Years ago my father invited me to start shooting field target. At the time he also mentioned getting together with his FT buddies for dinner while he was visiting. I found it strange that he would travel all this way and then have dinner with people that he might only see a couple of times each year.
Fast forward 7 years and I find myself looking forward to those dinners. At the Pyramyd Air Cup each year we plan on dinner Friday night and might have as many as 15 people at the table. A LOT of laughing and discussions occur at these impromptu meetings. Even after our monthly matches we are starting to have a late lunch afterwards with anyone who wishes to join. It's a great way to wind down after a match, laugh, get caught up, talk about plans for future events, etc.
There have been heated discussions and tears of laughter within minutes of each other. Maybe this all happens when you start to realize that you aren't shooting with just anyone at these matches -- you're shooting with your friends.
So I guess that I have to admit that I have come full circle to where my father was 7 years ago.
Lately I've realized that I really enjoy pushing my limits and going outside of my comfort zone -- especially in field target.
In 2017 I added Pennsylvania, Long Island and Maryland to my list of field target competitions. At first I was very hesitant, because of the long drive, but looking back I had a blast doing all of that traveling. So when I hear of the 2018 Spring Cajun Classic (4/27-29) in Baton Rouge, LA it stuck for some reason. After some research I figured it would be about 22 hours driving each way, about $120 in gas each way and I could camp nearby for the equivalent of a night in a hotel room I started to really consider it. Why was I so hesitant to do this? I discovered that my comfort zone in this case was 6 hours from my home. After realizing that it's just a lot of travel time I decided to go for it.
My other long-distance field target event will be the 2018 Nationals in Pleasant Hill, NC which is about 10 hours away in October.
What's your comfort zone? What are you doing to push that zone?
This season we are adding monthly pistol competitions to the mix. Yes, I've been bitten by this bug as well.
Eric urged me to try pistol at the 2016 nationals and I HATED it. Swore that I would never touch a pistol again...Lies, all lies...
2017 had Eric asking me at every pistol match if I would shoot with him. Being the good friend and all I felt obligated at first....and then I started placing....and then I sort of looked forward to it -- except for the standing lanes of course.
Now, in 2018, I have gotten my own .22 PCP pistol. I have added pistol field target to our monthly match and am looking forward to shooting this as much as possible.
Just like my talk about standing/kneeling field target and how much I hated it initially, the same goes for pistol. At the Long Island grand-prix last year I remember looking at the standing lanes for pistol and thinking there is absolutely no way and essentially gave up every point on the standing lanes.
So I've been in the basement shooting standing pistol several times each day so I start to like it. I, personally, like the Bisley Scope Eye Cup as it offers better clarity and provides a consistent position for your eye. The additional benefit for pistol is that it offers a tiny bit more steadiness when standing as you hold the pistol with your hand and it also rests lightly where your eye meets the eye cup. Without the eye cup I found that standing was extremely hard. With the eye cup I find standing challenging, but shooting at the 3/8" target at 10 yards I have probably been hitting 50%.
Let me tell you, at some point in your journey to the "gold" you will consider weighing and sizing your pellets. Personally the jury is still deliberating on whether this is beneficial or not.
At one point I saw everyone else doing it and started the process. Purchased a scale to weight the pellets and then a pellet sizing tool. I start weighing and sizing my pellets and after a couple of hours I make my way through the first tin. That's right, it's a SLOW process. So after that I figure I'll test the pellets and verify that they do, in fact, shoot differently as I should see POI changes. I start shooting the first group of pellets, then the second and so on. In the end I can't say that I noticed a single difference in POI change or anything else. And for the couple of hours that I just wasted I'd probably do better to spend that time practicing.
Personally, I see a good number of people weighing and sizing their pellets but I don't see them at the top of the leader board like I would expect. Especially for all the time that they must be spending weighing and sizing those damn things!
My suggestion would be to spend that time practicing.
I see this a lot in my travels -- each year I'll get wind of someone getting a new gun...every year. Even I've considered getting a new rifle, all shiny and new. But I end up talking myself off the ledge, so to speak. IMHO shooting is 90% the shooter and 10% the equipment. Let's just say that it may take you a season to start to get comfortable with your new rifle and start to understand what makes it shoot best. Only to get a new rifle at the start of the next season. You'll never get any better because you're constantly changing your equipment and never truly learning how to shoot the rifle well.
Each rifle is going to have its own shooting cycle and you may end up having to re-learn how to shoot this new rifle. Be open to change and be VERY aware of what you are doing when you shoot. As an example, a friend of mine shoots HFT springer and I wanted to try it one month. I also know that he had been extremely frustrated with the zero changing suddenly without any rhyme or reason. So I shot with him one month, never having shot a good springer before. Hold it light he says, barely touching it. Couple of shots at the sight in and I think "what the hell, I'm good". So we head down to the course and start shooting. I start knocking down target after target, I'm honestly on cloud nine and making jokes like "I thought springers were supposed to be hard...?" Meanwhile my buddy is getting all sorts of upset because he's shooting the same gun and not doing too well. After 8 lanes he makes a comment "I feel like throwing this rifle in the trees" and I'm thinking "why, it's shooting great..." because I'm never going to say something like that when he's obviously upset with how he's shooting -- at least on that day.
By the end of the course I had come in 2nd in HFT Springer, missing first by just 2 shots. After some reflection my buddy came to the realization that I wasn't touching the bi-pod at all and was touching the gun as little as possible while he was holding onto the bi-pod with his hand each time putting a different pressure on the bi-pod therefore affecting the pellet trajectory. He quickly modified his hold to stop holding onto the bi-pod and his scores improved dramatically. I haven't heard him complain about the zero moving since then.
My point in all of this is that you need to learn your gun, and the only way you can do that is to shoot as much as possible with that gun. And once you have confidence that the rifle is accurate you can start to realize that it is you, the shooter, that now has some work to do. And that those "stray" shots are not the guns fault but rather your own fault. Buying a new rifle every year essentially means that you're constantly trying to figure out the rifle. There is a lot to Field Target shooting, and it's a lot more sensitive, so any bad habits that you have will be amplified when you start shooting an air rifle.