In UK (United Kingdom) rules, competitors aim to shoot the small “kill” zone that forms part of a larger metal faceplate. These face plates are often shaped to resemble small game animals, although there is currently a move towards simple geometric shapes. On most competition targets, the hit zone forms the end of a short lever that tips the faceplate backwards when successfully hit. These targets have to be reset by tugging on a length of cord attached to the faceplate above the hinge.
Targets are shot from open “gates” in a firing line, and are divided into “lanes” of two targets each. Many competitions impose a time restriction of 2 minutes to shoot both targets after a competitor first looks through his or her sights.
Targets may be placed at any distance between 8 yards (7.3 m) and 55 yards (50.3 m) from the firing line. Targets are often placed at about the same height as the shooter, but it is not uncommon for them to appear high up banks or in trees, or down steep slopes.
The hit or “kill” zone of a target is always circular, and nominally 40–45 mm in diameter, although “reducer” targets as small as 25 mm diameter may be employed for seated shots up to 35 yards (32 m). The targets are painted with the kill a contrasting color to aid visibility, although the paint is quickly removed by hits during competitions, making it harder to distinguish.
The majority of shots may be taken in any stance, but the seated position is the most popular due to its stability and often the need to see over logs or long grass that would preclude prone shooting. Most competitors carry a small beanbag or cushion to sit on while shooting. It may also be used under the knee or to support the ankle during kneeling shots, and they are often used as a protective rest for guns while competitors wait their turn to shoot.
In competition, 20% of the lanes will be designated as compulsory standing or kneeling, and there must be as even a split as possible between the two. Most competitions have 40 targets arranged in 20 lanes, so it is usual to have 2 standing lanes and 2 kneeling lanes. Grand Prix events have 25 lanes, so there will be 2 lanes of one position and 3 of the other. Standing or kneeling targets must be no more than 45 yards (41 m) from the firing line.
Points are scored with 1 for a hit (resulting in the faceplate falling), and 0 for a miss (whether it strikes the surrounding faceplate, misses it, or “splits” on the edge of the kill but fails to down the target). The highest score of a competition forms the benchmark for all the other scores – they are calculated as a percentage of this score rather than the total number of targets. This means that competitors attending a shoot on a windy day will not necessarily affect their average score over a season, as the highest score of the day will probably be lower.
Members of the British Field Target Association (BFTA) are graded according to their performance every six months. Your average percentage score over this period determines which of the four grades you are given – (in ascending order of skill) C, B, A and AA. Prizes at shoots are awarded by grade, so less experienced shooters still have a chance of winning a trophy if they perform well.
In the UK, 0.177 inch (4.5 mm) caliber rifles are the most popular, as the higher velocity (relative to a .22” rifle of the same power) of the pellets means they fly with a flatter trajectory over the distances involved. One downside is that .177” pellets are very light and can be affected more by light crosswinds than the heavier pellets of a .22” (5.5 mm) rifle. Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP) rifles are more popular than spring guns as the much lower recoil provides more confidence in aim for most people. There are some FT shooters who compete at a very high level with a spring gun, and a well-engineered gun, shot with some skill will be no less accurate than a PCP. There are some “dedicated” FT designs available, with the main features being a deep stock or adjustable platform ("Hamster") to rest on the knee while shooting seated, a high or adjustable cheek-piece to suit the large telescopic sights, and often an adjustable butt or butt hook. Many experienced shooters have chosen to use made-to-measure custom stocks for their rifles, and there are a small number of stockers in the UK who compete in FT and have a good understanding of the specific requirements of the sport.
Telescopic sights are favored for obvious reasons – it is often difficult to see the kill zone of the furthest targets clearly with the naked eye. Another advantage of high-magnification scopes is their ability to act as a simple range-finding tool. At very high magnifications, most scopes have a very shallow depth of field, and one can accurately focus on a series of targets at known distances and mark the scope for future reference. In competition you simply focus on the target and deduce the distance from the marks you made on the scope’s focus control. Some scopes use a side-wheel parallax adjustment to control focus (rather than a camera-like focus ring on the objective bell of the scope), and this allows the use of large diameter wheels to increase the distance between range markings and effectively improve ranging resolution.
Physics and technique
Pellets from a .177 inch rifle running near the UK legal limit of 16.27 joules (12 ft.lbf) will drop around 11 cm over 55 yards (50 m) – more than enough to miss the kill of a target completely – so it becomes necessary to compensate for range by adjusting the elevation of the barrel. Two common methods used are: moving the crosshairs above the center of the target by a lesser or greater degree (hold-over), often using markings on the reticle of the scope for reference, or adjusting a knob (turret) on the scope to drop the crosshairs onto the point of impact for a given range such that the pellet appears to go exactly where you point the gun (windage excepted). Competitors will often carry a small printed table of different ranges with their appropriate drop compensation or calibrate their elevation knob (often using an enlarged knob) – combined with the range-finding ability of the scopes, this allows for very accurate vertical placement of the pellets.
