Gun clubs - which one and why?
- Credit: Archant
Gary Chillingworth explains everything you ever wanted to know about gun clubs and people choose to shoot where they do!
In this article, I’m going to take a look at the humble gun club; the type of shooters who frequent them, why they go there, what it takes to maintain a club, and why we should all consider becoming members of one.
There are many great clubs all over the country, ranging from HFT and FT-style, to plinking and 10m clubs. You can also find pubs that hold bell-target matches and some clubs that specialise in pistol and action shooting, so no matter what type of shooting you like, there should be a club for you.
My home club is Maldon and District (M.A.D.), and in my opinion, it’s the greatest club in the country or even the world. M.A.D. has boasted Regional, National and World Champions over the years, and has won more team titles than any other HFT club, but it is not full of elitist members. There are many plinkers who just like to show up and spend the day knocking down targets – in fact, on my last visit, I met two new members, Nick Bush and Ted Young; two chaps who have recently started shooting and are loving the new covered range that has just been put in. Speaking to these lads got me thinking – ‘why do people join a club?” so I decided to ask some friends, why they joined M.A.D.
SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE
The first was John Mode, the father of Jay who is the reigning European Jnr Champion. This is what John told me:‘I did a lot of research on the local clubs closest to me because I wanted somewhere where Jay and I could go in our own time, and not be locked into a certain day. We found M.A.D., gave Richard, the owner, a call, arranged a visit and from the moment we turned up, it was a nice relaxed atmosphere. We were met by Ian who showed us around and gave us our induction.
We had about a year of just plinking and getting to know our rifles and scopes, and luckily, there were lots of friendly members who asked how we are getting on. They told us about the HFT club shoots and encouraged us to come along, so we decided to take part – and loved it! We didn’t do too well to begin with, but enjoyed it, and the support and guidance from other members and fellow shooters was second to none. There’s a great bunch people at the club who are always willing to chat and give help and advice. It’s just a lovely place to go, and is always a relaxed and calm environment.’
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The next person I spoke to was my mate Danny Roff. Danny has been shooting for a few years now, and is part of the AirArms HFT Team, and a fellow springer shooter.
‘Maldon was the logical step for me because the courses are set strictly to UKAHFT national rules. I knew that if you want to improve as a shooter and get there fast, you have to shoot challenging courses. At M.A.D you have World Champions who give advice freely, and it’s a really friendly environment. Richard Woods is also a well respected course setter, and this is what I needed as I was heading toward shooting national level events.
All that said, though, the people make the club a place to relax and see friends, and just hang out. No one is excluded; you can sit and plink, or compete with some serious shooters. It gives you the freedom to enjoy your sport in whichever way you want. Without the club, half of us would never have known each other, but the common passion makes us friends.
The beauty of this sport is, there are no restrictions. A child can shoot with an old fella, and they have a starting point for a conversation, so this gives them a couple of hours of chatting and friendship. For me, it’s my favourite part of shooting’
Lee O’Keefe has spent the lockdown working within the NHS, so having somewhere to go and let his hair down was very important to him.
‘I was shooting at an indoor range when I first started, but when I shot my first competition, I got destroyed and couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong. Then, Danny Roff introduced me to Richard Woods, and he explained that you don’t learn anything shooting indoors from a table, so I popped down to see him at Maldon and District, and signed up.
M.A.D. is the place to learn and it’s been a wonderful home for the last four years. Like the others have said, it’s the people that make the club. As a new shooter, not a single person judged me. Not the way I shot, looked, spoke, or the random and stupid questions I asked. It’s aN HFT club where you can just go and relax and not even shoot if you don’t want to. Plus, the end-of-year club booze-up that masquerades as a Christmas meal will always be a calendar highlight!’
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
The final person I spoke to was Richard Woods. Richard is the head honcho of the club and is a National Champion, to boot. I asked Richard what was involved in keeping a club like M.A.D. going.
‘Luckily, we have always had a great membership, and if I need help there are always people like Jean Greatex, Steve Edmonson and Mickey Hunt who are always happy to oblige. Also, my long-suffering partner, Jennie, has always been a great help.
Keeping the club in working order is time-consuming and can be hard work, but cutting the grass with the tractor can be rewarding, and seeing the club at its best during an FT Grand Prix, or HFT National, always makes me happy.
We try to put something back into the community, so we have had the Scouts, Maldon Junior Rangers and other groups come to visit, and it’s always fun to have the youngsters about the place. M.A.D. has become more than the sum of its parts, and luckily, the more the membership learn, the more they share with each other. We are also very lucky that we have had great support for the Airgun Centre in Rayleigh, and Flopover Targets have been very generous in supplying us with top-quality things to shoot at, although, as Flopover is my company, I did have some sway in the negotiations.
We have covered ranges and a permanent course put out 365 days a year, but that’s not what the club is; the club is the people, and it doesn’t matter if they are 8 or 80, all we want is for the members to come and shoot a few targets, have some fun and hopefully, go away happy and safe.’
This is why I am a member of M.A.D. Clubs like this are littered all over the country, and I believe that we could all benefit from being a member of a shooting family. I will finish with a final point: As I was writing this piece, I was chatting with Danny Roff and we both came to the same conclusion; being a member of a shooting fraternity is almost like therapy. If you’ve had a bad week, you can grab your gun, find a friend and switch off and shoot some tin chickens – and no matter what your issues are, it’s good to have a second home, somewhere, where everyone knows your name. Cheers!