Novelty competition shoot with Andy McLachlan

Medals and trophies are all well and good, but Andy McLachlan’s living in hope of a liquid reward as he takes part in Bolton’s novelty shoot

Ian and Chris are two of the latest Rivington members to take Andy’s lead and pick up the magnificent Walther LG400 target rifle

By the time you read this, Santa will have once again tied up the reindeers and sent the elves back to their homes as we welcomed in the New Year. Personally, I am a bit of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas as I would much prefer to paint myself green and wait it out.

Fortunately, I am very much in the minority when considering the festive season, with most normal people appearing to fully engage with the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, or modern-day Christmas as it is now known. Whatever it is called and as we are all aware, this time of year has been celebrated for millennia and in most cases represents an opportunity for us all to get together with friends and family for some much-needed catching up.

I am not just considering family gatherings either. For those who try to spend as much time as possible with our shooting friends, this time of year offers an opportunity to go about setting up various novelty shoots which would not normally gain an airing when the cut and thrust of regular competition occurs during “normal” times of the year.

At one of my own clubs, Bolton Gun Club, the more mature shooters who tend to be found frequenting the Leigh-based indoor air rifle range always go out of their way to make up some varied and interesting targets and competitions for the many connoisseurs of benchrest shooting, although I noticed once again the competitions were all at 25 yards, not the 53 yards at which a few of us shoot mostly.

Regardless of distance, every year sees a new set of cards produced from those that have to be shot on the reverse, whereby those with decent memories have a fair chance of remembering exactly where the target is on the front, to those cards featuring sensitive body parts as appearing on this year’s Koala set. All these cards feature unique scoring setups, although the main objective is as always to hit those tiny targets, which is no easy thing, even at 25 yards.

Matt, Jim and Tom were the main competition organisers, being tasked to come up with something fun, fresh and challenging

For those who use the full benchrest rig of fully supported rifle front and rear, the chances of my friend Dave and I managing to compete adhering to our own long-range rules with a front 12-inch bipod only is pretty limited, although Dave did manage to come second in one after eight of us completed a shoot-off.

Still, the 50-yard plus shooting that Dave, several other Rivington members and I have become seriously involved with at the Rochdale Airgun Club’s 55-yard indoor range certainly allows us to continue practising our technique, regardless of range, as proper support of the gun and maximum trigger control is always required to gain the maximum from your equipment.

Speaking of equipment, an additional five members of my Rivington club have now purchased the Walther LG400 target rifle for long-range duties following a run of decent results I have managed with my own. We all know that buying equipment cannot lead to definite success, but in the case of the Walther, it would appear to be well suited for the purpose and will hopefully prove to be as effective for my friends as my own gun, now nearly two years old, has proved for me.

The LG400, examples of which have been reviewed by both myself and our editor Mike Morton, has proven to be ideal for me at long-range, and has even performed admirably when asked to compete in HFT during the summer. 

I have fired tens of thousands of shots, with the gun never missing a beat. In fact, the more I shoot it, the better it becomes.

Some shooters of my acquaintance do not like the look of the gun and its very plain, but target-ready adjustable stock. 

Personally, I don’t really care what it looks like as long as it continues to deliver me those remarkably high levels of long-range accuracy. It’s pure quality German engineering in action!

On the day of the shoot, lots of Bolton Gun Club air section members had gathered to do battle for a vast array of prizes. 

Members of the dreaded marking team are hard at work, scrutinising the targets then recording the scores

During the year, and when able due to the various and hopefully not to be seen again lockdowns, members have been buying hotdogs and bacon butties cooked by fellow members, with the cash proceeds going towards the end-of-year shoot. 

Some of the prizes including hampers and bottles of all sorts of alcoholic beverages were up for grabs. Any additional monies generated also assisted in the Help For Heroes charity contributions.

I seem to only take one gun with me to any indoor gun range these days, as the large 45x fixed-magnification Leupold competition scope can be dialled down to varying ranges that I have marked upon the elevation turret for easy reference. 

And it should come as no surprise which gun I used. My friend Dave, who was also armed with a Walther, elected to use his AGT Urugan Compact for the close-range targets. We then intended to either use our other gun, or in my case dial in to the far wall at 53 yards as normal in between the various competitions.

The official markers for the day quickly took away each of the shot cards for interrogation at which time a list of winners would be produced at the end of the session for those successful competitors. Chief marker was once again Geoff Watkinson who was great at winding up Dave and raising his blood pressure at every opportunity.

At the end of a long and amusing day of shooting, banter and Mickey-taking, all that remained was for the main organisers to present the prizes to the successful shots. Once again, I won absolutely nothing and will have to make do with the summer veterans Northwest Gauntlet HFT trophy as my only success for the year. 

It looks nice, but is unfortunately not drinkable, unlike many of the prizes on the Christmas shoot day.

Andy’s hopes of bagging some Christmas beverages were dashed, while Phil did better, winning plenty of prizes on the day

Next up on my competition radar is the highly anticipated long-range match with fellow club Rochdale. At present, Rochdale are winning this by three to two, although we have taken both the last results. Just. 

This event now appears at the top of our local benchrest shooting caldendar and represents what the best of the local long-range (55-yard) airgunners are able to produce at what is close to maximum effective range of an airgun operating at just below the current 12 ft-lb legal limit.

We are all hoping very much that no additional restrictions on travel or attendance are introduced to put a disappointing end to what will once again prove to be a close event. The long-range stuff really enthuses us all, and for me at present represents the most enjoyable and skilful benchrest event that sees a legal-limit pellet sometimes display some strange characteristics as it drops like a stone at this range.

This issue has caught all of us out at one time or another and is the topic of very many conversations. I will try to summarise these thoughts at a later date as there are now many theories as to why perfectly prepared ammunition drops an additional couple of inches on occasion.

Let us hope for a more straightforward year that will allow us all the opportunity of getting back into some form of normality. I wish you all good shooting! 

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