Reviews

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bit by bit it got done

Range hut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has taken a few years of post by post and brace by brace but finally it is up and properly running. Weather proof and user friendly to both right and left handed shooters.

Inside looking out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It covers 300 meters from the bench with additional 400 and 500 meter “outside”prone shooting areas as well.

300 meter
caters for paper and steel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forbes 20B in .243 cal.

The ultimate Mountain Rifle?

 

The Forbes rifle lends its name from Melvin Forbes owner of NULA which manufactures custom made light mountain rifles for its discerning clientele.

Forbes rifle LLC was formed by Melvin and in conjunction with Titan machine Products are responsible for the mass produced version of the NULA rifle.  Mass produced it might be but all the ingredients have all custom name tags.  The rifle under review is the 20B so called because the action weighs a scant 20ozs

 

 

 

When the opportunity to test drive this rifle came up I readily admit I was more than a little enthused. NZ Ammunition are the sole agents for the Forbes rifle and they generously dressed up my sample with a Swarovski Z3 in 3-10 x 42 BRH scope and supplied a couple of boxes of Norma 100 grn. S.P. bullets in addition.

The rifle ships in a padded hard case with Talley 1” aluminium scope mounts/rings and owner’s manual and warranty card, extras that would otherwise see you spend well over an extra $100 if not already included with your initial outlay. R.R.P. $3100

                                                      Stock

On opening the package I was immediately impressed with the handsomeness of the rifle’s appearance. The stock is born of a hand laid carbon Kevlar finish and is finished in an attractive charcoal grey colour which blends nicely with the black action and lighter grey barrel.   The stock is extremely light weight and robust and the finish is marble like in appearance though with a somewhat coarse texture that provides plenty of grip.  There is no checkering in the traditional sense.  There is no magazine inlet either as the magazine is internal, and so is of the blind type which in turn keeps weight down due to not needing any metal work on the exterior. The lack of further in-letting contributes to added strength in the stock.

 

The first thing I noticed was that the L.O.P. is 13 ¾.”  At 5’ 9” in height I find this is a little long for me my stocks usually measure 13 ¼”. This can obviously be easily remedied though with the fitting of a slimmer butt pad or grinding the existent one down to fit. The butt pad is a 1” Pachmayer.  Despite the fact I had to pull myself onto the scope the general balance of the rifle I felt was good.

There are two sling attachment points on both the fore end and rear of the stock. I personally would like to see manufacturers make more use of a barrel band on mountain rifles mainly because when the rifle is slung whilst using both hands to climb the overall length is then considerably shortened thus giving less protuberance above your head to snag on rock obstacles and scrub as an aside it also saves drilling into the stock and leaving more lumps and bumps to snag up  also the barrel band provides a much more secure tenure. You might have gathered I am not a fan of bipods in mountain hunting so in my world no forward stud is needed for that application either.

The stock is fully bedded the length of the barrel which is a non typical method of bedding in this day and age but if it shoots well and is consistent on both bench rest and all other methods of shooting stance then I can see this only as a plus as there will be little or no debris finding its way into the barrel channel which in a fully floated barrel set up can cause erosion and even point of impact shift.

To dismantle the rifle the two screws to unlock are the rear action screw and the forward action screw and they sport two different hex heads A further trigger guard screw is for securing the guard only.  The forward action screw is approx 85mm in front of the trigger guard and both screws are responsible for the attachment of the stock to the action.. Finally the Stock complete with butt pad and bedding compound, pillars and paint tips the scales at a whopping 17ozs!

                                                 Barrel

 

The barrel is a 21″ chrome moly E R Shaw with a 1/10 twist, and button rifling and is finished in an attractive light grey with again the same oxide finish as the action and similar to the stock has a coarse texture matte finish to it though I am not too sure how durable this finish on the barrel will be especially under NZ conditions.

It is stated in the advertising blurb that the barrel is of #2 I found in front of the fore end though that the barrel does takes on a sharp down turn in profile and ends up at .55” at the muzzle from a 1.05” diameter at the action. There seems to be a lot of leeway in the description of contours and in my opinion I would say it sits on the fence between a 1# and 2# It looks a little thin at the muzzle for my tastes and I would have preferred the contour to be straighter from the action with far less taper even if that would have meant the extra weight penalty. For me barrels are exempt from lightening even fluting leaves me cold.

