We’ve talked about guns, scopes and the three shooting positions used in Field Target, what we need to talk about now is one piece of work that still catches many shooters out and that’s the routine for addressing a target. At many regional competitions, you won’t find yourself against the clock but it’s still best practice to use your time wisely because at national competitions you will.
What you’re looking at doing here is the same thing every single time you take a position to address the targets. Ensure you drop your bag in a position that when seated you can see both targets without moving or moving as little as possible. Find the string for the target and pull it, you’ll be surprised how many people don’t do this and shoot the wrong target, it’s very easy to do and this cost me a personal best once. You can also use the string to help tell you the wind direction by holding it taught and watch which way it bows.
Next, ensure your clicks are on 0 (zero), drop the mag on the scope so target acquisition is faster, once you have the target in the scope take the mag up and range find it at least 4 times. If you are still unsure, take your eye away from the scope and start again. This is also the time to check out what the wind is doing at the end of your gun, in the middle on the way to the target and where the target is. All 3 could be doing something different!
I like to pick a spot on the target to focus on while ranging, that could be a screw head or a previous hit but I use that to give me the best picture. If the sun is beating down on a bright painted target I know that can cause me to miss range so I’ll use the tree the target is on, the target number or the end of the string where it’s tied to the target.
If the target has been shot before I sit down I’ll use that information to give me additional clues. I know from looking at my windicator and grass in the woods the wind is going right to left, pulling and holding the string confirms this. Looking at the target I can see that someone has miss ranged the target and gone very low, should have quad checked it! I can also see two hits on the left and one on the right. I’d read that as there’s probably more wind at the target than staying on the right edge of the hit zone and the one on the right means someone has given it too much wind. Now all I have to do is decide how much wind I give the target, this is something you only learn from experience, and no one can teach you this.
Once you’re sure you’ve got the range correct you need to dial your clicks needed for that distance, load the gun and settle in with your breathing, a couple of deep breaths and hold before taking up the first stage and then squeezing to second, make sure you stay on the scope for follow through for a least 2 seconds after pulling the trigger, lots of people don’t do this, often meaning they’ve moved the gun before the pellet has exited the barrel plus you also need to see where your pellet has struck.
Stay on the gun, even if you knock the target down because once you’ve shot both you need to pull them back up and see where you’ve hit them because this will tell if you’ve given enough or too little wind and what’s happening out where the target is. This information is always useful but you’ll always need to adjust what you are learning from each target as you go around the course.
Before you get back up after shooting both targets make sure you’ve dialed your scope back to your zero. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people shoot a close target not dial back to zero and then dial forward to zero on the next target. Doing this actually means you will be a full turn out and that means missing 100%. Another thing I see a lot is people so engrossed in ranging a target that they forget to dial their clicks; it’s a real schoolboy error.
This is why it’s so important to have a routine that you stick to and repeat over and over until it becomes second nature, just like when you’re driving a car. The more you do the same thing the easier this gets and the more it becomes automatic and that’s what you looking to do here.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching what the World Champions do and it’s always the same thing, just like clock work and you can understand why it’s so easy to get distracted if you don’t have some kind of order system.
The process of aiming and firing doesn’t really end when you release the trigger. You must maintain the aim during and after the release of the shot, this is called Follow Through.
This process is crucial because the action of firing an air rifle is actually very slow. It takes a fair amount of time for a shot to develop even after the trigger is pulled. The trigger releases the hammer, which in turn moved forward to hit the valve. The air is released to propel the pellet down the barrel before it exits via the muzzle. Any movement during the process means your point of aim has moved. There’s also another good reason as well, there is often a delay from your brain to your finger, on average this is 0.3-0.4 seconds. This is the normal human reaction time. You also have your muscles to contend with as well, they with often relax when the trigger is pulled meaning you are dropping the gun before the pellet has left the muzzle. We all know that any movement does equal a good shot and nearly always ends with a miss or split.
Most Champions I’ve spoken to recommend staying on the gun for at least 1-2 seconds. The final part of good Follow Through is a psychological one because you are still concentrating on the execution of the shot and that’s where the full advantage is gained as well you being able to see where the pellet landed, giving you yet more vital information.