BFTA Technical Skills Manual
- Updated by Maestro

© Produced by the BFTA & the NSRA
© Additions by András Fekete-Móró (Maestro), 2011-2013.

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1. The History of Field Target
1.1. The Early Days
1.2. Field Target Today

2. The Law

3. Safety
3.1. Safety with Airguns
3.2. Safety with Compressed Air

4. Breathing

5. Aiming
5.1. Natural Point of Aim
5.2. Aiming with the Whole Body
5.3. Aiming with Breathing
5.4. The 'Pretty Good' Aiming

6. Follow Through

7. Trigger Control
7.1. General Requirements
7.2. Types of trigger
7.3. Trigger weight
7.4. Grip and Trigger Operation
7.5. Methods of Operation

8. Freestyle Position
8.1. General
8.2. Variation 1
8.3. Variation 2
8.4. Other Variations
8.5. Supporting the Rifle

9. Kneeling Position
9.1. General
9.2. Setting up the Position and Use of the Shooting Cushion
9.3. Balance of the Position
9.4. Supporting the Rifle

10. Standing Position
10.1. General
10.2. Hand Positions

11. Range Finding
11.1. Trajectory
11.2. Holdover
11.3. Dialling
11.4. Guess? - Estimate the Range by Eye
11.5. Parrallaxing
11.6. Bracketing
11.7. Effects of Accurate Range Estimation on Windage

12. Wind
12.1. Wind Indicators
12.2. Use of Wind Indicators
12.3. Dealing with Wind - Wind Doping
12.4. Learning to Shoot in the Wind
12.5. Dialling for Wind

13. Shooting as a Mental Sport
13.1. Concentration
13.2. Mind Control
13.3. Motivation
13.4. Nerviness and Emotions
13.5. Absorbing the Misses
13.6. What is the Secret?


1. The History of Field Target

1.1. The Early Days

Airgun Field Target shooting began in 1981 as an alternative to hunting. Targets were metal silhouettes of quarry species, such as pigeon, squirrel, rat, etc. A circular sticker was placed over the 'hit' area and a point was awarded if the sticker was hit. Because of the inconvenience of having to change the sticker for each shooter, a mechanical target was devised with a circular hole to signify the target area; this would fall flat when hit, and could be reset from the firing line. The target area was 50mm diameter and the maximum distance on a typical 20 shot course was 40-45 yards.

The type of gun used was spring powered and generally break barrel, in .22 calibre. The main reason for this was that the break barrel was the most popular type of gun on the market (with the exception of perhaps the BSA AirSporter) and at the time .22 calibre was the most accurate for outdoor shooting due to the types of pellet that were available; domed pellets such as Eley Wasp were favoured as they performed well in windy conditions. The only accurate .177 pellets available were flat heads that were designed for indoor shooting, because of their shape and light weight it proved difficult to achieve consistent results in outdoor conditions. A few multi- pump pneumatics such as the Sharp Innova were also used, but were not popular due to the effort required in charging the gun.

Range finding was done by eye, and individuals became expert at accurately judging target distance. Telescopic sights were used but the highest magnification was typically 9x. It was not unusual in the early days of the sport to have unlimited re-entry's for the main shoot, which meant that an individual could learn the targets distance and windage from previous attempts and therefore improve his/her score.

In 1984, the British Field Target Council was formed with the aim of promoting the sport of Field Target, and formalising basic rules of safety and conduct.

1.2. Field Target Today

Today's target still retains the silhouette shape, while the 'hit' zone has a maximum diameter of 45mm. A normal competition course consists of 30-50 targets set out at random ranges of between 7 metres and 50 metres. One shot per target is allowed, with one point being awarded if the target is successfully knocked over. Only one entry is allowed on the main course. Running alongside of this competition you will find various side events, such as; long range, vermin shoot with reduced hit zones, speed shoots and pistol shoots. All side shoots allow re-entry.

The skill in this type of shooting is in accurately judging the range of each target, and making allowances for wind and weather conditions, which can change the path of the comparatively slow and lightweight air rifle pellet.

Field target is a safe, exacting and challenging outdoor sport, which can be enjoyed by all the family. It is a target sport and does not involve the shooting of any live animals or birds. As a shooting sport, Airgun Field Target shooting is the quietest and the fastest growing - having been successfully exported to Europe and the United States of America. It is a year round sport, with clubs joining together to run winter and summer league competitions. Many open events are run all over Britain, at weekends. Shooters are normally graded at these events and therefore compete with others of similar ability, irrespective of age or sex. It is a great family sport and there is often good-natured rivalry between clubs - in the best sporting traditions.


2. The Law

It is most important that you are fully acquainted with the law in relation to the possession and ownership of air rifles, ammunition and their use with specific consideration as to the age of any participants (e.g. children and young persons).

The BFTA is not qualified to offer legal advice. The Law should be determined in your own country and even by region. Bear this in mind when attending International Competitions.

For the United Kingdom we refer you to the BASC site:

A handy reference PDF is available here:

These links may change so visit www.basc.org.uk and search for “air gun”


3. Safety

Safety with any type of firearm is everyone's responsibility. Shooting is one of the safest of all sports. The reason for this is that there are safety rules that MUST be observed at all times.

The two most fundamental of these are::

  • Never point a gun at anyone!
  • Always treat a gun as if it were loaded!
The majority of the other rules arise from the application of these two rules in different circumstances.

3.1. Safety with Airguns

Handling guns

  • When you get out your gun check it is unloaded and that it is not cocked
  • Show that the gun is unloaded before handing it to another person
  • When you put your gun away check it is unloaded and that it is not cocked. Never put a gun away that is loaded
  • When you are given a gun first check that it is unloaded and that it is not cocked. If you don't know how to, ask the owner
  • Never pick up a gun without the permission of the owner
  • Remember it is better to check your gun is unloaded 100 times too often than once not enough.

Operating the gun

  • Keep the gun pointing downrange when in use
  • Load the gun pointing downrange
  • If you are using break barrel rifles or underlevers where the breach could snap shut on your fingers, keep hold of the barrel/cocking lever when inserting the pellet

Moving around with guns

  • Never move between lanes with a loaded gun
  • When moving between lanes open the breach and remove any magazine from the rifle
  • When carrying a gun it must not be cocked, the breach must be open, the magazine removed and the gun carried vertically
  • Keep your gun in a case when it is not in use

Range commands

  • If you hear a single note on a whistle or the command STOP, stop immediately
  • Always obey instructions from the range officials immediately
  • Never go forward of the firing line without permission of the range official


  • Don't rely on safety catches to keep you or your companions safe
  • Don't attract people's attention when they are shooting as it may cause them to turn around
  • Observe all the usual safety rules when dry firing

3.2. Safety with Compressed Air

Many modern air rifles use compressed air as a power source. It provides for convenient an effortless shooting but we must never underestimate the amount of energy that is stored up inside a cylinder. A compressed air cylinder is a potential bomb if handled incorrectly.

  • Store bottles away from sources of heat
  • Avoid dropping bottles and hard knocks to the cylinder or decanting set
  • Do not use any bottle or fittings that appear to be damaged
  • Always check the charge pressure of unknown bottles
  • Make sure your bottle is in test
  • When tightening bottle fittings use a minimum of pressure, hand tight is generally enough
  • When using buddy bottles or other removable cylinders never stand in front of the bottle as it is charged
  • Always keep control of buddy bottles and hoses when charging
  • Avoid looking directly at gauges as you fill cylinders
  • Always charge your gun slowly, don't put full pressure onto the gun
  • Avoid contact between skin and high pressure air
  • Avoid getting oils and greases in the high pressure air system


4. Breathing

Due to the movement created by breathing it is impossible to release an accurate shot without holding the breath. However as soon as breathing is suspended the body's functions begin to deteriorate as hypoxia (oxygen starvation) sets in. The eyes ability to function is the first to go followed by the muscles, which begin to contract erratically. Not least there is a feeling that 'I must breathe, I must breathe1.' as the body tries to protect itself. All of which are not conducive to firing a controlled shot. These ill effects can be avoided if breathing is suspended for only a short period of time. This is around 10 seconds on an exhalation, slightly more on inhalation. When breathing in, the chest muscles become tense, relaxing as you breath out. As we desire to reduce tension in a shooting position it is therefore desirable to suspend breathing on exhalation. The following diagram shows a typical breathing pattern.

V0 - is the bottom of a normal breath. It is possible to breath out more but not completely empty the lungs.
V1 - is the top of a normal breath. It is possible to breath in more (hyperventilate).

The shooter takes a longer, deeper breath which fills the blood with oxygen then a normal breath and lets the air out until the chest has the least tension, then the breathing is suspended for around 10 seconds whilst the shot is released and follow through takes place. The actual point of the pause, the number and depth of the breaths etc. is quite individual and depends upon the physiology of the shooter. What is important is that the pause in breathing is not extended beyond the 10 seconds. It is preferable to release the shot and follow through in considerably less than that, around 4 to 6 seconds. This may be possible in good conditions however it may be necessary to use more time in bad weather. In any case if the shot is not fired in the time that is normal for you discipline yourself to bring down the rifle, take a few breaths to reoxygenate the blood and repeat the process.

It is important to note that this does not mean full exhalation. Total forced exhalation is a forced position of the lungs and chest muscles, like a full inhalation. But there is a point approx. with third-quarter filled lungs, where there is no tension in the chest. You can recognise it when you need the same effort to inhale or exhale further. This is the best for shooting, this is the calmest state of the body. Actually it is an exhaled state, but it is not forced and is only as far as it goes naturally by itself. I would add, however, that breathing is not necessarily a source of errors. It can be used for fine aiming too. (see Chapter 5.3)


5. Aiming

5.1. Natural Point of Aim

Natural Point of Aim is a very important thing in aiming. This is where your body aims by itself if you get into the position. Sit down, close your eyes and stir slightly, relaxing unnecessarily tense muscles. Now check where your rifle is aiming: this is the NPA.

Its usage is very important because shooting into the direction of NPA needs the least muscle effort, thus shooting errors reduce dramatically, i.e. you will hit where you look. The explanation is simple: if the target is not in the NPA, you have to adjust your body position with muscle effort. This is not impossible. You can aim anywhere, but you will have unnecessary tension in the muscles, the rifle is not supported ideally, and as you begin to focus on firing, your body relaxes and returns to the direction of NPA - and you will miss. If, however, your whole body aims correctly to the target, it is much easier to stay on it while shooting and the hit will be much more precise.

5.2. Aiming with the Whole Body

A lot of FT shooters turns the magnification down before rangefinding and aiming, to find the targets easier. You can gain time with this but it also increases the chances that your position will be wrong and the target will not align with the NPA. Sitting down needs practising as well: ideally, even with 50x mag you first take a good look at the target, sit down, look into the scope and you should see the target already. Even if the crosshair is not exactly in the middle of the kill, the target itself should be clearly visible at once so you don't have to search for it.

If you do need to change your position, it is not your shoulder and arm that needs to be readjusted in order to bring the crosshair on the target but the parts of the body nearest to the ground (sole, knee, bum). The explanation is simple: if you move your rifle with your arm, then it's only a 6-8 kg weight that will point to the right direction, that can be drawn back with the muscles quite easily. Whereas when you turn your entire body towards the target, the NPA of a 60-100 kg weight will look to the right direction and this will not move quite as easily.

In the following sections, the minutely described shooting positions are derived from the following principal: the entire body should point to the right direction with the least muscle tension, preferably bones should give the weight to other bones. Wherever possible, muscles should be left out of the game. Therefore, it does not matter if you need to rise at dawn and you are already tired after 3-4 hours of driving when at last you can sit down to shoot, because it is guaranteed you'll hold your rifle only skeletally and not with the muscles. This kind of rifle support differs only slightly from the stability of the zeroing stand.

5.3. Aiming with Breathing

Breathing should best be left out of the moment of shooting entirely but this can also cause problems. We're not shooting in a closed space in sterile conditions, a sudden gust of wind can come anytime, a string can wander into sight, and the well-built rhythm is broken. It is wise to consider not to avoid breathing but use it to our best advantage. Exhaling slowly and gently can aid us in the precise change of the position of our upper body without putting tension to the muscles in our trunk, hence the position of the rifle will be changed just as smoothly.

The approach of the target is usually done in the direction of where the weight of the rifle itself is taking it (from top to bottom, in standing position), respectively, or, where we put the more weight (bottom-up, sitting and kneeling position). In all instances the emphasis is on the relaxation of the muscles and not its tightening that should move the rifle toward the target.

Breathing can help this very effectively. While sitting, you can simply allow it to to raise the rifle to the target. While drawing breath you can slacken your posture slightly to avoid sinking, so as to keep the crosshair in place. During exhalation you allow it to raise the rifle a bit more slightly. One more breath out, rifle raised. The result is a well-controlled movement to the NPA with slackened muscles in your trunk while still breathing normally.

5.4. The 'Pretty Good' Aiming

In FT scoring is binary, practically it's all or nothing. It is as if the olympic shooters had a single 8 point circle in their target: all shots within the circle are worth the maximum score and all the rest will score nil. And this is a major difference! You have to make an effort to do the best shot, but a 'good enough' shot will be worth more if it hits. It is better to shoot within the edge of the kill rather then make extra efforts to aim for the middle and the pellet finally lands somewhere on the silhouette instead.

Every hit is worth one point and all the misses are worth nil. When you aim for the wind inches away from the kill it doesn't really matter whether your rifle is a tiny bit off the ideal point or not. It doesn't necessarily mean you don't need careful aiming before shooting, but never expect the crosshair to stop dead at the centre of a 55 yard kill. It doesn't even need to: if it oscillates gently within a 5-10 mill circle, in the event of a good shot (plus follow through, accurate rangefinding, correct estimation of the wind, excellent setup of the rifle, etc.) it is still a sure hit. But if you want to shoot an absoulutely precise shot, in the effort of taking the perfect 'snapshot', it's almost certain it's going to be snitched and will go wildly off the kill.


6. Follow Through

The aiming and firing process does not end when the trigger is released. The process of maintaining the aim during and beyond the release of the shot is called follow through.

Follow through is of vital importance, particularly in air rifle shooting, because the action of the air rifle is quite slow. It takes time for the shot to develop after the trigger is released. In a pre-charged rifle the trigger releases the hammer, which moves forward to open the valve, air is released which accelerates the pellet up the barrel before it finally leaves the muzzle and only then is it free of the influence of the shooter. During this period if the aim is disturbed a poor shot will result.

There are several physiological reasons to follow through. When you see the correct sight picture, you release the trigger but the finger doesn't move instantly. A delay of one tenth second, which is equivalent to your reaction time, occurs before your finger moves. Through this period the aim must be maintained.

Also the process of firing a shot requires some time (5-12 ms) but this is only the fraction of the human reaction time (which is 75-200 ms). A detailed article about the relation of rifle's lock-time and human reaction time can be read here:
What does this all mean for us? I know that all these tests represent only my reaction time but there are younger and older shooters in the scene so we can take my results as a good average and draw some general conclusions:

  • Rifles shoot much faster than we believe
  • We shoot much slower than we believe

The most important thing is that between what we THINK when we release the shoot and when we REALLY DO release the shot is 120 ms, which is about 20 times more than the lock-time of an average rifle. This suggests two things:

  • Making huge efforts to reduce the lock time with 1-2 ms is not too effective
  • Doing follow through is damned very über mega effective

Also, the gun is held in position by some muscular effort that must remain the same until the shot has left the rifle. Without follow through there is the chance that the muscles holding the gun might relax a fraction of a second early, before the pellet has left the muzzle, moving the gun and resulting in a poor shot.

Good follow through can be obtained by maintaining the aim of the rifle for about 1 second after trigger release. This is more than enough time to allow the shot to leave the rifle. Some shooters use longer periods of time up to about 3 seconds. It looks good but in reality is a waste of energy.

Most importantly, be aware that you should always keep follow through! And it is better that it is one second more, than just one-tenth less than needed... That single second in a competitive environment, while being anxious as well can decrease so much for you so that the pellet might still be in the barrel when taking it off. It's safer to insert a 2-second value into your routine: shot - one - two - lowering the rifle. Or you can connect the follow through with the result of the shots: you put the gun down only when you see the target falling with the well-known crash or you hear that nasty dink of the miss. Even if you miss, the follow through can give you useful information. For example, it could be that you have made a poor shot - or the shot was perfect but with a wrong estimation of wind. Follow through can be excercised effectively with a springer rifle. Here there is a slower process of shot and also the gun movement is greater, so any follow through error shows up magnified (this is why it's harder to shoot spring guns).

The other component of follow through is psychological. It is insufficient to physically maintain the rifle in position whilst the shot is fired. Concentration on the execution of the shot must also continue if the full benefits are to be gained. Continuing the attention to movement of the muzzle during the release you can obtain valuable information on the quality of the shot. This is referred to as 'calling the shot' and gives feedback on technique to be used for subsequent shots. It is very useful when deciding when to make slight corrections as these can be based on information from shots that you called as being technically good.


7. Trigger Control

Whatever type of trigger or method of control, the desired outcome is the same, to release the trigger without moving the gun from the point of aim. Any triggering method that brings about this outcome consistently is acceptable.

7.1. General Requirements

All triggers need to be:

  • Consistent - if the release point and pressure of the trigger is not the same for each shot good control and release is impossible.
  • Reliable - not only to ensure good performance but also from the safety perspective.
  • Smooth in operation.
  • Can be operated with reasonably light pressures.

It is also desirable if they are:

  • Adjustable for weight.
  • Adjustable for position of the blade.
  • Easy to adjust.

7.2. Trigger types

Although there are 4 main types of trigger, only 2 have found general acceptance in field target shooting. These are the single and two stage trigger systems.

Single Stage - This type, sometimes called a direct trigger, has no free movement prior to release. This means that the sear engagement has to be quite shallow if the trigger is to have acceptably low creep. This in turn means that the triggers of this type have been set at higher weight levels than the two-stage variety.

Two Stage - This type has a degree of movement before a further resistance is felt. Further movement beyond this point will release the mechanism. The two-stage trigger has deep sear engagement, which is taken away as the first stage is taken up. Due to this these triggers should be safer from accidental discharge. However the majority of two stage triggers are in fact single stage with the free movement built into the trigger blade.

7.3. Trigger weight

It could be assumed that, considering the desired outcome of releasing the trigger without moving the gun, as light a trigger as possible would be an advantage since this introduces less force into the system. However this is not always the case. An overriding factor is the shooter's ability to feel the point of release and control minutely the point at which the gun fires - not only in training but also in the heat of competition. For this reason the triggers on field target rifles are rarely set on the minimum setting. A weight of around 80-100 grams is light enough to give minimum disturbance but adequate feel. Experimenting will find the ideal weight for an individual shooter. The less expensive rifles may have non-adjustable triggers. These tend to be set at rather high weights and can only be altered by a gunsmith.

7.4. Grip and Trigger Operation
Finger movement is down the
centre line of the rifle
Finger pushing the edge of trigger
Finger too far round the trigger


The trigger hand must be placed so that it allows the trigger finger to pull the trigger blade rearwards down the centreline of the rifle. There must be no tendency for the finger to push the trigger blade (and thus the rifle) to either left or right. The hand must be positioned so that on releasing the trigger no lifting or pulling down on the rifle occurs. Modern air rifles tend to have a fully adjustable trigger blade but it's advised to use only the height and longitudinal position, he surface of the trigger blade should be as symmetrical as possible so the firing doesn't pull the rifle to either side. With the exception of shooters with very short fingers you shouldn't rotate the trigger around the vertical axis.

The amount grip pressure is a matter of personal preference. Although many books on target shooting suggest the use of about the same force used to hold a hammer when knocking in a nail i.e. a fairly firm grip, there is a great variety in the grip used by top shooters. In general, holding the grip and pulling the trigger has to be done with virtually the same force The muscles and tendons which move the fingers work together more naturally if they should exert the same power and there is not too much difference between the forces per individual fingers. However one or two general rules apply:

  • The right hand does not steer the rifle onto target.
  • The grip must be consistent.
  • Heavier triggers demand a firmer grip.
  • The grip used on spring rifles is generally lighter.
There is some debate as to whether the thumb of the trigger hand should be raised vertically, be nearly horizontal (as in a thumb-hole stock) or somewhere in between. As long as the thumb is not active during the trigger release i.e. changing its pressure on the gun then any of the methods will be successful.

7.5. Methods of Operation

There have been many ways describing the means of smoothly increasing the pressure on the trigger until the gun fires. The classic 'squeeze the trigger' is perhaps the least accurate. This gives the impression that the pressure is increased over the whole hand squeezing the grip and trigger as a consequence. Nothing could be further from the truth. In correct trigger release the only thing that moves is the trigger finger, the aim remains stable and the gun fires without any extra movement being transmitted to it. However there are several methods employed to bring about this action. All of the methods have been used by elite shooters at some time. The graphs below illustrate several methods but in reality shooters may develop a release that uses a combination of two or more methods.

There are several mistakes that most often occur in trigger release:

  • Snatching the trigger - that is a very rapid build up of pressure, made even worse if the finger takes a 'run at it' i.e. approaches the trigger blade at speed.
  • Pulling through the first stage quickly and hitting the second stage pressure and continuing through.
  • Taking up the first stage then releasing the pressure a little before snatching at the second stage.
All of the above will transmit large movements to the gun as it fires.

For a single stage trigger and a good hold the aim can be maintained and pressure increased until the gun fires.
Alternatively, with a hold that is not as stable, the pressure is increased in stages, stopping the increase as the hold drifts away from the target area.
Some shooters use a single stage trigger but the forefinger pulsates on the trigger blade before building up the pressure rapidly. This works on the principle that it is easier to complete a movement than to start one and cuts down the reaction time on the release

In case of two strage triggers these techniques are nearly the same but they start from the second stage and they start not from zero but from the first stage weight. This means that the trigger is more safe and there is smaller chance to form bad habits.

