Outdoorsman Andy McLachlan heads indoors to find a type of shooting that’s very different to what he’s been used to, but is just as rewarding
Many regular readers will be aware that I have been spending a lot of time recently shooting indoors. My main interest in competition shooting has always been that of HFT, which I have been involved with for nearly a decade or so now.
But being interested in competition shooting and being any good at it are two entirely different considerations. My outdoor shooting results over the years have not always been to the standard that I would wish to perform at, although I did manage to win the North West HFT Gauntlet Veterans title for the recently completed 2018 winter series.
Like anybody who competes in anything will find, sometimes things just don’t go right. If you are anything like me, this leads to frustration when you feel that your results do not fully reflect the time and effort you put into whatever sport – in our case outdoor airgun target shooting – that you happen to be involved with.
It is very easy indeed to blame equipment for failure. However, if you practise regularly, and have at least started to acquire the skill-set of being able to accurately judge distance, it is usually, when shooting outside, failure to correctly allow for wind deflection that results in missing a target.
The other major consideration that often catches out shooters, while having to position their guns against posts, trees and in a variety of positions, is parallax error, whereby you are pointing the crosshairs away from your intended point of aim, which is usually due to incorrect head positioning on the stock.
Most of the shooters attending an HFT or FT event will be able to slot their pellets into incredibly tiny groups, due to the amazing array of high-quality rifles and optics that are now available.
Once the correct pellet for the individual gun barrel has been selected, many shooters will consider that the laser-like accuracy they are capable of when the gun is properly supported and they are in a comfortable firing position can be matched when first attending an outdoor course of fire.
Due to the many variables and skills of an experienced outdoor course-setter, however, this is unlikely to happen until the skills I have previously mentioned have been gained.
This can take many years to accumulate, until the individual shooter has the experience to perform well on a regular basis. Considering the number of times that I have personally attended an HFT shoot, you would think that I should be up there with the regular winners every time. Not true unfortunately! I am still able to score well on occasion, though not nearly as often as I would like.
This brings me onto the subject of other methods of using your airgun to enter a competition. There is an alternative that does not involve traipsing around a muddy, cold and downright uncomfortable outdoor course in the middle of winter.
It is great in good weather to be outside and enjoy our beautiful countryside when competing in HFT or FT in the more pleasant seasons, and considering that you will usually be accompanied by friends is an added attraction for those milder months.
The other option I mention revolves around the alternative and highly popular method of airgunning – that of shooting indoors. I suspect that the vast majority of airgunners prefer to enjoy their sport in this manner. Even committed hunters and competition shooters will see the benefit of a still air environment when zeroing their combinations, which is why I and many other competition shooters I know spend some time indoors at an approved range.
The strange thing for me was that I started to enjoy time spent at the indoor range as much as I did shooting outdoors. My own Rivington club fortunately possesses both an indoor and outdoor range, so to a certain extent I have been spoilt already.
I find these days that I spend just as much time chewing the cud with my friends as I do firing lead downrange, though. As old age beckons, I have finally realised that the people you are with are probably more important than the shooting itself – a lesson to be learned by all airgun shooters, I reckon!
Regarding the ability to produce ‘better’ results, we are unlikely to achieve our own personal best until we find equipment that we enjoy using within a comfortable environment that provides practical advice and friendship of other enthusiasts. In addition to the positive experience of being a member of Rivington Riflemen for decades, I have also discovered another establishment within my locality that meets these criteria.
Bolton Gun Club operates an indoor airgun section at Brooklands Mill in Leigh, Greater Manchester. It is situated on the fourth floor of a disused mill and provides a superb set of facilities for the keen airgunner, whatever their individual specialism.
The range extends to 54 yards, allowing shooters the opportunity to zero their combination at any perceivable airgun distance. It is very noticeable that the club has an abundance of shooters, including women and youths. Whole families are present to enjoy the shooting.
My own initial visits to Leigh were due to needing to plot the precise fall of shot for all HFT distances from eight to 45 yards, and the fact that the club has set aside an area allowing those who wish to shoot from the prone position the opportunity of doing so.
Due to the 50-odd yard length, the range has also catered for FT shooters wishing to set up scopes for the parallax rangefinding capabilities that they require before they apply markings to their adjustable target turret scope assemblies. I have been advised that this is best done outdoors in ‘normal’ light, but an indoor session will get you somewhere close.
Having ‘discovered’ the Leigh indoor range, my friend Dave Pilkington and I have found that we were attending on such a regular basis that joining the club would be a wise move. No more would we have to pay for our mugs of tea! As we got to know the regular shooters, we started to become more seriously interested in benchrest shooting, and as time has progressed, we have started to take this aspect of the sport far more seriously than our initial zeroing and plinking sessions allowed.
This has now got to the stage whereby both Dave and I have now purchased equipment suitable for entering the Sporter Air Rifle category of the UK Association of Rimfire and Air Rifle Bench Rest Shooting postal league that we hope to be competing in shortly.
Many of the serious Leigh benchrest competitors are involved with the Heavy Varmint category, which allows heavier guns and higher magnification scopes to be used. The Sporter category stipulates a maximum gun weight of ten and a half pounds, with a maximum scope magnification of 12x. The fact that we have mainly shot on magnification ranges much lower than this has allowed us to use a high magnification to our advantage.
We have now been practising for a month or so and will hope to start our postal league campaign shortly. If you want to know more about the equipment we have chosen then keep reading this magazine! I have already changed scope three times so far as I attempted to find the best of my current collection of optics that will suit the job best, but it was well worth the effort.
I will now give my usual advice to all readers. Join a club! Indoor ranges like those at Leigh are situated all over the UK. You may have to travel a bit, but I can assure you it will be worth the effort.
UK Association of Rimfire and Air Rifle Bench Rest Shooting
Leigh indoor range details: