Ask the experts

Our team of experts solves five more of your burning questions, from calibres to cleaning.

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Contact: colin.fallon@futurenet.com
or post your question to: Sporting Rifle, Future Publishing Ltd, Units 1-3, Sugarbrook Court, Aston Road, Bromsgrove B60 3EX.

Foxing

Q: I am thinking of buying a new Howa 1500 in .223 calibre for foxing. I understand you have one of these and wondered what your opinion was about the floorplate magazine on this rifle compared with a box-type mag.

Mike says: The 1500 Howa is a very good, sensibly priced rifle. I have the .223 version and my shooting partner has the same in .243 calibre. They are both reliable, accurate and pleasant to shoot.

Both are thumbhole laminate, though mine has a Boyd stock fitted. You certainly won’t go wrong if you buy one of these.

As far as the magazine is concerned, personally I did fit a box-type magazine – quite why I’m not sure, but I did. As it happened, it had one main failing: the release catch was all too easy to snag when shooting from the window of the pick-up, causing the magazine to drop out. Not ideal. I went back to the floorplate mag and stuck with it.

Box mag or floor plate? The choice is yours

I think floorplate magazines are a bit like Marmite. I’ve got used to mine and have had no problems with it. I would suggest you stick with the standard floorplate issue and see how you get on with it – I am pretty sure you won’t have a problem.

Optics

Q: I’m investing in a new rimfire set-up and need to decide on an optic. Much as I’d like to have a £2,000 scope on all my rifles, I suspect I don’t need to spend that much for my rimmy. But how cheap is too cheap for a scope for shooting at rimfire ranges, and are there any specific features I should look for or avoid?

Chris says: I agree with you on this issue but don’t disregard the fact that of all the rifle calibres used in the UK, the rimfire is probably the first one suitable for use throughout all light conditions, so don’t put too much down to just the ‘distance’ query. 

As for rimfire scopes, I wouldn’t rule any of them out except for one key factor to consider, and that is the ability to have clear image focus at closer ranges.

Something like a 3-9×50 is ideal on a .22 as it will easily accommodate your aiming requirements on smaller quarry out to, say, 100 metres without parallax issues on 9x – yet at closer ranges, 3x magnification will negate the requirement for adjustable parallax/target focus.

Parallax error is always present yet virtually unnoticeable on low magnification. If you want a higher magnification optic for use on targets at close range, be certain it will parallax down to 10 metres.

As for price, there is no difference to any other rifle category: the more you pay for better glass and mechanics, the later into darkness you will be able to see, with more accurate dialling for precision at longer ranges where the steeply curving trajectory will appreciate ease of correction.

If rabbit control is your job, it’s worth spending the money, but for casual use, don’t feel the need to push the budget if you aren’t pushing the technical specification.

When dealing with a .17 HMR that shows capability beyond a .22RF, perhaps a 4-16×50 will become more appropriate for head shots requiring greater aiming precision.

Don’t skimp on your scope if you have serious pest control to do

High magnification is often a sales tool on inexpensive scopes, simply increasing the size of the target around a fixed-size reticle, yet higher-priced optics will generally have finer etched reticles with crisper image resolution, so the magnification becomes less of a priority.

There is no cap to budget as a rimfire can offer just as many technical challenges as any other scope and what you need it to do is what matters.

The final fact to consider is mounting to the rifle. Rimfires often have short receivers and length of pull, two factors combining to make attaining the correct eye relief a challenge – so make sure you try mounting whatever you buy before you commit.

Foxing

Q: This year I am getting involved in some fox drives on the local estates so I’m thinking of getting a shotgun specially for this. I shall also be doing some lamping using the shotgun. Would you recommend getting a FAC-rated gun?

Mike says: Years ago I shot all my foxes with a semi-auto – to start with, a Franchi five-shot, and later with a Beretta AL 591 three-shot. When I was using the Franchi, I think it would be true to say I never fired all five shots at a fox or even two foxes.

Mike’s trusted Beretta AL391 semi-auto alongside the now more commonly used Anschütz rimfire

In fact it was extremely rare to even fire all three from the Beretta. With the hassle that goes with applying for a FAC (unless you already have one) and the drop in value FAC-rated shotguns seem to attract when it comes to resale, my advice would be to stick to a standard three-shot version.

As a matter of interest, as far as choice of cartridges goes, I would pick BB shot size. I tried all sorts of different-sized shot and even loaded up mixed sizes, but always returned to BB.

Technique

Q: What’s the best type of fox call to use? Can you recommend one?

Mark says: It depends on several things, such as the time of year, the ground you’re shooting over, and whether you have already seen the fox.

If you have already seen the fox and want to draw it closer for a shot, a lip squeak or squeak made by sucking the skin on the palm or back of your hand will often be a quieter, softer call for drawing them in.

As a general call or for drawing them in from further away, the Best Fox Call is very good. This call is made using a reed between two lollipop-shaped bits of plastic and sells for around £10 or £12.

The Fox Pro is an oft-used part of Mark’s calling arsenal

I’ve used this call to pull in many foxes and it can be gripped between the teeth while maintaining a shooting position. The call you use should also match the game found on the ground you’re shooting over, so a fox is familiar with this type of prey.

The other caller to use is an electronic one such as the Fox Pro operated by remote controller and diverting the fox’s attention away from you. This also can mimic many types of call perfectly, such as cub sounds in the spring when they have young or with mating calls when they are pairing up.

Technique

Q: Which is better, a thermal imaging scope or a digital night vision scope for fox shooting?

Mark says: In honesty, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. A night vision unit such as the Pulsar Photon offers excellent value for money in the way of night vision, and like all night vision units can be greatly enhanced with the addition of a separate infrared illuminator such as the PBIR or Wicked Light IR.

Thermal has transformed shooting but NV and even lamps have their place

The disadvantage of NV is that there is the infrared light to give you away. The infrared beam can also be a pain sometimes in that it can bounce back off foliage or tall grass and white out the sight picture, so shooting between branches from a high seat or over a hedge for example can sometimes be difficult. The advantage is that it is cheaper than thermal and gives a clear image of exactly what you’re shooting.

With thermal imagery, there is no IR source to give you away, so the fox has no idea you’re there as long as you abide by the basic rules of fieldcraft.

There is also no IR light to bounce back off anything. Its disadvantages are that identifying your target with 100 per cent confidence, particularly beyond 150.

Rifles

Q: I’ve read Byron Pace’s recent articles in the Calibre Hunter column about increasingly large safari calibres. But what about the opposite – what’s the smallest calibre you can use for hunting in far-flung parts of the world? Are there species abroad you can ethically pursue with a rimfire? Just wondering!

Byron says: Great question, and not something discussed very often. When it comes to rimfires, most many countries have small pest species which can be tackled with them, but for many people, travelling half way around the world to undertake such hunting isn’t all that appealing.

The duiker – one of the Tiny Ten (Credit: Brian Ralphs)

The first thing that springs to mind, however, is the Tiny Ten in Africa, which includes ten of the smallest antelope in the world. Some are little bigger than a large hare. Small centrefire calibres would make an ideal choice, and indeed hunters of these are always conscious of not causing too much damage to the skins.

Here you would be looking for a cartridge that isn’t overly quick in a .22 centrefire. The old .22 Hornet has often been called upon for such hunting. Check out my article on page 60 for more on that calibre.

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