I feel the need to treat such light barrels when shooting off say a bench -rest exactly the way you would a barrel with a suppressor fitted and that is slowly and with time taken between strings of no more than 3 shots at a time as they heat up too quickly and this barrel was no exception to the rule.

                                                          Action

The action sports a CNC cut receiver and has a black oxide finish and is the crux of the overall lightness in this rifle and weighs in at a scant 20ozs.  Bolt release is situated on the left hand rear and is an oblong shaped flat topped lever that needs to be depressed to free the bolt It does have a light and flimsy feel about it in my opinion and the safety is on the right and very similar to the Remington 700. The safety as on all Forbes rifles feature a unique two position, three function safety which allows the user to load or unload the firearm whilst keeping the rifle safe from discharge. The housing for the safety lever is generous and maybe at fault in an otherwise good concept and could invite all manner of foreign objects including water to descend into it.  Maybe a Sako style sliding safety would be more practical.

The magazine as previously stated is of the blind type which in turn keeps excessive weight down and which I find perfect for a hunting rifle as there are no issues with lost magazines or magazine floor plates being inadvertently opened and the contents spilling out.  In short it is practical and bomb proof. It holds 3 rounds in the staggered magazine.

I found the bolt to be beautifully proportionate in size to its calibre and more in keepings with the dimensions of my own Sako Forester (although quite a bit smaller again) as opposed to the behemoth size of say a Remington 700 also it was very smooth in operation.

The fact that the bolt does not have a half open lock or half cock is disappointing but as it is American made not altogether too surprising, The bolt has twin lugs and has a Sako style extractor with a plunger ejector and ls slim and extremely good looking and sports a shallow fluted finish the fluting looks more designed to aid function than for any attempt at further lightning of the action. .Speaking about function the bolt when viewed from above shows quite a large gap on the right hand side of the action in to which the cartridges can be clearly seen underneath and that raises another point to my mind about all manner of debris finding its way in and possibly binding the action.

 

A Timney adjustable trigger is also part of the package and like the action has its parts CNC cut to promote concentricity, accuracy and reliability and can be tuned down to as little as 1.5lbs which I would say wouldn’t be far off what this particular trigger was or maybe 2lbs at most unfortunately I do not possess a trigger gauge to verify this one way or another.  Let off was crisp and I found no discernible creep whatsoever the trigger broke like the proverbial glass rod.  I measured the blade width with my callipers and it measured 9mm which personally I find a little excessive I would much prefer a slim trigger of maybe half that width but all this is personal taste and of course the other side to it is a wide trigger does promote the feeling of a lighter trigger pull.

The trigger guard is manufactured in aluminium which is a weight saver and practical.

                                               Scope

Although again not to my taste in scopes it would be very hard to be too harsh on the Swarovski Z3 3-10x 42. With its one inch tube, fine magnification range setting of 3-10 clarity of glass and weight of mere 12 or so ounces. Its fine optics and its well renowned reputation for dependability go hand in hand with the brand name

 

My personal criticism however starts with not only Swarovski but all scope manufacturers in as much as we have various rifle manufacturers trying their best to mass produce the lightest and most compact mountain rifles for us but in contrast the optic companies cannot match them with the right dimensional optics.

In my opinion and experience with NZ hunting in particular we do not need large objective lens per se.  (They attract debris in the bush and reflect sunlight on the tops and attract concussion being wider than the barrel and sometimes the stock!)  If you are bordering on the myopic however…well you have no choice of course.

A 20” or less barrel length puts the rifle in the carbine category and as such needs a scope no longer than ten inches and an objective of no more than 24mm for it to be practical and to sit right without it looking too heavy and domineering the rifle.

 

Where are the 10” in length scopes that have a good magnification range and weigh no more than 12 ozs with a 24mm obj.?  Even if you could extend that to 30mm tube dia. It would not be possible it seems and that is a shame..

My last criticism of this scope in particular is of its reticle system.  The multi stadia hold over is way too cluttered for a mountain rifle or anything but a varmint rifle really and only lends itself to confusion when in stressful situations.  Counting the lines down is no way to take a 300 or 400 meter shot.  Instead a centre cross hair and custom elevation dial would make life a whole lot easier IMO.

 

Selling points

 

Weight 6lbs  4ozs. all up on my kitchen scales

Adjustable Timney trigger

E.R.Shaw Barrel

Fluted Bolt

Carbon/Kevlar stock

Lightweight Talley mounts/Rings

Padded hard case

 

At the Bench

 

I found shooting the Forbes off the bench at the outset not at all straight forward for such a mild shooting cal. However after a dozen shots or more I got more used to its character.  A light rifle like this takes some getting used to both shooting from a bench and in the field. I am not saying it recoils heavily but I will say it is lively. I proceeded to shoot a nine shot group without first focusing the scope properly to my eye and the result is the three outside shots on the target.  Immediately alerted to the fact something was wrong I rectified the situation and plonked the rest of the rounds with monotony into the white. Not so much was this an act of supreme accuracy but I was curious as to how such a light barrel fully bedded would respond to fairly quick shooting and whether or not it would start to string its shots in any particular direction. Well the pictures tell the story first the nine shots at 100 meters and then the three shots out of a hot barrel on the 200 meter steel plate.  Curiosity satisfied.

 

As can be seen there is no aiming mark on the plate and I used just a centre mass hold.  Note the beautiful straight line and with no windage error whatsoever.  I used the second Stadia line on the Swaro scope for these shots which I am not altogether familiar with.  I feel with more time some hand-loads and a Duplex reticle this group could be reduced significantly.

200 meters aiming center mass

 

 

 

 

In the Field

 

The plan was to take the Forbes up high and use it as it was designed as a mountain rifle.  Finding a weather window to conduct this mission was at best frustrating.

At last the stars aligned and I had a one day forecast of good weather which was a Monday.  I set off early Saturday morning on a heavily overcast day the winds were to be 40 kph up top and it wasn’t long on the journey before I switched on the wiper blades of my Safari.

The long haul with heavy ish pack was completed in around four hours and as I emerged out of the bush into the tussock the strong wind made its presence felt.  It swept down off the tops flattening the tussock in all directions in its relentless pursuit of domination of all and sundry and what it flattened in one direction on the ridges it also flattened in the opposite direction in the gullies.

It was a good time to stop and pull out of the pack an extra shirt hat and gloves.  The altitude was 1425 meters and I needed to reach 1700 before shuffling along the ridge a fair while and then dropping again down to the bush edge where I would set up camp.

At 1600 odd meters it was considerably colder and windier and the butt of the Forbes was being used as a weather vane by the wind which in turn reminded me that indeed I was holding a rifle and for a time I focused my attention on the piece in my hands.  It was so light compared to any other rifle I have ever taken afield and because of that was a pure joy to carry. Not only was it light but the stock shape in front of the trigger guard is shaped so that it fits naturally into your hand and the reason it fits so well I think is partly due to the fact it has a blind magazine and there is absolutely no reason to square off the bottom to fit the magazine floor plate and therefore it takes on a more oval shape which in turn sits deeper into your hand and allows you to have a shallower grip on the stock which is definitely less taxing over lengthy periods.

Normally whilst negotiating steep ridges and hills especially with a heavy pack I tend to use my rifle as a walking stick the Forbes however was very rarely used in this manner and could be carried most of the time with ease in the hand or in the crook of an arm.

With my shelter finally erected coinciding nicely with the first drops of rain beginning to fall it was time to surround myself in down.  Once comfortable in my sleeping bag I reached out of the tent into my awning and lit the stove and started to prepare my favourite freeze dried meal of Spaghetti Bolognese.

Epitome of elegance

 

The morning was dour with ominous heavy black clouds scudding across the sky and a light drizzle still falling.  The long tussock grasses were loaded with moisture and a moderate wind also helped to keep the temperature low. Before engaging the brain too early I put a brew on and then prepared my porridge breakfast all the while deliberating on the day’s opportunities or lack of.

I was finally away around 6.30 striding into rain soaked grasses.  An hour or so further on I was met with a blanket wall of fog and all I could do was to sit down and be patient as the clag rolled in and out.  It eddied up out of the deep gullies and then swept down the ridges in an endless circuit of torment.  Fair play to Forbes he held his tongue and was staunch throughout.

I topped a ridge at around 11 to 11.30 and the white stuff was still preventing me from using my Leica’s in any meaningful way so for the umpteenth time I sat down and waited.  Slowly the visibility kept getting better and better and eventually it finally cleared to a sky that was grey and overcast but clear underneath.

I pulled out my binos and started to work the upper levels of tussock though knowing in my heart of hearts that it would be too cold for any animal to be lingering up here.  After a period of scanning I then focused the lenses down into an open patch of tussock and scrub amongst the trees in a creek head well below my position.

A bark rang out and then six or seven more found their way up to my ears but try as I might I could not locate the animal that was making the sounds.  They could not see me and obviously could not smell me or they would have been long gone so I deduced they were barking at each other.  Finally a hind and yearling trotted out from the bush into the clearing and started to graze immediately.  I was around 300 meters above the bush line and they were 300 meters further down in the gut.

I quickly donned my Pikau and slid down the steep tussock and scrub infested incline until I reached the bush line.  There were two large rocks that I perched myself on to get a clear view of the animals below and I recorded 277 meters for the now lying down yearling and 297 meters for the Hind but try as I might I could not get a steady enough position to confidently get a shot away.  I elected to blindly stalk down through the trees to enable me to get closer and have a better position to shoot from.

Some thirty minutes later carefully and quietly approaching the creek and scanning the area beyond I noticed an object not quite in keeping with the rest of the surrounds. so I slowly lifted the rifle and peered through the Swarovski scope and the shape materialised instantly into a deer but because of intervening branches I was again unable to brace for a shot so I moved cautiously to my left and then lost sight of the animal so I moved back to my original position but found I still could not locate it.  I decided to move closer ever slowly I crept down the slight incline until now I was below the sight of any inquisitive eyes on account of the high bank on the other side of the stream I quickly crossed and dropped prone onto the short grass on the bank top.  I saw ears move and then the head was visible beyond some scrub.  I waited some minutes in the hope the animal would approach as I had a perfectly steady position but eventually I was forced to raise my body first to a crouch and then fully stand up.  Instantly the yearling moved into the open and i was grateful it was side on too. The .243 barked and he disappeared.  There was enough muzzle -jump from this mild mannered cartridge shooting without rest in this light rifle for me to lose my sight picture momentarily and so I could not confirm the shot.  The hind then showed herself and a shot to her neck resulted in her disappearing also unconfirmed..

Both animals were eventually recovered however where shot some fifty or so meters away with the Norma ammunition doing its job perfectly.

 

I found the Forbes 20B rifle elegant and easy on the eye extremely portable and a joy to carry the trigger also was a delight. However I learnt one thing and that is that lightness is not an absolute and there are cons to be considered too.  Firstly I found it hard to steady the very light rifle whether on a rest and certainly free hand and also as a consequence of that the recoil of the .243 in this rifle was greater than what you would normally expect.

One other thing that worries me is the gap in the action when viewed from above and in which you can clearly see the cartridges lined up below surely this has to be a door for debris to enter into and possible malfunctions to occur.

That entire aside the Forbes is certainly a contender for the “all round NZ mountain rifle” and if I was starting out in hunting I would be naturally drawn to all of its pros. If I could master its lightness in terms of little or non-supported shooting it would have to be a winner all the way.

 

Markhor 45 Litre Day Pack

Markhor Pack

A day pack to me 40 years ago would simply mean a Pikau. The very simplest of which would see a hessian sack being utilised. Two small stones placed in each of two corners. A length of string tied into a knot around the stones, and the remaining string looped around the top of the sack. There is nothing wrong withthat set up today either, for the bush hunter.

The alpine hunter on the other hand requires a bit more out of his daypack. Being at times a long way from water the first consideration is a water bladder which means in our pack we will need a pouch to hold it. If you are a chamois and Tahr hunter and consequently find yourself in very steep country at times then a scabbard is a might handy piece of equipment to have on your pack also.

The pack must of course be comfortable with all the necessary adjustments and padding needed to provide that comfort. The outer finish is important too, we don’t need materials that scratch and scrape to alert our quarry. Lastly some thought on compartments and pockets that are user friendly and designed for the Intended use.

There you have it and the winner is the Markhor Eterlou 45Litre. I have been looking for a daypack for some time which would provide me with everything I could possibly need on a days hunt. I eventually narrowed it down to this and one other. My final decision was made on these points. • Competitor did not have a top lid • Competitor was heavier and had 10 Litres less volume • Competitor was more expensive • Competitor had less pockets .

The Markhor is a sturdy, quality made pack the finish is a 100% Polyester “silent” material, finished in a cammo real tree hardwood colour. It is pre equipped for a hydration bladder and also boasts a rifle scabbard. The lack of an ice axe loop was a minor hinderance , however for the price I would have liked this to be integral. A short trip to my local saddler solved this problem. What I like is the fact I can mount my two Buck folding knives on either side of the hip belt which means I can draw either without having to take my pack off. I like also the two elasticated pouches low down on the pack on either side, around where you would find your kidneys. An Ideal place to store your camera and compact binoculars or ammo pouch. Again these can be accessed without the need to take off your pack. There are two zippered pouches on the hip belt also. I have in these such things as a lighter, small soap, inner tube for lighting fires, electrical tape for the end of my barrel, some glucose sweets etc.

Low down centre back, and you will find the zippered compartment that houses the pouch that cradles your rifle. Further up the pack at centre and three quarters up are the padded straps that support the stock of your rifle. Still lower on the pack is yet another zippered compartment and this houses the waterproof cover that fits over the pack in a deluge. On either side of the pack at shoulder blade level there are two oval flat Zipped pockets of small volume that would be ideal for maps and compass, gloves, spare ammo etc. The lid is of generous proportions and again zipped. There is an orange bag also that can be fixed on the lid via Velcro and tie downs and acts as a safety option. The main compartment can be annexed off with the integral draw cords if needed and there is access to the lower compartment from the outside via a zippered compartment.

Using the full main compartment recently I found it handy to transport my bull Tahr head and cape out in comfort. The chest strap has an integral whistle in the buckle what for I don’t know, but its there [we are not in the highly populated european alps here!!!]. The one thing I was not too happy with was the scabbard pouch. I found it to be too flimsy in it’s construction. Whilst returning back through very steep country on a recent Tahr hunting trip the pouch was constantly getting rubbed against rocks and scree and looked quite thread bear after only three days. This again was addressed at the saddler the same time as the axe loop and the inside of the scabbard pouch was sewn with a heavy duty canvas the price was $40.00. Still working out a cheaper buy than the nearest competitor! All in all I am very pleased with my purchase. I should like to add that this is a totally independent review without any material gain.

 

Footnote;
I have since used this pack in the bush a couple of times and I.M.O. I find it not suitable at all. The waterproofing strips alongside the zips have worn away already and the ties attached to the zip pockets constantly get snagged on scrub whilst pushing through which result in the pockets opening and a very high possibility of losing the contents.

Latest update on the Eterlou

Four years of use and the first signs of wear…..

 

 

Understanding Tahr Behaviour Himalayan Tahr DVD Stealth Films

Looking upstream

I have just finished watching the above DVD and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What a change it makes from the carnage and blood- letting of a lot of wildlife films in this genre. I am a hunter and have been one all my life but I can’t help feeling a touch voyeuristic when someone else’s animals are shot on film in front of me. It fills me with remorse and I don’t enjoy the experience.

However in this film voyage, which starts with a brief history of the species it becomes evident very quickly that everyone lives happily ever after and instead of blood and guts we are transported into the world of the Tahr and their evolutionary common sense.

I took to the casual quality in Tustin’s commentary and the gentle back ground music only served to compliment his narrative. In an ideal world it would be viewed I imagine in a comfortable seat by the fireside sipping a few peat flavoured whisky’s…. Alas the cupboard is bare.

The filming and editing was decent and the whole hour long presentation was perfect. The bonus chapter in Nepal was a little disappointing and my visions of the animals living way up in the dizzy heights of the Himalayas left me a tad disillusioned.   I did find the work they are carrying out there educating however.

