A Dad and his Lad 3
PART 3 Tim and his son, George, study the backyard basics
Tim Finley and George have fun – safely – in the back garden, with home-made backstops
George was itching to shoot the HW30S, and we had the safety protocols down pat; he knew how to cock and load the gun, where the safety catch was, and how to line up the open sights, – all this done in our back garden, but can you actually shoot in your own back garden? Well, the answer is yes, if you have a safe backstop and follow a few very simple rules. A ‘safe’ backstop captures ALL of your shots, both BB, lead or steel, and all of your pellets, be they lead or non-lead. That’s common sense – capturing them all also keeps pets safe – and everyone else, for that matter. You must block or partition off access to the shooting area to prevent anyone straying into your shot path, or behind the backstop accidentally. You must keep all the shooters and spectators safe as well, so always wear shooting glasses to EN-166 standard, and don’t forget that everyone will need them, shooting or not. I know all the shots are meant to stay within the backstop, but if you are also shooting metal targets at short ranges there is always a potential for a rebound. Your eyesight is precious – trust me, always wear shooting glasses when plinking at short range.
INVITE THE NEIGHBOURS
There are many types of backstop you can use. I made a simple, permanent one out of four 400mm square paving slabs and a bag of play-pit sand. I also went on to make a moveable one out of a discarded drainage pipe cut-off, and this works very well indeed. The back is lined with wood, topped with 3mm steel plate, then covered in thick carpet off-cuts, which deadens the sound – not as well as the sand, but well enough. You need to think of things like this because it is a very good idea not to annoy the neighbours. If you are friendly with them, let them know you will be shooting in your back garden, and even invite them round for a shooting session if they are interested. The key is that your pellets or BBs stay on your property.
George is not a complete novice to shooting, but he hasn’t really shot a lot of recoiling spring rifles. All the ‘have a go’ airguns I have ever seen at game fairs or shooting shows have all been pre-charged pneumatic or CO2-powered, so that’s all he has ever shot there. They’re great as a taster for new or
novice shooters, but they will not teach you how to shoot or give you any chance to master the fundamentals, such as the correct trigger technique or follow-through. George has always been lacking in follow-through. Now and again, he forgets and his head pops up, meerkat-style, before the pellet has reached the target, or even sometimes left the barrel.
George got into shooting the HW30 S, but don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t an instant hit because his love of PCPs from all of his previous shooting, tainted his initial perception of shooting a spring rifle. Compared to a PCP it’s not easy to break the barrel; it’s not easy to load, and it’s not easy to compress the spring to cock the gun – even on a junior rifle, which is normally down-rated to 6-7 ft.lbs – neither is it simple to shut the barrel.
The HW30 S is not a tiny, junior air rifle, it’s bigger than most, and you have to work to shoot any spring rifle, but the rewards are much greater because you learn how to shoot properly. Open sights are the most basic form of sighting device – it’s what I started with – and they are very easy to use; they don’t require batteries and they very rarely lose their zero. The trick is to adjust them to have the pellet strike just above the front post when the sights are aligned correctly. Have the sights set too near the trajectory and you might struggle on the aim because the sights could mask what you want to hit. That’s the only downfall with open sights – oh, and apart from relying on your eyes to see the target. There’s no zoom on a MKI eyeball. Thankfully, George has fantastic young eyes, and he made short work of the plastic soldiers sitting in the sand of the backstop – even with open sights. That’s another trick when teaching new shooters; get them to zero the gun, five-shot groups and all that, then switch it up and make it fun. Reactive targets, such as chalk discs, or cheap plastic soldiers cannot be beaten as a means to keep a young shooter interested, and when it stops being fun, then stop. As parent, you’ll all know the signs of kids switching off.
TIME FOR A RANGE CHANGE
It was now time to take George to a proper shooting club where we could test out the HW 30S in more controlled conditions, and maybe see what an optical sight, like a red dot, did for his shooting. Luckily, we have a fantastic shooting club on our doorstep. The South Yorkshire Shooting Club is a brilliant indoor airgun shooting facility, and it caters for all ages and skill abilities – there’s even a shop and a café. What’s not to like! So off to the SYSC we go … and I’ll tell you how we got on, next month.
POINTS OF INTEREST
It’s a mid-size junior rifle, for sure, a quality and really accurate rifle, to boot.I
A happy George.
It doesn’t cost much to make a very simple backstop – four paving slabs and a bag of sand is all you need.
My moveable backstop works very well indeed.
Correct alignment of the open sights is the key to success.
Plastic toy soldiers make the ideal reactive target, even with open sights.