Monday, 18 June 2018

21st Century European Sporting Rifles



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

SBW





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
Your pal
SBW



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
Your Pal
SBW





















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.

RULE I: ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED

RULE II: NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY

RULE III: KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET

RULE IV: BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT LIES BEYOND IT

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

I’d add RULES V and VI:
V: FORGET THE 'AIR' BIT - IT’S A RIFLE THAT CAN KILL OR MAIM.
VI: THERE IS NO ACIDENTAL DISCHARGE - ONLY NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE

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
Your pal
SBW










Friday, 5 January 2018

Felt Recoil Test: Sauer 404 XT v's XTC


The OMR A reader of this blog, who became a real-life pal, and I have been having a long [few years now] conversation about rifle stock design and in the sprit of 'a little less conversation, a little more action please' we made the pilgrimage to Ivythorn Sporting to send a few down range. 
Our plan was start at the top and work down. A few hearty thumps to the shoulder from the 375 H&H later, and we turned our attentions to the 404 from Sauer. 
Posh timber aside, these are Sauer's top of the line offerings: 404 XTC and the 404 XT. The 404 is a funny thing, like the Blaser R8 it looks a bit 'space-age laser-gun' in photos, but less so in real life. I wasn't too sure how I felt about the look of it.  I'm now convinced it's an ergonomic marvel. Once you shoulder one it's a revelation. Fit to function seen through new eyes.


CZ in 375 H&H Yee Gods!! People shoot these things for fun? OMR (One Man Riflemaker) took one very reluctant shot, just to be able to say that he had, I foolishly took five and feeling a little discombobulated gave the rest of the rounds back. Recoil adverse neither of us can afford to slide any further down the rankings at our respective target clubs. I'm sure the 375's perceived recoil is negligible when you're firing at an enraged charging Cape Buffalo for the third time, but at the range? Flinch-Tastic. Rather you than me.

OMR and I had taken the precaution of bulking up on pies to absorb recoil. 

What my daughter calls my  'Wannabe Alaskan' hat and beard combo in full effect. 

Even a full spec 404 in carbon with the fluted barrel, and no moderator chambered in 30-06 wasn't the hammer blow to the shoulder I was expecting.
Shooting rounds in the 6-7mm range, these things must feel like a losely held 22LR.

The XT Carbon surprised me too at 2.8 kilograms / 6.1 lbs there's really not a lot to it. I imagine it would make a wonderful Hill Stalking rifle.
Steve from Ivythorn let us pour a cup of water over the pistol grip for a 'Cold Wet Hands' test, despite looking as smooth as a smooth thing's smooth bits, it felt every bit as grippy as an oiled walnut stock if not a little more so.

There is at least one stock manufacturer claiming that carbon fibre has recoil damping properties, so far my cynicism of this claim is unbounded. Asking about, everyone I've spoken to who has actually laid carbon with their own hands has laughed when I've repeated the claim. One fella went as far as saying 'if you want damping you'd be better off with fibreglass, but that would cost you all the weight-saving you've just spent all that money on, re-think the ergonomics, transmission of energy is key’.  

During the endless Blaser debates online, all kinds of hilarious objections to their radical design have been raised and disproved. What they all come down to is ‘I want a rifle that looks like a rifle’ Which really means ‘I want the comfort of the familiar’. There's another example from my work life. In the UK the specification for the position of power sockets has changed, they’re now a little higher up the wall above the skirting board, client after client has complained that they don't like the new height, a few months later they all say its actually more convenient. I’m not immune to this myself. When I first started spending time in Spain, I found the light switches counter intuitive, running my hand over the wall in the dark looking for the switch. In the UK we place them where your eye falls, in Spain they’re where your hand falls. Reach out at hand height and there it is.
With the 404 XT Sauer have entered a  new era of rifle ergonomics, what looks a little strange at first sight feels just right after the first couple of shots. The stock and cheek piece are only the start of their plan to make a rifle tuned by the individual shooter to the individual shooter. Interesting times.

Big shout to Steve at Ivythorn Sporting for letting us put our sticky fingers all over this stock[s] and use his range. If you want to test out the 404 or anything else from his enormous choice he does a deal where you can have any of his rifles or shot guns sent to your RFD no obligation or if you're within range of Somerset you can try before you buy. He also serves the best coffee of any gunshop I've ever been to in the UK, the USofA or even Spain

happy new year from sunny spain
your pal

SBW