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FT Blog: Winter Prep!

The summer fades out and it’s a rude awaking when I arrive at Shebbear FTC in Devon for the late October shoot. Though my Moleskin trousers just about beat off the chilly wind and the summer polo/ shooting jacket keeps the upper body warm enough, I had neglected to dig out the Peacock hand warmer. It was only a few lanes in that I noticed my trigger finger hand becoming somewhat colder and thoughts quickly turned to winter preparation….... and my lack of it!

All change

My main change from summer to winter is clothing. Shorts are now replaced with Moleskin trousers for mild (10° and above), and fleece-lined, Craghopper trousers for the colder and wet days. Footwear tends to stay the same through the year with the addition of thermal socks for really cold days. Whilst a fleece added to the upper body on cold days below 10°, does the job nicely. Hats keep my hairline hidden all year round and in the winter of course do a great job of stopping body heat escaping. However, the one essential piece of winter kit for me is the hand warmer. I’ve had about three different brands, but without doubt the Peacock is in my opinion quite the best! Lighter fluid fills it and keeps it going for 12 hours with hardly any loss of heat, but the protective cover is a must, as it does get very hot! Trigger control is essential no matter what the conditions, so if you find your ‘go finger’ has numbed to the point where you are not quite sure when the shot is going to go off, invest in mobile heat!

Seasonal set-up?

For most people, it is wise to check your set ups from summer to winter and of course vice versa. You will need to know if your gun drops its power in the cold; but does your scope alter or is it just cold air affecting the pellet’s flight path? Get the range boards out on various cold days and spend an hour checking, but always leave the gun out in the ambient temperature for at least 15 minutes to cool down before starting! Boards every 5-yards should be enough to show any change in point of impact, and if there is a change, then it’s time to do the winter click chart.

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I have to say that since my EV2 was fitted with a John Ostler regulator (his own design) I no longer have the shift in velocity that affects most guns. However, many do suffer, and it’s up to you to take notes on how your gun performs at certain temperatures. A Cb625 Combro chronograph is a great portable way of checking the power. Knowing at what point things change seems common sense but it’s surprising how many people don’t realise things can change in the winter! While the boards are out, check the scope wheel markings too.

Neither my old Mk4 Leupold or the current x45 mag Competition Leupold I use suffers in the heat from my experience and checking. However, with known ranges on our practise courses, time spent over the winter on various cold days has shown me they ‘under-range’ in the cold! The Comp under-ranges at about 3° and the Mk4 was about 5°. At that point they under range by about 2.5 metres on the longer targets that makes a big difference. At that sort of temperature though, I do wonder what I am doing freezing my various parts off in the middle of a field or wood in the winter!

A matter of degree

You can measure a scope’s temperature in various ways. I use a cheap but fairly consistent digital thermometer that is attached to my gun bag. It gives me an ambient temperature and again through experience, I know when to react to its various readings. Some shooters use the ‘fish tank’, stick on strips, attached directly to their optic. Personally I think they spoil the looks of the kit and you may be cold, but you must still look good!

So if it looks good in practise, is that the end of story? Not quite. Cold air can affect the pellet’s flight differently to warmer air. It’s a bit hit and miss to pin point the exact combination of factors, and their affect, but generally if the target is in a shaded and thus colder part, compared to say the zero range or previous targets, be prepared for a low shot? The 2016 Welsh Masters had just such a target in the opening lanes. Almost the full 55 yards in range, as one of the last to start the course the face plate told its own story with around 85% of pellets below 6 o’clock!

I dialled in 55 yards and aimed about half way between middle and top of kill, inside 3 edge for drift resulting in a perfect strike in the centre of the kill. I did however then miss a 52.5 yard target shortly afterwards, where I gave extra height, not noticing the target this time was exposed to the last of the summer sun’s warming rays…. and the pellet went high! As usual then, plenty to mull over if those perfect scores are to become reality!

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