Gary Chillingworth visits Holland for a superb international comp’
Gary Chillingworth reports on the first-ever Air Arms International event in Holland
A s target shooters we are lucky to have a huge amount of competitions to shoot in the UK. We can travel from Cornwall to Scotland, stop via Cardiff on the way, and we will never be that far away from a HFT club shooting at the weekend. Over the last few years, though, there has been a growing interest in shooting abroad, and in 2018 it was announced that Air Arms, the UKAHFT and FT Schalkhaar in Holland were going to hold the first Air Arms International shooting event. I’m here to tell you how the event went, and what we had to do to take our rifles abroad and make sure we did not fall foul of the law, both in the UK and Europe.
Firstly, you need to be aware that the laws in Europe do vary from country to country. To give you an example; in France and Holland, sound moderators are legal, but in Belgium they are not; 12 ft.lbs. rifles are legal in France, Belgium, Holland, Poland and the Czech Republic, but in Germany, a sub 12 ft.lbs. will earn you a visit to the cooler, a possible heavy fine and prison sentence. Basically, what I am saying is, check the laws of where you want to travel and any country you have to travel through, because an honest mistake could prove costly.
If you choose to fly, there are only certain airlines that will take rifles. BA and Easyjet are certainly two that will, and all you need to do is inform them that you are carrying a sub 12 ft.lbs. air rifle when you make your booking, and fill in the required paperwork. You might be ask to supply evidence that your rifle is sub 12 ft.lbs., and this can be obtained from a registered firearms dealer who will chronograph your rifle and give you a letter showing the rifle’s serial number and power. Also, if you are going to a shooting event, it’s good to have a letter of invitation from the organisers – and a translation, so that if you are stopped by a gendarme, you can explain why you have a boot full of guns and where you are going.
The chrono’ letter and invitation is also required if you are travelling by ferry, or to be more accurate, it’s best practice to have it. I spoke to P& O, Stena, DFS and Eurotunnel, and they were all very similar. They all want you to declare the rifle after you have booked, and when you check in.
With Eurotunnel, we had a blue sticker placed on our car hanger and were invited into customs. The chaps there were really helpful and looked at our paperwork and passed us through.
Our friends, Gordon Smith and Jo Cogger, travelled overnight with Stena and they were told to keep the guns in the car, but had their pellets placed in the ship’s safe.
P& O send out a form that has to be filled in and returned a week before travel. Now, this form asks for an EFP ( European Firearms Pass) that is issued to all people travelling with firearms and shotguns. This does not apply to us, and we do not need one. We did have an issue with some staff at P& O who thought that one was required, but when you ring them, ask to speak to a member of the firearms team and they will guide you. They will log your car registration and this should help you to move through customs seamlessly.
KNOW THE RULES
When you get to France, don’t forget to keep a Hi-Viz in the car – not in the boot! The local plod like to pull over UK cars, and when you get out without your Hi-Viz that’s an automatic 90 euro fine, you have been warned.
As I mentioned, we were on our way to Holland to shoot in the Air Arms International. This event was being held at one of the top FT clubs in Europe, and under the watchful eye of Eric Van Esch it was certain
to be an epic event. The main shoot was to be held on the Saturday, but we were heading down on the Friday so we would be fresh and fighting fit. However, there was the matter of the Dutch hospitality and the night shoot. After we had checked into our stunning hotel, we headed off to Ft Schalkaar to meet up with 34 other Brits who had made the journey and a plethora of Dutch, Belgian and Czechs. As we arrived, the heavenly scent of barbecuing meat wafted towards the car park and the sound of laughter was in the air.
I am proud to say that I can count quite a few of the European contingent as friends. They often travel over for the HFT World Championships in the UK ,and it’s always great to meet up with them. I asked a few of them about the night shoot because it was starting to get dark and with a chuckle, I was told that it would certainly be a shoot that I would never forget and would thoroughly enjoy.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, the rifles were removed from their slips, and lamps were attached. Some of us had dedicated torches, others – like Liam Todd – just bungee- corded the world’s largest torch to the side of his gun. The format was: Twenty of the targets had to be lamped, but the other 10 were illuminated with their own light source. One target ‘when shot’ released a ghost that went flying into the air, another played the theme from Benny Hill, and another fired a flash gun in your face and blinded you for the next target. All the night targets were so much fun, and the whole event was perfect for getting us into the mood for the following day. Whoever, came up with these targets is a genius, a twisted genius, but a genius nonetheless.
The Air Arms International was a standard 30- shot HFT course, set to 2018 UKAHFT rules, and the boys and girls from Ft Schalkaar had put on a belter. When you looked at the course, it was there to be shot, no gimmicks, no traps, just a good old-fashioned HFT course that was a mixture of hard, medium and easier targets. As we moved from the woods to the field section, the wind would grab hold of the pellets and throw them around like they
were in a washing machine, and the heat haze that was coming from the ground made it hard to range the targets, but there was a wonderful sense of joy and friendship, and the shooters were more interested in having fun then knocking over tin chickens.
THE BREXIT TROPHY
Deep down, we all knew how important this shoot was, and the reason for this was the Brexit trophy. We had normal silverware for all the winners, supplied by Air Arms, but we also had the Brexit Trophy; the top five scores from the UK versus the top five from Europe. To the winner, control of Europe; to the loser, shame abundant. So, with the fate of the continent on our shoulders, we knew that we had to perform, and I’m glad to say that Team UK took the trophy and Europe is ours. I just need to let Junker know in Brussels.
This event was not really about the score, but in the night shoot, Tom van Dokkum was 1st, Kieran Turner 2nd and Chris Cundy was 3rd in the Open. In the Recoiling, Michiel Bodewes was 1st, Rens Gaarenstroom was 2nd and Danny Roff was third. For the Juniors, Martijn Zieleman was top score. In the Air Arms International, the winner was once again Tom van Dukkum, closely followed by Siman Vant and Chris Cundey. In the Recoiling, Mr Bodewes took top honours, followed by Keith Warburton and Richard Merlijn. The Ladies was a UK affair, with Michelle Parsons in top place and Becky Rawlins in 2nd . The Veterans was taken by Frank Meynckens, and followed up by Dale Alcroft, and finally, the Juniors went to Myla Parsons, and in 2nd was Martijn Zielman.
The event was generously sponsored by Air Arms and they gave us a stunning voucher for an HFT500 which was won by Walter Tanzini.
This event was better than I could have ever imagined. Our Dutch hosts were accommodating and welcoming, and shooting in Europe is both fun and friendly. Getting there is simply a car drive away, so if you fancy it and want to come and have a try, then check out the Air Arms International website for details about 2019 – or just drop a line to Eric, at FT Schalkhaar, because they have shoots throughout the year and I am sure you will always be welcome.
ABOVE: Marta Ruzickova is a Czech shooter and is one of Europe’s top ladies
RIGHT: Roy is welcome back, but his shirt must be left in the UK
RIGHT: Walter Tanzini receives his HFT-500 voucher from Charles, thanks to Air Arms
RIGHT: Charles receives the Brexit trophy from Eric. Europe now belongs to us
BELOW: All the Air Arms International competitors had a great time
TOP RIGHT: The Dutch equivalent to a Travel Lodge
TOP LEFT: The Dutch hospitality is second to none and the barbecue was stunning