Friday, 29 November 2019

Midnight Sun rifle Challenge pt6

Most stages begin with the instruction 
“Shooter will start with magazine in, bolt back and all gear on person” 

‘All gear’ relates to the rule, you can bring as much as you’re prepared to carry, everyone other than us has a bag rider and at least a butt bag, one of the Viking’s has a massive pillow rest which means he always has somewhere comfortable to sit when waiting to shoot. Some of the guys on on other  squads have shooting slings of various designs. The Polska Drużyna have their own tripod.

There’s a Milling Stage where you use your True Miller to calculate your known target size and distance into Milliradians. To Your Limit, where you shoot at targets of ever decreasing sizes, where a miss wipes your score. We shoot across steep sided valleys with varying degrees of success myself and OMR settle into the steady rhythm of bewilderment and frustration. Go Team GB.
During one of the hikes we’re surprised to see we’re not bringing up the rear. Once we’re stopped at the next shooting position the lad who wore wellies draws alongside his first question is 
Why are you watching us? 
I’m wondering why you choose wellies?  
These are very good wellies. 
How’s your foot? 
Fucking hurts. 
Your lucky day, I’ve got some Compeed, learned my lesson in the Highlands I’ll never travel without it again.

i manage to rustle up a lift back to the base and gift him a packet. I’ll freely admit I did consider sending the driver back with the Compeed and going back to bed. Go Team GB.

As the first ten hour session reaches its longed for end. We’re too far up the valley to walk back, too far down to seek shelter at other firing points. Some barbecue chairs have been abandoned  by the marshals who have long since vamoosed. The cloud level drops to encompass the taller members of the squad, for me it’s just above head height. A life-affirming drizzle starts to fall, the Viking’s take their Jerven bags out and we sit and wait. 
Every moment is being subtracted from the four hour sleep we could have had between valley stages.  The Vikings are able to switch seamlessly between stoicism and good cheer, they seem completely unaffected. They all speak almost perfect english, often that’s a lot better than the mud people of the Spoons,  and many of them have an english expression they favour over its direct translation. The cloud is now so low that people sitting 30 feet away have disappeared,  little snatches of english appear from the mist. Norwegen Norwegen Norwegen Learning By Doing, Norwegen Norwegen Norwegen, ha ha ha Learning By Doing!

The Vikings all have the Extreme edition, my Jerven is the Hunter, but I was really glad of it. The Jerven is a poncho liner, designed like your life depends on it. Camo that perfectly matches the lichen covered rocks on the outside, with layers of insulation, and aluminium coated cloth, Its got arm holes, sturdy zips and reinforced eyelets. Its at once a blanket; a pop up hunting blind, a tent and a coat. From the Arctic to the Sahara they’ve kept adventures alive for xx years.   

Wrapped in my Jerven, slumped in the barbecue chair,  I’m too deep into my happy place to do more than mutter ‘you’re representing your country’ as my eyes start to involuntarily close. Overcome by impatience OMR makes a run for it, more of a waddle actually. I’m just too battered to follow him or talk him out of it. An age later a minibus appears to take us back to the camp. 

During the sunlit night I dream of the walking in the highlands around Badenoch where Kompani Linge trained with Special Operations Executive for their guerrilla warfare against nazi Germany and their monument stands. There are loads of amazing tales of their daring and indefatigability  

During WW2 there were more decorated members of SOE drawn from the Norwegen resistance unit named after actor and hero Martin Linge than any other unit. If anyone has a claim to “if it wasn’t for us you’d all be speaking german’ its Einar Skinnarland and his compatriots. 

File:Kompani Linge Memorial.JPG

"Dere åpnet deres hjem og deres hjerter for oss og gav oss håp." "You opened your homes and your hearts to us and gave us hope." This stone was erected by the people of Badenoch in honour of the gallant company of Norwegian patriots who lived among them and trained in these mountains 1941-1945 to prepare for operations in occupied Norway. By skilful and daring raids on military and industrial targets they harassed the enemy and denied him vital supplies. These dangerous missions were not carried out without losses; 57 brave men of Kompani Linge gave their lives in our common cause.

I’d like to tell you that i channelled their skill, endurance and spirit, but sadly it was still the divorced walrus. 

Eventually we are picked up and dropped off at the base camp. After the all too brief sleep there’s a gathering of people making coffee and heating dehydrated meals. Most people look haggard. a few jolts of espresso and fried pork and I’m not exactly ready to do it all again but certainly fortified for what the day may bring, It all ends up being a pleasant surprise. 

These are the green and pleasant stages. Not quite Bisley no cucumber sandwiches or pints of old gobshite, or heaving plates of Mum-food, but at least this is where we shoot from barricades instead of lying on needle sharp rocks. 

Thomas turns up, talkative as ever. 
He conducts an interview with OMR who is huddled around  a camping stove shivering with tiredness, and cooking another dehydrated meal. Sadly Thomas later loses the data on his SD card so you’ll just have to imagine the sight of ‘Disgruntled - the grumpiest gnome’ wrapped in my Jerven bag, cooking his dinner with only his balaclava’d head poking out.  Of all the loses and indignities suffered the loss of that picture is the one that hurts me the most.   

At day two’s shorter ranges the big chunk data table is less noticeable, but my woes weren’t over yet . Considering the exorbitant price they ask for them Tika really could have done a bit better with shipping magazines worthy of the name. First the magazine doesn’t seat properly into the mag well, then the plate that the rounds sit on binds rather than sliding up and down smoothly and sometimes the spring doesn’t seem strong enough to push rounds nine to one up to the lips. Failing to chamber a round. So working the bolt produces click and not bang. For £120 each I think Tika could have made more of an effort. At Bisley if you get click when you were expecting bang, you leave the bolt closed for 30 seconds + and signal to the range officer, at Midnight Sun if Vikings get click they work the bolt at a speed to have your next bullet on target before the ejected round hits the ground. Several times I’m habitually hand-in-the-air awaiting instruction when BEEP  I time out.

After the fact. 
There are plenty of Youtube videos dedicated to getting them to work, the simplest tweak with a pair of needle-nosed pilers means that now, after the event obviously, the magazine sits squarely in its well and doesn’t rattle about, my rifle can almost be guaranteed to scoop a round off the stack every time you work the bolt. I’m now getting bang more than click. Bah!

My favourite stage was one overlooking what looks like a quarry surrounded by reactive targets at all kinds of ranges, and the BlinkTroll target.

BlinkTroll is a completely awesome system where you hook a little motor onto a pice of 550 paracord, it will tow a target back and forth.  At MSRC back and forth is across the quarry, the motor is controlled from your smartphone, and its powerful enough to tow a delta archery target. Even the base model can run for about 1000m. If you could afford the ammo, and had the space, a BlinkTroll would be a great time sink. And cash. Last time I enquired it was about four grand. Ouch.   

Without changes in day light the session trundles on and on. Its actually more disorientating than I expected. After a while we’re beyond caring and each new disaster becomes just another painful lesson to mull over with the squad.

“When a Norwegian hears, ‘stop’ to him that’s a signal to take a last shot, you two actually stop shooting. you are very safe, and thats to your credit but its acted against you on nearly every stage.”

The shooting positions for day two are used much more often, its an army range, and there’s mountains of brass on the ground, Norwegians all seem to live with walking distance of a range where they can collect as much once fired Norma 6.5 as they could ever need, so half the squad don't even bother picking it up.  Welly boot man and I are both using Lapua cases that cost north of a pound [or ten krona] each, so us and the .260 boys search the firing points like Gollum looking for a ring after each session. 

With the second 10 hours completed and my eyelids drooping we go to the dinner, or what was billed as the dinner, its turns out to be two trays of lasagne of the kind you’d get in an english motorway service station. The aperitif is a stern lecture about not serving yourself too much, so there’s some for the next person. As last year there wasn’t enough to go around. Its a bit of a low point in the much heralded renaissance in Baltic cuisine.   OMR announces he’s allergic to all forms of cheese. Garlic bread is the only garnish, and OMR’s dinner. 

A jovial Swedish chap gives us a ride back to the camp and tells us of the 18 hour drive his crew endured as the airline wouldn’t confirm wether they could fly with hand loaded ammunition. 

A bit of a sleep later and the Tall Fella reappears to take us back to the site of the first stage
The drive up though the mountains is stunning, the cloud has lifted and in bright sunshine the cliff faces and scree runs are straight out of the observer book of Northern wilderness’.

At the prize giving, after the top three get their plaques, the table of things donated by various makers with varying degrees of generosity from Wow! right down to Really? is raffled off and the people standing on either side of me both win prizes.  Clearly all I’m getting here is practice.

We buy our commemorative T Shirts and hang out with some of the the other competitors, and we run into the chap who marshalled the first stage 24 hours before.

“The Plumber! So you survived? When you arrived at my stage I thought you were having a heart attack and we’d be getting the helicopter out, but you ate that sandwich and came back to life. Don't be too hard on yourself everyone has a terrible first year. Your rig is fine, you just need to develop your load and data.  We all noticed you and your mate are really safe shooters, we hope we’ll see you again next year”
“Thanks man that’s actually quite encouraging, I never asked you what do you do for a job ? 
“I’m a paramedic”

We slouch back in to the hotel and find they’re not serving food, the only option is a kebab shop opposite which must survive by being the only place you can go to eat for miles in any direction, its staggeringly bad. Even though its broad day light its defiantly feels like time for beddybyes, we stop off to chat with he kids on night porter duty at the front desk and get them to book us a cab for the morning’s first flight. I give my used cases a cursory rinse in the hand basin, mainly to check for unaccounted for strays and fade into a deep sleep. I’m a bit regretful that we leave too early to re visit the breakfast buffet, and even more regretful the we have to give norway’s surest cab driver a couple of hundred krona to run us ten minutes down the road, he passes the time berating us for not being outside waiting for him before his expected time of arrival and the fat fuck has the temerity to sulk when its pointed out to him that if he’s busy the common courtesy of announcing his arrival by telephone, instead of hiding out of sight, would have speeded up proceedings for both of us. Its clear that the cafe in the airport also holds its customers in contempt, I don't know if they call the young soldiers the mud people, but mud was defiantly the main ingredient in what they were selling as coffee. We check our toy boxes and packs, no mention is made of any further payment so it seems rude to ask. The dude even says ‘you collect these again at Gatwick’. Bardufoss to Oslo, Oslo to Gatwick, you don't need an EU firearms permit to return, just your regular firearms certificate. We shamble up to the the Border Farce desk to collect our guns, the woman in charge checks our papers and serial numbers match. Do you get much of this? Oh yes guns pass though the airport every day, you guys are always flying with them.  

Next the autopsy 

your pal 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Midnight Sun rifle Challenge pt5

We gather for the briefing, theres about 60 of us. My waist comes up to somewhere just above their knees. They are clearly the descendants of war parties that crossed oceans in river boats, and more recently conducted guerrilla warfare against the nazis. The Norwegians are also clearly a nation who like their Gucci gear, none of the budget crap kit you see at Bisley, nary ‘a Hawke scope in sight, Delta is the entry level scope, the excellent 525i Kahles are very popular, so are Nightforce, the Hungarian IOR are growing in reputation, and as you’d expect Schmidt & Bender are on top of the posher rifles. Most people wear MSA Sordin ear defenders. Ulfhednar are capturing the market for bags. As I don't generally move in circles where the government is picking up the wardrobe tab, I’d never seen so many people wearing Crye Precision combat clothes in one place. Look it up. Its called Crye because you will when you see the prices. Double bastard nice kit though. 

On the rifle front: Tikas and SAKOs from next-door Finland, a couple of Accuracy Internationals, some rifles built on Remington actions, and lots of STR’s. Sauer sell two target variants of the 200, the Scandinavian Target Rifle in 6.5x55 and as Sig Sauer the Sharp Shooter Gun 3000 mostly seen in .308. Over half the competitors are carrying STR’s. Due in part to a genius barrel system, where with two gauges and a spanner you can rebarrel it at home, they sell shit loads of them up in Scandiwegia. Several company’s sell aftermarket 6.5x55 barrels for them including: Shultz and Larson, Heym, Blaser and now in the US Benchmark offer a 6.5CM . For the true nerd there’s a rare, and spendy, 22LR kit for indoor practice when the mercury solidifies and even Vikings are calling it a little chilly. The fashion these days is to ditch the laminate stock they come with and put them in a chassis. Just another grand. For added kudos amongst aficionados you can re-chamber to 6.5mm AI aka SwedeMoor.

The competition takes place in two valleys, one wooded with birch, aspen and rowen, the other windswept and incredibly long. We get the long valley for  the first 10 hours. It’s quite a schlep. The stages involve walking up and down the valley, shots are 100 to 1200 meters at hubcap sized targets. Snow lines every hollow, its windy and overcast, but not cold, there’s tarmac road.
The shooting positions are nearly all prone, and involve lying on the thumb-tip sized gravel left from construction the road. Those knee and elbow pads just keep looking better and better. 

The views go on for ever. once we’ve been walking for a hour It dawns on me that my kit strategy is way off the mark. I’ve dressed for Highland Stalking where you’re walking over rougher terrain at slower speeds, carrying a much much lighter rifle, negligible amounts of ammunition,  and no pack. Without fail the people who had been before or just knew what to expect, didn’t dress for the cold, [once you’re bobbing along you don't need to], just for the wind. When we stopped for any length of time they wrapped themselves in Jerven blankets issued during their military service. Lots of competitors and the marshals also wore the Jerven parka. An excellent piece of kit totally un-marketed outside Norway.  Some people wore those money-no-object hiking trousers that seem to have a magnetic attraction to barbed wire. The smart money wore Snickers work pants with their legendary knee pads. Most people reduced unsprung weight by wearing the lightest hiking boots possible. Apart from a lunatic fringe in wellies, but more of him later. In the last ten years Ultralight Hiking has totally changed walking boots, removing all that weight from each step certainly looks like a great idea. 

Vorn rifle-scabbard packs that carry butt-down had a lead over Eberlestock ’s barrel-down design. But a good third of the field didn’t bother, just a well padded sling and a little daypack for the windproof jacket, Jerven bag, 125 rounds, and mini stove. There’s water at every stage so that’s a kilo saved off your pack. 

Puffing along my rifle seems unbelievably heavy, as do my boots. I’m probably as unfit as my kids tell me, and worse still I’m battered from the last few days. The thin dry air is dehydrating me like a Serrano ham. 

The chaps we were squadded with seem a bit bemused by our presence, and in retrospect I can’t say I blame them. I’m dressed as though I intend to take a nap under a tree in the falling snow while waiting for the deer to turn up. OMR is rocking a mix of beach fishing gear and work boots, with a balaclava that’s a vigorous defence of function over style. Our level of preparedness is apparent at the first stage. 
Where when we eventually catch them up, they look to be gathered for a hillside picnic, I park my pack just before it parks me, and have a little lie down, reprising my pilates-class impression of a divorced walrus after the tide has gone out.

The first stage is the farthest flung, and covers ranges from about 500 and something to 1100 and something, shooting off a tripod. 

The Marshal issues instruction and shows us a print out of the targets locations, we take it in turns looking for them though a spotting scope while a French elf not much older than my daughter looks on with a bemused expression that says ‘Old blokes what part of this can possibly be fun for you guys?”

The fats and salt of a sandwich reanimate me and once the targets are announced the squad take out neatly laminated sheets carefully recording every click the scope would need down to 5m increments.  OMR and I have hastily knocked up data hand written of scraps of paper now stained with sandwich grease. Ours is in 50m increments. 
The top boys all have custom turrets or at least turret tape. You know your range, you turn the scope’s turrets to that marking and you’re, if not bang on the money, not far off it. With hindsight set to 20/20 I’d also shoot the data table to verify every single range increment. 

And take wind reading lessons. Lots of them.

I put a strike on the score sheet. Go Team GB. Probably the high point looking back. 
All stages are against the clock, the targets are usually hard to find through the scope, often I’m not the only one to time-out without completing the course of fire. A pair of 10 power binos or a draw scope would really help. 

For the next ten hours we walk back down the valley, then back up the valley, then back down, then….you get the idea. 

More to come
Your pal

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Midnight Sun Rifle Challenge Pt4

The die is now well and truly cast, we’ve paid, flown to the the top of Europe, they know we’re here and are waiting for us. We change into the clothes we’ll wear for the next 24 hours and make for the carpark. 
On the hotel doorstep a tall blonde woman, who has stepped out of central casting’s Viking Maiden department, is heaving her pack out of the foyer. 
Are you competing in Midnight Sun? I ask her. 
“Well yes I’m going, not really sure if you could call it competing, I’m just a beginner, I don't expect to do very well.” 
There’s understatement, there’s false modesty, and then there’s this, clearly a mash up of the two. 
She has a very nice Vorn back pack, from its rifle slot pokes a SAKO TRG. 
Thats a £5,000 rifle before you screw a scope onto it.
“Nice rig, what’s it chambered in?” 
‘It was a bit of a bargain I bought it from a military contact for two grand, the bipod would have cost 600, it was in 308 with an unknown shot count, we have a lathe at home so I re barrelled it in 6mm SLR.” 
“Just a beginner huh?” 
She gives me a caught-with-hand-in-the-cookie-jar smile. 

The driver picks us and a team of Swedish lads up.  We set off into the countryside. 

“People ask me why I drive so slowly, its Moose country, I ask them if I strapped an oil drum to your kitchen table at what speed would you be happy to drive into it?”

The completion is held in a military outpost, there’s not much more than a barbecue pit and a shower block at our starting point, with small wooden buildings scattered up and down the valleys. Most of them just a briefing room with an outhouse attached. 

First stop is the practice range where the array of kit on display makes the hobby look more serious and more expensive than usual . I walk up and down the line, where prize for most kit lugged along goes to a team in Helikon-Tex camo most of whom are muttering Kurwa! Kurwa!! between shots. 

National stereotypes being what they are, my question “Kurwa! Polska drużyna?” gets a big laugh. 

By the time I start to practice my hundred yard zero is mysteriously completely absent. The Swedish boys from earlier seem to be having scope troubles of their own and borrow my torque wrench, when they return it I’m still shooting below the target. I seem to be below where I started [but never catch the clue in that description].

My ownership of the Tiktac rifle had started so well, I bought it second hand and then saved up for the scope and mounts. The first scope mounted a treat, I put it on, tightened the scope to 2nm and the mounts to 3nm, it pointed at the centre of the aiming mark. On its first trip to the range two of us shot gold with it. Then came that scope failure, the second scope had shown great reluctance to align.  From Bisley to Bardufoss every man and his dog have now chipped in their advice, and worse still, shared their stories of rifles that wouldn’t zero. There were; scopes that had been killed by baggage handlers, moderators that had rolled off a table top and interfered thereafter, and mounts that twisted scope tubes. Everyone who’d ever shot an air gun at a funfair had an opinion. All of which could be summarised, “This ain’t gonna be cheap mate”. 
Looking online was even more distressing. On a credible forum, there’s a lengthy discussion detailing the thread cutting issues some Tiktac’s are known to have. The Tika Tac A1 is shipped with a muzzle brake which is held in place both by the barrel being threaded, and by the brake being clamped to the barrel. The absence of a perfectly square to the bore shoulder for the moderator to mate to, and Tika’s shameful response to requests for redress are an annoying blemish on the otherwise astounding record of these rifles. It was only later after the penny had dropped did I hear ‘Oh yeah that happened to me’ everywhere I went. Thanks guys. 

The 20 MOA rail was costing me most of the first turret rotation, which I’d later make worse by not seating the locking ring all the way to the zero point. More than once, like a moron, I turn the up and down turret on the top of the scope all the way to the bottom. I was resetting to a zero almost nine Milliradians lower than my Zero.

Finally I have the scope dialled in, I’m the last to leave the range. Its all about to begin and I’m fucking frazzled. I’m not about to neg OMR out, he ain’t looking too happy either. Last time i’d seen him he’d had his rifle out of its wobbly stock. Never a good sign. 

Having cured their own ills the Swedish boys ask ‘Ish there anything we might have that might help you?” All I can muster from under the cloud of despair is ‘Not unless you’ve got a bottle of gin and a service revolver” 

Time to fight off the foreboding and put a step on. 

There's more
Your pal

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Midnight Sun Rifle Challenge Pt3

Kit lists. I’ve made a few. Mistakes I’ve made, a few more. Days when the sun never sets, I’ve only seen one. 

In the shambling spirt of Newby and Carless’ English amateur adventurism on their Short walk in the Hindu Kush, having watched a few videos by Thomas Haugland, I send a text to One Man Rifle-Maker. 

‘Midnight Sun Rifle Challenge 2019… fancy it?’ and receive the reply “ texted Thomas to say we’re entering”

Of all the events in the Viking Rifle Series calendar the MSRC is quite possibly the least appropriate entry point. It’s billed as ’24 hours of misery and fun’. Which in legal terms means they did give us fair warning. 

This is my second whistle-stop holiday with OMR. 
The last one was a pistol shooting trip of less than 24 hours, he’s not a fan of; travel, Europe, or anything other than the plainest food. He does like Norway though and despite his obvious discomfort he was a font of good cheer, I’d defiantly have cracked without him. Never did get to see him eat pickled Herring, which was something of a disappointment.

I spend a while talking up the plan, clearly no one believes i’m actually going. I make a few half hearted attempts to start a fitness plan, I will admit they look deeply unconvincing. I get sciatica, I enrol in a pilates class, the pilates class finishes and somehow i leave the yoga milfs to their fate and don't re enrol.  

The moment where you get to represent your country on the world stage is an honour few of you will ever be afforded, but just occasionally its possible to promote yourself to those dizzy heights without a man in a blazer, with a clipboard, telling you legal action will ensue should you continue. 
Still flying high on a moment of optimism, bravado and irony we become The Precision Wombles aka Team GB [self appointed]. Secretly hopeful that no more deserving competitor will make themselves known.

All of a sudden we’ve committed to flying to the top bit of Europe to compete against real Vikings in a sport where, at best we’re the founder members of the veteran-novice division, just two ill-prepared chubsters who should be old enough to know better. 

It’s not like we’ve entered the Marathon des Sables. How bad can it be?

It turns out Vikings learned to shoot across valleys at concealed targets with their first plate of fermented herring. We’re squadded with lads two thirds of my age. One of ‘em  takes second overall. Most of them are probably only two thirds of my weight too.

As members of separate gun clubs we both tried to inveigle others into joining us. We set up a facebook group which we join a few friends to, responses are for the most part muted. The clubs both have a lot of 308 and 223 shooters who work it all out in Minutes Of Angle, so perhaps ‘Build a 6mm/6.5mm rig with a scope that reads in Milliradians ’ as a minimum bid was a big ask. 

All I got was flat out refusal(s) to even contemplate entering: 

The Tall Geek: No. I’d have no chance of winning. 
Club matriarch-in-waiting: That sounds like its an long way from the hotel. No.
South Side D: No. Walking! No. Are you mad? Did I say No?

OMR at least mustered a few broken promises. But in the end it was just two tubby Precision Wombles who make up Team GB [self appointed]

There is a saying [often attributed to the British Army] : Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. 
I wouldn’t know, but I can attest to the opposite being completely true.

On one of my sporadic trips to practice I’d suffered catastrophic scope failure, On the whole I’d still recommend a Delta Stryker for the money [and the new model looks even better] but my first one died losing its lateral tracking after just over 200 rounds. Delta are making some serious inroads into the VRS so later  I took the opportunity to canvas every other user I met, and it seems I was in the unlucky 1%. The vendor had arranged for me to be sent a replacement. It arrived with about ten days to spare, time and tide being what they are that equated to one and a bit  panicked visits to the range. 

I say ‘one and a bit’ as on the first outing the staff found the perimeter fence had been cut, which necessitated a cease fire order while the whole facility was searched, needless to say this took up most of our booking. Our non-refundable booking.

When I got my rig it came with a couple of cases of home loads which proved to be accurate at 100 and 200 yards, so pressed for time, I duplicated them. 140 SST’s sitting long in the case and right at the bottom of the charge table, hindsight is a wonderful thing, a hotter load with a flatter trajectory may also prove to be a wonderful thing out at 1210m.   

Amateurish I know, ‘schoolboy error’ I hear you say, but OMR was not to be out done. On our return from Norway within a couple of weeks he’s sold most of his battery and bought himself a very handy Ruger Precision in 6.5CM which, being a fair bit lighter than the Tiktac, looks just the ticket for these competitions. I only mention this as it’s the dawn come to cast out the mordor-ish  shadow of the strategy he employed during the actual competition. Although he owned some highly accurate stalking rifles, just like the rest of us there are slots in the battery that are filled by rifles bought on a whim. In his case it was a Steyr Pro in .260 that would more honestly be marketed as the Steyr Flex-O-matic. Its nasty plastic stock distorts if you tighten the action screws, it wobbles if you don’t, several people claimed to be able to see the barrel whipping from side to side like a tuning fork. Perhaps remembering Thomas’ video where Thomas felt that a ten round magazine would give the shooter an advantage on several of the stages, OMR brought the Flex-O. A decision he was to regret. Frequently. 

I’ve never traveled internationally with a firearm before so its with some trepidation that i rock up at Gatwick Airport, at OMR’s instance, four hours early, I’ve got my pack and a Peli 1750 with my rifle in it. Which probably weighs as much as my ex wife. 
That morning in Gatwick airport it dawns on me that I’d not prepared an opening gambit, walking up to a woman you’ve never met before, in an airport, and saying “I have a gun” is frowned upon pretty much everywhere. I decide to go with the euphemism ‘sporting goods’ 
I’ve now got the massive rifle case and fairly substantial pack balanced on an airport trolly, buffeting other passengers aside, I make it over to the woman organising the queue, and enquire where I should be.
‘Yes it is’
“Have you got a licence for it?” 
‘Yes and I brought it with me otherwise I’m in a fair amount of trouble’, 
“Just go and stand over there babe’ 

OMR arrives before the armed response team and we wait together. The next woman gesticulates calling us to her desk, “Sporting goods to Oslo? “ She seems genuinely delighted to have something out of the ordinary to do and having drawn a blank over the phone leaves us at the desk to make procedural enquires in person. She in turn hands us to a fella who also seems nonplussed by this freak event, he goes off, he comes back and he goes off.

You need a European Firearms Pass to travel in Europe with your guns, but not to return [we’ll come to that later], Of course Norway was in the EU, but left. Being the pragmatic sorts that they are, and having long, permeable land borders with both Sweden and Finland [both still in the EU] they kept the simplified traveling-with-guns process. If you have an EU firearms pass you just walk through Nothing To Declare channel. If you don’t you need to be issued a temporary pass at the airport. 

Its fashionable to moan about our firearms licensing system but credit where credit’s due the Metropolitan Police turned around my request for a EU pass in less than a week. 
OMR’s force seemed to mistake ‘issue’ with ‘grant’ and had to be reminded of their service obligation by the NRA’s legal team. Whatever Brexit ends up meaning, if you have even the vaguest intention of traveling in Europe you’d be wise to get one issued, they’re free, and existing passes will probably be grandfathered in. People without EU passes will need a day off at each end of the trip to complete all the forms. 

Flying with firearms is notoriously a hassle, Ryan Air, my carrier of last resort, won’t even let you take a bow and arrows. Perhaps because Norway is a long country and the roads are clogged with Moose the national carrier almost expects you to have your rife with you. To fly with your firearm on Norwegen Air its £30 each way in advance or £60 on the day. OMR had spent much of the previous day on the phone forlornly trying to pay. Norwegen Air’s london office wouldn’t accept payment as the tickets had been sold by a third party, the seller wouldn’t accept payment as the request had Guns in the the title. 

The morning is ticking by. I’m putting a brave face on the growing sense of urgency. OMR isn’t keen on travel at the best of times. We’ve been passed from pillar to post. Eventually we meet with a nice man from Border Farce in a side office who makes a cursory inspection of our toys. We’ve handed over our rifles and ammo and he’s recorded us, and our rifle’s serial numbers in a ledger the trip is firmly in the lap of the old norse gods. We could arrive as competitors, or as observers awaiting compensation with a lot of explaining to do. The UK licensing authority takes an extremely dim view of allowing others to lose your rifle and ammo. 
In the excitement no one has extended their enquires as to how to charge us. So far so cheap. 

There are two sorts of english people at airports. Glam people and bus people. The glam people who seem to imagine there’s still something glamorous about air travel; they have their hair done, they dress up in their designer duds, and many of them spend time in an orangeification booth, all in a futile attempt to pass themselves off as classy international travellers. Like a horrible parody of what a poor person imagines a rich person looks like. Europe’s low cost airlines are often somewhere between the bus and the train in price, once out of earshot the staff will refer you and your loved ones as ‘the mud people’. Its all about as glamorous as a picnic in a supermarket carpark.  On Team Bus we bring our own grub and only travel with hand luggage. 

Gatwick is a horrible place and the airport its low point. The GBP [great british public] has little great about them. As usual its full of wildly over dressed women accompanied by their moody aggressive spouses, teenage girls with those handbags that cost as much as a pelican rifle case, dribbling children being towed along on garish suitcases by overwrought parents. Probably a hub for air rage. Defiantly a hub for bad skin. 
My usually solution would be to put a few away, but its still a bit early for more than a cursory Gin & Tonic, so we have breakfast instead. There’s a ‘spoons’. We have burgers. I have vague memories of OMR only eating plain food. He has his burger with nothing, just a patty and a bun, so plain that the barman says ‘mine are the same, kids can be so fussy, I bet next week they’ll want it with chilli sauce’.
Feeling a rush of bonhomie I ask the barman ‘Can i  have his pickles on mine? “This is the spoons mate, it’s not like we have real chefs”.

A couple of three hours later Oslo airport is everything you might expect it to be; spotless, made of laminated birch, and populated mainly by calm attractive tall people. The food stands look to be about he same standard as the hipster bars of hackney, the seating looks like it won a design award, the litter bins look like they came second. Here, to our consternation, the system breaks down momentarily. Our rifles need to be checked out of customs, then in again and the stop over will be conducted against the clock. 
Some speedy wombling later.  At the far end of the concourse we find a baggage guy who restores order, and we head upstairs to the check in for the next leg of the journey. 
Pillar-to-post begins again.  At the second counter we’re sent to the woman in charge gives us the cold one and asks why we haven’t paid, resisting the urge to haggle I offer to pay and we’re indignantly told she won’t be accepting payment, in retrospect this may have been some kind of super-dry Norwegian joke, we’re sent back the way we’ve come to see yet another chica check in, where we re-tell the story of our needs, convey our growing sense of urgency, and general mystification. An unexpected, yet welcome, “But why should you pay?” later our bags are checked and once again we really do seem to be £120 up on the morning. 

Leaving the unexpected delights of Oslo Airport behind we’re off the ground and on route.
From the air Norway looks like a archipelago of little blue-grey islands set in a narrow green sea,
We touch down on a small airport surrounded by snow covered peaks. Being Norwegians there’s none of the tedious pushing and grumbling you get when a plane full of English people arrives in Spain. So disembarking takes half the time. 
We wait by a luggage carousel so small you’d wonder why they bothered. Bardufoss airport serves some far flung military outpost where very young soldiers are sent to feel home-sick, and there are soldiers of both sexes, still in uniform, leaving for their holidays. One of them, as evidenced by his name tags, is literally called THOR. 
How Viking is that?

To say the Viking Rifle Series appeared bemused by our entry would be an understatement. But as competitors from Poland and Belgium all seemed to manage it, perhaps it was just us? 
We  registered in plenty of time, we’re offered places a while later, tried to pay but the transfer service didn’t like paying to accounts held in two names. Thomas kindly made a call on our behalf and the match director helped us with registration and promised to send someone to pick us up.

A Tall fella in outdoor dungarees and a thousand yard stare meets us at the airport, outdoor dungarees are more a sign of the outdoorsman than camo ever is, and when they’re patched with different ages and colours of patches you know he’s spent a few days afield. I mention this as you’ll meet him again later. He’s our driver, and a bit of a wag. He has that great northern thing where its still played for laughs, but delivered totally deadpan. For example this was his opening gambit. Delivered from behind a thousand yard stare

So what are your first impressions?
SBW: Its very beautiful, you’re all very tall, and the wit is very served dry
So I’m a cliche? 

He drops us off in town and we spend a sunlit expensive night in a very tolerable hotel. Overcome with excitement I buy a beer, just a can of beer. 100 NK or a tenner! Its not even a nice beer. One of the kids working the hotel’s night shift has lived in london, he rubs it in by reminding me a tenner is dinner two in The ‘Spoons.

For readers overseas: ‘The Spoons’ is a pub chain called JD Wetherspoons, where large commercial spaces like car showrooms, are repurposed into giant soulless pubs selling very cheap food and drink. Open from 8am they are both a cheap place to have breakfast, and perform the role that drop-in centres used to, for care-in-the-community types before austerity cut the funding. You’re very likely to be accosted by half hearted beggars on the doorstep, bags of shop-lifted steaks may be offered for sale, and its not unknown to find the staff crying in the toilets. I despise the owner, his childish politics and the way he treats his staff. But principles are for rich people, its a fine breakfast that comes with endless refills of Lavazza. For a fiver. I cant stay out of the place. 

Next time I’m in Bardufoss I’ll probably have transport and get an Air BnB as there are some really nice looking places on offer just outside town, but the hotel was fine, spectacular water pressure and flow rate in the shower, a firm supportive bed, and blackout curtains worthy of the name. I slept like a log. OMR tells me his nights sleep was stolen from him by horrendous snoring like a banjo duel played on chainsaws, cant say I heard it, must have slept though it. 

At Hotel Bardufoss they lay on a truly spectacular breakfast buffet, determined to claw back the tenner for that beer I shovel down breakfast in every European tradition: fruit course, cold cuts, muesli, yogurts [plural], fried things, and eggs a plenty. 

OMR has toast. Just plain toast. I knock up a few rounds of sandwiches for later.  

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Your pal SBW

Midnight Sun Rifle Challenge Pt2

It starts with some advice from our friends at Spuhr mounts, and others. All received after the fact.

1. Find a load that shoots well with as low ES as you can!
2. Check tracking of your scope! 
3. Don’t trust chronographs! 
4. Zero your load several times so you know its on zero at 100 m. 
5. Don’t trust Ballistic calculators 
6. Test your zeroed load on as long a distances as you can. 
7. Test your load on other distances to. 
8. Now when you have hard tested data compare that to your Ballistic calculator and tweak the velocity you entered so your Ballistic calculator's outputs are true to your load's ballistics 
9. Practice shooting from weird positions and barricades, with and without a sling. 
10. You are now set for hours of misery and fun!