Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Snow Shoe Shuffle

It's snowing here, and the gasps of wonder are already giving way to tales of impassable roads, and it's yet to actually settle. My son's school closed early. Anyone would think England was in northern Europe! Like so many of my fellow countrymen I love the idea of snow, well at least visiting somewhere with snow. Like I love the idea of Biathlon; skis and rifles! Sounds good, but then again I'm sure I'd look terrible in one of those Lycra suits they all seem to wear. So I was delighted when I learned that there's a special biathlon for old gits where I'd be able to pass myself off as a young person and wouldn't have to dress like a member of Aerosmith!
Smugglers Notch? Wear The Fox Hat?

In Smugglers Notch preparations are under way for the annual Primitive Biathlon.
How cool is this? Dress up in fur hats and old time gear, arm yourself with a smoke-pole, and go for an invigorating jog. Although I am yet to distinguish myself either with a muzzle loader or at jogging, and I've never even worn a pair of snow shoes I'm totally up for it. The rules sound fair:

Overall prize eligibility is limited to entrants who observe the following restrictions:

  • Single-barrel traditional style muzzleloaders(excludes in-line firing mechanisms). 
  • No optical sights. 
  • Traditional wood-framed snowshoes. 

Along the wooded route will be three target shooting areas. At each target stage, participants will load and fire two shots at designated targets. At the finish will be a fourth, open shooting range at which participants will take three additional shots. All nine shots, including the finish line stage, will be 'on-the-clock'. All shooting will be from a standing position, unaided by 'shooting sticks' or other external aids. As in the past, we will be using steel 'gong'-type targets - either a hit or a miss. A misfire will be considered a miss. 

This event will be held regardless of the weather - Remember the concept of Primitive!!! In the event that there is insufficient snow for snowshoes, please bring good walking boots. 

Did you hear that? Will be held regardless of the weather! Unlike England.
More soon
your pal

Unboxing: Kupilka Kuksa Review

 Outdoor kit comes from two schools trad and tech; the earthy charm of wood and leather versus the inert robustness of carbon and thermoplastics. Both have their appeal and advantages. I tried Axes and knife handles, boots, rucksacks and now Kuksa

Lighter, cheaper, and more hygienic than the traditional hand carved wooden Kuksas, but with a smaller carbon footprint than solid plastic, my new friends at Kupilka have developed this interesting hybrid of natural fibres and plastic for their range of outdoor tableware (or should that be log-ware?).

Although they’ll never have the bushcrafty appeal of the hand carved Kuksa, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how nice they are to drink from. They make a credible, and cost conscious, alternative to the machined wooden Kuksa and are way nicer than the pure plastic versions. Nice.

More soon
Your pal

Monday, 29 November 2010

Unboxing: Agion Base Layer Review

I received an email the other day offering me the a free shirt and as buying stuff to review takes up a large part [a ‘large part’ called ‘all’] of the blog budget and I wear a shirt most days I of course accepted.

The company claims the shirt has innate odour reducing properties, not being currently engaged in any adventure sports, I tested it with a couple of days on a building site carrying sanitary ware and plasterboard (dry lining) up many many flights of stairs. Which amounts to the same thing. Just without the fresh air and photo opportunities.

Did it work?
I really don’t know for sure, but it probably smells less than a cotton shirt
Was it warm?
Yes it was. So much so that I’m wearing it as I write.
Would I buy one?
Only if was available without the hideous promotional message.
What would make buying one a no-brainer?
Being able to choose the hideous promotional message myself.

What can we learn from all this?
The slogans on outdoor-wear are crap.
The ‘add your own slogan’ companies don’t offer base-layer shirts.
SBW loves free stuff even more than he loves cheap stuff.

More soon
Your pal

PS the lovely Traci has just written in to ask me to tell you that the shirts are currently just to demonstrate the efficacy of the anti odour treatment and will soon be branded with the name of a well-know hunting apparel manufacturer. Go on Traci. Seeing as its you. Normally I'd just have laughed and moved on to the next email but as coincidence would have it - It actually works. Really I've been wearing it for days and it doesn't smell as bad as my other work clothes.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Pack It In: Well-Travelled Becomes Clapped-Out

You know how it is: an old friend, been around a long time, starred in more than a few tales, been a faithful companion, I thought we’d roll on forever. But there comes a day when the gap between old's-cool and clapped-out suddenly closes. When even The Northern Monkey laughs at your kit you know you’ve sunk to a new low.

TNM: That’s your rucksack! Sheesh I thought you’d have a better one than that!
SBW: What do you mean? [Indignantly] It was state of the art when I got it
TNM: When exactly was that?
SBW: When I was fourteen
TNM: [begrudgingly] I suppose that’s not bad value
SBW: Hell yes! I’ve dated women younger than my rucksack
TNM: I bet you’ve been looking for another one.
SBW: I was but….
TNM: A rucksack
SBW: That would be Kifaru


More soon
Your pal

Friday, 26 November 2010

Mr Sling Shot

We've looked at Trebuchet , Old School Catapults, Mini Cannon (and part two), and Repeating Crossbows but surely there's more?

A while back during one of my periods of 'research' I found the Slingshot Channel and it's creator Jörg who very kindly agreed to be bombarded with daft questions on your behalf. Enjoy.

SBW: How did you get so interested in catapults?

Well, I loved them as a boy already. My father taught me how make a slingshot with car tyre inner tubing and natural forks, and soon afterwards I started to sell them in school - until the headmaster stopped my little business...

When I grew up, my interests shifted to motorcycles and then cars, so I forgot about slingshots for the most part. A few years ago, I read a few threads about slingshots in a German gun forum, and had the basic idea for my "V" design. I decided to make a prototype, and it worked. People loved it, and although by now I have far more effective models, the "V" is still popular - maybe because it looks so cool.

I made my first videos for youtube, to show my invention to others. Soon my channel became quite popular, and now I think I am totally addicted to slingshots! It is a great hobby, you can make them easily at home and shooting is possible anywhere. Slingshots are one of the few weapon types that aren't heavily regulated, unlike firearms. That is a great advantage, and probably one reason why they have gained so much popularity over the last years.

SBW: Do you hunt with them?

I don't. That would be illegal (= poaching) in Germany. But anyway, I grew too soft for killing cute animals. As a kid, I killed lots of birds, rats and even a rabbit with the puny slingshots I had back then - but now, I just shoot at dead things.

SBW: Do you sell the catapults you make?

No. I have a great job, and my contract prevents me from any sort of side business. That is not so bad, as I have no deadlines, taxes or insurance issues to worry about! Also, I think my credibility in the forums would decrease much if I would have commercial interests. But I have given away many slingshots for free and I traded a few of them against other home made gadgets. Also, I have given a design to a Chinese slingshot manufacturer, and they plan to bring out that model soon. here's the link

SBW: You've made quite a few videos, which is your favourite ?

I like "Slingshot vs. Ballistical Gelatine" the 1200 pictures per second super slomos in the sun are nice and the AC/DC song is very appropriate!

SBW: What is your idea of the perfect catapult?

One that also solves the world starvation problem? No, seriously, there is no such thing as the perfect slingshot. There are just too many trade-offs. Fast, super thin flat bands are incredibly powerful, but they don't last nearly as long as thick, sturdy tubes - which are much slower. It's the same with cars - there is no "best car in the world", there are just good compromises, that's all. Every shooter has to find the best individual compromise. From all my designs, the fourth generation "W" slingshot with the rotating grip, equipped with ball bearings, is my favorite model. Powerful, precise, foolproof - and nice to handle. Beautiful, too!

SBW: What's the perfect size of lead ball?

Depends. I don't like lead balls smaller than .44, because they are too hard to grip through a leather pouch. .44 and .45 lead balls are very good for hunting, they fly fast even when a medium strength band set is used. I personally prefer the .75 musket balls, they deliver an incredible amount of energy (80 Joules), many times the power of a good air rifle.

SBW: I'd like to embed a video in the piece, which do you think are your best?

I like this one: Three interesting slingshots in one video, and I like the snow outside.

Fun huh?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Bushcraft? That's So last Year Darling!

This one needs to be read in the voice of Elisabeth Hurley

Well darlings what can I say?  Dear SBW has finally seen a glimpse of the error of his ways and sent a long overdue request for some fashion advice from yours truly. The poor foolish man has committed some terrible fashion faux-pas; the silly boy really does have the fashion sense of a cockney builder. That terrible hat, shocking!

I mean culottes! Really! And after dear Hubert pleaded with him to dress in a more appropriate way, one just never knows whom one may meet on Hackney Marshes.

It’s not as though he is without the improving influence of AIR. Here seen stylishly foraging in a charming linen suit. Quite the artist-afield.

But enough of others failed attempts to sartorialise SBW: I thought if I were to spell out the horrible truth in words even a chubby plumber could understand I simply must start with the basics:

BUSHCRAFT is just SO last year, darling! 
This year it’s all about Tactical!

Fortunately I do have certain contacts in the world of men’s haberdashery, so my first call was to that complete darling Alber[t], the visionary behind that well-known emporium of manly style Albertus Afganus.

Always the hero of the hour he’s currently embarked on a daring fashion rescue in Afghanistan – wonderfully sense of colour those people, but the women’s wear! Dreadful! Just dreadful, the poor dears look like they’re wearing tents! The men! Dont get me started, Kyber Pass AK47's [tsk] I ask you? Not an accessory rail in sight, dont they read `Vogue or Guns and Ammo?

Being a card carrying sweetie Albert dropped everything and rushed to my aid. We asked poor SBW what size he takes and he replied,  “I’m so fat the only thing that still fits me is the sofa”.
Sofa King Tacti-cool

Fortunately he is now in the hands of the professionals and Albert was of course able to size accordingly; kiting SBW out with a technical rain jacket, shirt and pants, all perfectly colour co-ordinated for whatever it is SBW does in that field or by that dreary canal. Now that we've modernised him I must drop a few hints about accessories. This season I suggest accessorising with that perennial classic (the Little Black Dress of Tacticool) an AR15, or if the event is 'dress-to-impress' the Stealth Recon Scout in .308 is this season's 'must have'.

Albert immediately popped an aid parcel in the post, and due to the wonders of a modern international postal service SBW was soon kitted out in the latest trends, and to be fair, looking rather dashing.

Now if only we could only do something about that dreadful hat.........

Cheerio dah-lings

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Eels And Chicken Tika - London Food And Fishing

Old london town, home to the world's oldest continuous city archive, and easily the most cosmopolitan city on earth ( I know many of you believe that title belongs to NYC, but yer just showing yer ignorance). Here in old blighty the national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala, sounds Indian right? Invented for serving to people with a skin-full of 'wife beater' [not the vest a strong Belgian larger] the national drink. 

While we are guilty of all the things we happily project on to the French - rude and standoffish, and the stereotypes we hold true about the New Yorkers - pushy, aggressive, greedy are far far truer about us. Every so often a random meeting with a member of the GBP (great british public) reminds me why I still live here despite the many excellent reasons to swim, rat-like, from the sinking ship that is Albion.
I was on the south bank of the Thames the other afternoon visiting what was in Shakespeare's time the theatre district. In those day the theatre was a rowdy, boisterous night out, with plenty of talk of sedition on and off stage. So the theatres were set up on the southern bank of the river where they were outside the jurisdiction of the city fathers, but near enough to draw a crowd.

By chance I happened on a chap fishing, and we spent an enjoyable few minutes shooting the breeze about all things Eel fishing. An education ensued. 

I, it turns out, am way way behind the times with my 'bacon bait' strategy, apparently Eels have long been turning their noses up at bacon. But the good news is, much like myself after a skin full, they are unable to turn up a chicken Tikka Massala. Ledgered baits on a hook no bigger than 8 (although 6 has many proponents). Our man recommends ASDA as the best source of such bait, but as so many of you live a long walk from the nearest branch I thought a recipe would help.

1 pint of live natural yogurt
1 Tablespoon Cumin powder
1 Tablespoon Garam Massala
1 Teaspoon Coriander powder
1 Teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 Teaspoon Chilli Powder
Juice 1 lemon
8 cloves garlic - crushed
1 inch grated ginger
Red food colouring
4 Chicken Breasts Cubed
1 Lemon

Marinade long, Cook slow. Eat well, Save scraps for bait.
Just to prove that no good deed (or shared fishing tip) goes un-rewarded. One tourist was so taken with his bonhomie and advice - describing it as 'wikkid awesome', that she gave him a lesson in 'Massachusetts tongue kung-fu'. Lucky lucky boy.

the rules and regs
A london eel fishing post
More Soon
Your pal

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remembrance Sunday - The Greatest Generation

While I was at the Natural History Museum in London I saw this plaque commemorating the buildings use during the war as a training centre for SOE - the Special Operations Executive. Founded on Churchill's order 'to set Europe ablaze'.  The organisation of previously unremarkable people who did remarkable things. There many stories of the courage shown by people from all walks of life, many of whom melted back into civilian life after the war, but for me Gabcik and Kubis exemplify the sacrifice made.

SOE operations in occupied Czechoslovakia came to a head in 1942 with the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, deputy to SS leader Heinrich Himmler and the governor of Bohemia and Moravia. 

Two Czech SOE agents who had trained in Britain, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, ambushed Heydrich as he drove through Prague in an open car. When Gabcik’s weapon failed to fire, Kubis threw a grenade which wounded Heydrich who climbed from the car to chase his would-be assassins on foot before collapsing from shock. Heydrich died from scepticemia a week later. 

In investigation ordered by Himmler incorrectly linked the SOE mission to the villages of Lidice and Lezaky. All adult male occupants were murdered and the villages burnt to the ground. Around 13,000 Czechoslovakians were imprisoned, deported or murdered as part of the Nazis’ revenge. MORE HERE

This action was later made into the amazing, and heartbreaking film Operation Daybreak 

In the face of all that assails us, spare a thought for those who did what they had to, purely because they had to. So that we too could have our chance to mould the world in our image. Today, if you have a moment, have a drink with me, the toast is Gabcik and Kubis.

"May you live in interesting times, and choose to be a part of them"

More soon
PS the wikipedia page has some interesting detail

Friday, 5 November 2010

In The Woods Pt3 - Stalking Squirrels

The day was still warm, but in the wood the canopy keeps the world in shadow. The constant changeable breeze rattled the coppice and the whooshing of the trees hid the elephantine sound of our footsteps. A footpath runs along one boundary of the wood and, being mostly clear, meant we could if not properly creep, it at least reduced the noise of our ‘stalking’. 

A flicker of movement ahead and to the right revealed our quarry, munching on a nut at the base of an Oak. I twisted so my body would obscure my hand signal to TNM. The squirrel froze, and did a very good job of disappearing into the leaf litter. I shouldered the air rifle and realized just in time that the scope was set on too higher level of magnification. Finding a grey camouflaged thing against a backdrop of leaf and shadow wasn’t that easy. The cross hairs danced over his shoulder and as I should have been at my stillest my squeeze of the trigger must have pulled the muzzle to the right. The squirrel jumped four of five feet to the left; I worked the bolt back and forward and sent a perfectly aimed puff of air towards him. Sadly the puff of air wasn’t pushing a pellet.

The Air Arms S400 is a single shot rifle; I have an aftermarket ‘pellet feeder’ that must be clicked forward by hand each time. Right hand - Pull bolt back, Left hand - index pellet into place, Right hand - slide bolt forward. Ready to shoot. Supposedly. I’d missed the middle step and worked the bolt over an empty chamber. The squirrel gave me a withering look but stayed still. The next pellet jammed on loading. The squirrel sighed and bounded up a beech tree to wait patently to be shot. Now frantically fiddling I managed to free the now deformed pellet from the feeder. Through gritted teeth I start again. Bolt back, finger on the pellet feeder…No feckin’ pellets!! The Northern Monkey bounded off toward the hut to get more pellets and the squirrel and I kept each other under observation.  TNM is back in a flash and I feed a pellet into the chamber. The squirrel was now further up the tree and had disappeared from sight.  

As my heart rate slows, the terrible sinking feeling begins: had I shot him? Had I made a clean miss? The only way we could know would be to keep him treed until another shot opportunity presents itself.
I made that sound easy didn’t I? Several glimpses later a Holly bow lashes me across the eye and half blinded I give TNM the rifle. Due to the dense undergrowth and the fence line it’s not possible to get to the far side of the tree that the squirrel is now hiding up, I leave the wood to get a better view from the footpath. Twenty feet up the tree is the classic rotted hole at the intersection of two boughs.  A hidey-hole with a bushy tail poking out. Dead, dying or hiding?

Several attempts to climb the tree prove fruitless so we cut a long pole from the coppice and rig up a lasso loop to grab the tail with. By the time we get back to the footpath armed with our retrieval-rig the tail is no longer poking out of the hole.

I’d love it if this blog were a long and triumphant record of hunting success’s and delicious meals, I’d settle for an amusing record of failures and frustrations. This time I’m just gutted, I just don’t know if I hit him, earlier in the day I was putting pellet after pellet through a hole smaller than our smallest coin. Did I fluff the shot completely? Did I allow a wounded squirrel to get away? I’m just not sure and worst of all I doubt I’ll ever know. The following day my eye swells up and I’m sofa-bound for a day feeling very sorry of myself.

More soon
Your pal

Thursday, 4 November 2010

I Want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt18

Just a quick one to tell you that contrary to appearances I've not disappeared, just been very busy and the camera is knackered (3rd replacement) so none of the posts I've been writing can go up yet.

In the meantime here's the very best in UK air rifles, hand made by Ben Taylor at Milbro - designer of the TheoBen (he's the Ben) Rapid 7 and many of it's later iterations.

This is a bolt action, magazine fed rifle, based on a Theoben. The 500 version relates to the 500cc bottle that is mostly used on the FAC rifle. The action is overhauled for better efficiency but it retains the Buddy bottle supply, with a modified Theoben regulator. This will give about 20% more shots per charge of air with much improved consistency and accuracy. It is fitted with a UK Custom Stock. It is supplied with a London made Milbro Huggett standard moderator. The rifle is only available with a scope sight rail built in. Overall weight will vary from 7.5 lbs to 8.5lbs depending on barrel length and stock density. It is built to sub 12ft/lb specifications. The rifle is available in .177″, .20″, .22″ or .25″ calibres.

Totally awesome, just the thing for hunting "Tree Rabbits'  but £1350. AKA $ 2,197.26. Ouch.

More soon