Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Wildfowling: Canada Geese

"Last night, did you chase a large bird through the house with an axe? I ask only as there are feathers all the way up the stairs, and a bloodied axe in the kitchen?"

Two nights before.
It was a cold and windy rain-battered night. On the weather forecast at least, so when I dragged my hide out of bed at Three AM I was pleasantly surprised to find the skies clear and the temperature nudging double figures. Being the city boy that I am it did cross my mind that I'd not need a coat. Yeah right. Putting such foolishness to one side I hopped in an Uber and headed to Shooter's place.

The blogger known as Shooter doesn't live that far from me as the crow files, through the traffic or on the train it takes forever to get to him. But the city is asleep so when the Uber driver woke me to say we'd arrived I must only have been asleep for ten minutes. The other person in the car park is a distinguished looking gent taking a pair of muddy wellies out of his motor. He bears the mark of the new boy or tourist. That's his warmest coat, but its not a shooting coat. We make our introductions and summon Shooter, who arrives at levels of excitement that would shame an eight year old. I'm an enthusiast but I'm nothing on Shooter, he never plays it cool. His enthusiasm is as boundless as it is infectious. Like an armed Tigger, wearing a shirt and tie under wildfowling camo. I'd forgotten how much I like going hunting with him.

We spend the hour and a half it takes to drive north playing trivia swaps, and the Distinguished Looking Gent is kind enough to ask an innocuous question or two about calibres, giving Shooter and myself the chance to re-live the joys of the calibre conversation. Again.

Rugby; home of the ball game, school, and due to the abundance of Blue Lias limestonecement works. At the time of the doomsday book it was spelled Rocheberie, and is possibly the town furthest from the sea in England.
Canada Geese; surly, begging, aggressive, territorial, constantly shitting, and they make a helluva racket.
6.5 Creedmoor dude! Sharing the wonders of the other rounds of its diameter but, due to the miracle of marketing, available off the shelf. Damn if we don't live in a golden age of ammo!

It was another one of those 'you take the A one-one-whatever towards Effing-Sodbury, until you pass Futtocks End, turn right at the Broken Head, and when you come to a field with a downed Oak blocking the entrance, go two more fields, until you come to the field with the downed Ash, when you see a Post Office you've gone too far, call me I'll be along in a few minutes'

We are significantly early. It is indeed a cold and windy night. One of the other local guides swings by on his way to an unrelated gig, to hang out and let us know our man is on his way. The other guns rock up; an electrical contractor, a man who calls himself a farmer but turns out to be a bio-fuels entrepreneur, and a dude who has fishing lakes. They're in their early 60's, and sport that uniform of the British sporting gent; a mix of expensive new, and dirt-cheap old kit, worn over a shirt and tie, and Green Wellies.
Just as there's enough light to see into the field the guide arrives with two Cockers.
The line of flight is between a massive reservoir and a fairly massive fishing lake. A stern lecture about not shooting Cormorants is issued. It starts to rain. After BoB (brother of bushwacker) Shooter is the most waterproof person I've ever met, he may have been a duck in another life, once the wind turns, blowing the now driving rain into our faces, his spirts soar.  

We trudge across the field shovelling shells into our guns as we go, right on cue the honking begins and a posse of Canada Geese take to the sky. Down at the other end of the line someone drops one of them and the day has begun. The next flight takes me by surprise and, my attention re-focused by an easy shot not taken, I drop the lead bird of flight three. To be truthful, given my past record with a scatter gun, I'm so shocked that I forget I've got two more in the tube and let the other Geese within my range fly off unharmed, and forget to reload.

On average Canada Geese weigh in anywhere between 2.5 and 6.5 Kg; moody bastards with an extremely muscular neck and a substantial bill of 4.1 to 6.8 cm (1.6 to 2.7 in) they're a known menace on London's waterways. Hissing a warning, and jabbing with that bill. Shirty as you like.

Dawn has now fully broken and the rain lessens. To my consternation a goose wanders over, on foot. I'm nearest so I walk over and shoot him. A few feathers become airborne, he looks at me quizzically, I shoot him again, seemingly without affect. Click, as I'm reloading he expires.
Shooter "What are you doing? Why didn't you wring his neck?"
SBW " Have you seen the size of the fecker? You fight him."

This is Britain, there's no real wilderness, so we end up sharing all but the Highlands with others. Given our location its only a matter of time before that most pompous of hobbyist's the Twitcher appears. Glaring his disapproval though his binoculars. Annoyingly there's now another pedestrian goose, wandering off, ever closer to disappearing into a tangle of brambles at the far end of the field. Eventually the Twitcher tires of watching a bunch of grey-beards standing in the rain thinking about breakfast and toddles off. Shooter and I set about depriving Mr Fox of his dinner. I'm no keener on tangling with this one, and shoot him. The first load inflicting what looks like a moral wound, the goose indignantly waddles away, the second load looks to separate his head from his neck and he slumps to the ground. As I pick him up, his wings give a couple of spasms and I take a nice shin-strike, renewing my conviction that they are an extremely dangerous animal, not to be tangled with.

While Deer Stalking is a solitary activity, the interactive element taking place online after the event, Flighting and Walked Up have a social side to them. Certain conventions are to be observed. I'm feeling a bit under dressed as DLG and I are the only ones not wearing a shirt and tie. There's a whole raft of ritual and expectation that I'm only dimly aware of, taking place in a hierarchy of situations, this is the informal end of things where 'safe' and 'wasn't an arsehole' will do it, at the next level there are fines for not having enough cartridges and other infractions. You must have the right gun, 'right' isn't defined by price, my agricultural semi is fine for Pigeon, Geese and Ducks, but unthinkable for Pheasant and ground game. They all seem to aspire to shoot Side by Sides, but actually shot Under and Overs. Their Understatement game is strong.

Over an impromptu breakfast of porky and chocolaty snacks the fellas review the sport of the season.
The chaps are extremely cautious about who they'll shoot with, safety comes first, then there's the correct way to make any displeasure known.
Shooter and the Guide have been on this very ground a week or so before, with a group of clients both of them wish to swerve. Alerted by the bragging 'that time you shot me' conversation and then Muzzle-Swept, Shooter had quietly beaten a retreat to the car to watch, gun in slip, from a safe distance. The guide complements him on this wordless communication. This is a tribe anyone can join, or at least think they've joined. Somehow imagining they could sweep this massive breach of etiquette under the carpet the group have nominated a new voice to make a subsequent telephone booking. A very small and self-policing world.

Re-waterproofed by caffeine, chocolate and pork. With the dogs released from the truck bed we walk the cover crop fields to see if we can put a few birds in the air. A couple of championship Rabbits break from a spiny, once out of shotgun range they turn and pause to chalk up the experience, funny how they never do that when I've got a rifle.

After a pub lunch we work another crop. This ain't no dusty prairie, the crop grows almost waist high and every leaf seems to hold a cup of iced water. The gang are divided, we've got a couple of waterproof over-trouser wearers, I'm in the Breeks subset, and then there's the guide and Distinguished Looking Gent toughing it out.  Pheasants clatter to the sky, I drop a Hen but the Partridge elude me. Shooter drops a brace and as we meander towards the cars a skein of Greylag Geese climb in an expanding Vee, the straggler crumples in a cloud of Steel shot.

We're losing the light, but elect to stand in a pointless line waiting for a never to arrive flight of ducks. Its time for home.

When the conversation is good the drive back is all too short, DLG tells us about he and his wife's trekking adventures, and an abortive hunt for buffalo in Tanzania. Shooter and I do a quick round of 'one rifle to rule them all' and all too soon were wishing DLG an early happy crimbo and waving him off.

I've now got: Four Canadians, A Greylag, three Pheasant and Shooter has given me three ducks from earlier in the week. It's a big ask for an Uber driver, but The Northern Monkey is afloat not too far from Shooter's yard so I lure him off his sofa with offers of Goose dinners and he collects me, only to find himself embroiled in a substantial plucking session back at mine. Where we were to learn a new truth from the wild food lifestyle.

If you shake a lot of goose down and feathers until they become airborne, you'll easily be able to tell which of your kitchen surfaces need de-greasing.

More soon
Your pal
PS my go to guy for wild food recipes has several belters on his blog

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Unboxing Review: Stalon Silencers Of Sweden

I'd not noticed the Stalon brand until I bought one (it came with a rifle). That being said I'm very impressed with the one I've ended up with. The W110 weighs 380 g with 130 mm covering the barrel, and 110 mm extending forward. Stalon have taken a different route to the other designs I've seen by using both a plastic exit port up front as well as a plastic bushing out back.
On the side of the tube the Silencer/ moderator's suitability is listed for calibers from 6.5 to 7.69mm. For the smaller calibers that's a pretty big gap.  I wrote to Stalon to ask if a closer tolerance insert were available for 6.5mm bullets.

Their Response:
We has tested with a smaller hole for the 6,5mm bullets but not got more than marginal better dB levels.

For some people one of Stalon's USP's might be really useful; the rear section of the unit bears the serial number, making it the licensed part, the front section is swappable - you can have additional front sections for different calibre groups, or an especially long front section for Stand hunting or Target shooting.

They do a couple of accessories I'd not seen offered by other brands; not that I've got room for one on my Tika, but these cone-shaped rear brushings reduce snagging when pulling your rife out of a scabbard pack.

Want to shoot open sights and silenced? Stalon have a solution.

I've been collecting up the parts and once we get Crimbo out of the way, and all the bits screwed together, I'll do the first range report with my Precision Rig.

More soon
Your pal

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Review: CZ 527 In Theory And Practice Pt1

The Micro Action Rifle. Every battery should include one. It's not a Truck-Gun, but it would make an excellent truck gun, it might be the same length as a Pig-Gun, but they're are different. It could even be a Baboon gun, or it could be powerful rabbit medicine. Would work well on Canadians, but we'll come to that later.

Ya gotcha long action, ya gotcha short action, and before you get down to yer rimfire action, ya gotcha micro action. Dinky little rounds gets a dinky little action. Or to put it another way, it shoots rounds with cases 45mm and shorter.

The CZ527 isn't the only Micro Action there's Sako, there's Howa, there's Zastava and no doubt others.  For me there were two contenders; the Shultz and Larsen Legacy [to be reviewed as and when funds allow], and the CZ 527 which, while sadly not a take down, is half the price, and can be bought pre-loved [hence its appearance in my battery].

