Andy McLachlan asks why we shoot

Do you yearn for more power? Do you take your shooting a bit too seriously? Andy McLachlan urges us all to remember exactly why we shoot.

The look on John Oldroyd’s face reveals he is actually enjoying himself and a competition doesn’t have to be a full-on stress fest

Target shooting of one type or another is a sport that has stirred the imaginations of thousands, if not millions, of keen shooters for as long as humans have been walking on two legs and worked out how to use a bow and arrow. Long ago, shooters practised their skills to enable them to either secure meat for their families, or for the purpose of protecting them.

For those of us keen to improve our shooting skills, the practice of trying to land a projectile upon the target is rarely a chore and is something that we all enjoy. These days, it doesn’t really matter if we occasionally miss the dead centre of the bullseye as our lives don’t depend upon it as they would have done in the past.

There are, of course, groups of people within the armed forces whose job it is to make sure that those in their charge hit the bull all the time, but in a non-military environment it really doesn’t matter if you can’t hit that spot every time as your life doesn’t depend upon it.

Most, if not all, of us shoot because we enjoy the challenge of trying to get that projectile precisely on the point of aim, every time. Trying to achieve that level of skill is both fulfilling and provides us with the opportunity of entering that Zen-like place where we forget all about our worries and are fully able to concentrate on the job in hand, namely hitting the target.

Like many shooters, I enjoy owning and using guns and their associated equipment, and would have to say if I am honest with myself that the “big boys’ toys” part of our hobby is very much part of the interest, if not a little bit expensive on occasion.

Having said that, it’s all well and good owning the latest super-duper equipment, but if you rarely use it, it can sometimes be hard to justify the initial purchase.

Fortunately for those of us who enjoy shooting air-powered guns rather than their noisy firearm cousins, it is an awful lot easier to gain access to somewhere like an indoor or outdoor shooting range where we can shoot for hours on end without having to remortgage our houses due to the costs of ammunition.

In Andy’s opinion some people take their shooting far too seriously – people like his son James, for example

As we all know, pellets are still relatively cheap to buy, with a tin costing about a tenner making it good for at least five or six hours of continuous shooting. 

If you were using a firearm, it is highly unlikely that you would be shooting for anywhere near as long. I would therefore argue that the use of the air-powered gun is much more likely to result in far more time actually spent shooting and is therefore better value for money.

Fair enough, with our air-powered guns we will never compete with the terminal power of a firearm, but in saying that, I didn’t buy any of my air rifles for bringing down big game.

That is why I consider the humble, legal-limit air rifle to be the ultimate in readily available, target-friendly shooting equipment. When I was many years younger and owned various types of firearms, I quickly realised that the ability to drop quarry at much further distances was useful if you were engaged in serious pest control. 

However, I then realised that the reason I enjoyed using legal-limit air rifles so much more was because I had to make sure I was a lot closer before releasing the shot. It eventually got to the stage where my shotguns and rimfires ended up staying in the cabinet while my sons and I used our air rifles to hunt.

It’s great having the additional range that owning a more powerful gun allows, but it’s an awful lot of hassle and is not necessarily the best way to further increase your enjoyment of the sport. There are very many more places that you can safely use a legal-limit air rifle than anything with a “firearm” rating.

The only thing I feel that I and some other shooters are missing out on is the ability to shoot at three-figure distances with air rifles as is practised currently by many shooters in the United States. The reason for this is that it would be fun trying to set up your own gun to shoot certain projectiles at long range for maximum effect. 

Happy smiling faces usually follow a competition series – the trick is to keep smiling all the way to the final
Happy smiling faces usually follow a competition series – the trick is to keep smiling all the way to the final

This is possible with an FAC-rated air rifle, but introduces a different series of issues, such as using a safe shooting area and being unable to use non-firearms-rated ranges made for legal-limit air rifles.

If you can justify the purchase and use of an FAC-rated air rifle, or firearm for that matter, and you have somewhere that requires this level of power, then great.

But if you don’t really need it there is nothing to beat a sub-12 foot pound air rifle for providing some challenging shooting. As we all know, there are literally hundreds of superbly manufactured guns that will fit the bill for the novice shot. It is also a great journey to be starting upon as you find a suitable club or range that allows you to meet other enthusiasts. 

If you are a shooter that has just bought yourself a gun and wishes to learn the basics of safety and accurate shooting practices, you will do far worse than locating your local club and getting yourself down there at your earliest opportunity, rules permitting. You will also meet other shooters who may well end up becoming lifelong friends.

As you progress from being a shooting novice, you will begin to notice that the more serious shots tend to speak less frequently than many others, come equipped with sufficient gear to sink a ship and can sometimes have a strange, far away demeanour when you try to talk to them. This is the result of them taking themselves too seriously, but it’s something that many of us do when we think that we have “made the grade”. 

Remember, unless you are amongst the tiny number of professional shooters, all of us shoot to enjoy it. It is not supposed to be a chore, or something that applies any additional pressure to our already busy lives. We are supposed to be enjoying ourselves when we attend any type of shoot, even a competition.

The bottom line for anybody considering entering a shooting competition is to remember to not take it too seriously. You are there to enjoy yourself! It does not matter a jot if you come last, although you will naturally beat yourself up if you do particularly badly. 

No, the secret is to just relax and enjoy the company – that’s all that matters really. The more that you practise, the better you will become. 

More from Andy McLachlan

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