I received a somewhat unexpected telephone call at around 5pm this evening.

The firearms enquiry officer dealing with my SGC renewal called this evening, in haste, to conduct the via telephone, the interview he’d clearly intended to do earlier but, due to “system and staff changes” hadn’t so far managed. This blindsided me somewhat, as – being a lazy Sunday evening – I’d just finished a pint of rather strong cider – safely, I thought – and although in the process of turning my thoughts to dinner, hadn’t managed to eat anything before being put on the spot!

I felt rather tipsy, if the truth be told, but I believe I answered all of the questions to his satisfaction and was told that my certificate would be issued tomorrow. Whether it will be hand delivered or simply posted, I don’t know, but it won’t be long before I’m back out, testing, patterning, hunting.

The whole situation has been – undeniably – an inconvenience, but everyone I have thus far spoken to from the constabulary’s firearms team has been both apologetic and apparently embarrassed at what appears to have either been excessive workload or an oversight (or both). Given that they themselves have admitted I put my application in with plenty of time to spare, I can’t give them a shining review, but I will say this: dealing with a customer’s problems in a pro-active and helpful way goes a long way to repairing any ill feeling caused by the initial mistake and I actually feel I’ve received good service from them, even if everything didn’t quite go to plan.

Game Supper

I’m cooking venison burgers for my wife and her friend tomorrow. It was going to be pigeon burgers, but my wife was concerned that feeding her “fitness guru” friend birds containing lead shot might not fly (the lead, rather than the pigeon being the problem).

For that reason, I suggested that we might eat some of the muntjac I dispatched with the .410 before Christmas – the theory being that bouncing it off a car (I didn’t do that bit, if you recall) and head-shooting it (that was me) was less likely to have introduced lead pellets to the parts I have just ground to be turned into burgers tomorrow.

With all that going on, I couldn’t miss the opportunity for a little taste test. I put one of the tenderloins aside before I started, then rubbed it with plenty of salt and pepper and fried it when I finished. It was delicious. It almost makes me want to take up deer stalking again. Almost.

A Bloody Inconvenience

To be fair, when I spoke for the second time to the lady who answers the telephone at the local constabulary’s firearms department, I didn’t put it exactly like that, though I have a feeling she knew what I meant. To be fair to her, if she wasn’t genuinely appalled that my FEO still hadn’t conducted the promised interview and delivered the paperwork (having assured me two weeks ago that there were no problems and that my new shotgun certificate would be with me well before its expiry date), she did a very good job of pretending to be. Of course, she may have been well-practiced.

Nonetheless, a life lesson, learnt young – that one should never be impolite to people from whom you wish to obtain something, at least until after you have obtained that something – served me well and having negotiated the cloudy waters of social discourse, she promised to make every effort to see that the certificate would be delivered at the interview she intended to arrange for Monday. We shall see.

A Free Weekend

For the reasons described above, I am temporarily without my shotguns, having delivered them to the local RFD for safekeeping until the paperwork is sorted. This renders the patterning trip I had planned for tomorrow impossible and leaves me in the (not entirely unhappy) position of having a freer weekend than I had anticipated. I’ve therefore decided to spend the weekend migrating between the computer and the shed.

Here at the former location, beyond this post, I will endeavor to write up at least one of the longer articles I have planned for this website (most of the first part is now complete and in the process of being edited) and in the latter, I shall fix the pedal board from my organ which, after 10 years of hard use, now has so many broken keys as to render the instrument unplayable. The machine tools were out in force this morning and much progress has already been made.


I have been able to make some small progress on the shooting front this week, even if things are not currently going to plan. I was grateful to my friend for the loan of the stock extension pad which was delivered via my wife at the local airport(!) on Friday afternoon. The irony of having to stow my guns within two hours of receiving it was not lost on me, put it that way.

I was also able to reserve for collection with my guns and certificate, two boxes of the old Hull Subsonic clay load (28g / #7½).  It pleases me to think that, although places like JustCartridges can supply (or obtain) almost any cartridge you could possibly want – provided you buy in quantity and pay their premium – only one’s local gun shop can sell you odd boxes of interesting cartridges that you’d never otherwise see or realize you wanted (and at a substantial discount).

In case any of my readers are wondering why on earth I’d buy a cartridge like that when I haven’t shot a clay target in over two years, the answer is simple: it’s about covering the edge cases in cartridge performance and demonstrating that the general principles upon which the analysis we do for this site relies are correct.

I will shoot patterns with a handful of the Hull cartridges and compare them with another “big brand” 28g / #7½ clay load and show – I hope – that substantially lower muzzle velocities tend to provide improved performance. (It’ll be an embarrassment if they don’t – Ed.) This feeds back into .410 cartridges like the Eley “Fourlong” and “Extralong” (Subsonic) and helps to confirm that the conclusions we’ve drawn about those cartridges, on the basis of lower-than-usual muzzle velocities, are correct.

(The experiment to compare paper- / plastic-cased loadings of Eley Grand Prix also remains outstanding and will be reported here when completed.)

Nature’s Finery

I was asked by my wife some years ago, after a service of thanksgiving held to celebrate the arrival of my son, what the flowers in the arrangements in the church at which the service was held were. The answer I first gave was that they were Dianthus but when pressed, told her their common name, which is of course, “sweet william”. This is a name which has significance to her and, thinking they were attractive, she asked me whether I could grow some for the garden.

After several years of trying unsuccessfully, last year, I managed to germinate some seeds and keep them going through the winter well enough that four of the plants survived and are now in one of our borders, flowering beautifully. I believe she’s appreciated them, though, to be entirely honest, I don’t really care for pretty pink flowers as much as some other more useful plants from the genus Capsicum and some of the other Solanaceae – no longer including Nicotiana, I’m happy to say.

Early this morning, however, my appreciation of the sweet williams was somewhat increased by the arrival of an hummingbird hawk moth doing the rounds of those plants and the nearby wallflowers. I’ve always liked the hawk moths: ever since I found a friendly privet hawk moth struggling to escape a busy pavement (it was the size of my palm, but climbed onto my face, where it was – apparently – comfortable enough to stay for some minutes) and rescued it from the feet of inattentive humans, I’ve looked out for members of that family and there, this morning was another of them which in over thirty years, I have never seen. I have always thought – perhaps mistakenly? – that hummingbird hawk moths were rather rare in this country, so I spent at least ten minutes watching it go about its business, proboscis flailing wildly! An excellent treat.

Standing Crops

It’s always difficult shooting over standing crops at this time of year.

Yesterday afternoon’s wander resulted in three birds shot, three birds lost, for fewer than 10 cartridges fired (9, I think it was), suggesting that the adjustments I made to the stock of the semi-automatic 12 gauge I own represent an improvement. I should also have hit two easy, departing crows which popped out of a hedge just after I arrived at the second farm I visited, but even having missed those, my shooting still took a step in the right direction.

I was shooting a 12 gauge again. Much as I’d prefer something smaller, an ammunition shortage related to the renewal of my shotgun certificate prevails and three of my guns are out of action until I’ve sorted out the fitting issues affecting them. A friend has offered to lend me a leather slip-on stock extension that will hopefully mitigate the issues I’ve described previously: I should be able to pick it up this week, test it and order my own if it confirms my suspicion that the stocks of those guns would benefit from being a little longer.

The .410, meanwhile, will get another outing as soon as it’s possible to do some more patterning (yesterday’s conditions were, once again, unhelpfully windy, in spite of the sunshine) or as soon as I’m able to obtain some more cartridges for it with which I’m actually happy to hunt. Supplies of acceptably performant cartridges are running somewhat low after the previous pattern testing trip and what remains in the cupboard is probably better kept for future confirmatory testing.

Losing birds is frustrating, but sometimes unavoidable. Trampling down dry rapeseed ready for harvest or leaving tracks in standing barley does not make one popular with one’s landowner, so I had to leave two of yesterday’s birds for the foxes. A third folded overhead and fell – rather disobligingly – the other side of the boundary along which I was walking and would have necessitated committing the offense of trespass to retrieve it. Happily, all were cleanly shot before they went down.

It was not an entirely bad afternoon. At one point, I stalked to within 3-4 yards of a young hare, which took several confused attempts to discern that I might actually be a predator and that it was worth “disappearing” in haste. It eventually did, without my interference. Later, a roe doe leapt away over the crop in typical “pogo stick” fashion, appearing above the rape as though a dolphin breaking the surface and diving again, which was amusing to watch.

I also discovered, first by catching its scent, a large clump of Nepeta (I’m not sure which subspecies) growing wild at the edge of the treeline on one of the fields I circumnavigated, which was somewhat unexpected. I rather like that plant and have grown it in my garden in the past. I wonder now if I should perhaps have cut some of it down – it was undoubtedly a weed – and taken it home for the purpose of making tea. I was pleased to find more of it later on, close to where I set up a hide for an hour to see if anything would turn up.

In the end, not much did. I faffed with the decoys and the magnet several times in the hope of drawing some of the birds that were feeding in the middle of the field away from their flight lines, but other than a few interested looks from afar, not much turned up. My best chance was a bird from behind that surprised me – I mounted the gun poorly and missed over the top as it disappeared. A couple more shots punctuated an hour or so mostly sitting, enjoying the smells and the bumblebees on the many flowering weeds and nettles in which I was sitting.

Having left my telephone in my car, I had no idea what time it was and a nagging feeling that I was expected home soon prevailed. I packed up and returned to the vehicle to find that it was 16:07 and that I could have had longer if only I’d known. This was particularly irritating given that, having packed up and put put my gun into its slip, a small group of pigeons flew straight towards the trees in which I was standing, veering off only at such a short distance that even I couldn’t have missed them!

I departed with the strong impression that, if I’d arrived at roughly the time I was leaving and stayed for a few hours rather than going home then, that I’d probably have managed 10 or 20 birds. I’ll never know.

I’m supposed to be feeding one of my wife’s friends pigeon burgers next week. I’m hoping to have some better success between now and then…