Ask the experts

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

Technique

Q: I’m looking to buy a new sling. Are there any special types I should look at? I’ve seen one with a kind of loop that goes around your arm?

Mike says:The most common type of sling is designed purely for carrying your rifle hands free – but you can actually get more out of it. By passing your supporting arm through the loop from the outside of the rifle and wrapping the sling around your forearm, you can add tension to the sling across your chest, helping you brace the rifle for a steadier shot.

The type of sling that incorporates a loop is often called a ‘slip cuff’ or ‘loop sling’ among other things. This type of sling is often used by the military and in target shooting disciplines.

The idea is that the loop or ‘cuff’ is pulled up around the supporting arm and locked down so the rifle butt is pulled tightly under tension back into the shoulder, taking up the weight of the rifle. The trigger hand is left relaxed of the rifle’s weight, allowing it to concentrate on correct grip and trigger control.

For tactical purposes using automatic rifles, there are various styles of sling based on this principle to help steady the firearm.

There’s more than one use you can get from a sling

Foxing

Q: I am looking to get a rifle suitable for both foxes and rabbits on my smallholding. Have you any suggestions?

Mike says: I think it would be fair to say that as a rule the normal minimum calibre for a foxing rifle would be .223. However, it’s equally fair to say that a .223 is too much gun for rabbits, so you will have to compromise.

You mention you are on a smallholding, so I would expect that to be of limited acreage. This does suggest one particular rifle that could well fill the bill for the dual purpose you are looking for. I have been a fan of the .22 Hornet for many years now.

Using 35gn ammunition it is quite capable of taking out a fox at 175-200 yards, and if you are head or chest shooting rabbits you will be able to salvage the best of the meat for eating.

Recently I’ve been using another Hornet, the newer .17 version. This has proved itself to be an efficient fox round out to 200 yards, and again if you head or chest shoot rabbits the best of the meat will be available.

These small calibre rifles may appear small, but believe me, they will deal with any fox you come across provided you keep the range within the limits I’ve mentioned.

With a decent moderator they are relatively quiet too. When taking on a fox I have found the .17 Hornet works best on frontal chest shots or side on chest shots; it’s not essential to avoid shoulder shots as they can drop a fox, but the previous two target areas are far more effective.

Mike in action with a .17 Hornet rifle

Legal

Q: I noticed recently that some shooting friends of mine carry their firearms certificate in their kit bag so it’s always handy in case they are challenged. I don’t really like that idea in case I lose it. Do I have to produce my certificate on the spot if asked by the police, or can I produce it later at a police station, such as happens with a driving licence after a driving offence?

Stuart says: If you had asked this question in years past, I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer you received was along the lines of, “Don’t worry, keep the certificate in a safe place at home and it’ll be fine”. However, we now live in different times where consistent scrutiny of gun laws and those who carry them is almost a way of life.

I am, of course, obliged to say that you should follow your friends’ example and carry it with you at all times. The risk you run is that your guns can be seized if you are not able to provide sufficient evidence you are entitled to have them in your possession.

Producing your certificate at a police station within 48 hours is not really an option because that could leave you in possession of guns you are not entitled to have. In particular, if you are going any distance, attending any place where you are not a regular or think you may need to buy ammunition, then definitely take it with you.

What about getting a copy made and taking that with you? 

In the field, exercising informed judgement and common sense is essential. A firearms certificate is an important document and if you are shooting locally in the countryside and will be exposed to the elements, I fully appreciate it is difficult to carry an original certificate on your person.

I question whether carrying a black-and-white copy is now sufficient. A colour copy certified and stamped by a professional person would be my preference and will help demonstrate a more conscientious approach to any overzealous policeman, who will then be able to check the details quickly and easily.

Even then I would still recommend keeping the original close by and ready for inspection should it be needed.

If you’re out in weather like this, would you really want to take your original FAC with you?

Technique

Q: What’s the best calibre for long distance fox shooting, and what ammunition would you recommend?

Mark says: That’s a very difficult one to answer! There isn’t really a ‘best’ calibre, more a selection of trade-offs. The heavier the calibre, the better it performs at range, yet ammunition is generally more expensive and noise as well as safety may also be an issue.

A smaller centrefire calibre such as the .204, .222 or .223 is ideal certainly out to a few hundred yards, but with lighter ammunition it will be more affected by wind at greater distance.

I’ve found within the realms of general sporting rifles, the 6.5mm bullet is probably the best all-round compromise option, offering reasonable ammunition costs, good knock-down energy and good accuracy. 

As far as bullet choice goes, a ballistic tip will always be the best option to ensure good ballistics and maximum damage to the target. The brand you choose must be one your rifle will accurately shoot with the correct bullet weight for its barrel twist.

The best accuracy will almost always be achieved through handloading, enabling you to tailor the ammunition to suit your rifle and your type of shooting.

Big or small – there’s more to calibre choice than size
(Credit: Byron Pace)

Rifles

Q: When getting a rifle, which do you prefer: a synthetic or wooden stock?

Mike says: I personally have always much preferred a wooden stocked rifle, but then I have to admit to being old school! My more recent rifle buys have been what you would call ‘halfway houses’ with thumbhole laminate stocks.

On a far more practical note, synthetic is the way to go if the rifle is going to be worked hard, particularly for foxing in the winter at night. Rifles fitted with synthetic stocks will withstand wet weather and knocks, will not warp or twist – all of which are pluses.

In truth, you really don’t want to be worrying about a really nice piece of walnut when stumbling around the countryside in the dark or bouncing about in the back of a pick-up.

At the end of the day it really comes down to your own personal choice, but to answer your enquiry, my heart has always said wood but common sense where a foxing rifle is concerned would have to say synthetic.

Technique

Q: I have just read Mark Ripley’s article ‘Unwanted visitor’ (Sporting Rifle April 2019). He uses his .260 Rem and the Pard 007 MV to shoot his fox. My question is, does the Pard unit work on a scope like Mark’s Nightforce 5.5-22×50, which has parallax adjustment from 50 yards to infinity? I have a Nikon FX 1000 4-16×50, also with parallax from 50 yards to infinity. I have been reading up on the Pard and it says minimum 10 yards to infinity, so can I take it that it works on a parallax adjustable scope even if it only adjusts down to 50 yards?

Mark says: In a nutshell, yes, the Pard works fine with this type of scope, though below 50 yards the image may be slightly out of focus.

As with many add-on NV devices, they actually tend to work better with more budget scopes owing to the degree of lens coatings that have been applied to the scope’s glass.

I’ve used the Pard 007 and Nightforce combination to shoot foxes out to 185 yards, and I’m confident it is capable of further ranges on clear nights. I’ve also used it on an MTC Viper and Sightmark Pinnacle scope, where it performed even better.

The Pard is a versatile unit that adds neatly to the back of a day scope
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