I would have loved to see more of the Tahr in their lofty winter environs and more of the nimble footed qualities I have seen personally in those lofty crags. It would have balanced the long mating game manoeuvres of which the film was mainly made up of.

Loved the playful antics of the herd toward the end of the film some of them resembling lotto ticket winners!

All in all I consider it a must for the library and it is a great reference work on the behavioural study of our mountain monarch.

Available at www.stealthfilms.co.nz Recommended price $39.95

 

Howa Ranchland 1500 & Nikko Sterling Nighteater 3-10 scope with LRX reticle

The Howa Ranchland in action

Howa to me a few years ago could have been associated with the start of a sentence a person with a speech impediment was trying to finish like how are you today? It certainly would not have been linked with the likes of Sako, Remington, Mannlicher etc. of the firearms world.

More recently though I have found- that with me the name does at last conjure up images of rifles but that is all, nothing specific…..I have heard of the Axiom but heard is all. So with the arrival of the new Howa Ranchland 1500 it was time I did more research Much to my surprise I discovered Howa have a long history of quality firearm manufacturing dating back to 1907. They have the distinction of having made barrels and actions for several well known names in the industry including Weatherby and Smith and Wesson. Their product has influenced the   vanguard and 1500 series respectively. Howa actions are used too on custom varmint rigs providing great accuracy. Some further internet research uncovered this …..”.In 1907 Toyoda’s Loom works ltd., was created they manufactured and sold textile sewing looms. As the company grew, they started manufacturing spinning machinery. In 1916 Toyoda’s Loom Works officially commenced the manufacturing of the spinning machinery followed by the manufacturing of cast steel in 1935. In 1941 Toyoda’s Loom Works merged with Showa Heavy Industries Ltd., a manufacturer of machine tools. The company became Howa Heavy Industries, Ltd., a manufacturer of machine tools. The company became Howa Heavy Industries Ltd. Four years later the name was changed to what is still known as Howa Machinery Ltd. “…………

Over the years Howa Machinery began manufacturing air chucks, pneumatic equipment, floor scrubbers, aluminium sound-proof windows, rod less cylinders, and vertical double-sided exposure systems for printed circuit boards. In 2000, Howa acquired the ISO 9001 certification in the machine tool accessories and firearms divisions.

First thoughts were busy taking in the dimensions and looks of the firearm. These few seconds were important to me as I was tasked with taking it for a hunt and doing some sort of evaluation on it. There is nothing worse in this world than to be saddled with a firearm for a period of time that is unwieldy and looks ugly. Luckily for me my first impressions were that the overall look was pleasing on the eye. If you like coordination in your colours then this package will not let you down from the green Hogue stock to the anodized matching green scope in fact you better be careful where you put this baby down or you will lose it!. The package deal comprises of Howa barrelled action, Hogue stock and Nikko Sterling Night eater 3-10 x 42 scope with LRX reticule. Retail price $1149.00 or thereabouts.

So What have we got here?  Well to my mind with its short 20” barrel I feel that this set up fits the bill as a true hunting rifle, and combined with this particular scope I feel it would lend itself ideally as a medium range alpine rig. It’s use on Chamois, Tahr and deer would be well suited especially in the 7mmo8,.243 or .308 cals. Other calibres available are .223 and .204. This particular rifle is in .308 cal. I hear also that they make a varmint version in .223 and .308.

Bringing the rifle up to the shoulder was effortless and it was both well balanced and pointed naturally. The L.O.P. was a little excessive for me at 13 ¾” being a good ½” too long. The stock is a Hogue composite which is a fibreglass reinforced skeleton with rubber overlay. The rubber has a very secure and warm feel to it, also when knocked it does not leave that hollow sound associated with synthetic stocks which is a sure game spooker in certain circumstances . The cobble finish on the fore end and pistol grip in place of the usual checkering on most rifles is also a nice touch and provides a firm and non slip hold. The overall stock finish will not harden with age and is impervious to gun cleaning solvents and oils.  The stock has wide fore-end and as such makes a sound platform whilst sighting in or shooting off a pack. It is further furnished with sling swivels and soft recoil pad. It is aluminium pillar bedded to the action.

