Went with Richard and Adrian to the A1 Shooting Club to start my shotgun training. The club is one of the Olympic training venues and is spread out over 30+ acres on the A1 just north of London.
Unlike Richard and Adrian, I’m a complete novice with shotguns so Wayne, our instructor, started with the basics : “Guns have been developed over 100s of years to be very efficient at killing and maiming. You will be killed, or at least very several injured, if you are shot by one.” An extremely effective way of reminding everyone that safety is the paramount issue when dealing with guns.
We then got kitted up – shooting jacket, protective glasses, ear plugs and fifty 21 gram cartridges. The significance of the weight of the cartridges being that, at low weights such as 21 grams, you won’t feel much recoil. (At heavier weights, recoil can be real issue leading to bruised shoulders and damaged cheekbones if the gun kicks up into your face.)
Walking out to the first stand, I was struck by the impossibility of hitting a clay. They’re small round objects that travel through the air at varying speeds on varying courses at ever changing heights. I couldn’t hit a static target so how could I ever hit a clay?
Extraordinarily, with Wayne’s guidance I did manage to hit a few – and Adrian and Richard hit a few more. They key is not to aim the gun, but to point it. And to get your timing right. For example, for a clay coming from the side, you’ll need to be a little in front of it.
Overall, we did ten shots at five stands and one of the great things about it was that the different stands gave a real variety. At the first stand, the clays came from the left at a relatively gentle speed. At the second, the clays were travelling faster, flatter and further. At the third, two clays were sent of at the same time from behind you. The fourth was a ‘rabbit’ – the clay is bowled along the ground at high speed. At the fifth and final stand, there were two clays set off simultaneously from a high tower – that needed to be shot when they were virtually overhead.
It was a superb experience and we’re going back this week to do our Olympic trap and skeet shooting. I understand it’s going to be a lot more difficult and something of a miracle if we hit anything!