Our experts solve more of your burning questions, including how self-isolation can impact your FACs
Question: Having been a shotgun user for many years – for both clays and game – I was recently asked to shoot foxes on land owned by the farmer where I usually do my game shooting. This has prompted me to consider purchasing a rifle. Earlier this year I started the application process of getting a coterminous certificate but the process has been delayed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, is there anything I should know about security? The police have the details of my shotgun cabinet but so far haven’t given me any advice or comment about security while my application process is held in abeyance.
Stuart Farr says: You don’t specify the type of cabinet you presently have installed but it’s construction should generally conform to (British Standard) BS7558 and while it may be stating the obvious, do make sure there is sufficient capacity in there to store your impending rifle purchase.
The main point to remember about rifles is that your security needs to include an additional storage container for rifle ammunition. This could be detached or built into or onto your existing cabinet and ideally should comply with BS7558 in terms of construction.
You will also be encouraged to store removal components of the rifle (such as the rifle bolt) separately too so, again, you need to make sure the additional storage space has adequate capacity, is installed in the appropriate place and with the correct fixings.
It is advisable also to review the overall security measures for your household and make improvements where that might be appropriate and proportionate.
Don’t forget also to inform the police as to where you will be shooting in order that an inspection can be carried out if necessary and approval granted for that purpose.
Question: What does backlash mean with reference to parallax control in riflescopes?
Chris Parkin says: Backlash is the free movement or play felt through the mechanical system within the scope’s tube that physically alters the spacing between lens packages. Imagine you are trying to adjust out parallax for a target at 275 metres.
You are rotating the dial on the side of the scope and go past the sweet spot and realise you have ‘missed’ your perfect position. So, you decide to go back and try again but you notice the dial actually rotates slightly before the focus/parallax changes. Well, this is backlash and basically is sloppy free play in the mechanical system.
No mechanism can exist without spacial tolerances to allow free movement but there have to be limits and generally, the parallax control on a scope is where you will most regularly notice its undesirable presence.
Question: I am concerned that the decision to move to lead-free ammunition is going to have an adverse impact on my own ability to shoot game in the future. I load my own ammunition and affordability is a key concern for me. Is it going to become law that we have to go lead-free and, if so, is there anything I can do in order to get around the requirement when it arrives?
Stuart Farr says: Of course, the recent announcements earlier this year regarding the transition to lead-free ammunition applied principally to shotgun ammunition. It has not been officially proposed for rifle ammunition although I suspect there will be those who are both for and against the concept.
Rifle ammunition presents its own set of unique technical problems when it comes to going lead free and not least because certain non-lead ammunition products presently require a high degree of precision in manufacture which could be difficult to emulate for those who self-load.
This will inevitably, I expect, make these products more expensive when compared with their lead-based counterparts; but if or when they become more popular with shooters, it is often the case that economics and market trends generally help to drive the price down over time.
At present, no legislation has been prepared to address the issue and I doubt we will see this for some time to come. If or when it does, it will be a matter of reviewing what it specifically covers in order to see whether there are any exceptions which might apply.
Question: As it won’t be too long before this season’s cubs will be out hunting have you any tips for dealing with them?
Mike Powell says: Assuming we are able to actually get out and about by the July/August period there should, by then, be some early cubs out and about on their own, or possibly with siblings. Unless you know where the earth is located by far and away the best method is by calling, and daytime when the sun is out is a good way to start.
For a short period of time cubs will respond enthusiastically to certain calls, mainly small vermin calls and rabbit squeals as these are the sounds they will have heard when being brought live food by the vixen or when accompanying her on a hunting mission.
Be aware though that cubs will come in extremely fast and for that reason if I am trying to remove them for practical purposes I tend to use a shotgun rather than a rifle as it’s quite common to have them run right up to you.
Question: I have just bought a new scope for my rifle and although it has a similar 50mm objective lens size, it won’t fit, what is going wrong?
Chris Parkin says: The eye relief of a scope will affect its linear position on a rifle and even though the diameters of all components might be the same, you occasionally –especially when going from long to shorter overall length – have the problem of the objective bell contacting the barrel reinforce as it swells outward toward the tenon in the action.
Correct eye relief should not be compromised so you will just have to buy higher mounts but don’t be afraid to shop around and ask for exact dimensions because different manufacturers vary widely in what is often simplistically termed low, medium or high options.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that just a visual ‘air gap’ between barrel and scope is not enough – I’d go for at least 2-3mm clearance because you don’t want the barrel contacting the scope as it resonates through recoil when fired.
Whipper tubes can come into contact and remember, the action itself will flex to some extent when the gun is fired. I have taken scopes off rifles with an air gap and found abrasion to the underside of the objective bell from exactly this factor.
It’s a lesson you only need to learn once after wasting hundreds of test rounds trying to find the sweet spot for accuracy and effectively, wasting your time with an underlying problem you hadn’t factored in.
Question: Mark, what scope mounts do you use on your .260 Rem and do you use an MOA added rail?
Mark Ripley says: I have for some time now used the Sportsmatch brand of mounts and can say hand on heart I have never had an issue with them on any of my rifles. Sportsmatch mounts are often thought of as only air rifle mounts but in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
Don’t be fooled by their inexpensive prices, these mounts are built to extremely high tolerances and have been designed and engineered with strength and reliability at their core – so much so that they are exported to over 40 countries with over 80 models to choose from.
Sportsmatch are a British company with almost 50 years experience in the manufacture of mounts and have become the brand of choice for police and military marksmen around the world.
The model I use is a prototype one-piece mount which I contributed to the design of, and believe is out soon if not already. It incorporates a sleek design as well as a bubble level and quick-release Picatinny rail mounting system. The one I use is a 20 MOA rail to give extra elevation for extreme range shooting.
Question: Do foxes see the infrared illuminator on a night vision or thermal scope? If so is there any way it can be reduced?
Mark Ripley says: Okay, first off thermal units work in a very different way to night vision. Night vision uses an infrared light source which the scope is able to utilise to give you a true view of your target whereas thermal scopes work by detecting different levels of heat signature to form an image and do not need any infrared light. As a thermal scope does not give off any infrared or other light source it projects nothing towards your quarry to give you away.
I’m certain that foxes can indeed see infrared light – although perhaps not in the same way in which we see it – but they are certainly aware of it! I’ve watched many foxes spot the IR and look up at it or even bolt as soon as they see it.
That said other foxes seem completely unbothered by it and carry on about their business. Most IR’s have different brightness levels which you could try reducing.
The Wicked Lights IR has a neat dimmer switch fitted, as well as a lower, more covert IR setting for close range work.
Question: I’ve been hearing foxes calling recently (10 May was the last time) and it seems that this year I’ve been hearing far more than usual. Could this be late mating?
Mike Powell says: Almost certainly not mating calls as foxes don’t mate at this time of year. I too have heard a fair amount of fox vocalisation over the last month or so. I suspect the fact that the countryside is very quiet due to the lockdown and perhaps they are venturing closer to human habitation than usual.
However the main reason is almost certainly caused by the cubs wandering about for the first time. Again as there is little activity on the land they are possibly going a little farther than usual which would mean the vixen is calling to them. It’s also a little early for cubs to be hunting, when they do start they will keep in touch with each other and the parents with the odd call.
We are experiencing unique times in the country as a whole at the moment, and the countryside is no exception. I am sure there will be wildlife behaviour seen that hasn’t been seen since the long ago days when I started shooting and it was an altogether quieter place.
More from our Sporting Rifle experts
- Can self-isolation affect your FAC? Find out in Ask the Experts
- Ask the experts: Firearms certificate process
- Ask the experts: The cost of shooting
- Ask the experts: Organising a fox drive
- Q&A: What type of scope mount is best for stalking?