AP in England

Yes, you can shoot in the England but, if you want to shoot handgun, it’s going to be either air pistol (AP) or black powder.

I was there for a week on business and checked the local clubs. The Marlow (Berkshire) Rifle and Pistol Club’s website listed Monday evening air pistol and, after swapping emails with the club chairman (see the website) to find out if I could shoot and if the club had a pistol I could borrow and getting a “Yes” to both, I went.



Map to Recreation Center

As you can see from the map, the club is just south of the center of Marlow (in Berkshire). The building houses a recreational facility on the banks of the Thames River. It includes tennis courts, weight rooms, swimming pool and so forth. The shooting club has a dedicated space divided into a reception area and the firing range. The facility is west of London, a few miles outside of the M25, the “Motorway” (similar to US Interstate highways) that circles the city. The “car park” at the recreation facility is free after 7:00PM and evening event at the range starts at 8:00PM.

I arrived a few minutes early hoping to meet other shooters. As it happened, however, I was the only handgun shooter. The three others were all shooting air rifles.

The gentleman running the event offered me my choice of the club’s two air pistols, both pump action. After trying both triggers, I reluctantly chose the Gamo and prepared to shoot a few 10 round targets.



10M Range

But I must confess I was disappointed to be the only handgun shooter and, more so, saddened by the apparent demise of pistol shooting in England.

As you may know, handguns were banned in England and some other parts of the UK in 1999 except for black powder and air. Owners of all other types of handguns were forced to sacrifice their weapons. I’m told that many owners either sold their guns to people living on the continent where such ownership was still legal, or that they joined clubs on the mainland where they could visit a couple of times per year to shoot, clean and then lock their handguns away into storage until their next visit.

Disheartened, I shot three targets but was quickly losing interest and the desire to hit the 10 ring. And when I began the fourth but placed my first two shots outside the black, I decided to stop and take a break, and then to decide about continuing or just leaving.

I stepped out to the reception area, sat down and closed my eyes.

And it was then that I overheard a voice in the room saying, “And then after you’ve balanced your weight in your NPA, raise your arm slightly above your aiming area and then let it settle back down. The muscle along the top of your shoulder is much smoother when extending and you’ll get less wobble if you come down into the aiming area, not up.”

“I know this language,” I said to myself.

The voice went on, “In the nine week program, we’ll go through these basics, we will develop a shot plan — a couple of them most likely — and, toward the end, I’ll help you figure out a time sequence for shot release that will work for you.”

What’s this, I wondered?

I’ve seen a couple of different programs and workbooks in the US but nothing called the “Nine week plan.”

I opened my eyes to see who was speaking. The gentleman had his back to me. He was bareheaded, wore what appeared to be a sleeveless shooting jacket over a long-sleeve shirt, and wore khaki pants.

He was speaking to the fellow that had taken my evening’s registration and five pounds whom, I gathered, was interested in learning to shoot pistols from this expert.

Well, heck, so am I!

I waited for a pause in the conversation before asking if this was a program he had personally developed?

No, he said. It had been developed by the senior trainers throughout the country (the UK) and that he was merely the senior trainer for Berkshire. His job, he said, was to work with those air pistol shooters who had already excelled in preliminary training administered by designated (and trained) trainers at each of the local clubs and, as each of his trainees then completed their nine week programs, he might recommend a few of them on to the national program and its trainers.

I asked several more questions and he showed me quite a bit more of the program but, when I asked if a copy of the program were available in the United States he smiled and said that, no, at this point the program is only being used in the UK to encourage air pistol shooting in preparation for the 2012 summer olympics in Lonon.

With that, I was even more impressed, and interested.

We went on to discuss some of my immediate issues including trigger control, finger position, balance and head position, and the problems of eye versus hand dominance and the good and bad positions for cross-eyed shooting.

He generously offered a solution to one of my issues.

Specifically, although I am left-eye dominant, I shoot righty-righty because the only way I knew to shoot cross-eyed made my neck hurt. When I told him I was cross-doninant and demonstrated the position I had tried, before I could say why I quit using that position he said, “Don’t do that — it’ll make your neck hurt!”

And went on, “Stand this way instead and then learn how to deal with the recoil. It will be awkward at first but many have mastered it. You probably can too.”

But as much as I wanted it, the “Nine week program” wasn’t going to fall into my hands, nor would it be possible for me to complete the program. That impossibility was not because of my home address (outside of the UK). Rather, although the program could take longer than nine weeks to complete, it still required regular practice. But with my work and travel, that just is not in the cards I’ve been dealt for this period in my career.

So, I took the gentleman’s offered email address and said I’d drop him a note. I’m still very interested in the contents of the program and, although I’m unable to do all of it, some of the elements would still be of very practical use. My intention, and he was agreeable, would be for me to pick and choose the parts I could adopt, and that he would work with me by email to integrate them into my shooting.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Looks like it’s time.

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