It's a true Micro Mauser - its action scaled to cartridge, controlled round feed, 5 & 3 round all steel magazines, hammer forged barrels 18.5, 22, 24 or 26 inches long, and has at one time and another been available with both single and double set triggers.

I've known a couple of 527's The Bambi Basher has one in 7.69 Soviet [the ballistic twin of the 30/30] which for UK deer act compliance he hand loads to deer legal speeds. In Africa there's no shortage of AK ammo there  the slow moving - hard hitting 7.69 x 39  527 has been the end of many crop raiding Baboons. Before the factory got into the Grendel game his mate Mr Grendel developed one, which proved itself in Scotland with a lasered 187m shot in a howling gale. Earning, that rarest of things, the approval of The Ghillie.

So far chamberings include: .17 Hornady Hornet, 204 ruger, 22 hornet, .221 Fireball, 222 Remington, 223 Remington, 300 AAC Blackout, 7.69 Soviet, and now 6.5mm Grendel

A range of factory stocks are available from time to time:
Full, Composite, American, Lux, Laminate, Night Sky (black polymer soft-touch with speckles), Ebony and now the 'marmite' Match Target Rifle. 

More Cz527 soon

Your pal

Friday, 9 November 2018

Choosing A Hunting Scope - My Thoughts.

So you want to buy a scope? You've smashed the piggy bank, cut open the bottom of the couch, and picked up every dropped penny you've seen for the last year.

There is a saying, often attributed to Richard Prior (the Roe stalker not the comedian, different spelling)  "Buy the best scope you can, spend the change on a rifle". Which is still true today, although the gap between the top Austrian glass and the Japanese stuff is closing fast, and the Chinese scopes get better every month.

All shooters have their budgets, all brands have their fans, light conditions vary wildly, and eyesight is fantastically subjective. I'd only buy a used scope if it was made in the last couple of years, the tech has moved on that fast.

Light is different at; times of year, altitude, and in differing weather conditions, to name just three. There is nothing in nature that resembles an optician's eye chart, if you can do your testing looking at things that look like what you'll be shooting at, and better yet, in the light conditions you'll be shooting in, so much the better.

Vortex: made in China - superb warranty, prices starting at affordable, Bargains on Ebay.
Docter: Very popular in Germany, lots cheaper than the more famous Austrian brands - worth a look
Nighforce: made in USA with Japanese glass - famous for their tactical scopes, people are saying great things about their hunting scopes
March: made in Japan - gaining ground very fast, quality like this ain't cheap
Swarovski:  made in Austria - for many years considered 'the best' by stalkers in the UK, marketed as a luxury item with price tags to match. I had an 8x56 that optically was a thing of wonder, I always felt the reticle's bars were just a tad too thick.Would buy again though.
Kahles: made in Austria - Owned by Swarovski, European favourite. Pronounced Kah-les. I'm in love with mine.

Fixed Magnification vs Variable.
With fewer lenses to diffuse the light Fixed has an advantage, most people leave their Variable on one comfortable setting, in some circumstances fixed is the best choice possible,  until that day when you can see the deer through the naked eye but not find it in the effing scope. I sold my 8x56 and bought a Variable.

Hunting scope vs small telescope on top of your rifle
If your hunts are in the desert or near to the equator, you can save a lot of weight and mass, if you hunt in the dark of the woods, or in the dying hours of the what Scottish have instead of sunlight, that big objective lens makes a lot of difference, and the expensive glass really does give you that last half hour.

Red Dot vs Illuminated reticle.
Red dot has one disadvantage it can't overcome, Cant. There's no visual reference to see if you're twisting the rifle. Not everyone is fussed over having an illuminated reticle. I like 'em.
Bob-on at 200 meters and the secondary cross gives you 'ish' 300. Because you're a decent human being; you live close to your ethical code, you shoot a flat shooting calibre, and you know what 'flight time' means. You're not going to need your stalking rifle to shoot any further, in an emergency you've still got the top of the lowest bar as a third aim point.

There is a saying, often attributed to your pal SBW
"Choose a reticle, buy the scope that comes with it".

more soon
Your pal

Friday, 19 October 2018

Buying A Precision Rifle: Tikka Tac A1 Pt.1

How would you feel if I said you could have a no waiting list precision rifle that's served humble pie to some very very nice custom builds? For 30% of the cost of an Accuracy International? Yeah me too. Choice of three. Or five depending on who you listen to. What a time to be alive.

Some of the younger members of my club [which means people under 60] have been saying good things, very good things, about the Ruger Precision.
Not for the first time Ruger set the pace for the industry, to give them their due the RPR has done just that. Catching both the Precision Rifle and AR trends; a rifle you can customise at home with thousands of readily available options, it takes AR grips and stocks.  That's also ready to compete in precision matches right out of the box.

Now on Gen.3 there's a growing choice of factory calibers and aftermarket barrels, parts and it takes Pmags. Down on the south coast at OMR's club there's a whole cadre of owners. At both clubs .308 Nato and 6.5mm Creedmoor are neck and neck in numbers.

In Spain Bergara Rifles offer their riff on the idea. They have an excellent reputation for their button rifled barrels, and have wisely chosen to build their rifle on the Remington 700 footprint. If you wanted to develop a rifle from one; you can have your choice of 100's of stocks, triggers etc, and it takes the proven and readily available AI magazines. Money pit, fun money pit, but a money pit I can't allow myself to be sucked into. This time.

On every thread I read; where someone was asking where to drop their hard-earned, there was the 'That being said Now try the Tikka' comment. I have never shot a Tikka that wasn't accurate and amazing value for money. Asking about; people who wanted one because their mate has one shed out and bought the Ruger, people who have shot both bought the Tikka. The best review the Bergara got was 'its the equal of the Tikka'.  It might be different where you are but here there's less than £100 in it either way. No one I found in the UK is including extra magazines or postal rebate magazines from any of the brands.

The Howa guy is yet to return my calls. Not even sure you can even order the Savage here.

I was feeling pretty swayed, but you know, cash is king. There just weren't that many second hand Rugers in Creedmoor, even fewer Tikkas in general, and no sign of a Bergara.
I was becoming pretty much resigned to saving up to pay full-whack for a new one when I found a 20 inch Tikka in 6,5 CM with a Stalon advertised. The owner had a presence on a couple of forums where he'd posted enough to give me a bit of comfort. He's hanging up his spurs and offered to throw in the contents of his ammo boxes and a goodly pile of Lapua cases. Rude not to.

We had a couple of false starts while I traveled in the wrong part of the north, with my ticket back at home I couldn't take delivery. We prepared to do a dealer-to-dealer exchange, then the seller announced his work had scheduled a meeting for him in central london. We agreed to meet in a business traveler hotel just down the road from an office I myself am occasionally compelled to attend. I was envisioning something out of James Bond or Lord of War, with a sniper rifle laid out on the bed. Just in a cheaper hotel.

"Sorry it'll be a day later and they've  moved me to another hotel". The next day he found he had no hotel, 'but don't worry there are plenty of meeting rooms at the london office'.
It's not like this in the movies. The receptionist denied that he worked there or existed. I rang him. He was sitting on the sofa next to her desk. Frosty doesn't cover it. It's as though we'd been married already. My laughing didn't seem to help lift her mood.
Now we get to the paperwork, three lots; firearm, silencer/moderator, and ammo are all controlled, and need to be listed. The only available meeting room has a young fella working away at his laptop, we sit at the other end of the boardroom table.
Now for the moment of truth.
The seller walks over to the young fella, shows his office ID, and licence before he says "we're both licensed to possess firearms and I'm selling him a rifle, he needs to confirm its serial number" There's a slight pause, "I'm cool" says the young fella. We complete the transaction; re pack the Tikka back into its cardboard box, say our goodbyes, quick "thank you" to reception, and I'm back in the street.

Wondering if the Uber or the armed response team will get there first.

I''m going to test this rifle and take it for a few trips - follow our adventure on Facebook

More Soon
Your Pal

Its All About The 6.5mm

While there's no cheap-to-keep like a .308, I've always been of the church of 6.5mm, a prejudice that's been comfortingly confirmed many times.

Here's an article from The Hand Loading Bench written by accuracy legend Laurie Holland for the excellent magazine.




and you can read some more of his pieces for Target Shooter here

Hope you find them as interesting as I did

More soon

Friday, 7 September 2018

Unboxing Review: Heym SR30

Missing from the round up of European Sporting Rifles was the rifle I actually bought with my own money, the SR30 by Heym. Which in case you were wondering rhymes with rhyme.
Due to its inexplicable place far from the firmament of fashion this is; a handmade rifle you can still buy, preloved, for a lot less than the price of something plasticy and mass produced.

A by-word for old-school german engineering, Heym are famous for their; dangerous game rifles with stout Mauser actions. Their safari double rifles in calibers beginning with a 4 or a 5, and the SR21 a very nice iteration of the european sporting rifle theme, available in grades from 'working' to 'oligarch's heirloom'.
Just like at the office,  sometimes even the most conservative of characters can have an unexpected quirky side to them, so just because they could - Heym took the Fortner action of biathlon fame and scaled it up to centerfire dimensions. From the first time I saw one on a trip to that english institution  Holt's Auction I knew I'd get one later if not sooner.

The design does away with bolt lugs as we know them, or even Blaser's radial collets, and instead uses six ball bearings to lock up, making for an immensely strong straight pull action, that gives you a rapid second shot at that rampaging boar. The bearings might look diminutive, Heym have successfully tested the system at 110,000psi pressure, which is, give or take, double the 55,000psi pressure of a typical rifle cartridge.

Picture found online, I'm not taking my bolt apart, not sure I'd be a able to get it back together.

In Germany I'm told the rules state that you can't stalk with a cocked rifle, blocking the firing pin isn't safety enough, which lead to the de-cocking actions of several german brands. Here Heym excel themselves. As you push the bolt forward a seventh ball bearing on the side of the bolt snicks into place, acting on a shaft which pops the six radial bearings into their an indent, the rifle is now fully closed but still not cocked, slide the wooden-ball bolt handle that last few millimetres forward to arm the rifle.

 Pulled back - the ball bearings are fully retracted into the bolt
Pulled all the way back & under tension, with the bolt release disengaged - the bolt can slide free of the action.
 In the middle - closed but not hot
All the way forward- hot 'n' ready to rock

 The red and white tabs of the Cross Bolt system act as a second safety, allowing you to lock the action open or closed. When locked in the open position the bolt has absolutely minimal contact with the race way and can fall to closed under gravity.

Nice slim woodwork, rosewood snout on the fore end, bolt handle, and cap on the pistol grip. All checkering cut by hand.

Laminate, thumbhole (with or without adjustable cheekpiece), GRS Hunter, and a petite 'Dezima' are all factory options. I was on the verge of ordering a new stock but this one is an adjustable cheek piece away from ideal and I kind of like the fact that its got a few dings; I'm tough on stuff, and the first scratch I put on the new one would kill me.

Cold forged barrels, made in house, proven in competition everywhere north of Oberstdorf. My barrel dosen't seem to like PPU or 100gr bullets, 75gr it likes a lot more, but my start point for load development will be 68gr - if you've got anything meaningful to add leave a comment.

Heym's own trigger, super crisp at [a guess] not far beyond a kilo [2.2 lbs] with a single set-trigger function breaking a useful distance north of terrifying. I like the idea of set triggers more than the actuality. heym have gone for useful rather than 'keeps you regular'.

Please Note: The Suburban Bushwacker DOES NOT endorse the use of PPU brand ammunition.

More soon
Your pal

Monday, 18 June 2018

European Sporting Rifles - 21st Century

Whether its who has; the rarest pressing of a record - released in Kingston in '58 and deleted in the same week. A pair of sports shoes so 'limited' they were only available in one shop in an unfashionable suburb of Nagoya - seven pairs sold, one pair known to be destroyed in a fire. Or a rifle chambered in your own wildcat of a calibre that was almost unknown 100 years ago, preferably with a stock made of timber sourced from the garden of Siberian salt mine in the 1890's. There's some comfort [or smugness] to be had in having stuff no one else has, or better yet has never even heard of. In recognition of this, and to help you in your quest for rarity, your pal SBW has once again trawled the web, in search of bragging rights for those of you with deep pockets or, for my team [the poor boys], the chance to claim pre-existing familiarity with someone else's new toy.

As the 21st century gets underway rifles have never been better; sub MOA with factory ammo has become the expectation rather than a high priced novelty, the trend towards switch barrel rifles with endlessly repeatable accuracy continues, and the age of the tool-less adjustable trigger has begun.

Let's start with the turn bolts:

Shultz & Larsen's super value offering the Classic Traveler
Although the company are famed for their aftermarket barrel sales, with thousands of Nordic competitors buying well known German target rifles and re barreling them with S&L's, they are having something of renaissance in rifle sales. There are; three grades of walnut stocked centerfire; Classic, Victory (nicer stock and swept bolt handle), Ambassador (sleek lines and very nice wood, owes something to the london gunmakers of the early 20th century), a super petite rifle called the Legacy which uses rounds from the .223 case family, at least one target rifle in a laminate stock, and a fantastic tactical barrelled action. For only a couple of hundred more than any other of the off-the-shelf turn bolts, even S&L's plain-jane offering is streets ahead in terms of value.
It all starts with their famous cut rifling, throated (reverse taper) & hand lapped barrel, which can be swapped out with a hex key. S&L also make their own; actions, stocks, rings, and moderators, there's a no-cost choice of single or double action triggers, and every rifle is fully bedded before it leaves the factory.
The 'Traveller' designation is an added cost option; a slightly reshaped barrel channel, and a pair of collets lining holes drilled into the stock that get you to the hex bolts so you can, without risking marking the stock, and demount the barrel without removing the action from the stock. Nice touch. 

There's a lot of thoughtful engineering for not a lot more cash than a mass-produced rifle. Annoyingly there's a real scarcity of their rifles on the second hand market. Make of that what you will.

Sauer's flagship rifle the 404 XTC. 
Hand laid carbon fibre stock, hammer forged swappable barrel, Aluminium action (steel is an option) The trigger is adjustable back and forth, for blade angle, and four settings; from target 550g/1.2lbs, via two stalking settings750g/1.7lbs, & 1000g/2.2lbs to driven boar 1250g/2.7lbs. All adjustments are made with an on-board tool kit.
You can even order it with a heated grip module, and it comes (at extra cost) with a what has to be the most discrete rifle case yet.  You're literally only a few jazz festival stickers away from being invited to give clarinet recitals. I've shot both the standard and the carbon versions, in .30-06 unmoderated,  and can confirm, the stock is an ergonomic masterpiece.

The straight pulls: what could be more obscure, nerdier, or rarer?

Blaser R8 Silence
The shizzle. Also from the Sauer Group, also with a hammer forged, swappable barrel, this time the straight pull all others are judged against. The R8 is a reiteration of the R93 with a couple of rather natty new features. The R93 was the accuracy benchmark for production rifles, it's straight pull design a masterpiece of simplicity. For the R8 Blazer added a removable magazine, which love it or loathe it also houses the trigger, and introduced the optional ATZL trigger with tool-less switching between hunting and target settings. The 'Silence' model is a recent addition; a fully shrouded barrel which in .308 can be as little as 16.5 inches long, with noise reduction of an awesome 28 dB. Now that the pistol grip version has been released, an even more amazing woodland stalking rifle.

Strasser RS14 EVO Tahr
One for the engineering for engineering's sake Fan-Boy. I'm literally drooling.

Removable barrel and detachable woodwork, it's a take down; it's a straight pull, it's a swap barrel, it has an adjustable trigger. All ideas we've seen before. But not like this.

Strasser's innovation, 'Mechanical BEST™, is a novel way to mount the barrel. Where there others use retained screws to attach the barrel, Strasser uses a collar filled with hydraulic fluid, which when tensioned against a screw gives a constant 360 degrees of locking force.
At the bang-switch end of things, where Blaser has two settings, and Sauer four, Strasser has an adjustable trigger with four settings, and a set trigger that's adjustable between 100-200g. All adjustments are made with an on-board tool kit. Another massively overdue innovation is all the trigger parts are coated in DLC, a 'diamond-like carbon'  that's smoother than glass and has yet to be bested in wear and corrosion tests.

For the less travel-conscious several of the rifles are also offered 'solo' without the removable barrel at substantially reduced cost.

The other kind of take down - where the butt stock and forend are removed with a hex key and action and barrel stay mated together. Due perhaps to their fairly hefty price tag the Lynx brand is yet to take off outside their native Finland, but wow what a rifle.  

Hailing from Europe's Alaska the rifles are made with chilly mornings in mind, where the sportsman may be wearing gloves. The whole thing is defined by an economy of design; the action only has six parts, less than some rifle's bolt. Round feed is controlled by two cut outs in the underside of the bolt which fit the lips of the magazine to let the bolt guide the round all the way into the chamber with no potential for the round to twist on its way into the chamber. 
This week I'm all about take-downs, but for those with taste as deep as their pockets, Lynx also do a very nice 'English', a sort of ScandiRigby made to order in really nice wood, if you've got really good taste and really deep pockets, you can have it colour case hardened. Remind me to start playing the lottery. Proper lovely.  

There's also a target rifle that would make a really nice, and less 'Walt',  alternative to an Accuracy International. There's even an AR15-Lynx hybrid but that's a story for another day.

In the words of Monty Python "And now for something completely different" 

Rarer than a vegan boyfriend riding a Unicorn. The 'so short you don't need to take it down' offering. 
A single-shot rifle with a barrel length of 66 cm and an overall length of 70 cm.
Pfeifer really do plough their own furrow, with a whole host of innovations in a rifle designed for mountain stalking in the Alps. The reversed trigger cocks the rifle, the button is the trigger. Using hammer forged barrel by Heym. Chambered from .22LR to .458.  Aluminium action for .22 to 6 x 70R, steel for the bigger ones. 

 Here's something you don't see every day, a single shot bullpup. One in the pipe and two spares.

The SR in the name comes from Safety Rifle, it's got a Key Lockable safety, something I've only seen on a high end air rifle.

One last bit of trivia: At one point Pfeifer held the record for both the smallest lightest rifle, the Pfeifer Liliput in .22 hornet, and for those of you who like that kind of thing, the Zeliska, the world's most powerful revolver, chambered in .600 Nitro Magnum. Yikes! 

More soon
Your pal


Monday, 21 May 2018

Wild Garlic Recipes: RamsonKraut

This is the easiest one yet.

1. Vigorously chop your wild garlic
2. Sprinkle with salt
3. Leave it for an hour or so - it'll start to give up liquid
4. At this point I gave it all a thorough squeezing to get more liquid from it.
5. Once you've got enough liquid to complete submerse it in its own juices, I put a plate and a weight on top to keep it all under the surface.
6. Put the lot in a sealed jar or brewing tub with an 'Bubble Seal' and leave it in a cool dark place.
7. After a week you should be able to smell that fermentation has started.

More soon
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Saturday, 28 April 2018

Wild Garlic Recipe: Kimchi

It's that time again! The Northern Monkey and myself are afield in search of, I know this sounds unlikely, vegetables.  

Our perennial favourite is Wild Garlic/Allium Ursinum, aka ramson, jack-in-the-hedge, buckrams, wood garlic,  and where applicable, ‘bear’s garlic’. This year we've upped our game and so far have collected three rubbish sacks full. One for the 'Trophy Room' or as you may know it chest-freezer, and two for our favourite preserve. 

Salads and Omelettes aside our favourite way to eat wild garlic, has long been KimChi. We're now in year four of Kimchi making and have a few tips to pass on.

South Korea consumes 1.85 million metric tons of kimchi annually, or nearly 80 pounds a person.

I wouldn't dream of preparing any foraged food stuffs without recourse to Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook, the website of my wild food guru Hank Shaw. Look up any game or foraged food and Hank has blazed a trail. In this instance Hank is fermenting with Ramps (Allium tricoccum) which from the picture look a little closer to the Spanish Cal├žot, so he neatly folds the green fronds over the white stems. Hank also cooks by weight - we cook by volume - so you'll be better off following his proportions.

We used:
Two bin bags worked out to roughly 44 litres of leaves, stems, buds, and flowers.
We add liquidised Ginger - lots - the biggest, freshest root in the asian supermarket - the stuff in the regular supermarket is crap.
Sesame Seeds 500g/1.1lbs - last bag in the shop.
Korean Pepper flakes 250g or a whole jar.
Hank adds a couple of spoons of sugar, lots of people forego the sugar and use a liquidised Pear or an Apple. Both have worked well for us. 
We add rice flour, beaten into some boiling water, allowed to thicken and then cool, wizzed up with the Ginger, to give the ferment a head start.

After we've given it a rinse in cold water, we Brine the chopped leaves to kill off any other bacteria that might be malingering.

For the Brine - 1 cup of salt to 5 cups of water.  
We put a plate and a weight on top of the leaves to ensure they submerge,

the other advantage is once the brine has taken affect, you can see at a glance that the leaves and stems have decreased in volume, they'll also become a bit darker and intensify in flavour.

VERY IMPORTANT rinse and rinse again, in year two we didn't rise nearly enough and the Kimchi was way too salty.

We use a mix, usually 2-to-1, of Fish sauce and Soy sauce 
VERY IMPORTANT Kikkoman is the minimum bid for Soy sauce, if you use that Chinese crap or the rubbish the supermarkets pass off as soy sauce, you literally only have yourself to blame.

"If a Korean goes to space, kimchi must go there, too, without kimchi, Koreans feel flabby. Kimchi first came to our mind when we began discussing what Korean food should go into space."
Kim Sung Soo, a Korea Food Research Institute scientist.

A week or two seems to be the online consensus for how long it takes to let the ferment do its work. I'd say it was edible from this point but, longer is stronger.  I've got kimchi in my fridge that's well over a year old, it's fierce. 

While most sources will point you in the direction of well established woodlands, Wild Garlic is a marker species for ancient woodlands, our main collection areas are by steams - wild garlic loves damp ground. I'd always associated it with shady forrest floors, but 'up north' its growing in bright sun light on the banks of a stream. Follow your nose, you'll find it.

More soon
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Saturday, 24 February 2018

Squirrel Hunting In The UK Pt1

Pests: Invasive and Domestic

"When the buffalo are gone, we will hunt mice,...for we are hunters, and we want our freedom."
Chief Sitting Bull: Warrior / Philosopher / Statesman

"When the nanny state tells us meat only comes in packets, I will hunt Tree Rabbits with a pellet gun. It's the way I roll”
SBW: Plumber / Philosopher / Blogger
Invasive, destructive and delicious Sciurus Carolinensis: the American Grey Squirrel, is a very common sight in the south of England and they've reached as far north as The Kingdom of Fife. As an invasive species in the UK there is no closed season - we can hunt them 365 days a year. While their antics in city parks are certainly amusing; they are a proper pest to the farming and forestry communities, a carrier of fatal disease to the native Red Squirrels, and a delicious source of free protein to me. Well when I say 'free' like so many pastimes you need a few bits and pieces to get going.

"Squirrel hunting is for the patient, 
and for the person easily entertained by observation"
I thought they were vegetarian too! Pic found on Reddit 

The first thing you've got to hunt down is a place where you have permission to hunt. It took me a while to find a permission that was within reasonable traveling distance of my home and I still don't have a really near one.
They love that MDPE,  once they've had a good chew on this feeder, 
they'll eat the grain.

I had a permission where the family owned a nursery and squirrel damage was an easily defined cost. I’ve hunted them on a Pheasant shoot where they eat the Pheasant feeders first and then the feed, and they've vandalised the water supply. Maybe you could use MDPE as bait?

A vegetarian owns my main permission; she has a passion for woodland management and the squirrels and deer are inhibiting regrowth of her coppice. You just never know. Keep asking. The BASC website - the British Association for Shooting and Conservation -  has some useful pointers, and a template permission slip.

Once you’ve got somewhere to hunt you need a lethal weapon that can make a humane kill.
Catapult: If you're really well practised. Not I.
Shotgun: Very popular in the USA but you need a licence/certificate in the UK and due to the noise you may end up  hunting them one at a time.

.22LR rimfire rifle: Very  popular American squirrel calibre, as the bullets can easily travel on for miles not such a good idea shooting up into the trees here in the highly populated UK. So common sense safety rules pretty much limit you to shooting squirrels on the ground with rimfires. I find it hard enough to find them without limiting the search to terra-firma.
Fire Arms Certificate (FAC) Air Rifle:
Lots of cash, and paperwork for unproven benefit. I wouldn't bother.

.17HMR rifle bullets have a tendency to explode on contact so in some ways safer than the .22LR, but they can go even further so only applicable if you've got a lot of land to shoot over.    

My weapon of choice is the off-the-shelf air rifle (limited to 12ft/lbs); you don't need a licence so you can lend and borrow them, they are easily powerful and accurate enough to make a clean, humane kill on a Squirrel that never knew you were there. I'm a big fan of the Pre-Charged-Pneumatic school of air rifle design as they take very little practice to become accurate.

Due to the UK's firearms laws and high population density Air rifles have always been disproportionately popular here so there are loads, both new and secondhand, to choose from.  Well-known brands; English, German Czech, and Swedish, all very accurate and all pretty costly at £500 - £1,200+. There are even more brands (most quite accurate) of spring powered rifle from about a third of the cost and a middle ground where the rifles use a gas-ram system, [which is similar to the rebound dampers on a motorcycle's shocks,] to provide the puff. You pays your money, you takes your choice.
A special mention goes to the next air rifle I'm going to buy - The IMP which is a reengineered german rifle tweeked by Sandwell Fieldsports at just under £400 - look on youtube for reviews 
To keep things in perspective: Hubert Hubert of the Rabbit Stew blog regularly feeds himself with an air rifle that cost less than £100 S/H, and a second hand scope.

There are four main choices of calibre .177, .20, .22 and .25 (all % of an inch) the smaller ones fly straighter, the bigger ones land with more of a thump. All have to be pointed at the right spot to ensure a clean kill. Lots of great .22's available second hand, for the others you'd have to scout around a bit. Factor in the price of a service, it often makes a HOOJ difference. Buy the best you can afford and only cry once.

A word to the wise - it's YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure your rifle doesn't exceed the 12ft/lbs limit, some second hand guns have been 'fettled' get a proper gun shop to test it for you on their chronograph (either free with purchases or about £2 and ask for a receipt).

Top-tip - once you've bought your gun give up reading air gun magazines - they are very good at convincing you that a new rifle is a 'must have' and your scope is crap.

Before Hunting: Four things you MUST remember.





"Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands." 

I’d add RULES V and VI:

If you follow these simple rules, to the letter, every time, at least any accidents will not be of the gun kind and your safe practice will be a credit to you when you start stalking deer with a centre fire rifle. [you will].

Top Tip: Insurance
A very good idea, and it shows landowners that you’re serious. Offering the kind of reassurance that gets permission. The best deal I've found is from The Scottish Association For Country Sports you're covered for just about everything and its less than half the price I used to pay.

Here’s the rifle I use and some of my kit.
 Parker Hale Phoenix in .177 - £850 + new or good luck finding one S/H.
Upside: Accurate, and being a lever action very quick to get a second shot off
Downside: A bit heavy and 60 shots per fill.

The air rifle I chopped in to buy it. Air Arms S400 in .177 - £400+
Upside: Very accurate - more than one pellet through the same hole
Downside: No magazine - just takes one pellet at a time
Great rifle for Rabbits and still hunting, not quite so handy for stalking Squirrels through the undergrowth.

Camo clothing / Face cover/ Gloves
Lots of people have shot prey while dressed in orange jump suits, so that 'I'm a sniper me' outfit isn't essential, but some kind of face cover seems to make a lot of difference and gloves can help too.

My DPM (disruptive pattern material – English army camo) jacket was £1 and I waterproofed it for another couple of quid.

A Call
These little devices are the equivalent of a 'friend request' from a pair of nineteen-year-old nurses, not guaranteed to get attention, but squirrels, like suburban dads live in hope and may well wander over to see what’s going on. I use the PRIMOS call that comes with a CD to practice along with. It’s a lot of fun practicing in London parks and my backyard. About £15

"I don't think paralysis [of the electrical grid] is more likely by cyberattack than by natural disaster. And frankly the number-one threat experienced to date by the US electrical grid is squirrels." - John C. Inglis, Former Deputy Director, National Security Agency 2015.07.09 

Let's Go Hunting: Methods and Tactics

Mr Squirrel is one of life's opportunists so they only building a shelter if he has to. Their preference is to doss down in cracks, hollows and voids in the branch forks of trees but if none are to their liking they build 'Dreys' there. They look like a big untidy birds nests.
On my permission there is the best naturally occurring hidey-hole (often has a tail poking out) would only be shoot-able from a public footpath OUTSIDE my permission. Easy to get over exited, but it's not worth a firearms conviction for a meals-worth of Squirrel. Your rifle, and your pellet’s final destination must stay within the confines of the land you have permission to hunt on.

Hiding/sniping AKA Still Hunting
Basically choose a site where you can sit comfortably, for a couple of hours without moving, that overlooks the runway squirrels use between food and home. Wait.
Top Tip: squirrel's like to 'lay the table' for dinner, the wood where I took this picture was littered with stumps, almost every one of which had been used as a dinning table

Guess who kept his packed lunch here?

Spot and Stalk
Walk very quietly through the woods, when you see a squirrel freeze, then as the squirrel gets bored of looking at you and looks away, shoot him.

Top-Tip: Grey's are considered to have a jumping range of eight feet (2.43m)

Over Bait
A bit like still-hunting but much easier, monkey nuts and/or peanut butter/Nutella are irresistible to our bushy tailed friends with those Fat Balls that people put out for songbirds not too far behind. Once they've found your bait pile they will keep coming back to in at regular intervals as they move its content to their dray.
Top-Tip: You don't need to shoot them the first time you see them, they'll be back.

Agitation AKA Dreying (needs two of you)
You find the squirrels hiding place or Drey and using a set of drain rods (the day job), an old fishing rod, or a long thin sapling and give it a vigorous poke. The squirrels will come out to see what all the fuss is about and shout abuse. Your co-hunter shoots them. Be Careful. My top-tip is for one of you to stand on either side of the tree as Squirrels tend to run round to the other side as it's the shortest distance to cover.
Really Be Careful.

Now all you need to do is Practice. 

The Top-ist -Tip of All: Passers By
Thankfully most country people are against invasive species and, once they get talking with you, tend to be very supportive. Much of the time they will go out of their way to be nice after you've charmed your way past their initial suspicions - just as we think they are either going to be stuck-up toffs or yokels involved in , um-er... 'animal husbandry', they probably think we are the advance party for a ravening horde; come to eat their young. Please remember in all your dealings with the locals; you are every hunter and your behaviour is every hunter’s behaviour. If that's not incentive enough - they hold the keys to your next permission. Happy hunting!

More hunting and gathering tales to come
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