Hunter Field Target - Kneeling Shots
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- Last updated: 23/08/2021
Hunter Field Target shooting is a brilliant sport, and as I’ve so often said, one of the attractions is that you can enjoy it at your own level. Classes for ladies, juniors, veterans, then different types of airgun; .22 class, recoiling, and finally open, mean everyone can compete on relatively equal terms. For example, it’s so much harder to shoot a .22, but you’ll only ever be up against other competitors using the larger calibre. That’s assuming you want to be that is, as the open class is available if you feel the urge to make a statement!
Many shooters are just happy to take part and try and beat their own personal best score (PB), irrespective of kit used, or classes available - and why not? But for those of us who lie in bed fretting over preparation and all manner of technical aspects, a big part of the ‘fun’ comes from trying to maximize our approach, to be as competitive as possible.
Speak to any top competitor and they will tell you that when the going gets tough, the real deciders can so often be the ‘discipline’ shots, and that means the ones taken from a kneeling or standing position. So, in this article, I plan to cover the basic aspects of kneeling, and at the same time highlight the requirements of the rules, as laid down by the governing body, UKAHFT (United Kingdom Association for Hunter Field Target).
Whilst I’m focussing on the HFT approach here, there is plenty of cross-over with hunting, with regards to adopting an effective shooting stance, and likewise, the kit used. I’m showing off a rather tasty Air Arms S510 R Ultimate Sporter in Black Soft Touch here, and whilst this is aimed at field forays, the sheer class of this machine makes it highly viable in HFT. The one proviso being that the magazine, central to its multi-shot system, is removed between target lanes for safety.
So firstly, let’s get the basics right, and cover what constitutes a kneeling position. The rules state that ‘the shooting position is made up of the following key elements; three points of contact must be maintained with the ground. These comprise of a single point of contact for the leading foot, a single point of contact for the rear foot and a single point of contact for the supporting knee. (See Picture 1)
Sly competitors pushing the limits have influenced the rules over the years, and the governing framework is now far more accommodating than it ever was, in several areas. Kneeling is a classic example, where once the rear foot had to be raised (See Picture 2), the rules now illustrate an ‘acceptable flat foot’, where the rear foot extends in a straight line pointing rearwards under the shooter (See Picture 3). I first thought this was a crazy concession, but on trying to adopt the position, my foot simply won’t tolerate the weight, and it doesn’t feel any great advantage in any case. However, turn the rear foot forwards, keep it flat, and sit on it (See Picture 4) and this will be quite rightly deemed illegal. Again, to my less than perfect physical condition, this position is steady but painful. A fitter competitor would benefit from effectively a sitting position, which is obviously cheating.
It’s worth noting that the rules also state that a bean bag may be used to provide support or protection to the supporting knee, or placed under the shin providing the rear foot is upright.
I had training at a shooting club years ago, that taught me the classic approach to the kneeling position, and that sees the elbow of the front supporting arm, planted ideally, into the small hollow of the front knee (See Picture 5), whilst at the same time maintaining a right angle with the front leg, so that weight transfers directly down. Fail to keep the right angle of the front leg, and you’ll see that the position (See Picture 6) just wants to collapse. Back with the UKAHFT rules, and these state that ‘the leading supporting hand must not be directly supported by the leading supporting knee or thigh. The wrist of the supporting hand must be located forward of the supporting knee’. This concerns the trend for keeping the position low, to minimize wobble (See Picture 7). Here, rather than placing the elbow on the knee, with all that possible arm movement, the supporting arm is placed against the front leg, with just the hand exposed at the top (See Picture 8). All I would say is try both, and a key element of any positional shooting is to be comfortable. If it doesn’t feel right for you, then adapt it to suit.
Looking to the S510 R Ultimate Sporter, on loan here, gaining height for elevated shots or kneelers can also be adapted. Whilst the trend in HFT is for deeper fore-ends and raiser blocks, Air Arms themselves manufacture a Palm Raiser Kit, initially made for their dedicated HFT500, but equally at home, bolted onto the accessory rail of the S510 R. And it’s this sort of cross over that could see this model as the perfect ‘one rifle for multiple duties’ role. Whisper quiet for hunting, yet refined and accurate enough for the rigours of competition.
On an HFT course, it is the unsupported kneeler that really puts a spotlight on technique, and one shot awaits on the 30 target course, to test our approach. Two other compulsory kneeling shots are designated ‘supported kneelers’, and here, the competitor is allowed to utilize the object, designated as the ‘peg’, for support. The rule is that any part of your body has to touch the peg, but with these shots, you can also use the object to your advantage. In a wooded shoot we often have a tree to play with, and being able to form a comfortable, steady support is the key. Practise these ideally, and using a target glove can really help, as it minimizes the effect of our pulse, and gives strength to the fingers when supporting the rifle. Don’t just copy the last competitor’s approach, but if the tree is the peg, for example, look at the options of taking the shot from either side if possible.
So, we now have half an idea of how to adopt the position. Now it’s time to consider the target size and distance. Learning the UKAHFT official rules is key in this, as they state what kill zone sizes can be used and at what specific distances, when taking the shot kneeling. Identify the kill size (not always easy I grant you in the heat of battle), and you will then at least know the maximum distance at which the target is set.
The rules state that there will be ‘one unsupported kneeling shot, placed between 8-35 yards away, so we instantly know the target is 35 yards max, and the kill zone can be 35mm- 45mm. There must be two supported kneeling shots per UKAHFT course. These must-have hit zone sizes of 35-45mm at a range of 8-40 yards or a hit zone size of 25-34mm placed at a distance between 8-30 yards.
Identifying the difference in kill size here can be tricky. Is it a 35mm target at 38 yards, or is it a 34mm target at 30 yards? But experience and practise can really help.
So learn the rules and get those positions sorted. As usual, joining a club and shooting as well as practising alongside like-minded enthusiasts, has to be the way forward. It’s fun, rewarding, and the best way to hone the skills required to perform at our peak.