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Starting a field target club

field target
Field-target with kill zone reducers.

This report covers:

  • Greatest shooting sport that nobody does
  • A job worth doing…
  • Get a field target
  • Making your first field target course
  • Expanding
  • The anal shooter
  • The fiddler
  • The gadget guy
  • The alibi
  • Lighting the target|
  • Forced offhand shots
  • What I haven’t talked about

This report is for reader Hoppalong Doc, who is considering doing this. It’s also for the rest of you who might like to try it.

I have written quite a lot about starting a field target club, with the best being a 6-part report titled Starting your own field target club. I don’t want to repeat all of that today. If you really want to know what goes on in a field target match, read all six parts of that report. Today I will write about things I haven’t addressed before

Greatest shooting sport that nobody does

Field target is a great airgun sport that airgunners like to talk about. But when it comes time to do it, people drop out. There are certainly several hundred field target competitors in the U.S. today, and there are tens of thousands of airgunners on the sidelines, watching them and talking about doing it.

A job worth doing…

… is worthy doing poorly. In other words, Hoppy, just do it.

Get a field target

My first field target was a small bunny with a two-inch kill zone. I found him for sale in a gun store, of all places. He was touted as a .22 rimfire target but the sheet metal target face (the silhouette of the bunny) was too thin to take the beating from a 100 foot-pound gun. I set him up at the Roanoke airgun show and Gary Barnes proceeded to shoot at him with his big bore rifles. In those days his guns weren’t that powerful, but they were more powerful than a .22 long rifle and when I discovered what was happening, my bunny was a crumpled mess. Fortunately he was made of low carbon steel and a hammer straightened him out again.

A two-inch kill zone is not a proper field target, but when you don’t have any, it will do. I took that bunny out to my friend’s farm, where we both shot at him at 50 yards with my Career 707. That was so much fun that my friend bought a field target for himself. Now we had two.

Making your first field target course

Here is what my friend and I did. We placed those two field targets in his field (where else?) and ran a long string from each back to a firing position. Then we moved forward about 10 yards and shot them from a firing point that was 20 yards from my friend’s smaller target and 30 yards from my bunny with the two-inch kill zone. We shot two shots at each target, so four shots per position. Shooting from both positions made a total of eight shots in all. If we wanted to shoot more shots we moved back to the first position and repeated everything.

Are you getting it? There were no rules, other than the ones we agreed upon. The “course” had no dimensions, other than the land we used. That was our first field target course.

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The Izaac Walton League of Damascus, Maryland, had a three gun shoot that was sponsored by the Chevy Sportsman’s Challenge. Edith and I were publishing The Airgun Letter at the time and our forum was extremely active.

Through our forum we were asked by the Damascus, Maryland, Izaac Walton League to come and set up a course where people could also shoot adult airguns. We had done this several weeks before for another gun club with disastrous results. Once we got there they announced that our range was “BB gun competition for the kids.” In truth the guns we had on line were heavy for adults and far too large and heavy for kids. One kid threw my R1 down on the cement after the scope hit him in the eye! So we were reluctant to do it again, but the man who contacted us assured us that he and two other guys from the Izaac Walton League would stay with us on the line for the duration of the event. And they stayed true to their word. As I recall, I now owned three field targets so that is what we set up for people to shoot.

Well, after the event was over those three guys asked Edith and I to help them start a field target club at that Izaac Walton League. One of the guys was on the board of directors, and he presented our idea to the board. They approved an unused piece of woods that we could have, and the four of us started planning.

We each could have bought two field targets and started with eight. If we then shot each target from two positions that would give us 16 targets and two shots at each would give a 32-shot match. Do it before lunch and again afterwards and the match has 64 shots. But I had a better idea. I had shot field target with Trooper Walsh in Virginia and he had offered to loan me 20 British field targets to start a club. So that’s what we did.

Those targets were made from very heavy steel and were definitely overbuilt. They worked only after considerable oiling, plus they had to be very level to function properly. They were better than no targets, but what we did was charge $5 per match for every non Izaac Walton member and we used the money to buy new targets. In those days there weren’t many sources for them and $60 was about what one cost. The $30 field targets that abound today were 15 years in the future.

We shot a couple matches that year, maybe three. What that did was teach us what it’s like to run a match. And that was how the Damascus Ikes Field Target Association (DIFTA) began.

We learned how different shooters act in matches which is far more instructive than learning how to set up a lane for a match. Here are some “for examples.”

The anal shooter

The anal shooter will sit on a lane and complain that his rangefinder (he uses the coincidence property of his scope’s adjustable objective to determine range) has shown that the near target on lane one is only 9-1/2 meters away — not 10. The match director tells him to just shoot it and he complains that he has set up his scope for 10 to 50 meters. He’s not set up to shoot closer than 10 meters.

Well, excuse me! This is a shooting contest — not a rangefinding contest. You may set your scope and rifle up for certain distances, but you should also know what it does outside those distances, because people make mistakes. Besides — who made your scope the official range measuring tool for this competition? BB Pelletier contends that you can hand each shooter a card with the exact distance to every target in the course and the final scores will be the same.

The fiddler

The fiddler sits on his lane for as long as you allow him, fiddling with the stuff on his rifle. He is the guy who caused the maximum time limit per lane rule to be created.

The gadget guy

The gadget guy shows up to one match with a harness that holds him in place like the ground mount on a heavy machine gun. Next time he has a monopod that connects his rifle to his ankle (because it’s not allowed to touch the ground) and the time after that his scope has a level that beeps when it’s not level. 

I have seen a two-piece scope mount with each ring base made of five individual machined blocks. Those rings were five inches high and the shooter had to put the cheekpiece of the stock under his chin to see. It reportedly cost the shooter $500. I have seen sidewheels that were 8 inches in diameter so there could be more distance on the rim for target distances to be written.

Gadget guys show up with gadgets that they hope will make them better shooters. Winners have the same airgun, match after match, and they know exactly where it is shooting.

The alibi

When a target doesn’t fall in a match like it is supposed to, the shooter may get an alibi, where the loss of a score is not counted against him. The match director has to rule over this. Sometimes just one shooter has a problem, and, if so, it is almost always caused by a “split.” A split is when the pellet has nicked the edge of the kill zone hole and only part of the pellet got through to hit the paddle. Since the pellet pushed the target face back when it nicked the edge, the target was locked upright.The paddle was partly overcome by the piece of pellet that hit it, so it went back, but the target didn’t fall.

I do two things when this happens. First, when I set up the targets I shoot each one with a 3 foot-pound pellet pistol after it is set up. If three foot-pounds will drop it, anything the competitors shoot should knock it down.

Second, when this happens to just one shooter, I usually rule against him. I may ask him to shoot at the target again. If it falls I rule against his point from during the match. If it doesn’t fall I may ask him to continue shooting until he hits the paddle. If he misses five times in a row I rule against him, unless other shooters had the same problem. If several did, I will probably exclude that target from the match.

If the target is bad, I will exchange it when we break for lunch. I also repaint the targets during the lunch break. That’s why my field targets are all black and their paddles are international orange. I’m sorry when all the paint goes off the paddle and you can’t see it to aim. Get a better scope.

Lighting the target

In the woods, it can be very difficult to see the target through a scope. To exacerbate this match directors have been known to put targets inside garbage cans to make the light really bad. This is where 50-power scopes go bonkers.

The light also changes during a match as the sun travels through the sky. Lanes become bad and good, depending on the time of day, which is why I try to randomize the lanes where each squad starts.

Forced offhand shots

Many matches have lanes where you are forced to shoot offhand. The sign on the lane tells you to. Instead of that I like it where the terrain forces you to stand. That’s more problematic, depending on the height of the shooters, but I prefer doing it that way, rather than just forcing shooters to stand. A really cool one is where they have to shoot through an opening in branches and the tall guys have to hunch over to see the target.

