Paul Cray is arguably one of the best field target shooters on the planet. In 2004 and 2005, he won the US National Piston Division Championship with a score that was within spitting distance of the highest PCP Division scores. In 2007, he won the US PCP Division Championship and the World FT Championship. In 2009, he won the International Division (sub 12 foot-pounds) at the US FT Championships.
The first time that I met Cray was at an offhand field target match at the Eastern Field Target Competitors Club in Wappingers Falls, NY. He is a tremendously nice fellow, and he agreed to an interview on his secrets of success.
JE: How did you get started in field target?
PC: My first match was that offhand match where we met in January, 2002. I live about 10 minutes away from EFTCC, so it is very convenient for me to compete there.
JE: What equipment do you use?
PC: In piston class, I shot an Air Arms TX-200, which I got from Jim Maccari. All the internals – the seals, springs, and lubes –are Jim Maccari. Jan Kaner tuned the gun and also did the stock. In PCP class, I won the US and World Championships with a USFT rifle. Now that I’m shooting in the 12 fp class, I’ve switched to a Steyr LG110 FT.
PC: I’ve equipped it with the same butthook that I had on my TX-200, and it’s set up with the same length of pull and scope height as my TX. I’m using a knee rest from my USFT, and I’m shooting 8.4 grain JSB pellets with 4.52 head diameter. I don’t lube the pellets.
JE: That’s it?
PC: I used to weigh the pellets, but I stopped doing that. It didn’t seem to have an effect on accuracy.
JE: What about your scope?
PC: I use a Nikko Sterling 10-50 x 60 sidewheel scope with extended wheel. (Now, I’m sponsored by Nikko Sterling.) It’s so huge, I call it “the Hubble,” and I generate the ballistic data by physically shooting at targets at various ranges. I zero my setup at around 27 yards. I also have a scope level on my rig. I look at it before every shot.
JE: Do you use any other gear?
PC: Yes, I use a shooting glove for offhand and kneeling shots. I used to shoot with it all the time but quit using it for the sitting shots because it didn’t seem to make a difference. In addition, I wear a Creedmore shooting coat for the entire course.
JE: What’s your practice routine?
PC: I practice quite a bit, shooting at paper, establishing my natural point of aim. I have a target at 30 yards, with multiple kill zones. I try to go through the act of sitting down and see that the gun is naturally pointing on target. You can use your strength to move the gun on target, but as soon as you pull the trigger, the gun is going to point where it “wants” to point. So I don’t even look through the scope until I’m relaxed. I make a conscious effort to relax, and if the crosshairs aren’t in the kill zone, I move my leg or adjust my bum until they are. Then I make sure I am relaxed again and make sure the scope is on target.
JE: Do you exercise?
PC: Yes, I have an exercise bike that I ride a couple of days a week to get my heart rate down. I’m also doing a lot of running and playing soccer, which helps endurance and heart rate.
Special thanks to Bridget Cray for taking the pictures of her dad!
Part II next time.
Til then, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott