Ian Barnett’s Shooting Diary – January 2020


A hastily arranged Thursday afternoon off work saw me lugging a pile of gear into one of the coverts. I had an itch to scratch and it was all about ‘accuracy”. An issue that had been gnawing away at me since Sunday, the last time that I’d been shooting. The kit involved a game-bag carrying several brands of .22 pellets, various static targets, and a divers bottle. After an outing on Sunday which saw me miss live quarry too many times, I needed to get to the root of the problem. Was it the gun, the ammo … or me?

Two hours of experimentation told me what I needed to know and I emerged from the self-imposed ‘clinic’ with a new pellet choice for the gun. I’m not going to criticise any of the pellets I discounted as options. Most modern pellets are superbly made. The problem I had (random fliers, missing the target widely) can often be attributed to the barrel/pellet relationship.

Over the years I’ve amassed thousands of pellets, to the extent that I recently had a clear-out and gave many away. I only kept back those I had considered being top quality. I took a tin of each of these with me today. I set up a series of small target cards at both 10 yards and 30 yards and set about testing groupings. For anyone interested in these cards, they’re made by GR8Fun Targets. Though excellent in their own right, I overlay them with black Shoot’N’C patches. These turn bright yellow when struck and make it easy to see groupings clearly without using binoculars.

As usual, just about every one of the brands hit the bull at ten yards. Yet at 30 yards I soon had the selection down to four brands. Making sure I kept the air cylinder on the gun topped up to an even level for the test, I then did a 5 pellet ‘shoot-off’ at 30 yards for each. Only one pellet stood out with no fliers and excellent consistency. It seemed to love this barrel. Luckily (though now discontinued) I still have nearly 3000 Daystate Rangemaster-Li’s at home. I rarely shoot more than half-a-dozen pellets on any outing, so that means nearly two years stock of ammo.

Happy with the results, I packed all the kit in the car, grabbed my game-bag and went walkabout.The proof of a hunting pellet is in its terminal ability. At 14.3g this pellet was more than 1.5 grains lighter than the ones I had been using before but I was confident. I’d used them before in my Weihrauch 100KT. When I walked beneath a snoozing woodpigeon sitting (ridiculously exposed) in a bare beech, I had the opportunity to test it. Aiming under a tad to compensate for the elevation, the headshot dropped the bird like a stone. Perfect. Further on, rustling amongst the briars brought me alert and I watched a grey squirrel scamper up a trunk just 15 yards from me. With rifle already raised, the scope came to bear sweetly and the hardest skull of all small vermin couldn’t survive the impact of the Rangemaster. That would do for me. Accuracy, consistency, and effectiveness. I suspect the newer Daystate Sovereigns are equally as reliable.

January, it’s often said, is the richest month for the pheasant shooter. That’s possibly because, with the season coming to an end, the desire to get in as many shooting days as possible increases. Many folk are surprised to hear I rarely get involved in the activity. My ‘forte’ is vermin control. While I’m happy to employ my fieldcraft to protect nests and assist in conservation for no payment, I have little tolerance for the high-money end of the shooting spectrum. The keepers, beaters, estate staff, stalkers, and farmers are my type of people. It’s a shame that such folk still have to doff a cap to someone with a high spec Range Rover and a pair of guns (that cost more than my house) which only leave the cabinet six times a year. Money is still a powerful force in the countryside and while the income is welcome, quite often the arrogance and ignorance of rural ways are not. That opinion is probably the best explanation of why I never even go beating!

One of the most enjoyable tasks I had this month was personally signing a couple of boxes of my very first book, The Airgun Hunters Year. I owed BASC a small favour, and so offered a few signed books for their BASC Young Shots project. The book’s publishers, Merlin Unwin, kindly offered to expand this significantly in the interest of encouraging youngsters into shooting. For which I’m eternally grateful.

Until next month! Shoot straight and shoot safe.

Copyright, Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, January 2020.

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