Tips for scope maintenance – the latest Airgun Answers

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Question: I’ve heard of wildfowlers using duck calls and deerstalkers calling roe deer with squeakers. Are there any calls that can be used by airgun hunters?

The Acme Crow call is a good one to assist with decoying tactics rather than being used on its own

Phill Siddel says: The short answer is yes! There is little on earth that compares with the excitement of hunting with calls. But it’s not easy and the results aren’t consistent. However, when everything goes to plan and an animal falls prey to your call, it feels satisfying. Some calls are easier to use than others and some seem to replicate the sound of the given animal better than others.

With this in mind I would recommend starting out with the Primos Squirrel Call as it doesn’t require very much skill and sounds exactly like an angry squirrel chattering away. This call seems to pique the natural curiosity of old Bushy Tail. Another that is worth a try for similar reasons is the Acme Crow Call, although this is probably most effective when used along with decoys.

There are some calls that I have had no luck at all with such as the Primos Pheasant Call. As an alternative I recently procured a slate and stick type turkey call from America to try to mimic a cock pheasant’s clucking. Some calls can even be made at home, such as the old box of matches rattle that mimics a magpie’s chuckle. 

It pays to try calls out before taking them hunting to gauge how best to use them. Experimentation and careful observation are the key to success. My final piece of advice is to use any call sparingly and with long periods of quiet in between. Call, listen and respond to how the animals react. 

Question: I’ve just bought a new gun cabinet and will be moving all my airguns into the garage as my wife’s not keen on me having them in the house. However, the garage has no heating and I’m worried about moisture. Apart from oiling all the bluing, can you suggest anything else to combat damp air to protect my rifles?

It may not always be practical, but if you can, do try to store your gun cabinet – and the rifles inside – in a dry, safe, indoor environment

Mike Morton says: It’s great that you’ve got a gun cabinet, as that really is the best type of storage, but fitting the cabinet in a garage is far from ideal, especially at this time of year when it’s so cold and damp. I’m sorry to say I know a lad at one of my old clubs who kept his brand new PCP in the garage, and after just a few weeks of neglect it was a rusty mess.

If the garage is the only option, then the best thing to do would be to get a dehumidifier unit and run it 24/7. I have a miserably cold and wet garage, and my dehumidifier does a great job of keeping my mountain bike, tools and garden implements rust-free, and would certainly help with my guns too, if I did keep any there.

The unit was about £200, but after the shock of the initial purchase, it’s not proved costly to run. It pulls out a litre of water a day, even in the summer, so the reservoir needs to be emptied every day or so, otherwise the unit will just shut itself down as a safety precaution.

If that’s not an option then a Napier VP90 Corrosion Inhibitor Sachet is a good bet. This foil-wrapped sachet has a self-adhesive pad that lets it be stuck to the inside of the cabinet, after which it gives off a vapour that lightly coats metal surfaces, including the bore, and will not harm wooden stocks. It should ideally be changed every 12 months, and you can write the date you started using it directly on the sachet so you have a reminder when it’s time to fit a fresh one.

One of my shooting buddies has a gun cabinet in his garage, and he’s fitted a lightbulb to the inside that’s permanently switched on, not because he needs to see inside the cabinet, but because it’s one of those old-fashioned non-environmentally friendly types that uses more power then it should, but gives off plenty of heat in the process, and he reckons this is enough to keep condensation and damp air at bay.

Apart from that, you’re already doing the right thing by treating the metalwork to a light coat of oil. Keep an eye on the wooden stock though, as a humid environment may make the stock swell and warp slightly, so regular (at least once a year) coats of gun stock oil or Stock Shield will help protect the woodwork. 

Laminated stocks are impervious to water, and varnished or lacquered stocks should be too, unless the coating has been scratched or cracked, revealing the bare wood underneath which may then absorb any moisture.

Question: I’m not very organised and always manage to forget something when I’m out hunting. I’m sure I’m not alone in doing this, so do you have any advice?

A bum bag lets you keep all your smaller items of kit in one place, while keeping everything to hand – it’s far kinder on your back as well

Lee Perryman says: You’re definitely in good company on this one. We’ve all forgotten to take something with us when we’ve headed out hunting or to the range, and if it’s something important like a magazine then that can put an end to the day’s shooting before it even begins.

I used to be guilty of this myself. I’d set my alarm for an early morning rabbit shoot, arrive at my permission and unpack my gear, only to find out that I’d left some crucial piece of kit at home on the kitchen table. Or when I’d come to the end of a successful session I’d remove the magazine, take out any remaining pellets and dry fire the rifle to make sure it was perfectly clear. So far, so good. But then I’d stow the magazine away in any old pocket in my jacket, and of course wear something completely different the next time and forget all about the magazine.

The thought of eradicating this stupidity had been swirling around my head for some time, then one day it came to me when I had to respond to a first aid incident at work – I needed some sort of grab bag. This would make the perfect solution for housing everything I knew I’d definitely need for each session, such as my magazine and pellets, and those things I might need, such as a pair of gloves, snood, rangefinder and of course a spare chocolate bar!

Having had a look at the various equipment carrying options on offer, such as rucksacks and shoulder bags, I thought I’d go down another avenue. I started to read up about ergonomics and took some medical advice about how to carry items for long periods of time, and it seemed a bum bag would be the ideal option due to the way the load is spread.

This Mr Motivator-type accessory holder is a good choice because it offers a nearly perfect capacity for what shooters need to carry, but without being cumbersome. The fact that it would be sitting close to the body meant it would put less stress on the spine and the postural muscles that have to keep your back upright. 

Furthermore, these bags also allow your arms to move freely while you’re walking, and also offer easy access to your gear. Another benefit, especially during hotter periods of the year, is the fact that you don’t get that irritating sweat patch on your back which you can get when you’re wearing something like a day pack.

When buying shooting products, you can often be overwhelmed by the number of options available, but to my surprise there didn’t seem to be much choice when it came to bum bags, so I settled on the Ridgeline five-pocket utility bum bag, which holds almost as much as a day pack, but is easier to organise and access. The bag is crafted of durable fabric which has a bonded fleece internal lining to ensure that it is silent when you are moving, which is an important consideration when I’m hunting.

Opting for this bum bag has ended my forgotten kit nightmare, and I’m sure it would work for you too. I now know that all my essential gear is in one place, while making carrying the kit a comfortable pleasure, rather than putting any excessive strain on my back. All I need to do now is remember to pick it up off the kitchen table when I head out shooting!

Question: I’ve often wondered how far an air rifle will shoot if it’s running at the legal limit?

Ray demonstrates shooting at 45 degrees, which is deemed the optimal angle for extending a pellet’s flightpath

Ray Garner says: In answering this question there is an awful lot of theory, dizzy science and variables to be considered. The most important factors in determining the absolute range of any projectile are its starting velocity, the launch angle and the ballistic coefficient of the (in our case) pellet.

Finding the ballistic coefficient (BC) seems to be the tough part as pellet makers generally don’t advertise this. The BC is the product of the pellet’s sectional density and its shape. The deeper you go, the harder it gets, but don’t give up yet! 

The sectional density of a given pellet is determined by dividing its mass by its cross-sectional area. With regard to the pellet shape, common sense tells us that an ogive shape or roundhead will travel further than a wadcutter, due to its ability to push air aside. Giving a particular shape a value requires further calculation or old school reasoning!

But way more fun is practical experimentation. Information gained by such empirical methods in the US suggest that 360 to 400 yards is the range of a sub-12 foot pound rifle. 

The method used to determine this involved shooting a .22 roundhead pellet at 600 feet per second from a barrel elevated at 45 degrees out across a remote desert plane in New Mexico, and spotting the dust kicked up by the pellet impact.

A pellet shot at say 30 degrees would carry as far as one shot at 60 degrees of elevation. None would beat the range obtained by 45 degrees of elevation. The higher the ballistic coefficient, the further the pellet will travel. Wind direction and wind speed influence maximum range. Clearly a strong tail wind will extend the travel distance of a pellet, as will a high BC value. 

One airgun manufacturer used to publish information in its owner’s handbook concerning maximum range. I can’t remember which one it was, but it may well have been BSA. This kind of information is of value to all of us who shoot outdoors in determining the ‘danger area’ beyond our intended target.

Question: What’s the best way to look after my scopes? I don’t want to damage the lenses.

The good , the bad and the downright piggin dirty – don’t let your scope lenses get anywhere near as filthy as this

Jonathan Young says: Optics of any description are a dirt magnet and mucky fingerprints don’t even come close to being the worst of the crud that ends up sitting on your scope’s lenses. 

Taking a walk or going shooting near the coast on a breezy day and your sunglasses, eyeglasses and scope may show a misty clouding – that’s salt spray that’s drifted inland on the wind. And shooting anywhere dusty, such as in farmyard barns at harvest time when clearing rats, could mean dirty scope lenses too.

Fitting flip-up lens caps is a very good idea, and see-through scope caps can be useful. When things eventually need a clean some people will use the edge of a woolly sweater or drag an old hanky out of a dirty trouser pocket – and no prizes for guessing what happens next. 

Glass and plastics used in optical lens manufacturing can be quite ‘soft’ and these are usually coated. The coatings reduce glare and improve clarity, just as with the lenses on eyeglasses, but despite advances in technology, or maybe because of it, they are still only microns thick.

When and how to clean is a personal choice. Cleaning will by default involve some abrasion, and cleaning any dirty optical surface will eventually cause some deterioration. I avoid spending huge sums on fancy scopes as I still enjoy using open sights and the few scopes I do have can all be replaced cheaply if they become scratched.

Using a proper glass cleaning cloth as sold by opticians will not avoid damage if some attempt is not made first to remove any dirt particles. A brush with long bristles has been found useful by many to remove debris, one with a plastic ferrule rather than metal, as if used carelessly that part can drag and obviously cause worse damage than just dirt. 

A camera lens brush with a plastic casing and a blower brush have also been found to be useful. Brushing and blowing gently to dislodge debris, any dirt can be encouraged to fall away with gravity by pointing the scope downwards, and this should minimise particles getting dragged back and forth later by any cleaning cloth.

Debris also gets into the lens ring threads, so again a brush can be useful  to run around the metal retaining rims. If the glass is clean enough at this stage it is prudent to call time as there is no point in cleaning further when it is not necessary. If further cleaning is called for, some owners swear by lens cleaning fluid. 

Squirting this directly over the glass the liquid may get drawn into the lens body – not good. Many will instead run some onto a lens cleaning cloth first, then gently apply this to the glass. 

Disposable optical wipes in silver foil packets that are soaked in fluid are also available. Very light strokes should be all that’s needed to remove any smudge marks and fingerprints. 

This may conclude the cleaning, but as liquid agents can dry blotchy some people may want to wipe any cleaning marks away with a separate dry lens cloth. It is still important not to overdo this, and terms like ‘polishing glass’ invite trouble. 

The only polishing that’s done to any optical surface should only ever be done in a laboratory.

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