My Clay Shooting Journey by Ben Wells.
Part 5 February 2023 - '2020 Began with a Bang'
2020 arrived and I was out of the starting blocks and won the first three monthly Club shoots at Bisley. I was on a roll and Steve Whitehorn, a Bisley instructor, took me under his wing. Most weekends he would drive me to different grounds to compete in competitions to extend my experience and shoot at different grounds.
Then suddenly the world stopped as everything closed due to the pandemic. As everyone knows it was sudden, harsh and brutal. I was back to mounting a Nerf gun in my bedroom – it was the only thing that I could do that was related to shooting.
Four months later Bisley was able to open their Grounds and implemented many safe practices to ensure that shooting could go ahead. We were squadded and everyone wore masks and used the hand sanitiser on the controls, and it was simply great to be back. I completed all seven available club shoots that year and won the Club Championship for a second year – a wonderful feeling and sense of achievement.
2021 and another Lockdown
The start of 2021 saw another lockdown, this one was longer than the first and it was tough to stay motivated and when the Club Shoots started again in June, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to shoot. Luckily muscle memory kicked in as soon as I held my gun for the first time and I called that wonderful word “Pull” and I was back out and shooting.
I was almost overwhelmed by the enormity of the event
Another shooter at Bisley, who I had met through the monthly shoots being squadded – Paul Day – suggested that I enter The CPSA World English Sporting 2021 competition at E. J Churchill Ground in July. I hadn’t even realised that I could enter but entry is open to everyone and with travel restrictions still in place there were places available.
On Paul’s advice I decided to enter and experience a world competition. This was a huge step up – it was a 200-bird competition over two days, with 204 squads entered. I was competitor 658, in Group 120 starting out on Peg 4. The enormity of the event struck me from the moment I arrived – being coached to the part of the Grounds where the competition was being held, the sheer number of people, the number of cars in the car park, and the incredible organisation and how smoothly everything ran.
When I stepped up on the first stand my heart rate was approx. 130 and I was almost overwhelmed by the enormity of the event. I’m sure that my fingers were trembling when I loaded my first pair of cartridges and I remember taking a deep breath and closing my eyes before closing my gun, exhaling and then saying that one word “Pull” and I was doing it, I was competing in The CPSA World English Sporting 2021 event.
I was on a high at the end of Day One and so excited to go back for the second day. I didn’t win but I scored 144/200, so an average of 72 and I am so grateful to Paul for the encouragement to participate and the whole experience, it was simply incredible to be part of such an event.
I was honoured to represent Surrey
From there, and with Steve’s support, I gained the confidence to enter more events away from Bisley and entered CPSA events to gain a class classification, and in October I was honoured to represent Surrey at Compak, English Sporting and FITASC Sporting competitions, winning the Junior title for Compak and FITASC. Bisley was still my home ground and where I did my training. The annual Club Shoot competition was a key goal for me, which I won for the third year with an average of 85.43%. I was thrilled to win but disappointed that my average had gone down, so my next goal was to win it for a fourth year and improve my average.
I went on to win all 12 competitions
2022 was a busy year. I had my heart set on regaining the Junior Bisley Champion title, entering other competitions and representing Surrey and had to juggle all of this with A levels and University applications.
January was a great start and really helped me believe that I could do it. I achieved my highest score of 96/100 in the January Club Shoot and went on to win all 12 competitions, with an increased average across the 12 of 89.75, and became the first person to win the Championship four consecutive years – I’m really proud of that.
Everyone at Bisley has encouraged me all the way and they really make me feel that this Ground is my home. It has been a challenge balancing schoolwork, revision and exams, but it helped me learn to prioritise what was important and how to make time for the things that matter the most to me.
I’ve had to compromise and reduce my instructor-practice sessions to one a month rather than once a week, but Bisley have great new practice facilities and Caddy Rounds which have helped. The cost of cartridges has increased at least three times and competitions are expensive and it’s been great how the Surrey CPSA have encouraged Juniors to compete and help us with competition fees when representing our County.
I have my eyes firmly set on being the first Junior to transition to the Mens and win that Championship too!
2023 is a new year and I’ll have new challenges as I will be competing as an adult at Bisley, so I have my eyes firmly set on being the first Junior to transition to the Mens and win that Championship too! It won’t be easy as there is some fierce competition.
I came 2nd in the first shoot of the year in January, scoring 90, missing out on first place to Paul Carlin who scored 91.
I am grateful for all of the support of everyone at Bisley as I continue my shooting journey, and I’m excited and looking forward to the challenge ahead!