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
Part 6 – The precharged guns

Before I start with today’s topic, here’s some interesting news about the future of field target. Tim McMurray told me that AAFTA has agreed with the other field target governing bodies around the world that all future world matches will be restricted to 12 foot-pound guns starting in 2008. If I understand what he said correctly, that means that even if the world championships are held in the U.S. in the future, only 12 foot-pound guns will be allowed to compete, presenting a dilemma to American shooters.

Most Americans compete with spring guns and PCPs that operate in the 13.5-19 foot-pound range. Springers typically push 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers at 900 f.p.s. and PCPs launch 10.2-grain JSB Exact pellets to the same speed. By switching to the 12 foot-pound limit, the same springers would shoot a 7.9-grain Premier at 826 f.p.s., which isn’t too bad, but the PCPs would also have to shoot the lighter pellet, because a 10.3-grain JSB would have to be slowed to 728 f.p.s. to stay under 12 foot-pounds.

I competed for two seasons with a 12 foot-pound PCP, and my scores dropped to spring-gun levels, which for me was an average loss of three points per 60-shot match. When I returned to the Daystate Harrier set up for more power, I picked up several points per round. The Brits, who are on average the finest field target shooters in the world, will argue correctly that by forcing a limit of 12 foot-pounds, they have to improve their shooting skills. However, being an American, I rail at the thought of other countries imposing limits on my shooting – not that I ever plan on shooting in the field target world championships.

However, for those who do plan to compete at the worlds, there is a choice to be made. You don’t compete with an 18 foot-pound gun all year and then suddenly drop back to 12 foot-pounds and expect to win anything. So, the top American shooters will probably start shifting to 12 foot-pound field target rifles next year. That’s going to make things interesting for a while, until they develop their skills with the new rifles. It will be interesting to watch.

On to the topic of the day.

FT scopes
When I started in field target in the late 1990s, a lot had already happened. Shooters had already gone through the HW77s and FWB 124s and had embraced the TX200< when it came on the scene. Springers in general were being pushed aside to make way for PCPs, but the scopes everyone used were lagging behind. When I started shooting, Leupold scopes were regarded very highly, and many were sent to Premier Reticle for field target modifications.

If you couldn’t afford a Leupold 6.5-20x, you might have bought a Bushnell 6-18x Trophy or a Simmons 4-12x and did the best you could. But that only lasted for a little while because Hakko, the great Japanese scope manufacturer, started catering to airgunners. At first it was their U.S. repair center in Miami that modified other scopes for FT competitors. Before long, Hakko, themselves, began bringing out models made for the sport. Their most notable creation was the sidewheel parallax adjustment they put on their 8-40x scopes. Pretty soon, everyone had to have a sidwheel.

When I started, 20x magnification was considered to be a lot. But before two years passed, the 8-40x scopes were out. The first batches went dark after 30 power. Within a few years, manufacturers were learning how to make even 40x scopes bright enough to use. People always wonder why anyone would want such power on a rifle that’s limited to 55 yards, but they don’t understand how it’s being used. It’s needed for range finding. To determine range, you need to see when very small things come into focus; and, beyond 40 yards, it takes all the power a scope has. I like to focus on the swivel that the reset string is tied to. With 30x, I can do that out to 35-40 yards, depending on the light.

Burris and Bushnell
About 18 months to 2 years later, the Burris 8-32x scope hit the scene and many shooters praised its clear optics. I tried one but found that it demanded the absolute correct placement of the eye to see anything. If your eye wasn’t in the right spot, the picture was black. That’s great if you own the scope and rifle, but when you borrow one to try, you can’t make the necessary adjustments.

The Bushnell 4000 Elite series was another popular scope in the early part of the new millennium. It had crystal-clear optics and a price that was lower than the Leupold.

Scope aids
Scopes weren’t alone in the optical revolution brought about by field target. The aids that accompanied them were quite interesting, as well. Among the most popular were the rubber eyeshades of various shapes that shooters used to position their eyes and block out excess sunlight. When the sun is on your side, it can play real havoc if you are trying to see something through a high-power scope. They also help position your eye so parallax is reduced to the minimum.

Large eyeshade was cut to fit the shooter and left on the ocular (eye) bell full time. It helped locate the shooter’s head and kept stray sunlight out of the image.

Sunshades for the objective bell are another popular accessory, only being so specific to the scope they are not offered as aftermarket options, but as standard accessories included with the scope. My advice if you have a sunshade is to mount it and leave it. A time will come when you will be glad you did, for a patch of sun falling on the objective lens will gray out the image.

Scope levels are another option you should consider. I like the B-Square model that sticks out to the side of the scope (either side) because I can watch it while sighting. A mount that requires you to move your head to check is useless, because you can never be sure of the shot. Anthony Storey modified several dozen scopes by putting a bubble level INSIDE the scope so the shooter could see it while sighting. This was a wonderful option, and I’ve wondered why no scope manufacturer has ever bothered to offer it as a feature.

The enlarged sidewheel is the most popular scope accessory of all. It lets you put white artist’s tape around the rim to mark the actual distances at which the scope focuses. A 6″ sidewheel provides over 18″ of space (pi still being 3.14159) on which to inscribe yardage, and that means you can have a meaningful separation between 18 yards and 20 – where there is a huge parallax and trajectory difference. When you’re trying to shoot through 3/8″ kill zones at 15 yards, it matters big time!

Leapers’ optional 100mm sidewheel fits all Leapers scopes with sidewheel adjustment. Though the ranges are already engraved on the rim of the wheel, field target competitors will measure them again on an actual range and write the markings on a strip of white artist’s tape.

This sidewheel has yardage marked off out to 55. The elevation knob is also enlarged and correlated to the sidewheel, so the shooter knows how to adjust for shots at every distance. This must be worked out by the shooter for every rifle/scope/pellet combination, which is why you use only one type of pellet.

The future?
In the future, look for scopes with greater light transmission. The 30mm scope tube is not the largest that can be constructed, nor should it be. Also, look for more positive erector tube adjustments without floating on the return springs at the end of travel. I don’t think we’ve seen all the reticles yet, nor has the laser been fully incorporated into the scope as far as it could be.

Field target has given us the sidewheel parallax adjustment, internal scope levels (though there is a long way yet to go), and magnification powers beyond anything ever imagined by the staunchest long-range varmint hunter. It has helped mature riflescopes inside two decades. I don’t believe the job is finished.

What I didn’t address in this post is how to select a field target scope, so expect that in part two of the scopes report.