Bill Stevens and I met maybe 5 or 6 years ago. He was memorable to me and we talked/emailed frequently at that point. He then took his airgun knowledge into his hunter safety course and also got involved with the Boy Scouts. He's got limited means but spends all of his spare time in those endeavors.
Having just received an email from him after a year or two he found it strange that I actually remembered him. And after bringing him up to speed on what will be happening in the next couple of months he sent this back and it made my day...
Honestly I'm surprised you do remember me. It's been a few years and we only got to actually meet a few times. Whether you know it or not you actually did a lot for me and for this I cannot thank you enough. I went from that one beeman that couldn't hit the target twice no matter how much I tried to now owning approximately a dozen airguns (and the Beeman still is no good) and looking for a way to afford more. I went from not knowing anything about airguns and spending almost 2 years trying to learn to meeting you and all of a sudden being overwhelmed with the knowledge that I needed thanks to you and the people you introduced me to. You have helped me pass on to this information to all my students in all my classes for Hunter education ever since I met you and also help me pass that information on to the scouts in two countries. I'm still learning and I'm nowhere on the level that you are and that is why your program has been extremely beneficial for me to recommend to others. You have made a difference both directly and indirectly to hundreds of people and myself since I've met you and for this I thank you. My only regret is that I cannot afford the addiction that you and a couple others introduced me to.
I've tried to be open and honest, sharing my frustrations as well as my joys with respect to field target and this post won't be any different, but it's probably the hardest one I've had to write.
As it stands right now come July I will no longer be involved in field target, or airguns. The Crosman competition in June 2020 will most likely be the last event for me.
The reason for this sudden change is that my marriage of 28 years is ending and while we thought we might be able to hang in there until my youngest graduates from high school in 2 1/2 years it now appears that sooner is better. Eric will be taking over RBGC monthly matches and the 4H piece will most likely disolve unless someone steps up.
However, when one door closes another opens. Since I work from home all I need is WiFi to do my job and so I will be moving down to Florida to live/work on a sailboat and sailing the east cost from NY to the Bahamas until I retire, and then I'll start crossing oceans.
My intent is to lead a simpler life, free of paying yearly rent to the state government, free of paying yearly taxes to the state government (that's where Florida comes in...), and free to travel, explore, and challenge myself in other ways on the oceans of the world.
Ray and Hans Apelles have been hosting matches for the last 20 years in Wappinger Falls, NY and have decided to discontinue the field target matches. Ray got married this year and has moved a bit farther away and Hans has a hard time helping any more. We will continue to see Ray, and his wife Diane, shoot at competitions. I think it's great that Diane is shooting field target and actually WANTS to spend time with Ray.
One of my first field target trips was to Ray's many years ago. At the time I would stay at my uncle's house, about an hour away. Spend Saturday visiting and Sunday shooting. I have taken Sydney and Andrew to their matches so there's special memories there.
Ray and Hans created some unique shooting situations that throw first timers for a loop, and some that they didn't plan on...would someone shut that rooster up!
First is their 75 yard target. Always a challenge and if you hit it everyone knows it as the loud piezo buzzer sounds. Typically followed by Ray rolling his eyes as he has to make yet another "I hit a 75 yard target" award.
Second is the firing line. You're shooting most targets from high to low, and if you're not careful you might just hit a rock that sits between your muzzle and the target but isn't visible when you're sighting through the scope. So frustrating when you have a close target, a gimmee, and you squeeze the trigger and it doesn't fall -- followed by someone telling you that you just hit the rock <ARGH!> Shooting down also means that you need to carry a short bipod.
Third is the confined quarters of both the firing line and the course. It can get a bit tight if there are a lot of people attending as there might be a 100 x 10 area that everything happens in. It also means that a LOT of targets are close to one-another which means you better be very careful which target you shoot at because having someone tell you that you shot the wrong 55 yard target can ruin your day.
Fourth is his recent high targets -- you haven't experienced high until you've shot these two targets. 9-10 yards out there is a tree, and if you look 30 feet up you'll see the pulley system that allows the two REDUCED-KILLZONE targets to easily be set up. No matter how you shoot this lane it just doesn't feel right because it's such an unnatural high shot. It's. So. Close. But. So. Far.
Fifth is the environment. Everything is in the woods, which you would think makes it easier as there's typically less wind...NOPE! There's usually a light breeze but there isn't anything that moves...no leaves near the ground, no ground cover, and forget about it in the fall after the leaves have fallen!
Ray certainly didn't dissappoint. There were 31 competitors plus several that came to support Ray but not shoot. All of his targets were full kill-zones so while the course was easier than past matches it wasn't able to be cleared by anyone. The best score was by John Eroh, with 51/53.
There were 6 junior shooters that Tom Hall brought and they all had a great time. It's always a pleasure to see young shooters having a great time at an event like this.
Afterwards we all met to partake in some great food that Diana Apelles made the previous day followed by awards, a 50/50 drawing, and a cake.