For a two stage trigger and a good hold, the first stage is taken up boldly then the aim is refined and the pressure is increased steadily on the second stage until the gun fires.
For a two stage trigger and a less stable hold, the first stage is taken up boldly then the pressure is increased in stages, stopping the increase as the hold drifts away from the target area.
This method is similar to the pulsating method but is applied to a two-stage trigger. This involves boldly taking up the first stage and then the finger pulsates before rapidly building up pressure on the second stage.

Firing has to be always 'unexpected', because it reduces the chance of snatching the rifle - but we must also be a bit aware of its occurance, otherwise we would only pull the trigger through long seconds, waiting for the surprise. With certain practice you can keep the force of the trigger on 80-90% of the releasing force and at the right moment you need only a very small movement to fire, which - exactly because of this smallness - can be a bit faster compared to a movement we build up from zero.
It is important that firing may be a quick movement but never a sudden twitch!

Most Field Target rifles have a two stage trigger but the quality match triggers usually can be set to direct as well. For beginners, though - especially in the first time - it is recommended to use a 80-100 g two stage trigger. This gives a greater safety in general, and because the pre-tension has already been built in the finger and the force has to be only increased, thus there is less chance of bad trigger techniques. Any 'exam nerves' are more manageable with a two stage trigger.

Then after a few years of practicing, if you already know exactly why, how and what happens during the firing process, you can start experimenting - but always set only one thing at a time, and test with a lot of shots and analyse the experiences - and develop a trigger characteristics which suits your physical/mental shape the best.


8. Free Style

In these pictures you can see the sitting position of 48 English shooters from the same camera viewpoint, it's a very informative collection.
Photos made by Simon Evans at BFTA Grand Prix, Tondu, May 2011.


8.1. General

The majority of targets on the Field Target course can be taken freestyle, which, as the name suggests, is any position off the competitor's choosing. Whilst there are people who have gained some success from other positions the most prominent position for the freestyle section is the sitting position. This position started in the early eighties and is an amalgam of other previous sitting positions used in other disciplines tailored to the special requirements of the air rifle. The advantages of this position are its stability, ease of use, relative comfort and sufficient ground clearance. E.g. prone is more stable but it's hard to get into the position, rangefind and view the targets, so it's not widely used.

The position is constructed as follows. The majority of the weight is taken by the shooting cushion which is a strong waterproof bag part filled with a supportive material (such as polystyrene balls) to a maximum height of 4 inches. The knees are drawn up towards the chest and the rifle supported over the left knee in some way, in the case of the picture by the left elbow. Better stability is achieved if the feet are in full contact with the floor but they must do so naturally and not be forced downward. Adjusting the height of the cushion may facilitate this. The right hand takes up the grip but does not steer the rifle and the right knee supports the right elbow. The left hand may rest on the right forearm or wherever is convenient so that muscular tension is minimised. The back is allowed to form a natural arch so that tension in the postural muscles is minimised.

It must be noted that the various lengths of an individuals limbs and body will have a great effect on the outward appearance of the position, as they are all interrelated. In all cases the shoulders must be maintained in the same plane as the pelvis when looking from above. If this is not achieved side-to-side movement will result. To facilitate this it is best to use this as the starting point when constructing the position from the outset to ensure a good foundation for development.

As the sitting position has developed 2 distinct variations have emerged. Both positions have been used by elite shooters to equal effect and indeed some have changed between the two.

8.2. Variation 1

In this variation the body leans further forward and the weight of the body and gun is spread between the buttocks and the feet.

The buttocks take about 60% of the weight whilst the feet have 20% each. The centre of gravity of the whole position is further forward with some bodyweight transmitted to the feet via the knees. The torso, shoulders and arms should be as relaxed as possible in order not to transmit unnecessary force to the rifle.


8.3. Variation 2

This variation is actually more like the kneeling position in its construction and weight distribution.

The majority of the weight is supported by the buttocks (around 80%). The back is allowed to form a natural arch but the body does not lean forward as much as in the previous position. The right leg is allowed to fall into a natural position with the foot on its side but bares very little weight other than its own. The left leg bares mainly the weight of the rifle. The right shoulder is allowed to hang in a natural position and is not lifted to steer the rifle. The general feeling is that the body weight is resting on the buttocks and the rifle is resting on the knee.
8.4. Other Variations

Variation II above is being further developed and it's going to be Variation III sometimes, every year I can see more people using it at the international competitions. Typically, shooters change from I to II and II to III and only very rarely back. This means for me that these modifications are tried and trusted in practice, and are really useful.

The difference is not too noticeable on these photos but you can recognise this variation from the position of the rifle and the right elbow. Depending on the build of the shooter it can be quite versatile (see the photos), but the point is always the same: the rifle is supported on both knees, and this position is very stable even in windy weather.
It is similar to Variation II, but the essential difference is that the shooter supports the rifle on both knees (more specifically, on the top of the left knee and on the right thigh near the knee). To achieve this, he has to lean closer to his knees, the butt pad is closer to the elbow, and he also leans to the right more or less, depending on his body proportions. The left foot is in the usual position, the right foot on the side as in Variation II. It requires a certain degree of flexibility, but it is very stable position.
Those who have legs and arms long enough and are quite flexible and/or thin, can place the elbow around their right knee. This is more stable compared with the usual position where the elbow is only on the top of the knee. On the left there is a more common example whilst on the right a much more extreme shooting position. This can be horribly steady but only one out of a several hundred people can do this...
There are other exotic shooting positions which can be observed only from shooters from certain countries, e.g. Germany (on the left) and South Africa (on the right). I suspect they have been developed originally by a good shooter to fit his own body and became fashionable in the local community because they are not widely used in contrast to the variations of the basic sitting position.

Be aware that good shooters don't necessarily mean a good example for everyone. What is perfect for them, to their own bodies and habits, can be wrong for somebody else. The most appropriate shooting position for you can be easily determined: the ideal position is which you shoot the best results from.

Everyone should develop his own position - which, moreover, is a continuous process. You form your position over the years. The rifle is constantly changing as people are experimenting with new settings: they change the butt plate, order a new stock or even replace the whole gun. Any of these changes will mean that the shooting position has to be reconsidered, and changed if necessary. But even if we don't tamper the rifle at all, the shooter himself changes over time: develops a little belly, has problems with his knees or waist. So, the shooter's position keeps changing and developing constantly.

In the photos below you can see how my sitting position changed in the last seven years. It's worth taking a picture of your shooting position every few months, it can be very informative to look back and follow the changes.

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
8.5. Supporting the Rifle

There are several ways to support the front of the rifle in the sitting position:

Over arm - In this position the rifle is resting on the elbow joint area, which is in turn resting on the knee. This position gives good height to the rifle (useful if a slim stocked sporting rifle is being used) and there is little tendency to steer the rifle using muscular effort. But you can feel the pulse so many shooters don't like to put the rifle on their arm. If they do, they use a shooting glove or an elbow pad to distribute the pressure on the arm.
Resting on the knee - In this position the weight of the rifle is supported directly by the knee. The left hand serves only to provide improved location. This is a very stable position as it eliminates a joint (and the possibility of misalignment) but there is a risk of steering the rifle with the hand in the inexperienced. Also if a spring gun is being used vertical variation can be caused due to the relatively hard support surface of the knee. Another variation uses the shooting glove between the knee and the rifle. This gives more height to the rifle and slightly less reaction from the spring gun. In all other aspects it is the same as the standard position.
Resting on the hand - In this position the weight of the rifle is supported on the knee by the hand. The left hand provides improved height and location. There is an increased risk of steering the rifle with the hand in the inexperienced. This position gives more height to the rifle and slightly less reaction from the spring gun.


