Elliott on Airguns

Fun with Field Targets

by Elliott Jock

“Darn, he’s a long way out there,” my shooting partner said.

“Sure is,” I said quietly, trying not to disturb his concentration.

My partner sucked in a breath, exhaled half of it, and squeeeeezed the trigger. Whack! His airgun went off; the pellet rocketed down range, and the armadillo dropped like a sack of rocks. Then my partner pulled the string; the armadillo popped upright, and he shot it again.

You wouldn’t think there is much armadillo hunting in New England, but we weren’t hunting at all. Instead, we were participating in an addictive sport called Field Target.

Field target involves shooting with airguns at metallic silhouettes of animals -- squirrels, crows, rabbits, turkeys, pheasants, armadillos, snakes, even Tweety Bird or the Looney Tunes’ Martian. The silhouettes range in height from a few inches to well over a foot, and each silhouette has a hole in it – a kill zone. Behind the kill zone is a paddle. Put a pellet cleanly through the kill zone, hit the paddle, and the target falls down, usually with a very satisfying clang.

But there’s more that makes Field Target fun. The size of the kill zone varies from 3/8 inch to nearly two inches, and the range to the targets can vary from 10 to 55 yards. So, all of a sudden, that nice, fat, inch-and-a-half kill zone that looked absolutely huge at 15 yards starts to look microscopic way out at 55 yards.

From a shooter’s perspective, the challenge is figuring out the distance to the target, compensating for the pellet’s trajectory, paying attention to the wind, and executing the shot with enough precision to put the pellet through the hole. It’s never the same twice. Each match is a little different, depending upon the layout of the course, and environmental conditions, such as weather, light, and wind.

At present, there are more than three dozen field target clubs spread across the United States, from Atlanta to Tacoma, and there are dozens of clubs around the world.  For more information about Field Target, visit http://www.airguns.net/ft.php, an informative page maintained by Brad Troyer and http://www.aafta.org, the American Airguns Field Target Association Home Page.

So what do you need to compete in field target? First, an air rifle. You can enter with any .177, .20 or .22 cal air rifle that is less than 20 foot pounds of energy. (Most match directors should be able to tell you if your's qualifies.) Almost any air rifle will do just to get your feet wet.

You’ll also want a scope. Many field target shooters favor very high power scopes, but again, it isn’t necessary just to get started.

Finally, I’ve found that field targets shooters are, by and large, friendly and generous of their time and expertise. Match directors usually divide the competitors into “squads” that stay together as they shoot each lane. At every match that I’ve shot, somehow I’ve managed to be on squad with other shooters who added to the enjoyment of the match with encouragement, a helpful word or two and, of course, a little good-natured kidding. Looking back, I’ve never come home from a match wishing I hadn’t gone to it.

You don’t need a fancy rig to start enjoying Field Target. Just bring your favorite air rifle and give it a try. I think you’ll find it as enjoyable as I have.

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