To my mind, one vital piece of equipment in any air rifle enthusiast’s armoury, should be a chronograph. There’s a hatful of reasons for owning one too; and none greater than being seen to be whiter than white. In these days of the rabid antis constantly trying to wipe out our marvelous sport, it’s never been more important to keep a check on your rifle, and ensure that its power output stays within the legal limit. Avoiding elimination from a top competition, is of course further incentive!
Keeping an eye on consistency brings peace of mind too; whilst the opportunity to experiment with different ammunition, to see how performance is affected, can also be fascinating.
Pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles bring their own demands to the table; with experimentation with charge pressures often paying dividends – all to be done in conjunction with a chrono; so, the case for ownership is strong. Many models exist on the market, but I use a Shooting Chrony, which is easy to use and very reliable. Two large sky screens help create light differentiation for the sensors outdoors, and the large shooting 'zone' allows for great flexibility
Price: Around £95-£115
Contact: Blackpool Air Rifles. www.airgunbuyer.com
Every now and again, a product comes along which displays real design flair, and the result just leaves a grin on the face. BSA’s ingenious target holder is indeed the real deal, not just doing ‘what it says on the tin’, but doing it in style. A compact, carry anywhere target holder is a vital part of any kit bag, but the clever part of the BSA design is that it all folds up on itself to 6x4-inches, making it incredibly portable and versatile. With about one inch of depth, it really can be described as ‘pocket sized’. Fabricated from stainless steel, this great piece of design actually allows for three target settings. Two small slotted arms swing upwards to hold the target card, which can range from the very small, right up to a large sheet. A bottom assembly swings downwards, which can be pushed into the ground, clearing long grass in the process. However, bend the middle section under, and it becomes free standing.
As mentioned, when not in use, it all folds down, making it a highly flexible, satisfying little device, which should last a lifetime if looked after.
Contact: BSA Guns. www.bsaguns.co.uk
Irrespective of the chosen discipline, be it target shooting, match or field, extracting maximum performance from the equipment and improving the chances of success, must be in everyone’s interest. Once you accept that everything stems from a precise zero, then anything that can assist the process has to be welcomed. These bags from Caldwell are a neat solution, and surprisingly versatile. Stability is the name of the game, and once properly set up, these bags provide rock steady support. Supplied in flat-pack form, the bags first need to be filled, and the filling medium can be sand, foam, beads or indeed anything deemed suitable. I didn’t fancy the idea of fine sand leaking all over the place, but still wanted the heavier dense feel, and dried split peas of the type easily sourced from the supermarket, proved ideal. Both bags are constructed from tough-600 denier Nylon, which still has the necessary amount of give to enable the rifle to feel locked into place. Obviously, the dedicated Bench Rest boys have their hi-tech, fully adjustable gun cradles, and these bags aren’t intended to compete with that sort of set-up. What they do offer, however, is an inexpensive taster to just what can be achieved when more variables are removed from the equation – i.e. a wobbly shooter.
Price guide: from £24.95 filled or unfilled
Contact: Edgar Brothers www.edgarbrothers.com
As Field Target (and HFT for that matter) becomes ever more competitive, the serious shooter needs an edge… and weighing pellets can be the answer. Okay, it’s a tedious task but for peace of mind, it makes sense.
Pocket digital scales are available, normally intended for the diamond industry, or shooters who utilise reloading products. Either way, since these neat devices are normally accurate to within a tenth of a grain, they are perfectly suited to the task. Sort pellets to within two tenths of a grain, and you won’t go far wrong. Henry Krank now stock the High Precision Digital Powder Scales from Reloadr, and these are ideal for pellets too. The set comes very neatly packaged in its own storage case, along with tweezers, pan and batteries. Hours of fun for those long nights.
Price: £49.60 guide
Contact: Henry Krank www.henrykrank.com
By creating a barrier between the shooter and the rifle, a target glove helps to absorb much of the body’s pulse, which can be so damaging to good scores. We all need a certain amount of adrenalin to keep us on our toes, and focus the mind, and the day I turn up to a shoot and don’t feel that rush of excitement as I stand on target lane 1, is probably the time to hang up my kit and retire. It’s just that that excitement needs to be controlled and harnessed. An ultra-nervous, over excited competitor may well find it difficult to stop the resultant ‘bounce’ transferring to the rifle, and the target glove can really help in this area. Heavy padding inside the average target glove means that twitching or aching muscles are cushioned from the stresses of supporting the rifle. Try one on for size, and it soon becomes clear that comfort is significantly enhanced in most scenarios. Most positions suddenly seem a little more stable, as the glove can help to lock the body together, aiding support significantly.
Price guide: £28-£64 approx.
Contact: Bedford Target Supplies. email@example.com
I never did quite see the attraction in throwing yourself on the floor, into mud or hard ground, like some of the hardened hunters on the HFT circuit. Slowly but surely though, shooters are seeing sense, and the once rare sight of a shooting mat at competitions, is now becoming commonplace. Rangesports are a British company, that have been making quality accessories for some years now, and their mat design is simply one of the best I’ve seen, irrespective of price. Measuring 6’x30” when extended, and 30x18x3-inches when folded up, its four-part design is just spot-on. The mat is constructed from heavy duty waterproof cordura, with extra strong nylon edging. Padding comes in the form of 10mm closed cell foam, and the mat certainly feels up to the job, so to speak.
Mats are available with or without a large zipped pocket, and in eight different colours: black, green, navy, red, cherry, orange, DPM camo, and grey; so, there’s plenty of choice.
Once in the closed position, central carry handles complete the great design. Other makes are out there, but these are a real investment.
Price guide: £69 with pocket (+£7.50 shipping). Heavy duty carry strap £4.50 extra. Camo patterns £4.00 extra
Contact: Rangesports. www.rangesports.com
Shooting sticks have long been a vital accessory for many hunters, and they come into their own after an extended spell of rough shooting, when the arms can often be tired. Carrying a lightweight, simple device, that can effectively take the strain, support the firearm, and assist the shooter to his goal, has to make sense. Several makes of shooting stick exist on the market, but one that caught my eye just recently, employs ergonomics and clever design into the bargain. What lies at the heart of 'Trigger Sticks', is the main mechanism that allows for instant height adjustment by pressing the button, whilst in the aim. It’s clever stuff and in practice, works really well. The top support section incorporates a rubberised ‘V’ support, which holds the rifle, securely and without scratching it, and the V itself can twist around, and be locked in place if required.
Price: £70-£130 dependent upon spec
Contact: John Rothery (wholesale only) www.bisley-uk.com
Optical aids in the field, are part and parcel of our modern lives, and as technology moves on apace, so our dedicated accessories and tools of the trade, become increasingly sophisticated. Anything that can enhance our outdoor experience, and improve vision, has wide appeal across the board, with field sports enthusiasts, bird watchers, and of course shooters, all able to benefit.
The Nature Trek 20-60 set comes nicely presented (and of course protected), in its own dedicated aluminium reinforced hard case. Dense foam padding cossets the goods, whilst a ‘stay-on’ soft cover, is also provided.
It doesn’t come with a stand of any kind, so a camera tripod or stand needs to be independently sourced. A super soft rubberised eyepiece is fitted, which can neatly fold back on itself to shorten the shroud effect. With that set, just select your choice of magnification, from between 20x and 60x, by rotating the zoom control ring of the angled eye-piece. Fine focusing is achieved by adjusting the focus knob, until clarity is satisfactory. Competitively priced, this has to be one of the best spotting scopes I have encountered to date. It’s very well made, with a real quality feel to it, and an impressive performance to match.
Contact: Hawke Optics. www.hawkeoptics.com
My opinion on stock risers, or Hamsters, has completely changed. No longer do I consider them a gimmick! Indeed, once you shoot through an HFT course, you’ll soon learn to appreciate their worth. For what a stock riser does is make a section of the rifle’s forend much deeper, and for certain shots, this means the sightline can be significantly raised – getting over obstacles for example.
The problem stems because in HFT, many shooters compete with guns which have fairly slimmed down, sporter style stocks. Of course, an increasing number of full-blown Match rifles are creeping onto the circuit, but for those who wish to avoid the expense of such machines, yet still be able to transform the handling of their existing ‘sporters’, the addition of a ‘Hamster’ can make all the difference.
Again, specialist items are available, and the Air Arms dedicated model, released alongside their popular HFT500 rifle, is a great design, and will fit any standard accessory rail.
Price: Palm Riser Kit £98.80 Extra spacer kit available £16 approx.
Contact: Air Arms. www.air-arms.co.uk
I will never forget my introduction to the merits of a spirit level, and it came at a particular FT competition, held in a pine wood, back in the late 80s. The targets were all set at an extreme angle, and as a fellow competitor handed me their rifle to observe the little gismo, I just couldn’t believe (at first) that they’d bothered to go as far as to fit one, and secondly, the incredible amount of correction that I had to make on the rifle in order to bring the bubble back into line. Okay, on level ground, it’s not automatically a problem, but many FT clubs are up hill and down dale, and canting the rifle is a common source of shot misplacement – with the error magnified at long range. Hunter Field Target (HFT) doesn't permit their use of course, but that needn't stop you using it as an aid at other times, whether hunting or on the range. Top British scope mount manufacturer, Sportsmatch, produce a variety of styles, and the SP3 set that just screws into the top of a mount, in place of the existing bolt. Easy to fit, and very well-made.
Price: £25.95 SP1 &2 kits £24 approx. from Sportsmatch. www.sportsmatch-uk.com