Char­lie Port­lock gets an an­gle on those high shots, and there’s a sting in the tale

Char­lie Port­lock ‘looks up’ some use­ful in­for­ma­tion

Air Gunner - - Contents -

No mat­ter how of­ten we prac­tise, el­e­vated shots are ex­tremely hard to train for. On flat ground, the vari­ables of range, wind, hard­ware, body and mind are chal­leng­ing enough to over­come – par­tic­u­larly if you shoot a springer – but add el­e­va­tion to that mix and putting the pel­let in a two-pence kil­l­zone be­comes more dif­fi­cult be­cause of the way that grav­ity affects pel­let tra­jec­tory at dif­fer­ent an­gles. Over flat ground, grav­ity acts upon your pel­let’s flight in a uni­form fash­ion, but the steeper you aim up into a tree, the more that re­la­tion­ship changes and the more likely we are to miss un­less we com­pen­sate cor­rectly. How­ever, un­der­stand­ing the forces at work in this kind of shoot­ing can be a bit daunt­ing and although there’s a gen­eral rule of thumb – al­ways aim low – things aren’t quite that sim­ple. At shal­lower an­gles of less than 45° you need to hold un­der much less than at more acutely an­gled shots from the base of a tree. To the unini­ti­ated, it can all seem like bit of a mys­tery and I was keen to dis­cover ex­actly why some pel­lets sail over my tar­get’s head. How low is low? At which an­gles do we need to hold un­der, and by how much?

The ma­jor­ity of ranges are un­able to cater for this kind of shoot­ing, even though it’s not un­usual for the air­gun­ner work­ing in wood­land to have days when all shots are taken at very steep an­gles. Some shooters will head for the trees and take pot­shots at dead branches in or­der to de­ter­mine the re­la­tion­ship between their POA (Point of Aim) and the POI (Point of Im­pact). This seems like a sen­si­ble com­pro­mise un­der field con­di­tions, and with ex­pe­ri­ence can yield ef­fec­tive results. How­ever, shoot­ing up­wards with­out a clear back­stop is best avoided where pos­si­ble, and there’s some­thing dis­taste­ful about pump­ing lead into pine cones or branches, how­ever puny they might seem; dead wood is still a valu­able part of the wood­land ecosys­tem. So per­haps there’s a bet­ter way.

Raise it

A quick trip to the lo­cal re­cy­cling cen­tre pro­vided me with a good-sized piece of 16mm ply and with my tree al­ready se­lected, I started work. I cut the ply into 16” strips, drilled out some hang­ing holes and an­chor­ing points, and then spray-painted the panels white. Af­ter scroung­ing all the para- cord I could find, I made some stakes and a shoot­ing stick out of some cop­piced hazel and took a short walk to an al­most ideal spot.

Tar­get Air have been kind enough to send me a box of their ex­cel­lent spin­ners and pa­per tar­gets to test, so I set up the two boards with an

“For the pur­poses of my first at­tempt at this kind of range work, I was more cu­ri­ous than clin­i­cal”

abun­dance of op­tions, and then hoisted one of them aloft. This was fairly chal­leng­ing to do alone, but was made more so by the fact that I sat in a wasp’s nests that had just been dis­turbed by re­cent plough­ing. I was feel­ing pretty smug. The door was in the tree, so to speak, and I was ready for some shoot­ing; things were go­ing well, so I took no no­tice of the buzzing un­til it reached swarm­ing pitch, at which point some­thing stung my arm and I knew that I was prob­a­bly in the wrong place. Six or seven stings later and I knew that I was!

Dis­card­ing gloves, T-shirt, boots, trousers and pants is not easy when try­ing to run away and hold on to a piece of cord an­chored to some ply­wood five me­tres up an ash tree, so I dropped the lot and fled like a cow­ard, slap­ping my­self all over as I did so. The dis­tant plough­men prob­a­bly thought that I was hav­ing a good time. Half an hour later, I was dressed head to toe in thick cloth­ing – it was 24°C – her­met­i­cally sealed with duct tape, and ready for re­venge. Clutch­ing some po­tent fly spray, I launched a fairly tame coun­terof­fen­sive to re­cover the an­chor cord and my cloth­ing and from a safe and wary dis­tance, re-hoisted the ply board and re­turned to the busi­ness of shoot­ing.

Test­ing the the­ory

For the pur­poses of my first at­tempt at this kind of range work, I was more cu­ri­ous than clin­i­cal, and ac­tu­ally just en­joyed be­ing able to shoot up­wards to see where my shots were land­ing, but I wanted to check for cer­tain that the sub 45° rule held true. When shoot­ing at any el­e­va­tion un­der 45°, the rule is to main­tain your POA as if you were shoot­ing on level ground. So if your tar­get is on the branch of a tree and the base of that tree is at your zero range – 20 yards for me in this case – then you main­tain your POA for the dis­tance to the base of the tree, not to the tar­get, even though it’s fur­ther away. This rule of thumb seemed to work in prac­tice, but I was only shoot­ing at a fairly shal­low el­e­va­tion of around 17°, so I ex­per­i­mented with other an­gles. The dif­fi­culty lay in the fact that it was very hard to raise the door high enough into the tree for me to shoot steeply at any­thing like my zero range, and so I shot groups at 10 yards, five yards and even straight up by ly­ing on the ground. This was not com­fort­able or par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive be­cause the range was so close that my shots landed low.

This prob­lem could be over­come by

“When shoot­ing at any el­e­va­tion un­der 45° the rule is to main­tain your POA as if you were shoot­ing on level ground”

Above in­set: Steeper than this and things be­come a bit more com­pli­cated Above: Body­weight was cru­cial

Be­low left: ChairGun is a use­ful piece of soft­ware every­one can ben­e­fit from

Above right: Ly­ing down didn’t help much

Be­low right: I shot quite well but be­came tired quickly

Above left: I loaded it with a va­ri­ety of tar­gets

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