Is target shooting the sport for you?
PUBLISHED: 10:17 07 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 07 March 2018
Gary Chillingworth tells us just why he loves HFT so much
Almost every month I get messages from people asking whether or not they should take up target shooting. They often want to know why people like me travel all over the country to shoot tin chickens, and ask what I get out of it. Also, I am often asked how we should go about joining a club and what sort of rules there are. Well, this is a passion of mine so I feel that I can answer with honesty.
Yes, I am totally insane to drive a 400-mile round trip to shoot 30 tin chickens and possibly win a small plastic trophy, but driving around the country to take part in a sport that I love is an amazing thing for me. I have made many friends from all over the UK, many from Europe as well, and without events like the UKAHFT National series, I would never have met these people.
For me, there are three types of competition in HFT; a club comp, a mid-level winter series, and the UKAHFT Nationals. I started my shooting life at Cambridge HFT and this wonderful club helped me to cut my teeth in competition. Finding a local club is essential for all shooters. At your local club, be it HFT or FT, there will be a wealth of help and advice. People will often let you try their guns and scopes and will help you to improve at a surprisingly quick rate. For example, at Cambridge I was struggling with a rifle’s lack of power and consistency. I mentioned this to a few shooters and within 30 minutes my gun was stripped, fixed and put back together. This is what a good club can do for you. I learned so much from the people around me, and it is always a joy to pass this on to new shooters.
The thing is, though, once you have been shooting at a club for a while, you start to learn its geography; you know that the big tree over there is 35 yards from the firing line, and that the back of the woods is 40 yards away. If you are not careful, you can become a home ground wizard, but when you travel, you can get torn apart because you don’t have local knowledge.
This is why you need to look for a small series, like the Air Arms Southern Hunters, or the Daystate Midland Hunters. Both of these series are perfect for the new competition shooter to cut their teeth in the tournament world. The advantage with shooting a series like this is that you will be with your mates from your home club, but you will visit many shooting grounds in the local area. At events like the Midlands and Southern, and even the Gauntlet series up north, you will shoot courses that will have been set by course setters of national, or even world-class quality, and even though the events will not be as full on as a national, they will be testing.
This then brings us to the national, world and international events. The UKAHFT is the pinnacle of the HFT world and the GP series is the same for FT. Now, I cannot speak for FT, but I can tell you that even if you are new to tournament shooting, the Nationals are not a scary place to be. We have kids, ladies, families and veterans as well as the hyper-competitive mob. The UKAHFT prides itself on being open to all, but in 2018 we are going one step further.
Air Arms runs a memorial shoot every year, the RSN10, and for many of us it’s one of the highlights of the shooting calendar, but in 2018 there won’t be just the RSN10, we’re also going on holiday to Holland.
On July 7, the inaugural Air Arms International will take place at FT Schalkhaar, near Deventner in Holland. This event will be run to 2018 UKAHFT rules and will be a 30-shot course on the Saturday. The night before is going to be a night shoot and a huge barbecue, and this is why I shoot HFT.
For me, to be able to travel to Europe and shoot with people who love the same sport that I do is wonderful. HFT is a family and even though we don’t always get along, we are always there for each other. Also, on a Sunday, I cannot think of a better way to spend a few hours than shooting a rifle, eating a bacon roll, drinking some tea, and calling each other idiots for missing a simple shot.
Whether you are a hunter or a plinker, please find a local club and give it a try. There is no doubt that it will help your shooting. The banter and the fellowship will help your blood pressure, but playing with other people’s rifles will certainly not help your bank balance because almost every week I see new kit that I lust after.
If you fancy joining a club, then check out the ‘club finder’ section on shooting-the-breeze.com. For information about the nationals it’s ukahft.com, and the Southern Hunters and Midlands Hunters have a large presence on Facebook and shooting-the-breeze. Finally, if you fancy a trip to Holland, it would be great to see you there and you can get more information at airarms-international.co.uk.