By Dave Anderson
Just returned from a month-long trip to New Zealand, my first (I hope not last!) visit to this beautiful country. I found time while sightseeing for some big game hunting, and to visit with handgun shooters. Pistol New Zealand is an umbrella organization for all forms of handgun competition. Currently there are nine shooting sections recognized, including ISSF (International and Olympic-style shooting), muzzle loading, IPSC, Speed (“Steel Challenge”), Action (NRA “Bianchi Cup”) and Cowboy Action.
Debbie Wakker is President of Pistol NZ, a member of the Auckland Pistol Club (APC) and an enthusiastic IPSC competitor. She kindly arranged for us to visit the club, meet members and get some photos. Debbie said of the various handgun disciplines, IPSC and Cowboy Action are currently the most popular. The Auckland club is beautifully situated among green hills and tall trees. There are several individual ranges, some of which are subdivided by concrete block walls. Due to limited space it is a handguns-only range so it cannot host 3-Gun or Cowboy Action matches.
New Zealand firearms regulations are kind of a mixed bag. For long guns, sporting rifles and shotguns, regulations are quite reasonable. It may come as a shock to American shooters but in some ways New Zealand long-gun regulations are less restrictive than those in the US.
There’s an initial portal US shooters don’t have to deal with. To purchase or own a firearm in New Zealand you must have a firearms license. Requirements include basic firearms safety training (comparable to our hunter-safety training), a criminal records background check, and having a secure location at your home to store firearms when not in use.
Once you have your firearms license it’s simply a matter of going to a gun store, showing a dealer your license, and purchasing as many long guns as you want and can afford. There’s no registration, no form 4473 or “bound book” records kept, no waiting period or police notification required. Private sales and trades are perfectly legal.
Back (L-R): Raymond O’Brien, Steve Welsh, Mark Leonidas, James Peters, Chris Gee.
Front (L-R): Debbie Wakker, Aleks Fajner, Victoria Pichler. Pichler won the Ladies
Classic at the Australian National Championships.
An “Open” full build type auto can easily start at US $5,000 due
to limited importation and it being a very long way from where
Short Barrels And Suppressors
There are no barrel length restrictions on long guns; the only requirement is the entire gun be at least 30″ overall. Suppressors are freely available with no more hassle than buying a new muffler for your vehicle. A suppressor suitable for .22 rifles is about $65, for a centerfire rifle maybe $200–$300, and the only paperwork the dealer needs to see is the money.
Having bought your new rifle (which can be any action type including semi-automatic) you can have the dealer shorten the barrel to, for example, 12″ and fit a suppressor. No government approval, permission or paperwork required.
“Military style” rifles and shotguns, which seem to include anything with a separate pistol grip, require an additional endorsement on your license, and these are registered. They can be used the same as regular hunting firearms and a dealer told me short-barreled, suppressed AR’s are increasingly popular hunting rifles.
International “Olympic-style” shooting is one of the disciplines practiced at
the Auckland Pistol Club. Ricky Zhao is practicing with his Morini single-shot
.22 LR on a 50-yard target — one of the toughest challenges of all handgun sports.
Forget open or concealed carry. Even the police don’t usually carry, much less private citizens. There’s no handgun hunting, which I think is unfortunate. For private citizens the only reasons for owning handguns are competitive shooting and collecting. They can be fired only on approved ranges, and transported only between your home and the range, in a locked container.
Handguns for competition must have at least 4″ barrels. Collectors can own smaller handguns such as snubbie revolvers or derringers, but owning them is all they can do — they can’t shoot them even on an approved range.
It takes time and training before a club can accept you as a member. Check out my Better Shooting column in this issue for details (see p. 34). Only then can your general firearms license be endorsed for handgun ownership. Another obstacle is cost. The population of New Zealand is fewer than 4.7 million. A small market, a long way from anywhere, means imported goods are expensive. A full-house open gun can cost US $4,800 or more. An S&W 41 retails at US $2,030 and an S&W M&P 9mm with Blade-Tech holster and mag carrier goes for US $1,030. Reloading tools, components, holsters and belts are likewise expensive.
