Jamie Chan­dler sees his lo­cal club through dif­fer­ent eyes

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Jamie changes his views on air­gun clubs when he vis­its his lo­cal, Lains

I’ve al­ways thought of my­self as a bit of an all-weath­ers out­doors­man. I have dis­ap­peared out af­ter quarry in all man­ner of con­di­tions, and at all times of the day, be­liev­ing I never have let the weather stop me, but that’s not al­ways the en­tire truth. There are plenty of times when I have looked out of my win­dow at home, then back at the fire, and de­cided to put an­other log on or just head to the pub in­stead. It ap­pears that self-mo­ti­va­tion isn’t al­ways my strong suit.

Like­wise, I’ve al­ways been a bit wary of air­gun ranges. Like clay grounds or ri­fle ranges, air­gun ranges have al­ways held at least one of the three types of peo­ple I dread the most. There’s the ‘rule king’; the guy who is quick to point out that I can’t en­ter HFT com­pe­ti­tions be­cause I can’t shoot prone with­out a bi­pod, do a back flip, roll my tongue, or some other ar­chaic rule from sub- clause 1110542.9 of the rule book – ‘ but you’re more than wel­come to have a play, although your score won’t count’. There’s also the one who makes a bee­line for me, watches me and then calls his mates over to watch with him, declar­ing loudly, “He’s do­ing all right, con­sid­er­ing. He’s amaz­ing, bear­ing in mind he has no hands”. Fi­nally, there’s the self-pro­moted Health and Safety bod, who will ask in a loud, nor­mally nasally voice, “Is he safe?” from about four me­tres be­hind me, and then watch to en­sure that I don’t con­tra­vene any of his, again, self-im­posed safety reg­u­la­tions, or worse, at­tempt to have me re­moved from the club be­cause he feels I’m un­safe.


All of the above taken as read, I was sit­ting at home last Wed­nes­day watch­ing the late April rain smash down on the ground, and the wind whip at tree branches for what seemed like the fifth month in a row, and de­cided on the spur of the mo­ment, to head to my lo­cal range and have maybe a cou­ple of hours’ damp but quiet plinking time with­out the dan­ger of meet­ing that many peo­ple. I mean, range-types don’t bring their guns out in the wet, right?

I’ve al­ways liked the look of Lain’s Shoot­ing School’s air­gun range near An­dover, my lo­cal range, but never re­ally used it. I’ve seen it when us­ing the clay pi­geon ground there, and oc­ca­sion­ally vis­ited, like when I took the BSA Gold Star to ask mem­ber’s opin­ions, about two years ago, but that was a fleet­ing visit and although fun, it was with a work fo­cus. This was re­ally go­ing to be my first true visit to use the air­gun range and I was a bit ap­pre­hen­sive.


I turned up, still with the rain belt­ing down, and made a dash for the re­cep­tion desk in the com­fort­able café- cum-lounge area. Apart from some ex­cel­lent air­gun read­ing mat­ter I noted on a ta­ble, a few bits you could buy and free cof­fee, it was de­serted – a great sign for me! I signed in and made a quip about choos­ing a quiet day, to which came the sur­pris­ing re­ply, “Oh no, they’re all out­side. Just ask for Mike or Paul and they’ll show you ev­ery­thing.”

I was a lit­tle dumb­founded; my stereo­type of plinking bods, like daf­fodils only re­ally com­ing out in the sun, was be­ing di­rectly chal­lenged and then there was the nasally voice in my head, re­mind­ing me that I won’t be al­lowed to shoot, or I’ll have to be some­how in­doc­tri­nated by at­tend­ing a course, and only then be a pro­ba­tioner un­til such time that I earned my merit badge. I found my back­bone, straight­ened my stride and walked to­ward the group of about 14 mem­bers, look­ing for Mike or Paul. Whether a serendip­i­tous co­in­ci­dence or a sign from above, the rain stopped al­most in­stantly and the sun came out.

