Airgun Shooter editor-in-chief Mike Morton explains what it is about the sport that’s managed to keep him hooked for more than forty years
Why do I shoot? I’ve been asked that question many times over the years, almost always from people who don’t shoot. Although they may not want to pick up a rifle or pistol themselves, they aren’t necessarily against guns, they just don’t know anything about them and can’t understand the attraction.
In order to give them an answer they can better relate to, I liken shooting to other sports such as football, basketball or golf. These sports are more similar to shooting than many people might realise.
They all involve the successful placement of a projectile on, or in, a specific target while having to understand and take account of its ballistic properties. Shooting is safer than most other sports though. I’ve never been hurt while shooting, but I did get knocked out by a stray ball the very first time I played golf!
Maybe I’m a secret control freak. Perhaps I enjoy making things do my bidding. One of the ultimate thrills for me is my ability (or often my lack of ability) to land a pellet exactly where I want, when I want.
A successful strike on the target demands a massive amount of concentration and control, but the feeling is euphoric. Look at a shooter’s face when they are about to take a shot and you’ll see absolute concentration, maybe a furrowed brow or even a frown.
But take a look at a shooter’s face after a successful shot and you’ll see a massive grin. It must be the same for the football player scoring a goal, or the golfer who’s just sunk a long putt.
A miss, on the other hand, will have totally the opposite effect. Luckily the solution is relatively simple: I try to learn from my mistakes, develop my technique and keep on shooting.
The Great Outdoors
Being out and about in the countryside, or even at an open air range, rifle in hand, is one of the many pleasures in life, especially when the sun is shining. It doesn’t even have to be a warm day, as some of the best shooting experiences I’ve ever had have been on crisp winter’s days.
In contrast, being out in the rain may not sound like fun, and let’s be honest, it’s usually not. But it’s still part of the experience, and when you’ve come home and dried off, there’s a certain satisfaction to be had that while the rest of the family have been hunkered down in the dry watching television, you’ve been out and about actually doing something.
Having A Blast
I used to enjoy hunting a lot, although these days most of my shooting is either club-related or field testing for Airgun Shooter magazine. Both hunting and target shooting demand intense concentration, but as I suggested above the emotional payout for a successful strike is huge.
Nevertheless, and perhaps it’s because this is how I began shooting in the first place, there will always be a place in my heart for good, old-fashioned plinking.
There’s something inherently satisfying about toppling a tin can, sending a spinner spinning or setting off one of the many pyrotechnic targets you can find today with a solid hit.
If target shooting is a five-course meal, then plinking is a fast food fix, but there’s still an awful lot of pleasure to be had in the instant gratification offered by the garden range.
I love tinkering with things, trying to improve or enhance them, and as such I truly appreciate the gunmaker’s skill in creating a complex item that consistently delivers accurate and repeatable results.
That’s not just down to the rifle, but the scope and mounts too. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and whenever I set up a new rifle my aim is to create a chain with no weaknesses.
I enjoy the act of pairing a rifle with a scope and a set of suitable mounts, ensuring those three essential components don’t just fit together, but they actually fit me properly too.
And it still amazes me how air rifles, particularly pre-charged pneumatics, work as well as they do considering the incredibly high air pressures that are demanded of the seals and working parts. I’m in awe of what these clever people can do, and that enhances my enjoyment of the gun all the more.
A Gun For All
Something I really appreciate about shooting is the fact that it’s pretty much accessible to everyone, regardless of their budget. I now have a fair few mid- and high-priced airguns, but it wasn’t always that way, and I always get very excited when I find a rifle that I can shoot beyond my expectations.
If I’m being honest with myself, I’ll admit to enjoying shooting my PCPs more than my springers. This is simply down to the fact that PCPs are easier to shoot, I get better results and therefore I tell myself I’m a better shot.
But what really makes me a better shot is the fact that I shoot my springers on a regular basis. And because they’re harder to shoot, that makes them all the more rewarding when everything comes together and those pellets are landing exactly where intended.
Airguns As Art
Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who love to accumulate a collection of airguns, but don’t actually shoot them. I can relate to that to an extent, although every airgun I own does get shot on a regular basis.
My guns don’t come from one specific period or from one particular manufacturer, but I find them all pleasing to the eye or at least pleasing to the touch, whether it’s a traditional sporting break-barrel such as my Weihrauch HW95 K or the purposeful lines of my Daystate Pulsar, which really is a pugnacious little bullpup. They’re so different and yet they’re so alike. And I adore shooting them all.
Shooting The Breeze
I’ve left the best reason why I shoot until last: the camaraderie. It’s great to turn up at a range and share some banter and have a general catch-up with some like-minded individuals.
Better yet, I’ve managed to make some life-long friends through shooting, and these are people who come from all walks of life. If it hadn’t been for our shared interest in shooting I’d never have met them and my life wouldn’t be quite as rich as it is now.
So why do I shoot? Well, a better question to ask might be “why do I breathe?” It’s my life.