Practical pellet pistol shooting

PUBLISHED: 09:45 31 October 2011 | UPDATED: 09:47 31 October 2011



Terry Doe visits the demanding world of airpowered Practical Pistol shooting and shows that it’s not so easy after all...

If you like fast, inventive and exciting shooting, some sort of Practical Pistol could be just what youre looking for, a sport that can be as accessible as plinking yet allows you to train to its highest level in your back garden. Shooting air pistols is fun, demanding, rewarding and just about everything else that shooting should be. If you want to belong to something worthwhile, supported by a growing club and competition network in which you can play your part to whichever level suits you it really is time you considered practical pistol shooting.

But just what is Practical Pistol shooting? Its a sport thats all about the trade-off between speed and accuracy where you shoot against the clock at a wide variety of targets, using pistols that fire pellets or BBs. Various versions of the sport have their own rules, regulations and restrictions on equipment, but this all adds to the variety and choice available to you.

There are two main types of PP, Falling plate, where competitors fire at metal plate targets, and PPP(Practical Pellet Pistol) with a wide variety of target situations. Well look at what youre likely to encounter further on, but by far the best way to become involved in PP is to do your research, speak to those that take part, try as many aspects as you can - and then get stuck in.

Practical Pistol shooting can take several forms, but within each theres an all-action format involving potential match-winning decisions to be made by the shooter. Unlike most target-based shooting sports, practical pistol doesnt demand deliberate, calculated, n-th degree accuracy based on hitting tiny bullseyes at long, or even relatively short ranges.

Practical targets are usually large, set at close range and, to the
uninitiated, can look deceptively easy. Its when that against the clock time element is factored in, plus the stress of penalty points for missing or even failing to attempt the target, that the demands of this sport really kick in. Basically, you have to choose between taking enough time to ensure you hit the targets or risking missing some by shooting faster. Within this format, youll probably have to work out the best route from target to target and how to increase your chances of scoring maximum marks on the more tricky shots. Not getting to them puffing and panting could be a big help. Youll have to deal with changing magazines too, of course, with a bit of competition nerves thrown in to spice things up a little. Make no mistake, whichever type of practical pistol you choose, youll have all the challenge you need from those easy targets.

The gear youll need

Your first visit to a Practical Pistol competition will open your eyes to the tremendous array of guns and accessories available to the PP shooter and on the subject of eyes, the first thing youll need to buy is a pair of good quality shooting safety glasses, which will be worn at all times during competition. Through them youll see the world of practical pistol unfold, but without your shooting glasses, in many cases you wont even be allowed on the range, even as a spectator. You can see from the photos in this feature to see that the sport is well catered for as far as hardware and clothing goes, yet, as always, the amount you decide to spend is entirely up to you. One things for certain in PP, as in most shooting sports, theres no room on the competition circuit for anything that doesnt earn its keep.

Gadgets are fine and anything that increases the pleasure of shooting, looking after or simply owning our guns is usually worth its investment, but when it comes to competition, a rule of no excess baggage definitely applies. If youre carrying it and quite often running with it then it needs to be accessible, secure, fast, easy to use, and above all, totally reliable.

As far as guns go, youll find competitors using CO2-powered pistols, airsoft pistols - which fire plastic BBs and usually run on injections of gas propellant from aerosol cans - and a sprinkling of Brocock air-cartridge revolvers, used by owners of specially-devised Firearms Certificates. Brocock TAC pistols are no longer available for sale, so your options lie effectively between airsoft and CO2-powered guns, all of them multi-shot, fast-fire autoloaders.

Airsoft guns are no good for fallingplate shooting because they just dont have enough power, along with the likelihood of BBs bouncing around the range. But if plate-shooting does attract you, go for a pellet-firing pistol and, as always, the best way to choose your pistol and accessories is to meet up with those that use them where it matters most at the club, in competition. To do this, check out the links in this article and sort out a visit to a club where PP is a regular feature. What are you likely to find at a PP comp?

The first thing anyone new to the sport finds at a practical pistol
competition is plenty of like-minded people. This in itself makes visiting a competition worthwhile, but theres plenty more.

At a practical pistol shoot, youll see a series of target layouts or stages, which combine to form the course of fire. Typically, the vompetitors will be divided into groups and each group of shooters works its way from stage to stage until all have been completed. Each stage will be shot by one shooter at a time, but no-one moves to the next stage until his or her entire group has shot it.

Type of target and the situations in which theyre placed will vary enormously, but the need for smooth technique, full control and an eye on the clock are ever-present. Expect to see targets that may only be taken from certain points this can be through gaps and screens, or similar restrictions that impose aiming and firing positions on you. Another stage could include a target attached to a rope-mounted slide. As it moves across or down the range, youll have to follow that target, give it the right amount of lead, and then squeeze off two shotsbefore it disappears behind a screen. Some stages involve obstacles and tasks of an entirely different kind. For instance, you may not always begin an attempt on a target with your pistol neatly holstered and ready to go.

It might be in a box, for instance, so when the timer bleeps youll have to open the box, pick up your pistol, push a magazine in, take the safety off and shoot the targets. Or, if the course builders have the time, imagination and resources, you might even find yourself sitting at a desk, with your pistol in a drawer. As the timer sounds, you have to open the drawer, grab your pistol and engage the targets, all in a calm and reflective state of mind, of course! A common variation is the added bonus of holding or carrying something at all times during a stage. This forces you away from the comfort zone of the PP shooters favourite two-handed shooting stance, into the far less steady, single-handed style which is made even less stable by the need to carry whatever like an air bottle, perhaps. Remember, too, that throughout every shot of every stage youll be closely accompanied by a Course Marshal, who will make sure youre shooting safely and within the rules. One slip could mean a points penalty even disqualification. Seasoned Practical Pistol fans will tell you that devising targets and stages, and then seeing them encountered and mastered, or not, by others, brings just as much pleasure as actually shooting them. Well, almost.

Safety Stance

With all this inventiveness, running around, fast action and contrived target scenarios, you could easily think that safety discipline on a PP pistol range is just as free and easy but you couldnt be more wrong. In fact, if theres such a thing as safe conduct above and beyond the call, then PP has it. The fact is, the sports safety practices virtually mirror those it used when it was based on high-powered live-ammo pistols and while the pistols used these days produce only a tiny fraction of the power of their full-bore predecessors, the fact that this has prompted no reduction in safety discipline is a great credit to this sport. It also serves as a fine example to all types of shooting.

To reinforce this commendable attitude to safe shooting, you may have to pass a basic safety course before shooting in an organised competition. The rules and practices of safe gun handling taught by the sport of Practical Pistol will serve you well, no matter which branch of airgun or any shooting sport you pursue, and knowledge of these high standards can only increase your shooting pleasure.

Practical at home?

Right at the beginning I told you that you can train at Practical Pistol shooting in your back garden, or even indoors if the weathers unsuitable. Think about the advantages of that. You can practice your shooting technique, both twohanded and one-handed, shoot against the clock or head-to-head with a fellow PP enthusiast, hone your skills on speed magazine changing, even speedier target acquisition and accuracy control when your hearts racing and the adrenalin is running as fast as you are. Now add in kit maintenance, comparing, trying and buying new hardware, and the pleasure of belonging to a sport where everyone involved joins in on match day to help the event, and you could just have found yourself a fascinating future. Practical pistol shooting is a fine sport and with your help it will get better and better. The most practical thing you can do is to get involved, right now!

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