Obviously, the right gear is important to compete in any sport – but success in HFT also requires a thorough understanding of the rules. Learning the regulations will help with your overall preparation and give a valuable insight into what to expect – so with that in mind, here’s a condensed version of the HFT rulebook, inclusive of minor changes introduced for 2013, to help both newcomers and experienced campaigners alike.
Courses consist of 30 targets – clearly numbered one to 30 – with one firing point for each target. The firing point consists of a firing line and a peg. Some part of the rifle or body must be in contact with the peg as the shot is taken, and the firing line must be no further than one foot away from the peg – or three feet either side. Each lane on the course is designated as either a supported or unsupported shot – and some shots may stipulate that a certain shooting position must be used. Supported shots allow any part of the rifle or body to rest on the relevant supporting object, often a tree. In the case of the supported shots, the provided support will count as the peg – and must project at least 30cm above the ground.
Unsupported shots, as of 2013, are to be designated by a 10cm tall peg. No forms of support are allowed for these shots. One key new rule is that where previously the shooter’s trigger finger had to be behind the firing line, it must now be behind the peg when the shot is taken. This may seem logical – but previously, contortionists would opt on certain shots to touch the peg with one foot and lie around any obstacle.
One point is scored for hitting a target’s faceplate, while two points are scored for hitting the kill zone and knocking the target down. No points are scored for a clear miss. Scoring is carried out using the ‘buddy’ system, where competitors shoot through the course in pairs or threes. Shooters mark each other’s cards on each lane.
The 2013 rules now stipulate that the shooter is responsible for ensuring that his or her card has been filled in with details of the equipment and settings used, signed by one of the group after shooting, and handed in to be counted. This is so that the organisers – The UK Association of Hunter Field Target (UKAHFT) – can run a Rifle Manufacturer’s Championship in tandem with the Individual Championship.
Any air rifle – of any calibre – can be used, although most shooters favour .177 PCPs – but there are classes for recoiling guns and .22 calibres. Any scope can be used, too – but there’s a ‘no touch’ rule in HFT when it comes to optics, so most shooters tend to choose something around 6x to 12x power so that there’s enough depth of field to see the closest and furthest targets.
There are three types of shooting position – prone, kneeling and standing. When taking a prone shot, only the bottom edge of the butt pad may touch the ground. No other part of the rifle, including butt pad extensions, may touch the ground. In the standing position, only the feet may be in contact with the ground.
Kneeling shots involve three points of contact with the ground – both feet and one knee. The rear foot must be upright and in line with the knee, while the leading hand on the rifle stock must be forward of the knee. Only the hands should be used to support the rifle. No part of the rifle – including butt pad extensions – should touch the floor while kneeling. These rules must be followed for all unsupported shots. Supported shots will follow the all the basic rules set out here, but allow for the use of rests other than the shooter’s hands.
The make-up of the 30-target course is up to the event organisers, but must include the following:
● Two positional unsupported shots – one standing and one kneeling – with a kill zone of 35 to 45mm at a maximum distance of 35 yards. The new rules state that unsupported kneeling shots should not be placed at an extreme angle (no more than 30 degrees)
● Four positional supported shots – two standing, two kneeling – with kill zones of either 35 to 45mm at a maximum distance of 35 yards, or 25mm at maximum 30 yards. Targets with particularly small kill zones are known as mini-kills. These are the stumbling block for many competitors, and the UKAHFT has tweaked the rules slightly to prevent clubs getting too carried away. In line with existing rules, each course must contain:
● Between four and six 15mm mini-kill zone targets
● Between six and eight 25mm targets, in addition to any 25mm targets used in supported positional lanes
To ensure balanced courses, the new 2013 rules state that there must be at least two 20mm kills in a course, and no more than three 25mm kills over 35 yards.
Targets must have either yellow or white faceplates with black kill zones. Kill sizes and their respective distances are as follows, though these rules do not apply for specified positional and mini-kill shots:
● 15 to 19mm kill zone targets to be placed between 13 and 25 yards
● 20 to 24mm kill zone targets to be placed between 8 and 30 yards
● 25 to 34mm kill zone targets to be placed between 8 and 40 yards
● 35 to 45mm kill zone targets to be placed between 8 and 45 yards
Things can get complicated, however. Another new rule states that there can be up to four off-the-peg shots using 35 to 45mm kill zones, where at least 50 per cent of the zone must be visible, from 15cm above the peg, and 100 per cent visible no more than 60cm from the peg.