HFT v HUNTER

Jim Tyler says, HFT can help hun­ters to im­prove their skills, and tells us why he thinks that’s true.

Airgun World - - Contents -

My lo­cal HFT club, No­mads, was priv­i­leged to host the fi­nal round of the 2016/7 Daystate Mid­land Hunter se­ries of HFT shoots. We seem to be gain­ing some­thing of a rep­u­ta­tion for set­ting, shall we say, ‘chal­leng­ing’ cour­ses – aided, I has­ten to add, by the unique to­pog­ra­phy of No­mad’s ground – and this event did noth­ing to dis­pel that rep­u­ta­tion.

The course-set­ting be­gins three to four weeks be­fore the event, at which point we have no idea of the wind con­di­tions on the day of the shoot, and have to set some tar­gets in the ex­pec­ta­tion of there be­ing lit­tle or no wind in or­der to make the most of what­ever wind there is. That’s what we did for the Daystate event, but on the day of the com­pe­ti­tion, the wind was strong, gust­ing and chang­ing di­rec­tion, seem­ingly by the sec­ond, and the scores were low, with some first-class com­peti­tors who rou­tinely ex­pect their score to be in the 50s find­ing them­selves in the un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory of the mid-40s.

Af­ter the shoot, we were asked if the course could be left un­changed for the fol­low­ing two weeks, so that peo­ple could have a sec­ond crack, and the course set­ters jumped at the chance of a fort­night off.

WIND

The fol­low­ing Sun­day, some peo­ple won­dered if their aim points – the dots on the scope ret­i­cle that line up with cer­tain dis­tances – had changed, es­pe­cially the longer-range aim points, such as a shot at a 40-yard tar­get land­ing nearer the scope’s 45-yard aim point. The wind was not quite as strong as the pre­vi­ous week, but it was still far stronger than I would con­sider re­motely suit­able for hunt­ing. So what was go­ing on?

In a nut­shell, the wind was caus­ing pel­lets to land high or low at longer ranges, and it was due to a com­bi­na­tion of the strength and di­rec­tion of the wind, and the to­pog­ra­phy. The No­mads’ ground is on the ex­posed, east-fac­ing side of Ber­row Hill, over­look­ing the vast Sev­ern val­ley, and slopes away in both di­rec­tions from a ridge that runs east to west down the side of the hill. This means that many shots are an­gled up or down, which can cause a pel­let usu­ally to fly higher, but depend­ing on wind di­rec­tion, some­times lower than it would with the same wind and the tar­get level with the ri­fle.

The amount of ver­ti­cal shift due to wind does not have to be huge to cause prob­lems, be­cause if it pushes the point of im­pact (POI) close to the top or bot­tom of the kill zone where it is nar­row­est, then even a slight hor­i­zon­tal shift can take the pel­let out of the kill zone. Not all shots were into the wind, of course, and the hor­i­zon­tal drift of strong side wind was a ma­jor fac­tor in the low scores at the two shoots and, just to com­pli­cate mat­ters fur­ther, not only head wind, but also cross

“it is at near and far ranges that the pel­let climbs and falls most for each yard of flight”

wind can move the POI up or down.

The les­son for hun­ters is that the wind can cause the best HFT shoot­ers to miss a 35mm or 40mm tar­get at any sort of range, made worse if the shot is in­clined, so hun­ters in the same wind would most cer­tainly not at­tain the nec­es­sary ac­cu­racy for hu­mane kills.

MIS­TAKE

Many peo­ple re­spond to an ap­par­ent shift in an aim point by ad­just­ing their sights; not dur­ing the shoot it­self (UKAHFT rules for­bid al­ter­ing any scope set­tings dur­ing a shoot), but on the zero range af­ter­wards, and that is a mon­u­men­tal mis­take for two rea­sons. First, they’re fix­ing some­thing that’s not bro­ken, and sec­ond, they are at­tempt­ing to zero in a strong and capri­cious wind, which will put their zero a mile out in calmer con­di­tions!

The sec­ond, and po­ten­tially more costly mis­take that peo­ple make is to sus­pect a fault with their ri­fle, scope or pel­let; a re­cent change of pel­let die num­ber that ne­ces­si­tated re-ze­ro­ing, a change of scope, par­al­lax fo­cus or zero, as well as any re­cent al­ter­ations to the ri­fle usu­ally au­to­mat­i­cally get the blame.

The only sen­si­ble so­lu­tion I can think of for shoot­ing long-range tin chick­ens in the wind is to watch any­thing in the vicin­ity of the tar­get that re­sponds to the wind, which could be fo­liage, blades of grass, or the re­set cord hang­ing down in front of the tar­get, and try to take the shot when it is least an­i­mated. The UKAHFT rules al­low two min­utes for each tar­get, and that’s usu­ally plenty of time to wait for a lull in the wind.

The les­son for hun­ters is not to be too quick to blame your gear for a POI shift, but to test in near still air first, to see whether or not the prob­lem could have been air move­ment.

NEAR MISSES

The course set­ters will be aware that most peo­ple zero at 25 or 30 yards, will use this in­for­ma­tion to try to place tar­gets at ranges that don’t line up with ret­i­cle aim points, and try to place the tar­get so that it ap­pears nearer or fur­ther than is the case, so that the shooter is more likely to hit high or low in the kill zone; in other words, the nar­row­est parts, so that even mi­nor de­vi­a­tion in the hor­i­zon­tal plane can hit out­side the kill zone.

One of the No­mads’ course set­ters in­ad­ver­tently man­aged to catch him­self out in this way at all three Daystate course shoots by set­ting a 16mm kill zone tar­get at 17 yards, which looks as though it’s a lit­tle more than 17 yards, thanks to the 16mm kill zone, and with a 25-yard zero, could be taken com­fort­ably with the cross hairs cen­tre of kill when, in fact, aim­ing dead on, places the pel­let just in­side the bot­tom of the kill zone. The slight­est pel­let POI de­vi­a­tion left, right or down re­sulted in a ‘plate’, and the loss of a po­ten­tial point. For any­one with a 30yard zero, though, aim­ing dead-on would knock that tar­get over all day long.

For those sighted in at 30 yards, things are a bit trick­ier for the course set­ters, be­cause with the most com­monly used pel­let, in the­ory they can aim dead-on at ranges be­tween in the re­gion of 15 yards and just over 30 yards, but at the nearer range, if you can give the im­pres­sion that the range is a lit­tle fur­ther, and en­cour­age peo­ple to aim near cen­tre rather than top of the kill zone, their pel­lets could again be hit­ting just within the bot­tom of the kill zone, and slight hor­i­zon­tal shift can, again, re­sult in a plate.

The les­son here for hun­ters is that you need to be very ac­cu­rate when as­sess­ing the range of close shots, ev­ery bit as much as you do for long-range shots, be­cause it is at near and far ranges that the pel­let climbs and falls most for each yard of flight.

HUNT­ING TAR­GET PRAC­TICE

In HFT, the 15mm kill zone tar­gets can be placed be­tween 13 and 25 yards, and is pretty close to what I’d con­sider the kind of ac­cu­racy you’d need for much air­gun hunt­ing, bear­ing in mind that the 15mm is edge to edge, which equates to 10.5mm cen­tre to cen­tre, and which means that the in­ner edge of the pel­let is no more than 3mm from the cen­tre. That’s hunt­ing ac­cu­racy.

The tar­gets used in HFT typ­i­cally re­tail at around £15, should last in­def­i­nitely, and are pos­si­bly the best prac­tice tar­gets for hun­ters. To use them you’ll need paint – road-mark­ing paint is pop­u­lar, but any paint will do – so that you can touch up stray pel­let strike marks, and es­pe­cially marks on the edge of kill, when the tar­get may have fallen, but only be­cause enough of the pel­let missed the face plate, in which case you will have a wit­ness mark on the plate to tell you whether the shot was up to hunt­ing re­quire­ments or not.

Al­though com­pe­ti­tions run to

“aim­ing off is OK for tin chick­ens, but not for any­thing that has a pulse”

UKAHFT rules, the 15mm tar­get can­not be set at more than 25 yards; dur­ing in­for­mal tar­get prac­tice at No­mads we put them out at any­thing up to 45 yards, on the ba­sis that if a com­peti­tor can knock down a 15mm tar­get at a range, then larger kill zones at that range will pose no prob­lem. It’s a huge boost to a shooter’s con­fi­dence to knock down a 15mm tar­get at long range. In hunt­ing, though, the kill zone does not grow as range in­creases, and so the 15mm KZ can be used at up to your own max­i­mum range.

The ex­pe­ri­ences of com­peti­tors at No­mads has re­in­forced my pref­er­ence to set zero for my .177” ri­fles at 30 yards for my bit of rab­bit con­trol, which means that be­tween 15 yards and a lit­tle over 30 yards, I can aim dead-on in the knowl­edge that the pel­let will be within about 5mm above or be­low the sight line.

Per­haps the most im­por­tant les­son that hun­ters can draw from HFT is that ac­cu­racy WILL take a nose dive in strong wind, and es­pe­cially in strong change­able wind. If the wind takes a pel­let out of a 15mm kill zone, I would say it is too windy to con­sider hunt­ing; aim­ing off is OK for tin chick­ens, but not for any­thing that has a pulse.

SPRING AIR­GUNS

We have had vis­i­tors to No­mads shoot­ing spring air­guns from the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers, and worked on by just about ev­ery known tuner, some with cus­tom stocks, and what is emerg­ing is that it does not mat­ter who made or tuned a spring air­gun; nor whether the stock is fac­tory or cus­tom; what’s im­por­tant is who is shoot­ing it, and whether or not they are on form.

Some of the most con­sis­tent HFT Re­coil­ing-class shoot­ers have tried the tunes, tried the fancy stocks, and gone back to ba­sics with near-fac­tory spec­i­fi­ca­tion ri­fles and fac­tory stocks. The Re­coil­ing class of the Daystate fi­nal round was won by No­mad’s Stew Searle, shoot­ing a very mildly mod­i­fied TX200 Mk.3 with the full 96mm pis­ton stroke and in the fac­tory stock, and the over­all win­ner of the Re­coil­ing class for the se­ries was Steve Whit­ing, shoot­ing a mildly mod­i­fied HW97 in what looked to be a stan­dard stock. That’s not to say that highly mod­i­fied ri­fles in heavy tar­get stocks don’t win at HFT; they do, be­cause the most ca­pa­ble shoot­ers of­ten turn to mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the hope that it might give them a slight edge.

So, if your ac­cu­racy with a spring air­gun wanes, get it checked for faults by all means, but if you’re tempted to throw lots of money into it, re­mem­ber that you can’t buy tal­ent, and first try get­ting more prac­tice in­stead. I

The zero range is usu­ally busy be­fore and af­ter a shoot.

Above: Even in the rel­a­tive shel­ter of the trees, the wind was catch­ing peo­ple out.

Above: The pel­let strikes on this 15mm KZ tar­get prove just how tricky the No­mads’ wind can be.

Above: I refuse to iden­tify the course set­ter who caught him­self out with a tar­get he set.

Above: The ban­ter and friend­ship in HFT is as en­joy­able as the shoot­ing.

Above: Daystate Re­coil class, se­ries win­ner, Steve Whit­ing, uses a near stan­dard HW97.

Above: Af­ter I’d writ­ten about Stew Searle win­ning the fi­nal round of the Daystate with a fac­tory stock, he treated him­self to this!

Above: Com­pe­ti­tions can be won or lost at the un­sup­ported stand­ing shot.

Above: In HFT it is the tal­ent of the shooter that mat­ters more than the ri­fle or scope.

Above: No­mads has a strong springer sec­tion.

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