Outdoor shooting: Andy McLachlan explains the attraction

Whether you’re a hunter, an HFT or an FT, the attraction of outdoor shooting can prove irresistible, as Andy McLachlan explains.

Unlike HFT, FT shooters can use their side parallax control to rangefind a target

Regular readers may remember my brief sojourn into Field Target outdoor shooting about a year ago now. Basically I didn’t enjoy it, as all the faffing around rangefinding each individual target and dialling in the required settings on the scope adjusters seemed to me to be a lot of messing when I have been used to allowing for range with holdover scope techniques.

But this does not mean that I don’t appreciate all the wonderful shooters who are prepared to spend the time twiddling and twisting knobs and dials for their chosen form of competition each week.

It certainly, like any other skill, is something that can only improve with regular practice, but is best left to those shooters who prefer adjusting scopes on a regular basis.

I suppose that I now fall into the ‘serious plinker’ category of airgunner as I do not shoot outdoor competition as regularly as I used to. I have other interests that take me outside and have spent a lot of my time shooting HFT on and off for a decade or more.

Though outdoor shooting has many benefits, I seem to enjoy indoor shooting in the comfort of an indoor range much more than I did when I was a younger man, although this might just be because I have become bored with keeping to one style of shooting for such a long time. Who knows? 

Daz Taylor and his friend James McLachlan have dabbled with outdoor shooting before, but this time it could be for keeps

Like many of us, I started on the long road to airgun addiction when I was a child. Plinking with old spring-powered guns and eventually saving up for a full-powered hunting rifle, many of my friends and I made the most of the shooting opportunities surrounding us and we searched the fields for legal quarry on a regular basis for many years.

We were fortunate in that wandering around local fields with an air rifle did not result in the attendance of a fully blacked out armed response unit leaping out of a helicopter to tackle the potential terrorists.

Although we made sure that we always carried written confirmation of our hunting permission with us on our regular hunting trips, I can never remember being asked to produce it. 

How times have changed. I am of course fully aware that the police have a duty to check out any reported sightings of armed people, but I draw the comparison to illustrate just how different shooting activities tend to now be viewed by the average member of the public used to watching all sorts of horrific acts carried out all over the world by armed men.

Many of my shooting friends who hunt with their air rifles, including myself on occasion, nowadays need to advise the local constabulary that they will be carrying out legal pest control activities and will be carrying guns. This seems like overkill, but I suppose it’s just another sign of the times and further reducing freedoms.

Anyway, back to reality! As I have previously explained, Field Target shooting tends to now be the preserve of serious target shooters who will have often progressed from plinking, indoor target shooting or HFT.

Some shooters, like my friend Dave Ramshead, manage to compete in both disciplines at a high level, although there are not many shooters that do.

Gaining the sufficient skills to maintain regular high competition scores requires serious dedication and of course time. It also requires the ambition and will to maintain that effort when things are not going as well as we would like. In other words FT – or HFT for that matter – is not something that can be allowed to be placed upon the backburner while we attend to our other interests. It needs to be practised as often as possible if our hard-won skill sets are to be maintained into the future.

FT is very different to HFT, as I am sure many readers will be aware. For a start, FT competitors shoot out to 55 yards, 10 further than HFT shooters. This additional 10 yards at just under 12 foot pounds means a considerable drop for pellets travelling at legal-limit velocities as the projectile is decelerating very quickly indeed.

Take into account just how the wind will also be affecting a pellet’s travel and you can see that assessing the correct firing solution for long-range targets is not for the fainthearted and requires genuinely high levels of skill and experience if you intend to pull this off on a regular basis. Easy it is not.

However, for a couple of my shooting friends the lure of such a challenge has once again attracted them to take this on. Friend Daz Taylor and my son James have once again committed themselves to trying something different and have jacked in shooting HFT for the foreseeable future.

Basically, they have shot this specialism for a very long time and fancy a new challenge. Regular readers will be aware that they have taken this on before, but I think that this time they will be genuinely attempting to work themselves into a decent grading category.

Unlike HFT, FT shooters are graded according to ability and will be placed with shooters recording a similar average over several shoots. In order to qualify for a grade, previous shoot results will be considered prior to a grade being awarded to the shooter.

Two of the shooters who originally took on the new challenge of FT last year, Dave Taylor and John Oldroyd, have maintained their FT interest and have managed to record the odd decent performance during this period.

HFT shooter Dave Taylor turns his hand to FT, this time shooting his Anschutz

They have not shot any HFT, and I think that the four of them will be happy to have the additional competition from within our own gang. It will certainly be a lively season ahead!

I obviously know my eldest son James pretty damned well. I reckoned that rather than arm his current HFT competition Steyr with a bigger FT scope he would elect to spend yet more of his cash on a new gun. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before a brand new Steyr Challenge appeared.

Up to now James has purchased three different scopes as he tries to find the ideal setup. This is currently a Leupold, although another scope from this manufacturer has today been purchased as well!

According to James, the setup that he has with his latest FT rig is far superior to his last. He reckons that this is due to a much-improved head position on his stock which wasn’t possible with his previous rig.

Results for both Daz and James have been good considering their very recent decision to shoot FT seriously once again. It remains to be seen if they continue to progress through the grading process, although I wouldn’t bet against it as they are once again mega-keen with the new challenge.

Onwards and upwards! 

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