This past weekend was the 2019 Pyramyd Air Cup. Last year I won the hunter pcp division and got the Ataman M2S as my prize. Well, I thought this past weekend was going to be exceptional given that I was in Grenville and had gotten a new personal high score. But that didn't happen, I ended up finishing 11th or 12th out of 66 which isn't bad, but just wasn't what I was hoping for. But I'm still glad that I went. I saw many old friends and made many new friends and the weather was absolutely beautiful. So while I didn't win anything, I did figure out that "something" was off. I now need to figure out just what that was. This is the process anyone goes through if they want to improve -- analyze each shot to figure out what went wrong or right. And it could be a physical thing, did I get enough rest, the right foods, etc. Everything that we do on a daily basis comes into play when you are expected to be at the top of your game over a 5-6 hour period. Yes, 5-6 hours. We had 4 person squads, 5-minute time limits, and 15 lanes. So the quickest it could have gone is 5 hours, but add in additional time for lane changing and waiting on the next group to finish and it was closer to 6. Make sure you bring snacks and drink(s) to a larger match like this.
Eric and I headed up to Grenville, Canada on Sunday to Tim MacSweyn's course. We typically head to Port Colborne, but this is in the opposite direction above Oswego. The courses are very similar in that they are both in the woods so you need to bring your bug spray, or in this case your Birds of Prey spray. I've NEVER felt mosquitos bump into me until this visit and they absolutely swarmed you. Bug spray was a must and Tim's homemade "juice" that he sprays helped at the lanes for sure.
I left at 4:30 am, got to Eric's by 5, and we ended up arriving a bit late at 9:25 and were greeted by everyone standing in the lot expecting our arrival. We quickly got ready and moved to the sight-in range to prep for the match. While I only took 2 shots the others took the full 20 minutes or so. I had just shot yesterday and only needed to verify 0. We then headed off to the course which is in the middle of a swamp of all things. But this meant that the mosquitos/birds-of-prey were abundant and hungry. If you stopped at any point you were swarmed so keeping a good pace to the course seemed necessary.
Ryan (Mr. Clean) and I were paired together. All total there were 10 shooters. Tim has the course set up so there are 4 targets in each lane and you shoot 8 lanes (1 standing/1 kneeling) for a total of 64 shots.
Right off the bat I only got 7 out of 8 on the first lane. I always feel more at ease once I get that clean lane, but my hopes weren't too high as I had just missed 1 shot and the kneeling lane was next. I was to be pleasantly surprised as I ended up clearing the next 5 lanes. My next miss was a standing shot that, looking back, I rushed and "hoped" the pellet would go into the hole. Always take your time on the standing shots if you have it. Never rush, and if it isn't stable don't take the shot. We then finished the last lane with me repeating the mantra "every shot counts". Sometimes you get complaicent and ruin a great match on the last lane because you start to relax. Don't relax until the last shot is over...
Jeff Hemming, who used to be so laid back, seemed to be calling cold lines on every lane he was at. So he deservedly got assigned the nickname "Coldline". And when a target got stuck I called down to the far end of the course to ask Jeff if he'd like to be the one to call Cold Line making everyone on the course laugh.
In the end I had managed my highest score to date, 62/64, and was thrilled that I got to achieve this with such great people surrounding me.
Always keep bug spray in your box...and aspirin/advil/etc.
ALL photos are courtesy of John Bradley.
As a match director you are torn between creating a course that is fun for everyone and one that can make even a seasoned shooter cringe. We live on the edge... let them have fun or enjoy watching them suffer. I know, I know, but watching them suffer and whine is my fun. So this is one of those times :)
I started setting up the course Friday afternoon when it wasn't raining and then got caught in it and had to finish up the sight-in and running strings this morning. This one was planned to be a doozy, but I didn't realize how bad until I actually shot it. The MD's in the area look ahead to the next month or so to determine if we need to make things more difficult to prepare shooters for an upcoming large event, like the Pyramyd Air Cup. This is one of those times.
One of the changes I made for the targets was to thread 2mm x 300mm stainless through the target, bend it, and then make a hook on the other end as well. We're trying to cut down on the cold lines that occur when strings get tangled around the target. It worked! We didn't have any cold lines.
The other change I made was to cut some of the plastic corrugated material to fit within the wire frame of the sight-in targets. Two clips at the top "hanging" the corrugated plastic and the target and then a rubber band at the bottom to keep it from swinging. This worked out well and cut down on the number of clips each target needs which should cut down on the time required to change out the paper.
And while the course was definitely beyond a grand-prix course, at 42 troyer, everyone seemed to have fun and appreciated the challenge. So I think it all worked out.
With rain in the forecast for 11:30 am, we got things going at 8:45 am with a quick safety/shooters meeting, lane assignments, and then called the line hot. And at 10:45 am Betsy took her last shot and we were done. Everyone jumped right in and cleaned up the course and sight-in area. We then went over the top 3 scores in Hunter PCP and Hunter Piston. No other classes came out to play.
46 Sean McDaniel
40 Shawn Pragle
39 Doug Dunlap
38 Ken Burley
34 Sue Burley
31 Betsy Dunlap
24 Mark DeBoard
37 Eric Brewer
33 Paul Manktelow
31 Greg Shirhal
11 Tony Garland
I've always compared field target to a game of golf. That one shot keeps you coming back, you are really in competition with yourself, every shot counts, there's only you the pellet and the hole, and you're the only one responsible for a bad shot.
Well, I happened across a quote from Arnold Palmer today that, imho, sums up field target...
Field Target (Golf) is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated;
it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect.
It is at the same time rewarding and maddening -
and it is without a doubt the greatest game
mankind has ever invented
I wrote several times last year about the journey to the Pyramyd Air Cup and ultimately winning the Hunter PCP and getting the prize of an Ataman M2 Sport. I'd like to elaborate on what happens after you get a new rifle.
Initially off a bench it was one-hole groups at 30 yards. But when I got into comps I wasn't seeing that accuracy. I just wasn't sure if it was me or the gun. There are times when you know it was you, but there are other times when you just felt it wasn't. And that was a problem...that doubt then gets in every shot you take.
Knowing it could shoot well, but having some flyers at times was an issue. And if I'm not shooting closer to 20 ft/lbs then it's going to be hard to remain competitive in Hunter.
In April I went down to Baton Rouge for the Cajun Spring Classic and while I shot well, my scores weren't headed in the right direction and my frustration with the rifle was starting to show. Well, I got wind that Will Piatt is an airgunsmith and he was at the comp that weekend. So I approached him to see if this was a project he could take on. He was very receptive and after talking about what I was hoping to achieve...closer to 20 ft/lbs, he take the rifle and asks me to stick around for a minute. Out comes his own Ataman M2 Sport. He saw mine at Pyramyd and decided he had to have one as a backup for his Steyr. He also showed me what he had done to his... barrel stiffener, drilled a hole in the trigger to get a crisp 2nd stage, and had worked on his regulator.
Knowing Will for as long as I have, I know that he is a top shooter, almost always at the top of the leader board. And seeing him shoot I know that he expects perfection from his rifles. So handing my rifle to him I knew it was in good hands. After seeing the additional work done to his Ataman I asked that mine have the same.
What I got in return is the most amazing rifle. He added a carbon-fiber barrel stiffener, checked the regulator to make sure it was working correctly, enlarged the transfer port, replace some springs with heavier springs (all to get it to 18 ft/lbs), drilled the hole in the trigger and added a set screw and spring to give it an amazing 2-stage trigger, and the very last thing he did was remove the rubber ring inside the barrel band.
What Will saw on his own rifle is that the stock at the far end is thin enough that it can torque which then causes the barrel band to touch the barrel thus mucking up your shot. Such a big problem with a crazy simple solution.
This rifle now shoots clovers at 55 yards off a bipod at 16x mag. I'm sure it can do better, but that's what I shoot in competitions. There is no doubt in my mind that any missed shot is now my fault, which is EXACTLY what you need. If you ever have doubts about whether it's you or the gun then have your gun looked at. As soon as you remove the doubt you then know that the only thing that needs to improve is you.
As far as I'm concerned, Will Piatt is a miracle worker and I will forever be grateful for the work he did on this gun.
Here is Will's contact info:
595 Saddle Mountain Church Rd.
Ennice, NC 28623
As an avid field target shooter there are many things that get my heart racing:
Knowing that someone has fallen off the deep end would normally be a cause for concern, however for field target shooters it's just an indicator that we have finally "hooked 'em" and they are now part of the group.
Please welcome Mark DeBoard to our group, he got hooked because of the 2019 Crosman competition.
My name is Sean McDaniel, and I am an addict....to field target in all it's many forms
It's important to get into a routine when you're shooting Field Target. There's a lot going on and you've got to keep your focus for 4-6 minutes at a time when it's your turn to shoot.
A couple of times my focus waivered this weekend. The first was when I accidentally double-loaded my rifle and took a shot only to see two marks appear well below the target. And my "spidey sense" kicked in before I loaded thinking I should shoot one off just to be safe, but I didn't think I had loaded a pellet.
The second time was on pistol. I'm 2 down and on my last lane. Eric had missed 4, so I'm thinking I have this. I take my first shot at the 1st target and miss. Instead of going through and re-ranging I took a 2nd shot thinking I didn't hold for enough wind <splat>. I questioned my shooting partner afterwards and discovered I had mis-ranged by 5 yards.
The third time was during the pistol shoot-off. A simple 12 yard target, 1" killzone and I look up my hold-over...1 mil-dot below. When I take the shot I rush and aim the center of the scope at the center of the target <splat> I see a mark appear on the bottom edge of the reducer... And just my luck, Eric didn't make the same mistake and ended up getting 1st in pistol.
The mistakes were all mine. I had a great time, though. Shot my best pistol match to date and had a great time with the field target gang. All I can do is remember the lessons learned and make sure to follow my routine.