GUIDE FOR NEW SHOOTERS
It is always strange visiting a new place or trying a new sport for the first time, so this little guide is to help you get acquainted with both, ready for your first visit to Chester Field Target Club.
Chester Field Target Club is a laid back club for people who want to use their airguns safely and to improve their shooting. Several of our members have shot competitively and we welcome competitive shooters into our ranks, but the truth is that there are other clubs which cater better for the out and out competition shooter. A day at our club will involve plinking, shooting the target course as many times as you like, and a lot of standing around talking about airguns and life in general.
Safety is of paramount importance. Every time you pick up a gun or are handed a gun by someone else, physically check that it is not loaded - even if you already 'know' it is not loaded. Your gun should only be loaded when you are at the shooting point. Your gun should point downrange (towards the target) at all times. Your finger should only be on the trigger when you are ready to shoot. You should not pull the trigger unless you are sure of the backstop. Despite the foregoing, you should treat your gun as if it is loaded at all times and you must always remain aware of where the muzzle of the gun is pointing. Never let the muzzle of your gun point at anything you would not be happy to shoot. When carrying guns round the course, the club's local rule is that muzzles should always point down into the ground. If you have any questions about safety, or if you witness a breach of these safety conditions, you should talk to one of the committee members.
Many of our older members look back fondly to the days when they learned to use their airguns safely without an adult breathing down their neck all the time. Much as we would like to be able to allow today’s youngsters to enjoy the same freedom and responsibility, laws on both airguns and child protection mean that ‘children’ under 18 years of age need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times while shooting at Chester Field Target Club.
The Shooting Grounds
The club shoots in an area of natural beauty in Mouldsworth near Chester. Click here for directions.
The site is shared with both anglers and archers, and the first Sunday of each month is allocated to Mouldsworth Gun Club which runs clay pigeon shoots. We therefore shoot roughly fortnightly and the dates for the current year are shown here.
Although the site is perfect for our shooting, there is not much in the way of home comforts – not even running water (other than the stream). You therefore need to be a bit self sufficient if you are planning to spend a full day at the club, and might want to bring a camp chair, a packed lunch, and something to drink.
Toilet facilities are currently very basic, although it is hoped that this may be addressed during 2009.
In order to shoot the course you obviously need an airgun with appropriate sights, and pellets. Any rifle will do to get you started whether it is spring, CO2, or pneumatic. A telescopic sight is a necessity on account of the size of the targets and the varying ranges they are placed at. It is not worth spending a lot of money on a rifle until you have visited the club and seen and tried the guns which are being used by other people. You can have just as much fun with an old spring powered rifle as with the most expensive pneumatic target rifle.
Note that under UK law any air rifle which exceeds 12 foot-pounds muzzle energy must be held on a Firearm Certificate (FAC). The club does not allow the use of such FAC rifles at its meetings.
If you prefer pistols to rifles you are welcome to shoot them at the club, but the lower power guns and lower magnification scopes make shooting the main course a real challenge. You are however welcome to set up your own pistol targets on the plinking range. Note that under UK law no air pistol can exceed 6 foot-pounds muzzle energy.
If you decide you like field target shooting, you will want a shooting cushion as most shots are taken from a sitting position, and the ground can be cold, wet and uncomfortable! A shooting cushion is just a tough canvas-like outer bag filled with polystyrene beads. For your first visits you can make your own 'cushion' by putting newspaper or old cushions into a strong plastic bin bag.
As far as clothing goes you really just need to be warm and comfortable, so depending on the weather you could be in shorts and T-shirt or thermals and waterproofs! It is a good idea to have a handy pocket or pouch for carrying your supply of pellets. And regardless of the time of year it is a good idea to have tough waterproof footwear.
What We Shoot
First of all, let's talk about what we don't shoot. As per 'safety' above, we don't shoot anything except the targets we have set up. We don't shoot each other, because we are always conscious of where our muzzles are pointing whether we are on the course, on the plinking range, or showing off our pride and joy to someone in the car park. And we don't shoot any animals or birds. Our arrangement with the landowner is very strict on this point.
The main discipline we shoot at the club is Field Target. Metal silhouette targets are set out in natural locations at ranges of from about 7 yards right out to about 50 yards. The silhouettes are generally of natural airgun quarry such as rabbits, crows, and squirrels. In the centre of each target is a hole which is referred to as the 'kill zone'. If your pellet hits in the kill zone it passes through the hole, strikes a paddle mechanism, and causes the target to fall flat. The target is then reset by pulling a string which runs back from the target to the shooting position. In a competitive situation, you are only allowed one shot at each target, and a course will generally comprise 15 targets. On a normal Sunday we don't comply with the strict rules, and you can spend all day on one target if you like - so long as you are not inconveniencing others. Most shots in this discipline are taken from a sitting position with the forend of the rifle resting on the shooter's knee. The accuracy achievable by skilled shots compensating for differing ranges and wind speeds is astounding, and makes you wonder why anyone would ever take any joy in punching holes in paper on an indoor range at 10 metres.
Field Target has been around a long time and became ultra-competitive with shooters using rifle and scope combinations costing thousands of pounds. While Chester Field Target Club is your local antidote to this arms race, another discipline has recently sought to allow people to compete without spending a fortune on equipment. This is Hunter Field Target (HFT) which tries to more closely emulate the conditions found when hunting with an airgun. HFT has divisions for recoiling and pneumatic rifles, and restricts the adjustment of optical sights during the competition. Shooting position is basically anything except the classic FT sitting position, including the use of handy trees etc as a rifle rest. As HFT has become popular and more competitive the arms race has started up again, but it is still a cheaper and very popular sport. It is your choice whether you shoot the CFTC course under FT or HFT rules.
Following an attack of extreme laziness, coupled with the fact that it was always the same people setting out and collecting in the (heavy) targets, we currently have a course which is set out semi-permanently. Instead of using the fall-flat targets described above, we now use knock-down/shoot-up targets which means that the sheep no longer have any string to eat, and the targets work reliably week to week. We also have a full set of the conventional fall-flat/pull-up targets which are also set out when someone feels competitive.
Last but not least we have our plinking and zeroing range. Bring along a target stand or just an old cardboard box that you can fix a paper target onto. Find out where your shots are going before you venture onto the target course. Or just have fun with your rifle or pistol. You can set out cans and plastic bottles as targets, and the club also has a set of IPAS iron plate pistol targets so that you can try shooting fast without missing.
Basically the club is all about its members, so whether you want to shoot competitions or play with your pistol you can do it at Chester Field Target Club.
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