Andy McLachlan’s advice: join a club!

Andy McLachlan heads under cover to talk about the many benefits shooters enjoy when they belong to an indoor target club.

Those of us who spend a lot of time outside with our airguns, either hunting or competition shooting, sometimes forget the benefi ts that can be gained from joining a club with good indoor facilities. I am a member of both Rivington Riflemen and Bolton Gun Club’s Leighbased airgun section.

It is at establishments such as these that you can meet and generally fit in with lots of other enthusiasts who are very often just as keen about all things airgun as you are. The fact that you are shooting indoors also enables you to ensure that you are able to properly zero your combination without the wind pixies causing you to dial-in duff settings, leading to major disappointment when you discover that when zeroing outside there must have been a slight prevailing breeze you hadn’t noticed, which is now responsible for your shot not being where you want it to be.

I have recently spent a considerable amount of time with my friends at the Leigh indoor range as I attempt to get myself up to standard for competing in the Sporter category of indoor benchrest shooting.

This particular category allows for a maximum magnification of 12x, using ‘standard’ PCP rifles weighing less than 10.5lb (4.7kg) including a scope and bipod. More about this in a separate article, though. Anyway, shooting inside for me and many thousands of other airgunners is basically a great way to spend some time in an environment designed for the job.

It is also a lot safer and neighbour-friendly than blatting away outside in the garden. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, presuming that you meet the legal requirements of preventing any projectile straying outside of your mini-range. But in my opinion, the average fee for spending a day at a supervised indoor range is more than worth it as an alternative.

Arguably, it is worth joining an airgun club just to give you contact with other shooters who can provide you with their experience and friendship. I always advise either novice shooters, or those considering joining the ranks of our ever-increasing airgun shooting community, that an airgun club should be their first point of contact with the sport.

I can remember many occasions over the years when novice shooters have arrived at Rivington Riflemen’s indoor range equipped with totally unsuitable or very poor-quality gear, which has been purchased following bad advice by the odd unscrupulous gun shop providing poor guidance.

On occasion this has caused much frustration and resulted in beginners giving up completely before they have even started on the airgunning road. Fortunately, most shops specialising in providing airgunners with their equipment are usually very helpful and patient with the novice rifle purchaser, and can be relied upon to provide a gun of known reliability that’s capable of delivering decent levels of accuracy.

The best way to start airgun shooting is to identify the location of some local clubs, of which there are now many, and just go along to check out how everything works, receive a proper safety briefing and use some decent quality rifle/scope combinations on the range.

This not only provides the novice with some basic training and more importantly muzzle awareness, but gives them the opportunity of identifying equipment that meets their future shooting needs within their proposed budget. Just as crucial, though, is the fact that many of the more experienced shooters present will go out of their way to assist the novice and provide all the support they will need as they travel down the road of experience.

I was reminded of the importance of ensuring that novice airgunners are provided with sound advice at a recent visit to another local club in my own northwest area. No prizes for identifying just where Rochdale Air Gun Club happens to be located! My last visit there was quite a few years ago now, and I was very impressed indeed with the standard of the facilities for the use by members and visitors.

All my fellow Rivington and Leigh range shooters will be aware of how cold it becomes in a large, damp area during sub-zero shooting sessions in the middle of winter. Despite attempts at providing electrical heating elements to take the edge off, things swiftly become very cold indeed!

However, part of the significant financial investment at Rochdale Airgun Club has been the installation of a central heating system that works. It certainly felt very strange not to be blowing air into cooling fingers or wiggling numbing toes when seated at the club’s 55-yard range.

It also allows the shooter to concentrate upon their shooting performance rather than how cold any of their extremities might be at any point. My friend Dave, his grandson and I all felt surprisingly comfortable as we plinked away at the vast array of targets downrange.

I reset my scope’s zero for a crack at the 55-yard benchrest targets placed upon the far wall and had a great time doing so. It was also noticeable that senior members of the club were taking their time to introduce many novice members to the joys of shooting an airgun. As this club also has a café, we partook of some hot dogs and chips, which went down well and only increased the positive feeling of wellbeing.

The main reason for our trip to another club was to be present for a talk hosted by Tony Belas of Daystate. Tony was accompanied by Gareth Egarr, the secretary of the Daystate Owners Club, and some staff from local shooting supplier the Cheshire Gun Room.

Tony Belas and Gareth Egarr gave attendees a fascinating talk, with the opportunity to handle some of Daystate’s milestone guns

The theme of the talk was Forty Years of Daystate, and it provided us with a fascinating insight into how the company came into being. This, along with examples of some early pre-charged pneumatic handmade rifles, showed us how the company has progressed to its current position as a purveyor of some of the most technically innovative and high-quality products available today.

Examples of most of the company’s rifles produced during the previous four decades were present, with those of us who have been around a bit recognising some old favourites. I was particularly interested when Tony described how the design of the original electronic Daystate, the MK3, first evolved, and the various technical issues that had to be considered when fitting all the electronic components and their power supplies into both the action and of course the stock.

I’ve always considered that this particular airgun was truly groundbreaking, as I can well remember looking at Ian Jones’ brand-new left-handed example on the day of its purchase at the Rivington indoor range in the early nineties. Like many who shot the gun at the time, I was blown away by the electronic firing cycle as it was totally different to anything else available, and was indeed a truly innovative design.

I couldn’t afford an electronic Daystate in those days, but have since possessed four electronic Air Wolf models and a MK4. I very much fall into the ‘I like electronic triggers’ camp, and never once experienced any issues with that method of shot release. It’s as simple as keeping the battery charged correctly.

Tony had also brought along examples of the current Daystate product line; many of us took the opportunity of shooting the guns downrange, and they shot beautifully. Tony also described how the company acquired the Brocock brand and had developed those products to represent a quality entry into the Daystate experience.

The day at Rochdale Airgun Club provided us with not only the opportunity to shoot either rifles at 55 yards or pistols at the club’s 10m range, but we all did so in comfort –and got the opportunity to listen to Tony as well. This is an example of the facilities and opportunities that joining a well-organised club can provide.

If you are not yet a member of at least one airgun club, I strongly suggest you consider joining. The benefits of doing so will be appreciated long into the future.

Just do it!

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