Long-range target shooting with Andy McLachlan

Andy McLachlan recounts how one indoor club accepted the challenge of Covid to arise even better than it was before.

This is the view from one of the shooting booths at the newly laid out Leigh range – the far wall is 53 yards away

There can be no doubt that the events of the past few months have left an indelible mark over us all. The freedom we once took for granted to go out and do what we wanted, when we wanted, was taken away due to the Covid situation that unfortunately led to much sickness and death in many, if not all, the societies on our planet.

Lockdown was an understandable and necessary response to Covid-19’s assault on our world. As a result, those of us with interests outside of the home were hit particularly hard when it came to maintaining our mental well-being by doing those things such as shooting that many of us find relaxing, while allowing us to concentrate upon doing something that kicks those unwanted negative thoughts into touch.

Regular readers will be aware that I attempted to maintain my shooting interest via the use of air pistols in my garden. That went well for a couple of weeks, but I eventually got bored of the similar scenario, and despite ringing the changes of how I could challenge myself, I was missing the ability to shoot my collection of air rifles at both indoor and outdoor ranges.

Like the rest of us, I could only wait until the first slackening of the restrictions allowed us once again to experience the joys of “proper” shooting once again.

Socially distanced shooting is now par for the course at Leigh and many other indoor ranges across the country when the rules allow

With all of the indoor range facilities closed, clubs fortunate enough to possess outdoor range facilities allowed shooters the opportunity to once again test their hard-won levels of skill on an outdoor range, providing of course that strict social distancing and hand-cleaning facilities were observed at all times. 

Luckily for me, one of the clubs I am a member of, Rivington Riflemen, possesses such an outdoor facility which has been used by some of our members on a regular basis, local lockdown measures allowing.

A few of us have now become addicted to shooting our sub-12 foot pound air rifles at very long-range targets, which is both very enjoyable and challenging.

Most, if not all, airgunners should be able to print tiny groups on a target card using today’s advanced optics and choice of numerous target-grade accuracy hardware at most ranges up to and including 40 yards.

This remains great fun, but pushing the range to double that distance (and further) and estimating the fall of shot while attempting to incorporate whatever the wind wants to do from one second to another represents a great challenge.

Whenever writers talk about long-range shooting with sub-12 ft-lb air rifles, it is usual for somebody to complain that such low-powered hardware is incapable of achieving such accuracy.

We are not talking about the half-inch groups enjoyed by our American cousins who can be seen on social media with their custom tuned and much higher powered guns, but our regular legal-limit air rifles producing shots that can hit something the size of a tin can at three-figure distances.

If you are a child at heart, as I am, the ability to knock a can over at this distance on a regular basis is guaranteed to make you smile. Let’s face it, we do it to challenge ourselves and enjoy the simple pleasures of hitting what we aim at, not to provoke those who say that a sub-12 gun should only be used up to a maximum of 55 yards or so.

Being an indoor range, the facilities and booking procedures had to be amended to keep everything in order regarding Covid guidelines

Other shooters have found different ways to alleviate some of the boredom and lack of shooting opportunities. My other club, Bolton Gun Club, that operates the excellent Leigh indoor range was, like every other indoor shooting facility, closed during and beyond the main lockdown period. Despite this, a few highly committed individuals decided to massively improve the facility for when it was once again allowed to open.

Rather than carry out a clean up and paint type operation, the decision was made to spend substantial funds to further improve both the range itself, and also to install some Covid-necessary firing position modifications that would allow individual shooters to be safely managed during this challenging period.

This work has taken months to complete and has resulted in a massively improved range facility that fully meets social distancing requirements.

Shooters familiar with the old range will notice that the lighting has been improved, along with insulation of the modified ceiling over the firing positions which will hopefully allow heat to be retained over the winter months. Individual booths also now feature Perspex dividing slots to further improve the security of the individual members. 

In addition to the total redesign of the entrance area, everything has been done to maximise the safe distribution of shooters and their movement when at the range. Even the toilets have been improved dramatically.

On my first visit I thought that I had somehow passed into a motorway service station as that is what the very upmarket newly renovated area reminded me of.

Unfortunately, to attend the Leigh indoor range, at least before the latest lockdown, you must have been a member prior to Covid appearing. This will no doubt be reviewed, with many other shooters then getting the opportunity to experience such a genuinely excellent indoor facility. 

Andy’s new Walther LG400 was treated to a very welcome day out at the reorganised range

As it is when the rules permit, members must pre-book online to save themselves one of the three-hour allocated sessions. Shooters are allowed to book more than one session per day, but each three-hour detail of shooters has to finish 15 minutes prior to the official end of session to allow the range officers to thoroughly disinfect the range prior to the arrival of the next detail.

As you can see, the cautious planners at Leigh have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that their members have a superior facility than what was available prior to the arrival of Covid.

This is the result of a very few highly committed members who have worked ceaselessly to both meet the new safety of shooter priorities, but also to provide the members with a genuinely much improved shooting experience when at the range. 

I for one thank them for their efforts, as will any other shooter fortunate enough to enjoy the new and much improved range facility at some time in the future. 

More target shooting from Andy McLachlan


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