The excellent experience I had at the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship (NERFTC) rekindled my interest in field target competition. Field target is, in my view, one of the toughest, most challenging, and most fun shooting disciplines available anywhere.
Air rifle field target involves shooting at metallic silhouettes of birds and animals. Each silhouette has a hole – a kill zone – somewhere on its face. Behind the hole is a paddle. Put a pellet cleanly through the hole, hit the paddle, the target falls down, and the shooter gets a point. If the target doesn’t fall, no point is given to the shooter. The ranges to the targets can be anywhere, from ten to 55 yards; and the size of the kill zone can vary from 3/8 inch to 1 7/8 inches. Further, any size kill zone may be placed at any range.
To be successful, the field target shooter must figure out the range to the target, compensate for pellet drop and wind at that range, and then shoot with sufficient precision to drop the target.
At NERFTC, Hector Medina won the Hunter Piston class by dropping 83 targets, beating the second place finisher by 19 points. Recently, I interviewed Medina by telephone to see if I could discover what made him so successful.
JE: How did you get started in field target competition?
HM: About 11 years ago, I was living in Mexico and started the Mexican Pneumatic Shooting Club. Nothing was organized for airgun shooting at that time, and we became the first club for airgun shooting that was recognized by the Mexican authorities. We interfaced with the Commerce Department to relax import restrictions, the Mexican military because they have authority over firearms and we needed to educate them, and Environmental Protection because we were able to help with some serious pest control problems involving feral dogs, goats, and even burros. We became the interface between airgunners and the government, now there are roughly 25 airgun clubs in Mexico.
The Mexicans are very keen on silhouette because Pancho Villa and his men invented it, but silhouette allows a target to drop if you hit anywhere on the face of the silhouette. So we started promoting field target as a discipline that is a more precise form of silhouette – you have to put the pellet through the kill zone – and closely related to hunting. People in Mexico took to it very naturally and began holding matches. About six months ago, the Mexican Field Target Association was born. That’s a long way of saying I’ve been involved with field target for over a decade.
JE: What rig do you use for FT competition?
HM: I shoot a World Field Target Federation Diana 54. It generates 12 foot-pounds on a short stroke, using a full power spring on double guides. It is equipped with a piston of my own design, and launches JSB 7.9 grain .177 pellets at 810 fps, plus or minus 2 fps. For scope, I use a Horus Vision 4-16 x 50 that has quarter miliradian marks for elevation and windage. While the reticle looks really complicated, it helps me to deal with elevation and wind, and that’s particularly important at the lower WFTF power level. I wanted a gun that was heavier at the nose, so I added a Diana 56 muzzle weight. WFTF is a challenging division because of the low power, and because you don’t use shooting sticks or harnesses.
JE: What advice would you give to shooters who are interested in field target?
HM: The first thing is to decide whether you want to take up field target as a casual recreational hobby or as a serious shooting discipline to which you will dedicate yourself and try to excel. If you regard it as a hobby, you’ll take one path; if you see it as a sport, you’ll take another.
JE: Okay, what if you’re going to do it as a hobby?
HM: People who want to shoot field target as a hobby would be better served by shooting in the Open or Hunter divisions. Those classes have higher power, which makes the shooting easier, and allow the use of shooting sticks or shooting harnesses, which also make shooting easier. To get ready for shooting FT as a hobby, you need to shoot a lot, and that is basically the only requirement. You need to learn the equipment, the trajectory, and become comfortable. You need to shoot under the conditions that you are likely to find in a match. Most spring-piston air rifles do not shoot the same uphill, downhill, or level. If you are going to shoot a course where there are a lot of uphill shoots, you should practice those. But for the hobbyist, if you shoot a lot, eventually you are likely to find yourself doing reasonably well.
Next time, Hector talks about the preparations of a serious sport shooter.
Till then, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott