A different Calibre Ltd Shooting Range
Bruce Potts checks out a new airgun range and shop and is well impressed
The range of air weapons available these days is staggering, with all manner of experiences and preferences catered for. But quite often the desire to own an air rifle or air pistol is tempered by the lack of facilities to use it properly. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a one stop shop where you can peruse all the latest tech, handle all the models and scopes and accessories and make an informed decision as to what to buy. But for most it ends there, how nice to be able to take your new purchase on a purpose built range and learn to shoot it correctly too; now you can, with the new excellent facilities at A Different Calibre Ltd based in Letchworth, Hertfordshire.
The owner, Andrew McDonnell, has expanded his well-respected business from a 700 Sq/foot shop to an enormous, all purpose air rifle and archery range of some 12,600 sq/ foot. It truly is an impressive facility; from the secure access into the gun shop well stocked rifle, pistols, scopes, mounts and accessories adorning the walls, to the vast shooting range out the back.
This shooting range is an all-weather venue with ventilation and lighting for a perfect shooting environment that is open seven days a week for customers to rent a lane as required. From Monday to Saturday it is open 9.30am to 8pm and on Sundays from 10am to 4pm.
The maximum range is 30 yards, with shooting benches and chairs at one end with progressively further spaced targets down range. These cater for all tastes and skills. There are 27 bays, so can accommodate a good number of shooters at one time or parties. You have standard tunnel target holders for 10 metre fans, spinners of all sizes, shapes and skill levels. Reactive duelling posts where you can test your skills against your mates or new friends on the range. There are some excellent windmill rotating spinners, all the usual knock down rabbits, crows, wild boar and squirrels targets. The 30 yard backstop having elevated targets and spinners, along with the ubiquitous zombie targets. One that caught my eye was a bell target at 30 yds with pellet-sized hole for reaction; blimey they are good here in Hertfordshire!
Talking of good, having an environment as great as this is only as good as it staff and A Different Calibre Ltd have a great bunch of lads and lassies. Andrew, as I said, is owner and over sees the business and is a serious collector and long-range varmint anorak like me! Stuart Manley is also a Director and again a serious shooter, with a wealth of knowledge and experience, so very well placed to advise customers which kit is best for them. There is Ian Twilley who was in the gun room servicing a customers rifle and can help set up a your guns too if necessary.
The shop would not be complete without the in house shooting ladies Georgia Norton, Georgia-Louise Brown, Lois Frisby-Reid and Missy Ansell who have a fantastic knowledge of all things air weapons and totally out shot me on the range! They are all excellent shots in their own right and in fact Georgia-Louise Brown is a 10m champion ISSF.
The range has 27 lanes and accommodate up to 27 people shooting and all benches have BSA gun bags for a steady rest complimented with Deben spotting scopes, which are free to use, plus an additional 3 places at the IPAS pistol area. The range is run very efficiently and safely and new customers are asked to read the rules and regulations and then have a safety tour of the facilities, whereupon a user card is issued for future visits.
You can bring your own kit i.e. sub 12ft/lb rifle and sub 6ft/lbs pistols or rent a club gun. Each lane can be booked on an hourly basis:-
- 1 hour, 1 lane, 1 person: £10
- 1 hour, 1 lane, 2 people: £16
- Prepay: 10 hours single adult range usage: £80
- Airgun hire per session (for as long as you have the lane)
- Break barrel rifle: £5
- Pre-charged rifle: £8
- Pistol: £5
Prices do not include CO2 or pellets, but PCP users get a free fill before their session, which is jolly sporting. Additional charging is £1.50 to £4.50 dependent on the size of the bottle. The in house compressor can also charge your divers tank whilst you shoot if you like for £4.50.
You can also check your muzzle velocity, which is essential for correct pellet choice and down range trajectory predictions for range cards or hunting use. The Skan pro chronograph in the workshop costs £5 to test your gun on request.
There is also an archery range, single lane at present that has a £15 a hour charge with a bow hire charge of £5 or £8 for a cross bow. As I said earlier, the staff are very experienced and thus training sessions of £5 for a basic 20 minute session is available, as is a one on one session of an hour for only a tenner, worth every penny in my view.
Finally, group sessions or parties can also be catered for on a pre book basis with 1 hour introduction for up to 6 adults at £95, then 1 hour coaching for up to 6 adults for £125 and 2 hour multi-activity party for up to 12 adults: £370. There is also a social room upstairs with tea, coffees etc for waits between lane use when busy or for use as a corporate or part package. Zoe from Shooting Sports particularly liked the vibrating chair!
There is definitely a family and all inclusive atmosphere about the range and gun room with all ages and sexes encouraged to get stuck in and have a go, which is reflected in the bookings from schools, youth groups and clubs. I think it’s very important to encourage youngsters to shoot correctly and safely and where better than on the excellent facilities at A Different Calibre with expert friendly staff.
The gun shop side of the operation is very well stocked, although most makes can be sourced, as you like. The walls are adorned with all manner of PCPs, both target and sporting, single shot, magazine fed, springer guns, gas rams and lots of pistols and CO2 guns. There an array of ‘for hire’ guns to choose from, so you can try before you buy or just enjoy a different type of rifle for an hour or day. PCPs from BSA, Air Arms, Hatsan, Walther, Dragon Claw, Kral to name a few as for springers and gas rams from Hatsan, Gamo, Stoeger, BSA, Weihrauch, Walther, Beeman, SMK and Benjamin to start with. Pellets start from £3.00 for plinking to hunting or match pellets as you wish.
Scope mounts range from £20.00 with Hawke and BSA, the main items stocked with flip up lens covers. Paper targets and re-actives from Remington at very keen prices. Scopes are stocked from MTC, BSA, Hawke, AGS and Sabre for starters, hunters or target/FT shooters alike, as well as with night vision kit from Nite-Site, as well as lamping kits from Deben. There is too much to mention such as cleaning kit, slings, sound moderators, knives and bipods.
There is also a qualified gunsmith on site for repairs and service of your airgun and cost varies dependent on work needed. As you would expect there is a changing stock of new and second-hand weapons, Stuart showed be a really nice HW35E in left hand and marked with the AKAH trade stamp, which hopefully will be coming home to Potty Towers soon. There is a wall of classics, ranging from Webley Hawks, Original 35s, BSA Meteors and Theoben Fenman. You can bring in your gun for an appraisal and they can sell them on a commission basis if you like.
I am seriously into my classic air rifles and hunting, so it was really nice to have a warm welcome and great day chatting and shooting with the friendly staff and excellent range facilities with a wide range of weapons. This is all you need for an air rifle enthusiast, as it offers a complete experience and service for beginners right up to the air gun nerds like me and even on site champion shooters like Georgia-Louise Brown.
It is very well placed and easy to get too, prices I think are very good and offer great value for money, as well as a huge range of actual rifles and accessories. I will be back to test some kit and report back on the gunroom more fully. If you are in the area pop in, you will not be disappointed, highly recommended. PS. Stuart that HW35’s mine!!
Name: Caesar Guerini Maxum game
A Different Calibre Ltd.
Tel: 01462 674861. www.adifferentcalibre.co.uk
7 Dunhams Court, Dunhams Lane, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 1WB
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates