Newbies First Six Months In Field Target By Mark

56 years of age and hadn’t used an airgun since being a lad. I admit now that in a previous life I had been a professional gunman, but close quarter combat training with full bore weaponry never prepared me for shooting tin chickens in a windy wood with a sub 12ft/lb .177 calibre airgun surrounded by weirdos.

After retirement and until May 2015 my hobby was archery. Right up until I suffered a catastrophic injury to my bow arm. I was devastated but started to look for a new target sport to focus on during my rehabilitation from major surgery. Guns and targets were a natural option.

My research took me to Anston FT club about half an hour away, but disappointed to find that there was a waiting list for membership.

The phone call six months later from Paula Higgins saw me proceeding in a northerly direction and on 6 February 2016 I landed at Anston FTC induction day with 20 others. We stood in a torrential downpour listening to Chairman ‘Coop Dawg’ Cooper gives the briefing. A few other strange characters mooched around menacingly, wrapped in warm waterproof gear sussing the potential members. The loud scary one I labelled ‘the child catcher’ turned out to be Si Higgins.

Another I thought was surely to be evicted as an opportunist hobo turned out to be Mester Calpin, unrecognisable under layers of 1980’s sportswear and his mums pink knitted bobble hat circa 1970 with floppy ears.

I just liked these people. Honest, blunt, helpful, open, eccentric and…..mercilessly piss-taking. Someone later described them as ‘a great bunch but mad as a box of frogs’

I visited at every opportunity, bothering everyone and trying everything. I moved quickly, attending the last NEFTA winter league and decided then it was the FT discipline for me.

Never been intimidated by a challenge, I jumped in with both feet and picked up an S400 and a Sightron scope a week before GP1. Wouldn’t suit everyone but as Calp’s says – “where tha’s no sense tha’s no feeling”

GP training involved Paul ‘Mangers’ Mangham timing my two minutes whilst throwing mint imperials at my genitals. One impact was extremely accurate and caused me nausea for ten minutes. Cheers Paul – fully prepared now. NOT.

GP1 Meon – 20.4%
The first shock was the two-minute timing for two targets. No mint imperials but I had big trouble with acquiring targets with the high mag scope and panic reigned. Never recovered from a very early mistake shooting a close target using a full turret turn and then never returning it to zero before the next lane. Couldn’t hit a barn door. Dire.

GP2 Bisley – 43.80%
Partnered with top shooter Si Evans who was an inspiring and encouraging partner when he discovered I was a newbie. Couldn’t hit a thing beyond 40 yds and my confidence was dented. Was I really this bad? Si convinced me to buy a ‘windicator’ and whilst fitting it, I loosened the S400 ‘barrel band’ grub screws. I was startled by a loud twang as the barrel jumped back into alignment and then took 25 clicks at 25 yds to zero. No wonder I couldn’t hit those targets beyond 40 yds!

GP3 Tawd – 66%
Partnered with Andrew Gillott an ex-world FT champ. Some modifications to the S400 with a new trigger and muzzle break. That and practice seems to improve the groupings and despite a difficult course my performance and confidence is growing. The target acquisition on high mag is improving as is the ‘panic’ of time limits. A phone call from Martin Calpin on the journey home informed me I had taken third place in C class. Happy chappy.

That gun IS a right tool. They say guns are like their owners!?

GP4 Quarry – 78.3%
Anston club member and FT legend Andy Calpin borrowed me his spare EV2 which he describes as a ‘right tool’ It is a piece of FT history and covered in stickers from around the world. I can’t even guess the provenance this rifle has. Saturday before the GP I make the decision to put my own scope on the gun and with an hours practice head off to Wales. An Early session with no time to zero or plink due to torrential rain I sit on the first lane feeling considerable trepidation. Rain stops, wind howls, gun performs and I shoot 36 ex 50 for second place C class. That gun IS a right tool. They say guns are like their owners!?

GP5 Far Coley – 66%
I loved shooting Andy’s EV2 and realised I had been ‘hamstrung’ with the S400 against dedicated FT weaponry, so I invested in my own EV. Got pumped in the results but the dip in progress was to be expected given the new tackle and lack of familiarisation with it.

On the way to another medal.
On the way to another medal.

GP6 East Devon – 79.6%
Plenty of practice with the new gun provided dividends here. Shooting the very hot and sunny PM session I was rewarded with 39 ex 50 targets and took the first spot as two opponents also on 39 had left for home before the shoot off.

GP7 Anston – 79.55%
Home ground. It was a toughie here because I nearly hacked my trigger finger off with a machete three days before the shoot. knew that I was lying in second place with only one target to decide it. With a swollen and strapped trigger finger I was Uncharacteristically nervous when I missed the first target. Murdered by the back straight in the wind I was happy to finish on 35 ex 50. Marshalling the PM session was a good chiller before a shoot off to decide a joint first place with Darren Hillier who had taken the C class championship by one target. My first shoot off didn’t go very well and Darren shot brilliantly to land the GP first place.

The last GP marked six months to the day since my induction at Anston. Not everyone will dive in the way I did – that’s just me and how I do things.

Yes, I narrowly missed winning the BFTA Grand Prix C class championship, but that doesn’t matter. I’m happy with what I have achieved in this short time and have enjoyed every minute.

The fun, banter, learning, making new friends and shooting with them in the beautiful countryside are the things that matter.

Next? Winter league and the GP series next year – can’t wait. What arm injury?

Mark Rodgers
Anston Massive.