Picking your scope for FT

Andy McLachlan continues his journey into the world of Field Target shooting – this time examining the process required to choose a suitable scope

The Anschutz in its HFT format, with hamster change, reshaped butt pad and lower cheekpiece

Presuming that the shooter has purchased, or already had, a rifle capable of delivering accurate shots out to 55 yards, the next and crucially important step is to consider the fitment of a scope that is able to act as an accurate range-finding device. As I am not experienced in the Field Target side of our sport, and this journey represents a rapid learning curve for me, I have relied on the advice of friends who are involved with FT.

Those of us used to HFT scopes that usually magnify at about 10x will swiftly realise that we will not be able to use our existing optics. Basically, for a scope to act as a relatively accurate rangefinder, we need to be looking at 35 times magnification at least.To achieve this specification, we are now looking at Field Target-designed optics, most of which meet this criterion if not exceed the magnification requirement by some margin. For example, a friend of mine has recently purchased a March FT scope with a magnification range of 80. This optic is of high specification and is lottery-winning money for those of us with normal incomes.

The Nikko Stirling Mk 1 FT scope aboard Andy’s Anschutz 9015 air rifle

So, looking at the available and affordable optical options to drop onto my dual purpose HFT/FT Anschutz target rifle, and considering my meagre savings, I started to look at the second-hand market.

There is a much-vaunted saying within target shooting: “Never sell a good scope!” This is great if you are able to afford a battery of optical devices for all your guns, and I still possess many great optics for my own. However, due to the considerable expense of a high-quality optic, which often costs significantly more than the gun, these items tend to get moved on by those of us unable to afford to keep them, as we require the funds for another purchase. That’s often the way it is in my world, anyway!

One of the best-value FT-specification optics available for many years has been the Nikko Stirling Diamond 10-50×60. These are currently available new in a Mk 4 edition for around the £800 mark. I think it would be fair to say that the optic has enjoyed considerable success, due to the numbers of shooters using it for a long time now.

A custom riser block enables Andy to keep his head straight in the aiming position

Many experienced shooters continue to use this product as their chosen optic, despite having the option to upgrade to higher-specified and of course higher-priced scopes. This is a Japanese-made product that has stood the test of time, and provides the airgun shooter with a relatively affordable introduction into quality FT-specification optics. The Nikko Stirling is also the current choice of double World Champion Field Target shooter Jack Harris, so it is clearly able to work as required for this challenging discipline.

So, with all of this in mind, I started to check out airgun forums for any second-hand items that might fit the bill. Luckily, I managed to find a suitable candidate pretty much straight away. The scope I purchased was a Mk 1 version of the Nikko Stirling and came armed with both a set of Sportsmatch mounts and a Rowan Engineering sidewheel. This cost me £350 and I think it was money well spent!

The optics certainly appear clear to me. Using 30x magnification with rangefinding in the garden confirmed that I could get within a couple of yards using the scope’s parallax, confirmed via a laser rangefinding device. I have since added a Rowan top turret, which I intend to mark my ranges for dialling in following a zeroing session.

Those of us used to FT scopes will realise that we will not be able to use our existing optics

The only additional item I have purchased for the optic has been a one-piece riser block, specifically designed for the Anschutz action that has lifted the scope to a more comfortable level. This allows me to keep my head straight when mounting the stock into the aiming position. This item has been manufactured by AJP Custom Parts and is a precision-engineered product that looks like part of the action when fitted.

With the equipment purchased and ready, all I needed to do was to zero the optic and work out the ranges so that I could mark the sidewheel and target turret assembly. Matching these allowed me to dial in the range and shoot straight at the target.

That would prove to be easier said than done for my ageing limbs and eyes, as I found the whole process much too fussy in comparison to the ‘point and shoot’ of an HFT course. Basically, I did not enjoy FT as I found it too much of a challenge and did not take to ranging and then shooting targets in what for me felt like a totally unnatural and far from comfortable position. So, after only three shoots of FT, I have bitten the bullet and sold the scope for what I paid for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

This article originally appeared in the issue 105 of Airgun Shooter magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store: www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk

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Posted in Features, Gear, Hunting

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