US AIR­GUN­NING

FT COMPS – US STYLE

Airgun World - - Contents - Stephen Archer is the pub­lisher of the US-based on­line air­gun mag­a­zine www. hardair­magazine.com.

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.

PEL­LET PREF­ER­ENCES

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!

Self-ex­plana­tory!

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.

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