Indoor airgun target shooting has a big following, in fact Bell Target shooting founded in the Midlands at the turn of the 19th century.
The oldest airgun shooting competition in Britain, first shot in 1906, was the brainchild of Robert Baden Powel of the Boy Scouts fame and Lord Edmund, which makes it over 100 years old.
Bell Target is shot over 6, or sometimes 7 yards from the standing position with 6ft.lb air rifles, originally with open sighted BSA and Webley airguns, now more normally with indoor match rifles with diopter sights. The metal plate used as the as the target has a 1/3in (8.5mm) diameter hole in the middle, behind which sits a bell, and all the shooter has to do is put a pellet through the hole to ring the bell!
The major world-wide air-powered indoor target sports, however, are 10- metre rifle and 10-metre pistol shooting, both of which are Olympic disciplines. Shooting first appeared in the Olympics in 1896 and has gone through a few changes since then the last one in 1996 when the men’s events were segregated from the woman’s.
The Olympic disciplines use paper targets, the 10m air rifle bullseye target being 45.5mm in diameter with the maximum score 10-ring actually a dot of 0.5mm yes, thats right, half a millimetre in diameter, while the air pistol target is 155.5mm in diameter with an 11.5mm 10-ring. Both targets are tough, and with Mens 10m Pistol and 10m Rifle matches over 60 shots in 105 minutes and womens being 40 shots in 75 minutes, for both competitions, theres no time, or place, for nerves.
The governing body for indoor shooting in the UK is the NSRA (National Small Bore Rifle Association) based at the home of shooting, Bisley in Surrey. The international body, the ISSF (International Shooting Sports Federation), sit on the International Olympic Committee and run the shooting sports sections of the Olympic Games every four years.
There are 14 leagues running in the UK, with 5-man teams competing.
The rifles used are 6ft.lb pre-charged pneumatics which have taken over, initially from spring-powered and then CO2-powered match rifles.
Sights are always diopter type, meaning they use an open non-optical system in which the shooter lines up the rifle with twin front and rear sights, the sight elements being rings. These rings correspond to the rings on the paper target, so the shooter aligns the sight ring with the target rings to ensure the aim is dead centre. Rifle costs vary. Starting at around 370.00 for the target version of an Air Arms S200T they finish at around 1500 for some models, but unfortunately for serious the indoor match shooter.
To compete on level terms, especially at the highest level, the rifle shooter must wear stiff custom-fitted jackets and trousers, specialised boots and, of course, a target glove. The whole outfit weighs a bit, but it does provide the support needed to stand and shoot for hours at a time. A shooting jacket can cost from £150 to £500 and more, in either thick canvas or made to measure leather, while trousers are normally custom fitted. Wide, flat-soled shooting boots will set you back from 100 to 120 and those essential target gloves 30 to 50.