About Jock Elliott

Located in upstate New York, I never met a projectile launcher I didn't like. Besides fooling around with airguns, bows, and blowguns, I pick banjo and guitar. I share my life with my wife, son, and a variety of furry creatures.

Posts by Jock Elliott

 

The Brocock Contour Elite

The Brocock Concept Elite

The good folks at Brocock seem to have a different philosophy when it comes to designing air rifles, a philosophy that aims at light, nimble guns that would be easy to carry for a full day afield.

And they seem to be spot on target with the new Brocock Concept Elite, a six-shot .22 caliber pre-charged pneumatic air rifle. The Elite (as I will call it) stretches barely 38 inches from end to end, and with an FX scope and mounts aboard, weighes exactly seven-and-a-half pounds. Naked, the Elite tips the scales at just six pounds 12 ounces.

G12 Brocock Super 6 005

At the extreme aft end of the Elite is a soft rubber recoil pad. It is attached to a decided right-handed thumbhole stock with a raised cheek piece on the left side of the buttstock. Moving forward, there is a landing area for your thumb on the right side just under the aft end of the receiver in case you want to shoot with your thumb in opposition to your trigger finger.

G12 Brocock Super 6 004

The pistol grip is nearly vertical, and there is checkering on either side. Ahead of the pistol grip, hardwood forms a guard around the metal trigger blade. Moving forward again, the slim forestock had checkering on either side.

Above the forestock and extending beyond it is the air reservoir which has a port in the bottom for filling with a special filler probe. The air reservoir ends in an air pressure gauge and is surrounded by a barrel band that clamps to the reservoir and the barrel above. At the muzzle end of the barrel is a screw fitting that can be removed. More about this later. There are no iron sights on the Elite; this is an air rifle that is designed to be scoped.

Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the receiver. It has dovetails on top, in front of and behind the breech, for mounting a scope. On the left side of the receiver is a rectangular protuberance, which I presume houses some of the mechanism for advancing the rotary magazine. On the right side of the receiver is the breech which allows the rotary magazine to be slid in from the right side and the bolt, which can be locked into either a forward (closed) or aft (open) position.

The overall fit and finish of the Brocock Concept Elite is, in my opinion, simply outstanding. With the exception of the silver-colored rotary magazine and bolt handle, all the metal parts are finished in semi-gloss or matte black, and the rest (with the exception of the butt pad) is handsome hardwood. This is an air rifle that I think any airgunner would be proud to own and shoot.

There is no safety that I can find on the Elite. Shooters can, of course, keep the gun safe by never, ever, pointing the muzzle at anything that they don’t want to see perforated by a pellet and by keeping their fingers well clear of the trigger except when they are ready to shoot. In addition, a shooter may render the Elite unable to shoot by locking the bolt in the rearward position. With the bolt in that position, it feels to me that there is a magnet that keeps the rotary magazine from falling out of the breech when the bolt probe is pulled all the way back.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how the Brocock Concept Elite shoots.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

The new FX No Limit Mounts. Notice the big Allen screw just above the two main mounting screws.

The new FX No Limit Mounts. Notice the big Allen screw just above the two main mounting screws.

Unless you decide that you are going to shoot exclusively with non-glass sights such as iron sights or peep-and-globe target sights, eventually you are going to have to deal with the issue of scopes, including mounting and adjusting them.

For some basic background information, check this blog on mounting scopes — http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2009/03/mounting-scope.html — and this blog on adjusting them — http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2010/04/how-scopes-really-work-and-what-not-to.html .

At some point, however, whether you encounter a springer that has built-in barrel droop or find yourself with the desire to shoot a pre-charged pneumatic air rifle at really long range, you are likely to run into a problem: lack of sufficient elevation adjustment in your scope.

I have faced that problem several times in my airgunning career, and, to my knowledge, there are only a handful of ways of addressing it. The first is to use a different scope, one that has a greater range of adjustment. This can work fine but is generally the most expensive option.

Another option is to switch to a special “drooper” mount for the scope. Some manufacturers offer special drooper mounts that are designed to work with their airguns that have barrel droop built in. I have used these special mounts successfully but they lack flexibility beyond their built-in droop compensation because they cannot be adjusted.

Alternatively, some airgunners opt to raise the back end of the scope by placing metal or plastic shims between the underside of the scope tube and the top of the rear mount. The danger with shims – especially if you are trying to achieve a large amount of vertical adjustment — is that by raising the scope tube at the rear and providing no compensation at the front mount, you raise the possibility of putting mechanical stress on the scope tube that could bend the tube or damage the scope. I have successfully shimmed scopes in the past, but it is not an optimal solution and doesn’t work well when you need a lot of adjustment.

Another option is to “lap” the scope mount rings to angle the scope downward as it passes through the rings. I have never personally used this method of providing for additional elevation.

Finally, I have in the past seen scope mounts that could be adjusted fore and aft to provide additional elevation adjustment, but most of these (a) looked flimsy to me and (b) required dis-mounting the scope to make adjustments.

But now the good folks from FX airguns have introduced something called “No Limit” mounts. They look like ordinary scope mounts, but there is an extra Allen screw above the foot of the scope mount.

Loosen the big Allen screw and the No Limit Mounts can be raised.

Loosen the big Allen screw and the No Limit Mounts can be raised.

With the scope mounted straight and true, you can loosen those Allen screws and adjust the elevation by lifting the front and rear mounts to different heights.  Because the mounts go up and down while tilting forward or back, the scope can maintain a stress-free and relaxing hold.  This allows you to optically center the scope without having to custom lap or shim the rings, and it also allows the long range shooter to re-position his scope angle for a better range of adjustment at extreme distance.

Best of all, the No Limit Mounts can be tilted to provide stress-free elevation adjust of the scope to compensate for barrel droop or long-range shooting needs.

Best of all, the No Limit Mounts can be tilted to provide stress-free elevation adjust of the scope to compensate for barrel droop or long-range shooting needs.

With springers with droop in their barrels, the No Limit mounts allow you to customize your scope angle to align with barrel angle.  The folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com tell me pcps have different angles too.  They see it when moving one test scope from rifle to rifle.  No Limit mounts allow the shooter to “tune” the scope to the rifle before cranking on the elevation turret.  Even if you don’t have a barrel droop problem or lack of elevation range issue, the No Limit mounts can raise or lower the scope to fine-tune its alignment to your eye.

No Limit mounts do not offer any windage adjustment.  The designers at FX felt that if they allowed left/right movement, it would be difficult to keep the mount stable, so they steered clear of that feature.

In my view, FX has come up with an excellent solution to a problem that is bound to vex every airgunner sooner or later.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

The Fusion with the included scope mounted.

The Fusion with the included scope mounted.

Recently the nice people at UmarexUSA sent me a sample of the new Fusion. It’s a single-shot, bolt-action, CO2-powered, .177 caliber air rifle that will probably sell in the neighborhood of around $200.

As I have said before, airguns that sell for $200 and below can be a decidedly mixed bag. Many, while having appealing features, also have some flaw that diminishes the joy of shooting them. The Fusion, in my experience, does a number of things pretty decently and doesn’t appear to have any terrible flaws in my view. As a result, I like the Fusion a whole lot and really enjoyed shooting it.

The Fusion stretches just shy of 40 inches from end to end and weighs 6 lbs. 1 oz. with the included scope mounted and a couple of 12-gram CO2 cartridges inserted. The entire color scheme of the rifle, with the exception of the silver lettering on either side of the receiver, can be summed up in one word: black.

The butt stock and pad.

The butt stock and pad.

At the extreme aft end is a soft rubber butt pad that is attached to a matte finish black polymer stock. The stock is symmetrical from side to side, which is good news for left-handed shooters, but the bolt protrudes from the right side and there is no provision for switching it to the opposite side. The butt stock on either side has grooves for a kind of faux cheek piece, but it is not moveable or adjustable. The pistol grip comes down at a shallow angle typical of sporting-type rifle and it has a couple of finger indentations on the forward edge.

The safety, visible just above the trigger, looks for all the world like an electrical switch.

The safety, visible just above the trigger, looks for all the world like an electrical switch.

Forward of that is a black plastic trigger guard which encloses a folded metal trigger. Forward of that is the forestock, at the end of which is a black relief valve assembly for the air tube into which the CO2 cartridges are loaded. Above that is the black metal barrel. At the muzzle end of the barrel is a polymer assembly that the package calls the “SilencAir” airgun silencing system. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find a polymer barrel band, followed by the metal receiver which includes the breech, the bolt, and the bolt handle. On the right-hand side of the receiver, just above the trigger guard, is the slide-type safety, which looks for all the world like an electrical switch.

The Fusion also comes with a 4x scope and rings that must be mounted onto the Fusion by the buyer. While this is a relatively inexpensive, non-AO scope, it is adequate to the task. I found that I could see through it clearly and shoot decent groups with it.

The relief valve assembly, just below the barrel at the end of the forestock, must be removed to insert two 12-gram CO2 cartridges.

The relief valve assembly, just below the barrel at the end of the forestock, must be removed to insert two 12-gram CO2 cartridges.

To ready the Fusion for shooting, you must remove the relief valve assembly and insert two CO2 cartridges. The first one goes in small end first; the second goes in big end first. Umarex recommends putting a drop of RWS Chamber Lube on the small end of each CO2 cartridge and on the o-ring of the relief valve assembly. In section 3 of the Fusion Operation Manual, there are detailed instructions for charging the Fusion and adjusting the relief valve assembly. Anyone who owns the Fusion will do well to read them and heed them.

After loading the CO2 cartridges, pull the bolt back to cock the action and open the breech for loading. This also activates the automatic safety. Load a .177 pellet into the breech, return the bolt to its original position, and move the safety to the FIRE position by sliding the switch toward you. Squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at 9.1 oz. After a long pull, the shot goes down range at 4 lbs. 1.3 oz.

The package claims that the Fusion will make 700 fps with lead pellets and 750 fps with alloy pellets. I chronographed the Fusion on a day that was only 58 degrees F. outside, and the gun had been stored in a 55 F. basement. The Fusion launched 7.9 grain Crosman Premier pellets at 612 fps for 6.5 foot-pounds of energy. What’s more, the Fusion was extremely consistent: the high velocity was 613 fps and the low velocity was 612 fps. Since CO2-powered airgun powerplants are sensitive to temperature, I would expect that the Fusion would provide more speed and power on, say, an 80-degree day.

The SilencAir device, at the end of the barrel, reduces the report considerably but does not render the Fusion dead quiet.

The SilencAir device, at the end of the barrel, reduces the report considerably but does not render the Fusion dead quiet.

The package also says the Fusion is “incredibly quiet.” I found this to be a bit of an overstatement. It is certainly a neighbor-friendly report – a muted pop – but it is not dead quiet. I think it is the kind of air rifle you could shoot in a suburban backyard without raising the ire of the neighbors, but it is not perfectly stealthy. It is certainly quieter than other CO2 air rifles I have shot that were not equipped with the SilencAir technology.

I found that I could easily shoot nickel-sized groups at 13 yards with the scope provided with the Fusion, and that it had sufficient power to blow through both sides of a tomato can at 20 yards.

In the end, I can happily recommend the Fusion. It has sufficient power for light pest control duty in the garden, enough accuracy to make backyard plinking fun, and ease of shooting that should please most members of the family.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

silhout2

Proponents of air rifle silhouette will tell you enthusiastically that air rifle silhouette is the most fun as you can have standing up. In involves shooting at four types of metallic animal shapes: chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams. The targets are the same size as the silhouettes used in air pistol silhouette, but you shoot at them at longer distances: chickens, 20 yards; pigs, 30 yards; turkeys, 36 yards, and rams, 45 yards. Generally, you shoot at 10 of each target, and when you hit them, they fall down (in the case of resettable targets) or go flying.

What makes air rifle silhouette even more challenging is that all shooting is done from the standing (offhand position), and unlike 10 meter air rifle competition, the use of special shooting jackets, pants, shoes, and so forth is forbidden. Competitors must shoot in ordinary street clothing. The irregular shape of the targets adds to the challenge and the fun.

If you want to get involved in air rifle silhouette, you will need an air rifle capable of shooting, at a minimum, dime-sized groups from a rest at 20 yards. Since during competition  you will not be shooting from a rest but will be shooting from a standing position, you – like all humans – will wobble. Given that all of the silhouette targets have narrow elements (the legs for example), you want an accurate rifle that will hit what it is pointing at, should you inadvertently wobble your aim over a small portion of the target. Naturally, whatever air rifle you use, you will want to shoot groups with a variety of pellets to discover which pellet is the most accurate in your rifle. You’ll want to check to make sure that the pellets you select group well at 20 yards and at the longest distance, 45 yards.

You’ll also want a scope. Although selecting scope magnification can be tricky – low magnification diminishes your apparent wobble but makes it harder to view the targets, and high magnification increases wobble while making the silhouettes appear larger – but folks in the know tell me that a 6-12x or 6-18x scope is a good place to start. You’ll want a scope with an adjustable objective to reduce parallax error, and, if you are shooting a springer, you’ll need a scope that is springer rated. In addition, because the trajectory of your air rifle can vary from 20 to 45 yards, you will want some means to compensate for the differing trajectory. Some shooters use target knobs to change the elevation of the crosshairs and others use mil-dot scopes, selecting the appropriate dot for different ranges.

Many air rifle venues offer different classes of competition. Target class is for any unaltered 10 meter target air rifle. Since many 10 meter target air rifles launch pellets at around 600fps, compensating for the wind, particularly at the longer distance, can be pretty “entertaining.”  Sporter class is where you will find spring-piston, gas-ram, and CO2 powered air rifles. All air rifles and scopes must meet an 11 pound weight limit. Open class is where you’ll find precharged pneumatic air rifles that do not fall into the target class. There are other specifications for each class so always check the current NRA silhouette rules to make sure your air rifle will be legal to use. You can find the rules on the NRA web site here: http://compete.nra.org/documents/pdf/compete/RuleBooks/Sil-r/sil-r-book.pdf

For practice, I can recommend this target: https://www.airgunsofarizona.com/Beeman%20Targets.html

The last thing you’ll need is a place to compete. You can find out about air rifle silhouette matches by contacting the National Rifle Association. This website — http://www.nra.org/nralocal.aspx — will help you find local NRA-affiliated clubs in your area. Unfortunately, you will have to contact them individually to see which ones offer air rifle silhouette competition.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

A 10 meter air rifle competitor. Photo courtesy of www.usashooting.org

A 10 meter air rifle competitor.
Photo courtesy of www.usashooting.org

Want to give yourself a serious challenge as an air gunner? I mean a serious, serious challenge? Then let me humbly suggest that you give 10 meter air rifle a try. It is both an international shooting competition and an Olympic event, and in my view, it is one of the hardest things you can attempt with an air rifle.

The competitors shoot at a distance of ten meters – just a bit over 32 feet – at a target the ten ring of which measures just .5 millimeter across. From a standing position, the competitors shoot with .177 caliber air rifles that weigh a maximum of 12.13 pounds. For men the course of fire is 60 shots (plus a ten shot final in international competition) and for women, 40 shots plus a final.

I’ve tried it, and it is tough. It is physically demanding to hold up a target rifle 60 times and try to point it with precision at a target. People – all people – wobble, and that wobble creates inaccuracy. As a result, competitors are allowed to wear specialized clothing, including shooting jacket, pants, special shoes, and even special undergarments to help stabilize the body and reduce the wobble as well as help to prevent back injury caused by the asymmetric spine position that competitors assume while shooting. Years ago, I spoke with a collegiate 10 meter air rifle competitor, and she estimated that the use of the specialized shooting clothing improved her score by as much as 50 points. In other words, if she were to shoot in ordinary street clothing (as the 10 meter air pistol shooters do), she might expect her score to drop by as much as 50 points. (An aside: you probably could have encased me in a concrete block, and I still would not have come near her score!)

The competition air rifles that are used in 10 meter air rifle competition are arguably among the most accurate projectile launchers. I know a man who shot groups from a rest with his FWB300s recoilless air rifle, and he showed me a 10-shot group that was a single hole that was barely egg-shaped! Today’s precharged pneumatic match rifles are even more accurate. It is not uncommon for today’s competitors to test their rifles by clamping them into a vice and shooting shot after shot at ten meters, testing difficult pellets and batches of pellets from the same manufacturer until they find the one that produces the smallest possible group size.

The reason for all the fuss about accuracy is that, unlike 10 meter air pistol in which a perfect score has never been shot, in 10 meter air rifle perfect scores have been shot, and competitors need to be as accurate as they possibly can. Top-end 10 meter match rifles are the Formula One cars of the air rifle world. As they go up in price you get more and more adjustability of the stock, handgrip, and so forth, as well as various anti-recoil technologies, incredible accuracy and amazing consistency in velocity from shot to shot. . The Feinwerkbau target air rifles offered by www.airgunsofarizona.com can be found here .

If you would like to dip your toe in the water of 10 meter shooting at a much more modest cost, the Daisy Avanti line of target rifles offer excellent accuracy for beginners but not the high level of adjustability or the incredible triggers available in the FWB line.

If you want to know more about how to get started in 10 meter air rifle competition, visit http://www.usashooting.org/ . Click on the Resources tab for useful information, and under the Events tab, you will find lots of helpful stuff, including how to locate a club near you and how to find a match that offers 10-meter air rifle competition

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

 

10 meter air pistol competitors. Photo courtesy of usashooting.org

10 meter air pistol competitors. Photo courtesy of usashooting.org

As I write this in the spring of 2014, just a few short weeks ago, the winter Olympics in Russia wrapped up. I am always inspired by the Olympics. The athletes work so hard – so very, very hard – to get to the highest level of competition, and they lay it all on the line against athletes from around the world. Quite frankly, it annoys me that the broadcasters who cover the Olympic games (either summer or winter, it makes no difference), put so much emphasis on winning the gold medals.

These athletes work for years – sometimes decades – to bring themselves to the level of Olympic competition, and to have some broadcaster say, in essence, “Well, he (or she) only won the bronze medal . . .” Don’t get me wrong; I think winning the gold is great, but I also believe that winning a spot on the Olympic team is an astonishing accomplishment in itself.

And did you know that 10 meter air rifle and 10 meter air pistol are part of the Olympic competition? They are, and today we’ll take a look at 10 meter air pistol, which was introduced into the world championships in 1970 and into the Olympics in 1988.

 Photo courtesy of usashooting.org

Photo courtesy of usashooting.org

On the surface, it appears to be an incredibly simple game. You stand in normal street clothes 10 meters – 32.8 feet – from a target. With one hand, you aim an air pistol at a 6.7 inch by 6.7 inch target. What you are really aiming at, of course, is the 7/16 inch 10 ring. The object is to put as many pellets as you can inside the 10 ring during the course of a 40 or 60 shot match. It’s not easy; no one has shot a perfect score (all 10s) in 10 meter air pistol competition.

As competitive ventures go, 10-meter air pistol is surprisingly affordable. You can purchase a Daisy 747 single-stroke pneumatic pistol , suitable for club competition, for under $200. Add to that a sleeve of wadcutter .177 pellets and some practice targets, and you’re good to get started. Competitors at the highest levels generally shoot precharged pneumatic match air pistols that cost close to $2,000. What these pistols offer is incredible shot-to-shot consistency and a large number of adjustments to grip, trigger, and sights so that the shooter can tweak the ergonomics of the pistol so that he or she can shoot with utmost accuracy from shot to shot. Nevertheless, I have heard, first hand, the story of a high level air pistol shooter who was visiting a match, borrowed a Daisy 747 Triumph pistol, and shot a very respectable score.

If you want to know more about how to get started in 10-meter air pistol competition, visit http://www.usashooting.org/ . Click on the Resources tab for useful information, and under the Events tab, you will find lots of helpful stuff, including how to locate a club near you and how to find a match that offers 10-meter air pistol competition.

A personal aside, I tried shooting a season of 10 meter air pistol, and I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t much good at it, but I found the competition to be gratifying, I learned a lot about the competition, and I found the other competitors to be friendly and generous of their time and expertise. Even if you never get beyond the club level of competition, it is a lot of fun, and I recommend it.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

Your Humble Correspondent demonstrating one version of the Creedmoor position which is used in many air pistol silhouette classes.

Your Humble Correspondent demonstrating one version of the Creedmoor position which is used in many air pistol silhouette classes.

If you would like to engage in some spirited competition at a very wallet-friendly price, let me recommend air pistol silhouette. All you need is an accurate air pistol, some pellets, and a place to shoot. You can get started for a total outlay of $100-400.

Air pistol silhouette is one of those classic games that takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. You shoot at metal cutouts of chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rams at various distances. If you knock one down, you get a point. If you miss, you don’t. The person with the most points wins.

Chickens, which measure just 3/4 inch high and 1 inch wide, are shot at 10 yards, pigs at 12.5 yards, turkeys at 15 yards, and rams at 18 yards. A typical match involves shooting at 10 of each animal: 10 chickens, 10 pigs and so forth. In case of ties, additional targets are shot to determine the winner.

IHMSA – the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association  http://www.ihmsa.org/ —  began sponsoring matches for air pistols in 2001. There are six categories of IHMSA air pistol silhouette competition.

Three are generally shot from the Creedmoor position (although other positions are allowed). Creedmoor looks pretty strange: competitors typically lie on their backs and brace the pistol against their calf or thigh. Some competitors  in these classes shoot from the “flop” position, which involves lying on the ground facing forward and elevating the pistol off the ground with the hands.

Uncle Jock's well loved and well used Daisy 747 match pistol with optional wooden grips.

Uncle Jock’s well loved and well used Daisy 747 match pistol with optional wooden grips.

Creedmoor classes include: Production, for open-sight pistols costing $375 or less suggested retail price; Unlimited (open sights only), for pistols with open sights above $375 SRP; and Unlimited Any Sight, for pistols of any price using any type of optical sighting device such as a scope or red dot sight. There are also three standing classes: Standing, for $375 (or less SRP) open sight guns, Unlimited Standing for any gun with any sighting device, and Unlimited Standing Iron Sight.

Competitors shooting in the Unlimited Any Sight class tend to shoot with long-eye-relief pistol scopes from the Creedmoor position. By contrast, Unlimited Standing competitors often equip their pistols with rifle scopes, shooting the air pistol close to their faces with one hand on the pistol grip and another on top of the scope.

The Crosman 2300S is a CO2-powered production class silhouette pistol.

The Crosman 2300S is a CO2-powered production class silhouette pistol.

IHMSA’s air pistol silhouette competition is unique in that it offers a “production” class  in which the price of the air pistol cannot exceed $375 suggested retail price. (This limit was recently raised to allow the inclusion of Crosman’s 1701P precharged pneumatic silhouette pistol.) This upper price limit levels the playing field so people with less expensive pistols are not competing head-to-head against much more expensive match pistols that might cost a couple of thousand dollars. (An inexpensive pistol such as the Daisy Avanti or the Crosman 2300S is not necessarily a disadvantage. There are documented cases of shooters using these relatively inexpensive pistols to beat the high-buck pistols in the non-production classes.) At many matches, shooters are also classed based on their ability, so beginners aren’t forced to compete against experts.

The Crosman 1701P is a precharged pneumatic production class silhouette pistol.

The Crosman 1701P is a precharged pneumatic production class silhouette pistol.

I have even interviewed a shooter who participated successfully in IHMSA air pistol silhouette competition with a Crosman 1377  . the only serious disadvantage of the 1377 (besides all the pumping) is that the sights are difficult to adjust. With the right pellets, it can be wickedly accurate.

This pellet trap has silhouettes that dangle from a center rod and make a satisfying "ting" when you hit them.

This pellet trap has silhouettes that dangle from a center rod and make a satisfying “ting” when you hit them.

You can print air pistol silhouette targets off the internet, but it is also useful to have a pellet trap with silhouette targets, and I can recommend this one.

Until next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

A typical field target attached to a tree in the woods.

A typical field target attached to a tree in the woods.

Targets that react when hit by an air rifle pellet are just plain more fun than those that don’t. That’s why I enjoy air rifle field target.

This is what it looks like before the shooter puts his eye to the scope.

This is what it looks like before the shooter puts his eye to the scope.

At first glance, it’s a pretty simple game. It involves shooting metallic silhouettes of birds and small game Each silhouette has a hole – or kill zone – in it, and behind the hole is a paddle. If you put a pellet cleanly through the hole and hit the paddle, the target falls down – with a gratifying clang – and you get a point. If the pellet hits the faceplate of the target or splits on the edge of the hole, the target does not fall down, and you don’t get a point.

As they say in the infomercials, but wait, there’s more: the distance to the target can vary from 10 to 55 yards, and the size of the kill zone, or hole in the target, can vary from 3/8 inch to 1 7/8 inch. Depending on the whim of the match director, you may face any size kill zone at any distance. Trust me: that one-inch kill zone that appears dead easy at 10 yards looks downright microscopic at 50 yards.

Hector Medina shooting a custom tuned RWS 54 springer.

Hector Medina shooting a custom tuned RWS 54 springer.

In addition, air rifles used in field target competition generally shoot at sub-sonic velocities,. As a result, you will need to compensate for the trajectory of the pellet at various ranges. On top of that, the wind will also tend to deflect your pellet as it moves from muzzle to target.

Mix all of these factors together, and you get a sport that requires (1) figuring out the distance to the target, (2) compensating for your gun’s trajectory at that distance, (3) doping the wind, and (4) executing the shot with enough precision to put the pellet cleanly through the hole. What makes it fun, beyond the clang and bang of the targets when they fall, is that field target is never the same twice. Each match is a little different, depending upon the layout of the course and the environmental conditions on any given day.

Hans Apelles of Team Crosman shooting a precharged pneumatic rifle of bullpup configuration.

Hans Apelles of Team Crosman shooting a precharged pneumatic rifle of bullpup configuration.

A typical match may consist of 2 or 3 targets per lane, two shots per target, and 10 shooting lanes, resulting in a 40-60 shot match. Most shots are taken from a sitting position, although some match directors will mix in some standing and kneeling shots as well. Most field target competitions take place outdoors, although some clubs host offhand-only matches in the winter in which shooters stand in a heated building and shoot at outside targets.

At present, there are dozens of field target clubs spread across the United States and more around the world. At most U.S. matches, you’ll find two classes: PCP and Piston. Some clubs also have classes for Junior shooters, Offhand shooters, WFTF (World Field Target Federation, limited to 12 foot-pounds) shooters, and Hunter Class, which limits scopes to 12X and allows the use of shooting sticks and seats. A typical entry fee for a match is $10 or less.

So what do you need to compete in field target? First, an air rifle. You can enter with almost any .177, .20 or .22 air rifle that generates less than 20 foot pounds at the muzzle, but to be competitive, you’ll want a rifle capable of shooting one-hole groups at 10 yards and holding a half-inch 5-shot group at 30-35 yards.

There are two basic classes of gun used in field target. PCP class guns are “pre-charged” pneumatic air rifles. They are powered by compressed air stored in a cylinder usually located below the barrel of the gun and charged using a SCUBA tank or a high-pressure hand pump. PCP field target guns can run from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending the level of sophistication.

Piston Class rifles rely on a spring or a gas ram that is cocked, usually by a lever under the barrel, to supply the energy to drive the pellet. When the trigger is pulled, the spring or ram is released, driving the piston forward and the pellet down the barrel. Because a lot of machinery is moving inside the gun before the pellet leaves the muzzle, piston air rifles are more difficult to shoot accurately. Highly accurate piston air rifles suitable for field target can be purchased for $500-600.

Second, you’ll need high quality optics. Many field target shooters favor very high power scopes – a minimum of 24X – because they use them to range-find on the targets. They use the adjustable objective to get the target clearly in focus, and then read the distance off the front bell or side wheel of the scope. In Hunter Class, however, shooters are limited to 12X optics.

Third, you’ll need some good ammunition. You’ll have to test to see with which pellet your gun groups the best. Group size can shrink dramatically simply by choosing the right pellet.

The final thing you will need is something to sit on, since the majority of field target shooting lanes are designed for the sitting position. I use a field target “bum bag,” but whatever gets your rump off the dirt and is comfortable ought to work just fine.

You’ll also need a place to shoot, the American Airgun Field Target Association website www.aafta.org. AAFTA has a list of field target clubs in the United States as well as a resource page of suppliers of field target air rifles, scopes, ammunition, etc.

Field target offers fun, great camaraderie, and the challenge of a high-accuracy sport at a reasonable price. I recommend it highly.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

Two of my favorite minisniping air rifles. At top, a Beeman R7 (HW30). Bottom: an FWB150 in an FWB300 stock.

Two of my favorite minisniping air rifles. At top, a Beeman R7 (HW30). Bottom: an FWB150 in an FWB300 stock.

In 1984 Peter Capstick, big game hunter and African Correspondent for Guns & Ammo magazine, published an article that changed the lives of a lot of airgunning enthusiasts. Entitled simply “Minisniping,” it enthusiastically related, stretching over 10 pages in the October issue, how Capstick and his fellow big rifle shooters had been seduced by the delights of shooting at spent 9mm brass at 35 yards, from a rest, with Olympic style match air rifles.

They could have been out in the bush hunting big game. But no, Capstick and his chums found themselves answering the siren call of spending eight hours a week trying to knock over tiny targets barely twice the width of their bullets.

The game, as Capstick and his pals played it, is deceptively simple: get some used 9mm casings, stick them primer end down in some modeling clay on a rock, a brick or a piece of wood. Then back off 35 yards and try to knock the casings down with an low-power “match” air rifle. What’s so great about that?

Well, I’ve tried minisniping, and I’ve discovered its allure.

First, minisniping is accessible. You can do it virtually anywhere you have room and it’s legal – and that’s a lot more places than where discharging a firearm is legal.

Second, minisniping is inexpensive on a per-shot basis.  Once you’ve paid for the air rifle (we’ll get to that in a moment), a “sleeve” of 10 tins each containing 500 rounds of .177 match ammo—that’s 5,000 rounds—costs less than $120.  At those prices, it bothers me not one bit that I typically blow through 75-100 rounds per session.

In addition, the Olympic-grade match air rifles used for minisniping are incredibly accurate, capable of 0.04” c-t-c groups at ten meters.  At 20 meters, a 10-shot group from a bench looks identical to a single .22 caliber hole.

Capstick and his fellow minisnipers shot with match quality air rifles of their day:  the Feinwerkbau 300s, FWB Running Boar, and Anschutz LG match.  These were recoilless spring-powered rifles that are now only available used.  Spring powerplants have gone out of favor with today’s world class match shooters.  A few single-stroke pneumatics are still used, but most of the top guns prefer the precharged pneumatic rifles that run off compressed air and are filled either from a pump or a SCUBA tank.

On the neighbor-friendly side of things, today’s match quality air rifles are generally quiet. The precharged guns make a popping sound that is certainly nowhere near as loud as, say, a .22 rimfire.  And the spring-powered guns make a muted “thwock” sound comparable to whacking a tennis ball with a racket.

Regardless of powerplant, what all of these match level guns share, in addition to superb accuracy, is high reliability.  Once in a while, a gun will go off to have the seals replaced, but other than that, repairs are rare, and you never hear of a barrel wearing out.

What makes match air rifles challenging to shoot for minisniping is that, regardless of price, they generate only 5-6 foot pounds of energy.  Most launch 7.9 grain match pellets downrange at about 560-600 fps (measured at the muzzle).  At 35 yards, the velocity is well below 500 fps, and any bit of wind will push the pellet around with impunity.  Learning to read the wind is at the heart of minisniping.

Minisniping is a game that takes just a few minutes to learn and a lifetime to master—and that’s where the true seduction lies.  Capstick, by the way, calculated that shooting at a ¾” high casing at 35 yards was equivalent to targeting an enemy sniper’s torso at over 1,300 yards. Capstick strongly recommends the use of wind flags for doping the breezes, but I generally don’t use them. Of course, many of my would-be snipees go unscathed much of the time.

Finally, many of these guns are “pellet sensitive.”  When you’re trying for ultimate accuracy, part of the quest will be figuring out which pellets give you the tightest groups at 35 yards on a calm day.

So what do you really need to play the game of minisniping?

An air rifle.  Any of these FWB match rifles will do the job. But if you don’t want to spend that much, let me suggest the humble HW30S It’s spring-powered, so you don’t need all the ancillary gear associated with a PCP rifle. It’s wonderfully accurate and launches pellets around 600 fps. Unlike the match rifles that Capstick and his friends shot, the HW30S is not recoilless, but it is still very easy to learn to shoot well. The key thing is not to use a high-powered air rifle. The velocity needs to be in the 500-650 fps range. Otherwise, minisniping will simply be too easy.

A scope.  Spring-powered airguns require an airgun-rated scope that can withstand their unique whiplash recoil.  You can use virtually any firearm scope on top of the precharged guns.  Ask the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com for a recommendation for a scope to go with your rifle

35 yards of space…or longer or shorter as the mood and/or necessity strikes you.

Some high quality pellets.  Airguns of Arizona is a great source of match pellets of almost every conceivable diameter.

A backstop or pellet trap.  This bullet box works well.

Wind flags (if you like, it’s definitely harder without them).  Wind flags are available commercially, or you can make ersatz wind flags with some 3-foot dowels, cellophane tape, and a bit of toilet paper or commercial flagging tape.

What if you don’t have all that stuff? No problem.  If your success rate is continually zero at 35 yards, move closer.  If your hit rate is 100%, move back.  Shoot at cheese puffs, animal crackers, little green army men, .22 brass, match sticks, toothpicks or soda straws.  The point is the fun, the challenge, and the ability to test the limits of your sniping ability in your own back yard.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott