Roger Lait offers some encouragement to beginners wanting to get into competition shooting – and tells us all about the HFT Masters
Competition is something I’ve always enjoyed in the years I’ve been shooting. This is not to say that I’ve won everything I’ve entered – far from it. But you have to start somewhere – and for me, that was Lea Valley in Hertford. I had been shooting at Pete’s Airgun Farm for a good while before I dipped my toe into the water and entered my first comp.
I must be honest: by the time I was ready to show off this massive talent, I’d been hitting all kinds of things at Pete’s. In my head I was a crack shot, and was undoubtedly going to show everyone how good I was.
But, as they say, the best-laid plans often go awry. I came in with a huge 24 out of 60, and figured this was not a bad score. After all, I’d been hitting Polo mints at 30 yards at Pete’s. You get my point. We all have to start somewhere.
As a beginner, you will be inundated with help from everyone. Some advice will be helpful, some not so much! Your very first competition is a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least. Maybe you’ll know a few people, maybe not, but either way you are going to enjoy it. I practised what I thought would help me before my first comp – I learnt my aim points, and I learnt my hold-overs and hold-unders, hoping that this would put me in good stead.
What I did not learn was the wind. Now that is a whole different article. So you need to practise in the wind. You also need to practise standing shots, kneeling shots and prone shots. Once you’ve done all of this, it’s on to rangefinding – again another whole article is needed. So preparing for a competition is not a five-minute job, but it’s well worth the time you put in.
After years and years of shooting, I have noticed that loads of people have airguns and plink away, blissfully unaware of any HFT competitions going on around them. Some maybe just don’t want to take the plunge into HFT, while others are too scared. The thought of a big competition can be most daunting for sure – so what if there was a comp for beginners? What if you could turn up and shoot against people with the same ability as you? Well, now you can.
Ian Bainbridge, Ray Hampton and I have been running the HFT Masters for three years now, and are only too happy to bring new shooters into what I feel is the best sport in the world.
We run a two-tier system, so you will not be shooting against people who have been doing this for years. You’ll shoot alongside them, but you will not be shooting against them. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been told that a new person has won with 38 points in their first-ever competition. Once you stand there in front of everyone holding a trophy, it’s the best feeling ever. And there’s no doubt about it – you are hooked for good!
Why the HFT Masters? Well for me, I really enjoy the shooting, of course. But I also love the people I meet and shoot with, and I like to try my hardest to push myself to better my scores. One day you can hit anything you aim at; other times you can’t hit a cow’s behind with a banjo! It’s all down to practice, and I spend a bunch of time at Pete’s Airgun Farm near Chelmsford because it has everything I need there. A 50-yard range for me is ace. I know we only shoot out to 45 yards, but it’s nice to know you are grouping at 50 yards – and I might have a little dabble at FT. Sadly, I can’t do that very well, but it’s great fun.
Pete’s Airgun Farm for me is so important, and unlike some I need to practise at least once a week for a good few hours. I have friends that don’t shoot for months on end, then pick up a gun and smash in a wonderful score. I would love to say I am happy for them. I’m not! How come they can do that? Just kidding – some people are lucky like that.
So back to the Masters. The course is to our own rules. These incorporate more standing shots and kneeling shots than other courses, but two of the standing shots are easy (at least, they’re supposed to be) and two kneelers are also closer in and easier. The rest of the course is prone, and achievable for sure. Our thing is more about having fun and enjoying the day than walking off with a high score. Some will always walk away with top scores, but it’s the fun aspect we like best. This is not to say that you might win the raffle, and let me tell you, we have some rather lovely prizes to give away from our wonderful sponsors, including shooting boots, scopes and mounts.
So what I am really saying is don’t be scared: don’t be shy, come along and dip a toe in the water – this might just be the sport for you. We are so lucky, we have some really great people at our events and a wealth of knowledge to help you improve your scores.
I really look forward to seeing you very soon for the beginning of our fourth season. Have a look at our website (www.hftmasters.com) for details of all the up-and-coming events we’ve got planned.