Thursday, 12 July 2012

CLA Game Fair 2012 - CANCELLED

Sadly, I have to report that the countryside extravaganza that is the CLA Game Fair - this year taking place at Belvoir Castle, Grantham in Leicestershire - has been cancelled.

Another major casualty of the inclement British summer we're experiencing, and a major loss not only for the show organisers, but also for the many traders who rely on the business they do both at, and subsequent to, the Fair.

A shame - I'm sure most show-goers (and exhibitors) would be more than happy to brave the weather with Barbours and wellies... but this is Britain, and all the red-tape that surrounds these public events was simply too much to cut through... even for the Country Land and Business Association.

CLA Director General Helen Woolley said: "I am extremely sad to say the heavy rain in the run-up to this year's CLA Game Fair has left us with no choice but to take the heartbreaking decision to cancel the show. It is a devastating blow for the CLA team, contractors, exhibitors and the hoards of visitors and guests who make the CLA Game Fair the world's greatest country show.

"I feel enormously sorry for all those who were so looking forward to this year's event. The CLA Game Fair will return next year."

More can be found on the Game Fair's website here.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


The Shooting Show: sub-12ft/lb .177 Air Wolf v rimfire .17HMR 

It's often a question I'm asked - which is best: rimfire or air rifle? It's usually followed by a further question, relating to the air rifle: sub-12ft/lb or FAC-rated?

There's probably no 'right' answer - each has their merits as explained in the video shot for TheShootingShow channel on YouTube, where I was invited along to shoot rabbits with my 11ft/lb .177 calibre Air Wolf alongside a .17HMR pest controller on his patch of land.

In the (fairly short) time we each had, the score was 2-2 - though I picked up both my bunnies, and Mark, the .17 shooter, only one as he unfortunately had a 'runner'.

The grass was very long, and there was a strong breeze, so even though I had a great vantage point on top of the 4x4, I chose to limit my range. As tempting as the bunnies were at 50 yards, off a bipod, the land was alien to me and the conditions just added that little bit too much of a risk. My rabbits were therefore taken at 38 and 43 yards (I used a laser rangefinder to mark points beforehand).

Mark took his rabbits around 20 yards further on - and could easily have stretched that range further if it wasn't for the stems of the long grass blowing about in the breeze.

We shooters agreed that for out-and-out pest control, the rimfire probably had the advantage - but Mark (who hasn't shot an air rifle in years) was suitably impressed with the air rifle's capability... and the fact that it was so accurate even in the wind on 40 yarders. Plus, of course, this head-to-head finished even-stevens.

That said, we were both minced by the 'third' competitor in the challenge - long nets!

Watch the full video here.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


I took a couple of diver's scuba tanks - which  I use for filling my precharged pneumatic air rifles - into the dive centre this morning... and found out something that I never knew. 

One needed to be sent away for a full hydrostatic test; the other was still 'in date' and could be filled there and then. As many PCP owners will know, if you fill up from an air bottle, for that scuba tank to be itself filled with breathing air by a diving centre, it must be 'in test'. 

But this is where things get complicated. Surface-use-only valves only need to be tested every five years (a full, hydrostatic test). Those bottle with valves which could be used underwater for diving - regardless of whether they are or not - need to be tested every two-and-a-half years. The tests alternate between a visual and a hydrostatic test.

How to tell which type of valve you have? Well, if your tank has a gauge pre-fitted to the valve - like this slow-flow 'Jubilee' valve from MDE (below) - it's 'surface-use-only and requires a full hydrostatic test every five years. 
Surface-use-only valve (it's got an integral gauge)

However, if it has not got an integral gauge fitted, like the one below, then even if you tell the diving centre that you've never taken it underwater, they will still treat it as a below-surface valve and, as such, the bottle to which it's attached will need to be tested every two-and-a-half years - visual, hydro, visual, hydro... and so on.
Below-surface valve (no integral gauge)
But here's the thing I learned from my dive centre this morning. If you have a bottle with a below-surface valve, make sure you get it into the dive centre pretty close to its test date when it's due for the visual test - because if you leave it too long after, the dive centre will probably want to give it a full hydrostatic test. This, of course, costs around twice as much!

I learned the hard way. Although my bottle was technically due a two-and-a-half year visual, because I'd left it almost a year - as it was full at 'clockover' date, and because it's only my 3-litre 'emergency' bottle which I rarely use, I'd had no cause to take it in to the dive centre - I got thumped with a £42 bill instead of a £25 bill!

So... I just thought I'd pass this info on. Check your scuba bottle's test expiry date - either etched in the bottle, or on  a sticker - and don't leave it too long afterwards before you decide to take it to your dive centre for its scheduled test! 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Diana 280 - tune-up

The standard length Diana 280 - a rifle which responds well to a tune-up
While I tend to do the majority of my hunting with a PCP these days, I'm still very much a committed springer fan. One of the new rifles that's really tempted me into parting with my cash is the Diana Mod 280 break-barrel; it's very reminiscent of my old Feinwerkbau Sport, being lightweight, well balanced, sleek and with quite a snappy firing cycle. 

Actually, a little too 'snappy' in my favourite, shorter-barrelled 'K' configuration - which, I believe, is a UK-only model. Anyway, that's why I didn't succumb to adding one to my armoury.

Then I met up with keen airgunner, Tony Leach, at this year's British Shooting Show who'd just bought a UK-specced Diana 280K with the intention to tune it up. I know him to be pretty much a dab-hand at getting the best out of springers, so I asked him if he'd let me know how it turned out - which he's now done courtesy of his AirgunTech blog, here.

Having read it, I think I'm probably going to treat myself to a Diana 280 - the 'K', I reckon - and then give it to Tony to work his magic on. Just as I thought when I tested the original Mod. 280 (pictured), it's a lovely little air rifle with a massively huge potential if worked upon.  

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

BSA resumes spring gun production in Birmingham - UPDATE

BSA springers - UK production now not confirmed after all...

Well, BSA are certainly springing us some surprises. No sooner does Martin Lowe, MD of BSA Guns, ring me with the news of spring gun production resuming at their Birmingham factory... than he's replaced as MD by Simon Moore, BSA's former General Manager!

The shock change of personnel at the top was accompanied with a press release from Britain's iconic gunmaker which says, I quote:

'Simon also commented upon the recent communication that BSA Spring Guns are imminently returning to Birmingham. "I rule nothing in nor out at this stage. However, the strategic direction of BSA as a brand is under review. Manufacturing location is not important, technical expertise, and heritage is the key. No decision has been made on the issue at this time."'

I've since spoken with Simon, who refused to be drawn either way regarding the information that the previous incumbent had informed myself (and others within the airgun industry) - but one thing I can confirm is that PCP manufacture looks set to remain in Birmingham. Indeed, Simon says so in the press release:

"Birmingham is the group's 'Centre of Excellence' for PCP design and manufacture, (and will remain so!), as well as a major design authority and provider of engineering knowledge on the group's Spring Guns."

But whatever, I guess it means it's most unlikely that I'll be visiting the BSA factory this month to grab a UK-made Lightning XL after all! 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

BSA resumes spring gun production in Birmingham

I've just got off the phone with Martin Lowe, the MD of the Birmingham Small Arms Company, aka BSA Guns - with fantastic, breaking news.

He tells me that, from next month, production of BSA spring guns will be returning to their historic Birmingham factory from Spain, starting with the BSA Lightning XL... and he's even invited me up there to take one of the very first guns off the UK production line to test it for myself in Airgun Shooter magazine.

I can't wait - and I'm sure I speak on behalf of all UK airgunners when I say: "Welcome back to Britain, BSA!"

BSA Lightning XL - soon to be made back at BSA's Armoury Road, Birmingham factory 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

First Look - Diana P1000 PCP

Well, it's taken them over 25 years... but the great airgunmaking name of Diana has finally joined the ranks and delivered us a precharged pneumatic air rifle! And the great thing is, their new P1000 14-shot PCP is anything but behind the times!

It's supplied with both a 14-shot, rotary magazine and a single-shot loading system, and it looks quite radical, with a two-piece stock design that's available in either sporter or thumbhole guises. Supplied in either .177 (4.5mm) or .22 (5.5mm), Diana are producing the P1000 in three power formats to suit various markets, from 7.5J to a full-fat version that can kick out around 1,150fps in .177, or 950fps in .22. You can also buy the P1000 with or without a silencer to screw on the 1/2in UNF threaded muzzle.

It's cocked via a sidelever action and has a screw-off cylinder as its powerplant, which is filled to 300BAR for a return of up to 280 shots (.22; 240 in .177) from the specially regulated action - each of them recoilless.

Although I'm currently testing the rifle for a detailed test report in Airgun Shooter magazine, you can get a brief insight into what I think is a very nice rifle indeed on AirgunTV.

Monday, 23 January 2012

AIRGUN TV hits 1 million views

A great way to start the week - someone emailed me to say that my AirgunTV channel on YouTube has now clocked over the 1,000,000 views mark!

I'm very proud, and would like to send out a warm, personal 'thank you' to everyone who has supported the channel.

If you haven't yet subscribed, please do so. You'll find the channel here.  

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Derbyshire Police Statement on Airguns

It saddens me to read this on the website of the regional paper, the Burton Mail. For two reasons. 

One - that there are still a handful of mindless morons out there who tarnish the responsible reputation of the vast majority of airgunners with their utter disrespect of the law.

And two - that the ever-increasing number of laws this Government keeps introducing to impose further restrictions on young airgunners clearly isn't working. The 43 offences involving airguns - and we don't know, exactly, what those offences were, but that they involved 'air rifles and BB guns' - spiked between 15:00 and 18:00 which, the report suggests, implies a high proportion of young offenders.

When will they learn that the real issue is not about introducing a constant barrage of legislation, but effective education? Stopping youngsters being involved with airguns (in a responsible, controlled environment) is actually not conducive to teaching them the good rudiments of safe gun handling and a responsible attitude toward shooting? 

I was taught how to handle a gun at a very early age, and I can actually clearly remember reprimanding my peers when they ever contemplated misusing the airguns we had access to as teenagers! Many kids 'want a go' with an airgun; why on earth don't we give them that go... but with all the expert guidance that will ultimately stop them misusing airguns?

However, I was heartened to read the end paragraph: "Officers are now regularly visiting schools to educate youngsters about the risks, dangers and consequences of using air weapons." Bravo! That's exactly what's needed - and I don't mind betting that, this time next year, the number of offences involving airguns will, actually, have fallen in the Derbyshire area!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Electric Airguns - the way forward?

The heart of Daystate's electronic air rifles - this is an 'MCT' motherboard
It's always baffled me: how come we don't see more electrically-powered airguns? After all, in the world of airsofting, they're the bee's knees!

Of course, soft airguns are a totally different kettle of fish to airguns - but the question still stands. And I ask it as a long-standing user of Daystate's electronically-powered models. Since the launch of the MK3 at the very end of 2002, actually; after I'd finished testing that rifle, I ended up buying it, ultimately trading it in for an Air Wolf once I got my hands on that buddy-bottle model to do a review a few years later!

In the late 1980s, Feinwerkbau released a match-oriented air pistol - the Model 90 - which featured an electronic trigger, and Steve Harper (the airgun designer/engineer who's had a hand in the Daystate electrics) produced a pistol - also called the Wolf - which used a solenoid-operated trigger to release the shot. And back in the very early Nineties, Browning imported an electrically-cocked rifle made by the Belgian firm Rutten (The Air Star) which used a battery-powered gear system to wind back the piston. It was seen as a useful option for disabled shooters - although when I was invited over to their workshops to view its production for myself, I recall I was far more interested in what I saw when I was taken for a surprise visit to the nearby workshops of FN!

With the exception of the Daystate(s), all the aforementioned electric guns lasted but a short time. So why is it that the Daystate version - which is now seen on the MK4 derivatives and the Air Wolf - is still with us and pretty much seen as the ultimate air rifle to own by many an airgunner? Perhaps it's because it's not just the trigger that's electronic, but the entire action which uses an on-board computer system to regulate the valve opening and air release.

But as a long-time user of this highly innovative airgun system, I'm still baffled as to why it's only Daystate who market such a rifle. The fact that they continue to persevere with the system (though I'm not sure 'persevere' is the right word here), suggests to me that they're clearly on to a winner.

I recently compared the latest version of their Air Wolf - far more up-to-date than my own gun - with its conventional, mechanically-driven equivalent (the Air Ranger). You can read my in-depth review in the January 2012 edition of Airgun Shooter magazine - a digital copy of which is available from PocketMags - and watch a detailed video test on AirgunTV.

Make up your own minds: do electronic airguns have a future? (I certainly think they do...)  

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Hunting with David James

Well, with the rotten weather we're having here in the UK at the start of 2012, I'm glad I know this particular airgunner - David James of YouTube (HuntersVermin) and Airgun Shooter fame! 

Why? Well, while I'm couped-up inside, I've got plenty to do watching his brand new hunting DVD, "Corvid Chaos", and following his step-by-step film on how to make a cheap Ghillie Suit from nothing more than some old camouflage netting.

You can watch the Ghillie Suit film over on AirgunTV - and/or read about it in February's issue of Airgun Shooter magazine, which is in UK newsagents from 5th January and available as a digital edition for computers and mobile devices from PocketMags.

Meanwhile, his feature-length, double-disc Corvid Chaos hunting DVD is available for the special price of just £14.99 - and having watched it countless times over the festive holiday period, I can tell you its worth every single penny.

The film took David almost two years to put together the two, one-hour-long DVDs, but they're crammed with top-dog pest control footage of crows and magpies, including the crafty 'grey-back' crows native to his Northern Ireland hunting grounds.

But there are also scenes devoted to rabbit stalking, woody decoying and hide-building, all very professionally presented with on-gun film footage of the forays and accompanied by David's 'director's cut' narrative. (I just love his accent!) The hunts divulge numerous tips and advice from this very experienced hunter - and although he uses air rifles rated at 15ft/lb and above, the methods he uses rarely require long-range shots to be made, this making the twin-disc DVD set very valuable to any sub-12ft/lb hunter.

Actually, for the money, it's got to be the bargain of 2012. Get it here - or order by phone on 01926 339 808.

Friday, 2 December 2011

12 Days of Christmas Gift Giveaways

All these prizes can be won from Airgun Shooter Magazine
So, Christmas is a-coming... and it could be your stocking that's getting fat, thanks to the Airgun Shooter 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways!

It's already started (sorry - I'm late on this one) - and with a total prize pot of over £595, it's well worth getting involved with. How? Simple - just make sure you've 'liked' Airgun Shooter's Facebook Page (click here to go to it)... and then your name automatically goes into the hat ready for the random prize draws taking place every day from 1st to 12th December 2011.

At the moment, the odds are looking good - with 16 prizes being shared among (at current count) 365 'likers'.

It doesn't cost anything to enter - just a click of that 'Like' button - and, as you can see from the image above, there's a wide range of cool airgun stuff up for grabs.