4 essential bits of kit for HFT shooting

The Sure Shot shooting mat

The Sure Shot mat is well padded and comfortable - Credit: Gary Chillingworth

Gary Chillingworth lists four pieces of kit, in addition to your gun and scope, that will give you the edge in HFT competition shooting

The world of competitive shooting can be extremely hard, so anything that will give you an edge has to be worth trying. It is true that a great gun and a nice scope are extremely important, and preparing your rifle and scope correctly should always be your highest priority, but when all of this is done, what else can you do? Today, I want to look at four pieces of kit that will help you to improve your shooting and in turn, will make your HFT or hunting experience even more enjoyable; the humble shooting glove, a shooting beanbag, a mat, and the adjustable butt pad. 

A shooting glove

The Anschutz 110 glove is the most popular glove out there - Credit: Gary Chillingworth

Out of those four items, the glove is the only one that I would deem as being absolutely essential. They are made from either synthetic or leather and partially rubber-coated on the palm and back for extra grip, which is crucial when you are in competition, or in the field.
On an HFT course, you will spend most of your time gripping a peg, resting the rifle on your hand, and a glove will not only protect you from splinters, but it will also keep your hand warm and dry, especially when the pegs are cold and wet – and it creates a stable and repeatable platform from which you can shoot. 
Once you have a good grip of the peg, the glove gives a larger, ‘grippier’ surface area then an ungloved hand, so you can then rest the fore end of your rifle between your thumb and the peg, or on the back of the gloved hand.
For supported standing shots, you can press your gloved hand into a tree, or support with your thumb and fingers gripping the bark, and then rest the rifle across your wrist and use the back of the glove to steady it. The other thing you must remember is your pulse; in your hands there is the radial artery, so when you rest your gun in your hand and the shot is important – as they all are – your heart rate will climb, and before you know it, the crosshairs of your rifle will develop a nice little bounce up and down in time with your heartbeat. The glove should totally negate this. 

Shooting bean bag

My wonderful bag from Rangesports, 15 years old and still going - Credit: Gary Chillingworth

Following on from the glove, the next most important item is the beanbag. The beanbag is not just there to sit on whilst you are waiting to shoot, or to rest your gun on, or throw at your mates – a very common use for the beanbag! It is also there to give you support for your kneeling shots.
A beanbag can be used in one of two ways in HFT; you can either place it under the knee, or under the shin. When you are taking a kneeling shot, there are two main things that can affect the way you shoot – lateral movement when you sway side to side, or uneven ground that can make you feel that you either want to tip forward or backward.
When you use the bag to support your shin, you sink into it and the bag envelops your lower leg, which creates stability, and as long as the bag is not touching your buttocks, it is legal in HFT. Then, if you come to a peg that is on a slope, you can use the bag to flatten the slope out, and consequently, you will not feel like you are falling backward or forward. The bag can also go under the knee and this can be a lifesaver when you are shooting at clay grounds or in quarries – trust me when I say that a sharp piece of clay into the knee is not a nice thing.

A shooting mat

A mat can be folded and use to protect the knee - Credit: Gary Chillingworth

A shooting mat is one of those items that is nice to have, but is not essential, and they come in different sizes, from the Range Sports at about 30” wide, to the AIM, which is well over 40”. You also have the Sure Shot, a happy medium between the two and very well padded.
The mat can be a real advantage when the course is wet. There is nothing worse than having to lie down in a puddle or on cold ground, but all of the suggested mats will keep you insulated from the cold, and dry from ground water. They also provide a uniform shooting surface and will prevent any twigs or undergrowth getting anywhere near your trigger and causing a negligent discharge. 
In the summer, when the weather is fine and the ground is dusty, a good mat can prevent you from getting those fine particles or grit and grime all over your clothes,which would then transfer to your gun, and if you are a sad sack, like me, and spend many hours in the garden plinking away, a mat can be invaluable. Trust me, lying on the ground for hour after hour is no fun at all and can be very tiring, so if you have the time, they are always handy for a quick snooze – just make sure you secure your rifle first.

Shooting bag

This is my bag, target checker, whistle, arm-band, protein bar and a drink. I also have a first-aid kit - Credit: Gary Chillingworth

The gun bag is an essential piece of kit for an HFT shooter. It is true that lots of people like to use a sling and lay the rifle on a beanbag between shots, but a gun bag – be it a top of the line AIM bag, or the most humble of gun slips – will keep your gun secure, dry and free from dust as you move around the course.
The other thing that you need to think about is heat. As we all know, when the weather is hot, a PCP’s power will increase and a springer’s power will drop, but if you place your rifle in a gun bag, it keeps it away from direct sunlight, or insulated from the cold, and this will keep the rifle running well and consistently.
The other thing that a gun bag will do is give you a place to store things like your phone and car keys, a place to keep plasters and headache tablets, a pocket for waterproofs and snacks, and most importantly of all, a place to carry water. The number of people who shoot and don’t do well because they have become dehydrated is immense, and I can’t express enough the importance of taking on fluids during a comp.
Finally, there are great tricks for the winter; if you shoot and the weather is going to be bad, your gun bag will get wet on the inside and out, so buy a super-cheap gunslip that will sit inside your gun bag. Go out and shoot the comp and when you get back to your car, dry your gun as best you can and then place it in the slip. You can then put this in your main bag and you won’t have to worry about your gun sitting in a soaking wet bag all the way home. I hope this helps and that these little tips and tricks will help you to shoot better and enjoy the sport of target shooting.