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.
Apparently the Field Target community can read and are all too happy to throw that back at you any time they see fit.
Case in point... This past weekend we traveled down to Binghamton bright and early Saturday morning for a match at Greg's (Broom County Sportsmen Assoc), which is always great. Greg puts together a great rifle and pistol course. After we had shot the rifle course we're standing around talking, goofing around, and such and Mike Norris chimes in with some comment about field target being a "social" thing. Yes, imagine the fingers of each hand coming up....
Of course I whip my head around hearing this and, being oblivious, I start talking about how I had just written about that after the last match. Mike's just nodding his head waiting for his chance to interject with "yeah, I read it..." To which several people chimed in with the same comment. And me doing a full belly laugh and telling them all they're not on the Christmas list any more.
But it continues, because Greg then goes on about how I don't do enough of these and he hates having to go to my site anticipating the next post and how he's constantly refreshing the page. Me, being a programmer, interject with how you can set up a news feed in Outlook and have it tell you when content has been added. Only to be questioned "Who the hell uses Outlook these days?"
I'd like to say I got quiet and learned my lesson, but that probably wasn't the case.
Sometimes you just can't win because with friends like these who needs enemies?
I wanted to share this with others as I think it's an insight into why we love this sport...
This past winter was pretty long, and the spring was wet, which meant that field target in the northeast was shut down from the middle of November through the middle of May. Eric and I had been busy with 4-H and both of us just felt drained and had even talked of leaving field target. Neither of us really knew why we were feeling this way. So on the way down to Binghamton we talked about what our plans were and how we were both unsure of continuing with field target, which brought conflicting emotions from us both.
However, after the shoot we were suddenly talking about how excited we were about this season and all of the things that we had planned. Strange. So I mention the change in view from the car ride down vs the car ride back home and Eric confirms the change in view.
The only thing that I can think of is that we have gotten to the point where we look forward to the social aspect of field target maybe more so than the actual competition. And it's not just seeing people you know. There's teasing, telling jokes, normal everyday trials and tribulations, stories of good times and bad, and the joys and frustrations of everyday life. All are shared as we shoot next to each other with our nearly silent rifles and pistols.
It's a sport unlike any other that I've been involved with or heard about.
Here is a course outline that we put together for teaching an in-depth field target course
This past weekend I went down to Mt Airy, MD (close to Frederick) to shoot at the DIFTA match on Sunday. Now, keep in mind that I have taken my scope on and off several times over the winter and have not zero'd it in since.
After helping with the lines I get to the sight-in area and take a couple of shots at 10 yards on a clean target. Can't see where it's hitting at all. I finally see some dirt move WAY off and realize I can't possibly adjust the scope enough to compensate. At this point I'm ready to just go spend the day with family because I'm obviously not ready. Last ditch effort I pull out my hex tools and take the scope and mounts off. During this process I realize the front mount wasn't actually attached...it was sitting on top of the dovetail <argh!> Getting everything back together I am finally seeing the pellet and get things dialed in. I have just enough time to check 30 (zero) and 55 yards but not much else. Things seem to be OK and I've run out of time so I register and get ready to shoot.
I quickly realize that 30-55 is close enough, but any small kz between 10 and 20 is essentially a miss on one or both shots throughout the whole course. Something is off, but I have no idea what it is, so I shoot the rest of the course simply enjoying the day and having some good conversations with Mike Harris (DCFSA) who I'm squadded with and the fellows next to us, Paolo and Scott.
Afterwards I realized that I didn't even laser that the 30 and 55 were true.
SO, don't do what I just did...
Come prepared with your gun shooting where you want it -- having zero'd and verified the day before, or at least within the last week ESPECIALLY if you've done any adjustment to your gun. Having a last minute panic like I did is not a good start to the day. Sight-in should be a time to verify that you are shooting every target at the hold-over you expect.
You should have a routine for your sight-in. It's a good idea to bring out small targets for your 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 17 yard increments as that is where the most change in trajectory will be. And you can pretty much bet that there will be several close targets with small killzones. I typically have small index cards that I attach to popsicle sticks and put into the ground.
In the end I didn't do as well as I had hoped, but I was hoping for a miracle given that I really wasn't prepared for this match. It was great to see friends after the long winter and meet new people that became friends by the end of the match.