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US Airgunning: The Pyramyd Air Cup

PUBLISHED: 14:06 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:06 31 October 2017

Rossi Morreale is the host of the 'American Airgunner' TV show. He takes the minimalist approach with his Umarex Gauntlet, but brought a TV crew with him

Rossi Morreale is the host of the 'American Airgunner' TV show. He takes the minimalist approach with his Umarex Gauntlet, but brought a TV crew with him

Archant

Stephen Archer reports from a major Stateside FT event

Deep in the heart of the lush, rolling Ohio countryside lies the small town of New Philadelphia, and here, at the Tusco Rifle Club, we are at the fourth annual Pyramyd Air Cup, already one of the staple events in the US field target shooting calendar.

Pyramyd Air – a genuine giant

The Pyramyd Air Cup is sponsored and run by Pyramyd Air. If you haven’t heard of Pyramyd, a little background may be in order: You see, Pyramyd Air is the world’s largest, dedicated airgun retailer. Based in relatively nearby Cleveland, Pyramyd has around 70 employees, a vast warehouse and an equally vast website offering no less than 5,000 – yes FIVE THOUSAND – individual airgun products.

Like many great American businesses, Pyramyd Air started with one man and a vision in his garage. That man, Josh Ungier, built up the company to where it is today, starting 20 years ago from his basement, and just last year he took a well-earned retirement. It’s a traditional American success story.

As you can imagine, everyone in the US airgun world has heard of Pyramyd, so when they hold their annual Pyramyd Air Cup, people come from far and wide to attend.

There are many choices for how to sight-in your air rifle There are many choices for how to sight-in your air rifle

350 miles away and I was close

I travelled 350 miles, a nearly six-hour car trip, to be at this shoot and I was one of the closer attendees. There are shooters here from California to Canada to Puerto Rico; in fact, there are around 100 field target shooters registered, making this one of the largest FT gatherings in the US, and certainly the best attended of the 2017 season, so far.

Because of Pyramyd Air’s importance, manufacturers also come here to support the event. There are representatives from scope manufacturers, Leapers and Hawke Optics; airgun manufacturers Air Force and Diana are here, with Tobias Schmidt who has travelled all the way from Germany to attend.

Pellet-wise, JSB is represented by its US distributor, Predator International, whilst the General Manager of H&N, Florian Schwartz, is another to come over from Germany for the shoot.

Entrance to the Tusco Rifle Club Entrance to the Tusco Rifle Club

A very American shoot

The array of prizes on offer is glittering, too. In addition to many cups for the winners, there’s a total of $15,000 – that’s about 12,000 quid in real money – to be won as prizes, mainly as airguns and scopes, but also some as cash, and Pyramyd Air also was selling a large range of products at 20% off. Many attendees found that they just had to buy themselves a new air rifle, as you can imagine.

Not only this, but Pyramyd Air also makes available a selection of airguns available for attendees to try out, and they’re not cheap models either. There are air rifles from Ataman, Air Force (the American version of Gunpower), Kral, Air Arms, Diana, and more. Many people took the opportunity to check out the new $300 Umarex Gauntlet, regulated PCP air rifle, and the new Diana Stormrider, a multi-shot PCP air rifle that’s about to be sold for under $200, although unregulated.

Springers are in fashion for the Gunslynger speed silhouette shoot Springers are in fashion for the Gunslynger speed silhouette shoot

So the Pyramyd Air Cup is part shoot – actually the most part – but also retail shop and something of a circus. This is a very American way of holding a field target shoot and everyone has a great time, but don’t get me wrong, the competition is deadly serious and you’ll see several members of the US Field Target Team here competing hard to win.

Three days of FT fun

The Pyramyd Air Cup is a three-day event, running from Friday to Sunday one weekend in late August. Day One sees everyone gather, reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. The practice ranges are open as all the shooters check their guns for the final time. Almost everyone is shooting .177 calibre, of course, and PCPs far outnumber springers.

The power limit for FT competition in the USA is 20 ft.lbs. That’s in deference to the targets, rather than for any other reason, although there are some 12 ft.lbs. guns here too, and they’re mainly fielded by real specialists who want to keep close to the origins of FT shooting.

There are high-end FT rigs from Daystate, Steyr, Air Arms, FX, Weihrauch and Thomas. You name it, it’s here. Many serious competitors also use Benjamin Marauders, which are a very popular product this side of the pond. Of course, they’re all in .177 calibre, or at least almost all.

A US Field Target Team member competes in the Springer class A US Field Target Team member competes in the Springer class

One of the rare .22 calibre guns is being used by Rossi Morreale, the host of the ‘American Airgunner’ television programme. Yes, in the US there’s a prime-time show on broadcast TV dedicated to airguns! Rossi’s shooting a pre-production version of the new Umarex Gauntlet, the new sub-$300 regulated PCP that has everyone talking over here right now.

It’s field target, Jim - but not as we know it

It’s fair to say that there are a lot of similarities between field target competition as shot in the UK compared to that shot here in the USA.

Firstly, this is field target in its various classes: Hunter, Open, WFTC etc., and there are separate divisions for springers and PCPs, of course, but there is no Hunter Field Target class. This discipline is almost completely unknown in the USA, although I believe it has gained ground just north of the border in Canada. When I asked some competitors at the Pyramyd Air Cup – dedicated field target shooters, all – none had never heard of HFT!

You’ll notice that there’s no groveling about in the mud either. Almost no one shoots field target prone. The normal ‘non-standing, non-kneeling’ shooting posture is for the American field target shooter to sit on a low stool; empty five-gallon paint buckets are also popular. The fore end of the rifle is supported on a bipod, or ‘sticks’ as they’re called here, and a few shoot from the seated position on a ‘bum bag’, as an alternative.

This competitor demonstrates the simple approach with his Daystate Airwolf This competitor demonstrates the simple approach with his Daystate Airwolf

Round One of the field target competition begins on Saturday morning and runs until a late lunch. Round Two takes place on Sunday with similar timing.

Speed silhouette, anyone?

Although field target shooting is the main event, ‘The Cup’ also features the Pyramyd Air Gunslynger (ouch!) competition. This is a speed silhouette shoot with tiny, one-inch high, animal targets set out in lines at ranges between 10 and 55 yards from the shooter. It provides a lot of fast-firing fun for both the participants and spectators.

This is a ‘sudden death’ event. Two competitors shoot against the clock to knock down the silhouettes, and the winner goes through to the next round.

Thomas air rifles are making an impact among serious competitors. With no silencer, they are LOUD! The cart to carry the gear is optional - it could be four-wheel drive, you never know! Thomas air rifles are making an impact among serious competitors. With no silencer, they are LOUD! The cart to carry the gear is optional - it could be four-wheel drive, you never know!

Interestingly, this speed silhouette competition is one where break-barrel springers are the favoured type of gun – they’re faster to cock and load than multi-shot PCPs. There’s a separate class for PCPs, because the need to load the magazine always makes these times slower.

Wales here we come

The Pyramyd Air Cup shoot is run by Tyler Patner, a member of the US Field Target Team. He, Ray Apelles, Greg Suave and other well-known US Field Target Team members are present and competing at the event. This is one of the last shoots before they head off across the Pond to Wales for the World Field Target Championships. They’ll see you there!

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