Buying second-hand target airguns with Andy McLachlan

Andy McLachlan on the lookout for yet another target rifle, but this time he goes down the path of buying second-hand.

Steyrs are nothing new to Andy as he’s been shooting them for more than a decade – this is one of his early rifles from years ago

Regular readers may remember me writing of my long-term affinity with the Steyr Sport brand for Hunter Field Target shooting. Recently, I have used my superb Walther LG400 for outdoor use, having removed the larger fixed 45x magnification Leupold scope that is ideal for the long-range benchrest shooting at 53-55 yards that some of us shoot locally.

Fitted with the smaller, more suitable, 2-8x magnification Leupold has allowed me to record some half-decent scores and it has been great using the Walther outdoors. However, this meant that I have been without a fully set up benchrest target rifle for when I wanted to head indoors to shoot at those long-range targets once again.

Not being a shooter who is able to keep his wallet hidden for long, this need for an additional target rifle has been circling about my subconscious mind and firing the odd thought regarding a suitable candidate for a second “serious” target rifle to add to my armoury. This would then allow me to have a combination properly set up for both indoors and the local HFT scene that I am now restricting myself to.

I am aware that our editor Mike receives the odd letter from shooters who consider that using expensive target rifles rather than much more affordable hardware is not something that should be promoted by “average” non-target-shooting fellow enthusiasts. 

I beg to differ. There are indeed a few shooters whose skill-sets are that good that they might get away with using a 10-year-old standard PCP. However, as with most things, it’s horses for courses, and a full-blown target rifle will indeed allow the target shooter many additional advantages. 

Features such as stock adjustability to ensure a good fit, match-grade triggers that most certainly help to release a measured shot, and overall engineering and build quality right down to the match-grade barrel all help to tip the outcome in your favour when you’re at the peg or on the bench.

These features do not come cheap unfortunately, but it could certainly be said that to get into any form of target shooting needn’t cost the price of a half-decent used car. If you have been fully gripped by the talons of the target shooting world as I and many of my compatriots have been for decades though, the expense to purchase top-grade equipment becomes as essential as finding a good batch of pellets. 

It is therefore necessary to use the best equipment to record consistently good scores that will be required to win at any competition series involving airguns that I have been familiar with.

I am not implying that all target shooters will be rushing to empty their wallets at the first whiff of new equipment becoming available, but if they are to maintain their high levels of performance, they need to be aware of any hardware that both they and the competition have access to as it might indeed lead to further improvements in their own ability to record a winning score. 

Here’s Andy’s “new” Steyr Challenge all set to be zeroed in preparation for its new life as a tack-driving benchrest rifle

Just like the infamous “Arms Race” that has cost our various governments so much of the national income.

So then, back to my own personal journey into attempted high-scoring hardware. As I have just mentioned, the purchase of a genuine target rifle does not come cheap, with most guns coming in at around the £2,000 mark. 

Some cost much more than this, and when the shooter looks for suitable optics this can sometimes almost double the overall cost of the outfit.

For those of us unable to manage the considerable financial outlay of buying new gear, there is of course the option of buying something second-hand. 

But just as it is with cars, or most other things for that matter, it remains a possibility of buying ourselves something that looks like it should do the business, but when it comes to crunch time, instead lets us down badly.

Guns are one of those items that appear to attract the unwanted attention of habitual tinkerers that just cannot keep themselves from ripping the guts out of a perfectly functioning shooting platform just to see how it all fits together, and to perform “upgrades” that will sometimes result in abject failure and the gun not being in a safe condition. You obviously need to keep away from guns like this.

I would strongly suggest that any target equipment you intend to buy is either new with the manufacturer’s warranty in place, or if used, comes from somebody you can trust not to sell you a lemon and will be willing to have any faults rectified post-sale. 

This might be a tall order, but serious target shooters do not want their names being tarnished with that of a rip-off merchant, as that does not go down well once the word is out.

With all these considerations in mind I then set about putting the feelers out for any suitable second-hand target rifles that I could use just for HFT. It didn’t take long for my son James to notice this as he had decided to move on one of his two Steyr Sport target rifles.

Tony Thomas takes a kneeling shot with his Steyr LG110 – this was also bought second-hand and was treated to a full service

The gun I had my eyes on was a Challenge model that is about three years old. I am aware that James always ensures that his guns are properly maintained, and I was therefore confident in the provenance of the gun and its ability to deliver the shot when it matters most.

Having decided to buy the gun and hand over the cash, I then became the owner of what is now the fifth Steyr Sport target rifle that I have owned. Yes, I am more than aware that if I had kept one of the previous guns during the past 15 years it would have saved me the cost of buying another, but if you are condemned to buying new guns fairly regularly as I appear to be, you need other guns to fund it.

I then proceeded to track down the left-handed Warren Edwards-manufactured grip set that I left in place when I had sold my previous Steyr to a fellow Rivington clubmate about a year ago. As he had had a laminated grip set manufactured for the gun, I was able to fit my old hamster, cheekpiece and pistol grip into position straight away before I even had a chance to re-zero the gun. 

It was at this point that I made an error of judgement that resulted in a terrible performance at my first HFT competition with the gun. As that is worthy of further discussion, I will leave that to next time.

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