Friday, 8 May 2020

Review: Heym SR30 Pt2

My Heym has been sitting at the back of the cabinet for a while. Not for lack of love. But I will admit some sentimentality has been creeping into my game.

Any shooting dad would like to gift a precision rifle to the offspring, but in their aluminium chassis' they're no heirloom. They have the accuracy but not the vibe. Picture the scene if you will.

Sometime in the future, hopefully a long time in the future. I've joined the choir invisible. It's the day after the wake, the b'tweeded ghillie (replete with splendid whiskers, smelling slightly of; Islay Malts, RS62, and mothballs) will stand solemnly by the fireplace, fighting back the tears, he cant very well hand a PRS rifle to James Bond my progeny with the words "This was your father's hunting rifle".  For that it's got to be wood and blued steel, so he can gruffly add 'an elegant weapon for a more civilised age'.

Elegant is as elegant does, you can keep your fine scroll work and your exhibition grade woodwork, the real elegance is simplicity, where less yields more. The SR30 is a stunningly simple straight pull action, probably the most elegant design yet, mine sits in a nimble Bavarian stock of modest 'expedition grade' timber.

Back in the mid 80's Peter Fortner was tying on a few cold ones with his friend Peter Angerer who had just taken gold in the Biathlon at the winter olympics.
Angerer lamented that the equipment available wasn't giving him much of an advantage over the Russians. Taking notes on a napkin, Fortner set about tilting the playing field in his friends favour.  Intending to design a faster action, by serendipity he also designed a stronger action.
The strongest possible shape is a sphere and here six of them are the lugs. You get an incredibly strong and precise, self-centring lock-up. So strong that Heym certify that the SR 30 has been tested by the Suhl proof house to 116,030 psi or 8,000 bar.
Wonder what that looks like? So did the guys at

Using a .30-06 calculated according to Hartmut Brömels QuickLoadat 10,000 bar peak gas pressure the following experimental setup was used to fire a Heym SR30N straight-pull repeating rifle and the effects of this excess force photographed. Although the bolt did not withstand the force unharmed, even with this amount of force the bolt was not ejected to the back into the shooter’s face. 
Full story HERE.

My SR30 came preloved in .243 with a 1/10 twist and never liked 100gr bullets, at 23 inches the barrel is more hill-rifle than woodland-stalker. I washed a lot of copper out of it which helped, I considered chopping a couple of inches off the end but when I took a look though a borescope I abandoned hope. Time for a new barrel and a change of chambering to shoot lead free 6.5's. Since the Creedmoor craze/revolution of the last ten years shows no sign of abating, every gun shop now has new rifles so chambered, I'm confident that factory ammunition will be as ubiquitous as .308 and end up replacing .243.

Barrels and Baffles are like Tyres and Brakes, the more fun you have, the more frequently you have to replace them. 

I needed to engage the services of a gunsmith and buy a barrel. And there hangs a tale, a pretty sorry tale at that. For readers in The US of A. I know this next bit will stretch your credulity, but I promise you this all happened.
The greatest impediment to shooting sports in the UK isn't the government and the vegans, its the gun trade. From the importers, to people I know and consider friends, there's a surly malaise. Its literally as though they don't want your money. Everything is too much trouble.

Our slang term for gunsmith is Gun Plumber, the 'plumber' bit presumably inspired by their reluctance to answer the telephone, or on the rare occasion that they do, to give even the vaguest idea of when they might be able to 'fit you in'.

The obvious choice begrudgingly agreed that yes he could source a barrel for me from Heym, with a timeframe extending into, and possibly beyond, three months. His price?  Almost two thirds of the list price of a brand new SR30. Nothing like supporting the brand.

For 30% less the well-regarded F1 engineer, who specifies a high end stainless steel barrel, would take a look, I was welcome to visit, but no timeframe could be offered.

Top boy in the north was too pushed with his own builds, and suggested top boy in the south who is yet to return calls or emails.

A couple of other gunsmiths would, for only a little less cash, deign to allow me to join the long tail of their waiting list.

Sentimentalist that I am, this time I want my Heym to look like a Heym. If I was going to build an SR30 on a plastic stock I'd go with the stainless F1 guy or Top boy up north. I bought my SR30 because I wanted the Bavarian stock, it should have a german scope, ideally swing off mounts, and a blued barrel hammer forged from Krupps steel. As Heym intended.

Somewhat despondent I called a gun shop (in Scotland) where I've received excellent service before to see if they had a recommendation, and although not listed as a Heym stockist, the proprietor opened my eyes to a little known fact, (little known in the english speaking world anyway), Heym sell pre-fit barrels threaded and chambered for their rifles. Available within a fortnight and could be fitted and sent for proof immediately for ein kleines bisschen less than 50% of the original quote.
As simple as that.

Probably cursed it now, let's see how long it takes?

More soon
your pal

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

On This Day 1916: Ishi Died

In europe we have Otzi the iceman, we have a few artifacts, some of his EDC if you will, but the languages we speak were not due to be heard for thousands of years after his death. He's a Polaroid, a snap shot, just one frame (in not too sharp a focus) of a world we can only imagine and even then imagine only through the distorting lens of a viewpoint far far removed from anything Otzi would have known. His world was long gone before ours was born or thought of. We'll never know the date of his death, or the shape of his life, we just get a tantalizing glimpse into the day he died on. A glimpse that asks a lot of questions and answers very few.

On the other side of the pond there's an actual date, a day and a time when the last stone age man in North America saw the door close behind him, and breathed his last. His friends put some of his tools in a simple bag by his side, and committed his empty body to the flame. I like to think of his spirit going to the happy hunting ground. Wherever he went, his body turned to ash and his brain went to medical school.

A lot of things flicker to life in my imagination, but very few have consumed me like Saxton Pope's book about his friendship with Ishi the last of the Yahi people - the last north american to live in the stone age - literally a time traveler who came to the 20th century.

A victim of genocide, born on the run from an encroaching culture that was totally alien to the frame of reference he'd have known. Fresh out of options, he turned to face the very thing he'd run from his whole life, and one afternoon bewildered and exhausted Ishi stepped out of the stone age and into the 20th century.  He was imprisoned, poked, prodded, and gawped at. Then at last, protected, befriended and given the welcome such a stranger deserves.

None of us can ever know the 'real' Ishi. We can only project the Ishi that we wish for onto his legend, but that probably makes him all the more special. I've read Pope's book several times now. It's not a very well written book, its in the style we might now call 'blogging' (it slips from history, to how-to, to eulogy, to call to adventure), but there's something about it. Something beguiling. I sometimes feel it's the book I'd been waiting to read. Pope and Ishi's friendship is a reflecting pool can I see myself in, and if you ever played at Robin Hood with two sticks and a shoelace you too may hear the call Pope was so compelled by.

At the end, against the express wishes of those who knew and cared for him, his brain was taken to medical school with what intent we can only speculate.  Ishi's legacy hasn't come from that bag of cells and inanimate neural pathways, it's come from the fire he lit in the hearts and minds of Dr Saxton Pope and Art Young.

If I couldn't have my hearts desire and become more like Ishi, I'd settle for being more like Saxton Pope and consider it a life well spent.

How you treated that stranger might just be how you really are.
PS: "Ishi felt Western society was essentially silly - the only things that impressed him were matches and glue,"  

A bit more about Ishi

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Current Situation

Reader, I bought a cut price unicycle, and have found a vintage bakelite phone I'd traded with a client a while back, I must be able to part with some of the drawer full of knives I never use, how many rucksacks do I really need? Everything must go!

But lets not get ahead of ourselves.

This one started in a hotel room in the North of England. A long time ago.
It was back in the golden age of blogging, on a pre-facebook internet. So long ago that Field and Stream was actually written by staff writers who owned muddy boots and guns, rather than fixie-riding blue-haired interns who are reluctantly rewriting things they've misunderstood from the internet, while they dream of writing for Buzzfeed.

I'd written a few blog posts, and was trying to turn my love of out-loud storytelling into a passable ability to tell them on the page. As I was lying on my skinny bed, in a hotel room used to train submariners. To my unexpected delight one of the F&S staff writers commented on this very blog, and we started an email conversation based around; our mutual belief that cartridges in the 6.5mm class are inherently wonderful, as are the the peaty malts of Islay, that Sarah Palin's candidacy was as baffling as it was alarming, and that punk rock is the appropriate soundtrack to an evening out.

11 years later....

Both of us have kids in the Uni; I'm mending rich people's central heating, and he's the face of a conservation organisation.

And there hangs a tale...

Adventure is around every corner, and the world is still full of corners
Your pal

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

More Squirrel Hunting In The UK.

450 divided by 14 

We won a day's squirrel bashing in a charity auction. Months passed, various people dropped out, in the end it was the Ambulance Chasing Lawyer formerly known as 'Sailor', South Side D, and your pal SBW who made the trip to the west country. We took a fairly large number of cartridges with us. Thankfully.

What can I tell you; it wasn't quite the usual tale of incompetence but it wasn't the most cost effective carry-on either. SSD and myself were billeted in a local hostelry where the burgers were pretty good but we had to significantly mark them down on the fries. Half a dozen phat G&T's later the bed seemed comfortable enough. In the morning dehydrated by the evening's entertainments I awoke, stretched and gave myself a lovely dose of cramp. Once the tears had subsided I joined SSD for breakfast. Limping.

The ACL joined us for our repast then we set off to meet the keeper, a cheerful sort who, once the usual tall tales of game numbers were out of the way,  apologetically told us  'I've just taken over this estate it was the last guy who donated the day, totally happy for you to be here, but, small problem, my missus says there's water pissing though the ceiling so I'm going to leave you to it.' 

Regular readers will know that squirrel sniping has at one time and another been a preoccupation of mine, always conducted with pellet guns. SSD is a proven slayer of squirrels and instead of taking the crappy farmers gun approach that's seen me roundly mocked at more than one shoot, has made an investment. SSD has a licence for a tricked out tacticool shotgun that can hold many cartridges, ACL and I have cheapo semi-autos that are only allowed to hold three shells. Instead of disturbing the squirrel's Drey with a set of drain rods, SSD blatted away at them until they were either proven empty or the incumbents had been evicted into the arc of fire laid down by ACL and myself.  Within ten minutes of arrival we were right into it, then things slowed down for a couple of hours.  We trudged around taking it in turns to cynically decode the keeper's speech, now convinced the wood was shot out and we'd come an awful long way for three squirrels. We saw three Fallow and a Muntjac. We sat out a rain storm in a beaters lodge. 

Any day in the woods is better than a day at work. ACL doesn't seem to have grasped this and takes a string of calls about an electrical installation or rather the lack of one. It's hilarious. He's very good at withering sarcasm, but this doesn't seem to advance his cause. Which is also hilarious. 

The daylight is in short supply so we skip lunch and fuelled by chocolate give the densest area of woodland a blatting. The day springs to life and eleven more tree rabbits fall to the cloud of pellets.
In an honourable attempt to bring a timely end to a wounded squirrel SSD shoots at too close a range and the end of his shotgun opens up like a flower. It's a sobering moment and signals that's its time for burgers and home. 

More soon
Your pal 


Monday, 9 March 2020

Choosing a Peli Case 1750, 1700, 1745

As the new year rolls in the Precision Wombles have been talking up our preparations for the coming season. Training and travel, how much do you really need to spend to get a bipod worthy of the name? And that perennial question of the traveling sport, will ramp monkeys mash-up my rig?

Back to the beginning  At my home club its a gruelling 10 yards from the car to the firing point, so the concern is moot. As Precision Wombles for our first fixture it's; trains, two planes, and a mini bus. With the same to get back home. So cases have become a hot topic of discussion. There are lots of cases, some people will keep their rifle in an airsoft box they got on eBay, I'm sure they're fine for the trip from car to firing point.
Various cheapskates have chipped in their, I felt slightly defensive, recommendations of budget boxes but the unavoidable truth is If your ambitions are international, your cases are Peli.

There are Hard Cases, and there are Flight Cases. 
Flight Cases are made by Peli.

And here's for why; When traveling internationally with your kit it all comes down to a couple of  clarity inducing questions.
1.Which is more delicate/expensive, your built-for-battle rifle and scope, or a broadcast standard movie camera? Both of which are cheaper than BoB's testing gear.

2.Have you ever seen a camera crew with any other brand of case?

BoB [brother of bushwacker] takes some very expensive testing equipment to some very inhospitable places using small planes, big trucks, boats of all sizes, and Peli cases.

Do a google images search for damaged luggage there are tales of grief. The search for damaged Peli cases gets you pictures of abrasions, the odd broken wheel, and tales of relief.

The 1750 is the gold standard for long guns; they are big and they are clever but, they're also heavy.
I took a Peli 1750 with me to Norway, rifle arrived un-crushed despite the ramp monkey's systemic disregard, pulling it through the airport(s) I thought my arm would be pulled out of its socket. Tough came at a serious weight penalty. So this time around I fancied something lighter and as we live in the age of the hinged stock, that could also mean something a bit more compact.

The 1700 that's lightish, and fits AR's and take down rifles so well, is annoyingly just a bit too short for my stalking rifles, I was tempted by a 1720 which will swallow a 1000mm rifle with not much space at either end, but for longer trips I really wanted a case that could take two 1000mm rifles with 50mm of padding at each end, and I wanted it to be lighter. The Storm range (added when Peli bought out Hardigg) are a bit lighter but not significantly.

Seems someone at Peli felt the same way, as now there's the AIR range. Claimed to be a sweet 40% lighter with the same guarantee of toughness.

The 1745. So far the AIR range is mostly camera and scientific sized, there's only one long case, but it's deep enough to be one-case-fits-most-kit case, interior dims are  111 × 42 × 20cm I like a short rifle for stalking and the Tiktac has a folding stock, once I've sorted the foam, it'll take two rifles or due to that 20cm depth, a rifle and a compound bow, without being one of those crazy big double cases that need its own trolly at the airport and takes up most of the bed of a pick up.

Kit to buy, deer to stalk, plans to make, and adventure just around every corner
happy new year
Your pal

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Review: Ulfhednar Range Bag

Ulfhednar; if Kifaru was made in Norway. Really.

SBW's First rule of hobbies: Every hobby begins with a hat, and a bag. Regular readers will know how much I love gear, handmade in small batches, by enthusiasts. I've seen all kinds of range bags over the last couple of years, but I've never seen one as well thought out as the Ulfhednar offering. It was my birthday, I put one on the list and was delighted when one showed up. I took it with me to sight in my CZ527 and it went from box-fresh to lived-in on its first outing.

Based in Kløfta, Norway their gear is 'made for harsh arctic conditions',  with classic scandiwiegen understatement: "Our relatively harsh Arctic climate makes us set extremely strict requirements for the materials used in our products." 

"The Ulfhednar (pronounced Ulf-heth-nar) were a group of Viking warriors. They wore wolf skin, and their own skin was black-died. Like the Berserkers, they preformed chants and ritual prior to battle to get in a "Berserker Rage”. Through adrenaline they became much stronger and faster, became immune to pain, and bled less." - Snorre Sturlason "Ynglinga Saga"
It's all in proper 1000D Cordura with real YYK zippers but in their own grey with a comedy wolf rather than coyote brown with a Taliban/Zombie hunter logo.
With Wolf-like cunning they differentiated themselves by making gear for the guys who want beyond-military-grade equipment but don't want to endorse that tiresome wannabe-military-contractor [playing soldiers] look that so puts the public off target sports. 

SBW's fourth rule of outdoor websites: 'the better the company the more laughable the website'

Optics Warehouse (bless'ed be their name, great company) stock some of the range, but make little mention of the different options - there is another stockist, but what they may or may not stock is a complete mystery. In accordance with the fourth rule Ulfhednar's own website is horrible and doesn't reveal that much more. Fortunately a couple of the sites listed on the stockists page shine a light a bit further into the cavern of wonders that contains Ulfhednar's output. They make really really good stuff.

I'll do a round up of some more of their offering soon 
In the meantime, Work, curse of the stalking classes.
Your pal

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Running Deer: For Competition And Practice

There's a game we play at Bisley, some people for fun, and some as deer stalkers looking for an insurance policy for the deer that doesn't drop to the first shot. They call it Running Deer.

You stand in what's probably fairly described as a draughty shed.  100m away a picture of a two headed push-me-pull-you deer, mounted on a motorised sled, crosses a 23m gap. It's only actually doing about 13 mph, giving you an exposure of about 4.3 seconds, but when you're holding the rifle it looks quicker. You get one warm-up run at 6mph, then its either a round a run, or two rounds a run. Engine room shots, 4 for a centre, then 3, then 2, with 1 for a body hit, nothing for a haunch hit, total derision for a miss.

There are two classes: an open class where as long as it complies with the range orders you can shoot it, and the Deer Legal class.
Lots of people choose their all purpose sporting rifle; for the CSR crowd that's usually a straight pull AR15 in .223/5.56 Nato, stalkers use their stalking rifle, some people bring short barrelled  .22 CF's in thumbhole stocks, the other strategy is to shoot something a bit weighty, being Bisley the Enfield's of old England are always popular.  For the two shot game, the smoother/faster straight-pulls like Heym, Strasser, Merkel, and Blaser all work wonders. If the open sights of the Enfield aren't for you Red Dot's are becoming popular. For the aficionado, the aficionado with deep pockets, very deep pockets. There are specialist scopes with two aiming marks or for the same money you can buy a very nice rifle. New.

The competitions pre-date the NRA at Bisley and were shot at the previous site on Wimbledon Common from as early as 1862. Victorians didn't have digital scoring. Outside the NRA building these are the original thick steel plate push-me - pull-yous that, being victorians, were probably pulled back and forth by impoverished orphaned ten year olds, on day release from the workhouse or debtors prisons.

Back then you got one point for a haunch hit [seems a little unsporting to me] and between 1908 and '48 Running Deer was an olympic sport, at its 1908 debut Oscar Swahn of Sweden won gold in the single shot, and took the bronze in double shot. With Walter Winans of the US of A taking gold in the double. Over the next 40 years Sweden took more medals that any other county. Vikings init.

Although the NRA had kept the sport going from 1862 it was dying out, the targets only being used at the Imperial Meeting. Until 1962 when the splendidly named Archie J. Butterworth, rose to the occasion and formed the The British Sporting Rifle Club which has run the facility ever since. Rumours that the hut was second hand then remain unconfirmed.

Displayed at the bottom of the stairs in the NRA building you will find an important piece of running deer's history, in the form of a table cloth on which Landseer drew the original sketch for the Running Deer target.

For more history and some sage advice on equipment and technique here's a link to
RJ 'Bob' Maddison's Shooting at Moving Targets which may be the definitive work.

More Soon
Your pal

Friday, 3 January 2020

Review: MSA Sordin Pro X

You can pay all kinds of money for your ear defenders. So I'm just going to ask you this.
How much is being able to hear worth to you? Serious thing.
One of the artful codgers I shoot with had been shooting for well over 40 years when he fired a ten shot string from a 308 wearing a muzzle break, he'd left his ear defenders in the car and didn't bother. Now deaf in one ear. Its not just cumulative.

Do you wish to avoid the 'NRA handshake"?
That's the one where you shake with right hand, cup the left hand to your ear, and shout "whatcha say yer name was?"

Here in Blighty 3M's Peltor are the default choice for the target shooting fraternity, all the shops at Bisley sell them. A lot of MSA's efficacy is in how well the cup seals to your noggin, here's where MSA Sordin Pro X stand out over their other models and other brands. Gel Cups: Done. End of.

In scandiwegian Viking Rifle Series matches for well over half the field MSA Sordin's seem to be the default setting. The shotgunning crowd run the whole gamut from; nothing, foam plugs, to cast in-ear plugs, I've got cast plugs myself and they are excellent at damping the sound but nothing beats a big pair of solid cans that make an almost perfect seal. For those of you sucking a lemon at the price I also have a building site pair of one of the cheaper MSA models they don't have the socket for the radio, the gel seals,  or the microphone but they really really deaden sound.
Standing in the pissing rain I recently met a bird shooter wearing a pair of Sordin's so old they'd been slightly discoloured by the wind and the rain, [I was going to say the plastic looked bleached by the sun but that's just not plausible] his best guess as to their age was 'oh years' he reported them working exactly the same as they'd always done, but was on his second set of batteries.  At a quoted 600 hours a set, that's a fair amount of use.

More kit-tart-ism and adventures afield to follow
Your pal

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Review: VFG Rifle Cleaning

Bore patches have made it into the 21st century with this innovation from VFG weapon care.

VFG should stand for Very effing Good!

Little woollen pellets that fit snugly in your barrel, or very snugly if you buy the intensive version that have brass strands mixed into the wool. You can pull them on a wire, or you can push them with a rod. They really do remove an unbelievable amount of crud. Making a satisfying squeak as they do it.
Horrible price, but if you hunt around you will find them for about half the price of the most expensive offer. Only ever buy the bags of 500, they're only twice the price of the boxes of 50.
I got the last lot posted from Norway which was cheaper than the previous purchase from Amazon.
It took me a while to accrue the calibers I shoot, and I still don't have .303. No one seems to stock every size, and the intensive's have similar availability to rocking horse poop.

More soon
Your pal