Pre­ci­sion, Prac­tice and Train­ing

Gary Chilling­worth brings us a con­tro­ver­sial trig­ger tech­nique that will rock the es­tab­lish­ment

Air Gunner - - Technique -

Ihave spent most of my life in­volved in one sport or another. I started off with sail­ing, then went to bad­minton, Crown Green bowls, Tae Kwon-Do, and fi­nally, like a lot of us, when my body be­came old and bro­ken and not ca­pa­ble of jump­ing around like a spring lamb any­more, I took up shoot­ing.

The thing is, though, all of these dis­ci­plines re­quire three things; pre­ci­sion, prac­tice and train­ing, and it is true that prac­tice and train­ing will lead to pre­ci­sion, but there is a very good rea­son that I put it first. In the world of shoot­ing, pre­ci­sion has to be the num­ber one thing on your mind.

When you see a tar­get that’s 40 yards away, with a big 40mm kill, what do you look at? Do you look at the kill, or at a point within the kill? There is a say­ing, ‘aim small, miss small’.

So, how do we get pre­ci­sion in shoot­ing? Well, first of all you have to know your gun. If you are new to shoot­ing, then the most im­por­tant thing is to set up a pa­per tar­get at 25 yards, with a good back­stop, and shoot, and shoot, and shoot. When you can con­sis­tently put a pel­let through the same ragged hole at 25 yards, move the tar­get to 30, then 35, and so on. A sin­gle, ragged-hole group, is where all pel­let holes are touch­ing, or if you can place a 5p piece over the top of your 10-shot group and com­pletely cover it up.

Once you have reached the point where you can pick up your gun and shoot it ac­cu­rately and con­sis­tently, it is then time to learn about tra­jec­tory. In the world of HFT, this is one of the most im­por­tant things you can do, and time on the range is far more im­por­tant than time on the course.


Some of my favourite things to shoot are ce­real boxes filled with Ar­gos cat­a­logues; the box will hold the cat­a­logue up­right – you may have to fill the base with soil or sand – and it’s easy to at­tach an A4 piece of pa­per to the front of the box. A word of warn­ing, though – make sure that the top of the tar­get is 2” be­low the top of the cat­a­logue; this way, if you hit the tar­get, the pel­let will al­ways go into the cat­a­logue and not through the box and into the next door neigh­bour’s new car.

Draw a mark on the pa­per and place it at 20 yards, then place your crosshairs on this mark and fire. De­pend­ing on the zero you have – I use 40 yards – the pel­let should hit about ½ of a mil- dot above the crosshairs. Then in 2-yard in­cre­ments, keep mov­ing the box away from you. Al­ways place the crosshairs on the same mark.

At the top

You will then get to a point, prob­a­bly at about 33 yards, where the pel­let strikes

have now gone as high on the pa­per as they will go. The next shots will start drop­ping back to­ward your zero. This high point, is known as ‘the top of your tra­jec­tory’, so in com­pe­ti­tion, un­less there is wind or el­e­va­tion, you know that no pel­let will never hit above this point. For in­stance, let’s say that the top of your tra­jec­tory is at 33 yards and it’s .6 of a mil-dot above your crosshairs. If you have a mid-range tar­get, place this aim point in the top of the kill zone and you have not only cov­ered the 33 yards, but de­pend­ing on the size of the kill, you also have aim points in the kill from 17 to 40 yards.

You can then re­peat this pro­ce­dure with closer tar­gets and learn the bot­tom of your tra­jec­tory. For me, I know that the low­est my pel­lets will drop is 2 mil- dots at 8 yards for the short ones, and for the long tar­gets, I know that the pel­lets will only drop 0.3 of a mil- dot be­low cross hairs at 45 yards. So, if I have long tar­gets, I place this point in the kill zone and I can get all my aim points from 22 to 45 yards on a 35mm tar­get. All I have to do is worry about then is the wind.


It’s im­por­tant to shoot pa­per rather than metal tar­gets. I like to put out a box with a sim­ple line across it and I then shoot the line. I work from left to right, and the plan is to cut the line with ev­ery shot. This builds ac­cu­racy into the way you shoot. It may be la­bo­ri­ous, but it will pay div­i­dends when you are in com­pe­ti­tion, or out hunt­ing.

