In the last decade, hunter field target (HFT) shooting has come a long way. For a sport that started out as practice for airgun hunting it is now holding World Championship events that attract over 350 shooters! For those just getting into the sport you really are picking the best time to do it, gone are the days of making competitors go prone in muddy bogs, it’s now a well respected target sport and the addition of HFT shooting mats is just part of this.
HFT Shooting mats are essential pieces of equipment for shooting, they provide many functions such as:
- Keep you clean and comfortable, out of mud or wet leaves
- Provide grip for your arms and elbows, helping you keep steady while shooting
- Some can hold equipment like shooting gloves and score cards
Many HFT shooters will use things like Carp landing mats or Yoga Mats as shooting mats but they have a couple of limitations such as being the wrong size for a full grown adult to lay on or in the case of Yoga Mats they are often slippery once you’re wearing outdoor clothing and some soak up mud and water. People used these mats because they used to be far less expensive than dedicated HFT shooting mats but this is no longer the case. For just a few quid more you can get a real shooting mat designed for the job.
Best HFT Shooting Mat
1. Centaur Folding HFT Shooting Mat – Best Overall Shooting Mat
The Centaur Shooting mat is a great value mat offering everything you could want for a very reasonable price.
Firstly the most impressive feature is the elbow grip on the front section of the mat. This prevents your elbow from sliding which is very common when using a mat for HFT shooting. This is often the shooters fault as people tend to relax as they pull the trigger and this can translate into you slipping down the post as you take your shot. This mat will help prevent that with a textured rubber section.
The mat measures 200cm x 80cm making it more than big enough for the average person to shoot from and it’s fold up design with 3 handles makes it very easy to carry between lanes. The mat has a closed foam cell in the middle which is about 10mm thick, this makes it incredibly comfortable during testing. My rifle club has a stone path which can be brutal on your knees when shooting prone, even when shooting from there it was absolutely fine and a pleasure to use.
The mat is high quality, very comfortable and has all the features you want. My only gripe is I wish it came with a carry case for transporting it in my car as the way it folds up exposes the dirty side of the mat to the outside but a bin liner can take car of that.
- Light Battery
- Small Design
- Official Ryobi Brand
- Small Capacity, only 2.5Ah
Conclusion – Which shooting mat is best?
The best shooting mat for you will largely depend on your budget and what you think will work best for your shooting ground. Many shooters will carry multiple mats when traveling and pick one on the day depending on what they face (in particular wet weather where grip is more important than staying dry, as you’re going to get wet anyway…).
Out of all the mats I tested I feel the Centaur Fold Up Shooting Mat was the best, it offered the best comfort and features. It was simple to move around the HFT course because of it’s folding design and never tried to roll up on me while attempting to use it. It’s only downside was the price…
The best value pick out of the shooting mats I tested was the “in your sights” pro shooting mat. It offered many of the same features of the AIM field sports mat but came in at half the cost… It found it a bit harder to use when taking it around a course due to the roll up design but it was just as good in every other way. It really is a bargain!
For those looking to spend the minimal amount to get started with hunter field target you can go with the Soundswinds shooting mat which offered great levels of comfort and grip on the elbow for the price of two tins of pellets. This would make a great gift for any shooter for those looking to surprise someone!
Ultimately the choice is yours, any of the three mats above will serve you well. The most important part of any sport is enjoying yourself and unless you’re a masochist who enjoys getting covered in mud and then driving home covered in this stuff a shooting mat is probably a good idea for any beginner shooter.