Outdoor airgun shooting w/ Andy McLachlan

Andy McLachlan recalls a time when the world was a little closer to normal and he paid a visit to a shooting ground for a spot of HFT.

Andy takes on a long-range target on one of the HFT courses that Blackbrook Country Sports has to offer

It seems like ages ago that I attended an outdoor HFT competition. Not that anything has been normal for those of us who until March last year enjoyed shooting outdoor competition in either Field Target or Hunter Field Target formats on a regular basis.

That does not mean that those of us fortunate enough to have access to a club outdoor range, when restrictions allowed, were not able to get out there and release some of that pent up frustration at not being able to do the things that we actually enjoy doing.

I know for me personally that if the restrictions had continued as fully as they did when during the national lockdown periods, I most definitely would have gone fully round the twist and become even more strange than I am normally!

It does not take a rocket scientist to conclude that Covid has had a tremendous negative impact upon many, if not most, in society. The things we have always taken for granted now appear to be even more important than they were previously, with family life even more important than it was before it all changed back in March 2020.

Anyway, a call from my son James advising me that he intended to travel into the Midlands one Saturday to shoot a round of HFT had me agreeing to his suggestion. The club in question, Blackbrook Country Sports, situated between Birmingham, Tamworth and Litchfield, is a relatively new club. It’s not small though, with the layout comprising no fewer than five permanent HFT and FT courses laid out within the considerable amount of space available. 

In addition, the ground also caters for outdoor benchrest shooting and general plinking with three covered outdoor ranges, one of which is even heated! Combined with a facility for refilling air bottles, on site refreshments being available on the day we turned up and a solid car parking facility for up to 80 cars, it is clear that the management of Blackbrook Country Sports are very serious indeed about providing the Midlands with an additional upmarket facility that caters for both airgunners and shotgunners.

The airgunner that has been very much a part of the Blackbrook team regarding the ongoing development of the new and impressive facility is Michelle Parsons. I got the impression that Michelle’s efforts to help the development of an ideal outdoor airgunning facility has been very much a part of how the club intends to develop into the future.

Assisted by some close friends and other local airgunners, it is plain to see that the individual course layouts I witnessed on the day of my trip had been set by people who actually shoot themselves, which is not always the case unfortunately.

This was very much in evidence as Michelle explained how the Blackbrook team has always been supportive of any advice that she and her compatriots have provided as the facility has continued to develop, Covid-19 restrictions allowing.

James has been to the ground a few times previously for Field Target competition events, and he advised me that he always seems to suffer from a less than good score due to the dalliances of the tricky breeze that can whistle through the relatively flat area and many trees.

On the day we turned up it was cool, but relatively calm with only a touch of breeze affecting the fall of shot occasionally, but still frequent enough to keep an eye on it prior to releasing our individual pellets.

Regular readers will be aware that, like me, James likes to alter the type of shooting he pursues. If it involves some form of competition, is outdoors and with a legal-limit air rifle, he is happy. 

The gun he chose to shoot for this outing was his Air Arms TX200 that has been fully tuned by Tony Leach. Combined with a target stock manufactured by Warren Edwards, this 22mm piston and mainspring modified target rifle is certainly a lovely gun to shoot, particularly after I persuaded James that the ridiculously low second stage sear release was far too light for a spring-powered gun.

Following a swift readjustment a couple of days previously and a fresh zeroing session, James was ready to give the combination a run out for the first time in at least a year.

Fellow Rivington Riflemen member Dave Ramshead advertises his home club while tackling the Blackbrook course
Michelle Parsons is one of the HFT shooters who’s been helping to develop the facilities at Blackbrook

My own gun for the day was my Venom Weihrauch HW80. This had been set up for my 25-yard benchrest cards and required me to try to readjust the zero at the club’s plinking range prior to commencement of the competition, which did not bode well for a confidence-inspiring understanding of my aim points for the day. 

In addition to this, I had just found out that the craftsman who had manufactured this particular rifle for me many moons ago, Steve Pope of Venom and V-Mach fame, had sadly passed away a couple of weeks previously. This was a huge loss, as he was really fantastic bloke who will be deeply missed by us all.

James and I shot around the 30-target course together. It swiftly became apparent that as usual, James was in no mood to let the old fella approach anything near his own strike rate as he continued to hit and record maximum scores on 26 out of the 30 targets, leading to a total of 56. 

This would not have been bad if he were using one of his PCP target rifles, so as you can imagine he was more than pleased with the TX200 and his own performance on the day.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself as well though, even considering that I only managed to knock over 13 targets, completely going over the top of a couple of others for a final total of 41. 

This is certainly not in the same league as somebody who wishes to be in contention for a positional place in an HFT competition, but considering I was guessing my aim points, particularly for the close-range shots, I more than made up for it by not only dropping the unsupported stander, but by knocking down most of the long-range stuff as well. 

Hopefully by the time you read this we will be somewhere closer to returning to normality and we will once again be able to attend regular outdoor airgun competition events. For those who have not tried the Blackbrook Country Sports shooting ground, I would strongly recommend a visit. A great place to meet up with friends and have a much-needed shoot.

More on target shooting from Andy McLachlan

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