You’ve probably worked out that I’m related to the World Champion Field Target shooter Andy Calpin by now, he’s my cousin, but the only thing we have in common right now is our last name. Andy is a very natural shooter and could probably hit anything he points a gun at. I’ve seen him win competitions shooting other people’s guns with no practice! While I’m not a natural shooter and I have to fight hard for every single target I hit, I’ve been through the ringer trying to learn as much as I can for the last two years. I’ve entered every competition open to me, practised as often as possible and I’m even off to the Worlds Competition this year in Portugal.
Why? I love the sport, the challenge and learning. Hopefully, together we can all make some progress.
So you’ve got yourself an invite to a club, what next? Prepare yourself for getting hit with about 30yrs of Field Target knowledge, don’t worry though it’s not as daunting as it sounds.
Introduce yourself to as many people as you can and start asking questions about the guns and scopes they’re using. You’re going to need to put yourself out there and make the effort but try and keep in mind that everyone is at the club to practice as well.
You’re about to get 30 different answers to most questions but don’t worry try to remember people have favourite gear and will swear by it, just like with any sport. Your job is to have a go with as many guns and scopes as you can to see what works for you and what you like using.
There’s probably going to be a lot to choose from, maybe too much but you’ll soon start to notice the constants. Certain scopes and rifles will keep cropping up, have a look what the top shooters in the club are using, ask them why they use them, they won’t bite and will be more than willing to explain their choices.
Joining a club will give you some real insight you won’t get from reading magazines or forums so make the most of it, ask everything you were afraid to ask and don’t worry about being wrong, in fact, use this as practice for being wrong because you’re about to be wrong a lot over the coming months.
Other things you should do when you get to the club is to ask for a tour of the grounds, the rules and ask about membership. Most clubs want active members who are willing to shoot competitions and muck in with work at the club. If the club puts out a course at the weekends, offer to come down early and help put it out and stay until the end to help pack up, don’t be one of those people that turns up when the course is out and drives off before it’s pulled in, chances are your club may already have enough of this type of person, don’t be one of them. Plus you’ll learn a lot by helping put the course out, you’ll learn the tricks that help catch us field target shooters out, it’s all useful information.
It’s best not to attach yourself to just one person when joining a club, spread yourself around a group of five or six people, that way you’ll get to know more members and learn something new from each of them. Remember these guys will be judging you and asking themselves if they want you as a member, so make sure you carry yourself well. Never be late for meeting any member who’s invited you, always be early and waiting for them. Always be clear about when you want to visit, saying “See You Tomorrow” doesn’t really qualify as confirming an invite and finally, never turn up unannounced, ever. You may think they are your best new friend but they are also putting themselves out for you and you will be eating into their practice time, always be mindful of this.
You are also going to need to read up on the rules for Field Target and be aware that national competitions and regional competitions sometimes have slightly different rules. You’ll find all the rules and by-laws here on The British Field Target Association website (http://www.thebfta.net/bfta-documents.html), download them and spend some time reading them all.
OK to recap, so you’ve got yourself into a club with a wealth of knowledge on tap, all you’ve got to do is soak it all up, take your time and don’t rush into impulse buys. Try as many guns and scopes as you can and then start looking at the For Sale sections. You can pick up a lot of quality gear second hand and I’d recommend this route because you can save yourself hundreds of pounds and still have the correct stuff to take you to the top. Up until last year, our Andy was winning things with kit valued at £800 for the scope and gun! See you really don’t need big money to get you started. Don’t let salesmen in shops talk you into buying something you don’t actually want or need.
Scopes and guns are very personal things and take a long time to learn so make sure you make the right choices, expensive mistakes can put you back down the learning curve very quickly, I know, I’ve been there! In my next article, we’ll be talking about which scopes and which guns to choose from on various budgets as well as the 3 positions you need to practice.