Northern Shooting Show Optics & Accessories
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- Last updated: 29/08/2018
This is the third year of the Northern Shooting Show, and the third year the weather gods have smiled on it, and deservedly so, because this isn’t just a great indoor show, it has a rich hinterland of outdoor activities as well. There’s a clay line five hundred metres long, where you can compete or try out the latest guns from the major brands, or some black-powder classics, or get some great coaching. There’s air rifle and pistol shooting too, on paper and steel, with manufacturers have-a-go stands, as well as top-level competition. And… well, lots more: just check out the show’s website to see how much!
The truth is that despite being at the show for two days, there was so much to see that I scarcely ventured beyond Hall 1. (That’s less than 25% of the show!) My one major excursion was up to the clay line, where I got the chance to try out the new A12 12g sound moderator from A-Tec on a Winchester SX4. Both Bruce Potts and Pete Moore have tested the A12 and been impressed, and so was I. It’s surprisingly handy, even on a 28-inch barrelled gun, and I was breaking clays nicely - when I wasn’t accidentally applying the safety by being too left-handed for my own good, that is! So, what was keeping me busy in Hall 1? Here’s what…
Scott Country is always the No.1 place to see the latest night-vision gear, and they had two amazing new thermal devices on show. You can read about FLIR’s Breach PTQ136 micro thermal monocular in Ed Jackson’s report elsewhere in this issue. The other was the Torrey Pines Logic T20 micro thermal sight. Building on the T12 model, the T20 has improved range and definition, thanks to an 80x20px Lepton sensor running at 30Hz, a 1.3- inch OLED display and, best of all, a 3x-5.5x optical zoom. It’s a big step forward, but I reckon further advances are needed before such sights are an ethical option for rifle-based hunting.
As you’d expect, there was new kit on Pulsar distributors Thomas Jacks’ stand too: specifically, the Accolade, a thermal monocular with a binocular display. Offered in XQ38 (384x288) and XP50 (640x480) formats, they have the same suite of features as the Helion monoculars but let you view the 640x480 AMOLED display with both eyes simultaneously. The idea, and it’s a plausible one, is that it makes prolonged observation more comfortable. Prices and availability are still TBC, but first impressions are that the Accolade has a lot going for it.
More new thermal and daylight optics were on show over at Raytrade. The Hawk 500 by German Precision Optics is a thermal monocular that closely resembles the FLIR Scout II/ III, and sports a 20mm, fixedfocus lens, a 25 μm, 384x288 ASi sensor, a native 1.5x magnification with a 2x/4x digital zoom and a 3-colour palette. This isn’t a bad spec, but the Hawk 500 doesn’t challenge the sector-leading and higherspec Pulsar Helion XQ19 on price or features. By contrast, GPO’s day scopes look pretty competitive, and come in five ranges, differentiated by their zoom factor (3x, 4x, 5x, 5x, 8x). Prices and specifications encourage comparisons with offerings by Minox and Geco, so definitely worth a look.
A new name on my show programme was Hammer Pair. I went over to check it out and found it to be a new departure by John Mason of Figure 14. John can be relied on to bring along some bleeding-edge long-range optics and shooting accessories, and this year his stand was the place to get hands-on with the new March Genesis 6-60x56 Extreme Long Range Scope, and the genius-simple Charlie TARAC prismatic long-range scope adapter from TACOMHQ. John also had a brilliant ultralight backpack rifle rest of his own devising/manufacture.
The March looks bizarre, with a normal objective, eye bell and adjustment turrets protruding from a polygonal box where the main tube should be. The box, it turns out, is just protection for the adjustment mechanism, which is external to the actual main tube, on the principle of Vietnam-era Unertl sniper scopes, so as to provide the huge range of vertical (400 MoA) and horizontal (150 MoA) adjustment required to make a three-mile shot with a .416 Cheytac, or even a 1000-yard shot with a 22LR!
The TARAC, meanwhile, is a dual-mirror periscope that attaches magnetically to an adapter ring on a scope’s objective bell. By adjusting the lower mirror out of parallel, the zero can be raised by up to 120 milliradians. This means that you can run your scope near its optical centre even at extreme ranges and return to a standard zero simply by detaching the device. None of this gear comes cheap, but extreme performance never does.
The show gave me my first look at Apex UK’s modular scope mounting system. Sold under Country Sports Wholesale’s Britannia Rails brand, it comprises a Picatinny base with interchangeable rings featuring self-centring Delrin liners that can be used to introduce 10 or 20 MOA of pitch (as per Burris’ Signature rings). Rings are available in in 30, 34, 35, 36 or 40mm sizes and up to four heights, and clever design ensures they align perfectly with the base. If desired, additional Picatinny rail sections can be added to the tops of the rings or the sides of the base, making for a system that’s as versatile as it is precise. The price is good too.
Also at CSW, I spotted a remarkable new Britanniabranded .22 moderator for airguns/rimfires. Not only is it made entirely from Delrin, it is also tiny, at just 92mm x 22mm and 26g. Threaded ½-inch UNF it will fit most small-calibre rifles. Its only competitor, the Wildcat Custom Cub, is 35% bigger. The Cub’s a full 3x heavier, too, as it uses a classic baffle system, whereas the Britannia relies on fluid-dynamics to redirect the gas and cut the muzzle blast. The price? Just £38. Look out for a field test here soon.
New too on the Raytrade stand was an inflatable scope cover from Air Armor Tech. Designed and built with all the practical ruggedness you expect from today’s tactical gear, the AAT cover drops over your scope and is first secured by a pair of broad straps with Fastex buckles that go right around the rifle, and then solidly fixed in place by inflating the internal bladder, which protects your optic from impacts and has enough buoyancy to float a 21lb weapon system! A rugged, padded top strap lets you carry the rifle at the ‘trail’, whilst zipup pockets on each side hold ammo, tools, etc. The ‘ears’ covering the lenses can be flipped up to permit quick shots, or for more deliberate shooting the cover can be detached and used to support the rifle. AAT do full-size inflatable rifle and carbine gun cases, too, which unzip flat to double as uniquelycomfortable shooting mats.
Air is also the lightest, most versatile protective barrier there is, making AAT’s products superportable and exceptionallycompact when stowed away.
The downside? Well, I didn’t get any UK prices, but the scope covers are $250 and the rifle case is $550 in the US. Is that a high price to pay to protect your favourite shooting rig?
More rifle support is on its way from Spartan Precision Equipment, of Javelin bipod fame, who have a Gen II version of their Capita tripod, as well as a new camera tripod they are producing for a major brand. Showing me the newgeneration gear, Spartan’s Rob Gearing explained that they’ve upgraded everything bar the feet! Most visibly, this means a bigger, grippier, head lock and leg adjusters, and a slick gunmetal finish. Ultra-light, super-strong, and very nice!
No show is complete without a visit to Phil Ogden’s stand. He has a great range of bags, slips and shooting accessories, all high-quality, made in England, and supremely practical, and Phil is constantly improving existing designs and coming up with new ones. Best-of-show this time were his Pro Bird Carrier (£30) and Compact Waist-Pack Roe Sack (£120). The former has a broad (5cm) shoulder strap made from green cotton webbing that’s adjustable for length and equipped with a quick-release buckle. At each end of the strap is a solid-steel bird carrier that’ll hold four brace of pheasants, and linking the carriers is another length of webbing with a leather grip. The system permits hands-free carry, and when you want to put the carrier down, all you have to do is grab the grip, take the weight, and release the buckle with the other hand. Brilliant! The roe sack is just as clever. A comfortably broad and adjustable waist belt with a quick-release buckle mounts three pouches, regular at the sides and large at the back. The back pouch contains a rollup roe sack, complete with sturdy shoulder and sternum straps, whilst the side pouches give you kit space and let you divide this up between ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ gear to keep everything shipshape, even after the gralloch.
I was puzzled to see an anodising company in the Deer Focus area on the show map; so, I went to check it out, and I’m glad I did. Every trophy head I’ve ever seen has been mounted on the same kind of wooden shield. The size varies, but the look doesn’t, and if any details have been added, they’ve either been engraved onto a cheap brass plate or scrawled on the back by hand. But it doesn’t have to be like this! Combining a love of stalking and photography with a liberal shot of artistic flair, Watson’s Malin Hewins offers etched metal shields in a range of sizes and finishes, complete with customisable text and decorative motifs. Aside from giving a much less Victorian look to your trophy room, this means that you can add graphics that depict a scene from your hunt, the landscape, the trophy photo, or even the animal before the shot was taken, enriching the trophy’s power to memorialise the moment. Shields weren’t for sale on the day, but when I spoke to Malin at the end of the show, she’d already taken dozens of orders, so it looks like a flying start for this innovative venture.
Okay, so what of the big European names Zeiss, Swarovski, Schmidt & Bender, Kahles and Minox?
Minox have a new featurepacked line for 2018. Their ZE5.2 riflescopes come in 4 formats: 1-5x24, 2-10x50, 3-15x56, and 5-25x56. Shared features include a 5X zoom factor, a 30mm main tube, low-profile turrets, and SFP reticles with an illuminated centre dot, plus automatic tilt/ timer shutdown. You also get a nice neoprene scope cover and a 30-year warranty. The headline developments, however, are improved glass, an improved LED/fibre-optic illumination system, and an enlarged eyebox for faster target acquisition. Prices start at around £1.2K.
Swarovski had their new orange “can’t-lose-me” EL-O binoculars and Z8i 0.75-6x20 riflescope. That eye-catching 0.75 figure maximises the field of view (56m @100m) and is intended to maximise the speed with which a shooter on a driven hunt can not only acquire his primary target animal, but select and engage the next one too. As you spin the zoom ring, equipped with a detachable throw-lever, there’s a tangible click as you pass the 1X position into what Swaro call the “Viewplus” range. Reticles are FFP, and you can opt for a circle-dot 4A pattern, or the new D-I reticle, a plain red dot that subtends 1.2 MoA at 6x and 9.3 MoA at 0.75x. It’s a typically innovative concept, but a bit ‘niche’ for the UK!
The show saw the UK launch of Zeiss’ new Conquest V4 line. Offering models in four formats (1-4x24, 3-12x56, 4-16x44 and 6-24x50), this is Zeiss’ new ‘entry-class’. Previous ‘affordable’ ranges from the German firm have arguably weakened its brand image, but the V4s look like a return to form. Features include a 30m main tube, exposed multi-turn elevation turrets, a zero stop and ¼ MOA adjustments. Available reticles are well matched to each format and run from the illuminated #60 (a 4A pattern with an illuminated centre dot) in the 1-4 and 3-12 to the ZMOA1/2 (a finestadiametric pattern) in the 6-24. Prices run from £850 to £1.1K.
As usual, a lot of what’s going on at S&B is ‘work in progress’, and about refinements rather than totally new models. That means new reticles, a new folding throw lever, and a massive new multiturn turret for the PMII series that offers no less than five rotations, each with a distinctive indicator pin, red/green colour-coded locking, and 0.05 MRAD clicks!
Kahles K624i has been a big hit with long-range precision shooters, but now there’s a super-compact medium-range version, the K318i. It has the same distinctive top-mounted parallax-adjustment ring, the latest twist-guard windage turret, where the setting is protected when locked by a cover that’s freerotating rather than fixed, a bigger elevation turret with bolder scales, and “in due course” there’ll even be a L/H windage version. Everything about this scope is top-end, including its £2.9K SRP.