What I haven’t talked about

I haven’t talked about setting up lanes, target placement and other things related to running a match. Those other reports I referred you to should have most of that. But Hoppalong Doc, I would like to hear from you on what I haven’t addressed.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

49 thoughts on “Starting a field target club”

  1. BB,

    How do you inform the shooters that their time is up? Is there somebody following along or a some pre arranged signal like a bell or buzzer? Your first picture shows a field target with reducers. How big is the largest target area?


  2. B.B.

    Great topic and shooting Field Target is a lot of fun! Even the dead serious ones, we have a bunch of former Nation Champions who shoot, are the nicest and friendliest people around.
    Enter one today!


    PS B.B. you should have told the guy complaining about the 9.5 meter target that it really was 10 meters and his scope is off. That would really have set him off….lol

  3. Beyond the problem of competing in any game that would have me as a competitor, the perceived cost turned me off to field target. Maybe if there was a “Hopeless” class?

    FT Hopeless Class (a fantasy in progress)
    – The idea is to have more fun by less cost to play. A player’s score is divided by the cost of the gun system used. Thus a low scoring player can compensate by having shot a really cheap gun with stock sights.
    – Each player loans a target, a gun and gives thrice the necessary ammo to the Pool, and players pick from that Pool. Picks can be by random assignment, by random assigned first choice, second, etc., or by standings score (winner picks first, loser picks first).
    – Other rules and course layout are per Field Target, as agreed among by the players before they pick their guns.
    – Each gun must have a Cost Sheet, including the approximate retail costs of the gun, optics, and aftermarket parts and modifications, at the time such items were sold new. What is the lowest reasonable sum one needed to obtain that setup, brand new?
    – Each gun must pass the solemn Tech Inspection, which is by passing it around among all the players.
    – As safety standards have changed over the years, and old guns may not work as new, any known safety issues must be stated in Tech Inspection and written on the gun.
    – Each gun must be able to complete the course, as determined by Tech Inspection.
    – Complaints against some one or their Cost Sheet will be resolved by arbitration, which involves buying that someone and a second participant “judge” a beer or equivalent.
    – If trophies or medals are not available, winners can ask the losers to write their player nickname, gun system, cost and score on the back of their Cost Sheet as record of the victory.

    • Berserkeley Mike,

      Bizarre rules. Just throw them all out the window. All targets are set at the largest aperture. Shooters can use whatever air rifle they want as long as it doesn’t destroy the target. They replace the target with a new one if destroyed. There may be mandatory positions like using a Lazy Boy. Everybody wins after they complete the course. Just have fun.


      • Siraniko,

        Wait a second. “Everybody wins?!” Now you are starting to sound like one of those namby pampy people who hand out trophies for all of the participants.

        There is one rule. Have fun. No trophies. No score cards. Do not worry if they do not complete the course. Have fun.

        • R.R.
          I can see the “no prizes” part,, but winning is still needed. Humans are competitive by nature. If we weren’t we wouldn’t be the dominant specie. It is the reason most engage in sports involving two or more people.
          The trouble is with the “losing” part. Personally, I have never been overly concerned when I lose. I much prefer to win, but not winning has always resulted in my practicing more.

          Perhaps forget about all of those rules and let each entrant state a value of their equipment and then pay an entry fee based on a percentage of that value. The prizes could be paid out to the top four at the rates of 40, 30, 20, and 10 percent of the pool.

          Now, to keep things honest, it could be called a “claimer’s” contest where, after the event, anyone could “claim” said equipment for the price previously stated by the owner.

          OR,,,, forget all that and just shoot,,, then go to the bar and lie about how well we did.


