Air Rifle Competition

Have you ever watched a collegiate air rifle match? Until recently I hadn’t. Prior to the event a friend told me it could get boring, but I chose to go with an open mind. The truth is, I enjoyed the rhythmic sound of lead pellets “plinking” against the steel traps at the end of the short indoor range. Maybe it was simply the change of pace—no phones ringing, no emails, and no one knocking on the door. Just lead hitting steel and low whispers from the other spectators in the room.

With the naked eye it’s hard to watch an air rifle match. There’s little to see other than the competitors in their stance-stabilizing shooting gear standing next to a scope and a rifle rest. The .177 caliber pellets make holes that are too small to see from a spectator’s distance. However, with the use of a spotting scope your level of involvement can become interesting and even exciting as you anticipate the next shot to punch the target.

The match I observed was hosted on November 22nd, 2008, by the Lion Rifles, the air rifle club team at the UA Fort Smith, who just happened to set a new team high at this match by outgunning the visiting University of Nebraska rifle team 2126-2033. All of the Lion Rifles team members used RWS pellets. One loaded RWS R 10 match pellets while the others fired 8 grain RWS Meisterkugeln.

“This was a big day for us,” said Lion Rifles coach and adviser Roy Hill. “This is the first time we’ve been over 2100 points as a team, the first time we’ve had a shooter over 550 and the first time we’ve had a team of four shooters all over 500. There were a lot of milestones set today.”  The Lion Rifles squad has a history of success, including finishing fifth overall in the United States in the Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championship in March 2012 at the Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championship.

For a change of pace, go support your local air rifle team by watching an air rifle relay or two. Seeing the students silently compete and witnessing their big grins after a good relay are well worth the time.