‘All time’s wasted that’s not spent shooting’ – that’s Steve Bidon’s philosophy. And when the 70-year-old isn’t shooting, he’s reloading.
Through reloading, Steve has become a better shooter, but he’s also gained a lot of friends. Down at Eagle Park, the retiree is always ready to offer help or advice to younger or more inexperienced shooters, and is always eager to spark up a conversation.
He’s been that way his whole life.
Some of Steve’s earliest sports shooting memories involve helping his dad’s friend manage wild dogs on his Long Gully property. “When I was about 13, dad would take us out to his friend Ray’s place every weekend to help him out,” he said. Ray was a sheep farmer whose lambs were being decimated by packs of wild dogs.
At about 17, Steve’s interest expanded to Benchrest shooting. Spending alot of time at the SSAA Tynong Range, the teen began focusing on improving his accuracy.
“We used to go out there and the benchrest fellows would shoot exceptionally well,” he said. “I had bought an ex-military .303, then I bought a Sako .243. You had the awards – silver, gold, ruby and diamond – and the benchrest fellows were getting these awards. You had to shoot five shots into a hole at 500m and you just couldn’t do it with factory ammo.”
In the days before the internet, there were few resources for reloaders. Steve bought himself a couple of books and got started. “There was very limited reloading equipment,” he said. “I started with an old Super Simplex Press. At the time they were the ant’s pants of shooting.” With factory ammunition quality being “pretty ordinary” 50 years ago, Steve was able to improve groups considerably through reloading.
There were other benefits to his reloading skills. For the paramedic earning a low wage, partaking in sports shooting would have been impossible without reloading. “The ambulance paid $42 a week and I was paying $19.50 for a flat,” Steve said. He wasn’t a paramedic for the money, or for the working conditions. “Thirty-two of us joined the same day, but within a month there were only two left. They left because of the terrible pay and this was before seatbelts so you saw a lot of terrible things.” He stayed in the job for 35 years because he enjoyed helping people.
Now retired and living near Eagle Park Range, Steve’s interest is in sharing his knowledge on the technical side of sports shooting. “As I got older I was no longer just interested in my own skills,” he said. “I like to help people who are struggling and try to encourage more young people into reloading.” That helpful nature has resulted in Steve now reloading for 11 rifles, owned by seven different friends.
It’s those days at the range, chatting to people on the benches beside him, or walking along the firing line, when Steve meets most of his reloading friends. “I met Dougie out there,” he said. “He saw the groups I was getting and asked how he could get them. I told him that he should reload. The main aim is to tailor the projectile to your rifle.”
Over time, Steve taught Dougie and his sons everything he knew about reloading. “I was there last night with his son and we reloaded 50 rounds,” he said during his interview with SSAA Victora. “He’s got Friday off and we were planning on going out to zero his rifle. I can easily do it for him but I want to teach him.”
Steve said teaching people to reload their own ammunition would help boost their enjoyment in the sport. “I want more people to give the sport a go,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of knowledge about hunting, reloading and firearms in general. I like to share my knowledge and teach people so they can one day teach others.”