Hunting for rabbits with ultra hi-tech hunting gear
PUBLISHED: 13:41 21 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:14 21 August 2019
Mick Garvey and Scott Country's Paul Stewart deploy all the toys in preparation for a rabbit hunt
Christmas came early to the Garvey household this year. I had been given the green light to unveil the FX Airguns .25 FAC Wildcat Compact rifle, silenced by the Donny FL Ronin and topped off with a Pulsar XQ50 Trail sight for night-time shooting, and a Hawke Optics 4-16 SF Airmax scope for daytime usage. This FX has been christened the 'Warcat' in the USA, by Ted, of the Ted's Holdover fame, but for now I'm calling it the 'Warbaby'. I had also been given the new pocket-size Pulsar Axion Key thermal spotter to review for a couple of months, and Paul at Scott Country International had promised me more, but was keeping the details a secret for the time being. I have also taken delivery of something else rather special, but that's for a future article.
I had a trip to the Lake District planned, with the aim of viewing a few properties and hoping to call in to see a few friends, too. I had been chatting with Paul at SCI and he'd suggested a meet-up for a spot of rabbit control as he'd recently purchased a Kalibrgun Cricket in .177 calibre and was keen to get some advice and pointers. He'd already sent me photos of his groupings and it was clear that despite his absence from shooting air rifles over the last couple of years, his ability hadn't left him. A touch of breathing control and mind focus was all he needed, but judging by the photos, all looked well and his enthusiasm for the new gun was matched only by my own.
Babs and I were blown away with the hospitality of everyone we met in Scotland, from people we passed whilst walking Zeva Blue, to the people in the bars at night. I actually watched the Scottish Cup Final with a group of locals, and the atmosphere was brilliant. Needless to say, the hospitality from the guys at SCI was outstanding as usual, and it was nice to spend an afternoon with them. The professionalism just oozes from them and the informed chats and advice to customers on the phone is great to see. We even has a barbecue and a few drinks at Paul's, which gave us the chance to relax, chat about our forthcoming outing and put the world to rights.
However, before we settled down, we had to make time to see exactly what Paul and his Cricket were capable of, and we spent a couple of hours on one of his permissions, fine-tuning his rifle. I had my Warbaby set up with the XQ50 Trail, and between us we totally obliterated the bullseye on all the very impressive Woody's Targets that had been kindly donated and set out at 30 yards.
I was mostly shooting prone and had to adjust my aim to allow for my set 50-yard zero, whilst my host was using the new Wicked Lights Rekon carbon-fibre tripod to great effect. Absolutely rock solid, it provided a perfect platform for standing shots, but is collapsible to shoot from the kneeling position, seated and prone, and weighs in at a little over 2kgs with the top 'pig back' clamp. I even managed to wrangle if off him for a go with the Warbaby.
The extreme lightness of this FX is outstanding and the shortness gives great pointability, and the Rekon gave the advantage of being able to see over the long grass. With everything set up, we decided to do a slo-mo video of the .25 AA Diablos effect on an old kiwi fruit that I'd stuck on a 20mm square of silver tape (which is what I use for zeroing to reflect the light back to the thermal) and let the cameras roll. The effect was devastating and the kiwi was completely obliterated with a single shot … and all on film, too!
On our way back to the barbecue, I was asked if I had brought any tools.
"Yeah, I always have a few with me," was my reply.
"Good," Paul said.
I was intrigued, especially when I was told to meet up at SCI HQ early the following day - because I'd need to zero again. My thoughts cannot be printed here, but suffice to say I was confused and hoped whatever it was it would be easy to maintain the current zero.
The wraith has landed
The plan for the following day was to meet up, go for a bite to eat and make our way to the 'rabbit fields'. This permission had been granted to us by Rab, a good friend of Paul's, and the owner of Solway Firth Firearms & Ammunition, a relatively new business with a good selection of various firearms, accessories and, you guessed it, ammunition.
Rab is very knowledgeable on all aspects of shooting and welcomed me like an old friend. We discussed the land we were to shoot on, and various other topics such as deerstalking, thermal scopes and spotters and, of course, the current situation with the general licences, which doesn't affect the Scots and I can tell you they were keen to let me know about it, but it was all in good humour and oh, how we did laugh … well, some did - others nearly cried!
It was at this stage I was presented with a black box with familiar red logos on it - Sightmark! The new Wraith had landed and I had one for a review! I had played with one previously and been impressed. It's like an X-Sight 2 in appearance, and I actually had an X-Sight a while back, but sold it on to fund my thermal addiction, but now it was time to mount the Wraith on the FX, coupled with the A51IR from Wicked Lights, and see what was what with it. The zero process was one of the quickest and simplest I have carried out, and within five minutes I was happy with my 50-yard grouping. My shooting partner checked his zero - again - his Hawke Optics 4-16 Airmax was still spot on and he'd be utilising the A67IR red LED lamp from Wicked Lights. I don't think he doubted it, but just enjoys shooting that much he'll take any opportunity to get behind the trigger … and why not!
Perfect trigger set-up
With all the preliminaries sorted, we were almost ready to get on it with all the 'top gear'. We were given a short briefing from Rab about the land and what to do with the shot rabbits - his mate kept snakes and they loved a bit of rabbit. I could feel the breeze getting up and it wasn't in our favour. My .25 would deal with the breeze better than the .177 sub-12 of my partner, so we would have to select the shots sensibly because we would rather not take the shot than have a miss, or worse. The Versapod 300 bipod would assist with stability because we had decided not to use the Rekon whilst exposed on the hills, and the grass had been kept short by the rabbits and sheep. A Magpul single-point sling and attachments were also taken, along with a hard case for the Cricket. Paul was certainly getting into the swing of it. This would be the first time for quite a while that Paul had hunted, and I could feel his excitement building.
I had shot the Warbaby a few times since receiving it and the trigger was set up perfectly for me; small first stage, followed by a crisp 'breaking glass' second stage. A single-point sling was taking most of the weight of the FX, which is very little, and my temporary bipod would suffice for the night until I fitted the Deben 9-13 pod. I had been quite happy with the performance of the FX, taking a few pigeons, squirrels and the odd magpie - all before the current GL malarkey I hasten to add - and was really looking forward to getting down to business with it again. The time had come and we set off, eager to make a dent in the rabbit population.
Tune in next month to see how we fared with all this hi-tech hardware; the Warbaby, Donny FL silencer, Sightmark Wraith, Pulsar Axion Key, Rekon tripod, Kalibrgun Cricket, Versapod 300, the Wicked Lights A51IR and the A67IR, on the ups and downs of the Scottish hillside and how it works out back home in Derbyshire.
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