97 HEADS UP

Shoot­ing up­wards with an airgun - the key is un­der­stand­ing

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Phill Price gives ex­pert ad­vice on how to shoot up­ward suc­cess­fully

When we shoot hor­i­zon­tally we have a good num­ber of fac­tors to feed into our men­tal cal­cu­la­tions; we need to know the dis­tance to the tar­get, how strongly the wind is blow­ing, and from which di­rec­tion, and fi­nally, how sta­ble we’re able to be with our hold. If you add in el­e­vated shots, it can be­come al­most mind-blow­ing. Clearly, it would be use­ful to know the an­gle to our tar­get, as well as the dis­tance, so that we can cal­cu­late our ‘shoot­ing so­lu­tion’.

Some hand-held laser rangefind­ers have an ‘ in­cline’ func­tion and I’ve used them to ed­u­cate my­self about just where I need to aim to place my pel­let pre­cisely. I’ve also used Chair­gun soft­ware to help with this. Be­ing able to vi­su­alise the pel­let’s flight path is some­thing I find very use­ful in the crit­i­cal mo­ments be­fore I take a shot.

Whilst we’re on the sub­ject, let’s ad­dress the hold-un­der – hold- over ques­tion. Some peo­ple be­lieve that when you aim up­ward you need to hold un­der and when you aim down you hold over. WRONG! It’s al­ways hold-un­der, and the real ques­tion is how much? The dis­tance, an­gle and ve­loc­ity are in­ter­linked, so we need all the tech­ni­cal help we can get to place our shots ac­cu­rately.

Why does it do that?

I’m of­ten asked why el­e­vated shots go high, and the sim­ple an­swer is that some of the pel­let’s en­ergy is used to counter the force of grav­ity. When a pel­let flies hor­i­zon­tally, grav­ity pulls it down in just the same way as it does if you drop it from your fin­gers, but be­cause it’s go­ing so fast, it gets a long way be­fore hit­ting the ground. When we shoot up­ward to­ward a bird or a squir­rel, some of the en­ergy im­parted to the pel­let drives against grav­ity, mak­ing it land higher rel­a­tive to our sight line than a pel­let fired hor­i­zon­tally. It’s prob­a­bly more com­pli­cated than that re­ally, but it’s how it was ex­plained to me 30 years ago and I’ve killed thou­sands of pi­geons and squir­rels based on that un­der­stand­ing.

The key is to un­der­stand just how much to hold un­der. Faster fly­ing, flat­ter shoot­ing pel­lets need less cor­rec­tion, which is why I’ve used .177 for so long. When you start to mea­sure the an­gles you of­ten hunt at,

“If there’s one on your per­mis­sion, check that you have a safe back­drop and get shoot­ing”

they’re quite of­ten not as steep as you think. Of course, there are ex­cep­tions, but I’ve found that 60° is usu­ally about as high as I go; the ma­jor­ity are lower. The amount of cor­rec­tion needed in­creases with the an­gle, so this is an im­por­tant num­ber. I’ve also no­ticed that el­e­vated shots are gen­er­ally at more mod­est ranges, and of­ten within 20 yards hor­i­zon­tal dis­tance.

Hard num­bers

To put some num­bers on all this the­ory, let’s take my usual hunt­ing gun that sends the .177 Air Arms Field Di­ablo at 775fps. To shoot a squir­rel 25 yards away, 45° up in a tree, I need to hold 1” low. It’s nec­es­sary to know what 1” looks like rel­a­tive to the size of our quarry to make that cor­rec­tion. At 15 yards the cor­rec­tion would be ½”, at 20 yards ¾” and at 30 yards 1¼”.

At 15° to 20° the cor­rec­tion isn’t worth wor­ry­ing about, but by the time you get to 30° you need to start think­ing. I feel that re­ally steeply an­gled shots, say at 70° or higher, should be let go. The cal­cu­la­tion is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult un­less your quarry is on a branch just six feet above your head.

Get out and do it

As with ev­ery­thing to do with airgun ac­cu­racy, the best thing is to prac­tise and learn just what your own ri­fle, scope and pel­let com­bi­na­tion will do. If you are able to get tar­gets up high above you, such as when you’re in a deep quarry, you can learn very quickly the hold-un­der needed. Also, some gun clubs have tar­gets high up on poles, which of­fer the same fa­cil­ity. Most of us are go­ing to need a dead tree, and if there’s one on your per­mis­sion, check that you have a safe back drop and get shoot­ing. Try to shoot off small knob­bles on the bark and dead twigs at root level. Start at the bot­tom and work your way up, get­ting a feel for the amount of hold- over that each dis­tance and height needs.

Don’t do too much of this at a time be­cause hold­ing your ri­fle el­e­vated can quickly lead to fa­tigue, which can lead to snatch­ing at shots, and that will teach you noth­ing. Pick a few choice tar­gets and try to hit them first shot, and then take a rest to ab­sorb what you’ve just seen. I’d also rec­om­mend Chair­gun soft­ware that can be downloaded free of charge from the Hawke Sport Op­tics web­site. You can learn an aw­ful lot about this sub­ject with­out even get­ting out of your chair.

You need to know the an­gle and dis­tance to make your cal­cu­la­tion

As you come close to ver­ti­cal, I be­lieve you should let the shot pass Be­tween 40 and 60, spe­cific in­for­ma­tion is needed to make your cal­cu­la­tion Be­tween 20 and 40, holdun­der be­comes nec­es­sary Up to 20 de­grees, no ad­just­ment is needed

This is vi­tal in­for­ma­tion for a suc­cess­ful shot

Some rangefind­ers will mea­sure the an­gle to your tar­get

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