Dag­ger Power

Paul Hayes tells the story of his friend and club­mate, Barry Dag­ger

Airgun World - - Contents -

Paul Hayes pro­files Barry Dag­ger, a diminu­tive and hugely suc­cess­ful Olympic air­gun champ

In ‘Tar­get Shoot­ing’ magazine, Is­sue No. 1, Nov/Dec 1979, the very first ar­ti­cle was ‘The Barry Dag­ger Story’. Barry, at only 4’10” tall, was al­ready a gi­ant of the sport, but was to achieve much more, in­clud­ing an Olympic bronze medal in 1984. Now, at 81 years young, he’s still set­ting the stan­dard for which the rest of us fall short.

Barry com­peted all over the world and I love lis­ten­ing to his sto­ries and anec­dotes. A favourite is about the Rus­sia Olympics of 1980, which Mar­garet Thatcher’s govern­ment wanted peo­ple to boy­cott, hint­ing, “We’ll see you’re all right” (wink, wink). Barry’s prepa­ra­tions and train­ing had cost him a for­tune, and hav­ing boy­cotted as re­quested, he was ex­pect­ing com­pen­sa­tion. “Mar­garet Thatcher still owes me £13,000!” “… but Barry, she’s passed away.” “I don’t care! She still owes me £13,000 and I want it!”


At the 1974 World Cham­pi­onships, Barry was shoot­ing .22LR ri­fle when he saw 10m air ri­fle for the first time. ‘I could do that!’ he thought. He fan­cied a Fein­werk­bau ri­fle ,but was em­bar­rassed to ask about one be­cause he didn’t know how to pro­nounce it. In­stead, he ap­proached an­other well-known Ger­man maker, but re­ceived a dis­in­ter­ested re­sponse. “Never mind,” said the team coach, “Let’s have a look at Fein­werk­bau.”

“So that’s how you say it!”

The Fein­werk­bau peo­ple couldn’t have been more helpful and of­fered a se­lec­tion of left-handed ri­fles. So how do you get a match air ri­fle to fit a 4’10” south­paw? Easy! Just chop a chunk off the stock with a hack­saw and prac­tise at home by shoot­ing from one room, across the land­ing, and into an­other room. By the fol­low­ing year, he was Bri­tish cham­pion. Barry was later to re­ceive an award from Fein­werk­bau for tak­ing the Bri­tish record for 10m air ri­fle – 394 out of 400. Re­mem­ber, those guns were all springers, there were no PCPs in those days.

Fol­low­ing a meet­ing with Di­eter An­schutz, he ac­quired the An­schutz 380 with which he won his Olympic bronze in 1984, al­though the wins that gave him the most sat­is­fac­tion were get­ting the sil­ver in the 1978 World Cham­pi­onships in Korea, and bronze the fol­low­ing year.

Barry has a great sense of hu­mour. When

he was called up for Na­tional Ser­vice, he was asked which unit he would like to join. Need­less to say, he replied, “The Guards.”

At the 1984 Los An­ge­les Olympics, the tem­per­a­ture was peak­ing at 116ºF and wear­ing tar­get shoot­ing cloth­ing was agony. Dur­ing a break in prac­tice, the team man­ager brought Princess Anne to meet him. “I bet you’re hot in all that stuff,” she said. “Hot! I was six-foot-four when I ar­rived.” As the team man­ager led the Princess away, he hissed at Barry through grit­ted teeth “I knew I should never have brought her near you!”


Barry’s in­ter­na­tional ca­reer ended later in the ‘80s when his beloved mother be­came ter­mi­nally ill and he didn’t want to be away from home. He be­came in­creas­ingly in­volved in coach­ing, par­tic­u­larly with the Great Bri­tain Ju­niors. He has spe­cial mem­o­ries of one par­tic­u­lar, very highly tal­ented young guy.

“He came to our club with his school ri­fle team be­cause his school­mas­ter was a club mem­ber. I saw him shoot and he joined us, also shoot­ing air ri­fle at the range be­long­ing to the com­pany for which I worked. I asked him if he wanted to be in the Ju­nior Squad. That’s how he be­came a Great Bri­tain Ju­nior and shot ma­jor matches for the GB Ju­niors.” The young man’s name? Some guy called Gary Wain.

Barry is al­ways happy to share his knowl­edge if asked to do so. When I re­fer to his amaz­ing tal­ent, he dis­agrees.

“Suc­cess comes from end­less hard work and prac­tice. If you want to be the best, it’s go­ing to hurt. If it’s not hurt­ing, you’re not work­ing hard enough. It’s funny how ‘nat­u­rally tal­ented’ you can be­come if you prac­tise ev­ery spare minute for years on end.


Barry has been a mem­ber of the Spring­field Ri­fle and Pis­tol Club at An­caster, Lin­colnshire, since shortly af­ter its for­ma­tion, 50 years ago. The club has three out­door tar­get ranges and we shoot pretty well any­thing short of de­pleted ura­nium, but a sig­nif­i­cant and in­creas­ing pro­por­tion of the guns seen there are air­guns. Barry shares our edi­tor, Terry’s, wish to get air­guns out of back gar­dens and into proper clubs.

Our ranges fa­cil­i­tate tar­gets be­ing erected at 10 me­tres, 20 and 25 yards and 50 me­tres and we are about to build a 10m in­door range. Our big­gest range (50m, 20 fir­ing points) is an ‘ech­e­lon’ range – tar­gets can be set up at dif­fer­ent dis­tances, all at the same time. You can be shoot­ing an air ri­fle at 20 yards whilst the guy next to you is shoot­ing a .303 at 50 me­tres. Bench-rest shoot­ing is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially amongst those like me who are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly older. More info can be found on our web­site – www. spring­field­ri­fle­and­pis­tol­club.co.uk.

Al­ter­na­tively, you can write to The Sec­re­tary, An­caster Ranges, Pot­ter­gate Road, An­caster, Gran­tham. NG32 3QZ or ring the club­house on 01400 230985 and leave a mes­sage. So, let’s sum­marise Barry Dag­ger: Tal­ented? Yes. Mod­est? Yup. Friendly? Sure is. Funny? Very. Most of all, he’s a real char­ac­ter and in this mod­ern, hum­drum world where ev­ery­thing con­spires to make us all look and be­have in the same way, the sup­ply of true char­ac­ters is dwin­dling. In the shoot­ing world, at 4’10” short, Barry Dag­ger is as big as they get! A real gi­ant!

ABOVE: Barry back in the day. INSET: That Olympic Bronze. Barry was the real deal then, and he is now.

Barry and Paul’s grand­daugh­ter, Har­riet, show off just a few of Barry’s medals.

Yes, you could say Barry’s won a gong or two!

Comfy club­house. No won­der Barry’s been a mem­ber here for half a cen­tury.

Spring­field Ri­fle and Pis­tol Club has su­perb range fa­cil­i­ties.

Barry says it’s all about the train­ing - and Spring­field is just the club to help you make the most of it.

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