Gary Chillingworth grabs a double win at the Essex Open FT Comp in Springfield, Essex
Having fun is what competition shooting is what it’s about, writes Gary Chillingworth
If you shoot airguns outside, there is a very good chance that you are both a devilishly handsome and erudite HFT shooter, or one of the dodgy blokes, or ladies, who shoot Field Target. OK, I admit it, not all the FT shooters are dodgy – just most of them – and not all the HFT bunch are particularly well cultured, but I am writing an article about a shoot where the two groups are going to mix. I have to plant my flag somewhere, so you know which side I’m rooting for and there is a great rivalry between the two sports. We HFT shooters love to roll around in the mud, and the FT shooters like their comfy cushions, but even though we are all shooting the same tin chickens, for some reason we don’t often get together and have a competition.
Recently (and happily) there has been a growing trend for combined shoots, so a few months back I attended the British Air Rifle Championships at M. A.D. and at this event, you shot FT in the morning and HFT in the afternoon – it was a huge success. However, the Essex Open was different; this event was quite simply a Field Target course set out with great care and skill, with targets from 8 to 55 yards, but in the middle of the FT gate, they plonked a peg to give the HFT shooters something to hold on to, and in a single stroke, they made a simple change that enabled us all to have a wonderful day’s shooting and combine the two sports.
This simple solution was a revelation and, to be honest, I have not had so much fun at a shoot in a long, long while. All the shooters were mixed up and on each peg there was an HFT bod with his simple rig, and an FT shooter with a rifle that had all the bells and whistles. Speaking as a non-FT shooter, I have now developed a whole new admiration for these shooters and their equipment.
The complexity of a Field Target rig is amazing. Once they have sat down, they wind the scopes magnification up to 50 or 60x and then use the scope’s side wheel to focus on the target. Once the target is in focus, they read the range of the side wheel and then adjust the turrets so that the cross hairs will always be in the centre of the kill zone. They then wind the magnification down from 50 or 60x to 10 to 15, and fire. They then do this all again for the second target, and all of this in under two minutes.
We HFT bods range by eye, give it a bit of hold over or under, and pull the trigger. It’s also amazing how much wind a pellet will take at 55 yards. I’m used to shooting out to 45, but that extra 10 yards makes a huge difference. I am sure that on more than one
occasion my pellet got to 45 yards and then turned left.
Springfield is a great club and, I must admit, I should spend more time there. It is located just outside of Chelmsford, and for members it is open seven days a week for practice. They have full FT and HFT courses, and a great plinking range, and it is full of friendly, knowledgeable people. The top bod at the club is Barry (Kilty) McDonald who is one of the top FT shooters in Essex and he’s always happy to offer help and advice.
WHATEVER IT COSTS
Events like this are what shooting is all about– like-minded people in a field having fun. Personally, I don’t care if your gun costs £ 9000, £ 900 or £ 90; if you are having a good time, then clubs like Springfield are the places to be.
The event had multiple categories for both FT and HFT and the winners were:
FT: AA grade, Red Gallagher; A grade was Simon Martin; B grade, Gary Keogh; C grade, Tony Sultana. HFT: Anwar Ghazi was top, and in the Recoiling, Gary Chillingworth blagged another lucky win.
The whole mood of the day was one of friendship and enjoyment and this was made even better by the fact that the round was sponsored by the Airgun Centre in Rayleigh. They had given vouchers totalling the sum of £600 to be handed out to three lucky winners.
Now, I have only ever been to Springfield once before and on that occasion I was lucky enough to win the raffle, and worse than that, I was the person to pull my own card from the tombola. So, when Barry McDonald approached me with the bucket full of raffle tickets, I had some trepidation. I placed my hand in the bucket and as I drew the ticket I told everyone, “Last time I did this, I pulled my own ticket.” I handed the ticket to Barry and he called number 71 and yes, once again, I had pulled my own ticket and won the £ 300 top prize. I think I might now be banned from Springfield raffles.
If you live in Essex or surrounding areas, get down to Springfield, and if you need some kit please try the Airgun Centre. It is clubs and shops like this that keep our sport alive and without support there might come a day when we will have nowhere left to shoot, or go to escape our daily lives, or buy a quality tin of pellets at a reasonable price.
All the winners from the Essex Open, hiding from the camera
The Airgun Centre is generous to a fault
Peter Edwards may be 107, but he is still a top shooter
Helen Carragher with her complex FT rifle
The much sought after Essex open shield