Take up the challenge of shooting .22 and you’ll push your shooting skills to the limit, says Andy McLachlan. He speaks to former world HFT champion, Simon Howarth to find out why you should…
When we think about the best gear for taking part in an HFT shoot, most of us tend to presume that we will be using the flatter-flying .177 calibre. The advantages of less pellet drop, particularly at long range, mean this smaller calibre is the default choice for 95% of us.
There are, however, a few shooters who elect to use the much less forgiving .22 calibre. One of the reasons for this is that it is basically much harder to nail field target kill zones with a pellet whose trajectory needs to be understood to the yard at all ranges. With .177, it is possible to mis-range a target and still be in with a chance of dropping it, due to this calibre’s fatter-flying characteristics.
So, in addition to being in the minority of target shooters who can achieve regular success with .22, those who are effective with this calibre need to totally familiarise themselves with the individual characteristics of both their gun and their chosen ammunition. Not that competition shooters using .177 don’t have to do the same – but for .22 shooters, it is just that bit harder.
Simon Howarth is a former world HFT champion, and has long been one of the shooters who is there or thereabouts in most of the events he shoots. He’s won many competitions and titles over the years, and continues to compete in both .177 and .22 classes. This takes discipline. If, like me, you sometimes struggle to concentrate when assessing a target, having last week used a .177 and this week a .22 would result in many of us forgetting and watching grim-faced as we see the pellet fall well below the kill zone, or even fail to hit the plate completely.
Simon is made of sterner stuff. A recent conversation I had with him confirmed that he intended to complete the rest of the UKAHFT rounds with his .22 BSA Hornet. This particular gun was designed by John Bowkett, who is responsible for many of BSA’s pre-charged pneumatic rifles, including the current R-10. The Hornet first appeared in 2003 and is a fully regulated rifle with ‘micro-movement-cocking’, which just requires a dab of the shooter’s finger to seat the pellet via a spring-loaded probe.
One of the main reasons he has chosen to compete with this particular gun is the shorter length of the transfer port, allowing a faster pulse of air to drive the pellet and expand it into the rifling in such a way that it improves the ballistic coefficient (BC) of the pellet, which affects its flight path. This has obvious implications for the shooter who wishes to use the most efficient ammunition with their own rifle. Using .22 lightweight JSB Exact Jumbo RS pellets at 13.43 grains, Simon believes that this flatter, faster-flying pellet negates some of the disadvantages of the .22.
As a former Rolls-Royce engineer, Simon knows a thing or two about how things work, and is well-known for his skills as a modifier of PCP rifles. When we got talking about the Hornet, Simon removed the barrel assembly. It is a far from pristine example of a perfect finish on the outside, but what is important is what resides on the inside of any barrel, and Simon confirms that the hammer-forged BSA .22 barrel appears to be affected less by wind than other barrels he has tested in the same gun. Clearly, the combination of barrel, pellet choice and, in this gun’s case, the way the air pulse is delivered to the pellet skirt has a positive effect.
Simon’s BSA Hornet continues to work very well for him. The gun’s effectiveness is also testament to the genius of John Bowkett: despite having been around for over a decade, it still delivers when and where it matters.