THE CLUB SCENE
Our new contributor, Peter Yeats, tells us why his club is a great place to visit
Peter Yeats takes us to his local, Steve Smith’s Shooting Ground, to prove the advantages of joining a club
Oh yeah! Over- loud music, over- priced drinks, too dark to see clearly and impossible to hold a conversation; what’s not to like? I’m joking, of course, but only in part. A club that we SHOULD all be enjoying is our local shooting club or shooting range. The nonshooting public might perceive us as camo- clad, solitary figures pursuing our hobby in self- imposed isolation, but a brief visit to a shooting club or range would soon dispel that impression. My local range is Steve Smith’s Shooting Ground, just a couple of miles north of Newcastle Airport, and every visit is truly a pleasure. A general hubbub of conversation is a good indicator of friendliness and that’s certainly the case here.
THE SHOOTING GROUNDS
We airgunners share this shooting ground with clay- pigeon shooters, whose range is to our left, so the clubhouse can be home to an eclectic crowd, especially if the weather really closes in or it is very cold. The wood- burning stove, pool table and refreshments can make a break between shooting sessions a pleasure in itself! Clays landing on the banks, at about 90 yards, also provide impromptu challenges for even greater target variety.
Although Jack and Chris Reed, the owners of the shooting ground, concentrate on clay- pigeon shooting and tuition, Range Warden, Steve Malcolm, is sharply focused on provision and range development for airgunners, and looks after our needs very well.
On arrival, meeting the crowd of the day, exchanging greetings, and
banter, might start proceedings, but some days are so popular that bagging your seat can be your first priority. FT shooters tend to congregate on Wednesdays for pre- competition practice, so there can be quite a crowd, but if you like seeing some top- end precision airguns and competition- standard shooting, Wednesdays offer both. Regulars include international FT shooters and beginners with their first springers; whatever your airgunning experience, you’ll find shooters just like you with whom to move forward, in both skills and enjoyment.
Most days there are a good number of regulars who make all newcomers feel both welcome and included. On my first visit, anxiously carrying my first PCP and kit to the firing line, I wondered whether or not I and my gun would fit in with the other enthusiasts. My concerns were completely unfounded.
“Hello. I’m John,” said a shooter with a Steyr FT gun sitting on the bench in front of him. “Just pick a seat, and get yourself settled in. When you’ve done that, pop up to the clubhouse and pay Jack or Chris your fee. Then, you’re set for the day.”
‘How easy was that?’ I thought. Hardly, had I returned to the firing line and started aligning my scope when John said, “Would you like me to sight that in for you? Done it dozens of times.”
Within minutes of arriving, I had my gun sighted in and several small groups of .22 pellets lay on the bench in front me, donated by the other .22 users – ‘Try these. They work really well in my gun.’ So the potentially tedious and time- consuming process of finding the best pellet for my barrel was also over in a matter of moments – Air Arms Diabolo Field or RWS Superfield.
After a quick trip back to the clubhouse shop to purchase two tins of RWS Superfield, I was ready for the great day that followed. A setup of my gun and pellet selection, that I thought might take hours or even days, accomplished in literally minutes. Brilliant!
Three visits later, it was my opportunity to help a first-visit shooter, returning to airgunning after many years, to set his scope for eyerelief, cant and zero. His delight at the precise accuracy of his S410, once it was set up, really made my day.
The enthusiasm and support of the other shooters are, in themselves, enough to recommend joining a club or local range, but other provisions for airgunners at Steve Smith’s Shooting Ground include a well- stocked shop with a variety of airguns, an excellent range of high- quality pellets, targets and air- tanks for sale, as well as refreshments.
Services include fills for PCPs and although there is no on- site facility to refill diving tanks, regular shooters can leave their tanks with the Range Warden and he’ll get them filled. Helpfully, small gunsmithing is also offered at the range, such as spring replacement for piston guns and trigger repairs.
Coming along shortly is the summer competition, open to regular shooters of all abilities. Dipping a toe in the water of a friendly competition, to see if you like it, is another advantage of getting down to your local club or range.
The comprehensive provision and the camaraderie that certainly characterise Steve Smith’s Shooting Ground are also to be found at shooting ranges and clubs near you. If you’re still to enjoy what they have to offer, I urge you to find your local club or range and pay it a visit.
If you’re like me, the experience will come as a revelation and improve your enjoyment of our great sport immensely.
Give it a try – seriously, what’s not to like?
“comprehensive provision and the camaraderie that certainly characterise Steve Smith’s Shooting Ground”
MAIN: There’s no shortage of targets here! RIGHT: The club room is warm and comfortable
TOP RIGHT: There is some very serious kit on the shooting line
TOP LEFT: No matter what type of gun you like to shoot, you’ll be welcome
BELOW: Pistol shooters can find find plenty of fun