Mad Dogs & Englishmen…

…go out in the Midday Sun. And you can add to the above all the HFT shooters who took part in Round 2 of the UKAHFT Series at Buxted on what was so to date the hottest day of the year – but somehow some of the top shots managed to keep their cool…

I love shooting at Buxted. I never score particularly well there, but I’m a huge fan of the way they set their courses out – range traps galore (always fun with a .22!), cleverly-placed targets, and a chance to sample what an absolutely top-class HFT course can offer. Buxted played host to Round 2 of the UKAHFT Series in mid-June, and whenever “the Nationals” are staged there, Andy Simpson and his cohorts usually manage to bring a section of the open field into play for good measure – so you really do get your money’s worth!

The UKAHFT National Series
The UKAHFT National Series attracts a wide and diverse range of sponsors

It’s a long old haul for a lot of the competitors who hail from Scotland, the North of England or Wales all the way down to this corner of East Sussex, but over 100 shooters did so – a measure of the high regard in which the UKAHFT Series is held in the world of HFT. After the all-important safety brief, shooters moved off to their allocated starting pegs and battle commenced as the sun rose towards its zenith at noon, so did the temperature guage – sat in a friend’s air-conditioned car whilst we summoned up the courage to brave the furnace-like conditions outside, we saw the ambient temperature peak at over 32C!

There were mercifully few stoppages to during the both the morning and afternoon sessions, though word soon started to filter back to the assembled afternoon shooters that a number of competitors had fallen foul of the chrono, with just under 10% of the entire field being disqualified. The other “hot news” was that Peg 25 had been causing problems for quite a few people. Now I’m no expert on the laws of physics but it always seems to be the particularly hot days when more people than is usual end up going just over the power limit; just as happened to me a couple of years ago at MAD on the first day of their UKAHFT double-header weekend. I’ve heard of some FT shooters packing freezer blocks into their bags around the rifle to help avoid the gun over-heating and putting them over the limit. Perhaps someone more technically-minded that I am could help shed some light on the merits (or otherwise) of doing this? Or suggest some measures that competitors could take in order to avoid the disappointment of failing the chrono test.

The field section at Buxted
The field section at Buxted offered no escape from the hot sun – or from some of Simmo’s very challenging targets!

But what of Peg 25? Well, the weather conditions that day were still and calm with no wind at all – or so many thought! If the truth be told, in the wooded section of the course there was absolutely no breeze and it was a “poker’s delight” as my fellow CompAir scribe Dave Ramshead is fond of saying. However, as you left Peg 24 and headed out into the field section, Simmo had cunningly place the Buxted Lollipop target about 45 yards away, with the last 8-10 yards seeing the pellet travel into the copse that divided one field from the next – and in here there was wind! Maybe the darkness and shade from the overhanging tree branches made it more difficult to spot, or maybe having just shot 24 pegs where wind wasn’t a factor lulled many into a false sense of security. Whatever the reason, Peg 25 claimed a number of scalps, including some “high profile” ones that maybe should have been just a little more cautious prior to squeezing the trigger…

The Air Arms signing-in tent
The Air Arms signing-in tent provided some very welcome respite from the hot conditions

As to be expected, the Buxted Boys had been true to form and laid out a tough but nonetheless a very fair course that challenged almost all of the field to some degree or other – but quite not all. In the intense heat of both the competition and the day itself, there were a few who managed to keep a cool head and absolutely revelled in the course, including Alex Larkin and Justin Grice, who came in with 59 and 58 respectively. Then there was Mr Neil Wakelin, who delivered the goods in spectacular (but totally cool) style by handing his card in with a perfect 60 score. To clear any HFT course is always a milestone in a shooter’s career, but to do so at Buxted, during a round of the Nationals, and in such testing conditions was something very special.

Now some may say that to clear a course you need a bit of luck, whilst others will insist that it all down to skill and marksmanship. What can be beyond doubt is that Neil Wakelin enjoyed a massive amount of luck later that day – when his name was first out of the hat in the draw for a brand spanking new S400, kindly donated by Air Arms (the headline sponsor of Round 2). With his luck running in such fine form, I only hope Neil thought to stop off and buy a lottery ticket on his way home that evening! In addition to the rifle, Air Arms had also put in a whole mountain of their T-shirts, sweat shirts and baseball caps, whilst the ever-generous Richard “Dopper” Woods had added 4 of his very fine FlopOver targets to swell the prize list for the post-shoot draw, as did Aim Point who generously put in one of their £50 gift vouchers.

Maciek Pajek ended his day with a very creditable score of 53….

We should never forget that no competition can happen without all the hard work that the organisers, host club, and marshals put in on behalf of all the shooters who take part, and this is especially true on a day when it was so uncomfortably hot.

Jill Cochrane found a nice shady spot in the Buxted woods to do a spot of marshalling

The full results of Round 2 of the UKAHFT Series can be seen HERE 

It’s still not too late to get your entry in for Rounds 3 and 4, which take place at Maldon on 22 and 23 July – but places are limited so best not to wait too long; download the entry form, fill it in and send it off sharpish. 



A Modern Classic – the Air Arms S400
It wasn’t just the rifle that Air Arms kindly donated for Round 2 of the UKAHFT Series at Buxted

When Neil Wakelin’s name was drawn as the lucky winner of the brand new rifle that Air Arms had kindly donated as part of their sponsorship of Round 2 of the 2017 UKAHFT Series at Buxted, it made me reflect upon how the S400 has become the ubiquitous “go-to” gun in the sport of HFT.

A few years ago, when I was looking to get into HFT, the advice given by almost everyone I spoke to was to opt for an S400 as a first rifle – already this model had earned an enviable reputation not only for its accuracy but also its engineering and build quality, reliability, ease of maintenance, and ready availability of after-market accessories such as hamsters and adjustable butt pads.

The S400 has become very much one of the mainstays of the sport and you’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have a high opinion of this particular rifle. Sure, there might be more eye-catching and exotic guns out there as well, but cast an eye down any competition results list and you will always find an S400 featuring amongst the day’s high scores. In fact, the no-nonsense, straightforward nature of this gun can be a very attractive proposition if you’ve had more than your fair shares of “issues” with other more sophisticated (and often more temperamental!) rifles. I remember being partnered up with Mark Camoccio at a shoot, and him telling me that after spending a very frustrating summer shooting endlessly seeking the perfect adjustment and set-up on what was then one of the hottest new guns to hit the market that year, he had happily reverted to his trusty Air Arms and found that it was very refreshing to get “back to basics” and just start to enjoy his shooting again.

Put simply, the S400 doesn’t complicate things for the shooter, it just gets on and does the job without any fuss or dramas – and for this reason alone you can guarantee that it will continue to be a big part of the HFT scene for many years to come.