9. Kneeling Position

In these pictures you can see the kneeling position of 48 English shooters from two camera viewpoints (front and side views, 24-24 pictures.
Photos by Simon Evans at BFTA Inter-Regionals, Newbury, April 2011 and BFTA Grand Prix, Iceni, July 2012.


9.1. General

On a Field Target course there are likely to be several compulsory kneeling shots. These often cause problems for shooters who regard kneeling position as relatively unstable in comparison to their usual sitting position. In fact a properly constructed kneeling position is almost as stable as sitting (or indeed prone). The ISSF shooting disciplines involve shooting in kneeling position whilst Field Target style may have grown from this, it differs in many ways.

The kneeling positions of many successful Field Target shooters may outwardly seem to differ a great deal. No other shooting position is so dependent on the relative lengths of the various limbs of an individual. However, closer examination will reveal that fundamentally they all share the same underlying features.
The only difference in Field Target kneeling position is the fact that it is often set up without the use of a sling. When shooting in ISSF style the elbow can be on, before or behind the knee joint, but in the first two cases, the rifle would be very unstable laterally. To combat this the elbow is positioned behind the knee joint to allow the forearm to lie along the line of the thigh. This gives more lateral stability and allows the leg to bear some of the weight of the upper body to enable less muscular effort to be used.


9.2. Setting up the Position and Use of the Shooting Cushion

The basic position consists of the shooter sitting on the heel of his right foot with the left leg extended out in front and drawn up to provide support for the left arm in the form of the left knee. It is not permissible for the shooter to sit on the side of the foot. However the rules of field target shooting state that a shooting cushion may be used. This allows us to support the right ankle, if desired, using the cushion. Some successful shooters sit on the heel of their boot. This is sufficient because they are in position for a relatively short time. Effort should be made to try to keep the sole of the boot straight to prevent the toes digging in and causing low shots.

The relative position of the points of support can be seen from the diagram. This produces an angle between the right leg and the line of fire of about 65 degrees. The left toe is turned inwards slightly to make the left leg more stable and the foot is far enough forward to keep the left lower leg vertical or angled slightly backward. It is absolutely critical that the shoulders are in the same plane as the pelvis. If not then an oscillating side-to-side movement will occur which is the bane of the kneeling position.


9.3. Balance of the Position

To maintain a stable kneeling position the balance of the position must be correct. Often the position is set up so that all 3 points of contact are sharing the load. This will cause lateral instability and so side-to-side movement. To obtain maximum stability the centre of gravity of the position should lie between the shooting cushion and the left foot. This gives the feeling that the pressure is down the left side of the position and that the right knee is doing little work.

With the majority of the body weight on the right heel the upper body can be relaxed so that the remaining load is taken on the left forearm. The back takes on its natural curvature and the shoulders are relaxed. The left hand supports the gun without steering and the right hand holds the pistol grip with a moderate pressure. The right arm is relaxed but does not 'hang' from the grip. The head is basically upright and tilted forward to give best balance. With the muscles in this 'neutral' position the gun must point naturally at the target.


9.4. Supporting the Rifle

The most stable support for the fore end of the rifle is if it lies in the flat of the palm with the weight on the heel of the hand. However because the left elbow is often well behind the knee joint a higher hand position is required. These hand positions are often an adaptation of those to be seen in the standing position.


10. Standing Position

In these pictures you can see the Standing position of 50 English shooters from the same camera viewpoint, it's worth to analyse the differences.
Photos made by Simon Evans at BFTA Grand Prix, Nelson, June 2011.


10.1. General

The standing position is the most demanding of the shooting positions. It places far greater pressure on the shooters ability to remain still in order to release the shot, particularly if the weather conditions or ground contours are not favourable. The main reason for the difficulty is that the position uses more muscles to keep the body in place. These muscles in turn need to be controlled. It is best to start with a position that is as technically perfect as possible and then, through training, modify the position to suit your own body and the demands of the course layout.


Cheek piece adjusted or built up so that the full weight of head rests vertically on the cheek piece with no side pressure.
Firm grip on the pistol grip (around the same amount you would use to hold a hammer to knock in a nail)
Looking at the position from above:
  • The feet are placed so that the line to the target passes just in front of the ankles.
  • The pelvis is centred over the support area of the feet but pushed forward towards the target
  • The rifle rests above the centre of the position
The rifle is positioned over the elbow which is positioned on or to the left of the crest of the pelvis (when looking from the front). This is then positioned over the centre of the support area formed by the feet. The centre of gravity should fall just in front of the ankle.


10.2. Hand Positions

These are illustrated in increasing order of height and may be used with or without shooting glove (glove omitted for clarity)

One of the key points in establishing an effective standing position is the elimination of muscular effort in the left shoulder and arm. In turn this cannot be achieved if the hand position has not been selected (giving due attention to target height and arm length) to allow the gun to point naturally at the target.

Gun resting on the palm of the hand - this is a very stable position but is only useful when:
a. The targets are low
b. The stock is deep or when using a palm rest
c. If your arms are long
Gun rests in the V between thumb and index finger. This gives a little more height. Beware of gripping the stock inadvertently, particularly under pressure.
Gun rests in the V between thumb and index finger but his time the palm faces outward. There is less tendency to grip the stock in this position. Beware of pushing the rifle to the right.
Gun rests on the knuckles. This gives reasonable height with a target style stock and is not prone to 'steering' the rifle. Requires a flat bottomed stock for best lateral stability.
Gun rests on thumb and second joint of the fingers. This gives a high position but works best with flat-bottomed stocks.
The gun rests on the fingers and thumb. This is the highest practical position but is also the least stable. Moving the hand rearward the thumb can be placed beneath the trigger guard or even the pistol grip to gain maximum height.


11. Range Finding

11.1. Trajectory
Unfortunately when a pellet is fired from an air rifle it doesn't travel in a straight line. As with all projectiles they are affected by gravity and begin to fall as soon as they leave the muzzle of the gun. This combined with the forward motion describes an arc through as the pellet travels towards the target.


This means that in order to hit the target at all the barrel must be elevated in relation to the sight line as in the diagram. For a given elevation (sight setting) the pellet will then travel up towards the sight line and cross over it, rising above and finally falling back to, the sight line. For very close targets (10-20 yards) it stays below the sight line all the time and meets it only at the target.

This means that a rifle can only be zeroed in for 2 distances at one time, so for targets at various distances you have the choice of either:

  • Aim in a different place, allowing for the drop of the pellet, or
  • Change the setting of the sights
The two methods are referred to as Holdover and Dialling.


11.2. Holdover

This method involves practicing at known distances and finding how much to hold over or under the target. The amount of holdover can be judged as a distance in relation to the target (say half or quarter diameter of the kill area), as distances (half inch etc.) or by using different parts of the reticule. The second method is more advised because the diameter of the kill zones can be not only 15, 25 and 40 mm and it's not too easy to estimate centimeters on a far target, but the dots on the reticle are more easy and effective to use.

Some shooters have taken this a stage further and have extra lines or dots built into the reticule that corresponds to different distances. This gives a more repeatable method of holdover.


  • Can be used with any scope
  • Fast to use


  • Not as accurate as dialling
  • Multi dot reticules can be confusing

11.3. Dialling

This method involves practicing at known distances and finding how much to move the sights for different distances. Although this method can be used with any scope it really requires a scope with larger, graduated adjustment knobs known as target turrets.

