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Gary Chillingworth let’s us in on some tips of the trade, which will hopefully make you a better shooter
With the start of the HFT season just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to go through a few tips and tricks that I have learned over the years. I know I have covered things like this in the past, but the great thing about shooting is, every year we have more and more people joining the sport and it's always good to help them along. Also, I learn every time I shoot, and over the past few years, I have learned so much about shooting technique and the importance of scope set-up, it's about time I passed on this new information.
OK, so we are going to start with the basics. HFT is a target sport shot between 8 and 45 yards, with varying kill zones at different lengths, as follows: 15mm are from 13 to 25 yards; 20mm from 8 to 30 yards; 25mm from 8 to 40; 30mm from 8 to 40; 35mm and larger from 8 to 45. Supported standing shots with a 25mm can go out to 30 yards; supported kneeling shots have to be a 35mm kill, or bigger, and can reach out to 40 yards, and anything unsupported can only go to 35 yards.
I know that the above paragraph can be a little dry, but please write it down or print it out. I am amazed the amount of time I have shot with someone who has taken on a 25mm supported stander and shot it at 35 yards. If you know your ranges, then this is the first battle. If you don't know at what range the target is, then try thinking what it can't be and make sure these aim points are outside of the kill zone.
The next thing I would suggest is to make your gun and scope work for you. Most scopes have a multi-aim-point reticle and if you struggle with rangefinding, there are a few tricks that you can use. The first is be honest with yourself, if you have dodgy eyes and struggle to rangefind things at long distance, then you need a set-up for long-range targets.
I will try to explain this without getting too in-depth because sometimes thinking about things like this makes my brain hurt. I will write a separate article on scope height later in the year, but to make life easy, I'm going to use a good rule of thumb.
If you have a scope mounted close to the barrel - medium or low mounts - you will get a fairly flat arc of the pellet in relationship to the scope's reticle. However, if you put a set of high mounts on the gun and lift up the scope, then the short targets will have a wider spread, but the targets far away will be narrower. For instance, take my gun; it is set with medium mounts and a 40-yard zero, so if I am shooting an 8-yard target, I need to use the 3 mil-dot aim point that is below the cross hairs. This is called 'hold over'. At 45 yards, I have to use the 1 mil-dot aim point below the cross hairs. However, if I set the gun up with high mounts, then my 8-yard target now needs 5 mil-dots of hold over, but my long range 45-yard target only need .3 of a mil-dot. So, if I was good at ranging short targets, then I should go for a high mount set-up because all I would need to do is place my cross hairs in the middle of the target at ranges from 38 to 45 yards and they should all fall over. I hope this makes sense!
The second thing is, look at your reticle. I am lucky because the scope I use has both half and full mil-dots, and with a 40-yard zero, I know that on my 15mm targets, all I have to do is place my first mil-dot above the top of the kill zone and this will allow me to kill all my targets from 16 to 30 yards, and it works for the 20mm, too, because all my impact points from 16 to 32 yards are just below my first half mil-dot line. I set my scope's parallax to be blurry at 15 yards, so I know that if the scope is clear, I use the mil-dot at the top, and if there is blur, I'll use my secondary aim point. This way, the 15 and 20mm targets are almost a guaranteed two points.
This is why, if you are an HFT shooter, it is important to shoot HFT targets, and these are readily available from good gun shops or from companies like Flopover, for around £15.
However, if you prefer a more Heath Robinson approach, and like to build your own, then a there is another option. Earlier in the year, I received a great email from one of our readers, Adrian Jones, who has repurposed those pull lids you get on the top of baked bean cans, to which you can attach stickers of varying sizes, and blast away to your heart's content. Adrian, and his son, Connor, shoot these targets and then recycle them. We all have a ready supply because quite a few cans now have the pull top, and it's great to reuse items - good for shooting and the environment.
Two things: when you are shooting, always make sure that you have an adequate back stop, and remember, these lids can be sharp, so either take this into account and wear gloves, or use a bit of sandpaper to take the edges off.
The best you can be
As I am coming to the end of this piece, I've realised that I'm going to have to come back to this topic again for the next few months, so if there is anything you need help with, please drop me a line, but for now, this is my final piece of advice. There is no substitute for range time, so please, join a club or get some land and go out and shoot, and when you do, make sure that every shot you take is the best you can make it. It is very easy to get into the habit of just getting down and not putting your head into the correct position. If you have a target with a big kill zone, use a pen or a sticker to make a mark in the middle of the kill and try to hit this every time. Remember, if you aim small, you will miss small. Also, move about; it is very easy to get into a comfortable and locked position when you are training, so every few shots, take your eye from the scope, take a stander or kneeler, don't lock in. What you need is repeatability; this is the ability to take the gun from your bag and place the scope to your eye and know that you are 100% centred in the middle of the optic, and trust me, when you can do this time after time, your score will get better and better.
If you have any other tips, then please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if possible, include a picture of you and your gun.
Read more from Gary Chillingworth...
Why have HFT guns moved away from hunting rifles
Can a break-barrel be as accurate as an underlever?
Is target shooting the sport for you?
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