun
- Scandinavian Bolt-Rifle Speed Shooting — Stangskyting
- New BAT Machine 3-Lug Actions for Eliseo Tubeguns
- Dual-Port Eliseo Tubeguns Now Available from CSS
- CSS (Gary Eliseo) Releases New Chassis for CG INCH Action