King of the North! Andy McLachlan asks Scottish shooter James Hesson about his choice of equipment and approach to hitting the target
James, from Edinburgh, is popular and well-known in HFT shooting circles, both north and south of the Scottish border. Along with other hardy Scottish shooters such as Gordon Burns, he makes regular (and long!) trips down south to shoot the national UKAHFT series; he had the misfortune to accompany me and one of my friends John Oldroyd during the Maldon and District (MAD) rounds 3 and 4 of this year’s calendar. As usual, he was able to produce some excellent results on demand, but still must be cursing the miss of a nine-yard target on his last shot to put him in on equal score with the winning 56!
What rifle do you use?
I currently use a Walther LG400 match rifle, converted from the original 6 to our 12ft lb power level. I have owned many various brands over the years, but this rifle, which I bought about 18 months ago, is now nice to shoot following its conversion by Mick Trowman. Mick manufactured a modified regulator piston to allow the passage of an increased volume of air and a reduced hammer weight to be used. This has resulted in a sweet firing cycle, and the rifle is very consistent, reliable and easy to maintain.
I have personalised the gun even further and fitted the ‘sharp hacksaw’ Rog B muzzle brake; a TEC HRO carbon fibre cheekpiece; a Mick Trowman butt plate carrier, on which I have mounted a System Gemini butt plate; an ISP trigger blade; and finally a carbon fibre forend.
What about your choice of optics?
The Nightforce NXS 2.5-10×42 Compact optic gives superb clarity and has a good reticle, including hollow mil-dot marks. This extremely clear scope is great to use, but did need re-parallaxing from its intended firearm usage of 100 yards down to 25 for airgun use. It was an expensive optic and difficult to source, but I have been delighted with it. The scope is mounted upon some BKL 300 mounts, which gives me a height of 1.76 inches from the centre of the barrel to the centre of the scope.
I presume that you are currently in the JSB pellet camp with the rest of us?
Yep. I use some Die 8 Exacts of 2016 vintage and don’t bother weighing them – just a quick visual inspection straight out of the tin before being fired downrange.
How would you advise a beginner to the sport to get involved and learn about the skills required to succeed in HFT?
Don’t be afraid to ask shooters for advice: we’ve all done it. Don’t assume buying high-end kit is the best way forward: a good-fitting rifle (length, weight and balance) makes for better progression. Also try to learn the course-setting rules, as this will help massively in figuring out those ranges.
I take it that like a lot of us down here, you shoot most weekends?
I certainly do. Mostly Saturdays are used for informal practice prior to ‘proper’ competition shooting on the Sunday.
What has been the effect upon airgun shooting in Scotland following the recent legislation to license ownership?
As far as many of us are concerned, apart from the hassle of having to apply for the licence, it has had very little effect upon the legitimate use of airguns. New shooters can still attend the various shooting clubs north of the border, as they can use our guns if supervised. Hopefully this will result in additional numbers of new shooters becoming involved with our sport.