Lifestyle

  • What moderators to choose & why they're needed for game shooting

    By Chris Parkin

    Over my shooting career, moderators have changed from an unusual addition to a rifle that surprised people, to an almost integral part of the rifle, scope and mounts package. The UK seemed to be one of the countries at the forefront of civilian use with several UK manufactured brands as well as Scandinavian stalwarts. Early moderators were heavy steel units, great at suppressing noise with intrinsic vibration damping too, but heavy and prone to life as a consumable product with corrosion a serious factor to consider. Being sealed units also made them pretty much impossible to clean other than shaking out as many of the rust particles as possible. Those that doused them with sprayed anti corrosion lubricants soon got used to an enormous gas cloud emitted on the following shot, along with a somewhat noxious smell. But personal comfort with less hearing damage was much appreciated, along with the additional benefit of fewer complaints over surprise noise when urban foxing in the middle of the night. When tackling groups of animals in multi shot scenarios, there was an immediate benefit to confusing the direction from which noise had come, if not that there was at least something untoward happening and this often made the immediate evasion direction less certain to them.

    The market is now far broader, moderators aren’t just appreciated, they are often mandatory in some locations and a variation for one is no problem, even for target use rather than just hunting. Benefits are primarily personal hearing protection, they don’t outweigh the need to consider other ear defence, especially if used on a range but for single shots you are now rarely bothered with short term tinnitus even though damage will still accumulate long term. The noise projected in the direction of the quarry is also more dispersed and although never silent, alters the balance between sonic crack and possible backstop impact noise whereby you might be more likely to get an opportunity with a follow up shot if needed. Carrying on from that, muzzle flash to a lesser or greater extent is certainly shielded more from view, away from the gun and from through your optic. The target is less likely to be obscured by flash allowing better appreciation of impact and at night, far less effect on night vision capability from your own eyes. When using NV equipment, particularly if filming, moderators will allow better view of impact position, terminal ballistic effects and with an additional illuminator, possibly even seeing the light source instantaneously reflected back from the bullet in flight. This further couples alongside recoil control. Sound moderators add weight to the rifle at the business end, both lessening muzzle flip and linear recoil pulse as some of the gas ejected like a jet is diverted and slowed, both being beneficial factors. Weight in itself has to be considered along with the overall length of the rifle in terms of portability but it’s generally seen now that the benefits of a sound moderator are well worth the additional rifle bulk.

    Moderators seem to fall into a general three-way balancing act of sound reduction, recoil control and longevity. Stainless steel with improved resistance to atmospheric and gas corrosion from the rifle’s discharge, are far more common now and with complex modular assembly rather than a purely welded structure, moderators can be both disassembled for cleaning and use materials with properties far more relevant to individual position in the mod. For example, the external tube of a moderator, the greatest element you can physically see, is satisfactorily made from 7000 series aluminium whereas inner baffles, especially the first blast baffle, are better made from stainless steel with higher chromium content to resist corrosion or nickel where gas cutting is fierce from the internal blast of hot propellant from the bore. My general findings are lighter aluminium `cans` will also heat up more quickly to dissipate heat, and cool more quickly with a large surface area exposed to the cooling atmosphere externally. Being low density, thicker aluminium can be used than Titanium, which is a very strong, medium density material allowing less to be used but it’s thin body dimensions, although light and strong, get hot very fast and if follow up shots are needed, will quickly exhibit mirage.

    Consider stainless steels for the external can, well they are denser and generally lead to a heavier moderator but suffer corrosion less than the non-stainless steels of old. These heavier moderators are very tough, durable and the mass itself absorbs the heat from the blast more slowly, often allowing a longer shot strings before it becomes a disturbance to the sight picture. The flip side is they can be slower to cool. Mirage bands and moderator shrouds can help with these matters but be aware of one overall fact…the barrel/moderator is a vibrating system, and you chose or tune your ammunition to work with its natural harmonic frequency. If you add mass, or change that barrel in any way, do not be surprised to see your point of impact change slightly on target and require a re-zeroing. If you use a fabric shroud, take care when removing and re-fitting to make sure any straps used are tight and not flapping around which may well affect harmonics randomly. Finally, just because a bullet hits slightly lower or higher on target at the fixed zeroing distance, don’t assume it’s slower or faster than before, it’s simply the change in harmonics, where in the circular oscillating cycle the bullet is when releasing the bullet from the crown. Yes, a moderator may also add a touch of weight that will make the barrel droop slightly, but this is microns, not centimetres, it only shows up because the target is hundreds of metres away.

    So, what would I chose, well for a stalking rifle, I like a light moderator, one that will silence a single shot and allow a backup with no problem, aluminium and titanium is ideal, but the latter can be disproportionately expensive! I use many brands but return regular to Wildcat for the modularity. For a target rifle or varminter where my shot count is higher, I err towards heavier stainless-steel units like ASE UTRA Northstar on my 223 Varminter and SL5 on 6.5mm/308 precision rifles like the Accuracy International AT. The SL7 fully extends beyond the, still compact, yet restrains 338 Lapua Magnum all day long on the range. The stainless steel offers excellent durability when portability is not a huge factor to consider. Sound suppression is also excellent and there is nothing to come lose. Modular moderators with compound construction are generally threaded together in a tubular format and slow cleaning but make sure you use suggested high temperature anti-seize lubricants on threads as firing residues under high pressure will find every little nook and cranny in a threaded structure, these can soon become locked up solid if not regularly attended. Benefits of such systems, like the Wildcat range are that you can have one moderator for several rifles even if they have differing threads, additional primary blast baffles with differing threads can be purchased and an assembly system is used that accommodates disassembly more easily. Just make sure any moderator is in itself tightened in all regions as well as to the barrel with well aligned thread, cleanly cut. Think back to the high-pressure gasses lodging minute particles anywhere they can get. Correct anti-seize lubricants used sparingly also help avoid galling and bi-metallic corrosion, a hot moderator tightened hard onto a hot barrel can become incredibly tight to remove when the system cools down. Do not force a thread that isn’t smoothly running, you are inviting damage and believe it or not, tolerances between manufacturers do vary even though many proclaim industry standards are maintained.

    ALWAYS remove the moderator after a shooting trip, they can and will form condensation inside. This is especially bad as most of use store a rifle in a cabinet, muzzle upward hence the moisture will descend down the barrel and form characteristically bad corrosion in the last few, most critical centimetres of the rifling. If you find that removal and refitting a moderator changes your zero, this is most likely down to a bedding issue (where the rifle action is held within the stock) which you likely, even non aggressively use to effectively hold the rifle (therefore use as a lever) when removing or re-fitting and tightening. If the rifle moves in the bedding/stock, this can be the problem, not the moderator itself and this is different to the harmonic changes from shooting with a moderator on or off which you have to account for in any zeroing setup should you chose to use a rifle in both states on a regular basis.

    No moderator will truly restrict all noise but with protection around 25-33dB available from different models, it is as appreciated for personal protection as much as ear defenders so with both, as I prefer professionally, you are doing all you can to avoid problems long term. Bore size has some effect on this in terms of using the nearest bore size available for your cartridge but the physical volume of the moderator can’t be beaten, as a general rule of thumb the higher the moderator volume and the more in front of the crown, rather than “reflexed” behind it, the more moderation you get. The volume is there to restrain and temporarily retain that fast hot booming gas expansion the internal baffles strip from the column of hot propellant following the bullet. After all this, we must mention the 22 rimfire for whom a lot of these rules hardly apply. With subsonic ammunition creating no supersonic `crack` in flight, much lower gas volumes, speed and heat created, I leave those in place on the rifles I use them on. These have been far more commonly seen for much longer than with centrefires and are one of the gems of the shooting world where it really, nearly almost becomes a true `silencer`. Similarity with Air rifles, modern precharged pneumatics with efficient regulated gas flow are incredibly quiet with little mechanical noise and yet still benefit from sound moderators to confuse direction and minimise disturbance in the close quarters scenarios they are used in. I have been getting great results with SAK on 22 rimfire for years and recently appreciated the Donny FL on both FAC and 12 ft-lb air rifles where the effects are personally experienced and able to detect even the slightest reduction in volume/dB.

     

     

    Images:

    1. Wildcat showing different materials appropriate to location within the gas flow
    2. FX Impact Mk3 with Donny FL moderator
    3. Steyr CLII SX Mountain in 223 with Wildcat moderator
    4. CZ 457 Carbon appreciates the sound of cilence using an SAK moderator with subsonic ammunition
    5. CZ 557 Eclipse in 308 Winchester being tested with moderator fitted, dont assume changed impact point when re-zeroing is from velocity change
    6. Wildcat Predator 12 on my own 260 Rem rifle, incredibly quiet but heavier and longer
  • Rifle Safety – How I treat my rifles and shooting in general

    Rifle Safety – How I treat my rifles and shooting in general

    By Chris Parkin

    You are only ever as safe as your next shot and gun safety has to be both ingrained within your psyche as a shooter, yet never taken for granted that `autopilot` will cover you in all circumstances. I tend to follow the same rules and procedures throughout my work which although perhaps different to yours, seems logical to me as an assessment of guidelines from governing bodies and shooing associations as well as what seems to occur to me. Never be afraid to double check anything, there is always another day to try again.

    To break it down reasonably simply, I always treat any gun, regardless of whether I have handled it or not as loaded until proven so or not. Even when proven to be clear, I was taught never point one at anyone or anything I’m not willing kill, muzzle awareness is vital at ALL times. Be absolutely sure of your quarry species and targets BEFORE you point the rifle, you cannot call the bullet back. Hunting in poor light or total darkness requires additional considerations from night vision or thermal imaging tools for safety and identification. Knowing range to target is an important safety and moral obligation for a safe shot and clean kill when hunting.

    Before loading any rifle, it should be checked to be in safe condition with an unobstructed bore, if unsure, clean it, it takes just moments and removing the bolt to visually inspect for any obstruction before a shooting session should become second nature. Loading and unloading should always be done pointing in a safe direction, it is a time when accidents are possible and be sure to familiarise yourself with all the control of your rifle. It’s not uncommon for additional force to be exerted using other controls as levers and this is to be avoided at all times.  If anything unusual happens when shooting, odd noises or no appearance of bullet on target, check the bore again to make sure any kind of dry fire has not dangerously lodged a bullet in the bore that on the following shot, could cause the barrel or action to burst. Are old guns still in proof? This may need a specialist to check or use of the Proof house themselves if necessary. Ammunition to be used should be in good condition and in the correct chambering for that firearm. Home loaded ammunition can perform exceptionally well but do not share it with others and make sure safe procedures are followed for its assembly, it is often unique to it’s own rifle’s dimensions and tolerances. Factory ammunition is made to uniform specifications safe for any firearms with the relevant proof markings, according to international specifications.

    If at any time the trigger is squeezed and all you hear is a click, treat this as a slow fire and maintain the rifle’s safe point of aim until you have counted to 30 in your head. Upon which time, with the gun still pointed safely, look away from the firearm to protect your eyesight and lift the bolt or open the action in such a way that should the bolt or handle blow back, your hands and fingers are not in its way. Burst primers can blow hot gas from the rear of any bolt which is designed to gradually vent pressure in the case of a burst cartridge, similarly from the side of the action in an escape hole on some designs.