Shooters can either:

  • Use the graduations on the turret (which tend to be in minutes of angle) taking note of the setting for each distance
  • Count the number of clicks between each distance (probably least useful) or
  • Change the markings on the turret to the distances required


  • Accurate
  • Repeatable


  • Needs a more expensive scope
  • Turret wear cannot be ruled out

11.4. Guess? - Estimate the range by eye

When field target first started the original way of range estimation was by eye. Because we have 2 eyes on the front of our head, our brain will calculate distance by triangulation. A lot of practice is required to become competent at this method and shooters would often whilst out walking, be guessing distances to objects and pacing them out just to get practice.

Hunters still most often use this method but the distances are usually much shorter than those encountered on a field target layout.

One of the best ways to achieve good results with this method is to learn to recognise a short distance, say 10 yards. Then use multiples of this recognisable distance to mentally measure the space between you and the target.


  • Very fast
  • Can be used with any sight system
  • Requires no extra equipment


  • Not very accurate, gets worse with distance
  • Subjective - results can be influenced by how you feel
  • Easily 'fooled' by dark areas, shooting in woodland, open ground etc.
  • Difficult to learn to do accurately


11.5. Parrallaxing

Parallax adjustments on telescopic sights are described in the section on equipment. These are most often found in the form of an adjustable objective lens or side wheel marked out with graduations for distance. This was originally designed to remove errors due to the reticule moving in relation to the image in the scope, the idea being to set the distance on the scale prior to the shot. However in field target the parallax adjustment can be used in the reverse manner. Due to the relatively short distances involved the image (or the reticule) in the scope will look out of focus if the parallax is incorrectly adjusted. This means the shooter looks through the scope and moves the parallax ring around until both image and reticule look to be in focus at the same time. The range can then be read from the parallax ring.

Most shooters do not rely on the graduations marked on the scope at the factory. These are rarely accurate enough for field target shooting and there is to greater spacing between graduations. Masking tape is placed over these and targets are viewed at known distances and the parallax adjustments made. The ranges can then be marked on the tape for use when viewing targets at unknown distances.

Parallax is less easy to judge at longer distances. Getting the parallax correct at 25 yards is much easier than at say 50 yards. Also the drop of the pellet at these longer ranges is far more marked. This means that the range is more difficult to find at the distances at which it makes most difference.

However field target shooters have noticed that the higher the magnification of the scope and/or the diameter of the front lens, the more critical the parallax becomes i.e. the less are that can be judged to be in focus at one time. This has given rise to scope magnification becoming greater and greater in an effort to give more accurate range estimation especially at longer ranges. Magnifications of 50x and 60x are not uncommon on the field target circuit - these magnifications are rarely used for taking the shot as the movement of the gun is more apparent but are used to find the range and make the necessary compensation prior to aiming. This is no longer accurate, from the sitting position (and sometimes even from kneeling) the reticle doesn't wobble too much on the target and we can safely shoot at 50x mag or even more with the newest scopes. For the standing shots it's worth to turn down the magnification to 25x in order to find the target easier. Shooting on high magnification has one more advantage, too: if you look for the targets with low magnification and thus with wide field-of-view, you can go more easily out of NPA in contrast to others who never turn down the magnification and aim with their whole body.


  • Accurate
  • Not as subjective as other methods
  • Works well in a variety of conditions


  • Requires a high magnification scope with good optical quality. These are generally expensive
  • Slower to use

11.6. Bracketing

This method of range estimation uses the fact that the apparent size of a constant sized kill area (normally 40mm) will be different at different ranges. When the target is viewed through the scope the shooter compares the apparent size of the 40mm kill area with the crosshair sections to give an indication of the range of the target. If targets are viewed at known distances a degree of calibration can be achieved so that when targets are viewed at unknown ranges the distance can be estimated. 40 mm is quite small, so this method is not too accurate. But there are other known sizes on targets, e.g. the base of all Gamo targets is 7 inch wide and this is much easier to measure with mil-dots. Since we can use parallax for rangefinding, bracketing is used rather in Hunter FT.

In some variable magnification scopes the size of the crosshairs remains the same no matter what the degree of magnification. This means that the magnification can be changed and the target bracketed in the crosshairs. By doing this on targets at known ranges the magnification ring can be calibrated to allow range estimation of targets at unknown distances.

Some scopes have an extra crosshair to facilitate this called a stadia line. These scopes often already have the magnification ring calibrated for different types of game animals.


  • Not as subjective as estimating by eye so is more accurate
  • Works well in a variety of conditions
  • Quicker to use than parallax (depends on method)
  • Can be used with less expensive scopes


  • Different size targets require different calibration
  • Not as accurate as parallax methods


11.7. Effects of Accurate Range Estimation on Windage

The accuracy of range estimation has a marked effect on the requirement for accurate windage estimation.

Suppose a target with a 40mm kill area is shot at in a right to left wind and the range has been judged correctly and elevation adjustments made.

In this case an error in wind judgement can be accommodated up to the full width of the kill area because the shot will land in the widest part of the target.

However if the range estimation is incorrect and the shot goes high there is much less margin for error horizontally and the wind must be judged very accurately to ensure a hit.

Due to the very subjective nature of wind estimation there will always be a greater degree of accuracy possible for the estimation of range. It is therefore best to take care to find the range of the target as accurately as possible to minimise the effect of inaccuracies in wind assessment.


12. Wind

As all field target shooting is done outdoors the effect of the wind is an ever-present factor. Due to the light weight and relatively low velocity of air gun pellets even the lightest wind will push them of line. This means that the field target shooter must be constantly aware of what the wind is up to and have the ability deal with the variety of circumstances that it can generate.

12.1. Wind Indicators

Unlike other shooting disciplines there are no wind flags set out on the field target layout. This means that the field target shooter must use natural indicators to give an idea if what is happening. Although the list of these is seemingly endless and varies from shoot to shoot a number are often met on field target courses:

  • Dust
  • Smoke
  • Grass
  • Leaves and Branches
  • Rain

  • Feel of the wind on the skin or clothing
  • Sound of the wind
  • And the most important: the resetting string of the target.

Many shooters also use a 'windicator' i.e. a piece of light thread or wool attached to the end of the gun. This is easily seen whilst on aim and is consistent whatever course you are shooting on. It's a disadvantage though that it gives information only about the wind around the shooter and this can be misleading sometimes. It's better to observe the wind through the whole range, using the bays on the resetting string and the environmental indicators. The windicator on the rifle is rather for showing the sudden changes in the wind while shooting.

12.2. Use of Wind Indicators

All of the above indicators have one thing in common. They are historical i.e. when you see the effect on the indicator that wind condition as already past that point. This means that when reading conditions an upwind indicator is always preferable.

Windicators fastened to the gun have the problem that they are behind the muzzle and historical. However they are consistent (unless wet) and are less subjective than the feel of the wind on the body. If the weather is warm or cold the perception of wind strength is different and so effects should be sorted out on the practice range prior to the start if possible. Often the practice range is not set out in the same direction as the main course, so the new direction must be worked out for each target.

The only real time wind indicator is mirage. This is found in open areas on hot days when the ground is heated up and the hot air rises giving a boiling effect. It is an excellent wind indicator because it reacts quickly to changes. Its disadvantages are it is not often seen in woodland and broken ground and it disappears in winds above 20mph. It also causes the apparent position of the target to rise leading to high shots for the unwary. However, on open fields sometimes it may be the only indicator you have to downrange. It is best viewed through a telescope, and if you rotate the sidewheel slowly, you can observe it on different ranges, too..

