I love listening to other people’s ideas and views. It’s one of the most fun things about what I do, whether propping up the bar at a Game Fair or gnawing on a bacon sarnie at a local HFT shoot.
The camaraderie that exists within the airgun community is one of its best features and something we should all be very proud of. Engaging discussion and challenging debate is always great fun, but recently I’ve started to get a bit tired of all the whining.
It’s not so much people complaining – although there’s plenty of that! – but more those who offer forthright opinions without having full grasp of the facts – or worse still unwilling to listen to other peoples views.
The very tone of these voices sounds to me like nails scraping down a blackboard, or the incessant dripping of a broken tap. Sooner or later you just feel like taking a wrench to it!
One such topic that seems to ‘get my goat’ the most is incessant drone of the ‘purists’ who feel that target style rifles shouldn’t be used in Hunter Field Target.
They suggest that it makes a mockery of the sport and that only ‘hunting’ rifles should be allowed to make it ‘fair’ for everyone else. The very fact that one of the three words that make up the name of the sport is ‘target’ seems to be lost on them.
But rather than enter into another pointless, senseless and potentially endless debate on the forums I thought I’d see whether field target rifles are indeed capable of cutting it out in the field.
I have some thirteen ‘hunting’ and four ‘field target’ air rifles in my gunroom in a variety of calibres and action types. Of course I have my favourites, which means some get more use than others.
I hunt regularly with my airguns over different landscapes for different quarry types. I sit on both sides of the fence, and understand the characteristics and limitations of each type of rifle.
For UK built airguns, the engineering, barrels and quality control for every rifle leaving the factory is comparable, whether its’ a hunting or FT rifle.
With this in mind, I can say with some certainty that the only benefit of using a target rifle over a hunting rifle for HFT is that I can achieve a consistent head position behind my scope.
This almost completely eliminates parallax error, which is invariably the reason most people miss what look like ‘straightforward’ targets.
This can still be achieved with standard hunting air rifles, but without stock modifications you need to be more careful as to how to mount your rifle and position yourself before taking your shot.
This is not always possible in hunting scenarios where your focus is invariably on the quarry.
Airgunning Legend Terry Doe is a great exponent of ‘full control hunting’, which effectively means manufacturers creating stocks that can be adjusted to fit the shooter perfectly, thus taking out the minor variables that can significantly open your groups at normal hunting ranges. Take away the alibis and there’s only one thing left – you!
So lets get down to business. My choice of rifle for this most scientific of tests was my Air Arms EV2 Mk3 topped with the phenomenal March 8-80×56 super scope mounted on a raised weaver type rail by John Pardoe and 4.5 inch custom Jon Harris sidewheel.
I even left my fluorescent pink ‘ballistic wool windicator’ in place. You don’t get much more field target than that!
I’d actually cut down some of my Deben camo hide netting in Realtree APG to brake up the outline of the EV2, but decided against it. It was all or nothing! Other than a thigh rest I sometimes use, this is the exact set up I use for FT competitions.
We’re quite lucky to have a variety of permissions we can hunt over. This means we can leave areas to ‘rest’. If you hit them too hard, too often you’ll be left with less numerous, but more skittish quarry. Although it happens from time-to-time, I prefer not to come home with an empty bag!
As usual, I was joined by my regular shooting companions Steve Wild and Keith Anderson. Both are experienced airgun hunters and have useful professions when it comes to preparing game.
Steve is a Master Butcher and Keith a Meat Inspector. Our first port of call was a small wood adjacent to Steve’s slaughterhouse.
Steve and Keith had just picked up their new Daystate Huntsman Classic air rifles so it was agreed that they would hunt for squirrels and I would ambush the healthy population of rabbits.
We each picked a separate area of the wood and made our way to our positions. I picked out a spot underneath a group of young silver firs.
The Realtree Max-1 pattern of my new Rivers West Field Pro Smock was perfect for this type of cover, although could do little to hide the EV2s anodised silver barrel and air cylinder protruding from beneath the branches. However, I was more concerned about the luminous pink windicator!
As it happens I needn’t have been. I’d positioned myself by a culvert looking along the bank above a drainage ditch that skirts the side of the wood. The bank is littered with burrows and the bunnies are rarely troubled here.
I took my time ranging various mini landmarks within my arc of fire. Things like saplings, rocks and other natural features that were easily identified. This meant that when the time came I could quickly dial in the range and take the shot.
My March 8-80×56 is without doubt the worlds best FT scope at the moment. The build quality is incredible and the sight picture is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I use a Jon Harris 4.5 inch side wheel for estimating range.
This basically involves setting the rifle to a high magnification setting i.e. 50-80x, and adjusting the focus wheel until the target is in clear focus. Then it’s simply a matter of reading off the range. I then set the magnification at its lowest setting of 8x and settled into my position.
The FT sitting position is perfect for ambushing quarry on the ground from cover. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’ve mastered it you can remain in the same position for long periods. This also means that your rifle is always ready for the shot.
The only drawback here is that your arc of fire is limited, and it’s difficult to shift around. The trick here is to thoroughly scout the area prior to hunting so you have an idea for the quarry’s usual habits.
You need to keep your hands gloved and behind the cover at all times. That way if you need to reach the turrets to dial in your range, you can do so without betraying your position to the quarry. I set my zero for 25 yards, which was about the mid-range of my hunting area.
From there its only 10 clicks on my turret up to 35 yards, and pretty much aim on as you get closer due to the size of the target area.
That’s unless it’s closer than 15 yards where you need to take into consideration the height of the scope and the distance between the crosshairs and the bore. If you know your ‘clicks’ it’s no problem, and I dialled in every range.
It wasn’t long before I got my first chance at a shot. After waiting for just 15 minutes I saw the first sign of a snout protruding from one of the burrows.
The bunny was in no hurry and sat there for a good 3-4 minutes before deciding that it was safe to venture out. I let it emerge full from the burrow and into the open before taking my shot.
Even with clean head shots I’ve known rabbits to wiggle their way back to their burrows, resulting in a lost carcass. This cautious little fella was approximately 27 yards away, and presented a very straightforward shot.
It wasn’t until I squeezed the trigger that the real drawback of my FT set up immediately became apparent. My EV2 is fitted with a muzzle brake rather than a silencer and emits a fairly pronounce ‘crack’ once fired.
Although I don’t usually notice it at FT comps, in a quiet wood I think I was more surprised than the rabbit!
I left the carcass where it fell, rather than disturb the area. I hoped that the rather alien sounding report of the EV2 wouldn’t cause too much consternation.
Maybe it was the fact that they were still hungry after the recent snow and ice had covered up their larder, or maybe because they were so used to noise, but it wasn’t too long before another inquisitive nose made its way out into the crisp winter air.
After about 2 hours I’d bagged a total of 7 bunnies from the first location, but my backside was getting a little numb! I collected them up before moving about 200 yards further up the wood, this time taking refuge behind a thick clump of holly.
I didn’t even get time to settle down for my first opportunity and had to take a rather swift kneeling shot. When you’re used to taking kneeling shots at 25mm kill zones, a rabbits head seems huge!
This pattern continued for the next couple of hours, with activity picking up around dusk. I eventually lost the light at around 5.00pm but my foray proved successful, ultimately resulting in a fine bag of 15 rabbits – all of which found their way onto Steve’s butchers counter. It seems there’s still very much an appetite for rabbits, as they didn’t stay there for too long!
So clearly an FT rifle is just as potent a force for taking small game than it’s hunting stable mates. Would I use it as a regular hunting companion? Not a chance! By the time I’d finished the day my arms were pretty tired and my backside almost completely numb.
But from now on when the ‘whiners’ suggest I should really be using a hunting rifle for HFT comps, I can confidently cast a sideways glance and say: “this is a hunting rifle!”
Kit Monkey! – New Product Focus
LaCrosse Silencer 6” Boots
Lacrosse Footwear Europe offer a stylish range of casual, hunting and PAC boots for both men and women. Not only are they packed with innovative performance features, they’re also designed with style and comfort in mind.
I’ve not had them for very long, but I’m already impressed with the performance of my new LaCrosse Silencer 6″ hunting boots. Generous across the foot, but well supported in the arch, the LaCrosse Silencer strikes the right balance between comfort and support.
I’m not one for high leg boots, preferring instead to use a shorter boot, and use a set of gaiters to keep everything clean and dry.
I’m also a great believer that you should be able to feel your way across the terrain, silently and deliberately. Flexibility in the heel and midsole is essential to achieve this.
My hunting boots need to be lightweight and above all, totally dry. The Silencer’s quality flexible leather upper and ‘Hyper-Dri’ waterproof and breathable membrane provide these essential ingredients.
The Lacrosse Silencer 6″ has the perfect combination of performance, grip and flexibility – and that spells trouble for my quarry!
LaCrosse Silencer 6″ Specifications
- 100% waterproof protection
- Lightweight comfort
- Designed to move with your foot
- Quiet sole system that offers superior traction and support
- 6” full grain abrasion-resistant leather upper
- 100% waterproof, moisture transfer Hyper-Dri® membrane
- Aggressive Deer Tracks outsole for rough terrain
LaCrosse Footwear will soon be appointing a new UK agent, but products are currently available through selected stockists.
Check out the online catalogue and find your nearest retailer at www.lacrosseeurope.eu. Retailers are also welcome to contact LaCrosse directly on 0045 7026 1500 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rivers West Field Pro Smock
The Rivers West Field Pro Smock is yet another exciting new addition to the Rivers West range of performance hunting gear for 2011.
Designed in consultation with their team of experienced Pro Staff, the Rivers West Field Pro Smock is the ultimate weatherproof outer layer for the hunter who demands professional performance in the field.
The Field Pro Smock is made from Rivers West mid-weight LAW (Light Weight All-weather) System fabric, which offers the same outstanding weatherproof protection as the Original H2P, but with half the weight!
The Rivers West Field Pro Smock is designed for the very worst weather conditions and packed with useful features.
These include a deep radial collar and snap off hood that is deep enough for a helmet for those of us who use a quad/four wheeler. The hood also features a peaked visor to channel the rain away from your face.
Innovations such as the deep front binocular pocket and handy ammunition strip pocket – both with magnetic closures, ensures all of your critical equipment stays clean and dry too.
For those of us who like ‘extreme stalking’ the side hand-warmer pockets also double up as vents. Put your hands in to use your body heat to warm them up, or leave the vent open to cool you as you climb the mountains – it’s your choice!
- Mid-weight LAW (Lightweight And Waterproof) System fabric
- High ‘Radial’ collar
- Deep snap-off hood with peaked visor
- Weatherproof phone pocket
- Front binocular pocket with magnetic closure
- Ammunition pocket with magnetic closure
- ¼ front zip
- Zippered hand-warmer pockets/vents
- Deep ‘beaver-tail’ rear hem.
March X 8-80×56 Tactical scope.
March Scopes have stormed onto the target scene over the past year, gathering titles across the globe in a variety of shooting disciplines.
Manufactured by Deon Optic in Japan, all march Scopes are assembled by just four highly skilled engineers with many years experience in manufacturing optical instruments.
March Scopes are built to exacting standard, with 3 main objectives:
- Prevent unintentional shift of the point of aim, particularly when altering zoom power
- Provide superior image quality
- Reliability without compromise
The March-X Tactical Series have a 10x magnification ratio zoom range (5-50x and 8-80x). One full rotation of elevation or windage adjustment dials is 10MOA, and one click is 1/8MOA.
As with all high power March scopes, the March-X series scopes incorporate high quality ED lenses to provide superior image resolution.
As with most precision instruments nowadays, you only get what you pay for. The March X 8-80×56 retails for around £2,600 – or £2,800 with an illuminated reticule.
What you get for that is an uncompromising approach to build quality, precision and functionality. I’m planning on replacing all of my optics with March Scopes!
Check out their website at www.marchscopes.co.uk for details