FT COMPS – US STYLE
This is a field target competition – American rules. So the most popular shooting position is sitting, typically on a 5-gallon paint bucket – sans the paint, of course! However, a myriad varieties of bean bag run that a close second. I only saw one person shooting prone during the whole event.
Maximum power level for air rifles is just 20 ft.lbs., in deference to the targets, if nothing else. Yes, there’s an occasional 12 ft.lbs. gun fielded in FT competition in the USA, but this is really shooting uphill in competition against the flatter-shooting, higher-power rifles.
So, everyone’s shooting .177 calibre, but this calibre is rapidly becoming an endangered species, for PCPs at least, here in the US as airgun shooters migrate rapidly to larger calibres and ever-higher power levels – and no, it’s not hunter field target. HFT has made next to no impact on this side of the Pond – yet. There’s only one or two accredited HFT clubs in the entire country of 350 million people.
This particular field target match is actually the Crosman All-American Field Target Competition. That’s CAAFTC, as one of the inevitable acronym that are endemic in this country. Yes, this competition is sponsored by Crosman, but it’s no longer staged in the fields around the company’s factory, as it used to be. Now the location is at a local shooting club, mainly shotgun-orientated, which welcomes airgunners. This club has two airgun ranges. One is a common, open-field course. The other is the woods course, where dense undergrowth and a stream impede accurate shooting. These dual courses give a great deal of variety to the CAAFTC. The main field target competition extends over two days, Saturday and Sunday, with shooters in squads to take turns on each course on successive days.
WIND OR BUGS – TAKE YOUR CHOICE
The open field course provides gentle shade for shooters with its line of trees shielding the firing
points, but it’s very open to wind. The woods course has no problems with wind, but it’s humid and there are plenty of bugs and other nasty critters to distract you when shooting.
As this shoot is held in the north-east of the USA, north-eastern shooters predominate. Note that I don’t say ‘local’ shooters! Even competitors from the other end of New York state have driven four or five hours to be here, but field target shooters have come from across the country. There are competitors from California in the west, and Carolina in the south. There are even some FT enthusiasts from Puerto Rico and Canada who have come to compete in the CAAFTC, and several well-known members of the US Field Target team are here competing, prior to the WFTC competition to be held in Poland in September. These include Team USA shooters, Ray Apelles and Hector Medina – both piston shooters – and Greg Suave, who shoots PCP.
In total, 87 competitors have registered for this competition. All shoot rifle, but 39 of them also shoot pistol field target. Now we have an overview of the shooters, let’s take a look at the equipment they are shooting.
PISTOL FIELD TARGET
In the pistol FT competition, there’s an overwhelming preponderance of Crosman pistols being fielded. No less than 23 out of the 36 shooters wield Crosman pistols, mainly the 1720T model. There’s a big variety of scopes mounted on these pistols, but there’s unanimity over pellets.
More than one third of the pistol shooters are using JSB domed pellets, of either 7.9 or 8.4 grain weights. Another one third, plus, shoot Air Arms pellets, all 8.4 grains in weight. As JSB manufactures Air Arms pellets, of course, that means that the Czech company has the overwhelming proportion of pellets shot in the pistol FT competition.
LET’S CHECK OUT THE AIR RIFLES.
Of course, PCPs predominate among the competitors. There are just 14 out of 87 registered shooters using spring-piston air rifles. Unsurprisingly, most of these are Air Arms TX200 models, but there are a few Dianas, and four shooters campaigning with Walther LGUs.
When it comes to PCPs, there’s more of a variety, though. The most common brand of air rifle to be seen is Benjamin. There are no less than 14 Marauders in use, including one Armada, and this is testament to the strong and lasting position that has been carved out in the US PCP market by Crosman over the past few years.
In addition, this year there are 6 Challengers, a couple of stocked 1720Ts and even a Crosman Nitro Venom springer being shot at the CAAFTC. Although the shoot is sponsored by Crosman, there’s absolutely no pressure to use the company’s products. The fact that so many do at the CAAFTC, is a tribute to the value and accuracy that many US shooters find appealing.
The next most popular brand of air rifle
seen at the CAAFTC is Air Arms. With 14 PCPs and 6 springers registered for the 2018 competition, the Sussex company was not far behind in numbers.
The only other brand to appear in double figures was Steyr. Eleven shooters chose these Austrian air rifles.
Interestingly, whilst the number of Crosman/ Benjamin air rifles was about the same as last year, the number of Air Arms rifles nearly doubled – up from 11 in 2017. Steyrs also nearly doubled in numbers, up from 6 in 2017 to 11 in 2018. The equipment race is clearly under way.
Another high-end model with a dedicated following is the Thomas air rifle. These short, chunky and distinctive models have a definite following in the US for field target and benchrest shooting, and the unsilenced ones are LOUD!
SCOPING OUT THE SCOPES
When it comes to scopes, it was a two-horse race at the 2018 CAAFTC. Traditionally, Sightron scopes have predominated at this shoot, and 25 shooters were using them again this year, mainly in 10-50 x 60 configuration, but Hawke Optics are catching-up fast from the inside lane. This year 23 shooters registered to shoot with Hawke scopes. That’s a big jump from 2017 and double the number of Hawke users in 2016. Unlike Sightron, the Hawke scopes cover a wide variety of models, there’s no one favourite model of choice.
When it comes to the choice of pellets in use at the 2018, Crosman All-American Field Target Competition, it’s a Czech walk-over! No less than 40 of the competitors chose JSB pellets. Most of these were 10.3 grain weight, but a fair few chose 8.4 grain JSBs.
In addition, 31 shooters chose Air Arms pellets – JSB manufactured, of course. Here the proportions were reversed, with more choosing 8.4s than 10.3s, but again, it was close.
The next most popular choice of pellets was Crosman. Eight FT competitors chose these home-town pellets for the competition. All of the competitors were shooting lead pellets. That’s a clear consensus that alloy pellets still have not yet made it to the big time when it comes to accuracy for field target shooters.
CHOOSING THE CATEGORY
As usual, the majority of rifle shooters at the CAAFTC were shooting PCPs in the Hunter category. The final winner was Tom Himes from Pennsylvania. He and his brother, Dennis, both achieved exactly the same score and it came down to the wire with a shoot-off.
Interestingly, both brothers were shooting identical Daystate Red Wolf air rifles. Two brothers, two Daystates, both with the same high score. Hmmm … sounds like a pattern there.
A total of 40 competitors shot under Hunter PCP rules, with 18 choosing WFTF PCP and 14 in the Open PCP class. Eight of the springer shooters favoured WFTF Piston rules, whilst five competed in Hunter Piston.
I hope this gives you a good overview of a typical large field target competition on this side of the Pond. As you can see, there’s lots of variation in the guns people are shooting and the way in which they compete, but scopes and pellets are pretty much standard.
A British line-up; two Daystates and an Air Arms.
The Thomas FT air rifle is an unusual-looking piece of equipment, but they obviously shoot well.
Some like to proclaim their interests to the world!
Down on the woods course, something stirred.
Here’s a Thomas FT in pistol configuration.
This gentleman was flying the flag for the UK with his Daystate.
Jim Wilcox in the woods with his TX 200.
Not every gun was high end, as you can see from this Crosman springer.
Here’s one way to concentrate on the target.