Sunday, 2 July 2017

Review: Helikon Backblast Shooting Mat & Bisley: 600 Yards On Century.

With the weather scheduled to be warming up the [even] older boys at the club were levering themselves out of their armchairs and waddling down to Bisley to put a few down range. 
It's that time of year, my offspring are hitting their school books. So I found myself at something of a loose end, and as Bisley is the last place I was described as 'young and keen' I thought I'd join them. Club shooting is both fantastic value, you're splitting the range fees amongst a few of you and if not many turn up the club is subsidising the day, and best of all some of the chaps have been teaching other members longer than I've been alive, so the standard of tuition is high. 
Did I mention the lunch? The club matriarch lays on a really great lunch.  Churlish not to attend.

Century 600 yards. Century is the first range where I shot out to 600 yards, but its been a while so I was keen to get back into it. Talking over my plans I mentioned that we were going to be lying-on-the-floor shooting, and my pals at Helikon stuck their latest shooting mat, the BackBlast, in the post for me to test. The world and his brother make a shooting mat. So the guys at Helikon have their work cut out trying to design something that stands out. 

I think its fair to say things started tolerably.  With the first sighter landing on the edge of the 14.4 inch V Bull. Once the beginners luck was safely out of the way I started reciting the usual litany of excuses: Wind, Variable Wind, Non-Existent Cheek-Weld, Inconstant Ammo, Dehydration, Sore Neck, Existential Angst, Not my Lucky Hat, the Gods Displeased, Etc

Club Rifle: Remington 700 Police in 5.56 Nato

The package that had landed on the doormat was smaller and lighter than I expected, all the club mats are bulky affairs. The Helikon boys include a  pouch for ten rounds, and a windowed pouch, both of which velcro on to the mat. 

The mat's got grippy sections for your knees and elbows and a moveable velcro backed grippy bit for the hand that supports the rifle's butt. 

There are pockets for your tent pegs; so you can keep the matt flat. Obviously I could have used any old tent pegs from the gear pile, but I've ordered some poncey titanium ones to keep in with the lightweight theme.

Automation hasn't made it to Century range yet and behind and below the butts there's a manual raising and lowering mechanism for the targets.  We took turns providing the muscle power to lift the targets into place and mark the scores.   
There are two parts to scoring. A spotting disc, which is actually square, which is pinned to the face of the target marking the bullet hole and the scoring panel that runs along the bottom edge of the board. Your best potential score is five points for a Bull, but to serve as a tie-breacker the Bull has an inner 'VBull' ring which scores separately. So a ten-shot competition has a highest possible score of 50.10. Ten 5's and 10 VBulls
The scoring panel is at the bottom of the target board. There are four holes which the markers are pushed into. They are black on one side and orange on the other.

Orange in the hole on the far left would be a score of - One Point
Black on the far left a score of Two Points
Black left a 'magpie' - Three Points
Black right - Four Points
Black far right - Five Points
Orange on the far right a VBull.
On the upside: scoring is 'inward', touch the line to get the higher score.
On the downside: you'd better hope the person doing your scoring is taller than five feet, if they're not you could end up having one of your shots marked as a miss. 

Handy if you need just one more excuse. 

more soon
Your pal 

Monday, 22 May 2017

Ten Years Of This Blog!

Mental. I just go an alert to let me know that it's ten years yesterday that I sat on the sofa, at the now Ex-Mrs SBW's house, and mused that there was a dichotomy between my life in the suburbs and my thirst for a life of adventure and wild food. The Suburban Bushwacker was born.

From that first post:

To awake from my comfortable homeostasis, rediscover my physical self and embark on the adventure of reconnecting with the natural world. Fat and lazy as I am, I get the feeling it’s going to be a rude awakening! I live in one of the most highly urbanised societies on earth, and it shows. Mainly around the middle!

Hunt, and kill a massive Elk with a bow. To skin it, butcher it, put it’s meat on the table and in the freezer, hang its skull and antlers on the wall, spread its hide across our bed and love-wrestle Mrs Bushwacker on top of it in its honour.

Between here and there:
Lose quite a lot of weight, gain quite a lot of muscle, develop endurance, learn archery, learn bushcraft and stalking skills, choose then buy (or trade for) all the kit needed to trek out into the wilderness, kill and bring back the body of my noble prey.

Why Hunting?
Ever since I started eating meat again, I was vegetarian for a few years in my teens and early twenties, I have felt a growing need to have an honest (and some would say blood thirsty) relationship with my dinner. 
I’ve noticed a lot of hunters refer to killing an animal as ‘harvesting’, just as there is no polite word for a euphemism, on this blog killing is called killing. I’ve met too many people who can/will only eat something if its origin is obscured. Fish, but only if it does not have a head, prawns without their shells, chicken but only when it comes from a plastic tray, and then only the white meat. These are people are afraid of their dinner. Our food deserves our respect. On the days when our skill and tenacity overcomes the animals guile and awareness, we earn the right to eat the flesh of another being. If you cant (or won’t) kill it, gut it, cut it, and cook it what gives you the right to eat it? I believe in celebrating and honouring the life that is taken so we may live. 

