Lessons learned with Andy McLachlan

Andy McLachlan looks ahead to his next few months of shooting – by reflecting on his performance and equipment over the past year

Enjoying a round of HFT with friends and family is an experience not to be missed for the keen airgun shooter

When you reach my sort of age, it gets harder not only to get up and down multiple times from an outdoor firing position, but to actually reflect upon certain things.

Things, for example, that have appeared to either help or hinder your personal progress throughout the previous year of intensive competition shooting.

My own journey through 2018 saw me suffer a major personal setback. This affected me greatly enough to induce a few months away from the intensity and routine of weekly HFT competition attendance and the travel involved.

What would normally have been something I looked forward to had become less of a priority for a period, as I needed time to reset my batteries and sort out various issues in my life.

This process is currently ongoing, but I am now once again fully committed to my long-standing passion for shooting airguns and all that goes with it. I often feel that it’s not just the actual shooting of the guns that provides many of us with such enjoyment, but the fact that this allows us time with our friends and in some cases relatives to jointly participate in what, as we all know, is such a fascinating and all-absorbing hobby.

I consider all of us similarly affected by this addiction to be actually very fortunate. I can think of many other hobbies – other shooting sports included – that require considerably more expense to participate in.

With the price of the average JSB .177 pellet coming in at approximately two pence per shot, blasting even a tin’s worth of lead downrange is not going to
break the bank. This is just as well, really, considering that I am currently using an average of two tins per week at present!

Twenty-odd years ago, when having to pay for shotgun ammo for my son James and myself, it equated to an awful lot of cash for cartridges when pigeon, driven game or clay shooting – and that’s without considering the costs of travel and attendance at the shoot.

As airgunners, I think that we receive quite a big ‘bang for our buck’. I also think that we are currently living within a golden era of airgun development.

The amazing guns we have available to purchase these days bears little resemblance to a couple of decades ago, when just a few guns tended to dominate the sport.

Pleasure can be taken in many ways – even laying out a course

We also have scopes available for sensible money that far outweigh those of the past, with optical clarity and features then only found from high-end German and Japanese manufacturers. It certainly is an interesting time to be a keen airgunner!

The only problem with this is that, if you are anything like me, you like to use the best equipment that you can afford – even if it sometimes costs more than you are prepared to admit to either yourself or your partner. A friend of mine recently told his wife that his newly purchased Steyr Challenge target rifle cost him just £260.

Oh dear – let’s all hope she doesn’t have access to the internet and Google… I have tried, and once again failed I might add, to reduce the number of new guns I’ve purchased this past 12 months.

The most useful purchase for me has been a second-hand, as-new Steyr LG110 target rifle that has allowed me to once again record average HFT scores above the fifty mark – and sometimes in the high fifties.

This had proved very difficult for me to achieve prior to the change. I can therefore in my own small mind fully justify this purchase as it has achieved its objective.

Talking of ‘objectives’ brings me on to the optic fitted to the new Steyr, the small Leupold scope that has without doubt enabled me to maximise any small amount of talent which may still remain within me.

For HFT competition purposes, this new outfit most definitely improved my average performance during the latter part of 2018, as I set my sights upon the Veteran category for this year’s HFT campaign. As regular readers will be aware, I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time shooting indoors at my favourite Leigh indoor range.

Initially, I was perfectly happy to just enjoy the time my mate Dave and I would spend using our HFT-biased hardware.

However, 8x magnification is not designed for serious benchrest shooting, and despite the enjoyment and practice opportunities that using HFT-focused outfits at longer than the normal 45-yard maximum HFT range bring, we’ve both gradually become drawn into more focused benchrest-type shooting.

Both of us possess a good collection of airguns that are more than up to some serious benchrested target shooting, and we have used these to reasonable effect for some informal ‘benching’ on numerous occasions.

As I mentioned in my recent article concerning the equipment used by serious benchrest shooters, however, if you want to produce scores worthy of recording within a club or regional league, it’s necessary to purchase equipment best suited for the specialised purpose – just as it is within HFT.

Not needing any additional excuse to once again ‘have’ to buy yet more shooting equipment, Dave and I purchased some of FX’s finest equipment. Dave has chosen to buy the FX Streamline STX within the HFT Aeron stock, from Sure Shot Airguns.

This particular gun differs from standard as it possesses the new FX Smoothtwist X fully rifled barrel. At the time of writing the gun is on order, and I will of course pass on details regarding its performance later in the year, once we’ve had a chance to properly evaluate it on the range.

Andy’s scores are on the up – but it’s not always the scores that really matter, just simply getting out there and having fun

Like many serious airgunners, I’ve watched the introduction of the Crown supergun from this innovative Swedish company with interest. There are many video reviews online, many from outside of the UK, which describe in detail just what the multi-adjustable Crown is capable of.

However, as our own Mike Morton mentioned in his own in-depth review of the gun, some of the available adjustments are perhaps a bit overkill for non-FAC holders at our 12ft-lb energy level.

Having owned an FX Impact with similar adjustability in the past, I found it very useful to be able to to adjust the power level to suit a particular purpose – such as hunting in and around barns.

Anyway, following some very positive reviews of the FX Crown, I decided to take the (very deep) plunge and bought one for myself. As I write, the gun is lying resplendent in her blue laminated stock on the table next to me.

It has to be said that she is a very beautiful piece of airgunning art, and following a couple of tins’ worth of lead downrange, I can only say that the gun is as devastatingly accurate as you would hope for something costing nearly two grand.

Interestingly, the gun is particularly accurate at the Leigh indoor range’s maximum of 54 yards, with some amazingly small groups using my Leupold 8x HFT scope on board.

At closer range, the gun is at least as accurate as any of my German target rifles, and bodes well for its primary use as a benchrest gun when properly equipped with a suitable scope, which will happen in the near future.

I will of course keep you informed regarding the gun’s performance as the months progress, but I am very confident that the Crown will continue to perform at its currently outstanding level.

Never mind talking about equipment, though. The most important thing we can all do to maximise our shooting in 2019 is to just enjoy being around those close to us.

It honestly does not matter a jot if your shooting is not as accurate as you would wish; that will definitely improve if you have the opportunity to practise frequently and regularly.

Spending, and enjoying, quality time with like-minded people – whatever the setting – will have far more positive personal benefits than recording a high competition score… although I have to admit, that would be nice as well!

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