Field Target – Part I

Monday, January 26, 2009

This bat needed to die.

As a rule, I don’t recommend airguns for hunting bats, but in this case, I was willing to make an exception. The darn thing was on the ground about 50 yards away, and I was on a mission to ruin his day. To make a clean shot, I’d have to deliver the pellet inside a one-inch circle in the middle of his chest.

Because I was shooting a low-powered match rifle (an FWB150 action fitted in an FWB300 stock; I call it “the red-headed stepchild”), I figured there would be a ton of drop in the pellet’s trajectory all the way out there at 50 yards. So I held one mil-dot down from the crosshairs. In addition, leaves were skittering from left to right in front of the target. To compensate for the breeze, I held to the left of my intended kill zone.

When I pulled the trigger, there was a brief pause, the pellet connected, and the bat dropped with a clang. At this point, you need to understand that I wasn’t out assassinating bats just out of sheer cussed meanness. Instead, I was participating in the fine and noble sport of field target.

Field targets come in all shapes and sizes. Here's a selection from Knockover.

Field target is a game for airgunners that involves shooting at metallic silhouette targets – usually bunnies, squirrels, skunks, and the like, but sometimes snakes armadillos, bats, even cartoon characters. Each silhouette has a hole in it, and behind the hold is a paddle. Put a pellet cleanly through the hole (the kill zone), hit the paddle, and the target falls down. If you hit the face plate of the target or split a pellet on the edge of the kill zone, the target locks in the upright position. You get a point for knocking the target down and zilch for anything else (although in some field target matches, you get a point for a face plate hit and two points for a knock down, but that is the exception.)

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: the range to the target can vary from 10 to 55 yards, and the size of the kill zone can vary from 3/8 of an inch to 1 7/8 inches. Further, there is no correlation between the distance to the target and the size of the kill zone. So, for example, a one-inch kill zone at 10 yards is pretty easy, but that same target at 40 yards can be extremely challenging. Likewise, many shooters can drop a target with a half-inch kill zone at 15 yards, but stick that same target up in a tree at 30 yards, and you’ll hear them muttering darkly under their breath about the sanity of the match director.

Field target is usually shot from a sitting position, but some matches require shooting some lanes from a standing or kneeling position, which makes shooting more difficult. Field target matches are often set up with two or three targets per lane, with two shots at each target. So, if you drop a target on the first shot, you pull the target upright with the reset string, and try again. If you miss, you can try to make a correction on your second shot.

I really enjoy field target, and I recommend it heartily to anyone who wants to have fun with their airgun. In part II, we’ll look at what you need to participate in field target.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

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