The action is blued, flat bottomed with integral recoil lug and drilled and tapped for scope mounts. There is a three position safety catch to the right of the bolt which is easy to find and ridged for a non slip feel. When the safety  is pulled all the way to the rear it locks the bolt and trigger. In the neutral position it locks the trigger only and when pushed forward the rifle is ready to fire.

On the opposite side of the bolt is the bolt release. When depressed the bolt slips out of the action. The bolt has three holes on the right hand side but when the bolt is locked ready to fire they appear directly below and these are a safety feature. In case of a catastrophic build up of pressure in the chamber, the gasses are vent through those holes and out of the bottom of the magazine well instead of back in the users face.

The bolt utilises two locking lugs and features a large face which uses an m16 style extractor. It has the ability to be used in the half open bolt mode which is how most of us hunt here in NZ. In fact the action reminds me very much of my two Sako models the Vixen and Forester.

The magazine holds five rounds and is of a drop floor plate design. The release button is to be found in front of the trigger guard. The trigger is fully adjustable and needs to be as  out of the box it is both too heavy and unfortunately has more than enough creep to keep Boris Karloff happy.

The 20” blued hammer forged free floated barrel has a very slim profile #1 contour. The upside being there is a ton of room in the barrel channel and no chance of the stock coming into contact with it. The downside to that is a tendency to heat quickly and accept any amount of debris under the barrel.  The barrel twist is 1:12

The Nikko Sterling scope is around 14 ins in length and when mounted on a compact rifle like this looks a little top heavy it also weighs in at a hefty 17ozs which helps push the rifle scope mounts combination to 8.74lbs which is at the upper end of the weight scale for a true mountain rifle in my opinion. However the integral sunshade on the scope is very practical. The reticule is duplex and of the ballistic type which has a number of horizontal lines representing different point blank range options. I found the horizontal lines to be pretty fine and maybe hard to distinguish in low light against a dark background.

Before starting the range session I took the rifle apart and adjusted the heavy trigger by means of the two adjusting screws located in the trigger group. I managed to take a lb or so off the weight and eliminate most of the creep. The day I picked was absolutely perfect no wind and plenty of light.

Unfortunately no matter how hard I tried I was unable to obtain a satisfactory group, eventually packing up and returning to the house. I went over all screws with an allen key and found the two screws on the front rings right hand side were somewhat slack and one of the screws holding the mounts to the bases needed tightening . I checked the guard screws and they were firm.

Next day was overcast and with a slight NW breeze. Instead of the 10x setting I used the day before I now dropped down to 7x and the best group was 1.5” for three shots. I had now used up all of the rounds supplied, so decided to reload some of the Winchester cases with a few Sierra 150 grn., Matchking bullets I have lying around to try and improve the performance

Firstly I ran the cases over my concentricity gauge and found them All well within acceptable tolerances for accurate ammo., that also told me there was nothing wrong with the chamber in the rifle. In fact I noticed with the factory ammunition that the bolt had some resistance in closing. Usually with factory rifles the bolt almost falls closed by itself! So the tolerances were good.

I then ran a batch of ten rounds with 44.5 of 2206H powder and the bullet seated 2.278” to the bullet ogive, which was as long as I could go and still seat the rounds in the magazine. Results on a near perfect day which was overcast with little or no wind were much improved. The first group measured 0.969. I then adjusted the scope to print 3ins., high at 100yds and the second group went 0.985.

Proof that with a little experimenting the rifle does shoot. I am positive that further experimentation would yield even better results.

Conclusion

The Howa Ranchland 1500 package like all packages is built to a price. There seems to be a conflict of design however going on in this particular combination in my opinion    .

We have a slim tube but have a large scope. On the one hand saving weight and on the other adding with gay abandon.

There are minor issues such as trigger pull and L.O.P but these are minor and can be solved.

I personally would mount something like a Leupold Vari 1 or 11in a 2-7 x 33 scope on this rifle to ensure its continued accuracy and dependability, it would free up my mind about the nagging doubts I have with the durability and performance of the Nikko Sterling Nighteater scope. It wouldn’t harm the looks either.

When all said and done the Ranchland combo does handle well and if it fits the budget and spins your wheels the freezer should never be empty.

 

Ridgeline Monsoon ll Jacket in Buffalo Cammo.