It's been a busy year so far for the airgun section. It's only March, and we've already been away to more regional competitions that our wallets would like to remember, and brought back more than our fair share of prizes.
With more mud than the Somme, and weather that changed by the second, the latest competition of the Southern Hunter Series at West London Rangers was a perfect example of a hunter field target event. For those who don't know, Hunter Field Target is an outdoor air-rifle target sport designed to simulate hunting scenarios. We use metal fall when hit targets with 'kill zones' from 15mm to 40mm in diameter, at ranges from 8 meters to about 40 meters. When you're shooting with an air-rifle in the wind, and using a low magnification sight, 40 meters seems like a mile!
As always, the event began with a safety briefing, as nearly every HFT event has a few people who have never taken part before. We were then put into groups of two, so that each person had a buddy to mark their score sheet. I was grouped with a disturbingly talented young man named Tom McDonald. Another CGC air gunner, Dave Hutton, was in the lane next to me, paired with the field target legend Cliff Church, who was taking his first foray into the HFT scene!
The course consisted of thirty separate targets placed at unknown distances from the firing points. As the course wound around inside some fairly dense woodland, guessing the range by eye was quite difficult, and HFT rules don't allow any other way of range finding. Judging the wind was also quite a challenge, as some of the targets were at right angles to others. Working it out perfectly on one target might not help you at all on the next only a few feet away! At the longer ranges, a strong gust of wind can easily blow your shot right off the target if you get the wind wrong. Fortunately in HFT we still score one point if we hit the metal face of the target, while knocking it over gains two points, so people like me don't get too depressed!
Many of the targets were very close, but with their tiny 15mm kill zones, they were perhaps the hardest targets out there, as the slightest flaw in your technique could be enough to throw the shot out into the faceplate. The course designers had other devious ideas though, such as putting some of the targets behind steel mesh, so that you could aim dead centre, but hit the wire instead of the target, scoring a zero! Those targets required a lot of thought to find a clear path to that elusive kill zone. One of the targets was placed inside a concrete pipe, which made estimating the range accurately almost impossible.
Despite these nasty tricks, the four competitors from Christchurch did the club proud, as each of us brought home a badge. In the southern hunter series, badges are awarded for being within a certain number of shots of the leader. Matt Dimmer and Kevin Lindsay both won bronze medals, while Dave Hutton and myself managed our first silvers!
The day finished with the drawing of the bonus bunny competition. This is a common event in field target and HFT competitions, where one target on the course is nominated the bonus bunny. Everyone who hits it gets their name put into a hat, and whomever is pulled out wins a prize. In this case, the prize was to be £70, split between two people. Much to the surprise of everyone there, both names pulled out were from Christchurch: Matt Dimmer and myself! Being the wonderful people we are, we decided to share the money with Dave and Kevin! Due to some miscalculation, I'm sure, their shares were slightly smaller than ours!
All in all, it was a great day for everyone who went along. Despite the rain and the mud, and the ubiquitous equipment problems, we still managed to do well, and more importantly have fun! HFT is a sport that just about anyone can do well in, with almost any rifle and scope, so we hope to see a few more new competitors from Christchurch at the final competition at Basingstoke on the 25th!