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The Pilling Outdoor Air Rifle Range.
I was up early on Saturday morning, well at least half an hour earlier than usual. I had to pull out my Air Arms FTP900 target rifle, as I was going to take a break from hunting and airgun/pellet testing, to instead have some rest and recuperation time because I’d been invited to a local club by a couple of good friends - an offer I couldn’t talk myself out of. The club I was preparing to attend was a club I’d known about since its birth on 6th May 2016, but back then I thought ‘oh, here we go again, another airgun club’, but is this just another club?
A Warm Welcome
Saturday was the hottest recorded day so far of 2019 with reports of temperatures soaring in France to 45 degrees and 24 degrees in the Northwest of England, information I’d heard on the radio whilst driving in. I quickly found a place to park, doing my best to ensure I didn’t block anyone else in whilst observing that parking was restricted on the site, a site which also doubled up as the Madden family home and other businesses.
I quickly got myself out of the blistering heat and stepped into the club house where I found my friends and Lee Madden who all greeted me. I was given time to familiarise myself with the clubhouse before getting my gear from the car, followed by a short yet informative induction to the club’s health and safety policy, operating rules, fees and opening times.
The 25 metre long, 2.5 metre wide timber framed clubhouse is north facing and I was glad to be out of the sun under the corrugated steel sheet roof, in the nice cool shade. The clubhouse contains a wood burner with accompanying fire wood, a brewing bench for free brews, and some tall lockers that are used to store shooting cushions and bean bags for guests who forget to bring their own. And yes of course the shooting bench itself, that has 24 seat placements. The seats are made up of a mixture of loose stools and chairs at varying heights, allowing the shooters to pick one that’s most comfortable for them to be used during their shooting experience.
The bench itself is lined with individual rubber placemats and is considerably sturdy. I didn’t notice any movement through my morning shooting session, even though my fellow shooters and I had gotten up off and leant on the bench a number of times, I felt nothing that would affect my shooting accuracy. Underfoot however was a distracting loose grey gravel, that not only turned my shoes grey but also left marks on the bottoms of my trousers, as soon as I got into showing off, I mean shooting, I forgot the gravel was even there.
Having settled in on a nice comfortable chair and with the rifle rested on the shooting bag Lee had kindly provided me, I began impressing my companions with pellet on pellet impact at 35 yards on the smallest spinners I could find. Unfortunately, one of the young fellows I was shooting with hadn’t shot an airgun before and was struggling to find his eye and cheek alignment on the Hawke scope mounted on the HW100 he was using. Before I could get up to assist, Lee Madden was already there checking the scope and gun over for him and quickly closing the shooting range to put out a large paper target for us all to check our zero on. I was thoroughly impressed with his hands on approach; this was a guy who genuinely wanted his visitors to have a good time and a bad gun or scope combination would ruin someone's day, he wasn’t going to allow that to happen.
Once my fellow shooters were comfortable, I spent a few minutes explaining pellet trajectory, hold over and hold under to the newbie and giving him further pointers throughout the morning to help him improve his accuracy. My tuition ensured he continued to thoroughly enjoyed himself as he impressively and successfully hit the smaller targets out to 35, 45, and 50 yards, then also managing a few out to 70 yards. Watching him reminded me of a young child who had discovered something new and exciting for the first time as he cheered out ‘I GOT IT’ every now and then.
I thought it was time to show the newbie what the veteran shooters can do, so I asked we play a little cat and mouse game, in which we’d follow him around the field full of targets in front us, hitting everything he was aiming at, after him. I think the pair of us experienced shooters proved ourselves by hitting a 50mm 70yard target shot after shot, oh yes! The newbie still has a lot to learn. Fortunately for him he has some good teachers. The other club members also got involved in our banter, and that made our visit all the more enjoyable.
There’s plenty to shoot at in the 35 x 70 yard range in front of the clubhouse, as it’s littered with electric, reactive, silhouettes, spinners, paper, gongs and various other unique challenging targets. The targets are also regularly repositioned and painted twice a week, and repaired or replaced regularly. The first two rows of targets are reserved for sub 6ft/lb pistols or rifles and the remaining targets are marked out at 5-yard intervals, with some challenging 70 yarders. The grass field is also mowed twice a week to ensure all the targets are visible.