“air­gun ranges have al­ways held at least one of the three types of peo­ple I dread the most”


I was greeted warmly by Mike, who was keen to in­tro­duce Paul. Be­tween them they share the chores of con­tin­ued main­te­nance of the ranges, keep­ing tar­gets painted, tak­ing out trees in the main wood­land plinking range to al­low more light through, and keep­ing the wood­land floor rel­a­tively clear for the hun­dreds of tar­gets they have, go­ing out to 80 yards. Mike ex­plained that it was re­ally a labour of love, and hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced other clubs and ranges, in con­junc­tion with Lain’s Shoot­ing School, they wanted to make the air­gun range here as open and at­trac­tive to any­one who wants to visit, whether they were just start­ing out with airguns, or if they’d had years of prac­tice.

As Paul pointed out, he and Mike maybe the un­of­fi­cial care­tak­ers, but the group is re­ally a hodge­podge of peo­ple; guys, girls, young and old, who come from all parts of the air­gun world. Some have £ 90.00 springers, oth­ers have col­lec­tions of topend Steyrs or Daystates. Some use their

time at the range to prac­tise for the field, oth­ers to fire a few shots and shoot the breeze. The idea is that ev­ery­one’s wel­come, and the at­mos­phere is one that’s free from over­bear­ing rules and pol­i­tics, whilst en­sur­ing that safety is ad­hered to for the ben­e­fit of all.


Mike showed me round to The War­ren, a group of about 18 rab­bit tar­gets set up over an ac­tual bank that used to house a rab­bit war­ren. Com­plete with bram­bles and shoot­ing dis­tances out to 38 yards, it re­ally gives the im­pres­sion of a war­ren at the side of a horse pad­dock or cricket pitch. If you were crav­ing some hunt­ing time af­ter your plinking, then this could cer­tainly keep you en­ter­tained.

I must make a spe­cial men­tion of Dave. Dave’s skill in ‘air­gun-smith­ery’ is just amaz­ing. His Weihrauch HW100 was a thing to be­hold, with a home-sculpted stock, re­moulded from the orig­i­nal, and an FX cylin­der and a pres­sure gauge moved from the front of the bot­tle to the side of the stock, and trig­ger re­worked. Dave’s skill didn’t stop there. He showed me his amaz­ing take- down ri­fle that he had pretty much built from the ground up, bor­row­ing bits from var­i­ous other airguns he had, to cre­ate some­thing of a mas­ter­piece.

“Why airguns?” Dave re­peated in an­swer to my ques­tion of ‘why not rim­fire or shot­guns?’ and gave a sim­i­lar an­swer to al­most ev­ery­one else there. “There’s just so much more to them, in how they’re made, how they shoot, how much you have to do to get the best of them, and the peo­ple you meet through the sport.”


Af­ter two hours, I had to come away and only on leav­ing did it oc­cur to me that my Light­en­ing XL SE that I’d taken to use was still in the car. I’d had a fan­tas­tic cou­ple of hours in the com­pany of peo­ple I’d never met be­fore, just ram­bling with them about airguns. I re­ally had a great time and hadn’t fired a sin­gle shot.

In short, the bril­liant com­mu­nity, re­laxed at­mos­phere and fa­cil­i­ties have re­ally changed my idea about air­gun ranges, and I will cer­tainly be re­turn­ing. Per­haps I’ll even re­mem­ber to take the gun out of the car next time!

I re­ceived a warm wel­come by some of the wet weather lo­cals

A wet but wel­come greet­ing

Dave’s ex­tra­or­di­nary, home- made, take- down ri­fle, pure tal­ent!

A lovely HW 95 with a few cus­tom up­grades in­clud­ing brass stock screws

The War­ren; test­ing rab­bit tar­gets in front of an ac­tual aban­doned war­ren, nice touch!

Paul demon­strates his skill on the main range

The main range has a huge choice of tar­gets

Dave and his magic box

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