Andy McLachlan is out to dispel the age-old myth that getting involved in series competition shooting requires you to spend serious amounts of cash.
Let me get one thing straight right away here. If you are the type of shooter who enjoys the occasional outdoor shoot with friends, knocking over some of your own designed responsive targets, or prefers to spend time at indoor ranges either plinking or shooting at paper targets, the sport of serious outdoor target shooting might not be for you.
There is absolutely nothing wrong about enjoying your own hobby in any way that you see fit. At the present time, I enjoy shooting at old cartridge cases far more than I am when engaged in ‘serious’ competitive events, either indoors or outdoors.
I suppose this is reflective of my inherent childlike tendencies to try to enjoy things without getting too serious. It would appear that I am far from alone in this, as I glance at serious target shooters, some of whom have forgotten what it is like to just enjoy the fun that can be had with an airgun.
Shooting does not just have to be about recording a steady stream of personal bests and trophies. It provides many of us with a way to mix with some like-minded individuals, who just want to enjoy the time they spend together and have some fun shooting with friends.
This often leads to considering what competition has to offer for the shooter who has – in their own eyes anyway – achieved a level that they think will allow them to compete with the experienced shooters who have been seriously engaged with competition in one form or another for a very long time.
The problem is that very few shooters possess the full skill-set required to compete at a high level right from the off. They might think they are ‘good’, but they will usually be found wanting when faced with a course comprising of targets placed at unknown ranges and range traps, along with their arch nemesis, the wind.
Sometimes these shooters give up swiftly, as their anticipated rise to stardom does not come to pass and they find themselves placing well below where they think they should be on the results table.
Some of these shooters will, however, be made of sterner stuff and decide that they will not be beaten. The people that tend to eventually make their way to the top of the league tables on a regular basis are usually those who can take the odd knock with a dry smile and acknowledge their own lack of experience.
They will also have to recognise that, just like anything else that requires skill and experience, there is no easy way to make it to the top but through hard work and lots and lots of practice.
So, if you are a shooter who just wishes to find out what all the fuss is about with outdoor shooting pursuits such as HFT competition, what type of equipment will give you the best chance of making the most of any talent and experience that you might already have?
One visit to a serious HFT event would leave you in no doubt that probably a high percentage of the competitors are using very expensive guns, attached to which will be high-end scopes that in many cases will have cost as much as the gun, and in others, much more.
If we consider that a top-end German target rifle costs upwards of £2,000, the scope maybe a bit more than half of that, you might think that unless you could afford the initial and considerable outlay of a few grand you are not in with a chance. This is totally wrong.
Just because all the regular competitors use expensive gear, it doesn’t mean that your own rifle and scope combination is not fit for purpose. The top shots will all use rifles that tend to be fully regulated, and scopes that are known, but expensive, performers for the task in hand.
This means that the top competitors’ gear will hopefully be reliable enough that they will not have to worry about mechanical performance having any influence on their overall results.
They will also point to considerations such as top quality ‘match’ barrels that allow them to gain every advantage accuracy-wise when faced with a tricky shot. If I am honest with myself, just like thousands of others, I have spent considerable sums in search of equipment that I personally feel will allow me to perform as the top shooters do on a regular basis.
In my opinion, I reckon that 99% of the time, the gear we are currently using is perfectly adequate and does not need further sums of hard-earned cash to supplement any wish to ‘upgrade’.
I suppose that part of the fun, for those that can afford it of course, is to experiment with different and usually expensive equipment to find something that actually does help to record a slightly higher average score. If I consider my own gun and scope purchases over the past couple of years converted into hard cash, I dread to think how much that amounts to, but believe me, it’s a lot!
So, if you have attended an HFT shoot and been amazed at the type of gear the top shooters have been using, you might have considered that you either A) give up any thought of competitive shooting, or B) how you will generate the amount of cash that you would need to fund the activity and decided to take up golf.
But just consider firstly how pretty damned impressive shooting equipment at the non-target level currently is.
We are all very fortunate indeed that there is so much fine equipment available these days for the aspiring shooter that does not require any consideration of a second mortgage.
All the major airgun manufacturers produce rifles at entry-level prices that are more than capable of the level of accuracy that is required for the HFT course.
The guns in question will probably not have all singing and dancing regulated actions and expensive match barrels, nor will they have multi-adjustable target-type stocks. What they do have is the ability to produce some genuinely impressive performance, if they are used correctly.
Every month, the pages of this, our own magazine, contain details of guns such as this, which would allow the novice competitive shot to get their first taste of HFT without breaking the bank.
The guns will usually be in single-shot format, and could be either PCP or spring-powered. Many will be very well known, and have appeared at or near the top of the individual manufacturers’ best-selling products for many years in one guise or another.
I have no intention of naming all the gun candidates here. Many regular shooters will be aware of the guns to which I refer due to their known ability to remain reliable, accurate and not let their owners down when called upon to perform.
It is my intention to soon highlight some of the types of equipment that could be used to allow the novice competitor the chance of producing results that will allow them to progress within the sport. In other words, you shouldn’t be put off by the thought of specialised and expensive gear too much when you are starting out on the road of competition.
What you really need to concentrate upon, and something that cannot be bought over the counter, is to practise, practise and then practise some more, because this is the true key to success. It is nice to own high quality gear, but remember the saying “All the gear, but no idea!”!
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