Thursday, 24 June 2021

Review: TrueMiller - Circular Mil Master

If you do it with a First Focal Plane scope in Milliradians, you'll love the TrueMiller.
Target size, Distance, and Number of Mill in your scope; any two will tell you the third.

During the Viking Rifle Series' Midnight Sun Rifle Challenge there's a Mill-ing Stage, so you'll need one if you're going to join us in 2022.

More soon
Your pal

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Hunting Goats In Scotland. Stalking Roe In Scotland.

An adventure in the Lowlands of Western Scotland featuring: your pal SBW, and South Side D a target shooter and sportsman who dives an electric taxi. 

Work, that curse of the stalking classes: 

Covid 19, overly emotional Milfs, air travel diminished by 97%, clients putting off having repairs done, annoying offspring, the range will be closed for the foreseeable, theatre-land may never reopen. A shortage of primers. I think its fair to say that your pal SBW and South-Side D are beset by difficulties on all sides. 

SBW: This is bullshit, shall we sack it off an’ go stalking?

SSD: Not doing much else.

SBW: Do you have a midge net?

SSD: What’s that?

SBW: Your only defence against Scotland’s apex predator.

I once read that the Scottish tourist board had conducted extensive market research. Scotland is a popular destination for all the reasons you might imagine; Whiskey, Salmon, Deer, Ginger Birds. 

The last two questions proved more illuminating: 

Will you be coming again next summer ? NO 

Why not? MIDGES!!!

Been a while since i made it North of The Wall, to the land where you can hunt Roe Bucks with a 22 centerfire, Mars bars are served fried, sausages are called Lorne and served skinless and square, Tablet is a cause of diabetes rather than yet another iProduct .

SBW: How much would it cost to go to Stranraer in a Taxi? 

SSD: Where’s that?

SBW: west coast of Scotland, south of Glasgow, for stalking purposes.  

SSD: £ LOTS, each way. But to you SBW, for stalking purposes, we can split the juice.

SBW: I’ve found this guy on the internet… 

SSD:  I need to sort out someone to look after the dog

SBW: No worries my ex wife would love to help me out, I’m the only person taking her side against the kids. 

A long time ago: I was making idle chit-chat with one of the guns at a shoot, as we fell to discussing a sportsman's travels he said ‘ ah yes the Scottish stalking experience, I’ve been, you spend all day crawling through very soggy ground, shoot a deer, then the walk back to the cottage turns out to be 200 yards, I bet you love it” 

That very morning a member called Gallowaycountrysports had posted on the Stalking Directory that he had availability and accommodation. A few days later we were on our way north. By london black taxi.

The first six hours pass in a pleasant re run of: the calibre debate, chewing over the  design stratagem of Porsche 1967 to 1992, the latest outrage(s) perpetrated by my daughter against her long suffering family, and the lack of strategy being deployed by our lords and masters at this most difficult of times.  

Somewhere just the other side of the wall the roads narrow and out pace slows considerably. We pull into a Shell service station where we were surprised to lean that the sad-arse sandwiches they serve are now ‘By Jamie”.  Yes that Jamie Oliver the fat-tongued deceiver himself, has sunk so low that he’s now shilling for the sweat shop where they fulfil service station sandwich contracts.  

At the service hatch a bleached, shivering whippet of an Emo is manning the till. His stupid haircut reflected in the luminous glow of his pasty skin. 

SBW What kinds of sandwiches do you have? 

Having seen Jamie Oliver’s fat face I was expecting some kind of mangling of the cuisine of several nations, Jerk Chicken with a Mediterranean Herb Crust, and the like.

The Emo: What’s this the feckin’ Krypton Factor?  

South-Side D: Think of it as a job, what’s in the meal deal?

Some crappy sarnies, indistinguishable from crappy sarnies not ‘by Jamie’  later. 

Alan calls

‘So yer nearly here? oh aye what’s yer vehicle?’ 

“We’re In a sherbet” then I remember to translate “a black cab, a london taxi”

“Slurhh feckin’ heel, what’s that cost? Poond-a-mile?”

SBW “Nah South Side D is a cab driver it’s his whip”
SSD “tell him it’s £LOTS to Glasgow ’bout £X a mile.

The rest of the drive passes without incident and were soon following Alan’s seemingly vague but surprisingly accurate directions through the village. By the time we arrive Alan has gone to bed leaving his lad to welcome us to the self-catering accommodation end of the business. Alan runs a great outfit, or I suspect Mrs Alan runs a great outfit, and Alan fronts it. 

If you’re thinking of heading north I’d warmly recommend Galloway Country Sports, they have something for every kind of visiting stalker or Gun. Alan is dad-shaped and around 50, a fantastic host and an experienced rough shooting and goose guide. His lad is built like a racing snake with the eyes of an eagle. Between them they provide some fantastic days afield. The beds are comfortable and the duvets reassuringly weighty. I sleep the sleep of the self-righteous.

The following morning 

Alan’s birds have just arrived so he’s out looking over his pen and feeding them up. We stumble out of our rooms to find glorious sunshine, a neighbour enquires as to our well being, we ask after his. “sumingz rang, dez ner water fal-in from the sky” 

The village has no shops so we head into town, all of three miles, to look for a charging point and some breakfast. With me enthusing about the Scottish breakfast experience. Sadly no Lorne sausage is available but we do get a Tattie-Scone. It’’s a lot like the backing board for tiling. Which is a shocker as they are easy to make and usually delicious. 


mashed floury potatoes

an egg

some flour  .00 is best 

teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda 

perhaps a little cream or milk - emphasis on the little, the dough must be firm


mix into a dough

roll out and cut into pleasing shapes

Either fry or bake at a moderate temperature

Serve lathered in butter. Unsalted is my preference.  

SSD has asked that the record show that our visit to Stranraer was also the occasion of my saying the most Middle Class / English thing ever.

SBW “Is there a Marks and Spenser here? I need to buy pants”

Under-crackers un-purchased we return to the house in time to meet Alan and do my laundry in the wash basin. 

Wisely Alan wants clients to confirm their rifles and marksmanship, he tries to be as polite about this as he can, I suspect he’s had some resistance from clients before, and seems a little surprised at my enthusiasm. 

I’m keener on shooting a confirmation than the in-house photographer at St. Ursula’s.  

Here’s for why. 

Having survived [just] the shame of having a loaned rifle where the scope wasn't moored to the rings and missing the first five deer on a previous trip to Scotland, to say I’m keen never to have it happen again, is what is known north of the wall as a feckin’ understatement.

The sheep rifle should above all be portable, handy, and relatively light, as the sheep hunter carries a rifle a lot more than he shoots it. "Notes on the Sheep Rifle," Jack O’ Connor

There’s a question mark hanging over my .243 so I took my Tiktac. Its a wonderful target rifle, but there s something deeply un-stalking about it, its heavy, the opposite of handy, and all those sections of picatinny rail mean it snags on your clothes, Its also laughably Black Rifle.

Alan: ‘does an Afghan campaign medal come free wii that?’ 

Its way more accurate than me and has no trouble mashing up the 4 inch square used as a zeroing target. Zeros established we break for lunch. 

As Roe are best stalked at the top and tail of the day, Alan has a suggestion. 

How about we go and look for some Billies? 

I’ve met people who have been to Scotland to stalk feral goats before and none of them has had a good word to say about the beasts: they are extremely wily, live in inhospitable terrain and are pretty smelly. They often reside in places called Heart Attack Hill, Fat Boy’s End or Dead Plumber’s Gully.  

Alan explains that he cant stalk Roe or shoot Foxes on this particular stretch of coast as the landowner has a sentimental attachment to both, however he is a Juniper Berry enthusiast and as the goats eat them he’s more than happy for Alan to thin the trip. 

These are coastal goats, living where the Irish Sea batters mini fjords. We spend a while glassing the rocky outcrops, things that move turn into tricks of the light, every shadow seems to be cast by horns.  When we’re finally sure only shadows are moving we turn south and our luck improves, a trip of ten or so goats are just the other side of a bluff, we walk the long way around and begin the crawl into range. Oddly its still not raining. 

There’s something about seeing your precision rifle and its posh scope lying in the muck that’s deeply disconcerting, later I’m to learn that loosing a round and seeing your fettled Lapua case disappear between the tussocks isn't much better.  All I can do in consternation is mutter “that’s £1.08p I’ll never see again”.

With the goats only about 50m away SSD starts crawling forward and I’m trying to deploy the Harris bipod without that annoying D’oing noise from its springs. The goats are suddenly on the move, towards us. SSD is between me an them so I’m still to set up for a shot. I’ve taken all of five off-hand shots with the Tiktac all of them were over a year ago, in Norway.  Heavy is a help, but the shape and balance point are unwieldy. We both fire. Someone hits the largest Billie and it disappears down the seemingly vertical cliff. As SSD and Lad pursue it 

Alan points to the next spur, “There’s yours, can you shoot it?”    

“The mountain sheep keeps his horns as long as he lives, and on them he writes his autobiography. He records his age, his species, his good years and his bad, and his battles.”

The Stories Sheep Horns Tell - Jack O’Connor

I love it when the leaves change colour - Hodgeman

He’s right, there on the next spur, partially concealed by the dead ground, my Goat is waiting patiently for his dinner invitation. Yet another outdoorsman’s skill that still eludes me is the ability to judge distance. Alan’s call is 300 yards, deduct 10% is 270m which the muscle memory in my fingers tells me is fifteen clicks aka 1.5 milliradians. The legs of my bipod are a constant annoyance to me, off the bench they are too long, prone, which i hardly shoot,  they are ok-ish, off the tussocks of scotland they are invariably too short. The first one sails over his head, which prompts him to make the fatal mistake of standing up, so after a bit of contortionism on my part he catches the next one on the left side of his spine. While I’m still listening to that resounding TWACKKK expanding ammunition makes as it hits flesh, as if by teleportation he disappears. 

To my delight I actually find one of the Lapua cases. £1.08p up on the day!

A deer that has been shot at will go around the side of a hill a quarter of a mile away and lie down. A ram will leave the country.—"The Bighorn," Jack o’Connor

Its a long walk around the spur tops and when we get to the patch where Billy was last seen there’s a patch of frothy lung blood, and no more. Nothing, zip, nitch, nada  no sign of a trail to be seen. There’s only one way to where we were when I took the shot and we just walked along it, there’s only one way down from where the blood trail starts and stops.  The mini canyons are treacherous under foot and the drop below enough that the medics would be well pissed off by the time they recovered you, or at least your body.

Alan is ahead of me and has taken a turn away from the direction of travel, I skirt round to catch him up and squeeze past him to climb into the line of sight he’s gesticulating down. There’s Billy sitting panting under an overhang, its just the place you’d want to shelter if you were going to overnight there. I wind the clicks back off and put an SST through his neck. Another £1.08p case tumbles away never to be seen again. 

High above us and 300 yards across a mini fjord Lad and SSD are struggling with two goats the extraction looks like the 200 yards are ‘feckin vertical’. Turning back to our own situation this isn't going to be easy, especially with the long dead black weight of the Tiktac to hump along. 

On opening him up, Billy has been doing very well for himself, easily the fattest wild animal I’ve ever butchered, great globs of shining white fat around his organs. I’ve still got his dinner pate sized liver in my freezer. Gralloched he’s lighter but not that you’d know it draggin’ him along.

You can see why the locals shoot ‘em with a little Tikka Triple Two. 

As I puff along the Tiktac seems to have trebled in weight .

A couple of words about Alan’s place

If you want to go shooting with a few pals and make a few days of it, you’re the customer alan had in mind when he set up shop. He has his own pub that you can stock yourselves. Being only three miles out of town you can call in a takeaway delivered or, you could copy a team from France who bring their own chef and use the fully equipped kitchens.  

A Galloway Roe Buck 

I’ve been having a run of luck, lucky for me not so lucky for the new people. At my gun club we have an unofficial hunting committee - if you express an interest we’ll hook you up with some stalking. 

I know a couple of people who I regard as as near to dead certs as its possible to be. We go to their ground, I tell the guide ‘this a newbie they need to shoot a deer’, they see deer, I shoot deer, they don’t. Sometimes I shoot more than one deer.

Lad and I hop out for the truck and as soon as we’ve negotiated the first fence we have a doe under observation. Not doe season but every night is ladies night, girls get in free, so it wont be long until a buck shows up. Sticking to the hedgerow we make out way up the field conveniently into the wind. About 30 feet in front of us, there’s a bustle in the hedgerow as a Roe fawn makes several frantic attempts to first ram and then jump the fence. We wait patiently until he thinks better of it and turns, sprinting across the field. Stooping down we do a bit of glassing. Lad is all over it, doe one, doe two which I could see but then the Buck which is both standing between them and invisible to me. Trying of suppress the hateful doioiing of the Harris bipod’s springs and get set up, I even had time to dial the zoom in a bit. The Buck stands at three quarters, Buck helpfully turns broadside, takes a step or two, I take up stage one of the trigger, one more step, “stay right where you are” and pop-TWACKKK. Lad awards me the accolade “Feckin’ textbook”. Buck runs on about 20 feet and slumps into the dead ground. The girls are now nowhere to be seen. We saunter over. he’s never going to win a medal but has  pleasing symmetry. I couldn't wait  to take him to dinner. 

In that great tradition of Scottish stalking, instead of dragging the deer across the field back the way we’ve come, we amble down a tarmac road that was just the other side of the hedgerow we’d crawled along. 

SSD is yet to score a deer.

About half of our trophy stash

Unlike most of the places I go stalking Alan has full food processing and vacuum packing facilities. I spend the last day in the chiller doing the butchery and caping the Billy and Nanny SSD shot. To my surprise, in a moment of wild profligacy, SSD commissions not one, but two rounds of taxidermy. I get the feeling he’ll soon know how the punters feel when they get out of his taxi.  

More Soon 

Your Pal


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