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

Air Gunner - - Contents -

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.


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

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