HFT In a Nutshell
A typical HFT course that follows the UKAHFT rules consists of 30 metal knockdown targets at distances ranging from 8 to 45 yards. The targets are laid out in consecutive lanes, with each lane comprising of a lane marker (usually its number), a peg, a target reset string, and of course the target itself.
The main skill of HFT is target range estimation, because the target ranges are not actually shown. It is this skill that makes a "marksman" shooter. Of course, you need to know your equipment too! The best thing about HFT is practice makes perfect!
You get two-minutes to shoot each target, although most people take less than a minute. As already mentioned, each lane has a peg - the shooter must be touching this peg by his/her body or gun when the shot is fired. Hunter Field Target in more detail...Shooting an HFT course does not require any special equipment other than an air rifle fitted with a Telescopic Sight. You may use any air rifle, as long as it within the legal limit of 12 ft-lb. (You may have your rifle checked at the club, if you are unsure of its power). Telescopic sights are not essential, but they are highly recommended. Shooting a 45 yard target with "open sights" would be extremely difficult (although not impossible). Rifles used in HFT vary a great deal, from recoiling "break barrels" to the latest Pre-
charged Pneumatic (PCP).
HFT Not in a Nutshell
As mentioned above, Telescopic Sights are highly recommended for HFT, so much so, that it is currently the "Scope" which is becoming the most important factor in competition HFT. There are literally hundreds of different types to choose from, and can cost literally hundreds of pounds too - but, it is possible to use almost any type of scope to clock up some respectable HFT scores.
Currently, the most popular scopes on the HFT scene are the ones that use the "mil-dot" reticule as used by the military. Without going in to too much detail, mil-dot scopes basically offer numerous aiming points for varying ranges of targets and wind conditions. Some people still use the standard "30/30" type reticule scopes, but the mil-dot reticule is certainly becoming more and more popular. This PDF document HERE covers the mil-dot principle in detail. Most Telescopic sights come with two main features: Variable Magnification and Variable Parallax (focusing). This may sound all well and good, but HFT has a very strict rule when it comes to using these features: basically you are not allowed to change the settings once you have started the course (or filled in your score card details). So, if you have these two neat features, you have to decide what you want to use. The easy part is choosing the magnification. If you have a mil-dot scope, then there is a good chance (without going into too much detail) that you have to set your magnification to 10 x. The hardest decision to make is what parallax to use, which is basically at what range you want your scope to be focused at. Usually, the more expensive scopes make this a no-brainer, as they have a deeper depth-of-field (D.O.F). For example, if you focus your scope to certain distance and your scope has a shallow D.O.F then objects that are closer and farther away will be out-of-focus.
If however, your scope has a deeper D.O.F; objects closer and farther away will still appear quite sharp, and only slightly out-of-focus.
This makes a big difference when trying to shoot a 15mm target at 25 yards! The only way to overcome this problem if your scope has a shallow D.O.F is to try your scope focused at different ranges to see which setting works best, although there will always be a compromise.
The target itself is comprised of a metal plate, (usually an animal shape and size, such as a rabbit), with a single "kill zone". The size of the kill zone varies from 15mm to 45mm and hitting the "kill zone" will result in the whole target falling back, flat to the ground. This is known as "killing the target". If you do manage to "kill" the target you will be rewarded a maximum of two points. There is a recognisable and satisfying "clunk" sound as the target falls. At this point it is common "HFT courtesy" to reset the target by pulling on the string provided.
MAKE SURE THE "KILL" HAS BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED BY THE REST OF YOUR GROUP BEFORE RESETTING THE TARGET!
If however, you miss the "kill zone" but still hit the target, you will hear a distinctive "dink" sound, the target will not drop, and you will be rewarded one point. This is known as "plating a target".
TIP: If you "plate" a target, try to "spot" where your pellet hit. In most cases you should be able to see your pellet mark on the paint. Spotting this mark will tell you if you miss-ranged the target (the mark is either above or below the kill), or whether you miscalculated the wind (the mark is to the right or left of the kill). To help "spot" your mark, study the target before you take your shot, and try to memorise the marks that are currently on it. Obviously, this can be almost impossible if the target has been "plated" many times.
