Air Gunner - - Contents -

The ed­i­tor shares his re­sults from a win­ter’s-worth of hunt­ing data

As reg­u­lar read­ers might re­mem­ber, at the be­gin­ning of last win­ter I had the idea to log im­por­tant data about ev­ery hunt­ing shot I took for the fol­low­ing months. It’s dur­ing this pe­riod of the year that I’m most ac­tive with my du­ties as grey-squir­rel con­troller on a busy pheas­ant shoot. Of course, I’m al­ways happy to bag a pi­geon for the pot and to re­duce the corvid pop­u­la­tion as the chance presents, but the squir­rels are the game­keeper’s enemy num­ber one.

My plan was to use my laser rangefinder to mea­sure the dis­tance and an­gle of ev­ery shot taken, hit or miss, so that I could learn two vi­tal pieces of in­for­ma­tion. The first was the av­er­age dis­tance, which would then al­low me to set my par­al­lax ad­juster to that range as my de­fault. This was a ques­tion that I’d long pon­dered, so I hoped this ex­er­cise would give me a good, solid an­swer. Clearly, I would ad­just the par­al­lax set­ting for spe­cific sit­u­a­tions like rat­ting in­side a barn, but for gen­eral ‘walk­ing around’ type shoot­ing, I choose a set­ting as I leave the car and hope it works; 27 yards was my de­fault un­til now, but was that op­ti­mum?


The next piece of data I wanted was the up­ward an­gles, so that I could learn more about the hold-un­der needed. Per­haps now would be a good time to ex­plain what hap­pens to a pel­let that’s fired up­wards. It will hit high. Sorry, was that too sim­ple an ex­pla­na­tion? Okay – it will hit higher than if it was shot hor­i­zon­tally be­cause as it flies up­wards, some of its ki­netic en­ergy is con­sumed in coun­ter­ing grav­ity. The pel­let’s power over­comes the earth’s down­ward pull, in other words.

You might have gath­ered by now that I like to un­der­stand what makes shots work or fail, and that I’ll use any in­for­ma­tion I can to be­come more suc­cess­ful and hu­mane, but be­cause I like to know the true facts, I re­sist stan­dard­ised the­o­ries. If some­body says, “My mate down the pub told me,” I’m afraid I’m go­ing to as­sume it’s wrong un­til I can prove it for my­self. The re­al­ity is that few air­gun­ners out­side the com­pe­ti­tion world know much, if any­thing, about air­gun bal­lis­tics and re­ly­ing on ‘old Burt’ for your sci­en­tific

data doesn’t work for me. Now, Terry Doe, Ed­i­tor in Chief of our mag­a­zines, isn’t ‘old Burt’, but when he told me that he gives a ½” of hold un­der for ANY se­ri­ous up­wards shot, I strug­gled to ac­cept it. Surely the vari­ables would dic­tate a greater range of corrections than that?


This is where I think we col­lide with the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence. When we see a squir­rel high in a tree, we think, ‘ Wow, that’s high’, but ac­tu­ally most trees don’t usu­ally grow very tall. When a squir­rel is the tree­tops, it of­ten feels safe and al­lows us to get close. What I’m try­ing to re­late is, as they get higher, we get closer, and so the cal­cu­la­tion of our pel­let’s tra­jec­tory is a case of swings and round­abouts. Could it be pos­si­ble that the old rule of thumb of ½” un­der for ev­ery­thing works? As much as I re­sisted the pos­si­bil­ity, the num­bers I’d col­lected over the months were there in black and white to tell the truth - that Terry’s sys­tem works.

From 128 shots I learned that my av­er­age dis­tance was 22 yards and that the av­er­age hold un­der needed was - 0.38”. If you shoot well enough in real-world con­di­tions to worry about 0.12”, then you’re a bet­ter shot than me, and you need to ap­ply for a po­si­tion on our Olympic team to­mor­row. My data says very clearly that the ½” hold un­der rule will work al­most all the time, apart from in ex­treme con­di­tions. I also learned that I’d over- es­ti­mated just how far away my av­er­age shot was, which is very im­por­tant. Par­al­lax er­ror is at its worst at closer ranges, so by re­set­ting my ad­juster to 22 yards I’d be re­duc­ing this in­fu­ri­at­ing and in­vis­i­ble prob­lem.


Per­haps you feel that I’m split­ting hairs or be­ing overly an­a­lyt­i­cal, but I dis­agree. Knowl­edge is power and ig­no­rance is not bliss. Any time I miss, I feel huge frus­tra­tion. All the work put into spot­ting quarry, stalk­ing in and plan­ning a shot could be com­pletely wasted if the men­tal cal­cu­la­tion of your ‘shot so­lu­tion’ was mis­in­formed. If you were aiming in the wrong place for a lack of cor­rect in­for­ma­tion, well, then you de­served to miss. Ours is a tech­ni­cal sport and to suc­ceed we need good data to work from. Look­ing back on my many fail­ings as a young hunter, I cringe at just how lit­tle I knew and I’m not sur­prised at my lack of suc­cess. Luck­ily, to­day we have ex­cel­lent data at our fin­ger­tips and pre­cise shot place­ment is there for the tak­ing.

“My plan was to use my laser rangefinder to mea­sure the dis­tance and an­gle of ev­ery shot taken”

Brac­ing against a sturdy tree makes for a very sta­ble shoot­ing po­si­tion

Po­si­tional train­ing has shown that the aim point that works on flat ground won’t work shoot­ing steeply up­wards

My rangefinder dis­plays the an­gle of the shot and dis­tance

I noted the range and an­gle of ev­ery shot I fired for months

I’ll use any po­si­tion that helps me aim pre­cisely

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