I thought I’d share my perspective on starting on a new sport, in my case the sport of air rifle shooting.
So Much to Learn – So Little time
Why air rifle shooting?
As a youngster, my father decided to pay for shooting lessons at a small bore shooting club which was run very near where we lived. We lived in Woodgreen, north London and this .22 shooting club was based next door to Alexandra Palace train station.
Our teaching included safety, how to sight and how to use a sling to aid accuracy. The sling accuracy thing seemed to me like some form of medieval torcher. I’ve since found out it’s called the hasty sling and was used as a quick aid to improve target accuracy. There is another type target aid called the loop sling which may be better the hasty sling.
You could find out more here – Loop Sling https://gundigest.com/more/how-to/rifle-shooting-basics-loop-sling
So, part of my decision was a hankering to rekindle an old lost skill.
What else contributed to air rifle shooting?
I wanted a sport which would give me something to do, brought me outdoors, had skill associated with it and kept my mind calm.
As a regular and 64-year-old tennis player, I know I can’t maintain the same level of fitness and at some point, my various injuries will catch up with me.
Already tried green bowls but it just didn’t grab me.
Air Rifle Shooting – How Serious am I?
I tend to throw everything into every activity I decide to take up. Whether this has been football, tennis, table tennis, archery, horse riding, skiing, water skiing, scuba diving or whatever. I will read, study, learn and keep improving as much as I can.
Just before the pandemic hit, I bought an air rifle and just thought about plinking in my (not excessively big) garden. Bought a Gamo, break action, gas ram and had a go. It had whisper in the title somewhere. My thinking behind this was to get something which was quiet and wouldn’t worry my neighbours.
I fully expected a phut, phut sound of a silenced stealth like rifle (just like the movies)! What I really got was somewhat louder than a phut, plus breaking and loading this gas ram was a little harder than I thought!
I then thought about joining a club but since we were in covid-19 lockdown, there wasn’t a lot going on.
Joining an Air Rifle Club in Swindon
As someone very new to air rifles and shooting, I wondered what was around and how do I decide on where to join.
Having lived in Swindon for just over 25 years, I wanted something reasonably close to me and started to explore. One of the places I looked was on an air gun forum called unsurprisingly https://www.airgunforum.co.uk/
A quick search for a club in Swindon and out popped Black Cat HFT Air Gun. Once I’d found a club name it was easy enough to open a new browser tab and see whether this club popped up. Sure enough, there was a Facebook group. I applied to join and was quickly approved.
Bear in mind that acronyms like HFT didn’t mean anything to me at all. It took a bit of searching to find out that HFT meant Hunter Field Target and FT meant Field Target.
It turns out the in many respects, FT and HFT are completely different. Of the two, I preferred the idea for HFT as it’s more like real life IE hunting but without killing little furry animals. This wikepdia page does a reasonable job of explaining it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter_Field_Target
A quick post on Facebook and my wife and I visited to find out what this club was like, costs etc.
The club is just outside Swindon in a place called Sevenhampton and is adjacent to Black Cat Archery. The full address is Black Cat Archery, Woodland site, Roves Farm, Sevenhampton, Swindon, Wiltshire SN6 7QG. A page on their new website has a google map on it https://blackcatairrifles.co.uk/find-black-cat-air-rifles/
Joining the club
My original idea was for my wife and I to join as it was something we could do together. Turns out, Mrs Prior was not that enthused, so I paid and joined up on my own.
The club has a bench area for plinking and zeroing. I quickly re-read the instruction manual for my Gamo .177 air rifle so I could work out what on earth to do with the turrets on the rifle scope. When shooting anything, the pellet or bullet will not go in a straight line because of something called gravity! A pellet will loop up to the point of impact which means getting a pellet to hit the zero is dependent on several things.
Speed, size, weight, shape of pellet all affects the flight as does the range of the target and the wind. In fact there are quite a lot of calculations going on… Although this picture is meant as a bit of a joke… Some people do take hunter field target very seriously!
The cheap Gamo was pretty accurate once I had correctly set the scope up and was helped by different members on each visit.
One thing I can confidently say about this club is the members really are helpful and very friendly. They went out of their way to make me feel welcomed and were happy to share their experience and views with this newcomer.
Air Rifles and What to do Next
The cheapo Gamo was accurate but sitting down and breaking the barrel was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. It seems that gas ram type air rifles have less recoil than springers, but the pull needed is considerable across the whole range of motion. My muscles told me another solution was in order!
If you are new to this sport you will find a huge range of air rifles to suite your need and budget. Not only that but you will see, break action, underlever, CO2 and PcP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) so what to choose?
In the end I wanted something which was easy to handle, had a large shot count, provided multi-shot and single shot, not too heavy and fitted me reasonably well. I had already decided on a PcP type air rifle.
There are so many brands out there, it’s almost bewildering. In my case I spoke to a few people, watched lots of YouTube videos, read reviews on forums. It’s funny but you will probably find as many good reviews as possible and bad reviews for any one air rifle that it can cause a degree of analysis paralysis.
The other challenge with buying a PcP is you will need air delivered under quite a lot of pressure. The general advice was to buy a diver’s type bottle as filling becomes a breeze. My concern with going down this route was that if we had another lockdown, I might not be able to fill the bottle as it needs filling via a diver’s shop and might be closed.
I had already been warned that filling with a pump was hard work but in the end that is what I decided to do.
The rifle I chose as my first was a BSA R10 SE Super Carbine as it fitted my criteria the best. Some people have mentioned regulator problems with these guns and yet others have found them good to shoot.
I can report that my latest MK5 Hill Pump is not as hard as I had thought. Apparently, it’s around 15% easier than their MK4 pump, it comes with a Dry-Pac system to reduce moisture and is very well-made. https://www.airriflepump.com/index.html
So far so good.
Having visited the plinking bench, I’ve managed to zero the cheap Gamo scope. Someone gave me some chalk targets, and these emit a lovely white puff when you hit them.
My next challenge is to buy a decent scope and have a go at the HFT course. There are some rules with this sport, with shots varying between kneeling, standing and prone.
Whilst testing this, I’ve found kneeling at home almost impossible as my quadriceps are as tight as piano wire. Funny how playing tennis and other sports can destroy some flexibility and enhance others.
My next plan is to do some much-needed stretching! And test my air rifle in the garden. At only 16 yards, it’s not big enough to test the whole range of hunter field target but at least I’ll get a feel and can gauge where I’m at.