While many of his fellow target shooters prefer to stay single, Andy McLachlan has a memorable moment with his multi-shot magazine.
Most HFT competition shooters will be using single-shot rifles for competition purposes. There are, of course, many good reasons why this is the case.
Firstly, HFT competition rules state that if a rifle is equipped with a magazine, this should be removed from the action following every shot, for obvious safety reasons.
It would not be safe practice to have a shooter moving from peg to peg with a gun that has a pellet ready to enter the breech at the flick of a bolt or sidelever, even if the gun has a safety catch – which specialised target rifles do not possess in most cases anyway.
Safety must always come first when we consider any shooting activity, with other shooters being assured that their compatriots are not wandering around with a loaded gun.
Shooters must ensure we are keeping our guns pointed in a safe direction, even when we all presume them to be unloaded. Incidents do sometimes occur, when a forgetful shooter has become distracted for whatever reason, and discovers that their gun is in fact loaded when they thought it was not.
Using a magazine-fed rifle does add an additional responsibility to the shooter because the gun is still ‘armed’, even following the release of a shot and prior to the action being re-cocked.
It is very easy, particularly for a less experienced shooter, to re-cock the gun following the shot due to the activity’s repetitive nature and be unaware that the gun is now loaded with a pellet engaged in the breech, and just the touch of a trigger away from shot release and potential damage or injury.
I would strenuously argue that the use of a magazine-fed rifle requires the shooter to be hyper aware of the condition of their gun, far more so than they would be if they were using a single-shot.
Not that using the described magazine-fed rifle isn’t very practical, particularly for certain hunting scenarios. The use of a magazine certainly speeds up the loading process, obviously, and if you are anything like me, it allows the shooter to have a great deal of fast-fire fun when shooting at targets downrange in a non-competitive shooting scenario.
I very often notice my friend Dave Pilkington giving me strange looks as I empty the magazines of one of my multi-shot PCPs downrange as fast as I can.
This usually involves trying to shoot an old shotgun cartridge or pellet tin occasionally while it is still on the move, which in my childlike way I find very entertaining. Dave describes this as my ‘Bren gun’ mode, as he prefers to not use magazines, even in any of his multi-shot rifles – of which he has many, I might add!
All the multi-shot PCP rifles that I am aware of are in the sporter configuration. This means that the stocks are designed with weight and swift handling in mind for use in the field.
The crossover element includes those usually top-end guns that are of the required quality to ensure accurate delivery for the competitive shooter when used in single-shot format.
These types of guns usually display features such as adjustable stocks, as well as a more vertically inclined pistol grip that delivers superior trigger control. In saying that, such is the high standard of most guns these days that most, if not all, guns would be capable of delivering good results in the right hands anyway.
Fortunately, most multi-shot PCPs give the owner the opportunity to use their fast-firing guns in single-shot mode. This involves the fitment of either the manufacturer’s single-shot tray, or perusing the likes of Rowan Engineering’s product line-up for a suitable candidate.
I have owned many Rowan single-shot adaptors over the years, and can confirm that they are of high quality and provide an excellent solution and magazine alternative.
One of the disadvantages of using a magazine-fed gun is that, according to the time taken to engineer the magazine itself, sometimes accuracy can suffer. The reason for this is that the alignment of the pellet may not always be perfect with that of the breech.
Very often, the act of closing the bolt or sidelever will result in very small amounts of lead being removed from the pellet as it enters the barrel. This will manifest itself as a ‘flier’ as the unstable pellet veers away from your intended point of impact, and is why serious target shooter will only ever single-shot load their guns.
Sometimes even a pellet loaded into a magazine that is not perfectly square as it is dropped into position will be enough to destroy the tight group that you’ve so carefully worked for.
I have recently watched videos of gunsmiths offering advice on how to tune magazines to allow for maximum performance.
Personally, I always test new multi-shot magazines to identify those that will not deliver good standards of accuracy, as you can indeed discover that some of your mags will provide greater accuracy than others.
I have been very fortunate in that the magazines I possess for both my Rapid Air Weapons HM1000 and Daystate Red Wolf are all well engineered and do not produce wayward shots (those are purely down to me unfortunately!). But ‘bad’ magazines do sometimes manage to sneak through the manufacturers’ quality control procedures though.
To qualify my point regarding the standard of engineering required to ensure that a magazine will line up with the breech perfectly every time, I recently conducted a swift experiment with my new Red Wolf.
The gun had been purchased as an indoor benchrest target rifle for competing within the Sporter category. Accuracy from the electronically controlled action is nothing short of astounding, I must say, and explains just why the gun has swiftly become so popular.
When fitted with its single-shot tray, the gun continues to impress with its ‘easy’ accuracy. The electronic trigger unit certainly helps, and combined with the high-quality barrel, produces results that can match full-blown competition guns in benchrest format.
As previously mentioned, however, I can never resist the opportunity of shooting reactive targets, particularly following a couple of hours of concentrated paper target intensity.
So, filling the gun’s two magazines with some Air Arms Express pellets, I proceeded to shoot a new UK Bench Rest target to see if there was any variance in my gun’s ability to produce good results. I have to say that I was very impressed!
Both of my magazines allowed me to retain the mega-accuracy of the gun in its single-shot format, which did indeed fill me with confidence.
I have included an image of the results of an internal Leigh indoor range informal competitive shoot to prove my point. The card was shot by my Red Wolf when using one of the magazines, and resulted in me achieving joint second on the day with an 18 ex 22.
Maybe I would have managed to hit a couple more of the tiny glasses of Guinness at 30 yards if I had been using the single-shot adaptor and a scope with more than 12 magnification, who knows?
Regardless of the great performance of some multi-shot magazines though, I will always use a gun in single-shot format for official competition purposes. The gun remains in a safer condition in between shots, and you can be sure that any wayward results are most definitely down to pilot error!