Gary Wain: Back on target
PUBLISHED: 15:42 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:42 12 September 2017
After a 25-year absence, Gary Wain gets back into match pistol shooting – and he’s not alone
The door to the 10m airgun range opened, and I peered tentatively inside. Every goose on my body pimpled. The hairs on the back of my neck did what they knew they had to do, the palms of my hands spontaneously obliged in time-honoured fashion, and in the pit of my stomach I reacted as it tried to digest the perfect mix of horror and delight I was experiencing.
I was home, I hadn’t been home for a long time, but I was home now, and I was about to meet a demon. An old and friendly demon, but a demon nonetheless.
In my teens and early 20s, I shot and trained for two or three hours every day of the week, for the best part of seven years; day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and I was pleased that I had done as well as I could do at club, national and international levels. After 25 years of absence, I swore a solemn oath that I would never return to match target air shooting.
Through circumstances that I will come to later, I now found myself at a rather nice 10m air rifle and pistol range in Lincoln. Not the range I used to train at, but it felt very much like home. The Lincoln Target Shooting Club has occupied a few premises over the years, which is fair enough considering that the original NSRA affiliation number, and its certificate from the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs, dates all the way back to 1908. The club meets on Monday and Thursday evenings, has around 30 members and has enjoyed many successes over the years, and shooters have progressed into county and national teams.
As I’ve found when visiting ranges and clubs across the country, I was immediately made welcome and invited to take a seat whilst I waited for a firing point to become vacant. I say I’, but at this point, I should say ‘we’ because as the real reason for this visit lies elsewhere, and more specifically at the feet, or should I say trigger finger, of my good lady wife, Marianne. If you’re having trouble keeping up, don’t worry – all will become clear.
So, how did we, end up here? Which possible circumstances could lead me to open my own, very particular Pandora’s Box? What would cause me to face the grinning demon inside? Why would I risk a rekindling of past passions? Was it an attempt to re capture my youth? Was I trying to blow on the glimmering coals of my love for 10m match air rifle shooting? Well, as it happens, I wasn’t, but I should say that at this point, hand on heart, I can’t say that certain embers haven’t been wafted, and dare I say partially kindled.
As it happens, the reason for this visit originated from an innocent enough conversation at a bell target shoot. On this occasion, it wasn’t me bending someone’s ear about how fantastic air rifle shooting is, but I admit my negligence in heading over to the bar for refreshments and leaving my wife Marianne chatting with an ex-Team GB air pistol shot by the name of Ian Paulger.
Much to my delight, having seen Marianne deport herself well with the Air Arms Alpha Proj Pistol at the bell target, Ian invited us both to his club in Lincoln, the idea being that he could further advance Marianne’s enthusiasm for 10m air pistol shooting.
So, we skip forward to one gloriously sunny Thursday evening in June when Marianne and I made our way over from our home near Louth, to the club in Lincoln. My sworn oath never to return to match air rifle was somewhat undermined by the presence of my old, but devastatingly accurate Feinwerkbau 601 that was lurking in the boot of my car, but I digress. It was accompanied by the real star of the show, in the form of a rather nice, brand-spanking-new, Air Arms Alpha Proj, match-target pistol.
I’d been lucky enough to get my hands on this fantastic and affordable target air pistol courtesy of my good friend, Dave Carter, who had in turn, acquired one courtesy of the ongoing support from Claire at Air Arms, as part of the bell target and match air target initiatives he’s developing in Lincolnshire.
On arrival at the club, we were greeted by Mike Waldron and Ian Paulger. Having met Ian at the bell target meet a few weeks previously, it was he who I malevolently held responsible for potentially re-igniting my interest in target shooting, but more importantly, and perhaps less inflammatory, it was he who would introduce my wife to the discipline of 10m match air pistol shooting.
We waited a short time in the anteroom for a firing point to become free on the range, and then Ian took us through. Following a short, but important brief on range safety, Ian introduced Marianne to the basic principles of match air pistol shooting. At this point, I should add that Marianne has spent many hours with me in the back garden, plinking away with my CP88 CO2 pistol, and shoots .22LR long-barrel pistol as part of three-gun competitions. That said, we were about to learn that there was a huge gulf between these, and the discipline of target air pistol.
I kept a close watch on Marianne, and was quickly assured that Ian was both a safe and experienced coach, with his years of experience shining through. Before long, he had Marianne practically halving her group sizes, and doubling her scores, all of which further enthused her to compete in the upcoming open match to be held at the club in a few weeks’ time. Once the session was over, we departed the range, with Marianne keen to measure her accomplishments in the upcoming match.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and once again we were travelling over to the Lincoln Target Shooting Club. This time, though, the stakes were higher; this time, Marianne was competing as a guest shooter against the other members of this and other clubs, as part of the annual open match. This was to be Marianne’s first-ever match, so on the drive over we had a quick chat about what she could expect to happen. We talked about range discipline, course of fire, and the commands that she might expect to hear.
We opted for an afternoon time slot because we had some other business to attend to in Lincoln before the shoot, and many of the shooters had already been and gone so unfortunately, we missed some of the great atmosphere that happens when shooters get together to compete. On the plus side, this was perhaps of benefit to Marianne because it allowed her to focus on the match in hand.
If I’m honest, I expected Marianne to be a great deal more nervous than she was when Ian took her through the door to the range, after meeting us in the club room. For this match, Marianne was able to borrow a left-handed Steyr LP2 Compact from Ian, because the Air Arms Alpha Proj that Marianne had previously used was now back with Dave.
Joys of target air!
I was allowed in for the safety briefing and fire instruction, but as soon as the match started, Ian and I retired to the club room so not to disturb Marianne or any other shooters. As it was her first-ever match, Marianne opted to enter the Ladies group, instead of the Open, so she would shoot a total of 40 shots, as opposed to 60.
So, with the door closed, Ian and I sat down for a cuppa and a chat about what else but the joys of target air! Roughly an hour later, the door to the range opened and out came Marianne, grinning so widely that you’d think the top of her head was about to come off. She honestly didn’t care that she hadn’t shot as well as she’d hoped, after all, this was her first match and only her second experience of the discipline. More importantly, she’d enjoyed herself immensely, and so much so that she’s now thoroughly hooked and keen to do as much match pistol as she can.
If you’ve never tried match air pistol or rifle, and fancy having a go, get in touch with the NSRA for a list of clubs you and get yourself down there. You won’t even need to fork out for guns and kit because most clubs carry a range of guns that you can use. So there you have it; no excuses. On a totally unrelated note, has any one got a left-handed Steyr LP2 Compact going cheap?