I have al­ways been in awe of shoot­ers like Larisa Sykes, Larisa is a 10m ri­fle shooter who has com­peted at the Com­mon­wealth Games. Larissa can hold her gun steady and hit tar­gets to the mil­lime­tre; the prob­lem is, un­like Larissa who is young and fit, I’m old, a bit fat, and I also have a dodgy back, so hold­ing a 12lb ri­fle steady in a free-stand­ing po­si­tion is al­most im­pos­si­ble so this is when we use mus­cle mem­ory and a bit of in­stinct, and ac­cu­racy has to take a back seat.

Again, take your trusty ce­real box, draw a 35mm cir­cle in the cen­tre of it and fire 10 shots whilst try­ing to hold the gun steady, and see how well you do. Then place a fresh tar­get on the box, and this time draw a red mark in the cen­tre of cir­cle. Get your­self into po­si­tion and only pull the trig­ger when

your cross hairs are over this mark. Don’t worry about miss­ing, but al­ways be aware of where you pel­let is go­ing. What you are try­ing to de­velop is a twitch in your trig­ger fin­ger. Don’t think about a smooth pull and a break of the trig­ger, just twitch your fin­ger when the red mark dis­ap­pears be­neath your cross hair.

You will be sur­prised at how well you do, and the more you do it, the bet­ter you be­come. I’m get­ting to the point when it is be­com­ing in­stinc­tive. You may not win a gold for ac­cu­racy, but you will knock a few tar­gets down. In­ci­den­tally, please do not use the tech­nique for hunt­ing.


This tip was given to me by Pete Sparkes, and no one has had more clear­ances or out­right wins then Peter, so it has some prove­nance. I have not fully de­vel­oped it yet, but since I have been try­ing it, I have killed more un­sup­ported tar­gets then I have missed, so it seems to be work­ing.

If you can, you need to treat these tech­niques as drills; just like a Karate class will stand in a line punch­ing and kick­ing, we need to get on the range and shoot the line, twitch the trig­ger and prac­tise our sup­ported and un­sup­ported kneel­ers. Shoot pa­per be­cause pa­per will show you where you are miss­ing and how big your groups are, whereas a metal tar­get does not re­ally give feed­back un­less it’s been freshly painted.

To make an anal­ogy; once you have painted the fence, sanded the floor and waxed on waxed off – Karate Kid ref­er­ence for those who haven’t seen the film – then you can take your skills on to the HFT course. Re­mem­ber that if you aim small, you will miss small. The fi­nal tip and trick is to prac­tise on an HFT course when­ever you can. We you are lucky to have a club like Mal­don and Dis­trict (M. A.D) be­cause they have a prac­tice course out 365 days a year, and if you shoot a com­pe­ti­tion on a Sun­day, once the comp is fin­ished, you are wel­come to shoot it again.

Per­fect 60

So, with per­mis­sion, get a laser rangefinder, and laser the tar­gets. If you know the range and you have set your gun up cor­rectly, you should come in with a per­fect 60, if you shoot all the tar­gets prone. If you are still miss­ing, then you need to work on ei­ther tech­nique, or your abil­ity to read the wind. Know­ing the ranges and shoot­ing a course is bril­liant train­ing be­cause it shows up all our faults, and I can’t rec­om­mend it enough.

These ram­blings are how I have trained my­self over the years, and to some they may seem ex­ces­sive so if you just want to go out and shoot and have fun, then please ig­nore ev­ery­thing I have writ­ten, but these tech­niques work and they will help you to im­prove.

“the prob­lem is, un­like Larissa who is young and fit, I’m old, a bit fat, and I also have a dodgy back”

If you have any ideas, or if there is any­thing you want me to look at, please drop me a line at garychilling­[email protected]

Larissa is a top-level 10m shooter and shoots to the near­est mil­lime­tre

A laser rangefinder can be a great aid for train­ing

Un­like Larissa, I can’t use youth and abil­ity, I have to try some­thing else

Re­paint­ing the tar­gets lets me see ex­actly where my pel­let strikes

Shoot the line, this shows that my ri­fle is ac­cu­rate and I am shoot­ing well and con­sis­tently

Here you can see the arc of my pel­let flight, TX200HC

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