Tuesday 28 September 2010

Exploding rabbits, and a revolutionary new trap

What a day I've had at Barbury Shooting School, just south of the M4 motorway near Swindon!

It was a twin launch - for Barbury's new simulated game days, and for Firebird 'reactive targets'. We sampled both, and were mightily impressed.

Barbury is a lovely ground with a smart timber lodge and a great variety of interesting layouts. Nice friendly people, and they served up one of the best bacon rolls you could wish for! They have recently started offering simulated game days, run on one of two estates a short drive away. It's a brilliant way for a team of guns to enjoy a day out, with all the trappings of a formal game shoot and with some really testing targets.

I'd heard a lot about the Firebird targets, and even seen some of the video clips - but nothing prepares you for the thrill of shooting a clay that explodes with a flash-bang and a big puff of white smoke. It's like dusting your first ever clay pigeon all over again.

It's almost as much fun for the spectators - I noticed today that the spectators were more involved, with plenty of cheering and jeering when targets were hit and missed. Could this be what clay shooting needs to make it TV-friendly?

I'm told the exploding targets work with air rifles (not air pistols), rimfires and centrefires as well, which would spice up target practice no end. Much of my childhood was taken up with devising ways to make Airfix aircraft blow apart when hit with my airgun - this is almost too easy!

I had a chat with the inventor John Green - who I first met nearly two decades ago when he launched his radio-controlled aircraft target, the Gnat:

As an added bonus, there were not one but two inventors at Barbury today - the other one a fascinating chap with the unlikely sounding name of Ferris Whidborne, a farmer who wasn't satisfied with the performance of modern clay pigeon traps, so he invented his own.

His trap is a remarkable contraption, looking a bit like a barbecue crossed with a dustbin lid - but boy does it throw clay pigeons! It's astonishingly light, simple, safe and versatile - the trappers at Barbury swear it's as much fun as actually shooting. Hear Ferris himself explain. And no your eyes are not deceiving you - he really is confident enough about his invention to fire a stream of clays over the visiting journalists' cars! The clays sailed easily 100 yards into the ploughed field beyond.

As an aside, this blog post is what you get when you let a shooting journalist loose with a Sony Bloggie, which I blagged from our ad department to try out. A nifty little gadget indeed.

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