Wind presents probably the largest challenge for an FT shooter – while it is not too difficult to hit even the furthest targets on a perfectly still day with a little practice, mastering shooting in wind can take many years. Pellets can be blown sideways by even a light breeze. At longer distances this can start to cause misses, as the pellet will often be blown onto the faceplate if you aim centrally. In stronger winds it is not uncommon to have to aim completely off the faceplate in order to score a hit, and judging the amount of compensation to apply takes a lot of practice and experience. Head and tail winds can also have an effect on the trajectory of the pellets, causing them to hit high or low. It is common to fit a “windicator” to the barrel of the rifle – a piece of light cord with a feather on the end will provide a good indicator of general direction in light winds when it may not be entirely obvious, but it does not tell you what the wind will be doing on the way to the target. Competitors may choose to lift the reset cord of a target off the ground to get a feel for this wind – it will arc gently in a steady crosswind, and may even reveal changes in wind direction caused by nearby trees and foliage. Although many scopes have mechanical adjustment for horizontal offset, it is primarily used to ensure the rifle is shooting straight ahead in still conditions. The variable nature of the wind means it is often easier to aim off target (sometimes called “Kentucky windage” in the US) than to try to adjust the calibration of the crosshairs.
One measure of the difficulty of a field target shot is the Troyer (named after Brad Troyer). At its simpliest, a Troyer is the distance to the target in yards divided by the kill zone diameter in inches. (Obviously, this can be adjusted to meters/mm by multiplying by 2.32.) Thus, if a target is at 45yds and the kill zone is 2in, the difficulty is 45/2 or 22.5T. In practice, there are additional multipliers for various conditions such as targets over 45 yards, wind, "extremely" dark/light conditions, standing/kneeling positions, and uphill/downhill shots. A typical course would have a difficulty averaging about 25T with a spread of difficulties from as low as 10T to perhaps as high as 60T. A well-designed course can be used for all field target classes although the PCP shooters will typically outscore the piston shooters. When one is practicing for a match, a good approach is to shoot at targets (whether paper or actual field targets) with a difficulty of about 20T to start. As one gets better, the difficulty is increased (either by increasing the distance or reducing the size of the kill zone) -- a good rule-of-thumb would be to increase the difficulty by 5T when one can successfully hit the target 90% of the time. Eventually, one should practice at about 45T if they expect to be competitive at local matches and 60T for national matches.
Rules in other countries
In Malta Air Rifles irrispective of their power are subject to a target shooting license. The sport actually began with no power limit as FT Open Competitions. In 2009 the Governing body for FT in Malta was passed over to MAAC. It was decided to change the policy and keep national and grading competitions within the international FT power limit of 12ftlbs. Shooters who take this sport on the competitive edge geared up and accepted this decision and for the 1st time in 2009 a team of 8 shooters attended the World Championships in South Africa. However MAAC still organizes the "Open Competitions up to 20ftlbs max" to attract airgun shooters to this sport. Minimum distance is 10m and maximum distance is 50m. Both calibers 0.177 and 0.22 can be used. Rules follow the core rules as originally designed by BFTA. Reducers were introduced in 2009 and follow the SAAFTA regulations for reducers. There are only variations in the shoot off procedures for National competitions that qualify shooters for the Worlds.
In the Netherlands there is no limit to the power of an air rifle. Anyone above the age of 18 can legally buy one.
However, in order to comply with the World Field Target Federation rules (as well as to limit damage to the targets), Field Target in the Netherlands is shot with rifles with a maximum muzzle energy of 16.3 Joule (12 ft/lbs).
In New Zealand there is no legal maximum power limit for ordinary air gun use, however a Firearm Licence is now required tp possess any precharged air rifle
The general guideline is that the power of an Air Rifle used in a Field Target match must not damage the targets. All Field Target competition is "open class", and 12 ft·lbf (16 J) competitors participate in their own official "International" class, as do spring/piston air rifle competitors. Maximum/minimum distances are 10 m to 50 m. Membership of NZAFTA; the RGB to WFTF, consists of eight member clubs Nationally.
In Poland the energy limit for air guns is 17 joules (air guns above this limit must be registered and may be used only on shooting ranges). Therefore the PFTA (Polish Field Target Association) has adopted the British limit of 16.3 joules (12 ft⋅lbf) for competitions.