12.3. Dealing with Wind - Wind Doping

Due to the fact that the pellet is spinning the wind will not deflect the shot directly to the right or left. There is a vertical shift in the point of impact, which is dependant on the pellet velocity, and the strength of the wind.


Many elite field target shooters differ on the degree that this affects the pellet. The only way to be sure is to shoot on paper targets from a rested position in varying wind conditions and see how much it effects your particular pellet and rifle combination.

Wind conditions close to the muzzle will generally have more overall effect than those down range. This is because on the start of the pellets journey a deflection will be magnified by the distance travelled.


12.4. Learning to Shoot in the Wind

Shooting in the wind is always more art than science. This is because of the vast range of factors that influence the pellet once it leaves the barrel combined with the very subjective means that we use to work out what is happening.

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to dealing with wind and the best way to gain that experience is by shooting in windy conditions on paper targets at the various distances between 7 and 55 yards. Obviously the greater the distance the greater the effect of the wind on the pellet, so many shooters concentrate their efforts on the longer targets. However do not neglect the closer ones entirely particularly as they sometimes appear with reduced kill areas.

Stage 1
Shoot on targets at known distances and deliberately fire when the wind is strongest and weakest to find the lateral spread caused by that condition at that range.

Stage 2
Still on paper targets shoot this time to try to get your shots centrally on the target i.e. make allowances in your aiming for the conditions.

Stage 3
Now try the skill on Field Targets. And relate your "aiming off" to the size of the kill area.

Aiming off in the wind is made much easier if the reticule of the scope is graduated with dots or lines. A standard duplex reticule has several points that can be used to give a measure of how much you are aiming off to the side. However scopes are now available with multiple dots and lines that give far more points of reference. Indeed custom made reticules have been developed that have dots that correspond to the width of the kill zone at a specific distance to further standardise the aiming off procedure.

All of these reticules can be useful on the day but are only as good as your ability to judge what the wind is doing and apply it to your particular rifle and pellet combination.

Once you have decided the hold-off for the wind, change this only when the wind changes noticeably. Consider carefully before the shot how much you are going to hold off for the wind, say two kill zone widths, or five mil-dots. But while shooting don't think about this any more and just try to aim at this point. If the wind was not well-estimated but the shot itself was fired perfectly, there is a good chance it will stay within the kill zone. But if you are unsure in your own decision, are uncertain and vary the aim point during the shooting phase, this almost always will result in a bad shot. It is of course another matter if the wind begins to intensify, when you feel this you can add some to the previously established amount of hold-off. The point is that you must always have a definite idea about where exactly you are aiming to.

12.5. Dialling for Wind

Many smallbore and the majority of fullbore shooters judge the wind then alter the scope settings to compensate for the conditions. Whilst this works well on a smallbore or fullbore range it is not recommended for field target shooting. The variety of height, distance, angle and orientation of the layout mean that scope changes would result in confusion and resulting errors in adjustment. Also in Field Target telescope sights are almost exclusively used and most of them also have mil-dot or other divisions, This allows aiming off to be done with much greater precision than with the open sights used in other disciplines.


13. Shooting as a Mental Sport

Shooting is basically a mental sport.

Although there is a required technical level but most rifle and scope is above it and from that point success is based purely on knowledge, experience and the momental state you're in. And luck, of course: however 'the more you practise the more lucky you get...' :-)

A good shot is decided in the head. Of course, the equipment must be well-adjusted and of good quality, but most of the shooters have this, and yet only one of them wins the comp. Why? One could say that because of his skills, but then again, the same people with the same equipment achieve completely different results within a week or two. Why? Let's take a closer look.


13.1. Concentration

Many people have a wrong image what concentration means. In shooting, 'concentration' is not about concentrating on something with rapt attention and especially not a desperate effort to hit the targets.

We should look for the true meaning of focusing in martial arts of the East instead: the effort at achieving perfection, to become one with the shooting process, and, above all, the perfect execution of the shot. The most fantastic thing in shooting is that even a beginner can experience what perfect shooting is like. A beginner at high jump is far from being able to jump as high as the world champion, but a novice shooter can shoot as smoothly and as beautifully as the expert. The difference is in frequency, which means that it is only sometimes that beginners succeed in training whereas the experts do the same forty-nine times in a big comp...

13.2. Mind Control

One of the features of Field Target is its vast diversity. We shoot at each target only once, there are no two identical targets, each shot means different distance, kill size, light and wind conditions. The height of each target the slope of the terrain and even the foothold at the firing line is not always level. Changes in temperature brings about changes in speed, and a point shift might occur. Fellow shooters talk, make jokes, you may complain about the targets, and sometimes the whole comp is stopped for a few minutes. In contrast to the ISSF shooting styles you do not carry out the same, perfectly well-rehearsed movements 60 times in a row, but fundamentally the same shot but always carried out a little differently. Because of this versatility the sport is more interesting, of course, but requires a different mental state from Olympic shooting.

Once is not enough to be properly 'focused' and shoot well in this state during the whole competition. Everyone has experienced a shot which had been fired beautifully, but the elevation turret was one turn off - or, on the contrary, in spite of the raging wind the aiming was held off perfectly and the shot hit the edge at 6 o'clock. These are the typical errors when the shooter is very focused on one side of the shooting and therefore neglect the other. In Field Target the ideal approach is when the shooter is continually able to switch his brain modes between alpha and beta.

  • Beta level: rational and logical thinking with the left brain.
    Identification of targets, distance measurement, setting the scope, estimation of the wind correction, filling the rifle. Absolute care must be taken in every detail, taking into account all the above-mentioned confounding factors and optimally configure everything. Counting, making decisions, correction factors are taken into account, paying attention to every little detail. The point is to prepare the shot 'professionally', but immediately after the shot we switch back to this mode when we draw the conclusions of the shot and analyze the possible errors or the successful hit.
  • Alpha level: instinctive, intuitive right brain thinking.
    You no longer need to speculate on anything, but now comes the phase when the shot is fired: finding the zero point, targeting, firing, follow through. Here everything goes all by itself, the shooter does not 'do' the shooting but 'experiences it'. The only external factor that we consider is the wind. According to its changes, we modify the holding-off calculated in the previous phase, but it also goes instinctively. The point is to exclude the outside world, concentrating on the shot and how to fire it perfectly.
It is not really possible, of course, to switch to a completely different kind of brain function every half a minute, but we aim to achieve the above described modes of thought and attempt to distinguish between them and eventually separate them. It is also helpful if you think of this dichotomy at all, and strive to achieve it. During practice watch yourself in the preparatory activities and while shooting respectively. Deal with one of them at a time and try to grasp the differences. The easier you can identify these states of mind, the easier it will be to remember them at the right moment during competion.

13.3. Motivation

Unlike sports such as fencing, chess or ball games, in shooting the real opponents are not other people. Odd as it may sound, because, after all, we want to beat the others, but during the comp you do not have to fight against them. How could we possibly do that? In FT no one will likely to adjust the other's rifle or 'accidentally' stumble through other competitors' rifles, prick one's ear while he's shooting, and certainly you will not call the other under an alias stating he's won the lottery or that his mother is dying - so how can you defeat them? Only one way: to shoot better than they do!

The shooter's opponents are the targets. They must be fought against, the more it must be overcome. Although, if you prefer to think about it, even this is not exactly true. Because every target can be hit. What the world champion has missed another 80-90 contestant hit them. So the core of the problem must be sought somewhere else.

