Hit that bull’s-eye

17 October 2014

by Vic Van Den Bergh

I AM someone who chooses the least obvious and generally most challenging of hobbies, and target shooting has to be the star on top of the tree when it comes to being misunderstood; for when people know that you shoot, they sometimes assume that that makes you a little unsafe. The very opposite is true, and shooters are, generally, people who realise that with rights come responsibilities - and these are no more obvious than in the world of firearms.

If you go to your local gun club, you will not be allowed to handle a weapon for the first few visits. One of the things that gun clubs do is to make sure they think you are safe before they let that happen; and, when it does, the training is all about safety long before it gets down to the shooting part.

The great thing about the hobby is that it is open to young and old, male and female, able and disabled, without general advantage. You don't need to have special clothing or weapons, although you may soon want your own glove and jacket, if you're like me; and then you will want a weapon of your own that's specifically set up for you. When that happens, you can be competitive at club level for less than £250.

When you shoot competitively, your opponent is primarily internal - although you do compete with others - because it is all in the head. The goal is to score a "poss" (100 out of 100), and this takes consistent breathing, handling, posture, and more besides. The buzz the first time you get all the rounds into the little black bits on the paper targets is sublime; and, once you do, the challenge is to get them nearer to the centre.

Once you have managed it at 25m, the distance changes (50m or 100m), and you go outside (where there's wind, rain, and different light conditions), or you change position from lying down ("prone") to kneeling or standing.

Safety and security are of paramount importance, and, should you take up the hobby, owning your own weapons is something that requires many checks, and confidence on the part of the gun club, and the police.

There are many other sorts of shooting where you'll use shotguns and shoot game or clay pigeons, but, for me, target shooting provides a great opportunity to get away from the pressures of the day and get the mind concentrating on something different. The discipline and joy that it brings, coupled with the fraternity who do it, makes for a wonderful escape from the daily grind.

So, if you've ever enjoyed trying to win a prize at the shooting gallery at the funfair, and like the idea of something that challenges, I suggest that you have a go at target shooting. It can be an indoor hobby, or out on the ranges firing at distances in excess of 900m (with full-bore weapons) - the choice is yours.

To find your nearest club visit the National Small-bore Rifle Association website (www.nsra.co.uk), and click on the "club finder" link. The NSRA also publishes a magazine for members; but meeting real shooters and discovering the sport in the flesh is the best way forward.

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