Andy McLachlan decides to pull the trigger on a brand new springer – in an attempt to help him improve his scores with a PCP.
Well, it must have been all of a couple of months since I had last bought myself a new gun. Over the last couple of years, all the new guns, (and there have been many) that I have bought have been of the lifeless PCP variety. Being dead, it is easier for a relative novice to achieve reasonable standards of accuracy with a precharged rifle, particularly if they are shooting indoors at a bench.
Years ago I spent months shooting nothing but spring-powered rifles in an effort to improve essential control functions such as managing the perfect shot release and follow-through. I felt these were in need of work due to what I considered were my below-par performances with a PCP outdoors during HFT competition shoots.
My time with the springer appeared to have had a positive effect, with my return to action with a PCP on the Northwest of England HFT competition circuit resulting in a personal best score of 58 ex 60 the first time out with my Steyr.
It would be nice to be able tell you that my run of good scores has continued to the present, but that would not be true, unfortunately.
Regular readers will have noticed that I am once again gravitating towards outdoor HFT competition from the benchrest informal shooting
I have enjoyed for the past couple of years. I still enjoy this, but have once again been drawn to the outdoor competition scene that has thus far seen me record some scores that have frankly been disappointing, although I am at the time of writing leading the Veterans category in the Northwest Gauntlet series with three shoots completed and three to go.
With not having shot seriously in competition outdoors for a while, my skill set appeared to have reduced further from my normal low- to mid-fifties average. In addition to this, and not to invoke it as an excuse for deteriorating levels of performance, I am noticing the ageing process is doing its best to reduce my ability to shoot to a standard which I am happy.
As any regular outdoor HFT competitor will tell you, it is not the ability to shoot accurately that is the problem. Most reasonably competent PCP shooters will have the ability to record excellent results when attempting to group their shots indoors with decent quality equipment in still air.
However, once we enter the outdoor arena the amazing skill levels of those who regularly place near the top must be seen to be believed.
I have mentioned it many times via these pages in the past, but to be continually able to place at or near the top of something like a national or regional HFT competition requires the ability to accurately judge range and of course read what will usually be a continually changing wind.
These are the skills that are hard won and require years of careful observation and working out individual shot resolutions. Having been present many times with an outstanding shot such as my son James, as he makes it all look so easy, can be very frustrating at times.
So with my previous experience of having some time with a springer improving my own performance in the past and liking the look of a rifle recently reviewed on YouTube by my fellow writer Richard Saunders, a cunning plan involving yet more cash began to form in my mind.
The rifle that Richard was looking at was the Weihrauch HW77 in the beautiful “Summer” variant of the laminated stock that is currently in production from the German spring gun supremo. I will be honest with you and state that personally, I usually prefer a nicely grained walnut, but this combination of browns, green and grey really does look nice.
Searching my local retailers, I managed to locate a dealer with one in stock and handed over £480 to Redbeck Shooting Supplies. On inspecting the rifle at home, I was impressed with the usual high standard of fit and finish that we have come to expect from what must be the top German manufacturer of sporting spring-powered rifles.
In addition to the gun’s appearance, the shot cycle was surprisingly smooth for an untuned springer that was straight out of the box, with no sign of spring resonance or twang whatsoever.
On the Leigh indoor range, the gun was able to produce good, tight groups when I managed to get everything right during the individual shot cycles.
If I maintained a similar hold following the loading of individual pellets into the breech, the gun was quite capable of recording PCP-sized groups.
If, however, I lacked the concentration to make sure that my hands and trigger finger went through the same cycle, the shots would land away from the point of aim, sometimes by a surprisingly far distance.
This is what makes the firing of a spring-powered rifle so useful for those wishing to improve their own shot release technique when at the range. If you get anything wrong with a springer you will be punished downrange.
A PCP is far more forgiving and does not really care how you hold it, or even pull the trigger for that matter. If you point it at the right place, it will usually deliver the goods.
Having now shot a tin of what I discovered was my personal rifle’s preferred diet of Air Arms Express downrange, the rifle continues to loosen up further and will hopefully be fully bedded in soon.
The only issue that I have had is wondering why my right shoulder had been aching a bit following springer shooting at the range. Pulling that underlever down for three hours at a time has let my shoulder muscles know they have been working harder than usual.
I have also succumbed to some rifle bling via the beautiful and effective swept-back brass Rowan Engineering trigger blade and trigger guard to accompany the brass fixing screws I found on the bay of fleas.
My friend Jim also discovered a cocking aid he had made, but never used, for his son’s HW77 decades ago, so I also slotted that into place.
All that remains now is to see if continued use of the springer will help to further improve my scores on the HFT course.
My release of the shot will hopefully receive a reminder of how to achieve perfect control, but as to the judgement of range and wind, well, I will just have to try to work on those skills separately.