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 
SBW


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!

Ambition:
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
SBW


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
SBW



























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 
SBW

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
SBW