2013 - LUCKY FOR SOME!

Once you learn the 'heads-up' stance required for the NS unit, you'll reap its many benefits.

Once you learn the 'heads-up' stance required for the NS unit, you'll reap its many benefits. - Credit: Archant

As we near the end of another eventful year, we take a look back over what we’ve done and the gear we’ve used during 2013. Some of the stuff will be no stranger to you but still deserves a mention, and we at Team Wild are lucky in that we get to see most of the new products before they hit the market. If we’re really lucky, we get to

Wildy and the Great Wall Steed - both designed to take the knocks.

Wildy and the Great Wall Steed - both designed to take the knocks. - Credit: Archant

take those products and test them in the field … our field, literally, which has pretty much become our workplace, and what a great venue for an ‘office’.

Another fine day at the office.

Another fine day at the office. - Credit: Archant

The product is usually with us for a specified period and in that time we have to evaluate its worth, not only for our needs, but for everyone else, including you!

The Huntsman Classic is still a go-to rifle for us.

The Huntsman Classic is still a go-to rifle for us. - Credit: Archant

All of the kit goes back eventually, and usually in one piece, but we’ve been known to test the odd product to destruction. Believe it or not, most companies love this! They like to know if the product can stand up to abuse, and that’s good news when you have someone as heavy-handed as Wildy and me carrying out the testing!

Sometimes, lightweight clothing works best for heavy field stints.

Sometimes, lightweight clothing works best for heavy field stints. - Credit: Archant

When a manufacturer has to prise their product from my hands, that’s when I know they’re on to a winner. That’s also when I know it’s time to pass that information on to others. Some of the items I’ll mention are expensive to buy, but I feel that the price will be justified by how well it performs. Other items are inexpensive but have almost the same impact when it comes to being seriously useful.

The A & MModifications silencer has been a revelation.

The A & MModifications silencer has been a revelation. - Credit: Archant

The NiteSite Spotter. Seriously useful kit for those who can afford it.

The NiteSite Spotter. Seriously useful kit for those who can afford it. - Credit: Archant

Busy year

Where do we start? It’s been a busy year for us and to be honest there are things that we haven’t managed to fit in yet. Take the new Daystate Huntsman Regal for instance, a beautifully crafted gun from the Daystate stable which we were lucky enough to get our hands on at the launch held at Kibworth shooting ground.

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The Regal balanced extremely well, which was something that concerned me because this model was built with a longer and stronger reservoir, but as always, Tony and the crew at Daystate were one step ahead and had machined the block and internals from a lighter metal, which meant there was no loss of balance with the new model.

Wildy and I even managed to put in a decent display on the field target range. Normally, we work from a ‘if we can’t eat it, we don’t shoot it’ principal (with the exception of the rats and ferals), but the time spent on the range was great fun and we soon had the little long-range spinners spinning and the kill zones dropping.

The new Wolverine is another gun that has come out of the Daystate stable but again, we haven’t managed to get out and play with it yet. Well, I say ‘we’ but the other third of the Team Wild gang, Ian Harford, has more than put the gun through its paces, taking a number of game, small and large, over the globe, so I suppose we have that one covered, but we will be sure to set aside some time to use both of the above in 2014!

No frills

We did manage to take the Crosman Benjamin Marauder out, though. This struck us as being a robust, no-frills hunting gun. It hit hard on the feral pigeons and Wildy and I pulled off some great shots with it. It was a fairly heavy gun but balanced well, shooting accurately from a rest. It also performed with a good variety of pellets, so proved it wasn’t pellet fussy. All in all, for the asking price it’s a good gun. My only gripe was with the loading system. It reminded me of the old Rapid magazine system and I always found them fiddly. I much prefer the mags on the Air Arms and Daystate of today.

Firm favourite

You will have guessed by now that my little Daystate Hunstman hasn’t gone anywhere and is still the most used rifle in my cabinet. I did make one adjustment to it in 2013 and that was to try out the new A & M Custom Gunsmith moderator on it. I chose the carbon-fibre, Nelix version and was astounded by the results!

At first, I wasn’t too sure about using it because of the extra length. One of the features I like about my Huntsman is that it’s compact. Adding the mod took this feature away, and in my opinion made the gun look odd, but after putting just five shots through it, I knew that my gun was now acoustically revolutionised. Shooting in barns and in farmyards, the muzzle noise is reduced to a ‘click’. It was quiet with the Airstream, but this is a whole new quiet! Would I recommend one? You bet I would!

Pellet and pattern changes

Our pellets changed this year as well, and after trying out Crosman, Accupells, and Bisley we settled on the new Sovereigns from Daystate. I am a big fan of using recommended pellets; after all, they’ve been produced in accordance and with the gun in mind. The Daystate Li pellets have been accurate and have served us well, but the new Sovereigns shot well through my Huntsman and the Regal. They also grouped brilliantly when we tested the Benjamin.

2013 saw the launch of a new camo. This is something close to my heart as I have worn camo in its various forms for over 20 years now, my old favourite being a Deerhunter Wolf outfit in Realtree Max 4. This was a pattern designed and developed for wildfowling in the States but I was surprised at how well the different tones of browns fitted with the UK shooting environment. When Realtree announced that they were bringing out Xtra and Xtra Green patterns I just had to check them out. The patterns have an added depth to them by using an extra layer in the printing process.

Light is right

This brings me nicely to another new piece of kit that was tested this year. The Deerhunter Avanti fleece and jacket, and I managed to get a set in Realtree Xtra Green. This outfit was the one we had been waiting for. Lightweight and waterproof, it would bridge the gap a treat. I’d tried some other lightweight gear, but the Avanti struck a chord with us. Sometimes it’s nice just to throw on a fleece to go out in pursuit of a few summer rabbits, and the Avanti is a game-changer. It’s still camo, and still waterproof, but with the added benefit of being lightweight and breathable. Also with it being in Xtra Green, it blended very well with the summer colours in the woods and hedgerows. Another good feature is that it won’t break the bank and provides great value for money.

We have managed the odd trip out after rabbits and pigeons in the daytime this year, but the majority of our hunting has been carried out at night and has been mainly pest control work, and we love it! A lot of the guys we talk with at the shows tend to hunt with a preference for mainly daylight hours, but we are the opposite; we’ve turned nocturnal and it suits us, because we both have day jobs that pay the bills!

Good night

This brings us neatly to night vision and something that has revolutionised our hunting. The NiteSite NS200 has been an incredible aid for us when dealing with ratty rogues and problem pigeons. The NS200 isn’t a cheap bit of kit at £599 or thereabouts, but the benefits are pricesless. We found that our quarry became aware of the lamp and began to react to it as soon as it was flicked on. Rabbits were the worst, and as soon as the lamp hit them they were off. The night vision changed all of that and after getting used to the heads-up position, we were able to pull off some nice bags on fields that we would have struggled on otherwise.

The unit does take a bit of getting used to though. A different shooting position means you have to take the time to put in some hours on the range to become comfortable with it. The lens can be adjusted to help out with the clarity on some scopes and it pays to turn the mag’ down a bit on some of the higher-power scopes. The thing that swings it for me with the NS200 is that it can be swapped between guns so easily without the need to re zero.

We looked at similarly-priced night vision units but they meant that the scope would need to be re-zeroed every time it was taken off, and also that the gun became a dedicated night shooting gun. I much prefer something that can come off my airgun and go straight onto my foxing rifle, so the NS200 unit has seen some serious action over the last year!

One issue that we found was that the field of view with the NS200 was quite narrow and it meant having to stop and scan the field to spot potential quarry. Not much of a problem with rabbits as they can usually be found in their usual haunts, along the sides of hedgerows and on banks etc., but when out after foxes we found we had to look for them with the lamp and then switch to night vision, which kind of defeats the stealthy qualities of night vision.

Got it in hand

The nice chaps at NiteSite listen to all forms of feedback and took these comments on board, along with some changes to the existing units in the shape of a lighter Lithium battery and revised camera module, they brought out a new addition to the rage, the NitSite Spotter.

This is a hand-held device, which can reach out to 400 yards in the dead of night and give a good, clear image on the screen. There is a zoom and focus so that it can adjust to any range and has external links for recording and an external battery should you need it. Now, I will admit that this unit is not going to be on the kit list of your average airgun user, but if you own a farm, industrial unit or anywhere that requires a security element, the Spotter is a must-have. We have tested it in pitch-black farmyards, industrial estates and parkland and the results are amazing. I can see there being a big call for these units within the security sector and with orgainsations such as the Forestry Commission.

Wheely good

Lastly, we come to transport. Many of my friends that hunt with airguns drive everyday hatchbacks and saloons, because they have no need to get into the thick stuff. Thick stuff is unavoidable with the type of hunting we do here at Team Wild so a 4x4 is a must. I’ve driven all sorts of contraptions over the past 15 years, some ‘normal’, some resembling something from a Mad Max movie, and all have done the job of getting me around but all were lacking somewhere along the line, whether it be comfort or reliability, they have all had their little niggles.

The Great Wall Steed has been a great truck over the 18 months that I’ve been driving it. The low cost of this budget 4 x 4 and, the fact that they are relatively new to the market, have made potential buyers apprehensive to buy them, but now that there are a few long-term test reports coming in, the sales have been rapidly picking up. The 2-litre turbo diesel engine is powerful enough for most tasks and is very economical. The towing capacity is slightly down on some of the other pick-ups on the market but towing doesn’t feature much in how I use my truck. This vehicle is loaded with features such as sat-nav, air con and leather seats; the kind of features usually found in vehicles with a much higher purchase price. Recently, Team Wild TV took a four- day road trip to Hungary in the Steed. Two hunters, two cameramen and all of the associated kit fitted comfortably on the 3,000 mile trip and the truck never missed a beat. We have been to Germany, Norway, Scotland, and the Czech Republic with these trucks and have been amazed at how they perform given their truly budget cost.

Feedback

Well, that’s the rundown of our gear of 2013. I hope this doesn’t read like a big advert; it’s not supposed to be. These are things that we really do think are worth having and have provided good usability and value for money over the year. Some of these items cost a lot to buy so it’s good to hear honest feedback before parting with your hard-earned money.

Now it’s time to get out and do some more testing in the ‘office’. We have the Regal and Wolverine first on the ‘to do’ list, and the guys at NiteSite are always working on new products, so who knows what we’ll be writing about this time next year? While we’re on the subject, is there anything that you would like to see us testing? And no, we’re not dressing up in Realtree mankinis before you ask!

Stay safe – and dunna miss. n