    Never fire any gun without knowing where all projectiles it will discharge are going to end up, be sure of legal requirements over your land and proximity with public rights of way. The safe backstop is mandatory as bullets will fly many thousands of metres if negligently discharged depending on the angle at which the muzzle is pointing in the air. Only ever load the rifle when it is pointed in a safe direction and be sure to use all safety catches, but never rely on them as a perfect method of ensuring no accident can happen. Never assume a rifle is correctly zeroed and do not disengage the safety catch or place your finger inside the trigger guard or on the blade until the rifle is pointed at what you intend to shoot and if you miss, miss safely. Consider what the bullet may encounter on its flightpath to the target, especially when the line of an optical sight is higher than the bore itself. Even if the shot is perfect, consider what remnants of the bullet or pellet may pass through the quarry. The quarry itself is not `the backstop` and must never be treated as so, with animals in herds, it’s not unknown for fragments or whole bullets to hit additional animals not even directly behind them. Consider the backstop and whether it will absorb the bullet entirely or potentially allow it to ricochet off a hard angled surface and skim off elsewhere whining!

    Ensure that you or anyone in close proximity to any firearm is wearing appropriate hearing protection which should be considered mandatory, eye protection is also advisable if slightly more scenario dependant. Hearing damage is a fact, happening cumulatively with every shot or noise above 85dB and although quieter guns may seem less aggressive, it all adds up especially with high volumes of low intensity noise not considered uncomfortable, yet still aggressive. When carrying firearms, be sure of footings and balance and if you have to cross obstacles or climb walls, fences or tree stands, I always unload the rifle as anything dropped can potentially fall in any direction and if it does go off, you have no idea where the bullets may go. It is also not unknown for items like tree stands to be deliberately sabotaged to injure likely users so be fully familiar with the laws that surround your shooting activities, quarry, and locations. Consider noise and disturbance to surroundings along with the general public perception of shooting, you may be well aware of people well outside safety areas. People can react badly to being surprised by gunfire and hunters who are generally operating discreetly in pursuit of quarry, well within the law we understand but they may not. Lastly, I’m pained to suggest it, but firearms do not mix with drink or drugs. Be aware of any side effects of prescription medication and finally, be aware or diminishing capability as you become tired during or after a long day hunting.

    Shooting in all its forms is one of the safest sports possible, let’s all keep it that way.

  • FX EZ-Shot Chair: Review

    FX EZ-Shot Shooting Chair

    By Chris Parkin

     

    All shooting accessories can be somewhat situationally dependant and fit quite unique scenarios and the FX EZ-Shot chair certainly brings comfort in some of the more sedentary situations.

     

    The EZ-Shot is a two-part light folding tubular assembly you can carry into location with a padded shoulder strap. The steel frame folds open with thick foam padded cushions on seat and back rest to remain in position, close to the ground allowing long waits over known quarry hot spots or bait stations, especially when controlling vermin. The junction from back to seat can be adjusted at the hinge to suit your preferred angle, pretty much like that of a car seat. As well as comfort, the EZ-Shot also offers a versatile rest for the other critical component, your rifle. The `Y` shaped yoke features firm rubber fins for grip of the forend or precharged air bottle’s underside, with a pistol grip below whose trigger allows for fast and silent vertical height adjustment. Overall angle and height is set with a toggle lever between your knees at primary setup, becoming a single foot at the front. Combining this with the broader under seat base at the rear, effectively offers the intrinsic stability of a tripod so once in position, never wobbles or rattles as you necessarily must shuffle slightly adapting to the shooting angles offered by quarry.

     

    I used the chair for Squirrel control aiming high up, and ground level Ratting, nestled low in the crook of some bales and the EZ-Shot certainly gave me a comfortable vantage point with extremely low profile and silhouette to the ground. Although I removed a screening net for photos, you can see how at less than 9.7 lbs/4.4 kg, the addition of a lightweight net will totally screen you from view. With the front rest incorporated with the EZ-Shot, you can actually `travel light`, without undue additional supporting kit. It’s also important to state the additional insulation from the ground, not so bad in the Autumn but critical for additional comfort in winter night forays.

     

    There may well be many scenarios where you can build an improvised seating location behind a hide from items scattered around the average farmyard, but sometimes it’s great to be a bit more dynamic and move without additional work and noise during assembly and as you shuffle seated in situ waiting. The triangulated layout delivers a stable shooting platform if shooting using your knees as a rest, yet if squirrel feeders are higher into the trees, the silent manoeuvrability of the Aluminium yoke is incredibly helpful, just as much as it can be for low down shots, the mechanical adjustment range will span more than your own comfort. Overall size when folded for transport is 28.5” x 13.5” x 7” (724mm x 350mm x 180mm) and rated for a max load of 250lbs (18 stone)/114kg. I was a little doubtful at first of carrying the chair but when I find myself sat in greater comfort and not in damp farmyard ground debris, with an incorporated rest for accurate shooting at most angles, I was converted and now savour new opportunities using the FX Setup.

    Price
    £190

     

    Contact
    Sportsman Gun Centre
    www.sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
    01392 354854
    info@sportsmanguncentre.com

     

    Photo Captions:
    1. FX EZ Shot chair in use for squirrels high above the ground, the rest is a superb factor (camo net removed for photo)
    2. Silent rotation and elevation control from the yoke’s trigger is immediately appreciated
    3. Three main contact points can be used to intrinsically isolate any instability
    4. Broad webbing strap is great for carriage on an already lightweight unit

  • PARD NV007A Night Vision 16mm 4x Rear Add On - REVIEW

    By Chris Parkin

    I had always wondered if the concept of a rear add on night vision device might be step too far for someone strongly attuned to shooter ergonomics, so the PARD was a bit of a walk into the unknown for me. Opening the box shows the compact unit itself along with one of three possible scope mounting collars (42/45/48mm) that wrap the ocular body of the scope to seat the unit. A roll of black electrical tape is included to very gradually build up and protect the scope’s aluminium surface beneath the collar’s Allen screw clamp and although this may seem a little basic, works incredibly well, allowing you to achieve smooth, almost interference fit with true concentric axial alignment and little mechanical force applied. This is important for continuation of the circular field of view with reticle central in the rectangular screen of the PARD with minimal vignettes, the dark Halo that can restrict field of view.

    The 007 clips into these collars using a bayonet arrangement with a sprung left side latch for 100% rattle free security, it’s a second’s job to remove and re-fit. It can be mounted either way up so that the small external clamping screws can be placed left or right side to offer least interference form the bolt handle on what is an otherwise truly ambidextrous unit. Being rear mounted, there is no requirement for any zeroing as the PARD is itself looking at the scope’s exit pupil in exactly the same way your eye would have been. The other contents of the box are small Allen keys, replacement O-rings and a USB charge lead allowing the flat top 18650 Lithium-Ion battery to be charged on board with no need for additional kit. This is handy as the bayonet allows the unit to be taken off and put on charge without compromising putting your gun straight into the cabinet. There is also a soft case for storage off-gun. The battery fits under screw cap at the front and has insulating tape over contacts for shipping, just peel it off and you are live once fully charged. There are red/green LED indicators that offer charge state and in use, the internal display screens’ battery monitor has so far been very accurate with promised 8-hour performance when not using the 5W illuminator. I just turn it on and leave it on, but I suppose if you hunt daylight and darkness in ONE trip out, spare 18650’s are not expensive and swap in seconds, not minutes like multiple AA’s. Physical machining of the aluminium body shows no sharp corners, deep anodising and tactile serrations or knurling where grip is needed. The threads for the battery compartment are clean without swarf and the product has an air of `how is this done for this price`? Rubber elements are neatly moulded and offer protection where needed, especially buffering around the eye, sealing out external light sources and have remained glued in position without any likely fractures or degradation across a variety of weather conditions too.

    The supplied manual is reasonably comprehensive and simple to navigate without any particular `holes` in explanation. A short press of the upper rear button runs the unit on, first step is to use the rearmost aluminium collar to focus the screen for your eyes and this generally only needs doing once. After installation on the scope, the larger bi-laterally accessible collar underneath focusses the PARD to your scope’s exit pupil and reticle, just the same as your eye would. The unit works in daylight as well as darkness with full functionality either way. The 007’s are available in 1x or 4x base magnification. I had the 16mm/4x and this needs to suit your scope’s own mag level. Mounted to a Nightforce SHV set at its own minimum magnification, I preferred to keep the scope always at its lowest for max field of view and used the digital mag available on the PARD with 1-1.5-2-2.5-3-3.5x stages (4-14x overall) for more zoom. I’d like to try the 12mm/1x for comparison because I’m a low mag fan in general, but we all have our own preferences. I think on a 3-9x50 or 4-12 scope this would be ideal but regardless, on the 5x NF, I was still offered fully focussed images down to about 30 metres with only smaller field of view being the slight limitation when first finding and aligning quarry or tracking their movement at close range.

    The integral IR illuminator on the front of the unit runs from the internal battery so runtime will be affected after dark if in use. PARD assure 200 metre capability and yes, depending on atmospheric conditions and ambient light, you can pick up some detail that far after dark but for small game hunting, I’d be more realistic with 100 metres in the real world when considering accurate aiming solutions. I used an additional large illuminator as Is my general habit and had it been necessary, was able to retain stable sight picture easily at 300 metres on rabbits and Hares, with foxes comparatively far easier when chest shooting out to 200 metres. On-Board IR has a telescoping lens focus and for Air rifle ratting or 22 rimfire on Rabbits, absolutely perfect with included 850 nm IR, where too much illumination strength gives excessive return reflection, auto dimming night vision sensitivity on most units.

    The left side rubber cap conceals space for a micro-Sd card to record video and still footage in HD resolution with sockets for 3.5mm lead and USB connectivity. This can remain in place for weather protection and the unit also records sound. The menu structure on-screen is clearly laid out with language options and used fully descriptive names, not abbreviations. Key controls in order are default colour (i.e., will the unit turn on automatically in day or night mode), a similar function for IR too. Internal screen brightness, auto recording, loop recording (controlled in 3-5-10 minute videos), date stamp (very handy on footage to record exactly `when` something happened if necessary), Audio record on/off, Wi-Fi control, image exposure, date time, language and card format as well as firmware version. This last factor is interesting as I haven’t had to continually chase updates to make features work, the PARD arrived fully functional from its box and has remained so with no internal functionality half developed and needing updates as time goes by to actually work.  “PPSHOW” or “RoadCam” apps allow real time image display on Android or iOS devices with reliable Wi-Fi connectivity regardless of background network signal interference.

    Once learned, the button structure is easy to control, close by and accessible in the dark with good tactile perception of which button your fingertip is in contact with and if you actually pressed it. This is quiet when used although does sound louder on recorded footage during playback if scrolling through digital magnification for example. Long and short presses control deeper menu access of rapid feature on/off, like Wi-Fi for example. Flipping to night mode from day mode takes a three second hold on the left most rear button. Once in night mode, short presses of the same button control 4 stages (0-1-2-3) of IR intensity from the inbuilt illuminator. Short presses on the upper power button will turn the screen off to save battery and a longer three second hold shuts it down completely. It’s good to note if you do turn off completely, initial start-up is itself only three seconds for rushed opportunities. I personally love the fact you can enter and alter menus without visual confusion, on or off the rifle, or accidentally altering critical zero settings like you can so easily do on full night vision sights, rather than this add on unit.

    So, what’s it really like in use, well, ever the sceptic I am, I give the objective pointers. Firstly, I was concerned that the physical size of the unit that had to fit between head and scope would require too much ergonomic compromise but, in the end, although you do need to `wind your neck in` a little, it’s very usable and just requires literally that. Physical eye relief of about 25-30mm is ok for rifles up to about 243 in terms of recoil and for seated or standing shots, you will easily get used to it. It’s a bit too much of a squeeze for prone shots which naturally stretch your neck/head towards the optic but generally, I think this is less likely of a factor when night shooting from a vehicle, sticks or improvised rest anyway. Secondly, the required task of balancing focal lengths and optical performance is far easier than expected. Once set up, you can pretty much forget it and clip the solid bayonet catch on or off as often as required with no loss of focus or zero. Th unit can also be used off the rifle as a daylight spotter or in the dark as a secondary role which just requires re-focussing of what becomes a light 250gr handheld unit. The ocular collars are neat and compact with no effects for normal day scope usage, and you of course retain all mechanical turret/reticle adjustments for long range capability of said day scope if that’s required. Dare I also say, with the PARD on the back, you don’t lose any of that in darkness either if required, all your scope’s tactile mechanical adjustments are still that, you aren’t messing about twiddling menu trees every time you change ammo, need to tweak zero or for a longer-range shot.

    Footage on the internal OLED screen is 1024x768 resolution at 30 frames per second so you don’t really experience lag problems and get a smooth image flow like your eyes have got used to for decades watching films and tv until the latest era of HD and 4K. Visual identification is clear with great resolution and definition of couleurs on the animals, factors like rich browns and blacks being completely contrasting on a Hare’s ears in pitch darkness for example. Recorded footage is slightly higher resolution of 1920x1080 and looks great edited and made for video. Photo resolution is higher still at 2592x1944, but I generally capture screenshots from video footage because I can just leave the video running without attention diverted to pressing a shutter button in the heat of the moment. Having a scope with a large 50 or 56mm objective lens is also focussing significantly more light than smaller (sometimes sub 30mm) Night vision units on that key internal sensor, even if there is a compromise of more glass lens elements to pass through.

    The internal viewscreen demonstrates reasonably flat focus across its field of view and not too critical to eye positioning, this is probably helped by the fact your head is a little more firmly pressed onto the rubber eyecup maintaining stationary position. The PARD is also a great example of where digital night vision excels, the drift through dusk to darkness. You can detect normal daylight colour image starting to get a little grainier as the ISO sensitivity of the PARD increases as daylight diminishes, just like a regular Digital camera, but this gets you far beyond where daylight optics will function. That switch into night, black/white mode then continues through the dark helped by additional IR for as long as needed. In fairness, if you wear glasses you are quite restricted on physical space but in some cases (my own), I can compensate for dioptre using the PARD’s own screen focus and shoot without glasses or contacts but that is a very individual factor. My right eye is -1.75 dioptre to give you an idea of compensation level I’m adjusting for.

    The big factors remaining are the use of parallax adjustable scopes which is pretty much mandatory. Adjustable objectives will work but it’s a long reach so side parallax makes sense and is quicker in use than most focus critical standalone night vision scopes anyway. For the 100mm sacrifice in open space between the scope and your eye, the compromise is well worth is as I find image performance not only equal to, or superior to night vision scopes of similar generations, but far cheaper as well, almost half price in fact! Couple that to the fact you still have full daylight functionality for long range, zeroing and targets with your regular scope, accurate click values (not pixel related approximations), and secondary darkness functionality and/or daylight video capability from you the PARD on your Day scope, I find myself quite converted by this exceptionally appealing unit which can be used across a whole fleet of guns with no re-zeroing required, just add a few extra scope collars. I think I will be doing just that!

    Price
    PARD NV007A £332.99
    Additional collars £19.99

     

  • Thermal or Digital Night vision - The big question - is the additional spend worth it

    This is a question I’m often asked and like most things in life, very situationally and budget dependant. Looking at likely quarry species in range of size with the hope associated environments will help illustrate points. If you are ratting with an airgun, night vision can open a whole world of shooting possibilities when minimal levels of ambient light from the moon or general farmyard illuminators should give you satisfactory sight picture to take on these numerous rodents. But, beware using strong additional IR illumination from the gun/scope itself as reflections from intervening items or foliage can make the image auto-dim and leave you a little `blind`. Any Quarry in grass and other ground cover can be invisible to the naked eye or even night vision, but with a thermal scope, and not one needing to be particularly expensive, will stand out clearly to make an assured shot. Small quarry is also relatively easy to identify at close ranges and shooting through grass or straw is unlikely to be a problem when quarry is totally hidden, but their body heat always gives them away, under a steel container for example.

    Budget is key and when you take a step up beyond similar rabbiting needs to foxing, the protection of livestock and gamebirds is simpler to quantify and justify a larger spend. Given ranges up to perhaps 300 metres, precision shot making is key, but identification is the most important safety factor. After detection of the quarry, easily enabled at extreme ranges with a thermal spotter, the sight can itself be an EMERGENCY STOP tool, having given a different perspective on identification than thermal alone. Night vision, with good IR illumination will show strong details a Thermal will not and although that latter capability is catching rapidly, the ability to see quarry using a second image style can be a great benefit. Night vision is usually much less expensive than thermal, and I personally use a thermal spotter with night vision scope for this very reason, the dual perspectives in a dark environment. The caveat to this is the ground you shoot over, long grass can easily hide quarry which `pops` straight out with thermal and allows you to call it, track its movement and assess its patterns for identification without alerting it in any way.

    “Thermal shows you what you want to shoot, night vision shows you what you want to miss” has often been a helpful mantra to me. That IR reflection will often show you a wire fence that would have made your bullet ricochet or heavier cover you cannot simply shoot through. It’s easy to get carried away by a bright white thermal heat source and forget the surrounding details! Neither technology is an outright winner, I see them as complimentary tools rather than competitors. If money were unlimited, high-end thermal for both is an easy option because the latest units have great features and detail recognition but on realistic budget (just like the same rifle/scope budget we have so long worked on), I think maximum capability is available from a thermal spotter combined with night vision scope. The spotter is in use far more often and is the primary stage in identification before you ever even get close to pointing a rifle at your quarry.

    By Chris Parkin

  • BOG Death Grip Tripods

    By Chris Parkin

    The BOG’s Death Grip tripods are available in aluminium and weight saving carbon fibre variants but are otherwise functionally identical. Starting out at the patented clamp, the rifle is held securely in a 115mm long saddle, with rubber lined walls 50mm high. The easily gripped 80mm triangular side handle clamps forends of width from 30 to 70mm, with firm rubber fins applying satisfactory grip without requiring excessive compression that might distort lighter synthetic rifle forends.

    An identical handle on the opposing side controls elevation/tilting tension to suit your rifle’s weight and balance point. Below, there is a 360-degree rotating axis to locate and track targets which can be locked in position by a 20mm handle if required after a bubble level helps align the intrinsically stable tripod on uneven ground by adjusting the leg length. Each of the three-segment telescopic legs in either carbon fibre or aluminium extends from 610 to 1515mm with independently tension adjustable locking levers. Both materials offer equally stiff support throughout descending diameter 35/31.3/28.4mm segments. A neoprene grip surrounds one of the legs for the off-gun hand. Each leg has a red, three-position aluminium locking stud traversing adjacent to the pivot axis, enabling 20-, 45- or 85-degree opening angle of the legs to further control height and span, especially helpful for working around obstructions on an uneven surface. This is a solid locking function and only needs the slightest of weight reduction on the particular leg to operate this latching mechanism, rather than having to fold legs inward slightly in this situation as some tripods require.

    Set at 20 degrees with full extension, the rifle clamp stands 1480mm from the ground, in contrast at 85 degrees and fully compressed, it’s just 220mm from the ground. That range covers any position from standing to prone as well as personal height variation and uneven ground or supporting surface or from kneeling and seated positions! Each foot offers a steel spike for extra grip on loose surfaces, the surrounding rubber spins anticlockwise to extend beyond the spike for grip on hard or easily damaged surfaces. A single rubber strap wraps around all three legs for transport minimising any noise when folded and all junctions can be individually tension adjusted, including the bearing supported rotating axis.

    The inherent grip of the rubber coated jaws prevents the need for excessive clamping force on the rifle forend which can tilt 45 degrees up or down. I didn’t miss a ball type head as when shooting in ambush situations for long periods (when shooting tripods seem of the greatest benefit), there is time to set up and level the head and rotating axis anyway. The independent axes also allow a compact format with less separation of the rifle’s mass from pivot location, aiding stability on this rifle specific, rather than photography derived head. Weight of the aluminium version is 3.9kg/8.6lbs, the carbon 3.6/7.9lbs with the latter also remaining slightly quieter if bumped and less thermally conductive in contact with skin in cold conditions.

    Price

    Aluminium £196.34

    Carbon Fibre £326.39

  • Clay Season Shooting Essentials

    Clay shooting is the popular and growing sport of shooting flying clay targets with a shotgun. Hitting the target requires skill, timing and hand-eye coordination and you can enjoy clay shooting at any level, from local club shoots all the way through to national and international competitions and the Olympics.

    There are a range of different forms of clay target shooting disciplines which tend to be roughly divided into Trap, Skeet and Sporting. All three types of clay pigeon shooting challenge a shooter to hit moving targets, but they each vary according to structure, rules and style. Although all of these shooting disciplines originated as hunting simulations, they have evolved to become unique versions of the same sport.

    Differences in Types of Clay Pigeon Shooting

    Trap clay pigeon shooting challenges the shooter by flinging the target straight in front and away. The marksmen fire five shots from each of the five different positions for a total of 25 shots per round. The shooter on station one fires the first shot, followed by each of the shooters on the other stations. Once all shooters have fired their total of five shots, each shooter moves to the next station. This means that the marksman at station five, walks behind the others to station one. All station changes are made with unloaded guns and open actions for safety.

    Skeet clay pigeon shooting involves the crossing over of the targets. Two target machines, 40 metres apart, launch the clay targets across a semi-circular arrangement of positions at a constant trajectory and speed. One target launcher, referred to as the ‘high house’, is 10 feet above the ground, while the second, called the ‘low house’ is just 3 ½ feet above the ground. This difference in height creates a greater challenge for the shooters as they move around the stations. A round of skeet shooting includes both single (one target at a time) and double (two targets at a time) target presentations. Similar to trap shooting, skeet involves the shooters moving through the various positions to complete a round. Also like trap, the different shooting positions in skeet create alternative angles relative to the targets.

    Sporting clays is thought to offer the greatest approximation to an in-the-field hunting experience as it is classed as the most unpredictable. A sporting clays course tends to include a range of different stations, each with unique target presentations and machine setups. For instance, one station might send a single target straight up into the air, while a second could send two targets simultaneously, one rolling across the ground and one heading towards the shooter.

    So how did clay shooting start?

    • The first clay pigeon shoots started around 1885 as an affordable alternative to competitions using live pigeons as targets.
    • Shooting schools – particularly those owned by London gunmakers – set up courses to simulate the flight of live birds. The new sport quickly became a hit with Victorian and Edwardian game shooters as a form of practice during the closed season.

    Tips for beginners

    1. Your first taste of clay shooting will almost certainly be on a Sporting range where targets are thrown to simulate the flight of game birds.
    2. In Sporting you will shoot from a number of different “stands” each offering a different target. These targets vary greatly in terms of trajectory, angle, elevation, distance and speed and it’s that variety that makes Sporting so popular with clay shooters.
    3. Determine your dominant eye - Determining your dominant eye is important- some right –handed people will shoot left-handed if they have a left master eye and vice versa. Likewise some people who are right handed but who have a left master eye will close one eye to help their aim.  Either way it will help you decide which eye to use to look down the barrel of the gun to focus best on your target.
    4. Comfortable and strong standing position - By getting your feet in the right position and holding your body correctly you will be able to maintain accuracy when firing shot after shot.
    5. Mounting the gun correctly - By holding the gun in the correct position you will be able to fire your shot comfortably and accurately.
    6. Bring your head to the shotgun - This is often a problem for new clay pigeon shooters. Instead of keeping the body steady and bringing the head into position, it can be tempting to lean back or slouch the body to be positioned.

    What do you need for clay shooting?

    The different forms of clay pigeon shooting do have an ‘ideal’ shotgun type that works best. However, if you’re just starting out in clay shooting, do not let a lack of the ‘right’ equipment stop you. You can start in any of the three shooting disciplines with virtually any form of shotgun, as long as it can fire two shots without reloading.

    Clay season shooting Essential accessories:

    •  Ear Defenders - Safety first, whatever discipline of shooting. We recommend wearing a pair of ear defenders.
    •  Eye Protection - All clay shooters should wear eye protection.
    •  Shooting Vest - This is the most essential piece of kit for most clay shooters.
    •  Shirt or Polo Shirt - As most clay shooting is within the summer months, a light shirt will be sufficient - or even a polo.
    •  Hat / Cap - Especially if it is a really sunny day, a baseball cap or flat cap will keep the sun out of your eyes.
    • Footwear - In wet weather, wellingtons are ideal.
    •  Jacket (waterproof) - If you are going to wear the coat while clay shooting, it needs to fit well and not restrict movement.
    • Shooting / cartridge Bag - To carry cartridges, chokes and any extra clothing you think you'll need for warmth would be ideal.
  • FX Crown MKI Compact - FIT FOR A KING

    Alpha Militaria’s Rich Saunders gets delusions of grandeur when he tests the FX Crown MK2 Compact

    Two cups of tea and half a packet of hobnobs and I still can’t come up with a royalty-themed pun that isn’t rubbish or been used before, so I’ll just get on with it…

    Though perhaps best known for its market leading bullpups, such as the Impact, Wildcat and most recently, the Maverick, Swedish company FX Airgun’s take on a more traditional, sporter style air rifle is the FX Crown.

    Now in its second iteration, the Crown’s family lineage is easy to spot, with plenty of adjustment features, high power models and the ability to swap calibres, barrels and liners. In fact, the line up comprises .177, .22, .25 and .30 with barrels ranging in length from 380mm to 700mm – all containing the Smooth Twist X Superior Liner apart from the .177, which uses the STX liner.

    There are plenty of stock options too. Minelli designed walnut and black synthetic soft touch thumbhole stocks are complemented by Forest Green, Yellow and Black and Black Pepper laminate options. In addition, there’s a GRS designed Green Mountain stock with additional adjustment features.

    The stocks wrap around a fully regulated, side lever action that is fed by a 480cc carbon wrapped bottle (aluminium on the entry level VP Edition) and a large capacity magazine that delivers 22 shots in .177, 18 in .22, 16 in .25 and 13 in .30.

    High powered models range from 28 ft. lbs. in .177 up to 75 ft. lbs. in .30. In between you can have a 54 ft. lbs. .22 and 65 ft. lbs. .25. Adjustability to find the perfect set up for different weights and styles of ammunition has long been a feature of FX products and the Crown mk2 is no different. A dial on the left at the rear of the action adjusts hammer spring tension and another just forward of the breach alters power output by adjusting the transfer port. And whilst it’s denied to 12 ft. lbs. rifle users, high power owners can also change the regulator pressure.

    Of course, all that flexibility is at its most advantageous when you have more foot pounds to play with, but the control afforded by the two dials gives 12 ft. lbs. shooters the ability to fine tune and optimise the set up for different pellets.

    Once you have twiddled your knobs, the Crown sits comfortably in the shoulder. The butt pad can be adjusted for height and angle, and although there is no adjustment in the comb, eye alignment for a scope mounted on the split picatinny rail is spot on.

    The pistol grip is acquired via a thumbhole cut out and has grooves either side to accommodate your thumb and trigger finger regardless of whether you are right or left handed. However, the biathlon style side lever and the switch style safety catch are designed with right handers in mind.

    Shot count from the 480cc bottle, which takes a 250 bar charge (the aluminium bottle on the VP Edition takes 230 bar) is prodigious. I couldn’t get a figure from FX for the 12 ft. lbs. FX Crown mk2 Compact I tested for Alpha Militaria and got bored after 400 shots. When I checked the gauge, which is located under the fore stock next to the fill port and another gauge for regulator pressure, there was still plenty of air. This is a ‘tin of pellets on a fill’ rifle with no mistake.

    Incidentally, the test rifle was fitted with an Element Optics Titan FFP 5-25x56 scope which did an admirable job of exploiting the Crown Compact’s prodigious accuracy potential. On the chronograph, the rifle returned test string of 11.7 ft. lbs. with a spread of just seven feet per second, and I’m sure it would have continued to do so if my attention span hadn’t been spanned.

    The review FX Crown Mk2 Compact in the black synthetic soft touch stock has a 380mm barrel and weighs just under three kilos unscoped. With its 380mm barrel, it measures exactly a metre with the supplied silencer fitted.

  • New for 2019 Night Force Mil-XT reticle

    RETICLE MIL-XT™
    First Focal Plane

    Available in: ATACRTM 16x/25x/35x F1

    Designed for precision rifle competition

    Exceptionally fast, intuitive, and precise

    Hold-over and hold-off points for rapid target engagement

    The Mil-XT™ elevation scale (below center) extends beyond the field of view
    Red indicates illuminated portion of reticle.

    Applications: Competition, Extreme Long Range (ELR) Shooting, Field/Tactical

    Designed to meet the needs of today’s precision rifle competitor, the MIL-XT™ reticle allows for fast and accurate shots on target. The MIL-XT™ has a simple center dot for a fine aiming point at center, while the main lines feature .2 Mil-Radian holds. Each whole MilRadian is numbered for fast reference under even stressful conditions. Below center, whole Mil-Radian intersections feature a floating dot. Dots are placed at .2 Mil-Radian increments, while whole Mil-Radians are increased in size for fast counting. Additional marks are placed at half Mil-Radian increments as well. Numbers below center alternate in size for easy counting and verification of appropriate hold points. This reticle was designed for the competitive and field shooter, and is certain to give a competitive edge to anyone who uses it.


    The MIL-XT™ is available in the ATACR™ 16x/25x/35x F1 riflescopes.

    • Allows accurate hold offs and precise first-shot placement
    • Floating center-dot for precise aiming point
    • Excellent for range estimation and rapid target engagements
    • Intelligent numbering for fast and easy holds
    • Red indicates illuminated portions

  • Christmas gift guide.

    Gift Guide
    As the countdown to Christmas has well and truly started and Christmas shopping is now well under way THE question is are you prepared?

    To make life easier we have put together a Christmas gift guide to help you out!!

    SO DON’T PANIC!!
    We have gathered a small selection of great gift ideas for all types of country sport lovers!!

    • Guardian Canterbury Luxian Elite Shotgun Slip

    The Canterbury Luxian Elite Shotgun Slip combines genuine chestnut leather with an elegant fleece lining to offer the feeling of true luxury when transporting your shotgun. It’s visuals are timelessly classic  and  all of its features are practical yet refined. The combination of full side-zip access, easy access flap and brass effect metal details create a strong, reliable and visually striking slip that will be a talking point even on the most exclusive shoots.

    In essence, it’s a premium slip without the premium price that is ideal for transporting your shotgun. It is compatible with both side-by-side and over-under shotguns with a barrel length of up to 32 inches.

    • Guardian Canterbury Motor Shotgun Case

    The Canterbury Motor Shotgun Case is a hard case with an elegant, classic look. Designed for packing your pride and joy away for your journey to and from the shoot, offering rugged protection while looking beautiful.

    Dressed in genuine walnut leather, with reinforced corners and leather straps, the Canterbury Motor Shotgun Case is a thing of beauty! Internally it is lined with luxurious felt and offers a configurable layout, depending on the dimensions of your gun using clever padded blocks.

    Finished with bronze effect metal accents and combination lock, the Canterbury Motor Shotgun Case offers security, protection and a premium look for a pocket friendly price!

     

    • ATA SP Game 12G – Youth 28 inch

    Few shotguns have been as well received as the ATA SP range.  Impressively presented in a Turkish Walnut stock with an action drawing inspiration from some of the world’s best gun manufacturers. If you buy an ATA   you get a lot of gun for your money. At £599.99, why buy another gun   when value and quality are unmatched in the market place.

    ATA’s winning formula of form, function and affordability is now available in a 12G youth configuration. Its features are much the same as the rest of the ATA range, but has 28 inch barrels, a youth stock and is available in 12G with a black action.

    This is THE perfect gun for beginners and experienced youth shooters alike and can be bought for less than most other second hand guns.

     

    • LightFORCE SL 240mm Blitz Handheld Hunting Light

    LightFORCE are the big boys of the lamping world with a huge range of products from handheld lights to vehicle mounted spot lights. There is nothing that country folk, farmers or lampers could need that LightFORCE don’t offer.

    One of their most versatile and revered lamps is the SL 240mm Blitz. It simply plugs into a vehicle 12v cigarette lighter socket to create a 100W ultra bright spotlight that offers extraordinary range. There is also a version that will run off an external battery pack.  The Blitz range is built with a light weight hi-tech polymer which offers extreme strength and durability; it is a must for any l country folk!

    • Le chameau Chasseur Neo Neoprene Lined Wellington boots

      Available in Menes and Women’s.

    This is THE ultimate in terms of comfort and performance, the Le Chameau Chasseur Neo combines both traditional styles with the excellent insulating properties of neoprene.  Comfortable in temperatures as low as -15 degrees centigrade and still a pleasure to wear on the warmer of days.  These boots have fast become the boot of choice for many shooters and royals alike.

    Famous for their full length zip for ease of putting on and taking off , superior fit and supple natural rubber upper, the Chasseur has become an iconic piece of the shooting landscape.

    Both practical and fashionable these are the boots of choice for the high street or the muddy lanes.

    • Delta Forest 10x42

    The Delta Forest II binoculars are built for the observation of nature. They are tough, rugged and have impressive light gathering properties.

    These binoculars are nitrogen filled, fog proof and feature a Roof-Schmidt/Pechan prism. All combined, these features provide clear, bright images, even in low light conditions.

    The impressive 5 year warranty makes the Delta Forest II Binoculars a must for any nature observer.

    • Harkila Pro hunter X jacket

    This extremely hard wearing jacket is manufactured for the ultimate weather tests that can be thrown at you. The GORE-TEX membrane is both breathable and waterproof, providing you with the best for all weathers. Incorporating a 5 year warranty demonstrates exactly how Harkila are that confident in the product they manufacture.

    With a detachable hood, hand warmer pockets and action back for ease of movement the Harkila Pro hunter X jacket is one jacket to definitely be seen in this winter.

    • Seeland Lady Glyn Jacket

    Warm hunting jacket for sedentary and active hunting in biting cold. The jacket is padded with ThinsulateTM and features the waterproof and windproof SEETEX® membrane. Glyn Lady jacket keeps you warm and protects you from rain, snow and wind. The main features include large cartridge pockets, hand warmer pockets lined with fleece, 2 way front zip, detachable hood with faux fur brim and a tapered and adjustable waist. This is the perfect winter shooting jacket.

    • Musto Women’s Glemsford Polartex Fleece Gilet
    • This classic Polartec® fleece gilet is ideal for layering under a weatherproof jacket or keeping off the chill on crisp days. Lightweight, breathable and warm, the Women's Glemsford Gilet gives you full freedom of movement in your arms. Its long length with a scooped back hem keeps your lower back warm. The high collar, drawcord hem and bound armholes give a snug fit to keep out the breeze and zipped pockets will keep your valuables secure.

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