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.
Despite the large length of time between updates, my betting experiment does continue - so far I've not actually won anything (shock!) but I've got another four bets to do to meet the requirements of the original scheme.
The last update saw me putting bets on various Champions League matches - and funnily enough, I got 3 out of the 4 results correct - it was only Manchester United drawing with Shakhtar Donetsk that cost me the win on that occasion.
After that, it was bets on four international matches (I think they were friendlies, but I can't remember for sure) and again, it was 3 out of 4 correct.
I then deviated from the pattern slightly and placed six bets on a single accumulator. This time, I got 4 correct.
I have since left it for a bit while I concentrate on other things, but the remaining four bets will be concluded in the New Year - where I hope to actually bloody win something.
The last bet I put on didn't come off either, but this time I did have a higher success rate - out of the four matches I placed a bet on, only one of them didn't come good this time.
If only Bristol City hadn't equalised against Colchester United, that would have been £32.79 in the kitty and I'd have had my first leap forward on the chain.
After those bets, the next ones were for last night, and were as follows:
Birmingham City again defied expectations and romped home to a 3 - 0 victory against Millwall, but two of the matches ended with a draw so in this round of betting, only the Doncaster/Burnley match went my way. Had I won, it would have added £32.77 into the pot.
This time, we're talking Champions League. I've actually put on two bets this time around, although only one of them counts towards the experiment (the other has come out from a separate "pot" and is not going to come off at all, but it's fun to think about.)
The bets within the experiment is:
With it being Champions League, I don't have "league position" to go on regarding who I should bet on, so I've based it on whoever is odds-on favourite to win, except in the case of Juventus/Galatasaray, where the bookmakers didn't have a clear idea on a winner, so I've gone for a draw.
If this set of bets comes off, it'll be a £54.10 return.
As an extra bit of
stupidity fun, I've also placed a side bet in an accumulator across all of the Champions League matches being played tonight, with my "predictions" (and I use the term in the loosest possible sense) as follows:
If these 8 bets come off (no chance) I'll net £1,550.71.
Who would have guessed that Birmingham City football club would thrash Swansea City 3 - 1 on Tuesday night? Admittedly, out of the five bets that I ran in my previous post, Swansea weren't the only ones that let me down, but they were certainly the most surprising.
So, my experiment is off to a poor start - who could have seen that coming? (where's that SarcMark when you need it.)
Yesterday, inspired by a work colleague and dreams of riches beyond my wildest dreams (!) I placed an accumulator bet for the first time in my life.
For those unaccustomed to betting, as I was, the principle behind an acculumator is simple - you place a series of bets (minimum of 4, apparently) and put a single stake on all of them together.
If you win all of the bets, you win the combined return of all of the odds together (although the maths to work it out is something that eludes me at 9am in the morning.)
If even just one of the bets doesn't win, you get nothing.