The shooter's real opponent is himself. His own mistakes, fears, bad habits - everything can be an obstacle to the perfect shots. If you can beat them, you will beat the targets and thus the competitors as well.

It is totally mistaken to be motivated by the images of glory, trophies and standing on the winners' stand... Those who dream of them are treading the wrong path. The only way to success is firing perfect shots. This is what has to be visualized, dreamed of and set it as a goal.

  • Wrong motivation: the pictures of triumph.
    Applause, cheers, appreciative glances, congratulatory shooting mates in a long line, the wry face of defeated opponents, hymns, shower of flowers, cheering teen girls in front of the dressing room, shiny medals, cups and diplomas, trophies, newspaper articles, congratulations on the forums.
    Those who think of these before the comp is over usually degrade their good results towards the end because they focus on things they shouldn't. It will not help anyone to win but will divert their attention from the real goals.


  • Right motivation: a picture of perfect shot.
    The snapping in of the sharp image when rangefinding, feeling the movement of the wind, sitting down the most comfortably at the NPA, leading the crosshair onto the target, its fine tremor over the target, the sensation of the trigger with the index finger, as the shot fires off as if by surprise, and the the still follow through that the whole process is fun and joy - and finally, as a reward for all this, the loud clank of the target.
    All of these are well worth dreaming of, because this time the brain is 'on', and during the comp it will be easier to remember these things.


13.4. Nerviness and Emotions

Everyone reacts differently to the thrill of competition and the stress situation. Those who lack excitement or emotion entirely are not considered human and so can not participate in shooting competitions. The excitement is natural, but it does matter how a person can cope with this and whether it shows up in his results at all. There are three different ways to handle emotions during the comp:

  • Some fall prey to them
    The least fortunate is the type of person who is over-excited and although shoots marvellously at home and sometimes produces astonishingly good results - but somehow he's not the same during comps. He rushes it, overworries it, misdials it, forgets it or simply he doesn't do it so well;and only when all hope is gone is he finally able to shoot with the 'tranquility of the hopeless case' the way he usually does during practice. He is clearly blocked by excitement, it is bad for him, so first he must try to get used to it and learn to manage it. Frequent comps can help in this, and practise being in a competitive situation. A simple bet in practice with a crate of beer at stake, and you can also practice shooting off with a timer in front of an audience...
  • Others overcome them
    The experienced competitor is just as nervous, but that does not show in his performance. He's able to keep his emotions controlled so that it does not affect the results. All sorts of little routines can be developed so that the comp becomes a more and more commonplace thing, so it doesn't feel as if it were much different from a practice shoot and so he will be able to bring his true form. It greatly helps to increase self-esteem and self-confidence if you can shoot the same thing in comps as you shoot during practice. Such a shooter can be very successful, but it is no easy task because his internal peace is too dependent on external factors and anything can get him off the groove, and a lot of instances like that can and will occur during an FT-competition.
  • Few use them
    The use of emotions is another way, towards which the shooter can orient himself, and which fits the conditions of Field Target better. It is much esasier for those who can not only beat, but can also make good use of the cold sweat on the comps. The excitement does not only paralyze, but also actually encourages the shooter and in a positive sense pressurizes him to pull himself together. The training sessions, comps without any stake are perhaps taken far too lightly, but the more serious and important the competition is, the more he can make of it. Compete with such a mentality is not a problem but the problem is how to maintain motivation.

How much emotion is it allowed to bring into shooting? Joy over the successful results and the irritation due to the misses are parts of the learning process. For those whom it doesn't make a difference what he shoots will have no incentive for improvement. There's no need to cut back the emotions, but you should strengthen the positive effect and weaken the destructive ones. So yes, we can be angry with a miss (but also learn from it), and we can rejoice in success (but not become over-confident). Exhibiting emotions shortly but intensively can be interpreted as a self-assertive therapy, one which - as an immediate reward and punishment - helps throwing poor techniques away and reinforce the good ones.

Negative and destructive emotional reactions:

  • Dread, fear of making a mistake
  • Lethargy, despair, giving up because of the misses
  • Yearning for hits
  • Over-confident after the successful shot

Positive and useful emotional reactions:

  • 'Alarm bell' sounds in situations of near misses
  • Letting go of passions quickly and completely
  • Desire to shoot perfectly
  • Rejoicing at the sight of a hit

13.5. Absorbing the Misses

Making a mistake is not a good thing. But if it already happened, you have to be able not only to manage, but also to benefit from it as much as it is possible. Based on the follow through at the target and the pellet marks usually you can tell what was the cause and learn from it. If the wind took the shot away, then at least you know now, how much you under- or overestimated it and you can set your mind at rest at the same time: your shot had been precise anyway. If the shoting itself was poor, but at least you had a good estimate of the wind. Acknowledge what you did well in spite of the miss and what you need to change, but most of all: take it as a warning.

Sometimes the miss is a sobering slap in the face after which you are shaken up and say to yourself 'now it's enough of this flippancy, I can not afford another one'. At other times, it helps resolve the tension: after 30 flawless shots there's a tendency to think of the clear score card instead of the next shot or think of the first place and other instances of wrong motivation. Once you have a miss, hence there's no need to worry any more whether you will have a clearing, because certainly it will not be you who does it. And this is just one single miss, not the end of the world, 49 points is still good enough to win. However, if you give up halfway through the comp, you might end up facing the fact, that with the three misses it could have been the first place and only because of the other five more misses that came on a 'nothing matters now' basis was the single reason for the twentieth place. It is difficult to continue with enthusiasm when you feel that this train has already left, but take it as an opportunity to exercise self-discipline. Then it is possible that in the end you'll be within the first three places after all - just because you did not give up.

And even if you did not win, it is not a big problem. If you shot as perfectly as possible to the best of your knowledge, and you didn't commit the same type of mistake over again, then it was worth shooting that day. You have learned, developed and next time you will know even better what is desirable and what to avoid. And there's always a next time.

13.6. What is the Secret?

I have a question that in the past few years I asked a lot of top shooters whom I got to know during my international comps. I pharased my question always with the same words: What is the secret of your success and what you'd advise to anyone who would like to shoot as well as you do? The answers were always along the same lines:

  • "I hope you won't be disappointed but the big-big secret IMHO doesnt't exist. Many small details make the perfect whole."
  • "I started as a 16 year old with a springer. It does help, lots of the successful shooters have been at it since the 1980s. Really hard competition is the best way to improvement but that is the one thing you can’t easily arrange!"
  • "You can hit all of the targets - the names or records of the other competitors doesn't change this. It only took me 10 years to realise I was just shooting targets rather than trying to beat other people. It is only in the last couple of years that I've really believed that I can compete with these top shooters, and as soon as I believed it I could."
  • "My advices to shoot better - shoot in the wind not in a calm conditions. But the wind and shooting in windy conditions is the most important."
  • "What's the secret of shooting in wind? We are only guessing. I've been shooting more than twenty years, guessed so much and had seen so much the result that I can guess a bit better already."
  • "It's not a secret it's just you need to put in the hard work and shoot in all conditions. When others are hiding in the club house when conditions are bad you need to be out practicing. The harder you practice the easier you shoot and stay focused and don't allow any distractions."
  • "The secret? There isn't one. I have been shooting FT for 20 years, that really helps. Have a very good technique and the right equipment, plus enthusiasm. Just keep practicing, but most of all make sure you enjoy your shooting, if you don't enjoy it you won't shoot well. Also don't practice too much, if you shoot lots of competitions it will do you more good."
So go ahead, fellow shooters, now you also know the secret! :-)