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

Monday, 30 December 2019

Review: Tika Tac A1 Part 2

20" Barrel chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor, scope is a Delta Stryker FFP with the DLR1 reticle.

Been a while since that happy day when I bought the Tiktac, and the even happier day when I could afford a scope worthy of the name, and finally got to shoot it. I've put almost 500 rounds through it.
In skilled hands these rifles have put the hustle on some very expensive custom rifles.

Accurate AF! As the petulant teenager formerly known as 'the littlest bushwacker' would say.

But what, SBW, is it like to live with? I hear you ask.

Well dear reader, it is big and it is clever, and in fairness there are a few things where you get to see the corners that were cut to bring it in for its bargain price.

The Tiktac is anodised, which is great if you just carry it from the car to the firing point, mine has been yomped up and down a grimy Norwegian hillside and is showing a few marks.
I'll probably Cerakote it at some point. A sleazy purple, seeing as you ask.

Weight 5, 098kg  
Its not a light rifle, there's always some online-hero telling how he uses it as his stalking rifle, wouldn't be my first choice.
By the time you've added; scope 1,042g, moderator .380g, and mounts .100g
You're at  6,630kg or 14.6 lbs + Bipod.
For competitions where there's a bit of walking involved, or very active Stalking, it might well swing me towards a lighter option if it was to be my only centerfire.

There are both kits and aftermarket triggers, I thought the one it comes with an absolute joy, and in search of greater accuracy the money would be better spent on bullets, powder, primers, and practice.

I'm not a muzzle brake kind of guy, I find them obnoxious and frankly anti-social. Tika ship all Tiktacs with a .30 brake. The barrel is both threaded and the brake clamps in place, so Tika didn't concern themselves with cutting a shoulder for your suppressor/silencer/moderator to mate to. As I'm using a Stalon moderator which is sized up to .30 cal. this hasn't affected me, but some shooters with more bore specific moderators have had issues. Tika and the UK importer GMK have offered some washers, and the option of voiding the warranty if you get a gunsmith to sort it out.
Yeah, pretty crappy isn't it.

While we're on 'pretty crappy' the magazine is a proper let-down, where the rival Ruger Precision takes generic aftermarket magazines, yer Tiktac  can only be fed from Tika's £120 magazine that, from new, wobbles about and fits so poorly the rifle feeds from it sporadically.
You can bend the cut-out for the magazine retention catch with a pair of needle nosed pilers and its all good. But really?

That's not the end of it.
I'm not the only person to have the magazines floor plate bind, and the spring fail to lift rounds 9 to 1, I've seen this fixed by drilling out the rivet that holds the magazine together bending the spring to give it a bit more push and reassembling. For my heard-earned £120 I'd expect better.

A welcome upgrade (not shown, I'll update the picture at some point)
If you've ever shot an Accuracy International (if you want to you can rent one for the McQueens at Bisley) you might well remember the ergonomic joy that is its bolt handle, its not one of those knurled "tactical" numbers, just a sphere on a short length of bent bar that falls to your hand with a pleasing proportion. Sterk in Australia make something similar for Tika rifles, book early to avoid disappointment they do a couple of batches a year and you can put your name on a waiting list. After an interminable wait I got the 'its time to pay' email and mine shipped within ten days.
It's wonderful, everything the original design should have been.
In order to fit it you need to strip the bolt which brings us to....

The Firing Pin.
While I had the bolt stripped down to add the new handle I was horrified to notice there is some  galling -  binding and scratching on the shaft of the firing pin, leading to an unwanted increase in lock time. I'll add some pix when I decide how to deal with this niggle.

Would I buy another one?
If all I wanted from it was shooting from a highseat or firing point near the car. Hell Yes. Unequivocally. Several people have shot gold medal scores with mine.

Coming soon - Clash of the Creedmoors: Tiktac Vs Ruger Precision Rifle

More soon
Your pal

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Midnight Sun Rifle Challenge pt7

  1. Work on your fitness, I talked a good fight but didn’t do enough. Not nearly enough.
  2. Book everything long in advance, we could have halved our travel and hotel costs. 
  3. EU firearms pass. If you live in the Met police area its child’s play, their paperwork game is strong, other forces may vary in their application of the legislation 
  4. Develop a load and record its data to 5m increments, choose a powder you can defiantly buy regularly and stockpile bullets. Even Spud1967 ran out of SST’s during our practice period.I’m trying to horde enough to last the life of the barrel. 
  5. Be very sure you’ve set your zero stop correctly. If you don't have a zero stop get a proper scope.
  6. Travel early - the money you saved on early bookings will be well spent acclimatising. Norway looks like a nice place to hang out. We were both battered by the time we arrived and I’m sure it added to our woes. 
  7. Dress light but windproof - knee and elbow pads are a great idea. There are cheap alternatives to Snickers work pants but the way the knee pads are held in place on the Snickers floor layers trousers makes them the best. Of course Crye precision come with fantastic looking knee pads. 
  8. Lightweight boots - learn from ultralight hikers, a pound off your feet is worth three off your pack
  9. You need a Jerven bag
  10. Take your own 10 power binos - more time studying the targets will help
  11. Take Compeed it didn’t save my competition but it did save the day for a lad who wore wellies. Its the best insurance £3 will buy you. 
  12. Shoot off a rear bag, if our bipod-only strategy was any good the Vikings would be doing it.
  13. Bring a shooting sling that you’ve adjusted to a perfect fit, and use it. 
  14. Water isn’t hydrating enough - bring Dioralyte (isotonic salts).
  15. A rifle scabbard like those made by Vorn, that keeps the centre mass nearer your belt are a much better idea than the barrel-down designs. That wobbling weight between your shoulders is fatiguing. Putting your bag, and therefore rifle down moderator first is a bad bad idea. 
  16. Paint some engineers blue/red on your cases if you plan to retrieve them. It’ll save a lot of time. 
  17. If you’re planning a build: 6mmBR, 6XC, or 6mmSLR (if you can face the 1500 barrel life) [or perhaps 22 Nosler or 223 Valkyrie?] are all potential 1200m alternatives to the 6.5mm rifles.
  18. A First Focal Plane scope; with an unfussy reticle, that reads in Milliradians is minimum bid. As ever; spend whatever it takes to get a good, robust scope, then drop the change on a rifle.
Now we’ve mapped out the bumps in the road for you, you’ll have no excuses in 2020.

There's a crew who claim to be going, ping me and I'll join you to the facebook group

Your pal

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