Match This!

Can match-shoot­ing tech­niques im­prove your ac­cu­racy? John Milewski finds out

Airgun World - - Contents -

Match air pis­tols are among the most spe­cialised of all air­guns and are ca­pa­ble of land­ing pel­lets on top of each other at a dis­tance of 10 me­tres. As a for­mer air pis­tol com­peti­tor my­self, I can con­firm that this hap­pened to me on numer­ous oc­ca­sions. I would fire five shots, but only see four holes in the card tar­get. As the holes were cen­trally placed, I know that I did not miss the tar­get, and han­dling such an ac­cu­rate arm filled me with con­sid­er­able con­fi­dence when­ever I en­tered a com­pe­ti­tion.

Not ev­ery­one has a need for such an arm, and not many can jus­tify a pur­chase around a thou­sand pounds un­less they choose to en­ter the im­mensely chal­leng­ing and re­ward­ing sport of 10-me­tre match shoot­ing. What you can do is ap­ply some of the tech­niques used by match shoot­ers to im­prove your own ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial. So, if your tar­get is a tin can in the back gar­den or an in­for­mal pel­let tin lid on the range, read on and you will soon be hit­ting the mark more of­ten.


Match shoot­ing is all about con­sis­tency. That means do­ing ex­actly the same thing ev­ery time you raise your pis­tol and take aim. All a match pis­tol does is make it eas­ier for you to do so. Take the grip as an ex­am­ple; on a match air pis­tol, you will see an ad­justable palm shelf and a con­toured grip that is de­signed to sit snugly in your hand and in the same way for ev­ery shot. Some grips come in dif­fer­ent sizes and are de­signed to fit the right or left hand be­cause a true match pis­tol is never am­bidex­trous. If you hold your pis­tol in the same way for ev­ery shot, that is one less worry and one more step to­ward con­sis­tency.

Con­sis­tent hold is not im­pos­si­ble with a stan­dard air pis­tol. Hav­ing a thumb rest can help, but even an am­bidex­trous air pis­tol, such as a pre-war We­b­ley can be held in the same man­ner for ev­ery shot. Mus­cle mem­ory plays a part and when­ever I test a dif­fer­ent de­sign of air­gun, I spend as much time as I can on the range, get­ting to know the gun. I won’t try for tight groups straight away, but I’ll look for the best way to hold the arm con­sis­tently, and in time, mus­cle mem­ory en­ables me to do so.


The amount of pres­sure you ap­ply when you hold an air pis­tol also plays a part, es­pe­cially with re­coil­ing spring guns. As with an air ri­fle, the tighter you grip a pis­tol, the

harder it is to ap­ply the same amount of pres­sure con­sis­tently for ev­ery shot, and in­con­sis­tent hold equals in­con­sis­tent re­sults down­range. So, my tip is to hold the pis­tol as loosely as you can and let it re­coil naturally. A match pis­tol will sit in the hand al­most like a glove, due to its hand-hug­ging grip, and com­pe­ti­tion shoot­ers hold it firmly enough to keep it on aim with no ad­di­tional grip­ping.


Try this: Raise a pis­tol and ap­ply a light grip with the mid­dle fin­ger only. Do not grip with the fourth and lit­tle fingers, and do not grip with the in­dex fin­ger, which should be used to press the trig­ger only. A vin­tage We­b­ley pis­tol bal­ances well enough for this tech­nique to be suc­cess­ful and I have also used it with a CO2 pow­ered Cros­man 150. How­ever, with a Weihrauch HW45, I add a light grip with the fourth and lit­tle fingers for added sta­bil­ity due to the pis­tol’s bulk and heav­ier re­coil on full power.


Hold­ing an air pis­tol steady with one hand is the most dif­fi­cult of all air­gun skills to learn. Some FT and HFT shoot­ers fear stand­ing shots, but they can sup­port their ri­fles with their skele­tal frames. All a pis­tol shooter has is their out­stretched arm! ‘Dif­fi­cult’ does not mean ‘im­pos­si­ble’ though, and prac­tice will even­tu­ally make per­fect. Hold­ing a weight at the end of an out­stretched arm is not nat­u­ral and match shoot­ers train them­selves by hold­ing their pis­tols as steady as they can for a set time ev­ery day. You do not need to fire any shots to be­come bet­ter at hold­ing a pis­tol, but you do need to en­sure that it is un­loaded, by check­ing and check­ing again when you pick it up.

If you lean back to­ward the op­po­site side of the arm hold­ing the pis­tol, this helps to coun­ter­bal­ance the aim. For a right-handed shooter, lean back with the left shoul­der enough to sta­bilise the hold. Do not ex­ag­ger­ate the lean, and re­mem­ber to stay com­fort­able be­cause you will be us­ing this hold a lot and will need to be con­sis­tent for it to be of any ben­e­fit.


Us­ing the above tech­niques will help you to achieve con­sis­tent shoot­ing re­sults, whether you de­cide to shoot match cards at 10 me­tres, or more in­for­mally in the back gar­den. They may feel un­com­fort­able at first, but keep on with the prac­tice and even­tu­ally, you will find that the po­si­tion sta­bilises and your ac­cu­racy in­creases. There is a lot more to suc­cess­ful match shoot­ing that can also be ap­plied more in­for­mally, and I will share some of these tech­niques over the com­ing months. Un­til then, prac­tise that hold.

This We­b­ley is bal­anced upon my mid­dle fin­ger. The fourth and lit­tle fingers are sim­ply wrapped around the grip and ap­ply no pres­sure.

The rear of the pis­tol should fit the web be­tween thumb and in­dex fin­ger.

The grip of a match pis­tol is de­signed to fit the hand like a glove and can be ad­justed to do so.

Thumb rests such as those on this Hyscore help the hand to find the same po­si­tion ev­ery time you pick up the pis­tol.

I shot these cards at 10 me­tres with a Walther LP53 us­ing the tech­niques de­scribed.

Whilst more ba­sic, this vin­tage Abas Ma­jor can be held con­sis­tently if you train your­self to do so.

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