“Appearance and image are important to us” Lee Madden. Below are some photos taken of the range from the club house.
The club is run on a trust basis and all members are required to sign in and pay the range fee upon arrival. The range is run and maintained by Lee Madden, with the help of his family Geoff, Shirley and Emily Madden. Lee’s mother was on hand during my visit, regularly asking us if we wanted a brew or something hot to eat - the Madden’s made us all feel like part of their extended family.
Plans To Improve
The club currently has a small annexe building housing unisex rest room facilities but Lee informed me he’s currently working on ideas to improve the wash facilities to include a dedicated male and female WC. Further improvements include a dedicated pistol range, a club lounge, a mini HFT practice course and improvements to parking and social areas.
MADAIR is located on the main A588, 10 miles south of Lancaster, M6 junction 33. The club is open every day except Christmas day. Opening times during winter are 9:00am to 5:00pm and 9:00am to 9:30pm in the summer months.
MADAIR – Club Brief Overview
70 yards outdoor air rifle and pistol range based in Pilling.
You can find the club at - Oak Lea, Head Dyke Lane, Pilling PR3 6SJ, TEL 07825321665.
Winter opening times are 9am / 5pm.
Summer opening times are 9am / 9.30pm.
Thursday night is gun club night with a prize to be won every week. This starts from 4pm till 9pm with hot food and free cake for pudding. It's relaxed and is a real good laugh.
Annual membership fee is £30 from January to December.
If you have your own rifle, range fees are £6 for four hours to members and £10 for three hours for non-members. There’s no limit to how many times you can attend during the week, and if the clubs not busy you will not be asked to leave when your shooting time is up, there are no clock watchers.
Members can bring up to two friends/guest (non-member) for a fee of £6 each.
Hire rifle fees are £30 per shooting session, and this includes rifle pellets and tuition. However, this facility is only available on weekends and must be pre booked in advance.
Refreshments are available for everyone’s needs located in the range
Once you’ve had a health and safety induction you’re free to come and go as you please as the club operates on a trust basis. No Under 18s however as the club insurance doesn’t cater for minors.
Competitions are held during the summer with lots of shooting related prizes up for grabs.
Adequate on-site parking facilities, but be warned the club doesn’t insure your car or belongings, hence you park at your own risk.
Shared welfare facilities.
Free hot drinks for all members.
Family run club.
24 hour CCTV in operation for your safety.
My Final Thoughts
When I heard of MADAIR I immediately thought “oh, here we go, another airgun club”, and after visiting many other airgun clubs around the UK, clubs that are churning out the same old format, I’ve been on the lookout for something more relaxed, something that would take me away from the field and my chosen hunting hobby. MADAIR has done just that. This is a club that breaks the norm, this is a club that puts airgun shooting back into the hands of the shooter.
I must admit I was surprised with the way the club was run and the format in which it operates, the cheerful welcoming approach of the club staff and landowners was refreshing. The future plans Lee and the Madden family have for the club will only see it improve further, I have long been waiting for a modern take on air rifle shooting and I’m glad to say this is one of the clubs on my list of great north west clubs that meet the criteria.
Go along for a relaxed plinking session, or use the well-constructed bench to zero a new scope or rifle. Shoot at hundreds of targets that are regularly moved and maintained, targets that are challenging yet allow the shooter to learn the art of airgun shooting. Tap into the wealth of knowledge the club owners and members have. Or just use it as a great relaxed place to catch up with friends once a week - yes once a week as I’ve decided to become a fully-fledged member.
Airgun shooting doesn’t have to be competition shooting serious, this is a club that doesn’t need you to have a game face on all the time, sit back relax with a brew, join in with one of the fun shoots, smile and have a piece of cake. Spend the day chatting about different rifles or pellets, exchange hunting stories or exchange good shooting advice, the choice is yours.
As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and tune in again for a recap of my next trip out with an air rifle, until next time, shoot straight and shoot safe. All The Best, Ray Hussain.
MADAIR, Oak Lea, Head Dyke Lane, Pilling PR3 6SJ
EMAIL: [email protected]