In Spain the maximum rifle power is the legal limit of 24.2 joules. This power allows the use of .22 caliber without problems. The range of the targets must be between 9 meters and 50 meters. "Kentucky windage" and scope adjustment are used.
In the United States, the American Airgun Field Target Association (AAFTA) rules set a maximum rifle power of 20 ft·lbf (27 J) primarily to limit damage to targets — there are no rules for airgun power in the United States. Individual competition rules may impose limits on power and/or other criteria at the discretion of the local match director. The increased velocity of the pellets from these higher power rifles primarily reduces the effects of distance (pellet drop) and windage (time of flight determines wind effects) but the game is, otherwise, quite similar to that of Britain and other countries. There are no rules in the US as to the minimum or maximum kill zone diameter and targets as small as 0.250 inches (6.35 mm) are occasionally found in matches. The maximum kill zone diameter is typically 2 inches (5.08 cm) but may be considerably larger in rare instances. The ranges of the targets must be between 10 yards (9.1 m) and 55 yards (50.3 m), and they are arranged in lanes of 1 to 3 targets. Kneeling and standing shots are also the norm at every match but not as large a percentage of the match as in the UK. Hunter class has also started with a very strong following. Precision shooting at such small targets lends itself to dialing in elevation adjustments and for the most part when shooting at high power 20 ft·lbf (27 J) Kentucky windage a bit less of a factor than with 12 ft·lbf (16 J) although time-of-flight is the primary factor for windage and, while the power of guns used may be lower, lighter pellets are also used in such guns and the speed of a pellet at the muzzle is only a bit slower (7.2 grains at 825 ft/s (251 m/s) versus 10.2 grains (0.66 g) 890 ft/s (270 m/s), for example). Hence, windage is a similar problem for those shooting at either power in most instances.
The energy limit in Hungary is 7.5 joules (5.5 foot-pounds force), all air rifles above count as a firearm and the owner must have a licence in order to have one. There is no energy limit for these rifles by law but they are used at maximum 16.3 J (12.0 ft·lbf) according to the international and Hungarian competition rules. The competitors with 7.5 J energy rifles shoot in their own categories only up to 40 meters. The maximal distances for the different killzone diameters are: 20 m for 15 mm, 35 m for 25 mm and 50/40 m for the 40 mm kills. Positional shots (kneeling/standing) can have reduced size killzones, too.
The weapon laws are very similar to the Hungarian laws, they also have separate categories for the 7.5 J (5.5 ft·lbf) rifles. They shoot only up to 25 meters but most of their killzones are 15 or 20 mm.
World Field Target Federation
The World Field Target Federation (WFTF) ruled on 22 February 2007 on adding to the "core rules" an official limit of 12 ft·lbf (16 joules) for all competitions under her organization and ruling. The WFTF 2007 World Match, held in the USA by the American Field Target Association, was the last match held without a common energy value for all international competitions. The WFTF now has 32 member countries spread across all 6 continents.
World Field Target Championships
2010 Hungary Results
2011 Italy Results
2012 Norway Information
Hunter Field Target which is loosely related to the original discipline of Field Target, many UK clubs cater for both disciplines, as well as non competition shooting.
And also, UK Sporting Air Rifle Challenge - or UKSARC for short - is a new and fast-growing discipline for air rifle shooters in the UK. Introduced in 2012 by veteran shooting writer Jim Tyler and respected shooter and course-setter Johnny Smith, UKSARC aims to put the fun back into air rifle competition.
- British Field Target Association Rules
- AAFTA Field Target Primer by Joe McDaniel
- Canadian Airgun Field Target Association rules
- The World Field Target Federation
- The British Field Target Association - The governing body for UK FT shooting.
- The American Airgun Field Target Association
- Federazione Field Target Italia
- Field Target Shooting in South Africa
- New Zealand Airgun Field Target Assn
- Canadian Field Target Association - the new site
- Polish Field Target Association
- Portuguese Shooting Federation - The Governing Body of Portugal FT
- Portuguese Field Target Club
- Portuguese Field Target Association
- Lithuanian Field Target Shooting Association
- Slovak Airgun Field Target Association
- Bulgarian Airgun Field Target Association
- Belgian Field Target Club
- Dutch Field Target Association
- Dutch Field Target Club HSV de Helm - Helmond - The Netherlands
- South African Field Target Airgun Association
- Hungarian Field Target Association
- Asociación Argentina de Field Target
- Scottish Air Rifle And Pistol Association