Monday, 20 December 2010

The Home Affairs Select Committee's final response on firearms control - the inquiry initiated following the shooting incidents involving Raoul Moat and Derrick Bird in the summer of 2010 - has now been officially released.

Obviously, the HASC has looked at firearms control on the wider scale and only certain elements of the report are applicable to airgunners -  but what, exactly, does it mean for us?

Well, having now had time to read through and evaluate its 60-odd pages, I must say that I'm very pleased to report that the Inquiry has taken a very balanced, sensible and altogether pragmatic view when it comes to airguns. While they have openly admitted that the 34 (no less!) current pieces of legislation governing the control of firearms places an onerous burden on the police and those members of the public who wish to abide by the law, they have also recognised that thousands of people use firearms responsibly for recreation and work, and puts forward that it has no intention of restricting such activity.

Specifically, when considering measures to combat the misuse of the estimated seven million low-powered airguns in circulation in the UK, the Committee acknowledged three crucial points:

Firstly that there have been a number of recent pieces of legislation to tackle misuse - the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 and the still-to-be-implemented Crime and Security Act 2010 - and that before considering whether or not to incorporate low-powered airguns into the firearms licensing regime, the government should continue to monitor closely the impact of this recent legislation. In this respect, the 2010 Committee very much concurred with the views of its predecessor Committee (of 2000), when the then-government concluded that there was no need for airguns to be brought into the licensing regime. This view was further enforced by the Association of Chief Police Officers who submitted evidence to the 2010 Inquiry, maintaining (as they did in 2000) they were 'not convinced' that applying certificate control to low-powered airguns would 'produce proportionate public safety outcomes'.

Secondly, the Committee was encouraged by the success of the tougher laws, and the enforcement of them. Official Home Office statistics show that since the first of the three, aforementioned new pieces of legislation affecting airgunners - the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act - offences involving airguns have dropped every year, and there are now down by over 56 per cent. The latest, published figures (2008/09) show 6,042 offences relating to airgun misuse, as opposed to the 2002/03 figure of 13,822 - a significant drop indeed when you think how many pellets must be fired each year from those 7,000,000 airguns.

Thirdly, in its submitted evidence to the Committee, the Home Office also stated that the 'vast majority of airguns are used in a responsible and disciplined manner for legitimate purposes' and by shooting clubs as a way 'to introduce new members to the safe handling of firearms' - and they also acknowledged the importance of airguns in the field, citing notes from the National Farmers' Union which state 'the ability for farmers to use airguns is vital for controlling smaller pests'.

While obviously not primary legislation, the recommendations put forward to the government in this report are very fair on the part of the airgun industry and I, for one, heartily agree with their overall synopsis that there should be greater enforcement of the laws already in place, as opposed to creating yet more. 

This, of course, does not mean that we, as airgunners, should become complacent - but it does, for at least the time being, indicate that our sport is not likely to be further legislated against. I'm encouraged...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

FREE MUG - from me to you!

It's coming up to that time of year again - and I've been busy wrapping up these lovely drinking mugs to give away to Airgun Shooter readers as a Christmas present!

These official mugs cost £5.99, but readers of the new Airgun Shooter magazine - already the UK's fastest-growing airgun publication - get one absolutely freeBlaze Publishing, the publishers, are just asking for a small contribution of £2 toward p&p.

You'll find an order form on the December 2010 issue - our Christmas Special (left) - which is in newsagents nice and early, from 4th November. And, of course, it's also available for the iPhone or iPad here.

Or you can telephone them on 01926 339808 with your credit card details to claim your present. As it's Christmas, and the mugs also make ideal gifts for family and friends, I've also talked Blaze into doing a special deal if you want to buy one or more - just ask them nicely and you'll get a festive discount!

Note: Mugs can only be posted to UK mainland postal addresses

Daystate RedRanger - ACCURACY RESULTS

My test report printed in the December 2010 issue of Airgun Shooter magazine alluded to the accuracy tests I'd undertaken with Daystate's fabulous, limited edition RedRanger (no. 019/100). I didn't have room in the magazine to print all the targets, so I'm using my Blog to show you how this supergun performed with various pellets.

As an AirWolf owner, the RedRanger didn't feel too unfamiliar, it being based on the Air Ranger - the 'mechanical' version of Daystate's electronic AirWolf. All the targets shown here were recorded from the stability of either a beanbag (shooting prone) or my IdleBack Chair. And they were shot outdoors; conditions weren't 'perfect', although perfectly manageable.

The rifle was scoped-up with a Hawke Nite-Eye 4-16 x 50 SR6, which I tried to adjust so that the shots struck roughly centre; as you can see, no easy task! But it's the size of the group that's the all-important data to take on board.

The targets you see here are my preferred practise targets these days. I've made them on my computer and print them off as and when needed. The inner bull measures 25mm (1 inch) diameter, the white ring is 35mm (what I consider a hunting 'kill zone') and the outer black ring is 50mm.

As stated in the aforementioned test report, accuracy-wise, the JSB-made pellets from Air Arms (4.52 Field) and Daystate (4.52 FT) performed best, and would be the best diet for RedRanger no. 019. I'd expect the same from JSB's Exacts, but didn't have enough in stock to prove it. RWS Superdomes were, surprisingly, rather loose beyond 30 metres - but Crosman Premier (7.9grn) and H&N Sport's new Field Target (4.50) proved the RedRanger's credentials as an extreme range hunting tool, if that's what you want from it. As you can see below, the JSB brands could achieve 35mm out to 50 metres. While Crosman Premier and H&N Sport's Field Target were accurate enough, I found the Premier blew off course all too easily at ultra long ranges, and the H&N had a more pronounced trajectory, making it less forgiving by comparison with the Air Arms and Daystate ammo.

30m - Air Arms Field 4.52 (JSB)

30m - Daystate FT 4.52 (JSB)

30m - Daystate RangeMaster HE (Prometheus)

40m - Air Arms Field 4.52 (JSB)
40m - Daystate FT 4.52

40m - Crosman Premier 7.9 grains

40m - H&N Sport Field Target 4.50

40m - RWS Superdome Field Line

50m - Air Arms Field 4.52 (JSB)

50m - Daystate FT 4.52 (JSB)

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Rock Creek Saguaro Knife

The beautiful Saguaro lock-back folder from Rock Creek

While I'm no knife aficionado, my eye was recently taken by one of the new range of nine folding lock-back knives from Rock Creek which I spotted on the Bear Arm stand at the recent Midland Game Fair. The range is well priced - from £38.78 to £189.19 - but the model that really stood out for me was the rosewood-gripped Saguaro. At £52.88, it's easily affordable - but, having used it for almost a month, it's now also become the number one knife in my kitbag!

Pronounced Sa-wah-ro - as in the North Arizonian desert cactus - you can see here that it's got a very stylish look about it thanks to the innovative input of talented custom knifemaker, Paul Chen. While Rock Creek dub it a spear-head blade, strictly speaking it's not. In fact, its unique style originated many generation ago in China's Quandong Province - and the origins of its design bear strong links to the surrounding nature. The handle's shape, for instance, is actually based on the Chinese eggplant, while that beautifully-styled, three-inch blade shares its shape with the bamboo leaf.

Of course, while the look of a knife is important - to me at least - what's paramount is the quality of its edge. It's here that the Saguaro really is something special, and what makes it (in my opinion) a real steal at the price, pun intended.

The Saguaro's blade is forged from HWS-2, a high-alloy steel that's proprietary to Hanwei, the world-famous sword-making factory - and it's been formulated with toughness in mind, as well as its edge-holding properties and resistance to corrosion.

The literature accompanying the knife advises the edge hardness is 58-60 HRc which, I confess, means nothing to me - but I can vouch that I've yet to resharpen the blade in spite of giving it some really tough treatment in the field over the past few weeks. It's hacked away bracken and wood, breasted a couple of woodies (which I thought might be a problem with the wide blade, but which actually wasn't) and skinned a couple of bunnies. I found the blade particularly well suited to slicing the meat from the sinew, which is worth doing if you don't want your rabbit meat to leave that after-taste in your mouth.

Its HWS-2 high-alloy steel blade holds an edge well

The blade's also been hollow-ground from 1/8-inch stock, so it's a solid affair with a strong spine - and it opens and closes really solidly, with no play in the joint. Indeed, the 'snap' of it opening and closing is quite beautiful to listen to (and feel). It's built around a stainless frame, and there's a bail for belt-clip attachment. 

Besides looking great, the rosewood grips complement the knife's shape both aesthetically and ergonomically; this knife sits in my palm to perfection... where it balances beautifully, too. In all honesty, I've never handled a folder quite as nice as this - which was a massive bonus given I initially chose the Saguaro on its looks!

I hope you enjoy the short video I've put together. If you want to see the rest of the Rock Creek range - where you can also order them direct - take a butchers here.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Harkila Lynx GTX6 - UPDATE

Harkila's Lynx GTX6 boot - super-comfy even after 39 hours' continuous wearing in the Midland mud!
Okay, so as I mentioned in my previous post, I wore these to the Midland Game Fair. Actually, I as good as lived in them. They were on my feet from 06:00 hrs on the Saturday until 03:00 hrs on Sunday (we had a party - don't ask!), then back on again at 06:30 hrs until I got home at 21:00 hrs Sunday night.

Amazingly, my feet weren't even sweaty. And I mean, as dry as a bone! Despite wearing them continuously for a 39-hour period with just a 3.5-hour break some 21 hours in, my feet came out of the Gore-Tex inners without even a trace of dampness (plus they didn't smell, either).

What's more, they weren't aching, either... and neither was my back, despite being on my feet (standing and walking) for the duration of the very long weekend. I can now say, officially, that these are the most comfortable shoes - let alone walking/stalking boots - I've ever had the pleasure of owning.

On the practical front, my concerns about the soles being a bit slippery are sort of founded. On normal terrain, they're perfect - but it rained a lot over the MGF weekend, and where there was a lot of mud and a reasonable slop, the Harkilas did feel a bit slippery under foot... though I'm not sure well-treaded boots would have been much better. It wasn't a hindrance; I just had to ensure my footfalls were carefully considered.

The Fenix TK12 R5 tactical LED flashlight from The Photon Shop
I went lamping with them last night, trying out the the new Fenix TK12 R5 tactical LED flashilight from The Photon Shop (keep an eye on my Blog for a fuller report soon), and I can tell you that the Lynx is the perfect stalking boot. Even on rough terrain and in the pitch black, you can 'feel' your way brilliantly. 

Given that they look like they're built to last a lifetime from top-quality materials, I can highly recommend the Harkila Lynx GTX - but if you decide to buy a pair mail order, I suggest you go a half-size up on your normal shoe size.

Friday, 17 September 2010

These Boots were meant for Stalking!

Stealth is the prerequisite of an airgun hunter - and I'll never forget the late, great John Darling telling me how important the correct footwear is for stalking. JD used to wear trainers, in fact - he said they allowed him to 'feel' the ground as he inched into range.

I've taken his advice on board; I usually hunt in either my Rocky Pro or Tenaya boots, both of which have soft (well, soft-ish) soles that let me tread with some feeling of what lies underfoot. And for the mucky, winter months, I swear by my Dunlop Wildlife Deluxe wellies which are made of incredibly soft rubber that's also very well insulated against the cold.

The Rockys are a tad weighty and, I must confess, the Tenayas get uncomfortable after a few hours - and as both have done a fair few seasons, I've treated myself to some new hunting boots. They're made by the famous Scandinavian outdoor clothing specialists, Harkila - brought into the UK by Seeland - and I've chosen the Lynx GTX 6 style ankle-boot with JD's immortal words still implanted in my mind.

Harkila Lynx GTX 6 boots
The Lynx is billed by Harkila as their 'ultimate' stalking boot because it's been designed in conjunction with specialist hunters to be incredibly light and flexible. In fact, what caught my attention at first was the fact that Harkila's advertising hype says you get a feeling of walking 'bare foot'! Well, I'm sure some license has been taken there... but the Lynx boot is incredibly light - each foot weighs just 240 grammes! - and the thin sole is flexible enough to let you stalk over most terrain with the sort of stealth every airgun hunter yearns for.

I've only worn them for a couple of easy-going outings so far - to break them in - but I'm intending to wear them for the entirety of this weekend's Midland Game Fair. As I expect to be on my feet in an outside environment for around 16 hours each day, I think I'll get a good idea of how comfortable they're going to be under field conditions. Mind you, the uppers are made of Harkila's 'Memory Fit' material, so I'm sure they'll feel like a well-worn pair of slippers come Monday morning!

Over the next few weeks, I'll bring you a further update once I've used them on a few of my hunting trips. They're a mix of Nubuck leather and Tietex cloth (which is also very silent), and they look very well made - plus the Gore-Tex lining and Texel Tundra changeable liner should stop my feet from getting sweaty and wet.

Gore-Tex lining
The design of the boots has to be seen to be appreciated. Just look at the underside of the insole, which Harkila call their Footbed: it's made of differing density foams and, along with plenty of insulation, has impact-resistant gel inserts at the heel and ball points. 

Footbed insole
I'm not sure how well the Pursch Sole System will cope in slippery conditions, mind you. To me, the tread has been compromised in order to improve the ground-feel - but these guys know what they're doing, so I don't think it'll be like walking on slick tyres in wet weather. 

Pursch Sole System
They're finished in Mossy Oak Break-up camouflage, and the outer's protected with clear, synthetic ribs along with a solid toe-cap. As the GTX 6 is an ankle-boot, there's no need for quick-tie loops, and the laces are well made and slightly elasticated to cope with wet conditions.

Clear side-ribbing
My first impressions of these £130 boots are very favourable - and I'm really looking forward to putting them through their, erm, 'paces' over the next few weeks before bringing you a no-holds-barred report on my Blog. Watch this space...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The new AccuCover - amazing!

What an amazing new gadget we've got in the shooting world - the AccuCover flip-up lens cap that will instantly improve your accuracy by eliminating parallax error and rifle cant. 

It only costs £19.99, too - and although I've known about the product's development for the past four years, it's only in the past few weeks that I've been able to shoot with a full-working production sample. Let me tell you now, all my scopes are going to have one of these fitted onto them - it works that well thanks to its special chevron alignment system. It's also pretty good when you're lamping, too - and I'm looking forward to some improved night-hunting bags this season. 

It's a British concept, designed by and manufactured in the UK for AccuZero and besides a detailed review in the October 2010 issue of Airgun Shooter magazine (on sale from 7th September at newsagents, or as an e-zine from the iTunes Store), I thought I'd put together a short video to explain a bit more about it (below).

If you're as impressed as I am, you can purchase one on-line at AccuZero's dedicated AccuCover website.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Airgun Shooter App now on iTunes

We've been working hard behind the scenes at Airgun Shooter - the fresh new airgun magazine from Blaze Publishing which was launched at the beginning of 2010 - and I'm proud to say that you can now download the magazine onto your iPhone, iPad or iTouch via the iTunes Apps Store!

The 'paper-free' system is already proving a massive hit with readers - especially those overseas - so if you'd like to get a virtual magazine onto your portable reading device, go visit the iTunes Apps Store

And don't forget, you can also receive AirgunTV as a regular podcast on iTunes by typing in 'Airgun TV' in the Search Bar - and if you subscribe (it's free!), you'll receive the latest shows as soon as they're broadcast.

A PCP dedicated for left-handers

If you're a Southpaw fed up with having to 'make-do' with guns designed for right-handed shooting, then you're going to love the new rifle from RWS!

Despite its German-branding, this particular precharged pneumatic has been designed by a famous British airgunmaking name... and is delivered in some rather exotic, Italian-made woodwork. So, an eclectic mix, for sure.

You can read all about the LR20 Carbine - and its longer Rifle stablemate, the LR25 - in the September 2010 edition of Airgun Shooter magazine (subscribe here for a special rate and a great gift) - but why not check out my short video on its fascinating bolt.

In seconds - and with no tools - you can simply swap it from a right-handed operation... to a left-handed one. In conjunction with its ambidextrous stock, it's what makes this the ultimate rifle for airgunners who like to hoist their rifles into their left shoulder...