Alders Airgun Range
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 17/09/2023
Covered shooting ranges continue to surge in popularity and Alders Farm, set in the Great Brickhill Valley near Leighton Buzzard (between Milton Keynes and Dunstable), is a classic example. It hosts multiple fishing lakes and a fishing/shooting shop, all tied in, and with stunning rolling countryside all around, this is a fabulous setting for those lucky enough to discover it. The fishing side hosts competitions, tackle demonstrations, and promotional events throughout the year, but I was here to see what’s on offer regarding the shooting facilities.
The shop is popular, and when I quizzed Mike, who heads up and manages the range, on what airgun brands are stocked in the shop, it’s clear that Air Arms are the main one regularly on display, along with a host of second-hand options. It’s simply a matter of their obvious quality, and serious reliability, according to Mike, and with Alders having a close relationship with Deben/Hawke Optics, the distributors for these premium models, customers are ensured a good deal, should they decide to purchase a Hawke scope at the same time as the gun. That said, if customers have a particular gun in mind that they don’t see, it’s more than likely Alders will order it for them.
The indoor 25 yard range opened in late 2017, and has five firing points, each with a bench and a chair, although you can stand. However, with the addition of a state-of-the-art electronic target retrieval system, the facility is transformed. This is an amazing bit of kit, and once the paper target has been hung on the clips, the shooter just presses a button to send the target back just a few yards, or to the distance of their choice (10, 15, 20, or 25 yards). Once you have finished shooting, just press the button and the target comes back to you! Overall, it’s brilliant and immensely satisfying.
There’s also an 80 yard outdoor range with covered firing points, and this has wind-in paper target changers. An all-inclusive membership is available for this range, and this is £140 for the year, although there is a maximum 3-hour booking slot allowed, just so more shooters can enjoy the facility. As for the indoor range, the standard membership is £60. This allows regulars to book the hourly session for £10, instead of the usual £15, along with discounts on accessories and pellets etc.
Don’t have your own gun? No problem, as guns can be hired for the duration. Gun hire of either a BSA Scorpion or an Air Arms S400, is available, charged at £27.50 per hour. This has proved a popular option for individuals or families to test the water and see if they like the sport. Alders currently have around 400 members on the books, which is pretty amazing.
Shooters get free air top-ups and refills as part of their session fee, but there is also the opportunity to get their own bottles filled up, via Mike’s collection service. Members can bring their own air bottles into Alders, and these will be collected by a local Scuba shop on a Tuesday night. Consider that the club get through 5x 12 litre air bottles every week, and you get some idea as to the popularity of the venture!
At the time of my visit, Richard Abbott and his son were enjoying the facilities, with Richard giving his beautiful Webley MkIII an outing, and clearly loving every minute. Explaining his love of the sport, and hearing about his personal collection of 30-odd airguns (primarily springers), brought home just what pleasure enthusiasts get from meeting up at the range and swapping notes. Steve Parnham, a retired engineer, was another airgun devotee that I was lucky enough to meet. After owning a TX200, then an Air Arms S510 Tactical, his push for ultimate performance, in a bid to better his Bench Rest score, has led him to the HFT500. He’s now managed a 248ex 250, but he puts part of his prowess down to a rather tasty, custom-built gun rest that he built.
Friendly competition is clearly the name of the game, and the introduction of Bench Rest shooting, using official target cards, has really injected some excitement among the more competitive regulars. Mike now has 140 shooters taking part in this, and it certainly keeps him busy. A target card costs £1 to shoot, and members clearly love it. Seeing the pile of 2000 shot cards made the point! Mike reckons the top ten shooters are all regularly posting 245 upwards, so it’s all hotly contested, but ultimately a lot of fun.
The inside range is full most of the time, so pre-booking is definitely advisable. However, with most shooters preferring the wind-free conditions inside, the outside range is a lot easier to get on and shoot. Mike’s long-term plan is to start a club, with members all turning up on the same day/evening, but this will take some planning, given the logistics of only so many firing points being available. With his enthusiasm and determination though, something will come of it, I’m sure.
Winning second place in the Trip Advisor local activities grading scheme (out of 63) was another feather in Mike’s cap, and there’s no doubt the business is gaining momentum. The Alders Airgun Range is open six days a week, and with Mike relaying to me that they have had around 20,000 shooters through the range in a year, that’s amazing figures by anyone’s standards. Apparently, the quantity of lead collected every week for recycling is fairly incredible, too.
Mike’s philosophy is to treat customers with the same level of attention if they come just once, or if they become one of his growing band of happy regulars, and having now seen him in action, it’s clear his enthusiasm, attentiveness, and jolly demeanour are at least part of the reason the shooting range has really taken off in the last year or so. A success story indeed, and three cheers to that.