Benchrest shooting with Andy McLachlan

Andy McLachlan recalls an enjoyable and productive session at a club that re-opened its doors last year after the Covid restrictions.

Dave Ramshead carries out some pellet testing at one of Rochdale’s indoor ranges where no annoying wind can interfere with the results

I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed an indoor benchrest shooting trip as much as I did recently when attending Rochdale Airgun Club for an evening of long-range benchrest shooting.

The last time my friend Dave and I did attend such a day was at the Leigh range in mid-March, just before our world changed into what it is now. Several months is a long time to be away from one of your passions, although having an outdoor benchrest shooting range to shoot at has helped enormously whenever the restrictions allowed it.

The problem with attempting to shoot at distance outdoors is obvious really. Unlike a still indoor environment, the wind plays havoc with carefully placed shots that now require much in the way of mental calculation to allow for the vagaries of wind deflection.

All part of the fun I know, but we are not benchrest shooting HFT or FT, just trying to maximise our group sizes in something resembling a wind tunnel with a velocity switch that has a mind of its own. Still, it makes for some interesting shooting scenarios.

Fellow Rivington club members and I are now expert at exploding Polo mints at 50 yards, now allowing for wind drift and timing the swing of the mints as they sway in the breeze on their individual supports. It isn’t easy, but it is very enjoyable.

As with everything, you soon get used to dealing with the wind, and it was a strange experience to be faced with totally still conditions when we turned up at Rochdale Airgun Club, keen to check our long-range scope zeroes and try for those 56-yard groupings that our equipment is capable of, but hopelessly let down by the duffers behind the trigger.

Having purchased a new rifle purely for the long-range (55-yard) benchrest shooting scenario, I was more than interested to see how the Walther LG400 would perform. It does well enough outdoors, and I was very pleased with how it performed when I managed to settle into some group testing at the 56-yard maximum Rochdale range.

The first-class trigger and dead shot cycle allowed me to produce a series of shots that will hopefully lead to improved scores when we eventually get the opportunity to engage in things such as inter-club leagues.

Just as importantly though is the opportunity of mixing with friends and fellow enthusiasts, as many of us have until recently felt isolated during these trying times.

It is only as I have approached old age that I have begun to realise that it is the people around us that are far more important than owning the latest equipment or being able to regularly score a 10X on a target card.

Not that it isn’t nice owning high quality gear, as age tends to let you appreciate it more, just that who you are with and the quality time spent actually pursuing your hobby is what really matters, in my opinion.

Club membership goes beyond the actual shooting of an airgun, as it offers a chance to meet new people and make new friends

The wearing of the mandatory face masks certainly didn’t help at the firing line, but such considerations are now part of the required restrictions we are all faced with within our new world order.

Once I had got used to the fogging of my scope lens due to the Darth Vader-type breathing pattern I displayed when adopting the shooting position, I did manage to produce the odd 10X shot, with me being particularly pleased when I nailed three in a row, and at 56 yards that’s a rare event for me at the best of times on the 2mm bull of the target card.

Being indoors once again also allowed me to check for the different performance of individual pellets. Some of the Rochdale members have been enjoying particular success with the new 8.48 grain QYS Streamlined pellet batches and I look forward to trying them out when my order arrives.

However, the die 46 JSB Exact 8.44, unweighed, certainly suits the new Walther barrel and it will be interesting to see if the QYS will be able to match them. All part of the fun of airgunning!

It was good to see fellow Rivington member and champion FT and HFT shot Dave Ramshead present on the night. Dave was also testing individual batches of pellets through his Anschutz 9015 ‘Tenched’ target rifle.

Unlike most of us who were just shooting straight out of the tin, Dave took the trouble to weigh and lubricate each individual batch of pellets to identify which pellet performed the best and which pre-shooting regime suited them for ultimate accuracy.

That is the dedication required from shooters at the top of their game and who wish to retain their considerable ability to remain in the top placings when outdoor competition once again resumes, sometime soon hopefully.

In addition to the long 56-yard range facility, Rochdale members also have access to a shorter rifle range and a specific pistol range. Since lockdown, considerable expense and the investment of a few members’ precious time has resulted in what can only be described as a superb facility for any airgunner enjoying the finer points of indoor airgun shooting. 

It gives the impression of a professionally run club and cannot fail to impress any attendees. As with any serious club, safety is always the highest priority, with breech flags being required when guns are not in use. In addition, the club also has an air compressor for charging guns, and even more importantly can cater for those like me who require filling up with tea on a regular basis.

One of the members takes advantage of the club’s facilities to set up a new night vision scope on his AGT Uragan

Once we are all able to return to some semblance of normality, the club once again hope to offer hot meals as they have done previously. As you can see then, Rochdale caters for the needs of serious airgunners within the North West of England and has invested heavily to maintain a high-quality shooting experience for those fortunate enough to attend. I reckon I will be joining soon, which will mean I will be a member of three separate clubs.

While I am talking about clubs, if you are not yet a member of one, may I strongly suggest that you consider joining one at your earliest opportunity? Not only will this allow you to meet fellow airgunners in a safe and secure environment, it will allow you to meet and bond with other people who share your passion for all things airgun, resulting in lifelong friendships being formed that are worth far more than the financial outlay of the latest supergun. 

In these trying times, I reckon that being a member of a club acts as insurance against any possible future developments. Join BASC as well. They have a category for those of us choosing to shoot air-powered guns. We are definitely stronger together!

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