Dave Barham

An old back in­jury forces Dave to re­view his stand­ing shots tech­nique

Airgun World - - Contents -

Dave doesn’t let an old back in­jury stop him from shoot­ing

As I stand here writ­ing this month’s piece (yes you read that cor­rectly) I’m des­per­ately hop­ing that I’ll be able to get out hunt­ing soon. I’m hav­ing to stand as I type be­cause I’ve been in­structed by my chi­ro­prac­tor not to sit and type for at least an­other week.

My back is shot to bits and for the past seven days I have been hunched over like an old man. After three vis­its to the chi­ro­prac­tor, so far, I’m just be­gin­ning to straighten up again as my mus­cles re­lax and start to get back to nor­mal.


My con­tin­u­ing back prob­lems be­gan back in the sum­mer of 1990 when I was just 18. I was dig­ging some fresh lug­worm bait about three-quar­ters of a mile off Leigh-on-Sea. I was strad­dling a bait hole hold­ing a rather heavy, forged-iron fork loaded with about 20lbs of Es­sex’s finest mud. As I turned to dump the mud to the left of me I felt some­thing go ‘twang’, fol­lowed by an in­tense pain across the top of my left hip. It ab­so­lutely crip­pled me, and I ended up leav­ing my waders, fork, bucket and bait where they lay and crawl­ing back to Leigh across the mud on my hands and knees, com­mando-style.


When I got back to shore I hob­bled back home and my Mum took me straight to A&E. It turned out that I’d snapped a ten­don and torn the main mus­cle that runs across the top of my left hip to my spine. I spent two weeks in bed, laid out flat be­fore I could walk again!

Ev­ery now and then the prob­lem resur­faces. It usu­ally comes on over a pe­riod of days, rather than in­stantly like it did when I first in­jured it, and it can be some­thing as silly as bend­ing over to pull the plug out of the bath that trig­gers it. This time, though, it was bad pos­ture and be­ing hunched over a desk for 14 hours a day, three days straight, which woke the beast.


I’m thank­ful that my back prob­lems aren’t disc re­lated, just mus­cu­lar, be­cause it does heal up even­tu­ally and when I’m back to full strength I can get out shoot­ing and fish­ing. Some­times, it can take just three days to heal, but ev­ery few years it knocks me flat for a week or more.

I had planned to go shoot­ing with my good friend, Mick Ball, last week. We’d had it planned for ages – shoot­ing rab­bits in the morn­ing then rats in the af­ter­noon into dark­ness, but my old back was hav­ing none of it!

In­stead, I have spent the past seven days laid out flat in bed, pop­ping painkillers and di­clofenac, but they haven’t helped at all. The only time I’ve been up­right is to go to the loo or to visit the chi­ro­prac­tor, who has helped me out no end. I’ve been ap­ply­ing ice to the mus­cle for 20 min­utes, three times a day, too, and fi­nally I’m able to get up and walk about again with­out do­ing my ‘I’m a lit­tle teapot’ im­per­son­ation.


Mick kept send­ing me pic­tures and videos of all the fun he was hav­ing on his perm, the git! He just loves wind­ing me up, es­pe­cially if he’s away shoot­ing and I can’t make it.

I had to let off some steam, so I thought a sen­si­ble 20 min­utes plink­ing in the back gar­den was the or­der of the day.

Bear­ing in mind that sit­ting was not an op­tion, and lurch­ing over my bench with the ri­fle on a rest was also out of the ques­tion, I

was forced to shoot stand­ing up. Maybe this was a bless­ing in dis­guise.


When I’m out hunt­ing I usu­ally take my shots ei­ther from the prone po­si­tion, seated, some­times kneel­ing – but hardly ever free­stand­ing. If I take a shot while stand­ing, it’s usu­ally with my arm or hand propped up against a tree, or some­thing else to act as a sta­biliser on which to rest my ri­fle. In fact, I can’t re­mem­ber the last free­stand­ing shot I took while hunt­ing with an air ri­fle! How hard could it be?

As I stood there in my gar­den, just 25 yards from my tar­get, I raised my ri­fle and in­stantly found that the crosshairs were wav­ing all over the place. I had to zoom back down to x12 in or­der to keep the crosshairs on the pel­let catcher, let alone the tar­get, but of course I was only fool­ing my­self by turn­ing down the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion.


It was then that I re­alised I had some work to do. Stand­ing shots are of­ten a last re­sort for many hun­ters, but some­times the op­por­tu­nity arises and it’s the only op­tion. After tak­ing my first ten shots on tar­get, I was at the point of con­vinc­ing my­self to NEVER take a free­stand­ing shot, ever – my group­ing was all over the place. I was ac­tu­ally em­bar­rassed and dis­ap­pointed at the same time.

After three more mag­a­zines had been shot I was start­ing to get my breath­ing and stance in check, hit­ting groups ac­tu­ally within the 75mm tar­get!


I started to think that I was be­ing slightly op­ti­mistic try­ing to shoot at 25 yards, and con­sid­ered get­ting closer, but I was adamant that I was go­ing to re­duce the spread.

I ended up shoot­ing for lit­tle over 20 min­utes, and as I neared the end of my ses­sion I be­gan to hit the tar­gets in tighter 35mm groups, fir­ing five shots at a time then hav­ing a lit­tle rest and re­peat­ing.

At the end, I took five shots from my bench at 38-yards, just to il­lus­trate the dif­fer­ence. I wasn’t en­tirely happy with those ei­ther, but bear­ing in mind I had been stand­ing for 20 or so min­utes and I was still in pain, ev­ery sin­gle one would still be a kill shot at that dis­tance.

I’m not con­vinced about my free­stand­ing shots, though, 35mm is quite a large area and un­til I can hit 15mm groups stand­ing, I can’t see my­self risk­ing tak­ing free­stand­ing shots at live quarry.

I’ll con­tinue to work on my pos­ture, breath­ing and free­stand­ing shoot­ing, and will re­port back soon, I hope, if I man­age to gain more con­trol – any tips will be most wel­come!

Stand­ing up and writ­ing was a new ex­pe­ri­ence!

Tak­ing free­stand­ing shots on live quarry is al­ways a last re­sort, and even then they should only be taken at close range – sub-25 yards.

The ice does re­lieve the symp­toms, but only for a few min­utes.

You know it’s bad when the drugs don’t work!

My fi­nal few shots. Free­stand­ing to the right, and at greater dis­tance from the bench (left)

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