My Tuesday nights will now be taken up by my sport of choice - bell target shooting - so I thought I'd do a blog post tonight detailing what it is, how it works, why I find it so good and how you can get involved.
It's not, as the name suggests, a target in the shape of a bell.
It is essentially a circular steel plate with a hole in the middle. The exact diameter of the circle varies between targets I believe, but the important things are that the hole in the middle should be 3/8ths of an inch wide (9.525mm) and that the target rings radiating out from that hole are spaced at 1 inch intervals (counting from the centre) - like the picture on the right.
The plate is usually painted with a thick white oil-based paint that doesn't dry particularly quickly. This is so that, when hit, a mark is left in the paint by the impacting pellet.
Behind the plate is a mechanism that, when triggered, rings a bell inside the target box. The usual way of triggering this mechanism is to fire a pellet through the hole in the middle.
Resetting the bell position is either automatic (for posh new targets) or done by pulling a reset cord.
Basically, you just need to shoot a pellet through the hole, from a standing position, 6 yards away from the target. The sport is usually done with .177 calibre air rifles, which fire ,177 calibre pellets - 4.5mm. So there's not a lot of wiggle room!
Exact scoring is different depending on the rules being played, but as an example, in the league that I shoot in you score 5.5 if you shoot clean through the hole (i.e. you don't leave a mark on the plate) or 5.0 if you get the pellet through the hole but it leaves a small mark on the outer edge.
Scoring then goes to 4.5 if you leave enough of a mark that more than half of the pellet's diameter is showing but is still within the next ring - and then 4.0 and below for each ring after that.
In our league, each shooter has seven shots, making a maximum score of 38.5. If a shooter scores 5 or above for all seven shots (but doesn't score the maximum) he/she is said to have scored a "possible."
As mentioned above, we use .177 calibre air rifles. There are a huge variety of rifles in use, some shooters still use traditional spring-powered air rifles, some use pneumatic air rifles that require the shooter to "pump up" a charge of air prior to each shot, and some (including myself) use "pre-charged" air rifles, that have a cylinder of compressed air (usually up to around 200 bar!) attached.
This is my rifle, a Feinwerkbau Model 700. I've had this gun for a good 10 years now, and it's still just as accurate as it was the day I bought it:
Apart from the gun itself, there are also a lot of additional items of equipment that can be used.
The most obvious is a shooting jacket. Not all shooters use these, but most do as there are significant benefits to using them. A shooting jacket is a very rigid garment worn as a jacket (clue's in the name!) that helps keep your upper body still when aiming. They come in a huge range of colours and sizes, and can be eyewateringly expensive (much like the rifles and pretty much everything else associated with the sport, to be honest!)
I'm still using a second-hand jacket that I purchased from another member of my team back when I first started in 2005. Natty threads, eh?
You can also get dedicated shooting trousers (which again, are very rigid and help to keep the lower half of your body solid and still) and shooting boots - which are also rigid, but crucially have elongated and completely flat soles so that you are not able to wobble from side to side as much on your feet.
I don't use shooting trousers (although I do wear normal trousers, I don't shoot in my pants*) and although I don't have shooting boots, I do wear a pair of thick-soled "work boots" which I find achieve much the same effect.
A number of reasons. Firstly, it's very challenging both physically and mentally. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at it, although my performance has been a bit lax the last couple of seasons, and you never really stop learning new techniques.
It is accessible to everyone, and inclusive too. Woman, man, pensioner, youngster, teenager or child, able-bodied or disabled - it doesn't matter, you can come and have a go and see if it's right for you.
There's a great sense of "community" too. Shooting on the whole has received a lot of flak and negative media attention in recent years, thanks to tragedies like Dunblane in 1996 and Hungerford in 1987, and of course the seemingly never-ending spate of mass shootings over in the US. Shooting as a sport, however, is very rarely well represented in the media, despite it's excellent (some would say impeccable) safety record. It's not a great spectator sport, and the general negative view of shooting means that we're all used to dealing with the stigma, yet shooters are, for the most part, some of the friendliest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet.
We're always eager to introduce new people to what is unfortunately something of a dying sport too.
My team mates, and those on the teams that we shoot against, are all a great laugh. My team, Telepost, has a long standing "rivalry" with another team, The Breidden - who, I'm sad to report, often completely trounce us in matches, yet there's never any ill feeling and we can all have a laugh together - even if sometimes we are a little jealous of their apparent ability - we're half-expecting them to have a go blindfolded one of these days.
Information is a bit sketchy on the Internet, as it's not a hugely known sport. Nevertheless, there is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about the sport - www.belltarget.com. It's even where I took the image of the target at the top of this page from.
* fnarr fnarr, etc.