The Full Story
The History of Field Target
Field Target (FT) first started on the 7th September 1980, the first event being held on land behind a pub called the Red Lion in Magham Down in Sussex.
Over 100 people attended this inaugural event, armed with air rifles varying from a Webley Vulcan in .22 calibre to an FWB 300 match rifle. It was originally started as an informal sport for anyone with an air rifle. The original targets were not the knockdown type we know now, but simple metal silhouettes of the common quarry species, to which orange stickers were affixed as hit zones.
The new sport quickly gained popularity and spread across the UK. By the mid 1980's the sport had grown massively in popularity, with the familiar knock down style targets being introduced. The introduction of the Weihrauch HW77 was a pivotal point in the sport, as this rifle quickly established itself as the rifle of choice, either out of the box or in a custom form from specialist tuners such as Venom Arms and Airmasters.
At some point in the mid 1980's, FT shooting was adopted by the USA, initially hosted stateside by only a handful of small clubs across the country. As more shooters joined the legions of devoted weekend "hunters", there appeared a need for a national organization to oversee the growth of the sport. Thus, the American Airgun Field Target Association (AAFTA) was born in 1987 to manage the sport. The US rules differ slightly from the UK version.
By 1987 the sport had reached comparatively massive proportions in the UK, with attendances in excess of 300 at the national shoots. 1987/88 saw the first serious use of pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles and high magnification scopes in FT, which would ultimately have a profound effect on the sport.
The first international FT events started taking place somewhere in the mid 1980's, with UK shooters being invited to attend events in the US. Shooters such as Richard North, Tom Walton, Terry Doe and others travelled to California for various events around 1987/8.
The first formal world championships came about at the end of the 80's into the early 1990's, with the venue alternating between the UK and the US - these two being the only major players at this time.
Over the 1990's other countries started to appear on the scene. Norway was one of the first with Germany following at a later date. By the end of 2011 the WFTF (World Field Target Federation) already consisted of 30 member countries.
Dale Foster of England
The Red Lion, Sussex
Location of the first inaugural Field Target event.
In the twentieth century Magham Down reached its commercial peak, still small, but it did include a motor garage, the Red Lion pub, a guest house and a village shop and post office. In due course the garage and the Guest House across the street from the Red Lion became the Old Forge Hotel but by the end of the century the Red Lion pub and the village shop had closed.