  4. Thank you BB, I am honored. You mention that I should just get out there and shoot. You’re right of course, but some of us remain a bit self conscious about shooting in public. Yep . . . I’ll get over it. I enjoy your definition of various shooters . . . makes me far less self-conscious. The abandoned range that we have now has household items such as pots and pans hanging from the bushes as well as rectangular targets with clips on them for hanging bullseye targets. At our 85 yard marker someone painted an artistic rendering of Bozo the clown with a hole where his nose should be. What I’m saying is that we’ve got some good bones there along with covered shooting tables and running water. For now, I shoot peacefully on my own for the most part. This is good because it keeps me working on technique. My oldest son, an Army officer, visited for a week this summer, and by watching him, I remembered some of what I was taught all those many years ago when I served. Boy, can he shoot. West Point taught him well, even if it was over 20 years ago. Remember playing horse with a basketball when you were a kid? That’s what my one shooting buddy and I do for our entertainment out at the range. The best part of it is that it’s only a 15 minute ride by golf cart from our homes. I’m definitely an eager learner, but as yet I can’t say what might have been left out of the blog . . . it’s hard to critique what I don’t know. I promise though, I’ll ask lots of questions as they come up. I’ll become a pest, although I’ll try not to.The main goal it to have fun! Thanks again, Orv. (by the way, appreciate everyone’s input).

    • Hoppalong Doc

      Maybe to start you can make some of these: /blog/2017/03/diy-spinner-targets/ from reader Vana-2, who goes by the name Hank instead of buying official knockdown targets for Field Target. As Yogi pointed out you can use washers 5/8″ to 1 1/8″ in diameter for swinging targets. Then when you have enough people interested (at least four) you can then invest in those knockdown targets.


    • Doc,

      There is nothing wrong with asking questions. It is when you become like the anal shooter and reject the answers because they do not fit your perspective that people start to ignore you.

      As for fun, that is why the rules have changed many times over the years. Field Target started as a way for a bunch of airgunners to keep there skill levels up when they were not out actually hunting.

      It is when it became a sport that it’s problems began. The fun went away. The few who could afford such started building airgun systems designed specifically for Field Target. It became too competitive. The fun was gone. The average guy with the average airgun left the sport. Field Target almost died.

      To save it, the smart ones created different “classes” so that people with hunting sproingers were not competing against the high tech customized PCP’s. Today there are several classes with sub-classes. Some even have experience levels.

      The idea is to keep the fun in it. That will be the challenge in the future. More and more companies are recognizing Field Target as a competitive sport and are marketing products to give the shooter “an edge”. There are now air rifles, scopes, etc. designed specifically for Field Target. There are world wide organizations with matches all over the world. They have all kinds of rules and regulations. Soon they will likely be in the Olympics.

      I do hope they leave mini-sniping alone, at least as long as I am alive.

  5. BB,

    pretty brave to hand a gun as nice as an R1 to some kid. I think if he had dropped my rifle on the cement, I would have dropped *him* on the cement 🙂

    The description of the shooter types is spot-on, probably for most sports/hobbies.


        • Bet that would not happen in Singapore and other places where good manners, behavior and discipline are expected and demanded of both children and adults. Also, the concept of “everyone gets a trophy” kills the fun of friendly competition and takes away any incentive for a participant in an event to learn from his/her mistakes and to put in the necessary time and effort required to improve on skills.

          Meantime FM continues to do his best to improve his backyard shooting skills although certainly he will not ever win trophies in Field Target competition. No matter, as has been pointed out, it is about having FUN – in Late Childhood. 🙂

  6. Doc,

    An excellent report.

    I have a Field Target target of a rat, and on a good eyesight day I can hit the paddle, but I shoot it from a bench (well, my patio table). I guess that’s against the rules!


  7. I moved from Maryland in 2015. The only thing I miss is shooting field target at DIFTA. They are the best bunch of people. I moved to Iowa and found all three people that shoot air guns. That’s it besides kids shooting birds.

    I talked to gun clubs and gun sales shops . I tried to generate some interest in field target. I can tell once it gets to Iowa it will be popular.

