Entering your first competition can be a very daunting experience when you’re new to Field Target but from my experience, I recommend jumping in with both feet first.
A few articles back I made the bold statement that there’s only so much you can learn on the Plinker and it’s this: What your gun is doing and tightening your groupings, that’s it. However, the Plinker doesn’t give you match conditions and in fact, it’s nothing like a competition.
Here’s what I recommend you do when entering your first competition. Let the people at your club know that you want to take part. They’ll all be supportive and glad you’re taking the leap, every club wants its members to take part in competitions.
Once you’ve found out the details of the shoot make sure you are there early enough to book in and practice, most shoots have a cut off time for Booking In.
The first thing to do when you land is to get your gun out and let it get to temperature. This usually takes about 20 minutes, so while your gun is doing that go and book yourself in and get all the chat out of the way because we are about to get serious!
Getting your gun to the shooting temperature is vital: metal, glass and wood move at different temperatures, so you want it to be as close to the competition conditions as possible. If it’s been in a warm car or house then you can bet it will need time to adjust.
I once visited Avon where the car park temperature was 21 degrees but only 8 degrees in the woods where the shoot was to take place. If I hadn’t left the gun in the woods to cool down I wouldn’t have spotted that I was going about 50mm low over 50yds. That would have cost me a lot of targets.
Right, you’ve paid your cash and booked in, you’ve got your card and lane, the next thing is to check that your gun is doing exactly what it should do. I’ve lost count of the number of people who drop on their first lane without firing a single shot only to find that their gun isn’t doing what they expected. Please don’t be one of those.
Now to check that the zero and windage are fine. If that’s all good, go out to 50yds and start putting a few groups together. Aim at one spot and see what the wind and gun are doing. If your zero is out then you need to get it back on and check the windage again. Getting your zero back is pretty easy to do but windage can be a problem.
I recently travelled to Portugal only to find my windage was a mile out. I dropped onto a 15yd target and tuned it back on as much as I could. I then went out to 25yds and asked a friend to shoot at the same target at the same time so we could compare how much wind we were taking. I then tuned the windage a bit further until it was back on.
So back to the plinker, you’ve checked your zero and windage, you’ve done a couple of groups at 50yds, you know what the wind is doing. Now let’s check some other ranges to see whether the scope is under/over-ranging. Scopes change in hot and cold weather, my scope tends to under-ranges at 7 degrees and over-ranges at 21 degrees, not by much but enough to make me miss. It’s your job to learn what your scope does in different weather conditions. This can take about 6 months to learn but it’s worth putting the time in.
After you’ve done one round of the above, go over and introduce yourself to people, let them know it’s your first competition and start making new friends for life.
Right, now back onto the plinker to check the gun again. Check your Zero/Windage again, then out to 50yds for some groupings. Then out to 55yds, 35yds and 45yds to check the scope is doing what it should. Perhaps throw in a few cheeky close ones. I do this whole process 3 times at every shoot for at least 20 minutes per session.
Where did I learn this? From a World Champion, while others were chatting I noticed all he did at every single competition was the above. Why? Because he wants to know exactly what his gun and scope are doing, leaving nothing to chance.
Before each competition starts there will be a safety briefing, make sure you listen carefully before heading down to your starting lane, which will be clearly marked on your scorecard. Always make sure your gun is pointing over the firing line throughout the competition, remember that all airgun shooters treat every gun as if it’s loaded!
You will be shooting with 1 or 2 other shooters, introduce yourself and let them know this is your first competition. While they won’t coach you, they will give you some tips. Remember if you’re nervous and wobbling all over the place just drop the mag once you’ve ranged the target. This will stop you chasing the crosshair, it’s an old trick I still use now.
Try to settle in the best you can and enjoy your shoot but don’t beat yourself up if you miss, learn from the misses. Try to remember where you’ve aimed the hits on the target so that once you’ve shot both you can check where you’ve landed. This information is extremely useful. It will tell you if you’ve given enough wind or not.
After a couple of lanes you be more settled in and the people you are shooting with but remember your lane etiquette: keep your gun over the line and keep the chat low while someone else is shooting.
By the end of the shoot, I guarantee that you’ll have the Field Target bug and you’ll be back for more regardless of your score. I remember scoring just 9 on my first shoot, embarrassingly low but I really didn’t care, I loved it and haven’t stopped since.