On a positive note, those I met willing to go through the process and expense are dedicated and enthusiastic shooters. The best shooters are certainly world class, and the average level of skill is high. Overall, you won’t find better, safe, skilled gun handling anywhere, due to their excellent training program.
Here are more photos of Dave’s trip!
The Auckland Pistol Club currently has 400+ members, the most of any New Zealand
pistol club. The club accommodates a wide range of competitive handgun disciplines
ranging from Olympic/International style to speed and action shooting sports.
All the handgunners I met were enthusiastic about their sport. Kiwis are
competitive about darn near anything, including who has the coolest personalized
license plate. Left, Aleks Fajner; on right, Alex Zhao.
Alex Zhao with his personalized IPSC license plate.
Aleks Fajner uses the IPSC motto DVC (Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas, meaning
Accuracy, Power, Speed) as his vehicle’s license plate.
IPSC Grand Master shooter, Ramel Maligro. The “Goat Master” appellation
stems from a story, which you’ll have to get from Ramel.
A Kiwi who goes to the time and trouble to get a handgun license is likely
to be an enthusiastic shooter. Parking lot at Auckland club was nearly full
even though it was a rainy, cold day with no matches scheduled.
From left, Peter Miles, Range Committee; Debbie Wakker, President of
Pistol New Zealand; Ramel Milagro. Grand Master level IPSC shooter. Of the
nine handgun shooting disciplines currently practiced in New Zealand, IPSC
and Cowboy Action are the most popular.
Open Division pistol of Ramel Maligro. STI in .38 Super Comp. The C-More
sight is mounted on the slide, mounted sideways so the red dot is about as
far above the bore as iron sights would be. Ramel also competes in iron-sight
divisions and wanted the sight line above bore to be the same. Holster is the
Guga Ribas Speed Option, designed with input from legendary holster designer
IPSC is not the only shooting sport with exotic, purpose-built handguns.
Ricky Zhao’s Morini free pistol (meaning free of restrictions) is made for
the extremely difficult international slow fire event, fired offhand
(with one hand) at 50 yards. Triggers on free pistols are so light they
are measured in grams.
International “Olympic style” shooting is one of the disciplines practiced
at the Auckland Pistol Club. Ricky Zhao is practicing with his Morini single-shot
.22LR on a 50-yard target – one of the toughest challenges of all handgun sports.
An intermediate class at the Auckland Pistol Club. L-R, Darren Burton,
Jacky Wang, instructor Steve Welsh, Peter Newberry, Jiawen Liu.
Pistol NZ president Debbie Wakker shooting her SV .38 Super Open division
pistol with C-More sight. American-made equipment is highly regarded among Kiwi
competitors. In addition to guns and related gear, Dillon loading machines are
Ramel Milagro is one of the top NZ competitors. Note the World Shoot logo;
Ramel and about a dozen other Kiwi competitors made the long and expensive trip
to Florida to compete in the 2014 World Shoot and were impressed with the
meticulous organization, spectacular opening ceremonies and the high quality
of the shooting.
(Ramel Milagro) and Photo 32 (James Peters): Ramel and James are two of
the top shooters in the Auckland Pistol Club IPSC discipline. There are textbook
examples of a smooth and safe presentation from the holster. Note the pistol is
pointing safely downrange, but the safety remains engaged and trigger finger is
out of trigger guard. At no time does the muzzle cross the body or the support
hand. In a fraction of a second the two hand grip will be acquired; only with
the pistol under full control, muzzle downrange and sights coming on target
will the safety be released and trigger finger move onto the trigger.
Aleks Fajner competes in other IPSC divisions as well, but particularly
enjoys Revolver division. S&W .45 ACP has been tuned to a very smooth, near
six-pound DA pull.
