by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1 – How it all began
Part 2 – Targets
Part 3 – Targets – Part 2
Part 4 – Squads
Part 5 – The spring guns

Before we begin, I was told yesterday from a reliable source that Daystate bullets for the AirRanger rifle are sourced from CCI. Apparently, the deal to buy them from Eley fell through. Airguns of Arizona, the U.S. Daystate inporter, provided that information. Our reader, who made the mistake of buying the bullets for his Condor, lives in the United Kingdom, and he says he bought them directly from Daystate, so someone there should have advised him of the one and only purpose for these bullets.

Let’s now look at the precharged guns used for field target. There are fewer U.S. shooters shooting PCPs than spring guns in field target, but those who do usually place higher in the matches. The precharged guns are so easy to shoot accurately that they take you to a new level of competition, which is why they only compete among themselves.

Back in the early 1980s, spring guns still ruled the sport, but by the middle of the decade the handwriting was on the wall. PCPs were here to stay, and they could not be beaten by springers, not even by the fabulous Whiscombes that almost act like PCPs. Daystate was an early leader, with the Huntsman and then the CR94 dominating many matches. I have covered these rifles already in my blog posting about Daystate. Air Arms was their chief rival in numbers, with their NJR 100 being the top competition rifle in the line.

By the middle 1990s, Daystate was being challenged on all sides by newer makers such as Falcon (reborn from the ashes of Titan). I shot both brands of rifles, including their tricked-out field target models, and both shot so much better than I that I could not judge which one was superior, if either really was. It’s like Ford and Chevy – both camps have a large following and everyone thinks their brand is best.

By the end of the ’90s, specialized airguns started coming from workshops around America like the one run by Alan Zasadny. Alan has worked on many different makes and models, but he’s well-known for his conversions of FWB P70s and P70 Juniors – turning them from 6-foot-pound 10-meter target rifles into 19-foot-pound fire-breathing field target rifles. Alan also converted other makes of rifles to field target use. Within five years, airgun makers were finally alerted to the fact that field target was a legitimate sport, and they could profit by building guns for it. Today, the market is bursting with factory-made field target rifles from companies such as FWB and Steyr.

Steyr’s HP field target rifle is an adaptation of their 10-meter technology.

That brings us up to date, in general, except for a special rifle I will share with you at the end of this post. Right now, let’s look at what elements make a field target rifle different than an off-the-shelf sporting PCP.

A field target rifle is built for the sport. For example, a rifle with a flat forearm is made that way to rest either on the knee or arm of a seated shooter. More advanced rifles have a knee rest that descends from the forearm. It can be adjusted to allow the shooter to hold a very heavy rifle perfectly still. The pistol grip is more vertical than those found on sporting rifles. Many rifles have thumbhole stocks, and those that have them offer either the thumb through the stock or aligned vertically. The cheekpiece adjusts, as does the buttplate. The sum of the adjustments brings the shooter’s eye into perfect alignment with the exit pupil of the scope, making the rifle feel like it was custom-made for that person.

This shooter holds his PCP rifle in the classic AAFTA seated position. All the adjustments mentioned in the text can be seen here.

A field target competitor doesn’t worry about the height of his scope above the bore of the gun. Before competition, the gun is sighted-in for every possible range and situation so there can be no surprises in a match. Accuracy is above everything, so a competitor keeps his gun’s velocity around 900 f.p.s.

The triggers of PCP field target rifles are usually very light, though not as light as 10-meter rifles. Is is not uncommon to encounter trigger-pulls in the one- and two-ounce range, though I personally like a pull weight to be a little heavier – maybe eight ounces. I also like a positive second-stage stop.

Finally, you’ll encounter a host of bizarre homegrown accessories on PCP rifles. The most common is a small feather, piece of yarn or a ribbon tethered to the stock to indicate which way the wind is blowing at the shooter’s location. The second most common thing is a super-large parallax adjustment wheel on the left side of the scope. The bigger the better! The shooter wraps white tape around the rim of the wheel and inscribes the ranges that his scope actually measures when correcting for parallax.

USFT is a comer!
The USFT rifle from Mac-1 Airgun is purpose-built for field target competition. I will be turning this blog over to Tom Gaylord tomorrow to tell you about this fine rifle, but I’m going to steal a little of his thunder and give you a peek at it now. Held by 2007 National Field Target Champion Paul Cray in the picture below, the huge circle on Paul’s rifle is the parallax adjustment wheel for his scope. The black INSIDE RING is as large as the enlarged wheels on most shooter’s scopes.

Four of the top five shooters in the U.S. used USFT rifles this year, including the 2007 National Champion, Paul Cray.

Now I know I glossed over a lot of PCP rifles in this report, but I’m going to hit it harder in the Daystate series, so don’t worry.