Pistol Advice for Pony Club Tetrathletes
The challenge of switching to one-handed shooting
When Pony Club Tetrathletes turn 12, they switch from two-handed to one-handed pistol shooting. This is officially a Big Thing and most of the technique that they have learnt to date will have to either be thrown out or re-learnt from an entirely new perspective. And that’s before we start to talk about the physical strength required to hold a pistol with an outstretched arm. Luckily, many Tetrathletes are naturally strong for their age from the work they do in the other Tet events (riding, running and swimming) – but that is not to say they find it easy, because it isn’t.
One of the biggest challenges is the pistol itself. Very often, they will have been using a pneumatic pistol like the Gamo Compact, a mainstay of Pony Clubs all over the UK – robust, well-built and more or less accurate. Some of the later/better models even have a half-decent trigger and grip. When they are shooting one-handed the athletes often load the gun themselves and on the Gamo and similar pneumatic pistols, that is physically demanding, even for many adults.
Therefore, putting aside the need to redevelop the shooting technique (i.e. stance, alignment, breathing, etc.) perhaps the biggest single help that can be given to a new one-handed pistol shooter is to consider a match quality pistol. These are pre-charged (powered by a pre-filled compressed air cylinder) and therefore easy to load, relatively lightweight with a more anatomical grip and a much better trigger.
They are, however, much more expensive and there are a few choices out there. I have put together this brief guide to entry-level match pistols, where you can buy them and what else you might need to make them work. If I’ve shot with them myself, I’ll say so – if not I’ll reference where I have found the information.
A budget precision pistol from a well-known manufacturer of world class precision rifles & pistols.
Typically £600 - £700.
- Can dry-fire
- Good trigger
- Lightweight – 870g
- 3 front sight widths
- Fully adjustable rear sights
- Comes with plastic case
- Large cylinder (~120 shots)
- Adjustable grip
- Pressure gauge supplied
- Adjustable cylinder location for optimal balance
- Pressure gauge is not fixed to cylinder
Air Arms Alfa
A small form starter match gun from the British manufacturer.
Typically around £700.
- Can dry-fire
- Good trigger
- Lightweight – 907g
- 3 front sight widths
- Small air cylinder – (~80 shots) sufficient for Tet
- Limited rear sight adjustability
- No pressure gauge
- Comes with a flimsy cardboard case (not confirmed)
- Fixed grip size
Those are the guns at the budget end of the spectrum and it’s hard not to recommend the Hammerli with its adjustable grip, manufacturer history and that all-important solid plastic case…
Stepping It Up
The next level up represents the entry level pistols from the main manufacturers of world-class match pistols such as Morini, Steyr, Feinwerkbau and Pardini. As the prices start to break the £1,000 mark, I have not included them her in any detail. If you can find one at a decent price in the second-hand market (e.g. Guntrader and Gunstar) then they can be a good buy – just be sure to check that they have been serviced properly and that the grip is the right size (generally S or XS for new one-handed Tet shooters). The grips for these guns can be customised to suit the individual’s hand and Target Pistol Coaching provides this service – contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Morini CM 162EI Short & 162MI Short
The Morini is a world-class gun with the 162El model having, I believe, the best electronic trigger in the world. I like this as a beginner’s gun as it has very few adjustable settings to confuse things. Reliable and well-made.
Prices start at £1,300. Available from Ubhi Targets & Guns.
Steyr LP2 Compact
A familiar sight on Pony Club Tet firing points over the years this is another world class gun. In recent years Steyr have had some trigger and velocity consistency issues, but the LP2 is a proven choice nonetheless.
Others that are good but relatively hard to find include the Feinwerkbau P11 and the Pardini Kid – both come from established manufacturers and are ambidextrous. The former is particularly light and, knowing Feinwerkbau, very well engineered.
To go with your new pistol, you’ll need some compressed air to fill the cylinder. This is a little more complex than you might think. Most scuba diving shops can provide the necessary tanks at 232 bar or 300 bar and in a variety of sizes. If you have easy access to a compressor and would like the tank to be portable, then go for a smaller size that you will need to refill more regularly. A 300 bar tank will hold more air than a 232 bar tank of the same size, but you will likely need an adaptor similar to the one above, as the charging adaptors for pistol cylinders are built for 232 bar tank valves.
The only other thing to note about air tanks is that high pressure air tanks are dangerous! Do not let your child charge their pistol themselves and keep on top of the maintenance schedule for the tank itself. Your local scuba shop can advise you on all of this.
The alternative is a hand pump such as in the image on the left, but these are only for temporary/emergency use as they do not really extract the moisture from the air when filling a cylinder, leading over time to rusting within the cylinder itself with the potential to damage the pistol and costly replacement of cylinders and barrels.