A couple of million readers later I'm still in touch with a few of you, and still reading what you're writing. I've shot a few deer, and eaten a few more, I've seen the highs and lows of accuracy with a variety of rifles, fallen in love with some amazing handmade outdoor equipment. Some of which I've been lucky enough to own.

If real life didn't keep getting in the way, I reckon I would have bow hunted that Elk by now, but ho-hum perhaps its the journey that's been important rather than the freezer full of Elk.

Still to come from the laptop of SBW:

I'm going to continue with the gear reviews, and possibly be designing a few bits too.

Target shooting will continue apace. I've not posted nearly enough on this blog about my .22LR and 7.62X51 adventures. Might even get some .50 cal mini-cannon in!

I'll be going back to Scotland: more Roe, more Reds, Goats, Boar, Mountain Hare and that so far so elusive Sea Trout

There's still the possibility of some bowhunting for Rabbits in Spain

Finland for Beaver and panning for gold

The Kiwi grand slam

And my long, long, overdue return to the US of A.

Thanks for reading
more tales to tell very soon
Your pal

Friday, 12 May 2017

Review: Helikon Patriot

Who is the apex predator who will ruin your day, your week, and even your year?
Who has no respect for tradition, and will rob future generations of their tweedy sartorial inheritance? Tineola bisselliella my nemesis, the common clothes moth. If you like your bushcraft and or traditional Scottish Deer Stalking, you probably like the comfort, warmth, and indeed elegance of wool, and more specifically Tweeds. Not cheap, but with potentially generations of wear in every garment, an investment. Or so I thought. I've lost count of the number of jackets and suits that have been ravaged by the evil that is the clothes moth. So I started all over again with synthetics, and in fairness never looked back. You can buy fleece clothes at every price point from free chuck-ables branded by tool companies to NomadUK. I've got a NomadUK set of breeks and smock for hill stalking and they are fantastic, they were also a fantastic price, even though I got mine at a significant discount on Ebay.
I reviewed their gear a while back and I've now put it to even harder tests and I still love it. A few of you wrote in with variations on 'How Much!?'

Then for not a lot less dosh there's the 'tacti-cool' guys, there are a few companies making 'issue replacement' gear in the tactical/military contractor style; from complete junk, to very well made. Triple Aught Design [TAD Gear] probably being the best. They have their retail outlet in San Francisco so you can imagine the prices. Plus shipping, plus import tax, plus handling charge etc. Really well thought out and made though.

A few weeks back I met up with a friend who has mentored me in Lightweight Sporting Rifle. He has; a very good job, no kids, and as you might expect, a wonderful collection of toys that go 'Pew-Pew'.  The was wearing one of the most substantial, and best cut fleece jackets I've ever seen. As he'd just come back from the US of A I assumed it would be some super niche brand to rival TAD Gear. Not a bit of it. Helikon-Tex of Poland. When I found out you could have one list price for £60 I was intrigued. 

A few emails later the lovely people at Helikon were kind enough to send me a fleece for testing. I've got a few base layers that work well enough, so I chose a heavy fleece hooded jacket they call the Patriot.

Straight out of the bag I like the Patriot. 390g/m2 is a fairly substantial weight of fleece giving a comforting jacket-ness to it. The design detail is right up there with the three times the price American brands and quite a bit better than my much-loved NomadUK hill smock. 

The zips are full spec YKK’s and the pulls don't look like they’ll fail even in heavy use. 

The pull-cords that snug-up the bottom of the jacket are better than the usual junk and have a little bead to stop the quick-locks from getting lost. Me likee.
The chest pockets have inner pockets made of a 'silky' material to hold a pen, your phone, and glasses. They also have clips to keep things that mustn't be lost, like your cast ear defenders secured. The jacket is what's sometimes called 'media enabled' which in the real world means there are little grommets for headphone cables to pass through in the pockets. I had a jacket like this before and I did actually use them, another nice touch. 

Helikon have gone with a semi-rigid velcro closure for the cuffs which are actually nicer to use than having a cloth tab, and very convent during the gralloch or when costal foraging where you want to keep the muck off your cuffs. 

The way the jacket is cut; no hand pockets and pit-zips that you can actually do-up & un-do while still wearing the jacket, mean its going to be my first choice to wear with a pack. 

There's a map sized pocket on the back, for when you need the paperwork, but don't need it to hand. 
I took the Patriot for a spot of coastal foraging, unfortunately it didn't rain, but the wind blew up a fair bit. Just wearing a t-shirt underneath to give it a fair test, unlike most fleeces the jacket was almost totally windproof [which its not described as by the maker]. It’s shrugged off some light rain in town and I’m thinking about getting another one  

Its worth noting that the sizing is pretty generous, if I got some of Helikon’s base layers I’d order them in a size smaller than the sizing chart shows.

More soon
Your pal

Friday, 31 March 2017

More Bisley: 5.56mm at 100m

Most of the time my target shooting looks like this, 22LR at an indoor 25m range with varying degrees of success, some weeks I even make it down there twice, some weeks not so much. 

Once the weather warms up my club rents out target at Bisley - the national shooting ground and we gather to shoot a little further. This year's outing started at 100m with most people shooting 5.56mm my results were, er um, undistinguished and so shall remain unmentioned.
One nice thing about Bisley is you'll often get to see iconic rifles in action, here's a
Steyr SSG 69, which its owner tells me he's shot it for the last 20 years. These rifles are arguably the precursor to the 'sniper rifles' of today, SSG = sharp shooter gun, although one wouldn't be my first choice for hill stalking, they are a smashing target rifle and chambered in .308 not too spendy to feed either.

As its still early in the year shooters are getting back into it after the inclement weather, some of the crew are preparing for the Target Rifle season, and the Civilian Service Rifle crowd are working out the reliability issues that seem to plague the AR15 owner.

There are dozens of people who will be described to you as "Bisley Types" usually by people who would fit the description themselves, and 'engineering buff' would defiantly be one of them. A few lanes away we met a gent who had brought this spectacular scope with him. He managed to underplay his own expertise by telling a series of amusing anecdotes about his brother's engineering obsession. 'Buy a lens for three grand and then polish it'. This scope was a cast-off, his brother makes them as binoculars for bird watching at ranges of a couple of miles or more!

More tales to come, 
Your pal 

Book Review: A Fly Rod Of Your Own

John Gierach still has it. The original trout bum is back for his 21st book, and for me his laconic storytelling style never gets old. Whereas he was once young and keen he's now older and wider. Still bouncing along over dirt tracks and bumping down in small planes to reach the trout others only see in magazines he's made a life for himself living wild and free, fishing wild places.

In a world where all outdoor activities now seem to need to be "extreme" he manages to hang on to the idea of The Gentle Art, he fishes for the sake of fishing, sure he'd like to bank the big one, but I can't help get the feeling he'd be happier if he saw a newbie catch it. He's owned all the best gear a fly shop can offer, and yet at the same time he can't help but poke fun at the way 'simplicity' always seems to come with such an eye watering price tag.

Best of all he has the good graces to make himself sound delighted with life, without being smug. One of the great outdoor voices.

Much more to come
Your pal

Monday, 12 December 2016

Book Review: Tracking the Major

The blogger known as the Bambi Basher and myself have a sort of yule-ish end-of-year catch-up tradition. Last year we stalked the Highlands. This year our December catch up was to return to its regular venue. Holts host their bi-annual london auctions - it's the nearest thing to an American gun show central london has to offer. You can 'view' by which I mean 'pick up and handle', firearms from £500,000 to £50. Did I mention it’s catered? You can see the appeal. This year BB couldn't make it, and worried that the excess provisions laid on would go to waste I stepped up to the plate[s], loosened my belt a notch or two, and headed for Hammersmith. 

There were some very nice things on offer: at least three Mannlichers, one with the famous rotary magazine, all with the 'double set trigger' mechanism, that can both aid accuracy and render the consumption of roughage unnecessary. For me the star of the show was a rather scruffy and well used Rigby take-down [obvs chambered in .275]. 
Back in the day when a sport could pop down to the Army & Navy department store and equip himself for everything from a weekend in the country to a multi-year expedition to untraveled lands, Army & Navy’s gun department kept a stock of off the shelf Rigbys, this one delivered to the store in 1901.

As you can imagine it’s been about a bit. The stock has some scratches, while in two pieces it's been dropped onto something hard denting one mating plate where the two parts meet, it had been re-barreled in the 90's and had a chamber sleeve added sometime after. One of the more lived-in Rigbys.
Like a wand in your hands, the stock's semi-pistol grip worthy of the name, super petite, and svelte at 7 lbs 2oz. Now 115 years old the bolt's travel has worn as smooth as a smooth thing's smooth bits. Not, perhaps one for a collectors safe, but a real traveling sportsman's rifle that would earn you a hit-tip from any aficionado, and derision from anyone with an ounce of fiscal probity.

The Victorian-Edwardian transition, the second surge of industrial revolution, must have been a great time for the rifleman. When adventurous english gents would embark on expeditions to far flung corners of the world with a realistic expectation of adding to the sum of human knowledge. For the gentleman explorer it was considered, if not an act of devotion, certainly one's patriotic duty to record the whole escapade. As Queen Victoria passed and Prince Edward sat in the big chair. A new age of recording the moment had begun. The birth of more portable photography, cinematography, the telegraph, audio recording for broadcast, and an age of prolific taxidermy. Newsworthy moments were transmitted by Reuters and Pathe back to the public; samples and specimens were preserved and prepared for display in cabinets of curiosities and diorama, in sizes from desktop to needing to build an extension on to your house.

By the 1970s and 80s the baby had been chucked out with the bathwater. Explorers were still just about ok, fur coats and taxidermy were out, and big game hunters, unthinkable! The once heroic figure of the sunburned Englishman in a pith helmet wasn't a passionate naturalist and ethnographer, he'd become a figure of fun to be mocked and derided. The life stories of these intrepid eccentrics were only remembered at places like Bisley, the reading rooms of moth-eaten gentleman's clubs, and the Bambi Basher’s bookshelves.

Taking a break from leaving greasy paw-marks over the merchandise I happened to be at the right end of the room (funnily enough where the free champagne was being served) to hear someone from Holts announce that Andrew Joynes was launching his book 'Tracking the Major - sketches from the Powell-Cotton Museum'. Then he mentioned Quex Park the major's estate. Theres a street not too far from where I grew up called Quex Rd, which is an unusual sounding place name, my ears pricked up.

'... In my attempt to fathom the mind of the Major, I began to think of his archive, with its variety of objects and documents, as a kind of lair to which a rare animal had retreated...
In the room behind the baize door, I had embarked on an exercise in historical fieldcraft. I had begun to track the Major... “
Andrew Joynes

Curiosity peaked I learned Major Percy Powell-Cotton was a massive celebrity of his time. On over 26 expeditions between 1887 and 1939 he hunted, collected, wrote and was an early pioneer of wildlife film making. He brought back over 2400 specimens and a plethora of artefacts. His collection out-grew his house and he built extension upon extension to house enormous diorama of full size taxidermy.
It’s not so much that his life was like something out of a boys own adventure, it’s more like the boys own adventures were based on him. His zeal for adventure was matched by his abilities as a self-publicist, he was news and he knew it. By sending regular(ish) dispatches from his trips he became a fixture of the newsreels and in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic. His books best sellers, the public first saw the charismatic mega fauna of Africa in his films shown on the weekly newsreels. 

Such was the scale of his collecting that some of the skins he shipped across the world didn't get incorporated into his museum for more than 30 years. 
The most famous taxidermist of the day, Rowland Ward, wanted to mount Powell-Cotton's elephant, which has the second largest tusks ever recorded, and mount it life-size. This would mean raising the height of the roof at Quex Park. Powell-Cotton felt there had to be an end to the expenditure somewhere and declined. Rowland Ward was adamant, perhaps guessing correctly that the days of the really big elephants were at an end, and made his case that the mount could be life-size if he did the work for free, and Powell-Cotton paid for the raising of the roof. They shook hands and the elephant is still there today.

Andrew Joynes has done a great job of sifting through the major's meticulously notated stories behind many of the exhibits. A favourite anecdote: 

Whilst on honeymoon,  Powell-Cotton was being mauled by a lion he had failed to dispatch with the first shot. His death was postponed when a copy of the satirical magazine Punch resisted the lion's claw. Which gave a few vital seconds for his guides to save him. News of this near-miss reached London before he did, adding to his living legend status. 

The lion in question, as mounted by Rowland Ward & Co.

If that wasn't enough, he added a dash of panache by putting the lion, the safari suit and the copy of Punch on display in his museum. Which the public flocked to see.

It gets better.

A museum in his garden he’d been wise enough to commission, while on his travels, leaving his brother to deal with the builders. 


Andrew Joynes tells loads more great tales in 'Tracking the Major - sketches from the Powell-Cotton Museum’ , it's well worth a read.

I’m hoping to make it over to the museum in the next few weeks
I’ll post a field report obvs. 
Your Pal

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Fullbore At Bisley

I'm posting some new stories and some retellings of past adventures on Steemit

This morning its a piece about my new-found enthusiasm for target shooting, at 1000 yards.
Yep over half a mile with open sights. Story is HERE

Keep well and thanks for reading
Your pal

Thursday, 6 October 2016

SBW Now On Steemit

I've been having a look at a new blogging platform. There's some interesting stuff over at but there was no Hunting stuff so I've done a major rewrite of the last Scottish adventure.

I'll be adding to this post as stuff goes live later today in the mean time heres my info post

Worth a look, and my story is quite good too ;-)


Saturday, 24 September 2016

I Heart Cabins

If the above makes perfect sense to you, I can warmly recommend
Where I found love. Real enduring love.

200 year old Bushwhacker on the outside

Austere minimalism on the inside. 

 It's in Switzerland, so I'd shoot 10.3x60, you know, just because I could. 

Keep well 
More soon
Your pal

PS for scale The Bambi Basher and I once took a look at a rifle chambered in 10.3x60, I could poke the end of my pinky down the barrel!!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Old England,Bisley And The Queen's Prize

This BBC film from the 80's has everything, a blast of history, some very old posh people, and Brian Glover! Yeah that Brian Glover, the teacher from Kes!

Many times I've been told that Bisley is in a time-warp, and this film backs that up. The place still looks exactly the same. Wandering around you'll see a miniature world of, what 150 years ago were temporary buildings. These wooden club houses all have their legends and traditions. What the film doesn't explore is the full range of Shooting Types.
The film's visit that Bisley institution G.E. Fulton & Son, Bisley Camp shows a shop that is exactly the same as the one I visited a few weeks ago. Piles of stuff everywhere, and a floor that was secondhand on the first day of trading. A man in tweed [paired with red trousers] came it for some 22LR. The RP accents aren't 'quite' as ubiquitous these days and the ammunition costs more.

Worth a watch

Your pal


Sunday, 4 September 2016

A Shooter's Education: Civilian Service Rifle?

I’ve been expanding the range of my shooting lately [ber-boom], trying my hand at a few new disciplines, I’ve shot some short range Gallery Rifle where pistol calibers and .22LR are shot in what used to be pistol competitions before they were banned [for the most part – we’ll come to that later]. I’ve tried shooting Fullbore out to 1000 yards, and I’m hoping to shoot some Civilian Service Rifle.

When I first heard of the Service Rifle competitions, I’m not sure why but, I thought red tunic’s and pith helmets would the dress code. Or at least wearing those itchy green army jackets and the soup-bowl helmets. I imagined reenacting the shooting drills of WW1 with SMLE’s in chambered in the venerable .303British. Events like the legendary ‘mad minute’ where even with a ten round magazine you’d have to reload 3 times to beat Sergeant Major Jesse Wallingford's record of 36 shots on target at 300 yards.

It turns out what’s become the fastest growing Rifle sport in the UK is now Civilian Service Rifle a service rifle competition ‘civilianised’ i.e. without the semi automatic rifles used in today’s service rifle, which isn’t open to the public.
Shots are taken prone, sitting, kneeling and standing at ranges from 25 to 500 yards. Targets are engaged against the clock, and with a few ‘jog downs’ to get your heart rate up between shots.
You can use a bolt action or straight pull rifle, with most people shooting straight pull AR15’s in 5.66 NATO topped either with iron sights or in two optic classes; service which it limited to 4.5X magnification for Service Optic, unlimited magnification for Practical Optic. There’s also a Historic class for SMLE’s etc. 
If you want to wear a pith helmet you have to bring your own.

As usual with anything to do with shooting in the UK there is a hilarious controversy, with a well-known shooting writer having a war of words with a well-known competitor. They both feel the other is bringing shooting sports into disrepute. I’m paraphrasing a bit here  – The chap who likes to shoot standing up in a fedora and tweeds called the fella who shoots lying in a muddy field in army surplice clothes ‘selfish and weird’ telling him that the public were put off by his ‘playing soldiers. This was rebutted ‘your great white hunter act is loathed by the public.’  I’ve no idea whether either of them is selfish and/or weird in real life. However practical army surplice clothes are in a field, wear ‘em and you’ll be accused of being a militia wannabe [trust me on this one]. Just as if you insist on rocking a fedora, checked shirt, and tie you’ll look like you’re an Edwardian fieldsports re-enactor. The public find it hard to see behind the caricatures guys.
At any UK shooting event I’ve ever been to if you mixed and matched a badge strewn fedora with some tweed breeks and a couple of camo layers from more than one nation, you’d just be yet another harmless shooting eccentric.

Trigger pull is from 4.5lbs – the sticker shows this rifle was tested at the start of a competition. Bradley Arms who built this rifle have been competing in CSR and building rifles for other competitors have acquired a great reputation for the reliability of their guns and the modernity of their customer service. I have it on good authority that, in an innovation unknown to the English gun trade, if you leave a message they will actually return your call.

Where the sport wins out in attracting new entrants is you can spend anything from very little on a SMLE with open sights, all the way to spending a fair old lump a fully bespoke AR15 customised to your needs and wants. The options when choosing and accessorizing an AR are endless. There’s plenty to study and source. Even the ammunition has a big choice of permitted rounds. For budgetary reasons surplice 5.56 or 7.62 NATO are the obvious choices, but you could home load 6.5 Grendel, or .300 Blackout. 
Earning yourself extra points in the game of ‘more obscure than you’.

For the optics there’s also plenty of choices, you’ve got to balance your needs between standing snap shots at 25 yards, and shooting prone all the way out to 500 yards. Iron battlefield sights look like a challenge. Reflex sights are the middle way between spending a grand and up on a used S&B scope and the open sights that came with your rifle. CSR even has a division for 4.5X magnification reflex sights. The guys at alloutdoors have a list for the best reflex sight, there are lots of options. The Gallery rifle guys tell me they’re unbeatable for the close stuff,  I’m yet to see how they perform with shots beyond the first 50 yards.

Some of the enthusiasm for these rifles defiantly comes from their modular build, they are a marketing guy’s dream with their never ending list of tweaks and accessories, the cube-jockey can surf for his ‘perfect’ spec all day and then assemble the gun at home. Things that for the sporting rifle require a trip to the gunsmith are plug and play with the AR. While it may not appeal to the traditionalists, with the cultural place that the AR platform has, in movies and video games, I think Civilian Service Rifle is set to grow in popularity. For the kids like my son who grew up playing warry video games it’s a rifle and sight picture that’s an extension of something they already know.
Ties and fedora’s are alien to them.

More soon
Your pal


Saturday, 28 May 2016

I Want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt22 Titanuim Rifle

While noodling about on 'tinerweb this morning I discovered that Lawrence Precision, who are famous for their titanium moderators also make this  2.3 Kg mountain rifle. 
From Titanium. Drool.

In order to create a unique Rifle, we have started from the ground up. Using our own unique super light receiver, built from High Strength Aerospace Grade Titanium, our super strong lightweight Carbon fibre stock, Match grade barrel and trigger, we have created an ultra light and accurate rifle.
Proven reliability and performance, weighing a mere 2.3 KG* 
When incorporated with our Titanium Sound Moderators and Scope Mounts, this produces a unique ultra light winning combination.

The tantalising combination of exquisite machining, Titanium, and Carbon Fibre really does it for me. This is a 100% custom rifle, not an assembly of parts, all the work of one man. Let us not discuss tawdry things such as the price and four month build time. 

Mr Lawrence only makes Short Actions, and suggests; 
.243 Win [aka 6mm08]
6.5 Creedmoor 

I've also seen a .308, for me its the magic of the 6-7mm range. With such a light rifle I'm veering towards the .243 BUT at 100gr it's at the top of its bullet weight range, whereas the other two are at the bottom of their's. Obviously there are lots of other factors to be considered. What would you choose and why?

More soon
Your pal

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Unboxing Review: Markhor Elk Mountain 45l Pack

Would you like to review a pack that's lightweight, durable, and affordable?
Would I ever. Does, or could such a thing exist?

Most people have one pack, for people like BoB, Mr Grendel and myself this shows a cavalier attitude to foot travel and a lack of commitment to adventure. I asked BoB (brother of bushwacker) how many packs he and Mrs BoB have, his response 'Hard to say'.
Having spent the night in Mr Grendel's gear room I mentioned 'I saw you've got a few packs' and heard the words I've so often used myself to head off an argument  with the kind of person who has 4-5 thousand pairs of shoes but thinks everyone else can get by on a half a drawer full of clothes and camping equipment. Combined.  'They're all for different things".

Hunter to Hunter have launched the  range of Markhor Hunting packs. Where most packs are designed on the Alpinist model - lots of room for rope, a smaller space for clothes and attachment points for ice axe and or snowshoes. The hunting pack would do well to carry a rifle or a bow, needs to be waterproof and needs to carry loads of an awkward shape. It's quite a big ask. The Elk Mountain
pack in the 45l class seemed to fit my current needs so I accepted their kind offer of a pack for review.

I've got er, one or two expedition sized packs; the 45l class will just about swallow an double duvet 

This dart and compression strap are cut to push the content down towards your hips.

Clips on both shoulder straps for the tube from your water bladder.

A vertical compression strap means the lid's straps aren't doing all the work, so its easier to get things in and out of the lid's pockets when the pack is full.

Very nice, neat, and strong Bar Tacking at all the load bearing points.

The mesh panel is an extra, which adds to compression and if the pack is empty turns it into a carry frame for a chainsaw or trophy.

The extra straps give a lot more 'squish' which stabilises the load

Comes with a rain cover

Comes with a condom / hood thingy.

Excellent value for money, all the bits you'd pay extra for are included.
I would have made the lid detachable, and the compression straps longer.

Weather's getting a little warmer, lets get outside
More soon

Monday, 15 February 2016

Highland Deer Stalking Pt 4: The Gear List

This wouldn't be the SBW blog without a round up of the kit used. Some of the kit used was tried and tested on other adventures, some things I've seen that would answer problems we either had or could have had. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think I've left out. Here's my thoughts. Where you hunt may differ.

All three of us dressed as though our lives depended on it; if you did have the misfortune to have any one of a number of potential misfortunes befall you, it's a long wait for the air ambulance on a freezing hillside. In the dark. Did I mention it'll be snowing? The Ghillie on the other hand knew he'd never be far from the sweat lodge of his Landrover and apart from the last day where we stalked the hilltops, didn't even bother with a jacket.
The ground is rough and tussocked, any distance will be 'only 300 meters' and its always 'doon-huil', you will stumble, the soft clinging ice-cold mud is punctuated with jagged sharpe stones. In some ways its a bit like hill-walking, although there are a couple of crucial differences beyond the obvious
'Rifle' bit, there will be crawling about, lots of crawling about. The terrain is rougher so the level of protection clothes need provide against abrasion becomes more important and your boots are all that protect you from a twisted ankle.

On the drive up The Bambi Basher had gone to great lengths to prepare Mr Grendel and myself for what was ahead.

BB: ‘The ground is pretty steep, the Ghillie is the proverbial racing snake, but he makes sure everyone gets some good stalks. There'll be times when your struggling to keep up and he needs to get into position quickly. There's no shame in letting the ghillie carry your rifle across the really rough ground, he prefers it’

What he should have said is
“ the ghillie hates this rifle and everything attached to it. While you wheeze towards the firing position he’ll snatch it from your hands, wrench angrily at your bipod and leave your rifle set up on the edge of a puddle of melted snow. You will then have to lie in the puddle to peer through the fogged scope desperately trying to find the deer he claims to be able to see. All the while he will be demanding to know the whereabouts of a single piece of tissue he gave you an hour ago while you were in the Landrover which if you can find it will fail to de-fog the scope."

Lundhag's  Ranger boots
Your boots should come at least half way up your shin, you don't have the ankles the Ghillie has. Personally I'm all about the 'Hags' no lining means they dry out overnight and the big toe-box seems to keep my tootsies feeling warmer. I wear two pairs of socks so the wool can act as a bearing surface soothing out any rub patches. Stupidly on the first day I wore little socks under my big socks and the Compeed saved the trip. Two pairs of big socks minimum bid. While Lundhags  don't call their boots waterproof I've always found them to be so, unlike so many boots advertised as being so.
The Bambi Basher wore the high Le Chameau Mouflon's and disdains the second pair of socks. I know quite a few Le Chameau devotees, but I've not found a pair that fitted me like the Hags. Not something I'd recommend buying online.
Mr Grendel chose a much lighter weight and lower walking boot which he wore with 'Sealskins' socks. The ghillie wore wellies, Anti-grav wellies.

Gaiter's from the Mac Gaiter Co.
I’ve had a few pairs of gaiters over the years from the excellent but noisy Yeti’s that Berghaus used to make, waxed cotton which were rubbish [hilariously Elfa washed them to get 'that smelly grease out of them'], and a couple of generic lightweight pairs in ripstop nylon. All better than no gaiters, all a bit noisy in comparison to the Mac's. Mac Gaiters are made from neoprene [wetsuit material] and have been the best by a long way. Warm when wet, and quieter than any of the other materials I’ve tried or seen. All the other times I’ve worn them these have been perfect, during the rough and tumble of our assaults on the hillsides I would have preferred them to have the under-arch strap as when your foot plunges through the snow and then mud the mud sometime rolled the bottoms up. Some kind of more enthusiastic closure at the calf would be nice but its an easy mod to do with a sewing machine. I will defiantly buy another pair as even with being able to spin them in the washing machine at night, being neoprene they can't dry out very quickly. If I were starting a clean sheet re-design I’d move the velcro closure to the front so they’d be easier to put on and adjust while cramped into the Landrover. When you're standing up they're easy enough. A nice feature is the little hook that holds the front of the gaiter to the laces of your boot has been upgraded to a Big Hook which is better in every way.
Update: I’ve spoken with the manufacturer who tells me that under-arch straps have now been added to the design, and another camo and or Realtree will be available later in 2016.

NomadUK Breeks/Plus4’s
I know you foreigners like to mock us with our funny short trousers, I've been addressesed as Tintin more than once. Guys cast your prejudice aside, you've nothing to lose but your soggy bottoms or 'Pant Cuffs' as I'm told some of you call them. Once you go Breeks n Gaiters you'll never go back.
If you plan to rock a pair of breeks these are the breeks all other breeks should be judged against, they are absolutely fantastic. There is no piece of soggy ground, no wet slimy rock, or even puddle that you cant sit on or in with total impunity. Waterproof but silent. The Best. NomadUK really do make some nice schmutter, I would really like a pair of the Salopettes for wearing sitting in a highseat or shooting prone on a windy rifle range.

NomadUK: Zip Hill Smock
I’ve tested the this jacket in some pretty inclement weather: beating on a south downs pheasant shoot in the pissing rain, and run a pressure washer over it with me inside, so I was confident in its water repelling properties. This test took things to a new level, it was a longer day, some rain but mostly snow and hail, during which I was compelled to roll around on the ground, and much much colder. If the snow wasn't enough to contend with I was struggling up hills so steep I was puling myself up grabbing hands full of heather and taking more than one [or ten] unexpected plummets into the snow.
The jacket was in contact with wet heather or snow almost continually for the whole day. NomadUK's fleece solution does actually keep you warm even when it's selves eventually became completely saturated. I will defiantly be buying more of this company's kit. Possibly the best feature for the travelling sport is if you’ve got access to a washing machine the spin function will leave the gear dry enough to wear. If I was going further afield I’d take two as drying time isn't that quick without the spinning. Very simple, very quiet [which doesn't matter much in the howling gales that pass for a gentle breeze up there] NomadUK remains the benchmark.

MacWets gloves
These would be in the category of ‘Things That Don't Suck’ I’m really impressed with these gloves, they’re available in quarter sizes so they really are a second skin, they are warmish when wet but redeem themselves with a very quick drying time. I took two pairs, everytime one pair saturated I’d wring them out, put them in an inside pocket, put the other pair on, and as long as I could keep them in rotation I always had warmish dryish gloves and hands. They stick to a slick rifle stock like glue. Double thumbs up.

Eden Binoculars 
The best of the budget glass by a long long way. 8.5x42 are magic for woodland stalking, the Ghillie’s range finding Leica 10x42 really were that much better on the hill. Take your lens caps off before you leave the cottage, one of mine is still on the hill.

Draw Scope or Spotting Scope
Although considered standard equipment for highland stalking and I had really nice draw scope with me, I didn't use it once. I'd have preferred a pair of 10x42 binoculars.

I'm pretty much in the fixed-power camp on this one. Less to go wrong, and less weight. Schmidt and Bender Hungarian in 6x42 for me and BB, although the wider field of view of the 8x56 might have been a bit better a few times.

A few thoughts about a highland stalking rifle:
After WDM Bell got home from the Karamojo he stalked Red Deer with a .220 Hi-Power these days to be all-deer-legal in Scotland the bullet must weigh at least 100 grains and have a minimum muzzle velocity of 2,450 feet per second and a minimum muzzle energy of 1,750 foot pounds.

An internet test of a Mountain Rifle is; can you hold it fully loaded and with everything on it, in your outstretched hand for a whole 60 seconds.
On the hill for the Highland Professionals 200m is the average shot. The ghillie doesn't expect you to shoot out to 600m but 300m is every day to him. Asking about, the chaps all valued accuracy over lightness and took a devil-may-care attitude to their rifles external condition. The spec for an ultimate Highland rifle might be: Can you confidently hit a four inch disc at 400m,  and not give a monkey's when you scratch the stock and the metalwork. On the same day. Twice.

Bambi Basher: Is there any rifle you'd not want to use?
The blue touch paper is now alight, you can see from the smoke coming off the Ghillie. BB has set off a chain reaction leading to another 'full and frank expression of strongly held views.'
The Ghillie: Feckin' three oh feckin eight! I had a client with one, to be fair not too bad a rifle, [looks at BB's Ruger 77 in disgust] but what a shite cartridge that is, 'bout foot and half drop, Jesus, that's be the last roond I'd ever use.

BB had this particularly nice .308 with him that never saw the light of day. Its for sale HERE

The usually wonderful falling block rifle (Ruger No1 in BB's battery) is sub-optimal when lying uphill on steep ground - the round can [which in the highlands is a synonym for 'will' ] fall out while being chambered.
The Ghillie had a lot of time for Blasers. The short-throw straight-pull helps in being ready for the second shot, which is vital up there and the lack of a bolt race is one less place for muck to cause jams. Accuracy never goes amiss either. "ye can tell a lot about a tradesman by his tools"

.270 is still the ‘Scottish calibre’ the guy in the gun shop confirmed they always have it in stock.
"In whatever grain weight you may require."

25-06 is a fantastic highland calibre, [100+gr and bob-on out to 300m]

.243 is both revered and derided.

As the Highland Professionals are doing it for a job Moderators are standard to them. Health and safety init.

Exotica and wildcats: If you had a reliable supply of ammunition 6XC would be great, and 6.5mm Grendel would be perfect. Its worth noting that if you are flying in the customs guys prefer to see a head stamp that matches the declaration. Getting the vernier out to 'prove' each home made round is what you say it is will only irritate them.

Everyday take 10 more rounds with you than you think you need.

A small torque wrench set to your scope’s requirements is a good idea. A very good idea.

Your Bipod needs longer legs for snow and bog, it also needs to be the kind with lots of tilt. Those Harris or Harris-style bipods are crap. Javelin is the new kid on the block, Neopod is a few grams lighter,  more expensive and isn't as tall. Javelin it may be.

If you have any sentiment at all about your rifle’s condition or want to get your money back on it, cover as much of it as you can in tape, its easy to scratch your hands, knees, or rifle up there.

Electrical Tape over the muzzle would be a good precaution. Mr Grendel would like to confirm for BB's benefit  the correct nomenclature is "Electrical Tape" not 'Sniper Tape".

Loc-Tight or Nail Varnish - if it can come undone it will come undone, before the stud that closed my sling came un-crimped and failed the ‘locking’ clasp that moors the strap to the rifle’s stud came loose, never seen that before. A knotted piece of leather boot lace might have been better. Everything with a threaded closure will benefit from Loc-Tight.

SAM Emergency Splint - weighs nothing in your pocket but might be dead handy, like the best tenner you ever spent, handy.

A waterproof case for your phone/camera is one less thing to worry about.
The Ricoh WG-M2 is good to -10c which might be handy.

A lens cloth - preferably on a string inside your hat. I always seemed to need to wipe either scope or binoculars at the most inopportune moments. I'd often find muck of one kind and another in my pockets. The inside of my hat was always dry.

Compeed. Without Compeed this adventure would have ended on the second morning. I've tried a few ways to overcome blisters NONE OF THEM WERE AS GOOD AS COMPEED!

More soon
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