Another good tip is to "follow" your pellet. In most cases you will not see your pellet travel to the target, but after you have shot, stay where you are and do not move, just like you are about to take another shot. Doing this may help you actually see where your pellet hit! Obviously, this is made a lot easier with a recoilless rifle!
Of course, the situation you DO NOT want to occur is missing the target altogether. This is easily done if you drastically miss-range the target, miscalculate the wind, or the most common reason: hit some foliage. Some targets are set to make missing foliage a major factor on some courses. Shifting your position or stance can help you beat the course-setters!
Whatever the reason, getting a zero or "donut" as it is lovingly called, is not a nice feeling. Most of time it takes the wind from your sails and you feel cheated, or angry with yourself. Letting it get to you like this will only make things worse and upset your state of mind for the rest of the course - especially if you are in a competition. Try to put it out of your mind.
TIP: When you approach the peg to shoot your next target, it is good practice to pick up the reset string and follow it to the target. This will confirm the location of the target you should be shooting. A common mistake people make is shooting the wrong target and being rewarded a "donut". You can also tug the string check to make sure the target has been reset (in the up position). People also use the string to help them calculate wind. Simply pull the string so that it is off the ground and free from any obstacles, but do not pull it too taught. Let the wind "carry" the string to help you judge direction and strength. As you can see from the examples above, the kill zones can be very different, and depending on the range, can make all the difference between a kill and a miss. Most of the time the 40mm kill zone targets are set out at the maximum of 45 yards. At these sorts of ranges the wind is a major factor. In strong winds, the shooter can be forced to aim completely off the target - this sort of shot takes a lot of courage! The 15mm kill zone can only be set at a range between 13 and 25 yards. At these ranges the kill zone becomes a blur when looking through most scopes. Not only that, there is no room for error when it comes to ranging - especially if you are shooting in .22 caliber (see below).As with scopes, another major factor in HFT is caliber. The most popular caliber sizes in HFT are .177, and .22. Without going into the age-old argument of which is the best caliber, both have their pros and cons. Most people who have been shooting for decades and primarily hunt use .22 as this is seen as the hunter’s caliber. .177 calibers mainly derived from target shooting as it provides a flatter trajectory, and thus has a greater tolerance for range estimation, in that for most ranges, but not the same "punch" as .22. But, saying that. When it comes to Hunting or HFT, it does not matter what caliber you use, you just have to hit your target in the right place!The trajectory of .22 and .177 pellets are very different. The .177 trajectory is considered "flat", while the .22 trajectory is considered as a "loop”. Where the curve of the trajectory crosses the thick red line indicates the rifles primary and secondary zero points. The flight of the .22 pellet drops off considerably more past the secondary zero (30 yards) than the .177, meaning you have to aim higher (apply more hold over) the farther away the target is. Because the flight of the .22 has more of a loop in it, this requires the shooter to be more accurate in the range estimation of the targets. Being out by a yard, can mean the difference of a few inches! Each lane (target) is shot by groups of 3-5 people at a time, with each group moving along the course once each member of the group has shot the target. As each target is shot, it is the responsibility of the shooter to ensure the rest of the group acknowledges that the target has been hit. As mentioned earlier, each lane has a "peg". This peg is a lot more important than it looks, and if you disregard it, you will end up with an unwanted "donut" on your score card! The peg actually indicates where the shooter must shoot from, and the shooter MUST touch the peg at all times while taking their shot, with either a part of their body, or their rifle. A full UKAHFT specification course will consist of various shooting stances that you can take, some of which are forced. The stances are: kneeling, prone, and standing. There are strict rules that go with these stances, which are covered in detail on the UKAHFT website. What is an essential piece of clothing though, are waterproofs, especially if you are going to be shooting throughout the year. Even if you are not shooting all year, we all know how un-predictable the British weather can be, and it is better to be safe than sorry.
Also, if you are planning on shooting in all-weather conditions, it is essential that the waterproof gear you choose IS waterproof. Splash-proof and water-resistant garments will not keep you dry in the rain. Most shooters have Gore-Tex clothing and footwear. Don't let the thought of shooting in the rain and mud put you off - it is all part of the challenge!