Andy McLachlan and his friends began to get bored shooting Polo mints, so they decided to extend the range and grab some kitchenware.
It seems as if it was a lifetime ago that we did not have our lives influenced and affected by the devastating scourge that is Covid-19.
As we are aware, this has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties here in the UK, but also devastation within the world of business and vast reductions in our personal freedoms and the ability of us to do what we want, when we want to do it.
In addition to causing us so many problems on the personal, work and educational fronts, the virus has for many of us curtailed the ability of keen sportspeople to engage in their favoured hobbies. In our case, airgun shooting.
This has meant that for several months our indoor range shooting facilities have been closed, meaning that we have all had to find alternative means of shooting our guns and relaxing ourselves as we normally do when absorbed in the act of shooting.
This does not have to involve serious target shooting scenarios either. Just plinking away in our gardens or at an outdoor facility if we can meet the restrictive social distancing measures is, for most of us, all we need to maintain some semblance of sanity.
As a result of the social distancing requirements and the insistence from the government that we also restrict the numbers of people we are allowed to get together with, few, if any serious outdoor competitions have occurred to date.
I have mentioned in recent articles just how important it is to us all that we get the chance to socialise with people we care about, including those who also enjoy the simple act of shooting.
This is something that we have all taken for granted for years as we have all presumed that life would carry on as normal and that our freedoms would not be affected by events as they have proven to occur within all of our lives.
If, like me, you live alone, not being able to socialise or even see our families and friends is a sure-fire way to induce stress and all the problems that go with it.
Basically, for me, and I suspect thousands of others, the ability to meet friends for a shoot is not just a leisure activity, but possesses far more important and deeper mental considerations required to maintain a balanced mind and retain our sanity. Heavy stuff I know, but I really believe it is that important for our general well-being.
Anyway, enough of my philosophical ponderings! In many ways I consider us fortunate that we have a passion that allows us to refocus our minds from negative to positive in an environment that we enjoy being in.
At my Rivington club we are very fortunate indeed that we have a large outdoor range area that happens to be very beautiful and full of not only sheep, but much in the way of wildlife and various species of moorland birds that are just nice to watch and be around most of the time. Basically, it’s just a privilege to be there, never mind the shooting.
Over the course of the past few months many of us have become experts at the now famous Polo Challenge, which I have already described to you all a few times, but basically involves trying to shoot dangling Polo mints that are moving about in the wind at 50 yards.
Challenging, but great fun as you all seek to hit as many on the run as you can consecutively. My own record is three up to now, but the Elf Ian Jones is up to four if my memory serves me correctly.
One of the great things about the location of our Turton range is that we have a large amount of space and we also have the backstop of a hill to stop the travel of any wayward shots.
We do occasionally have to call a halt to shooting activities as we wait for the odd sheep to make its way through the range area, although this is a relatively rare event. We even have an enclosed area that can protect us and our equipment from the rain which falls on a regular basis so high up on the moors.
I am sure that, like us, any group of friends who enjoy shooting together in an informal way could be described as “serious plinkers”. I think that this is a positive description, as it describes individuals who are just interested in challenging themselves rather than a field full of serious competition shots who sometimes forget that they are supposed to be enjoying themselves.
The only competitions that I had been involved with up until March had been indoor long-range (50 yards-plus) benchrest club events that saw me shockingly win a couple of trophies.
It now seems a long time ago that we would all submit our monthly sets of shot competition cards and eagerly await release of the league tables to confirm our own positions as we progressed through the series.
But, as the serious plinking brigade have discovered over the course of the past few months, even swinging Polos eventually lose their shine and it is also surprising how quickly a whole packet turns to a white dust when several club members are firing tiny spinning projectiles at them come rain or shine.
We needed a new target. I am not sure who first thought of suspending a small pan 100 yards form the firing line, although I suspect his first name is Ian.
The said pan hangs upon a piece of old metal scaffolding just in front of an ancient wall and provides us all with a challenging uber long-range shot. Believe me when I say that the hold-off for both elevation and windage is measured in feet rather than mere inches to achieve the required “gong” that advises all of a direct hit.
I am not for one moment condoning shooting at any living thing at such distances with sub-12 foot pound legal-limit air rifles, but an old pan in a fierce crosswind at 100 yards is most definitely an entertaining additional target to the normal paper targets and spinners that are our usual fare.
It is really surprising just how much energy is retained at that distance,
as the pan is now facing certain death due to the hundreds of dents that now cover its body.
My own other personal challenge has involved shooting groups at an old stone wall at 66 yards. It still surprises me how accurate, in a wind, our combinations are these days, with some really tight groups appearing from our benchrested positions.
I might miss the indoor competition provided by long-range benchrest, but I have found that I am starting to enjoy the challenges of stupidly long-range shooting activities outdoors just as much.
I hope that all of our readers have had the opportunity to enjoy their shooting just as much as we have in these restrictive times. Hopefully, our previous freedoms are not that far away now. Just get out there and shoot!
More on target shooting from Airgun Shooter Magazine
- Target shooting in nature with Andy McLachlan
- Scopes for benchrest target shooting
- Benchrest target shooting insights w/ Andy McLachlan
- Target shooting: choosing the right pellet
- 10 Top tips for target shooting