    But for now I just shoot at my targets in my yard.

    • Racer x:
      Consider this–All the former kids that shot airguns when they were younger are now adults and are potential members of your new club. All the kids that currently shoot BB guns at birds and soda cans (and their parents) are potential members of your club.
      Perhaps issue a challenge to the members of the firearms clubs this winter after deer season to an indoor match?

        • Till the look at the cost of power burning ammo.
          I’m the only guy at my club who is like Roam’n Greco described.
          EVERYBODY else came from powder burners. Then then realized the high power PCP’s are more accurate than centerfires. 100 yards is the new 300.

          RacerX, Hunting permits are down all over the country. Not enough deer hunters.

          • You are singing to the choir here. I tell people I can get 2000 rounds of match grade ammo delivered for 45 bucks. I tell them the can get a full auto machine gun that they can shoot for pennies in the back yard… Nothing.

            I have tried to go to shops and explained they can make money selling guns, targets ammo accessories.
            They can sell air
            They can make money doing repairs and upgrades.
            They can open a ten meter range indoors without a huge steep plate sand trap and ventilation system. Plus gun range insurance must be expensive.
            And they can have field target or ten meter competitors. Charge for participating.
            It’s a ground floor opportunity for a struggling gun shop to expand there operation for very little investment.

            I even volunteered to help them get going at no charge just free advice and all.

            One guy pointed to a plastic pellet gun on a rack and said we tried air guns and they don’t sell.

            Most just smile and thank you very much.

            Iowa is new to me so I need to network some more I guess.

  8. I know from reading the early (2005) blog posts that there is at least one reader in Sharon, Pa. area (Western Pa.). Would there be anyone in Northwest Pa. who might be interested in starting some sort of airgun club?

    By the way, I just read post 250 out of 4337!

      • I ALWAYS read ALL the comments. There is as much or more info in the comments as there is in B.B.’s posts. They are also entertaining. Recently, I am feeling like CFX-guy with my many questions, although I exercise a bit more restraint because I have the benefit of searching through many more years of blog entries and comments. But his enthusiasm is infectious. The entries are also poignant at times. I got a bit misty reading a request from a grandfather for a review of an airgun his grandson was interested in. The grandson was typing the comment for the man. The next comment was a few weeks later and the grandson reported that his grandfather had passed and left him a 1949 Sheridan and the money for the new airgun. Informative, Humorous, Dramatic, Entertaining. And in 250 posts, only one uncivilized comment.
        I love this blog!

      • Hello Charles, I guess it would depend how many folks we get and where they are located. I’m just about as far north from you as you can go without getting your feet wet, so we are about an hour apart. If we can find someone from Crawford or Venango County, PA, for example, that might cut our travel time in half, otherwise perhaps we could rotate hosting each other. I’m going to post something on the current blog to see if we can’t generate some more interest. By the way, my name is Bill. Bill not William OK. And my email is at G mail.

  9. To Tech Support: just today, I have had to pick planes and trucks for a “capcha” redirected website about ten times from this same open window. Never had to do that before. What gives?

    • Roamin,

      Perhaps the IT team has some security issues they are working on and want to block any attack on the site. I am not seeing it on my desktop PC but my smart phone gets the capcha and using an alternate browser on my PC also gets the capcha. Hope they clear it up soon.


  10. Hey Folks,

    New here and new to airguns. Just bought my first pistol (pt-85) and a Benjamin Maurader SAM. Can’t wait for the SAM to get here. (Thanks BB for the review on that gun it tipped me to purchase)

    This field target shooting really interests me. I think it would be a lot of fun. The issue I have is I live in MA and can find no clubs that really do anything with airguns. So, I thought I would reach out to all of you to see if there are any folks around my parts that do this. I enjoy the backyard plinking but it would be nice to find other like minded folks.

    I did get a field target with the SAM so at least I do some field plinking!


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