Swapping between different rifle scopes – the latest Q&A

Our experts are back to answer more of your questions, including covering fox cubs, camo, and culling.

Sporting Rifle experts:


Question: I have bought a night vision riflescope, and as the seasons are changing, I find myself swapping scopes around between rifles, daylight/night vision back and forth, etc. I was told that that the rib on the underside of a Picatinny mount should be pressed forward into its slot to resist recoil, but I’m finding I have to change the whole setup of the rings for each rifle on the daylight optics, yet the night vision seems to swap more easily without alteration. Why is this?

Chris Parkin says: Look on the underside of the night vision scope’s rail, and you will likely find it only has a single cross bar that locks into the nearest recoil slot in the rail, so unlike the separate rings on your day scopes, it won’t notice the difference in spacing between Weaver or Picatinny specification. 

Although they look similar, these are different enough that two perfectly set-up rings for a tubed scope on a Picatinny rail will not slot neatly into position on a Weaver rail without moving at least one of them to match the slot spacings. Just for the record, I really dislike Weaver for this reason, especially when showing intermittent-sized lugs, as well as spacing for their slots, which should all be identical.


Question: I’m fairly new to foxing, and am having a few problems! The main one being the land I shoot over has very little cover, and more often than not they see me before I get the chance of a shot. How would you deal with this, and what sort of ranges would you shoot at?

Mike Powell says: It’s never easy to give advice where land conditions are concerned without seeing it. However, the question you ask raises quite a few queries. Firstly, safety must take precedence over everything else; you really do need to survey your ground to ascertain where safe shots can be taken. Once you’ve done this, the next thing is to get the foxes to come to you.

I’m assuming you are shooting at night? Try putting out some bait to get them used to coming to that spot, then another idea is to shoot from your vehicle. These days foxes are remarkably tolerant of cars, etc, and providing you park with a bit of a background, say a tree or hedge, there is every possibility a fox will come within range.

You will need to keep still in the vehicle, and it may take a while, but I shoot the majority of my foxes from a stationary vehicle, so it’s well worth a try. A decent digital caller can draw them in, something like the ICOtec of Foxpro works very well. Limit yourself to perhaps 150 yards, and you should be fine.


Question: During the course of this year so far, my fellow shooters and I have witnessed a marked increase in poaching. We have banded together to help the local landowners put a stop to it, but it would be helpful to be reminded of the underlying law in this area so we can be sure the poachers get their comeuppance. Can you assist?

Credit:Flickr / Jessie Hodge

Stuart Farr says: Poaching is a menace, and has a long history. This is reflected in the fact much of the primary legislation relied on for criminal prosecutions goes back to the 19th Century. Section 30 Game Act 1831 creates two offences for trespassing on land during the day in search of game. Which offence is charged depends on the number of people involved, because if there are five persons or more then the potential penalty is higher. 

Night time poaching is addressed under the Section 1 Night Poaching Act of 1828. Again, this legislation creates two offences. Firstly, it is an offence if, by night, a person ‘unlawfully’ enters onto land and takes or destroys game
or rabbits. 

Secondly, it is an offence if, by night, a person is unlawfully on land with a gun, net engine or other instrument for the purpose of taking or destroying any game. ‘Game’ is defined under section 13 of the 1828 Act as including hares, pheasants, partridges, grouse, heath or moor game and bustards. It does not include rabbits, and therefore only the first limb can be charged if a rabbit was the subject of the poacher’s activity. 

The third piece of primary legislation is the more controversial Hunting Act 2004. Sections 1 to 5 are of most relevance to activities involving hunting with dogs and particularly hare coursing. The 2004 Act sparked a plethora
of case law on these banned activities, but nonetheless remains an important tool for dealing with poaching and related illegal activities.


Question: I have always used a lamp for foxing, but having seen videos and read articles on the subject and been on various websites, I’m totally confused as to whether I should switch to thermal night vision. I know you have used a variety of these – what would you use if you were starting off?

Mike Powell says: Firstly, you don’t need night vision to shoot foxes – I shot thousands long before NV and thermal were ever thought of! However, there is no doubt these modern aids certainly enhance your night shooting experiences and, without any doubt you will learn a lot about your quarry.

The downside is that decent equipment is not cheap. However, prices are coming down. The best item is a thermal spotter – it needn’t be a top of the range model. A decent add-on night vision unit to use in conjunction with a one is the PARD007. It works with a decent IR torch out to around 150 yards.

The best advice I can offer is that you try and locate someone who has NV gear, and see what you make of it. Thermal is undoubtedly a game changer, but as I started by saying, a good lamp and a knowledge of fieldcraft will always get you some foxes.


Question: While out stalking in recent months, I have taken to carrying a catapult, which I use after my rifle hunting session, mainly for squirrels. However, it occurred to me to ask whether I need a licence or something similar to hunt with it. I carry all the paperwork with me for my rifle, but I don’t want to get caught out simply for having a different type of weapon with me while out hunting. Please advise.

Credit: Flickr / Michael Pollak

Stuart Farr says: In my humble opinion, catapults greatly complement other shooting activities, especially rifle hunting. They are easily transportable, being ‘pocket sized’, are cheap to buy, and require very little maintenance. They are practically silent, and yet can be pretty powerful. There are no legal restrictions on their purchase, and they don’t require a licence, although if you actively hunt with one, always obtain permission from the landowner – which you would need to do anyway if you are rifle hunting.

That said, they can be classed as an offensive weapon. They became particularly popular in the UK during the 1940s and 1950s, but did acquire a mixed reputation due to vandalism which, to some extent, still prevails. Therefore. common sense needs to prevail as to where you carry a catapult and the reasons why.

They can be used for hunting smaller quarry such as squirrels, rabbits and pigeons and are more than capable as an effective hunting tool provided, of course, you put in plenty of practice first. I found that 9mm steel ball bearings are ideal for hunting, but for practice there’s plenty of cheap biodegradable alternatives on the market.


Question: I’ve read a couple of articles where people have shot foxes with air rifles. What is your opinion on this?

Mike Powell says: Some years ago, I wrote an article in Sporting Rifle where I described how I’d shot a fox with my FAC rated Air Arms S410. To say it raised a storm would be no understatement! I don’t know why though, as even back then, that rifle was extremely accurate, and was quite capable of putting a pellet thorough a one and a half centimetre pine board, which is much thicker than a fox’s skull. Air rifles have come on in leaps and bounds, and while I would never suggest an air rifle was a true foxing rifle, there are air rifles that people shoot boar with!

At the present moment, I am testing a Hatsan Hercules air rifle that is running at almost 50 foot pounds. It’s a beast, and isn’t something you would want to cart round the fields. However, from a vehicle or static point it is more than capable of killing a fox IF, and this is the crucial point: the user has the confidence and ability to put the pellet exactly where it needs to be.

Even with 40 ft lbs rated, air rifle fox ranges are limited – 30 to 40 yards should be the maximum. But air rifles, even FAC rated ones, are not true fox rifles in any stretch of the imagination.


Question: I have started using a tripod rest for foxing, and am having some undiagnosed misses that I can’t trace back. Should I swap scopes to check there isn’t a problem with my zero?

Chris Parkin says: Although swapping scopes to diagnose a possible problem is never a complete waste of time, you mentioned your concern since adopting a tripod rest; are you checking zero with the gun using this rest and/or with it clamped in position? 

I would suggest that if you are using a clamp type rest rather than a rail mount, like ARCA, you should check to make sure when you clamp the rifle’s forend that it isn’t actually being compressed, forcing the forend’s sidewalls to shift and causing intermittent contact with the barrel. 

Free floating barrels are great, right up to the point that they contact anything that disturbs their harmonics, and I have had a few lightweight sporting rifles with slender polymer stocks that squeezed in just enough to tease the barrel’s ‘mood’, so to speak.

If so, perhaps look at positioning the stock closer to the action and decreasing the clamping force slightly. Please let us know if this corrects your issue – it has for me.

Got a question?

Contact: ollie.harvey@futurenet.com or post your question to:
Sporting Rifle, Future, Quay House,
The Ambury,
Bath BA1 1UA.

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