As part of its cater-for-all remit, Hunter Field Target Shooting offers classes for ladies, juniors (split into two age groups), recoiling rifles – and in a bid to woo-in hunters, there’s a class specifically for shooters who favour .22 calibre hardware.
Most airgunners know that .22 pellets are typically almost twice the weight of their .177 counterparts and thus have a far more marked trajectory as a result – so this HFT class assists in not penalising shooters just because they’re fans of the bigger bore guns.
Additionally, those who put in high .22 Class scores on the UKAHFT National circuit deserve much credit – which is why we’re throwing the spotlight on Lee Hartness.
This airgun hunter’s casual approach to competition work with a .22 is starting to pay off… and he’s now becoming a field-shooting force to be reckoned with on the competition scene!
AS Tell us about yourself, Lee – how did you start shooting?
LH I’m a Senior Sales Advisor for Toolstation – and I’ve always been into shooting. Ever since I could hold a gun, really. I was always plinking at tin cans in the back garden with my Dad and brother, using open sights. Joining Lea Valley – a real go-ahead club – made a big difference to my outlook, though, and I got into HFT about six years back.
AS Have you ever tried other shooting sports?
LH No. I’ve often thought about applying for an FAC air rifle for rabbit shooting, mind you – but then I enjoy the challenge of hunting with a sub-12ft/lb air rifle, where getting as close as possible to the quarry, in order to take a clean shot, is the name of the game. So an FAC isn’t really worth the hassle for me at the moment.
AS What airguns have you owned to date?
LH There’s been quite a few. I’ve currently got two Weihrauch HW97Ks – a .177 and a .22 – and a .177 Theoben MFR. I’ve also had a .22 HW100; a .177 Webley Sidewinder and a .22 Daystate MK4. Great guns, all of them – but I love the Theoben’s simple engineering and fantastic accuracy. I can’t fault it. My current favourite, the HW97K, has that great Rekord trigger, which obviously helps, and a well-shaped stock as standard.
AS So what mods have been done to your competition rifle?
LH I’ve only ever altered my spring powered rifles. They are what I’m concentrating on at the moment, and I’ve currently got a V-Mach kit in each of my HW97Ks, fitted by my Dad. These retro-fit kits are a great design and make the firing cycle much smoother and, ultimately, the rifle easier to shoot.
AS What about scope favourites?
LH I’m currently using a Leupold 3-9×33 EFR VX2 with Duplex reticle. It’s a very clear scope and I don’t get any significant parallax error, which I have had with other scopes. It’s great for both HFT and hunting, letting in plenty of light while lamping. On the circuit, it’s great on those 15mm kill zones, which is where the EFR reticle comes in. I can see myself using this scope for a while; it’s simply a great all-rounder.
AS Any favourite accessories?
LH Yes – a sling! As when hunting, it just makes it easier to carry the rifle around when shooting through an HFT course.
AS You’re a keen hunter, but how often do you now practise for your HFT commitments?
LH I try for twice a week, but sometimes things get in the way.
AS Do you shoot for a team?
LH No; I’m not currently in any team, though I shoot at two clubs – Lea Valley and Springfield ARC in Chelmsford.
AS So how are your results in HFT stacking up?
LH Well, 2013 was my best year! I’ve stayed with .22 Class, and took first place at Kibworth’s Round 1 of the National UKAHFT Series. I was also runner-up at Maldon’s Round 6, winning my class there the following day, at Round 7.
AS Impressive stuff. So, speaking as an air rifle hunter, what do you think of HFT?
LH It’s a great sport, very testing shooting in all weathers, allowing for wind, elevation and, of course, getting that range right. While it’s a challenge, it really doesn’t matter what score you get. It’s just great fun getting out and about, meeting great people and having a laugh. I just love it. I suppose part of the attraction is just trying to shoot accurately, from all positions.
AS And finally Lee, any advice to impart?
LH Well, for competition, I reckon it’s important to stick with the one gun. Experiment by all means – but once you have found the set-up that suits you, keep with it! Then, it’s practice that is the key to success.