Ask the experts

Our team of experts solves five more of your burning questions, from cabinets to camo


Q: NV and thermal scope manufacturers of late seem to be increasing the eye relief of their scopes – up to 90mm from the likes of 45mm or even less. They all seem to be making a big fuss about this, but what advantages does it actually confer?

Chris says: We currently see NV and thermal as equipment for smaller calibres used when controlling vermin and foxes at night, but the US market and increasingly for night use permits in the UK, bigger calibres are being used for larger species – which means more recoil. 

Quite simply, more eye relief keeps you from hitting yourself in the face with the scope when the gun is fired – but be wary of excessive eye relief, especially with limited mounting space on the scope itself or with a short-actioned rifle like a rimfire.

The latest Pulsar Thermion and ATN X Sight have 30mm tubes where NV units once had large boxy bodies, and this has allowed more conventional scope-mounting solutions with associated ergonomics.

The Pulsar Thermion is one of a new wave of NV/thermal scopes with a more ‘classic’ form factor

The Thermion has 50mm of eye relief, the ATN a little more, but what is more noticeable is the improvement of the Thermion over the previous Trail for a more versatile eye box, allowing a little more head movement within the visible exit pupil while retaining focus.

I always found the Trail to have only a pinprick-sized area of focus, even though the whole screen was visible without the vignettes we used to see so quickly when drifting away from centre on daylight optics.

In short, NV and thermal image quality isn’t advancing as quickly as the form and function of the devices themselves to suit rifle use and the shooter ergonomics we have familiarised ourselves with for so long.

This is really important to consider, because all the electronic image trickery and accessories on earth can’t make up for something that won’t fit a human, their eyes or rifle.


Q: What’s your opinion of sound moderators – do you use them for foxing and do you think they are essential? I am getting my first centrefire rifle for foxing and would really like to not have a mod fitted as I think it spoils the whole appearance of the rifle.

Mike says: My opinion of sound moderators is that they are increasingly an essential part of our equipment. Yes, they do spoil the lines of any rifle, as well as altering the balance and potentially corroding your barrel if not religiously removed after use.

The list of cons goes on – but there are also many pros as well. They protect your hearing, reduce recoil and don’t disturb the area in which you’re shooting nearly as much as an unmoderated rifle.

Mike in the field with his moderated .22 Anschütz

On the actual shooting side, to my mind their biggest advantage is the fact that they mask the direction from which the shot came. Several times over the years I have taken a shot at a fox, generally with a hedge bank backstop, and missed. In some instances the fox, hearing the bullet strike, has run directly towards me as it has no idea  where the shot came from.

Many years ago when I was starting out shooting, my friend and I both had .22s with Parker Hale mods. I remember standing facing a haystack, getting my mate to take a shot somewhere else in the field, and I had to guess where the shot had come from.

I was amazed at how difficult that was – in fact it was almost impossible. Ever since then I’ve always used a moderator.


Q: Let’s say my friend, shooting partner or a family member, who has a firearms certificate and keeps guns in a safe in their house, has suddenly passed away.

How do I or the grieving relative get access to their family member’s rifles, shotguns and ammunition without breaking the law? What happens with the gun cabinet keys? I understand no one but the firearm or shotgun owner should have access, and they should be the only person to know the whereabouts of the keys.

So how are they even meant to be located, and once found, what is to be done with them? 

Stuart says: You are correct that only authorised persons should have access to the keys for any cabinet used to store firearms and the Firearms Security Handbook (which is available to download) advises caution in relation to the storage of keys to avoid them being discovered or improperly used.

This can, theoretically, give rise to problems if a certificate holder dies. Normally, the person with conduct of the deceased’s affairs after death (usually the executor or the personal representative or someone who has inherited) can apply to the police for a permit which allows the possession of the guns to be transferred pending winding up the deceased’s estate.

Such permits normally contain conditions and are valid for a limited period. A combined death and loss of keys may mean a professional locksmith is be needed to gain access.

Taking possession of cabinet keys? You’re likely to require a permit or even the physical presence of an officer

In that event, if the locks are changed the new keys should, strictly speaking, be handed only to the permit holder. Obtaining the permit first may therefore be necessary if the keys cannot be located fairly quickly but it would be wise to consult with the local firearms department on the matter because these scenarios can be fact sensitive.

If, for any particular reason, they wish to inspect the guns before the permit is released or the deceased lived alone and new security measures need to be implemented, the firearms department could insist on being present when the cabinet is opened so they can make immediate alternative arrangements for their safe keeping.

This process could, for example, be facilitated through a local registered firearms dealer.


Q: One of my landowners has stipulated that I change to non toxic bullets.

For small deer I shoot a .222 with a 22in barrel, 1-in-14 twist. So far I have been unable to find a factory load that is deer legal and will stabilise in my barrel.

Barnes have confirmed that their TSX (not TTSX) 50gn bullet will stabilise, but is not factory loaded. Is there a round out there that’s good enough for me, or will I need to home load?

Mark says: Unfortunately, factory ammunition with non-lead loads is few and far between, and even more so for the .222!

The only factory load I can find for the .222 loaded with a lead-free bullet is frustratingly loaded with a 45-grain bullet, so therefore is not deer legal, though you could use it for fox and vermin if your certificate allows.

This ammunition, as well as factory ammunition for other calibres and non-toxic bullets for reloading, is manufactured by Fox Bullets and is available from Edinburgh Rifles and Sporting Goods – find them at or on Facebook @Foxbulletseurope.

Non-lead bullets are a growing market but still lack in readily available options

I would suggest you contact them and enquire as to available ammunition.

Failing that, you could either reload yourself or contact a custom ammunition supplier who would develop a load for your rifle and get the best performance from it using either Barnes or Fox Bullets.

I would recommend you contact Simon from Precision Rifle Shooting at for help with this.


Q: Now that the nights are drawing in, do you alter the times you go out after foxes? Is daytime foxing any good at this time of year?

Mike says: Yes, I certainly do alter my night-time activities as far as foxes are concerned, particularly when the clocks go back. Many years ago I always started out after foxes about 10pm – quite why I can’t recall, probably because I believed this was the time they became active.

Now I know better, helped of course by that game-changer, the thermal imager. Being able to observe foxes without them knowing you are there enables you to learn a lot more about them.

The longer hours of darkness present new opportunities for the foxer

Foxes do not have the same concepts of time that we do. They start out on their nocturnal hunting expeditions as darkness closes in – so when the clocks go back they will be active from about 7pm onwards.

Sometimes this may be delayed a little because of human activity, but at this time of year I find I can get most of the foxes I’m after and be home by, at the latest, 10pm. Ideal!

As far as daytime foxing is concerned, I find that as the nights are long and days short, fox activity is, for the most part, limited to the hours of darkness. So I rarely go out after them during the day at this time of year.


Q: What’s the best camouflage clothing to wear for daytime foxing? Is the Realtree camo pattern the best one?

Mark says: I’m not an avid wearer of camo clothing as a rule. Well, I do wear a camo jacket, but that’s more about the jacket itself than the pattern.

There’s no doubt camo helps hide your shape and is a must when shooting sharp-eyed birds such as magpies and crows. However, staying still is by far the best camouflage you can use. Making use of natural cover and sharpening your fieldcraft is also essential. 

Mark opts for a camouflage jacket on a winter’s foxing outing

Two things I do look for in shooting clothing are warmth and waterproof features. I’ve always found Deerhunter clothing to be of excellent value, giving years of service and keeping out the weather. I use one of their Rusky jackets in winter and very often a good part of the year without the inner jacket, which can be removed.

Of course, there are many brands of clothing that will do the job and, within reason, it’ll come down to your personal taste. There certainly is no universal ‘best’ pattern.

The only thing I’d say is that if you regularly come into contact with members of the public on the way to or from hunts, then camouflage clothing can come across as a little ‘military’ and perhaps worrying to some if you’re dressed from head to toe in it.

Send your questions to: or post your question to:
Sporting Rifle,
Future Publishing Ltd,
Units 1-3, Sugarbrook Court,
Aston Road,
B60 3EX.

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