Pistol NZ president Debbie Wakker competes in IPSC Open Division. Shooting
gear is the same as could be seen at most USPSA Open matches; .38 Super SV pistol,
C-More sight, Ghost holster.
Victoria Pichler recently won the Ladies Classic Division title at the Australian
National Championships using this Kimber 1911 in .38 Super. One reason she chose
Classic division was Australia’s strict magazine capacity regulations. Apparently
it isn’t enough to block your high-caps to ten rounds; the magazines must be
factory-original ten round capacity.
Another American-made pistol, this one an STI used by Chris Gee. Chris uses
the popular RaceMaster holster from Double Alpha Academy
James Peters uses a ParaOrdnance .45. This is one of the earlier Canadian-made
pistols, prior to ParaOrdnance moving production to the U.S. RaceMaster holster
from Double Alpha Academy.
Production Division is very popular with New Zealand IPSC competitors, at
least in part due to cost. CZ pistols are highly regarded, as are XCalibur pistols.
Mark Leonidas competes using this CZ-75.
Steve Welsh competes using this Dan Wesson in .45 ACP. American-made handguns
are highly regarded, even though current currency exchange rates make them very
expensive for New Zealanders.
Raymond O’Brien competes in Classic division using a Kimber .38 Super and
generously allowed me to shoot it. Our sightseeing tour of New Zealand meant it
had been some three weeks since I last fired a handgun (unheard of!). It was a
joy to have a pistol in my hands again!
Aleks Fajner gear for Revolver division, S&W Performance Center .45 ACP
using moon clips, Hogue Monogrip. Aleks kindly allowed me to shoot his revolver;
I really liked the beautifully smooth, near six-pound DA pull.
Back row. L-R: Raymond O’Brien, Steve Welsh, Mark Leonidas, James Peters,
Chris Gee Front row, L-R: Debbie Wakker, Aleks Fajner, Victoria Pichler. Just
about every division was represented including Classic, Standard, Production,
Open, and Revolver. Victoria Pichler recently won the Ladies Classic title at
the Australian National Championships.
Pistol NZ president Debbie Wakker shooting her Open gun. A full-house Open
gun such as this SV with C-More sight can run well over $7,000 NZ (about $5,000 US).
As a result Production division is very popular with New Zealand IPSC competitors.
Members are expected to police their brass when finished shooting. Most take it
home to reload, if not it goes in bins.
Instructor Steve Welsh working with Peter Newberry on an intermediate class.
Class was on skills such as safely moving from one shooting station to another,
shooting from different positions, and reloading. Steve’s primary training goal
is safe gunhandling, helping students develop safe habits such as muzzle downrange
at all times, finger out of trigger guard except when engaging targets.
James Peters shooting a stage. The blue plastic barrels are filled with finely
shredded pieces of old tires which act as bullet traps. Barrels are used for both
barriers and as target holders.
Aleks Fajner shooting a stage with S&W Performance Center .45 ACP. Smooth,
efficient reloads are key to success in Revolver division; .45 ACP cartridges
loaded in moonclips make the process much easier.
Steve Welsh shooting a stage with his Dan Wesson .45 ACP. I noticed quite a
few of the iron-sight shooters in the Auckland club favor fiber-optic front sight
inserts. Steve is one of the instructors/mentors whose efforts make the growth of
the handgun sports possible.
Ramel and James are two of the top shooters in the Auckland Pistol Club IPSC
discipline. There are textbook examples of a smooth and safe presentation from
the holster. Note the pistol is pointing safely downrange, but the safety remains
engaged and trigger finger is out of trigger guard. At no time does the muzzle
cross the body or the support hand. In a fraction of a second the two hand grip
will be acquired; only with the pistol under full control, muzzle downrange and
sights coming on target will the safety be released and trigger finger move
onto the trigger.