So what do you need to participate in the fascinating sport of field target?
First, an air rifle. There are two main classes of field target air rifles: piston class, which includes all spring-piston or gas-ram powered air rifle (which is characterized by the whiplash recoil generated by the powerplant), and open class, which includes all other powerplants, but generally means pre-charged pneumatic air rifles. A typical piston class rifle would be the HW97, while a representative open class FT rifle is the FWB P70FT. Some field target clubs also shoot hunter class, in which you can shoot either springers or PCPs, but are generally limited to 12X scopes. By all means, check with your local club regarding their rules.
Most field target competitors use scopes on their rifles. Serious piston and open class shooters generally go for high power scopes (sometimes as much as 50X). They focus the scope to determine the range to the target and then either (A) adjust the elevation knob on their scope to compensate for the pellet drop at that range or (B) use a mil-dot reticle and select the appropriate dot on the reticle for that range. Hunter class competitors are usually not allowed to adjust the elevation turret on their scopes but they are allowed to use mil-dot reticles. Occasionally some nut (like me) will shoot field target with non-magnifying target sights, but that is extremely rare.
You’ll also need a supply of the pellets that produce the best accuracy in your air rifle, enough for warm-up on the sight-in range and for shooting the match. You can keep the pellets in the tin they came in, but some shooters use a special pellet pouch.
Since most of the shots in field target are usually taken from a sitting position, another useful thing to have is something to sit on. Most competitors use a bum bag, but you can use an old pillow or boat cushion to keep you off the ground and more comfortable.
To shoot field target, you don’t have to go out and buy a brand new rig. Instead, you can participate with whatever airgun you have. The key thing is to go out, try it, and have some fun. My rule of thumb is that whatever range you can consistently shoot 1-inch groups is the range (and closer) at which you’ll be able to knock down at least some targets. (For match winning accuracy, Larry Durham estimated some years ago that you need to be able to keep all your shots within a 7/8” circle at 50 yards in the PCP class and within 1-1/16 inch at 50 yards for the springer class.)
If you don’t have a suitable air rifle, some field target clubs even have loaner air rifles that they may let you use during a match.
There’s nothing like shooting in a real field target match (because of the camaraderie of shooting on a squad with other field target shooters), but if you would like to get a preview of what this sport is like, buy yourself a field target or two, put them up in your backyard, and experience the thrill of knocking some targets down.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott