Posts Tagged ‘champion’

Recently, as research for a story in ShootingSports USA, I had the opportunity to interview several of the shooters who won their classes at the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship held at Crosman Corporation, July 10, 11 and 12.

There were several unusual stories, and one that certainly caught my attention was that of John Tyler of Yardley, PA. He won the Hunter PCP class, which the most hotly contested with some 44 registered shooters.

A couple of things really struck me about John’s effort. The first is that he was shooting a somewhat unusual air rifle. He was shooting a Benjamin Marauder in .177 equipped with a hammer de-bounce device and with a forestock that has been shortened by several inches. The underside of the buttstock has been removed which took off about a pound of wood. Because he is shooting in the hunter class, which allows the use of shooting sticks, the stock has a notch at the end of the forestock to fit the shooting sticks.

In the photo below are two of John’s Marauders. He won with the one on the bottom.


What really sets John’s Marauder apart is that, having been tuned by Chris Helm, it shoots hot, sending 8.44 grain Air Arms pellets downrange at 1,010 feet per second, for around 19.8 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Now, if you have been reading this blog for a while or paying attention to various on-line forums, you know that conventional wisdom has it that you really don’t want your air rifle launching pellets at more than 930-950 fps, because higher than that will likely produce inaccuracy. Tyler’s Marauder apparently has not gotten the news. It shoots very accurately at that power level and delivers about 50 shots at that power level per fill.

John tells me that his M-rod shoots flat from 22-45 yards and that additional power really helped him to punch through high winds and torrential rain on the second day of the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship. While most shooters shot significantly worse on the second day, John shot the same score both days, although he feels he should have done better on the first day.


The second unusual aspect of Tyler’s effort was his use of a radio-controlled truck to help him confirm his “scope dope” on the sight-in day. Walking a target holder out yard-by-yard to make sure that his scope is set up properly could be very interruptive to other shooters, since the rangemaster would have to call a cold line each time John wanted to move his target. So he mounted a sign holder on the back of his radio control truck and uses that the move the target as needed without interrupting the other shooters. At the Northeast Regional, he positioned himself at the far end of the sight in range and inched the truck out yard by yard as he sighted in and made sure that all was well with his scope.

John tells me that there is a very small printed sign on the back of the radio controlled truck that says, “If you shoot me, you’ll have to deal with my owner.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

Dan Brown shooting in the Quigley Bucket Challenge at the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship.

Before we get to our conversation with Dan Brown and Dan Finney, a brief reminder from the good folks who make this blog possible:

Don’t’ forget: the 2nd Annual EXTREME BENCHREST competition , being hosted by Quail Creek Gun Club in Green Valley, AZ (25 miles South of Tucson) and sponsored by will be held on the weekend of Nov. 10-11, 2012.

What makes it extreme benchrest? Well, here’s a quick summary of the rules:

  • All targets will be placed at 75 yards
  • There are 20 targets to be shot and scored
  • 20 minute time limit for all 20 shots and all sighters
  • Targets will be scored from 0 to 10x per target
  • If a shot breaks the outline of a ring then the shot is scored up
  • Highest shot per target is scored
  • Any shots over 20 will have a 10 point penalty per shot
  • There are 4 targets that are on the bottom of the target board designated for sighters only
  • Shooters are allowed as many sighters as needed
  • Any shot above the sighter line will be counted as a competitive shot
  • Shooting the wrong target is an automatic disqualification

Registration will be limited to 120 shooters, and there will be prizes, lot of prizes, amounting to over $10,000 worth of merchandise to be given to match and raffle winners. For more information, and to register, click here:

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming: At the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship, Dan Brown took third in the WFTF Division and won the Hunter Pistol match. His son, Dan Finney, won the Hunter PCP rifle match. I interviewed Dan Brown about what made him and his son so successful at field target.

JE: How did you get started in field target?

DB: When I was a kid, I was really big into airguns. I used to read about Rodney Boyce and American Airgun magazine. When I was in high school, I used to skip school and take off in the woods all day with an airgun. About two years ago, I bought an FX Independence and went to some field target shoots. That’s how I got involved.

JE: What’s your current competition rig?

DB: This year, I’m using an EV2, and I’m shooting in the World Field Target Federation (WFTF) Division, which is 12 foot-pounds. I have a Sightron 10-60 scope and I use it all the time at 50x, even shooting offhand. I’m shooting 7.9 grain JSB pellets.

Dan Finney shooting his highly modified Marauder on the B course at the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship.

JE: What about your son’s rig for PCP Hunter?

DB: That’s a Marauder. I’m an amateur machinist, and we heavily modified my son’s gun. It has a Lothar barrel with a 1/15 twist, a thimble on the end so we can index the barrel, a custom hammer with a debounce device that improves shot count by 25%, a custom regulator that delivers 1.5% consistency, and a special bolt lug that tightens the actions. It gets a lot of shots per fill and is shooting at 910 fps right now.

JE: What about the pistol rig that you won with?

DB: That’s a Crosman 1720T that we bought the day before the pistol match.

JE: The day before?!! You mean you had less than a day to practice?

DB: Yes, and I had to borrow a scope from Ray Apelles for the pistol match.

(An aside: at this point, Your Humble Blogger is sitting mute on the phone, shaking his head in disbelief.)

JE: How do you practice?

DB: Me and my kid are big into bench rest. We get the guns shooting as accurately as possible. We shoot indoor leagues in the winter and attend weekly silhouette shoots for our offhand skills. We also practice in the backyard. We can go out to 100 yards. So one of us will put out a target, and whoever it’s it first gets to put out the next target at whatever distance he chooses. We do a lot of long range shooting, measuring ballistic coefficients, and we have even done high speed video of pellets in flight. We experiment a lot with different barrels with custom rifling to try to maximize accuracy. I find shooting from a bench very valuable as well.

JE: What about your son’s practice routine?

DB: Well, he follows a very highly regimented discipline. He plays video games about 95% of the time when he isn’t working, and he usually sights in his gun the night before a match.

JE: Any advice for newbies?

DB: One of the best practice aids is to get involved with benchrest match shooting. You’ll learn how much the wind affects the flight of the pellet. At the last match, I was holding off two inches to make the shot. It’s especially important with a 12 foot-pound gun. I think benchrest helped my kid quite a bit. Benchrest is a different mindset. It’s more technical and it will help you to get your gun accurate in a hurry. The bottom line: you need an accurate gun, need to understand the wind, and need to get your positions down pat.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The windicator stands out to one side while Kevin Yee takes a shot at the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship.

At the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship, Kevin Yee flew in from California and won the Open Piston Division with a score of 100, beating the highest score posted by an Open PCP shooter. Not only is that a very impressive achievement, but Yee was one of the few shooters to demonstrate remarkable consistency, shooting the same score (a 50) on each day. I interviewed Kevin by telephone to find out what makes him so successful as a field target competitor.

JE: How did you get started in field target?

KY: When I was a kid, I went to Boy Scout camp. We shot .22s, and I liked it! When I got home, I begged my parents for a .22, I wound up with a Red Ryder BB gun. I got hooked into the Beeman airguns stuff, and eventually ended up with an FWB124. I practiced with that gun till I wore out the seal in it. I’ve shot airguns ever since then. Fast forward a few years . . . when I got a new home, we had a lot of pigeons around and that rekindled my interest in airguns. Eventually I got an Air Force Condor – a .22 shooting 50 foot-pounds – which I modified heavily and started to shoot field target with it. I noticed though that my technique was messing up some shots, so I started to shoot spring guns to improve my technique. I think PCPs are rather sterile and boring. A springer has a lot more personality and life.

JE: What’s your current competition rig?

KY: The gun I shot at NERFTC is actually my backup rig. It’s an HW97 with Maccari internals and a Maccari stock that was tuned by Jan Kraner. It shoots JSB RS pellets at 840 fps, close to 11 foot-pounds. It has a straight bar that comes out of the butt pad that functions as a butt hook, an old Premier-Leupold Mark IV scope, and a custom scope focusing knob that is about five inches in length. I like it because I can move it with my thumb when I am shooting offhand. I also have a windicator that is a piece of Mylar. That’s pretty much it.

JE: What’s your practice routine?

KY: (He laughs.) I’m actually a casual shooter. I shot the Oregon match just before I flew to New York for the NERFTC, but I hadn’t shot for 2-3 months before that. I actually don’t spend a lot of time practicing. I live in the city, and it’s impossible to shoot at my house. When I make it to the range, I’ll sit there for eight hours and shoot targets and take Vicodin later for my back. I only shoot from a sitting position at targets anywhere from 65 yards to ten yards.

JE: If you don’t practice, how come you were so consistent? Most of the shooters were telling me that reading the wind on the B course at NERFTC was really difficult.

KY: In a sense, I got lucky. The B course is very similar to where I normally shoot – with gusty, variable winds, but you tend to have a quartering tail wind, and that’s what I was seeing and feeling on the B course. Most of the time, I was sitting there trying to find a predictable wind to shoot. I rarely held on the kill zone.

JE: Do you have any advice for newbies?

KY: You don’t need a full-blown race rig; you don’t have to have all the expensive stuff. I think the springer class is the most reasonable class that a person can get into and shoot without spending high dollars. You need to practice enough so that you know your gun and how it will behave and so that getting into a good, stable field target position becomes second nature to you.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


At the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship ( NERFTC), Greg Sauve won the WFTF Division after a shoot-off with Ray Apelles. Sauve also won the 2011 WFTF PCP National Championship. I interviewed Greg by phone to try to get an idea what makes him so successful at field target.

JE: How did you get started in field target?

GS: Well, to really understand, you have to go way back. When I was 11, my Dad gave me a break barrel air rifle. I had been on him to get me a BB gun, and he said, “I got you a gun you can hit something with.” So I’ve been target shooting for over 50 years! Around 2000 I inherited a Crosman air pistol from my Uncle, that lead me to an Izzy pistol. I started looking for matches, and I got involved with the Badgerland Airgun Association (BAGA). I shot my first field target match there with a TX, and I hit seven targets. That was the beginning. My first serious FT rifle was a 20 foot-pound Steyr prepared by Allan Zasadny.

JE: What’s your competition rig now?

GS: A Steyr FT modified and setup for 12 foot-pounds by Alan Zasadny. It’s fully tricked out by him with a knee rest, thigh rest, butt hook, adjustable weight, trigger job, and changed porting. On top is a March 8-80 scope, and I’m shooting JSB 7.9 grain pellets. I shoot in a Creedmore shooting jacket – I actually have three of them – and a David Tubb highpower hat that I can fold the sides down to keep the light out. I also have one of those rubberized eye cups on the eyepiece of my scope.

JE: What’s your practice routine?

GS: I can shoot 20 yards in my basement. Once a day, I practice for standing shots. I have a target with 25 bulls, and I start at the lower left and slowly track the crosshairs along the line of targets, trying to hold as steady as I can. I understand the 10 meter guys to do that, and I try to make sure I do it once a day.

JE: What about sitting?

GS: Mostly I just shoot. All winter I shoot International Field Position at BAGA. You’re shooting at half-inch kill zones at 30 yards, and it’s worst-edge scoring. IFP really keeps the juices sharp. It was ten years at BAGA before anyone cleaned the course. I shoot a reduced IFP target in my basement at 20 yards, and I try to shoot two of those targets a day – that’s 50 shots. Sometimes I’ll shoot three of those targets in a day. In all, I shoot 15,000 to 20,000 pellets a year in practice.

JE: Do you do anything to keep yourself fit for shooting?

GS: I do some jogging, biking, and elliptical machine for cardio. I have a multi-position weight machine for strength, and I do yoga about three times a week for flexibility.

JE: Are you doing anything special to get ready for the World’s Championship?

GS: I notice they have a lot of uphill and downhill shots, so I am practicing those. I made arrangement with an archery club to shoot from a treestand. The outdoor range that I practice is wide open and very windy. I kind of like it now. You have to go out there and shoot when it is windy. Start by shooting everything dead center to see where the shots are going and then try to make them hit on target by compensating for the wind. I have a windicator I made from fly fishing feathers from Gandor Mountain. If you see that feather moving at all, you have to honor it, particularly if you are shooting in the 12 foot-pound World Field Target Federation (WFTF) division.

JE: Do you have any advice for newbies?

GS: Sure. Get some decent equipment to start with . . . probably a PCP because it’s easier. You have to practice to learn a consistent and balanced hold. You need to work on your natural point of aim. Sit down, point your scope at the target, close your eyes, open them, and see if you are still pointed at the center of the target. If not, wiggle around until you are. Then repeat the process – close your eyes, relax, open your eyes, and check to see if you are pointed where you need to be. If not, adjust accordingly. If you shoot with tension in your body, you will tend to yank the shot off line when you pull the trigger.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

JE: How should you prepare if you are a serious sport shooter of field target?

HM: If you are a serious sport shooter – really dedicated to the sport – you have to differentiate between the mind and body, and you have to get them both fit. You can be physically fit and not mentally fit. Shooting is 70-80% brain, and 20-30% physical.

JE: How do you get physically fit for shooting?

HM: If you are going to cock a spring gun 180 times over three days, you need to build up stamina. Of course, you have to cock and shoot your gun, but one of the best ways to build stamina is to take long, brisk walks. No running, jumping, just long brisk walks. They are excellent to build stamina for long days of shooting.

JE: What’s next?

HM: Once you start your physical fitness program, you need to attend to your brain. That means keeping it busy, nimble, and fast; making sure your brain and your eyes are geared toward detecting things in the outside world. Excellent exercises for the brain are those puzzles where you have two pictures and you have to detect the differences between them. That helps to train the mind to see the sight picture, the wind, the difference in light, and will help get your brain geared towards not only looking but actually seeing things.

JE: What else?

HM: Once you get your body and brain fit, you have to feed them properly, so a good diet is very important: one-third protein, one-third vegetables, and one-third grains, all as unprocessed as possible. You also have to take care of your eyes. They are the main data-gathering instruments. Make sure your glasses have the right prescription; wear sunglasses in bright sunlight, and protect your eyes with goggles in a shop.

JE: What about actual shooting practice?

HM: Practice 30-50 shots dry fire every day. Practice 10-20 one-handed pistol shots two or three times a week, that builds your trigger control. Finally, at least 20 times a week, practice a complete shot cycle. By that, I mean: plump the bum bag, sit down on it, mount your rifle, close your eyes, wiggle around a little, then, open your eyes and see if you are naturally aligned to the target. If not, correct your position, close your eyes, wiggle, and open your eyes to check your position again, repeat if necessary. Range the target, take the shot, and get up again. Repeat that over and over until getting into the proper position, perfectly aligned to the target, is a matter of muscle memory. A lot of shooters have no clue whether they are naturally aligned to the target or not.

JE: Do you do anything to prepare your pellets?

HM: Yes, I wash and lube them. I use Krytech often for PCP pellets and Pledge for springers . . . I bake the pellets for three minutes in a toaster oven dedicated for the purpose. You have to experiment with lubes to see what works best for a particular barrel.

JE: Anything else?

HM: Yes, you have to go to a lot of matches. That’s because if you are serious about being competitive, you can’t train for the mind game aspect of what goes on in the background of matches, and the psychological aspect of matches plays a heavy role in the outcome; if you are a hobby shooter you will have a very good time, experience some fine sportsmanship, very high levels of camaraderie and, I am sure, lifelong friendships will be established.

Till next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

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