Introduction to Field Target – Part 1How it all began

by B.B. Pelletier

This report is long overdue. Pyramyd Air has asked both me and Tom Gaylord to write reports and articles about field target so shooters can learn the sport. This will be a big one – possibly larger than the spring gun tune report that had 13 parts! I will give you breaks in between the segments and I will give descriptive subtitles, so you know what each segment covers. Let’s get started!

Field target began in Great Britan sometime in the early 1980s. According to the British Field Target Association (BFTA) field target manual, the year was 1981. They say there that the original purpose was a hunting simulation, but I have been told by many veteran shooters that FT was just another sport that happened to use animal silhouettes as targets.

The course of fire is set outdoors in a natural setting. Targets are set in designated lanes of fire. A lane has a baseline, or firing point, two distinct sides that may not be parallel or straight and a far boundary. Originally the targets were set down in the lane between 10 and 50 yards from the firing point, but that was changed to meters several years ago, so the far target can be as far as 50 meters or 55 yards away. The close targets are still set just 10 yards away in U.S. matches. In Great Britan the ranges are from 7 to 50 meters. The targets are not hidden from the shooters, though they can be hard to see, depending on where they are placed on the lane and the lighting at any given time. The object of the game is not to locate the targets, but to engage and “kill” them by knocking them over.

This drawing of a typical field target lane shows how asymetrical they can be. The firing line or point will be marked by two wooden stakes. Your barrel must be between those stakes when you shoot.

The original targets were simply steel silhouettes of animals. In the first iteration, the targets didn’t fall down; they had stickers on them and a hit on the sticker recorded the point. But that proved too cumbersome and slowed the match down. The next targets were hinged at the base and fell over backwards when hit. Hit them anywhere with sufficient energy and they would fall over. A strong nylon string ran from the firing point to the target to pull them up when they were hit. They were much easier to see and to operate from the firing point, but soon proved too easy to hit and a new type of target was designed.

The new type of target that is still in use today has a hole cut in it though which the pellet must pass. Behind the hole is a paddle, which is a mechanism that holds the target in the upright position. Hit it and it will fall backwards, and topple the target, as well. A reset string runs from the target back to the firing point. It sounds very straightforward when you read about it, but in practice, how the targets operate is a huge determining factor in the sport. I will come back to them several times as we learn about FT.

The early FT shooters used .22 caliber airguns because of their greater knockdown power, however when the kill zone entered the picture, a switch was made to .177. The reason for this switch is because of the kill zone. You must shoot through it to hit the paddle, but if your pellet touches the side of the kill zone before passing through to hit the paddle, it pushes the target backwards, which can lock the target in the upright position. Even if part of your pellet goes on to hit the paddle, if the target is locked in position by the energy of the pellet hitting the edge of the kill zone first, the target will not fall and no point will be scored. This is called a split and it is the main reason FT is such a demanding sport. Allow me to explain.

Kill zones can range in size from a quarter-inch to over two inches. However, while you do see quarter-inch kill zones in matches, it is uncommon to see one larger than an inch and a half. The quarter-inch kill zones are usually placed from 10 to 20 yards, which sounds like a good thing until you understand how a pellet behaves in flight. Because the scope is mounted above the axis of the barrel, it is sighted so the pellet appears to rise up until it reaches about 20 yards. Then, though it is still following an arched trajectory, it appears to fly “flat” until anywhere from 30 to 35 yards – depending on the muzzle velocity. After that, it begins to drop again. To score on a target with a quarter-inch kill zone, your pellet, which is already 0.177″ wide, much pass through a hole 0.250″ wide without touching the sides. You can only be off by as much as 0.073″! Actually, there is a little more leeway than that, because a small split where the edge of the kill zone is only grazed is still going to score – probably.

Because of the very arched trajectory of a pellet, knowing the exact range to the target is vital to hitting the smaller kill zones. So it’s easy to understand why airgunners are so obsessed with rangefinding. Unfortunately the rules prohibit the use of rangefinders, so they must use something else, which is a subject for another report.

23 thoughts on “Introduction to Field Target – Part 1How it all began”

  1. B.B.–
    Scott her4e again–When cleaning can you get sufficient results usint the non-embedding bore cleaner on patch that is well covered with the compound?

  2. All guns used for f&t in the uk are shooting 8.7 grian pellets at about 775 fps thats about 11.60 ftlbs witch is sailing close to the uk limit of 12,ftlbs,all guns are tested before the comp,spring or pcp both at this power range are very accurate out to 50 mtrs,and well capeable of clean kills on small vermin in the right hands,and boy can those uk lads shoot well!

  3. BB.

    I wanna buy a PCP for field target and some shorter range target shooting. Ive been looking at the Air Arms s400, the Daystate X2R (which i find somewhat expensive), and the Falcon FN 19. Which one do you find more accurate, with better trigger and higher build quality?

    If you think i have missed a a good option, please feel free to mention it. PLease have in mind that I would prefer extra shots per charge rather than extra power


  4. FT,

    My choice would be the single-shot S400 or Falcon, but that’s because I like single-shots.

    The Daystate has a regulator which isn’t necessary and will cause problems down the road.

    All three guns will be similarly accurate. If you really intend to shoot FT, single shot is the only way to go. You don’t want to shoot a blank in a match!


  5. BB.

    Thanks for your opinion. Speaking about the falcon fn 19, what pellets do you find to be the best. Im guesing that either kodiaks or JSBs will be among the best, in the case of the JSBs could you specify weight.


  6. BB, I’m in a toss-up between getting the Daisy 22SG and the Sheridan 392. Both look like great guns but is the 392 really $50( and no scope included) better than the 22SG? The idea of getting a wooden stock and a nice scope for under $100 is way appealing.

  7. Yes, the 392 is really worth the extra money. Forget the scope because it isn’t really convenient when using a multi-pump.

    I recommend the 22SG only when the buywer really cannot make the stretch.

    You will not regret getting the 392.


  8. just a note to ft i’m womdering for f.t. you would not be considering some of the best rifles in world and that is weihrauch. if b.b. said accuracy is the name of the game in f.t. than that would rank these rifles as some of the very best ie; hw97k or 100thumb hole.
    good shooting.

    up here in canada eh!

  9. BB,

    I got my burris 8-32×50 today and its awsome. It so much brighter than my leapers 8-32×56 and that was bright to start (brighter for the price). I have been waiting on my CF air tank for three weeks! I have a pump and an alluminum tank but neither are functional at the moment. I was shooting my airwolf at the low amount pressure that i do have (you can WATCH the pellet) The trigger is beyond me. I accedentaly fired the gun twice! One of the two times was when i brushed itputting my finger in the trigger gaurd. PLEASE NOBODY LECTURE ME (lol).


    I would get the Falcon over the air arms any day. Only my opinion.


  10. BB
    Let’s say you would like to set up your own air firing range, say 5 or 10 line. Just a simple, versitile, removable range (not real permanent in case we are only leasing the property). What kind of advice would you have: equipment, lot size, location, length, etc. Perhaps make a blog about this, because I am very interested in making a better and safer place to plink and show others basic weapon handling. JP

  11. JP,

    Please restate your question, because I don’t know what you are asking. What is 5 or 10 LINE? Do you means LANES? Are you asking about a field target course, because you also say plinking. Field target isn’t the same as plinking. It’s a sport with rules.

    Or are you setting up a target range? If so, will it have paper targets?

    Please explain.


  12. I was thinking of leasing or getting permission to use someone’s property to set up an air rifle range. I don’t want a permanent installation because it’s not my property, but what I am after is the basic layout for average air rifles: say about 5 lanes for pop cans, paper, or field target. Along with how big the range might have to be, I would like a “pro’s” opinion on how the range is run. That’s why this might make a good blog subject: what is an air rifle range supposed to be…. JP

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