Top Field Target Competitor Paul Cray Talks Airguns – Part 2
This is the second part of our Paul Cray talks airguns story. Here Paul takes-up again with Field Target competition today…
Back In Field Target
But Field Target is a niche game. Especially here in the US. But it has been very steady over the last twenty-five years or so.
Below. Woods courses are a favorite with many FT competitors.
On digging around, I’m guessing there’s between three/four hundred actively competitive FT shooters in the USA. Perhaps many more that that “plink” in their respective yards and basements. But given those that regularly show for local and National level matches, I believe my numbers are about right.
I have been out of the sport for about ten years – how dare life get in the way of my shooting! So after a few months training, last year I headed to Louisiana for my first Nationals in ten years. Apart from my dire shooting, I was thankful to see old friends again but also surprised to see new faces.
The recipe on how to grow FT has been around for as long as the sport itself. In a country like the US with an abundance of firearm and archery disciplines, this will always be difficult.
Below. Hunter Class Field Target is shot primarily from a sitting position.
Hunter Class FT was introduced so people that could not get into the FT sitting position could enjoy the sport and its been a big success. Pistol FT is growing. Piston class seems to have dropped in numbers but it is still well represented.
As a new Match Director myself my club, Dutchess County Pistol Association, really supports the FT program. Even during 2020 with the Covid restrictions they allowed me to have some matches. Plus there’s a 4H club that just joined and they all shoot FT which is awesome!
Field Target On Steroids
There’s also a new version of Field Target called “Extreme Field Target” This is exciting! But it has its drawbacks too.
First the exciting bit…
Muzzle energy is now capped at 100 Ft/Lbs! Rifles up to .30 cal. And targets placed out as far as 100 yards! Shooting at two to three kill zones at 100 yards is incredible.
And the rifles of course are amazing pieces of equipment! Both pellets and slugs are used and the development of this ammo is also making big strides forward.
Below. Extreme Field Target has started in Arizona and is popular at the annual Extreme Benchrest competition run by Airguns of Arizona.
The Daystate “Red Wolf” seems to be the rifle of choice. And also the Benjamin Marauder in .25 does very well. The rules – as explained to me by Mike Bricker, who is one of the main guys that shoots and help start EFT – seem very straight forward.
One can shoot from a regular FT bum bag or opt for a bucket or backless seat (no higher than 8 Inches, I believe?) and shoot off of non-attached bi-pods. Scopes are limited to 25x magnification.
Also the ranges to the targets are given. This is probably the biggest difference between EFT and FT. Although in EFT one can also use a range finder. Again, this is not allowed in “traditional” Field Target competition.
Extreme Field Target has only one standing position lane and no kneeling shots. I must say I’m not a fan of this.
To test one’s true marksmanship, all shooting positions have to be included. Currently there are only around 20 shooters that participate but hopefully it’ll grow as it’s still only a fledgling discipline. However, it’s very popular every year at the Extreme Benchrest competition and is generally the first discipline to be fully subscribed.
Below. Mandatory standing and kneeling lanes are common in “traditional” Field Target matches.
EFT has drawbacks too. Like FT, rifles and scopes etc. are expensive. And the larger ammo increases that more so. Instead of shooting at 55 Yards range, now we need 100 Yard shooting. That’s not so easy to find for most potential match directors…
Then Extreme Field Target knock-down targets are, of course, heavy duty this translates again into further higher cost. Because of the greater ranges and heavy targets, rope must be used to reset after they get knocked down. As a Match Director it would be almost impossible for me to set up for a match as I do for regular Field Target…which I do by myself.
Perhaps we may get shooters to try their hand at both sports? That would be awesome! Will it help grow FT here? Perhaps.
Below. Careful sighting-in is mandatory for any type of Field Target shooting.
I’m a very competitive person. That is why I shoot Field Target WFTF class. That’s where you’ll find all the top class shooters. I want to test myself against the best there is…not only here but in the rest of the World!
In my opinion, airguning in general will always play second fiddle to firearms and archery in the USA. And considering that airsoft and paintball outsell airguns by quite a margin, we’ve a long way to go. But I’m seeing new clubs spring up. I’m seeing new faces at local matches. And most importantly, I’m seeing kids starting out!
Below. Some FT clubs also host Pistol Field Target competitions.
I’ll leave you with this. When Conor McFlynn won the World Field Target title for Ireland in 2011 there was a total of just six people in the whole country of Ireland shooting Field Target!
Thanks Paul! If you would like to shoot Field Target with Paul Cray and an outstanding group of other TF shooters, check out his club, Dutchess County Pistol Association. It’s in Wappingers Falls, New York. For information, contact email@example.com
You can read part one of this Paul Cray talks airguns story from this link.