A day at the range: Bakingstoke Air Rifle and Pistol Club

There were all manner of guns to play with on the day

There were all manner of guns to play with on the day - Credit: Archant

Dave Barham visits the Basingstoke Air Rifle And Pistol Club at the request from committee member, Simon Barker

Every gun has to pass the club's chrono test first

Every gun has to pass the club's chrono test first - Credit: Archant

About the club

Basingstoke Air Rifle And Pistol Club is one of the oldest dedicated airgun clubs in the UK and they try to offer their members the opportunity to participate in all airgun disciplines in a safe and friendly environment.

The club was formed in 1975, originally as a 6-yard/10-metre indoor match club, but it wasn’t long before a range was found to cater for outdoor shooting.

The Walled Garden range is superb

The Walled Garden range is superb - Credit: Archant

Three ranges

I was amazed to discover that the club has three different ranges - the Walled Garden, East Oakley Village Hall and Popham Woods.

I met up with the committee at the Walled Garden, which is their longest established ground and can be found off Pack Lane, Kempshott. It is part of a traditional, country house walled garden and offers a 30-yard and 55-yard range with the 30-yard covered with a roof. This is their general ground and all of the disciplines can be shot here, from plinking to FT and HFT.

The grounds are open on club days, which are Sunday mornings from 9am to midday, during May to the end of August, and on Tuesday evenings between 7pm and 9pm. In addition, there is a Wednesday afternoon session that runs from 1pm to approx. 4pm.

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Members who have a key can use the grounds at any time during daylight hours, and although key issue is limited due to the number of keys that the council provide, access can often be arranged at other times for non-key-holding members. There are no extra charges to use the Walled Garden because this is included for all.

Their second range is for indoor pistol shooters. East Oakley Village Hall provides a 10m dedicated target range for both 10m pistol and rifle disciplines. Range times are Tuesday evenings from September to end of May between 7pm and 9pm.

Safety first! Each station has a dedicated safety officer

Safety first! Each station has a dedicated safety officer - Credit: Archant

Their third range is Popham Woods, which has been associated with BARPC for many years as the grounds where they hold their Open and winter HFT league competitions. Situated just off the A303 near the airfield, Popham is one of the best wooded shooting grounds in the south, and provides an environment for creative HFT and FT courses to be set up. It’s perfect in the depths of winter or the hot days of summer, although it’s generally accepted that late spring when the woods are covered in a carpet of bluebells is the most stunning time.

Here, you will find shooters from near and far coming along to take part in ‘The Easter Bunny Bash’ and ‘Summer Sizzler’ events organised by the club. The EBB (formally the ‘Nockover Classic’) has been held here since the early 1990s.

The club uses the woods on a more regular basis with a fortnightly Sunday morning meet for practice and club leagues. This takes place between 9am and 12.30pm as advertised via email and the members forum, although they do advise confirming a date before attending because dates can be subject to change due to weather etc.

It was the perfect opportunity to set up the Brocock Bantam Sniper

It was the perfect opportunity to set up the Brocock Bantam Sniper - Credit: Archant

Competitions aplenty

After the first FT shoot was held in 1981, the club took an active interest and because the first FT targets didn’t react in any way – stickers were placed on the metal plate to indicate a hit – one of the members used this as a business opportunity to market a knock-down target, and so Nockover Targets was born!

These targets are now BFTA standard and used in just about every FT and hunter-style shoot in the UK. The club can boast several members, both past and present, who have shot to the highest standards in FT, up to world-class level. They usually put on an FT Open around Easter each year and all are welcome.

Hunter field target shooting was introduced to the public for the first time in 1994 as an alternative to FT, with the purpose of encouraging all airgun shooters to participate and not just those with expensive scopes and rifles. The basic rules are; no sitting, no adjusting your scope or stock between shots, and part of your body touching a peg. Targets might be partially hidden, but accessible to all. Scoring is two points for a knock-down, 1 for a hit on metal and 0 for a complete miss. This style of comp was an immediate hit with the members of the club, and as in FT, many have excelled at regional level.

Basingstoke has also used varying experimental formats including an 80-shot marathon – comps usually consist of 30 shots – using a marked box that the whole body must fit into, rather than a peg, and painting the whole target a natural colour, including the hit zone. The club has participated in this style of shooting since the beginning and hunter shoots remain the most popular discipline with its members. They even have dedicated ‘springer’ rifle only competitions to keep the purists happy!

The club also caters for 10-metre pistol matches as well as HFT pistol events.

Another taker for the Bantam Sniper on test

Another taker for the Bantam Sniper on test - Credit: Archant

Joining the club

Annual fees for membership are very reasonable, and all the monies collected go towards paying rent, buying targets etc – it’s a completely non-profit organisation with everything going back into the club.

Adult membership costs £60, Family membership is £95, Juniors £15 and OAP is £32.50.

Great to see youngsters and ladies enjoying the sport

Great to see youngsters and ladies enjoying the sport - Credit: Archant

My day out

I met up with most of the committee members at their ‘Walled Garden’ ground for one of their induction sessions. The club holds these a couple of times per year and it’s the perfect opportunity for new members to discover what the club is all about, as well as gain knowledge during the rather impressive safety briefing.

I love the idea of these inductions, it gives you a really good feel for the club and its members, allowing you to decide whether or not this club is for you.

There are numerous benches at this facility

There are numerous benches at this facility - Credit: Archant

I must say that the safety briefing on the day I attended, delivered by Richard Newcombe and Simon Barker, was one of the most in-depth and well presented that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. It became instantly apparent that these guys really know their stuff on all aspects of the law and safety, and they convey this to their members at all times.

After the ‘intense’ briefing it was time to hit the range, but before I could do that I had to put my guns through the club’s chronograph to make sure I was legal. They do this to every single new member, or when any member buys a new gun – great to see, and a very sensible club rule.

I’d taken along this month’s ‘Big Test’ rifle – the Brocock Bantam Sniper, as well as my BSA R10se and the super-fun Umarex RP5 combo (at Simon’s request). Unfortunately, I was under strict time constraints on the day, so could only spend an hour on the range talking to other members and shooting their guns, but what a fantastic hour it was! I would have stayed there all day if I’d had the chance. Everyone is really friendly, and it was great to see a handful of ladies and kids enjoying their shooting, too – it really is one big happy family, just how it should be.

I’ll certainly be heading back to the Walled Garden for a longer session when the weather improves, thanks to the open invitation from committee member, Bryn Jones. If you live in the area I suggest you do your best to join this club; their ethos is superb, the facilities top notch and their members great people – you won’t regret it.

Info: For more details about the club, the induction days and everything else you want to know, visit their comprehensive website at barpc.co.uk.