The return of a legend

 The Starshot is back, and Don Brunt gives it a go

It was undoubtedly one of the high water marks of the sports presence on TV. Something that saw celebrities such as Ian Botham teamed with clay shooting stars like AJ “Smoker” Smith competing on our screens on the BBC in a primetime slot, sponsored by the likes of Budweiser and Daihatsu. Starshot was something that many of us grew up with but thanks to the tragic events of Hungerford it was consigned to the history books, and for many that was the end of it. However it has now been resurrected and stands to be seen around the country once again.

I was in my teens when I first saw Starshot on TV and I was instantly hooked, it looked like a lot of fun, the fast shooting antics of the competitors soon earned my admiration and under the floodlights at night it looked quite the spectacle.  It was something I wanted to try, but of course all too soon it disappeared, never I thought to be seen again.  However John Bridges from Lancashire had other ideas and has now realised a 20-year ambition to see it back in action once again.

“I was a Sporting shot when I started but once I had tried Starshot I never shot anything else, I think its just so addictive and so much fun I was hooked instantly.  This has been a real labour of love for me, I had hoped that it would be relaunched a few years after Hungerford as had been the intention of the previous owners but that never happened and the unit ended up laying derelict in a building for 16 years until I eventually managed to buy it. The whole thing has been stripped, renovated and rebuilt and I don’t think there is one of the original nuts and bolts in the entire structure.”

“It’s quite simple to do, the goal is to shoot at and kill each target in its designated square with one shot. Do that twelve times plus the final simultaneous pair and away you go. The format and the birds never change. The only variation is that each target gets progressively faster as you move up from one to 12 – to a degree you literally have to ambush the final four. If you straight all 12 of the sector birds and the sim pair at the end the maximum score is 88, though once you’ve done it you will want to keep going so addictive can it be”

The unit is set to be travelling around the country this year running qualifiers ahead of a final scheduled to take place at Grange Farm near Leicester, just as well then that the unit is considering its size remarkably portable, taking less than 2 hours to install on site.

Having tried it I was somewhat taken aback by just how much fun it is. Spot shooting is the key to success and those who dawdle will find themselves struggling. If you can shoot well instinctively then you may surprise yourself as I did, missing just two targets for a fairly respectable score. With the birds rising quickly and having to be shot within the required “segment” a somewhat unusual stance is required, leaning over at 45 degrees enables you to see the clay quickly and without using that technique success is almost impossible. Once you get used to that then the fun comes by the bucket load, the top four segments are the easiest and feel almost leisurely compared to the bottom four which are simply a matter of seeing the target and pulling the trigger, so short is the moment of opportunity.

Would I do it again? Almost certainly, and judging by the reception it got at the British Shooting Show it seems likely that there will be plenty of others queuing up to have a go.

Martin Knagg is the current British Champion and has been at the top of the discipline throughout its chequered history “I shot it for years and I’m overjoyed that it’s back again, I absolutely love it. It’s a great spectacle and a good spectator sport as well.  As for technique, in any discipline you have to be able to see it to shoot it, and the canted over stance helps a lot. Its not about trick shooting, you just need to work out where you’re going to shoot it and get on with it.”  As for equipment the gun needs to be light and fast, Martins “little Nell” being a game gun that has been cut down to 24 ¼ inches with zero choke for speed and pattern size.

As for the future John is in talks with several grounds and organisations about adding extra dates into the calendar for the 2012 season, and his long term goal is to once again see it back on our screens on a regular basis. If his determination and passion for Starshot is anything to go by, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he manages just that!

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Confirmed 2012 Calendar Dates

26/27 May – Yorkshire Game Fair, Stockeld Park, Weatherby

3 June – Fauxdegla,Wales

24 June – Grange Farm SG

30 June – Euroguns,Browning Open Day, Doncaster

5 August – Cheshire Game & Angling Fair – Peover Hall
18/19 August – Drumlanrig Country Fair, Scotland

25/26/27 August – Cheshire Game Fair Tabley.

Final = 7th October, Grange Farm, Leicester


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