by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This is a guest blog on building and using wind indicators, by reader Hank Vana 2.
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Now, over to you, Hank
By Hank Vana 2
The Wind Indicator consists of a wooden post, some stiff wire, a bit of bead-chain, a tie-wrap and a length of flagging tape.
This report covers:
• Wind Indicators
• Range Setup and Wind Indicator Use
• Bending the Wire Arm
• Fitting the Bead Chain
• Putting It Together
There are a number of forces that affect the free flight of a pellet. Forces like drag and gravity are easily compensated for by adjusting the rifle’s sights to agree with the point of impact. Compensating for the wind is not as easy. Because it is so variable in direction, strength and consistency, it is a force that plays havoc with our shooting unless we are constantly aware of it.
It is difficult to allow for a force that you can’t see, so adding wind indicators to your target range will show you the direction of the wind and with what strength it is blowing. Being able to see the winds you are dealing with is a huge benefit in determining how to compensate for it.
The wind indicator shown in the picture above is designed to show the wind direction and strength without tangling or twisting. It is economical to make and durable. Occasionally spraying the bead chain with a moisture-displacing lubricant or replacing a damaged flag is the only maintenance required. My indictors have been out in the elements for 2 ½ years and I have only had to replace two flags.
I have Wind Indicators setup every 5 yards along my shooting lane.
Range setup and wind indicator use
My permanent range is 55 yards long and I have wind indicators positioned every 5 yards along my shooting lane. The presence of the wind indicators allows me to relate the amount the pellet has drifted away from the point of aim to what wind I can feel on my face and see by how much the indicator flag is off vertical.
Without being able to see the wind it is easy to assume that it blows evenly and consistently all the way down range. Wish that was true. The first 15 yards of my range is partially protected by a slope and tall grass, the next 15 is open and flat with the remainder passing through a bush and wooded area. A few minutes spent observing my wind indicators will quickly show how much a breeze swirls and how much foliage and terrain influences the air flow.
When practicing I shoot at paper targets and spinners. I pay close attention to the wind indicator flags and shoot at the paper targets without allowing for wind drift. The difference between the point of aim (POA) and the point of impact (POI) shows me the amount of compensation required for the current conditions and rifle that I am using. Once I have the compensation pegged I start shooting the spinners.
There are spinner targets scattered along the lane and I will shoot at varying ranges adjusting my compensation as required. If I am hitting consistently then all is good. If I am having trouble at a specific range I will spend some time watching the wind indicator flags, set up a paper target and check my POA to POI. I want to know where my shots are going; there is no point in guessing.
After a while it gets so that you can take a quick look at the indicator flags and know how much to compensate for the shot. It’s real satisfying to snap shot at a spinner and smack it good!
Wire Arm bending detail.
Bending the Wire Arm
The wind indicator arm is made from 16 inches (about half a coat hanger) of 1/8-inch diameter stiff wire. It serves as an outrigger to keep the flag from tangling on the supporting post, and as a means to capture the bead chain.
A pair of linesman pliers is great for cutting and bending the wire, and the jaws are a convenient width for measuring the bends. I strongly recommend filing off any burrs and sharp edges before bending the wire. There are 4 steps to bending the wire arm.
Step 1. Make two ½ inch long bends to form a shallow V (about ¼ inch deep) at the end of the wire. This V is used to wedge the arm into to a hole drilled in the wooden support post.
Step 2. Form a ½ inch U shaped loop at the other end of the wire.
Step 3. Bend the loop 90 degrees to the main wire.
Step 4. Make a second 90-degree bend in the main wire 4 inches up from the loop as shown in the picture.
Fitting the Bead Chain and Indicator Flag
An indicator flag attached directly to the wire arm would provide some idea of the wind direction but it will twist up quickly and without any weight (resistance) it would not show the wind strength very well. Adding 4 to 6 inches of bead chain between the wire arm and the indicator flag adds enough weight to be able to read the wind force by the angle of the flag and the chain will allow the flag to spin freely.
Capture the bead chain by fitting it into the loop in the wire arm and then crimping the loop tight with a pair of pliers.
The indicator flag is made from flagging tape. It’s the weather (cold and UV) resistant tape used for surveying and marking hiking trails. This tape is readily available in hardware and sporting goods stores.
To make a flag, fold 12 inches of the flagging tape in half and fix the folded end to the bead chain with a tie-wrap. String or wire can be used to tie the flag to the bead chain but that requires four hands where as I can manage by myself if I use a tie-wrap.
The length of the flag is not critical but it is important that all the flags are the same and that it suits the length and weight of the chain. If the flag is too short it will flutter too much and won’t have the wind resistance to pull the bead chain off vertical.
Putting It Together
All that remains now it to attach the wire arm assembly to wooden posts positioned along the shooting lane.
The posts can be 1×2 or 2×2 in size and 3 or 4 feet long. I ripped mine out of a 2×6 with the table saw. Cut a point on one end if you are going to install the wind indicators permanently or add a base if you want them to be portable.
I use my wind indicators for measuring distances on my range so I took some time to position them accurately spaced and in a straight line. A laser level is useful if you want to mount the indicator flags in one plane, I didn’t bother with that.
To mount the wire arm assembly to the post, drill a hole a bit bigger than the wire diameter and force the “V” bent end into the hole to wedge it in. You may have to adjust the bend or the hole to get a tight fit.
Even large flying objects can’t ignore the wind.
Heavier pellets are better than light ones in a breeze but all objects in flight are affected regardless of size. Watch planes landing in a strong cross wind, even huge commercial jets like the 747 in the picture above need to compensate to hit the runway.
A bit of practicing using wind indicators for reference will give you a good idea on how much compensation to use to make the shot in breezy conditions. With a lot of practice you will compensate for windage and elevation automatically without thinking about it.