Friday, 22 December 2017

As Seen At The Gun Show: Holt's Of London

Yeah yeah been a while I know, life. Life, I tell you, it keeps getting in the way.
The Bambi Basher and I used to make it a habit to visit the Holt's December sale and sink a few libations after we'd sharpened our appetites on the vol au vent, and party fancy's served. Sadly we've both been beset with that curse of the drinking classes, work, and have missed the tradition for the last couple of years.

Not to have my enthusiasm dampened I popped along to what turns out to be the last Holt's in Hammersmith [they're moving to Blackheath for the next sale].

The Holt's salesroom never disappoints, there were as ever, acres of fine English shotguns but lacking the tempo, or fiscal temperament, for them my interest is in the riflery.
Some epic swag on offer this time

A Volly-Gun in 22LR was curio I'd not seen before. If you're like me, the kind who can be relied on for one sweet trigger pull per session, it could well be the sporting advantage we've been looking for?

While an acquaintance was showing me around the pistol table I saw this little fella, a Charge Tester. You can verify the potency of your powder against it's spring.

For a price approaching the the value of a nicely appointed Casa a Piscina in Spain this magazine-fed spin on the double rifle was on show.

As regular readers know my champagne tastes on a beer income veer more in the direction of the take-down rifle. 

Holt's will always be, primarily about English guns, with a few high-end german pieces. So it was nice to see a couple of examples of the work of a South African 'smith of growing renown Bernie Laubscher, look him up, very highly thought of in his homeland.
If the examples on offer were anything to go by a collectable of the future, and with an expected sale price of £2000 - £2500 something of a bargain too. SOLD £3,400.00

Fancy a bit of history with your take-down rifle? How about this? 

Chatting with one of the curators revealed that this rifle would have cost the price of two four bedroom houses in central-ish London at the time. You could barely by a parking space for its sale price of £36,000.00  these days. 

There's alway one eccentric offering that people will bid on just to be able to tell their pals that they own one, and this year it was this triple barrelled, er, duck gun?

Wouldn't be Holt's without some displays of the 'Out of Office Plumage' of the eccentric sporting type.

More soon
Your pal

Monday, 6 November 2017

Unboxing Review: Helikon-Tex Raider 20L Day Pack

With the excuse provided by my long postponed return to the classroom I 'urgently needed' a new pack. It needed to be a little wider than the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 and smaller than the Markhor Elk Mountain. All the usual contenders were considered, and rejected on cost grounds. One of my target shooting buddies who introduced me to Helikon-Tex gear from Poland and has their equivalent of the Rush 12 I already have that's not wide enough for the binders that my workbooks come in. [See how the reasons for a new pack just drip from my lips]

Then I saw helicon-tex's new pack The Raider, it was on pre-order and only available in limited colours, it's a bit wider and has a stretchy over-panel they call a 'beaver tail' which is like a little Mystery Ranch load-sling, built in. Small packs have always had one annoying snag to them: by the time you've packed all the rest of the crap you need to lug around with you, there's nowhere to put your jacket. We've all tried that threading-a-piece-of-550 para-cord-through-the-little-loops thing, kind of works but I've never really found it that satisfactory. The stretch panel solves that at a stroke. If you're cycling it's a neater way to store your helmet when you're not riding. Based on that, the dimensions, and price I ordered one, and got a pack that so far has totally exceeded my expectations. I'd even go as far as telling them they've under sold it, their description online doesn't even mention some of its best features.

With double duvet for scale.

Out of the box it's a solid little thing, and bit of poking around revealed an aluminium stay that stiffens up the centre of the back panel, I've not tried bending it to the contour of my spine yet, but I'll give that a go in the next week or so. I've had a few little packs they all tend to sag down your back, the Rush 12 being the only notable exception so far. The Raider sits well even without the sternum strap being done up, and with it is limpet-like. The stay-bending is only going to improve that. The slight increase in width over other packs in this size really seems to help stabilise the load.

Cheap, and many not so cheap, packs have those stretch cuff pockets for a Nalgene sized water bottle, but make them out of mesh, which; snags, rips and inevitably fails long before the rest of the pack. Not so the Raider. Looks like a good stowage for a fishing rod tube.

A soft-lined pocket on the pack's face, and in the main compartment there's a slip for your laptop, with a pad at the bottom to offer that little bit of extra protection.

I either live in london where while it rains less often we actually get a greater volume of water falling from the sky, or in Yorkshire where its either raining, or about to rain. So I was chuffed to bits when after a couple of days of carrying the Raider around I found another zipper which was hiding a rain cover.

Another other use for rain covers is to keep the packs straps and buckles from being caught in the conveyor belts and overheads when flying hand luggage only on the cheap airlines. They also make a useful improvised container for foraged roadside fruits, and when the amount of tat [school books] you're trying to lug around exceeds the bags capacity they keep everything onboard.

On design, cost, and, construction the Raider is an absolute winner, it's made of branded Cordura with YKK zips. Its even got a meaningful hip belt.

I hope they bring out an 'Airborne  Raider',  perfectly the dimensions of carry-on luggage for the cheap airlines, I've got packs I'd happily sell to finance buying one.

More Reviews, my long overdue return to both the target range,
and our archery camp very soon
Your pal

PS I've just looked and Helikon-Tex now have the Raider in five colours and six different camo's.

Friday, 8 September 2017

On This Day 8th September 1880 WDM Bell Was Born

WDM 'Karamojo' Bell. Walter Dalrymple Maitland Bell. Unremarkable looking fella, born with balls of steel.

His first book: The Wanderings of an Elephant Hunter is a collection od essays he wrote for Country Life magazine
You can read my review here and the full text here

Karamojo Safari: is his full length telling of his adventures
My Review and the Full Text

Bell wrote for a few publications, including a couple of pieces for the NRA's American Rifleman

Small Bores versus Big Bores.  full text here

There's something of a controversy about the piece, my thoughts Here

In exciting news for Bell aficionados from Safari Press there is now another collection of his writings.
Incidents from an Elephant Hunter's Diary

More Soon
Your pal

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Review: The New Zealand Wilderness Hunter

Over the course of this blog I've been in email correspondence with a few readers and ever so often these connections result in something new and unexpected.

A good few years ago I conversed with a chap on the far side of the world, one thing led to another and we kind of lost touch. A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of our mutual interest in WDM Bell and sent him an email update. He wrote back and in passing mentioned that he'd made it into print. I was intrigued enough to order a copy of one of his books. It was with a little trepidation that I turned the first page; anyone can write a witty insightful email, turning out a whole book of it asks a little more of the author, as I've found in my many stop-start attempts.

Phew. He smashed it.

Dear readers; Hunter philosophers, shooters, wild-foodists, and fans of adventure writing. I bring you James Passmore's  The New Zealand Wilderness Hunter.

While we undoubtedly live in a golden age of ammunition we just as certainly don't live in the golden age of writing about hunting. In print, Stephen Rinella, Steve Bodio, and John Gierach aside, most of it is so 'me too', the same tired tropes about 'tradition', 'passion' and the sickly sentimentalism of 'family'. The ex banker who found happiness in the wisdom of his fishing ghillie, the ballsy chick who hunts private estates, the smug hipster visiting his hillbilly relatives, yet another pastiche of Capstick or Hemmingway. Yawn.
Online things are even worse; lacking the discipline of a editors stern scalpel, a hideous 'style' has developed. As moron apes lackwit, and every passing mouth-breather positions himself as an 'expert'. All re-telling the work of the one before, each bad facsimile a little less distinct.
On the far side of the world the Kiwi literary hunting tradition has no greater proponent than Barry Crump, yarn spinner extraordinaire, often described to me as 'the Kiwi's Kiwi, how we'd like to see ourselves'. Crump churned 'em out too, selling a million books into a home market of four million people. Even if his books didn't quite come free with every box of ammo, I'm told Crump's tales of life as a deer culler can be found in almost every home with a rifle, and set the expectation of kiwi hunters for generations to come.

James Passmore's book walks a very different path over the same ground and is all the better for it. There are lots of books that attempt to capture the reverence that exposure to the fecund majesty of the woods brings, I couldn't put this one down. The tales are told in a modest insightful way, JP has obviously spent a hooj amount of time afield, has nothing to prove, but presents a series of observations, often prompted by small errors that lead to larger consequences. I got the impression of someone who'd done a lot, and incorporated each and every insight into an evolved best practice. Cautious and thoughtful as he intwines the emotional and philosophical landscapes with the misty hills and hollows of the unforgiving wilderness of the south island. JP brings us something different in  hunting writing;  some deer are just for the pot, sometimes its a trophy he's after, always it's to immerse himself in the wilderness. The stories are told with equal verve, some of his biggest tales end with the smallest deer. He conjures an unspoken reverence for wild places.

The book wouldn't be from NZ if it didn't also capture some of the eccentricity of his fellow countrymen.

'The old men rose up out of the glacier-fed river, pale and wrinkled, carrying trim Day-Glo coloured packs, and picked their way through the clearing over the tussock grass and bracken. They were both stark naked except for their boots. Dangling from their packs were coils of expensive climbing ropes.
They walked shamelessly up to the hut. I was sitting outside holding a tin cup of tea and watching the late afternoon light over the mountain range; sombre and purple. It was the middle of a pre-roar trip in March, and it was still warm. They both greeted me matter of factly. "Is this a public hut or a private one?" one of them asked.
I regarded the elderly naked climbers for a moment, and then replied honestly.
"It's a public hut" I said " But we do have a dress code".'

More soon
Your pal

PS Amazon list his other book but not this one, I ordered mine from the publisher and it arrived within a week.

PPS I cannot recommend Barry Crump's 'A Good Keen Man'  1960 highly enough, a great tale well told.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

FireSpark Ferro Rod Review

I do like a ferro rod; if I didn't keep losing them I would say that they provide a lifetime of sparks, and of course give you a nice bushcrafty feeling when you spark your fire or stove to life with it.

Ferrocerium rods 'can' knock out sparks of up to 3,000c, where they're not all born equal is the size of the burning flakes of metal we see as sparks. More than one of the famous outdoor brands, endorsed by celebrities who should know better, produce rather pathetic little dots of spark. I've had a few over the years: from an awesome one made in some dude's shed that produced its own weld-splatter, to the really rather pathetic one made by the famous Swedish brand. This one came from Poland,  and as usual with Helikon: heroes of Polish Bushcraft was a bit cheaper than the others and it turns out a bit more thoughtfully designed.

Size-wise its probably overkill, being about twice the thickness of the well known brand, it's going to last several lifetimes. I was a bit unsure about the smaller handle to start with, but once I realised it unscrews to give you a place to stash some vaseline soaked cotton wool or a splodge of Bushcraft Napalm  I was a believer. Fire steels are awesome ,especialy if you've got flammable kindling to catch the spark.

At some point I'm going to make a sheath for my Fallkniven F1 with a loop for the Firespark. Overly robust knife and bike axle ferro rod make a nice pair. The tinder/ napalm holder really makes it. Handy bit of kit. Would buy again.

More foraging, Lightweight Sporting rifle, a new and very exciting wood work project, and some actual bushcraft / wild food hunting coming soon

Your pal

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Bushcraft Napalm And How To Make It

Quite a few of you probably pride yourselves on your skills with fire by friction, and I salute you for you dedication. This stuff is for the times when you actually need a fire blazing NOW!

Perfect Example: When Mr Grendel and myself were dropped off by The Ghillie at the lodge and told "there's a wee stove make yerselfs a fierr" sure there was stacks of wood, in the kind of sizes you'd use as props to hold a mineshaft up, but no axe and we only had skinning knives with us. It was snowing, we were soaked from hats to gaiters. Without any kindling to speak of we had to rummage about a bit to get a blaze on.  A few bits of cardboard from the bin and a couple of candles from a kitchen drawer, and we were soon drying out. As we were huffing and puffing the fire into life I'd remarked "I wish we had some Bushcraft Napalm this would be a piece of piss". 

Mr Grendel enquired "WTF is Bushcraft Napalm?"

I've not made any Bushcraft Napalm in ages, but as I promised him I'd do a How To [about eighteen months ago], here it is. 

Bushcraft Napalm is cheap soap and petrol, mixed into a paste, and here's the clever bit, stored in an old toothpaste tube.

You need a bowl you can heat up, without causing an outburst of rage to intrude on the peace of your dwelling.

 You need the cheapest soap you can get - this was three bars for one Great British Pound

 Chop the soap up a bit

 Chop the soap up a bit a bit more. It would be even better to use a cheese grater.

Soften it it in the microwave - our microwave has lost the facility of the number one button, two mins and twenty two seconds was way too long, twenty two seconds not long enough. Your mileage may vary.

As the soap softens its time to start adding petrol, the great thing about using the microwave is its much less likely to burst into flames than using the stove top. Don't ask.

In preparation you'll have carefully sliced off the sealed end of your old toothpaste tubes, soaked and washed them until clear and clean, then left them to dry out.

 When you can let the mix cool but still remain a paste, you'll know you've got the soap to petrol/gas mix right. Milage will vary. Spoon the gloop into the tubes, trying to keep the cut edge gloop free.

It helps to use a bit of brown paper to stop molten plastic from ruining the iron. Don't ask.
I've also had good results using a old pair of pilers heated in a gas flame.

 Heat seal the cut end of the tube, with an iron. Pretty soon you'll have sealed the end of the tube, thus.

Probably a good idea to label the tubes to avoid accidents.

 A little squidge is all you need

Spark it up with your ferro rod, and it smells like VICTORY

More Soon
Your pal

PS My favourite Spark Stick/Ferro Rod reviewed HERE

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Choosing A Pack Frame - For Heavy Loads

Pack frames are not a new idea, here's a recreation of the wood and hide pack Oetzi the iceman was carrying when he met his end on that alpine pass.
When I decided that my old internal frame Berghaus was too broken up to continue as my main pack I'd intended to buy a pack frame, cut the straps and semi-frame out of the old Berghaus, and lash it on to a frame.  As you've already read the title of this post you'll know I feel there are two main choices, Kifaru and Mystery Ranch.

Both have developed a system of adjustments that let you fine-tune the fit of the pack to your skeleton and posture.

Good packs last a long time, I'd had the last one for years and years before it finally succumbed to plastic fatigue with its clips and buckles giving up the ghost. Still usable, but without proper adjustment, a terrible carry and even when new its design hailed from the days when 20-50% of the load was expected to be born on your shoulders. These days we know better - 100% of the weight on your hips - seeing as they are the only part of your body designed to bear weight. As packs last so long they are something worth taking your time over choosing, which is fun, and strangely cost effective.

The opportunity to buy a G2 Kifaru Longhunter came up first so I got a pack and frame at the same time. One thing led to another; I found some bits and pieces of junk lying around to trade online and you know how it is, I later bought a Mystery Ranch Mountain Ruck. Two different approaches to load management. Both streets ahead of the packs of yore.

That consummate outdoorsman, climbing guide, and Alpinist historian BoB (my bro) tells me that back in the day the pack frames were soldered copper tubes (yep from the plumbing store) to which the plumber/pack-maker used to add a filling point at the top and a drain cock at the bottom. So the frame could also be a fuel canister. I saw this recreation in the Nat Geo store. They've missed out the padding so you can see how the forces are distributed across the shoulder blades, the pack must have been pretty wobbly and tiring to carry.

With characteristic contempt for the well being of their employees the british army issued this, er, 'super ridgid' and I guess super-heavy frame to radio operators. You can buy one HERE should you feel your back-guy is under employed or you don't have enough scrap metal in your life.

Both Kifaru and Mystery Ranch are US based, low to lowish volume manufacturers with devoted followings (Kifaru actually have fan-boy meet-ups). Both boast of sales to elite military units, and have great reputations on the hunting forums. Both companies make a frame which is the foundation of a system, with different packs for different loads. Both companies sell their packs online or you can visit the factory to be measured up. Most important to me - Both companies are still run day-to-day by the guy who founded them; Dana Gleason [Mystery Ranch] and Patrick Smith [Kifaru] - you can ring up and ask Patrick Smith as many daft questions as you like!

There are now a couple of other options; unfortunately the new kid on the block stopped being an option after an outdoorsman and blogger whose opinion I value bought one; took it for a walk in the hills, and didn't review it - I wrote to him privately asking what happened and he complained of 'squeaking' a crime so bad that no pack accused of it will grace this blog or see any of my hard earned cash.

or if you like it Retro-Tec Vargo Titanium have brought out a frame & pack, but I've not tested one yet.

Cumbersome loads, are what Pack-frames are all about, the ads and 'when-I' pics on the hunting forums show a trophy Elk, but far more likely loads are a chainsaw, a Jerry can, an MDPE barrel, and lazy offspring. All of which are a bugger to carry without the gleefull adrenalin provided by your trophy Elk.

Kifaru Vs Mystery Ranch

Frankly I would recommend either of these frames: when you want to cart a portable tree-stand into the woods, portage your dry-barrel on a canoe trip, take your chainsaw to somewhere inaccessible by ATV or truck, take half a Fallow Doe on the bus, or be able to carry lazy offspring with ease - a pack frame is what you need and these guys have it down to a fine art. If your budget is tight I still maintain that my plan to buy a frame and either recycle a pack or just strap an old feed bag to the frame is a good one.  Designing and making a whole pack [that carries well] is beyond most of us, but letting your needs design the 'bag' part for you, getting a seamstress or tailor to run it up, and putting it on a really well thought out frame is totally do-able. If that all sounds like a drag Hill People Gear make some nice, and reasonably priced, bags that are intended to fit either frame.

I've humped both frames around a bit here are a few observations which, all other factors being equal, may be important when making your choice.

Probably the most important factor Load Stability.
Kifaru's proprietary delta straps that snug the load against your back are a very design solution, they do make a massive difference.

Potential for Adjustment
It takes a while to get the best possible set up for your Kifaru pack but once its done its done. There's a tutorial on how to bend the frames stays to the exact contour of your spine for the ultimate fit. Mystery Ranch's system isn't as adjustable, the frame stays stay the way they came, but the adjustment you can make is easier to do. If you were adapting the packframe to fit a different guest each week this might be the clincher, for most of us once the pack is set up it stays that way.

Ease of Adjustment
Mystery Ranch have come up with a very simple way to do this, very neat design. If you were sharing the pack with someone or keeping it as the 'clients pack' this would be a more important factor. If its only you using it both packs are fit and forget.

The Buckles
Mystery Ranch have the grippiest buckles I've ever seen on any bag, the buckles all other buckles are to be measured against. When you want the straps to stay done up a blessing, when you want to adjust them with one hand they can be quite annoying.

Pack on - Pack off
Mystery Ranch make this look easy in comparison. Neither is really well attached but how often do you really need to take the bag off the frame?

Load Management
Dana Gleason and Patrick Smith have divergent views on this; with the Kifaru design aiming for rigid, and MR still allowing for an amount of flex. Kifaru now make a lighter 'bikini' version without the xxx plate that gives so much of the rigidity.   I'm slightly on the side of rigid as load stability seems to have a big effect on fatigue.

Kifaru offer a Cargo Chair which is excellent creating a rigid shelf to support the load, and a wrap which I've not got yet [we all know its yet].

Mystery Ranch offer an excellent Load Sling, which is a bit more svelte than the Kifaru Wrap but could benefit from some attachment points.

Mystery Ranch offer a whole host of different pack options for their frame, from 3 day sized to packs designed to carry a Pelican rifle case, or military communications rig.

Attachment Points
After the Kifaru, when I got the Mystery Ranch I found myself wondering 'where are they?'

What I'd do differently?

I've read that there's a crew in Oz who are making MR under licence and fitting the packs with quick release buckles on the shoulder straps, Kifaru put them on the Tactical packs but not the hunting packs. I think its an oversight that they're not standard equipment across the range of both brands. QR buckles weigh nothing when your not using them, but when you need them, you really need them.

Mystery Ranch need to add more attachment points to the pack frame and load sling so you can really bind a load to it.

Kifaru would benefit from making the pack-on-pack-off procedure simpler.

I like the way the Mystery Ranch pack adjusts easily for back length, but its not something you'll need to do too often so its not a deal-breaker. A hybrid of the two would be awesome.

If you are tall, or like me most of your height is in body length (short legs) the height of Kifaru's frame lets you pull the really big loads on to your  back from above your shoulders, this makes a massive difference. Its an oversight that Mystery Ranch have addressed with an add-on to their fames and I've seen an aftermarket offering too. I've not tried it yet but its a welcome rectification of the design.

For a shout at second hand frames: Ebay has the odd bargain but lots of packs go for most of the new price, Bushcraft USA, Bushcraft UK, the Kifaru forum (mostly US based sellers)  are all good places to look. When buying second hand you're looking for a seller in the same size range, and most importantly the same proportion as you: taking into account that while you may have the legs of a super model, the seller could have the legs of a Hobbit while your overall heights could be the same. You need to know the length of your back rather than your overall height to get a proper fit.

In the end I sold my Mystery Ranch NICE frame and kept the Kifaru.

Have fun out there, and if you'd be so good as to take a few bit of other peoples rubbish home with you, the world will literally be a less rubbish place next time you visit mother nature.

For more about traditional pack frames through the ages, this site is a fantastic resource. click HERE

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Unboxing Review: Hunter Balmoral Wellies

Hunter 'Balmoral' Wellies.
Zip Sides, aka 'Technical' Wellies. Like all english people I've had a few pairs of welly's over the years, from 'paddingtons' the red wellies I had age six, several pairs of Dunlop's simple unlined black wellies, and as the welly came of age, couple of pairs of excellent neoprene Muck Boots.

The Field Blazer's from Muck Boots I reviewed a while back were the best by a country mile, thick neoprene certainly made them a lot warmer that the Dunlops of the 1970's and 80's which kept you feet dry but stone cold. The soles were designed to shed mud, but lost a little in grippyness in the process.

Neoprene Wellies are next to the perfect tree-stand hunting/ woodland stalking boot; you're not walking that far, and you'll be sitting still for long periods of time.  Shooting in the club competitions there's a lot of hanging around to be done, much of it in inclement conditions. Warm dry feet go a long way towards keeping your spirits up on the windswept plains of Bisley.

The one thing that's always annoyed me about wellies is they're either a hassle to get off, or too lose to be comfortable to walk in. At the Archery Camp The Northern Monkey and I have in the New Forrest the precarious and slippery steps to the shepherd's hut are a less than ideal site for welly removal. When I saw Zip Sides, I knew I'd end up getting a pair.
There are a whole host of different brands, the Ex Mrs SBW and The Littlest Bushwacker both have pairs of Hunter wellies and they seemed a lot better made than the wellies of yesteryear.

So far I've only unboxed them. They are certainly more sculpted to your feet than the non-zipped /non-technical wellies I've had before. The tread is a lot deeper than the Field Blazers.

Lennox, The Northern Monkey's Labrador, and I are committed to a mass reduction program, and while TNM's mum is trying to feed us both up, we're going to be walking it off morning and evening for the next few months.

In truth I got the Hunter's on Amazon because they were half the price of the brand I'd been hoping to get, the bargain basement brand I'd been planning to get, are perpetually out of stock in my size, and I had a amazon voucher. These are without doubt the most middle class thing I own, and walking a Black Lab in them pushes me over the edge. I'll let you know how I get on.
More Soon
Your Pal

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Review: Helikon Backblast Shooting Mat & Bisley: 600 Yards On Century.

With the weather scheduled to be warming up the [even] older boys at the club were levering themselves out of their armchairs and waddling down to Bisley to put a few down range. 
It's that time of year, my offspring are hitting their school books. So I found myself at something of a loose end, and as Bisley is the last place I was described as 'young and keen' I thought I'd join them. Club shooting is both fantastic value, you're splitting the range fees amongst a few of you and if not many turn up the club is subsidising the day, and best of all some of the chaps have been teaching other members longer than I've been alive, so the standard of tuition is high. 
Did I mention the lunch? The club matriarch lays on a really great lunch.  Churlish not to attend.

Century 600 yards. Century is the first range where I shot out to 600 yards, but its been a while so I was keen to get back into it. Talking over my plans I mentioned that we were going to be lying-on-the-floor shooting, and my pals at Helikon stuck their latest shooting mat, the BackBlast, in the post for me to test. The world and his brother make a shooting mat. So the guys at Helikon have their work cut out trying to design something that stands out. 

I think its fair to say things started tolerably.  With the first sighter landing on the edge of the 14.4 inch V Bull. Once the beginners luck was safely out of the way I started reciting the usual litany of excuses: Wind, Variable Wind, Non-Existent Cheek-Weld, Inconstant Ammo, Dehydration, Sore Neck, Existential Angst, Not my Lucky Hat, the Gods Displeased, Etc

Club Rifle: Remington 700 Police in 5.56 Nato

The package that had landed on the doormat was smaller and lighter than I expected, all the club mats are bulky affairs. The Helikon boys include a  pouch for ten rounds, and a windowed pouch, both of which velcro on to the mat. 

The mat's got grippy sections for your knees and elbows and a moveable velcro backed grippy bit for the hand that supports the rifle's butt. 

There are pockets for your tent pegs; so you can keep the matt flat. Obviously I could have used any old tent pegs from the gear pile, but I've ordered some poncey titanium ones to keep in with the lightweight theme.

Automation hasn't made it to Century range yet and behind and below the butts there's a manual raising and lowering mechanism for the targets.  We took turns providing the muscle power to lift the targets into place and mark the scores.   
There are two parts to scoring. A spotting disc, which is actually square, which is pinned to the face of the target marking the bullet hole and the scoring panel that runs along the bottom edge of the board. Your best potential score is five points for a Bull, but to serve as a tie-breacker the Bull has an inner 'VBull' ring which scores separately. So a ten-shot competition has a highest possible score of 50.10. Ten 5's and 10 VBulls
The scoring panel is at the bottom of the target board. There are four holes which the markers are pushed into. They are black on one side and orange on the other.

Orange in the hole on the far left would be a score of - One Point
Black on the far left a score of Two Points
Black left a 'magpie' - Three Points
Black right - Four Points
Black far right - Five Points
Orange on the far right a VBull.
On the upside: scoring is 'inward', touch the line to get the higher score.
On the downside: you'd better hope the person doing your scoring is taller than five feet, if they're not you could end up having one of your shots marked as a miss. 

Handy if you need just one more excuse. 

more soon
Your pal