I’ve heard plenty of ShootClay Forum members talking about Helice so I took the opportunity of a beautiful early spring day to head round the M25 to one of the countries few Helice layouts to join in with the Essex County Championship for this unusual shotgun discipline.
Helice (or ZZ as it is sometimes called) is a little bit different, as competitors shoot at a unique ZZ target – which has two propeller blades about a foot wide. The targets are launched from a trap that spins the propeller at a high-speed, and then releases the target to take a more random curling path than a clay. The center of the target (called the ‘witness’) must be hit and completely separated from the propeller before the witness leaves the boundary of the shooting area. To make things more interesting, when the shooter calls ‘pull’ the target is released from one of 5 traps set 24 meters in front of the shooting position. So, in a split second the shooter must find the target, aim at it and shoot it.
Clearly this is a discipline that needs a different approach to my traditional sporting shooting - so as I arrived at A1SG I was keen to get some practice in before the Championship meeting started and I made a fool of myself!
I’ve talked about A1SG before (here) so I’m not going to wax lyrical about the excellent coffee and the very nice bacon sandwich on arrival – but after I had booked on, I made my way round to the Helice layout and joined about 30 other shooters including some members of the forum to try this out.
There is a certain etiquette to Helice, the shooter takes their position, loads their gun and calls ‘Ready’, where the scorer confirms that the system is ready. Then the shooter calls ‘Pull’ and the system randomly selects a trap and launches a target. As the target is launched a white flap comes down in front of the trap so there is an indication of the trap being used and the target emerges at a varying angle, speed and path. Some targets stay flat and low, some will rise and arc away so gun hold needs to be low and central enough to see the target rising and take aim, and your swing needs to be fast and smooth to get on the target quickly. Full use of the gun is allowed, so a second quick follow-up shot can be used if you miss, it needs to be quick as that target is moving toward the boundary fence at pace.
I took three practice shots – and missed every one. It’s a slightly different technique to clay shooting, where lead needs to be taken into account. At Helice, the shot should be taken directly at the target with the gun movement providing the sight picture. The general advice from everyone today was to ‘see it, shoot it’ - quick reactions, quick hands, quick and smooth movement and quick shots are the order of the day.
After a 0ex3 warm up, I was a bit daunted heading into the competition but I killed my first two targets, which built up my confidence and I went on to shoot 10ex15. It is worth noting that far less targets are shot in Helice, the pace is slower and the price is higher – but this is a very different discipline to smashing clays repeatedly. There really is a very different target every time at Helice, and the added variable of the witness falling outside of the ring gives a little variation on top – I had one particularly satisfying shot where I picked the target up late, fired and connected only to watch the witness drop over the fence for a no score. It can be cruel, but the shooter needs to be quick to ensure a point.
Overall – I absolutely loved it – the other shooters were an excellent bunch, lots of laughs and banter between the competitors and the targets we shot were great. There were a few technical hiccups along the way but everyone took them in good spirits, and the focus and intensity of the shooting was clear to see.
I’m going to shoot my County Championship in April (Berkshire) and it’s definitely something I will do for a change every so often – and I’d highly recommend you give Helice a try if you ever get the opportunity.
Some photos from A1SG today: