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

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


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!



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.


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.


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.

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.


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 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.


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.

have just taken possession of my new mountain coat from Ridgeline and I must say it fits me really well and is the first outer coat that I have owned in a camouflage pattern. It is designed in the well proven kiwi bush shirt style notably marketed in earlier years by the firm of Swandri.

It comes with a hood which is detachable and is attached with domes and a zip. It has a front zip that reaches almost to the naval and again closure is with a zip and a domed flap which protects against the elements. The left chest pocket is roomy and features another flap that secures with dome fixtures. On the right chest side is a shallower pocket with zip closure. There is a drawstring waist with toggles and the garment reaches down to just above the knee with shallow scallops out of the sides to ease movement whilst climbing. The wrists have a comfortable neoprene gusset on the inside and a flap outside which can be tightened up with the Velcro flap to help prevent water egress and aid warmth and comfort. The camouflage is of the Ridgeline buffalo design which is pleasing to the eye and I found it to be an effective disruptive pattern especially in a snow and rocky backdrop.

The fabric is the Ridgeline waterproof/breathable and abrasion resistant seam sealed RL-TEX three layer shell.

The one thing I have noticed so far is the lack of restriction whilst stretching the legs or for that matter even sitting down compared to my much more expensive similar featured garment. The proof of the pudding however is a hunting trip.

I have just returned from a couple of days hunting with the said garment. The month is April and there was a strong south westerly wind blowing on the tops on our first day. The coat deflected the wind with ease and was very comfortable to wear all day. I was wearing a “Thermarest” long sleeved vest and short sleeved fleece tee underneath.  This is usually more than I wear underneath my usual windproof in the heart of winter, I blame the choice of the extra tee on the very strong cold wind. I normally only wear the long sleeved vest and I figure the extra tee in this case did nothing to help the coats breathing capabilities.

The result was the inside of the material was constantly damp throughout the day. This said I spent more than a couple of hours glassing and remaining immobile and still remained very comfortable.

Summing up; for me this jacket is by design meant for alpine environments and by far the most important feature above any waterproof attributes is the ability to close out the wind. If it will do that and the right material is used then the rain takes care of itself. There is no waterproof garment on earth that will keep you totally dry when exerting yourself. It may keep the rain out but you will be wet with condensation or moisture forced in by your pack or such like. Obviously some materials will breathe better than others.

What a good quality waterproof will do however is keep you comfortable and safe from exposure through its wind proofing attributes.

The hood on these garments for my money should be integral and have a wired reinforced skeletal frame to prevent it flapping about and aid it to sit tidier when not in use. That is my only criticism of this Ridgeline jacket.

There will be more trips in the future  and more juggling with undergarments to get the right balance for the Monsoon II to perform at its best in the coming months and I will post the results in this article. Meanwhile my expensive coat is being despatched to the manufactures for repairs and proofing after four years hard use…..I might not miss it as much as I feared!

Priced at NZ $289.99 for the cammo version and NZ $269.99 for the teak and available in most sports shops.

Imported by Cameron sports

Wheeler Professional Reticle Levelling System

my bush hunting days it mattered little if my cross hairs were not aligned perfectly. Ranges were short and turrets were not to be messed with. Once your scope was sighted in it was caps on and forget about it. In modern times technology has advanced somewhat and firearms, ammunition and optics have enhanced the potential for long range accuracy.

Finding myself these days more of an alpine hunter I am far more conscious of the accuracy of my rifle be it from more thorough cleaning regimes and reloading techniques right through to the mounting and alignment of my scope. It is critical for the reticle to be precise vertically and horizontally to ensure both hold over and turret adjustments are going to be true. Any canting of the firearm will result in elevation and windage problems and the further the range is extended the bigger the problem.

I have up until now used the Wheeler level level level system to mount my scopes and have had good results on my Remington 700 varmint rifle, however on my two Sakos this system doesn’t seem so favourable.

Wheeler have now introduced the pro reticle levelling system that will allign scope reticles on any firearm whatsoever. The system comes in a neat plastic foam filled box and comprises of a barrel clamp level vise and reference level both are machined in aluminium housings.

Method of aligning the levelling system

Final adjustments with scope in place

Placing your rifle in a vise so as to secure it I find the Tipton gun vise perfect for this sort of job you then attach the clamp to the barrel with an ”as near as” level and then place the refernce level to something that reflects the axis of the rifle such as scope bases or bottom half of a scope ring. Then position the gun so that the ref. level is true. Adjust the barrel clamp level by means of the turn screw so that they both are showing a level reading. You have now transferred the axis level of the rifle to the barrel and can now remove the ref. level.

Put your scope in place and lightly tighten the screws with just enough slack so that you can adjust. Place the ref. level on top of the scope cap and calibrate with the barrel clamp then simply secure in place. Pretty damned effective

  • Precision tool for scope reticle alignment
  • Maximise accuracy potential
  • CNC machined aluminium level housings
  • Factory calibrated reference level
  • Turnable barrel clamp level
  • Protective storage case

 Morepork S/S Bushirt by Ridgeline

Over the many years I have hunted I have always relied on the ole faithful
swanny type of tailoring in either wool or fleece to do the job for me in the
bush. These garments do tend to make me overheat in all but the coldest days and
most of the time they find themselves either rolled up and tied round my waist
or nestled deep in my day pack awaiting the call.

Ridgeline have produced a top called the “Morepork Bushirt” which is shorter in length and a short
sleeved version of the above in style. The fabric is bonded fleece with awater proof breathable membrane it sports a generous front zip, and a deep zipped chestpocket which is ideal for your binos and also sports two deep diagonal hip pockets again they arezipped.  The colours available at present are blackand olive.

It is mid September and a recent fall of snow is blanketing the bush down
to 600meters. I have a reccie trip planned to cover three nights in hitherto
unchartered country. I have decided to leave my warm swanny at home and rely
solely on the Morepork over the top of my usual thermos. Throughout the walk in
some six hours in total I am staying comfortable albeit a little sweaty. The
conditions are variable with occasional gusts of strong cold southerly winds. It would
be one of those trips where it would be a case of on/off with the outer garment
and a stop start sort of a journey. Not so with this top. To say I was impressed
with the bushirt and its ability to breathe far better than any swanny I have
owned would be an understatement and at journey’s end the top dried out in no
time at all.

That same evening I successfully shot a yearling hind behind the hut and the
following day spent all day in cold showery conditions exploring the
surrounding country with my new found wonder shirt. I never had to take it off
once or felt it was not warm or dry enough . My thoughts are that when the
weather becomes warmer, then I can experiment with lighter under clothes and
prolong its usefulness. I am just waiting for Ridgeline to bring it out in buffalo
cammo and I will get another. At NZ69.99 it is a steal.

Ultimate Pikau – Ridgeline

It has been many years since I last wore a pikau pack in the bush and I had
forgotten how comfortable and practical they are

Ridgeline Pikau and One for the pot

I recently took the one manufactured by Ridgline into the bush for a test
drive and returned again enamored of their qualities. The ultimate pikau has
an external zip pocket and shoulder straps and is made up from durable bonded
fleece that doesn’t register a sound in thick bush.

The pikau is New Zealand through and through, Maori used to carry food and
gear in them, usually theirs were made from flax. You have only to look at the pear
shape of its design to know it will not hold back your progress in the bush by
snagging here and there like most other packs do.

Ridgeline have gone a step further and added a zip pocket to the outside. I
found this perfect for binos, spare ammo, camera or anything I might need
quickly and in a hurry. To access the inside and main compartment is a slower
job and it necessitates opening the drawstrings to gain entry. Here I have my
lunch for the day and my meat bags and toilet roll etc.

The pack stows easily and compactly into your main pack for travelling and
this is also a highly desirable quality its weight is negligible.

I was able to secure a yearling hind on my first hunt with it and boned out
the hindquarters and took the back steaks. The pack was very comfortable with
its extra payload on the return journey, though to be fair a framed pack would be a better proposition for heavier and more prolonged carries, arn’t most things in life about compromises? The addition of padded shoulder straps
and a waist strap dimmed the distant memories of chaffing shoulders and
unstable loads of the days gone by.

I am hooked again on the pikau for bush hunting and it only goes to show that
when something is of sound design it survives the test of time.

Available in Buffalo cammo/Blaze cammo and Olive NZ49.99 for Olive and
NZ54.99 for the cammo

Leupold’s custom dial system [cds]

recently purchased a Leupold Vari 3  1-5 x 20 scope to compliment my custom Sako
L579 action rifle. I then asked for this scope to be fitted with a cds elevation turret before it was dispatched to me. I was told by Leupold to provide the following information;

  • Calibre

  • Bullet weight

  • Bullet make

  • Bullet type

  • Ballistic co.

  • Velocity

  • Average elevation

  • Average temperature

  • Sight height i.e., The distance from middleof the scope to middle of the barrel

Other questions I have heard they ask is whether or not you have a picatinny rail mounted with a M.O.A. Slope and serial no. on scope.
Regarding the rail it means they can add a considerable amount of extra yardage/meterage
to your dial allowing you to get out even further.

This I did and after a lengthy period [I was unlucky] my turret arrived configured to the info., I
had given them and all this is engraved on the top in white lettering. It is
important to know that the turret is only good for the one load you specify but
obviously you can have alternative turrets made up for other loads you want to shoot.  I am lucky in that I have totally settled on the Barnes 130 grain TSX bullet in my .308 for all my hunting and so will only need the one.

I took the original off by means of the Allen key supplied by unscrewing the three grub screws that hold it on the scope. I affixed the cds elevation turret by the same means.

Showing range graduations

My turret was marked from one to five hundred and fifty meters with hash marks at ten meter intervals also the fifty meter marks are shown as 1.5 2.5 3.5 etc in slightly smaller numerals making the dialing into any range fast and accurate. I firstly bore sighted it and then took it to the range
and proceeded to sight it in at the 100meter mark. I got a dead centre tight group at that range. Then I loosened the grub screws and revolved the turret around so that it was now showing 1 to correspond with my sighting in distance at a 100 meters. The turret has a ball bearing on the inside which provides a zerostop so that it can only now move one way and that is up. Next it was out to
200 meters so I moved the dial up to 2 and the group was again dead center. I
mirrored the procedure out to 300 and then 400 meters which is the extent of my
shooting range and to my utter delight my groups printed dead on.

To finalise my testing I have a steel plate measuring 600mm x 300mm at a range of 464 meters this target is not on my range but it is the maximum safe distance I can shoot on my property. I dialled my scope up to 470 on the turrets and hit the plate 2 out of 3 shots.

To say I am impressed is an understatement.

For hunting purposes I leave the dial set on 2 [200meters] and that enables me to hold dead for anything that is going to leap up out on me and will still permit me a high dead on hold out to just over 300yds.

Further notes;

I have been finding the Barnes130 tsx bullet a slow killer at the 300 meter mark so I have changed over to the Hornady 168 A Max.  I sent away to Leupold for another turret for the new round and the results below are proof of its worth.

Range was 493 meters.  First shot was the one on the right.  Next three where around

the bull and I deliberately shot the far left shot last [head shot!].  Not too shabby for a 5x scope. I have read mixed reviews for the cds dials but as far as I am concerned they are the dogs bollocks for intermediate ranges.   Hey guys don’t get me wrong I shall be still stalking in as close as I can but nice to know I have some insurance.  I still believe 400 meters is my absolute maximum range.  Plate measures 600mm x 300mm.



The Shemagh

The shemagh in tussock cammo

No I haven’t morphed into a terrorist or changed sex or am I a cross dresser!

 I have discovered the above as being very useful for hunting purposes however especially for the tops type situations. A cold southerly briskly making itself felt around your head as you glass some distant gulley-yes you can put your hood up or wear a beanie or both but let me tell you there is nothing that will have you feeling more comfortable than the above head covering IMO. It also can be used to keep the sun off your neck and head/face. When not used for a head covering it simply is pulled down and becomes a very warming scarf. I trialled one on my latest hunt “In search of a summer head skin” and found it very useful and unfortunately a must for all future hunts I say unfortunately because it is all weight- even when measured in grams!

They can be bought at most military surplus shops and are ideally 42″ square in size.

Ridgeline Sable Air-Flow L/S Zip Top

A perfect summer coat and a perfect summer shirt

The sun climbed further into the sky and the heat on my back began to intensify I was sweating both from the heat and the tension as I traversed the sharks fin of a ridge the chamois had just vacated. It dropped away to nothing on both sides and was no more than a meter wide in places. It was time to take off my Ridgeline Monsoon II jacket. Instantly the faint breeze found its way onto my skin and I began to cool immediately. With that came a sharper focus and the tension fell away like snow off a steep slope. By the time I had found a way off that ridge my shirt had gone from wringing wet to bone dry. I was wearing the Ridgeline Sable air-flow L/S top. “Air flow” because the shirt is made up of a myriad of perforations designed to let the wearer get the benefit of any cooling breeze. This is no flimsy garment however According to the label it is made of 100% Polyester and the material is as tough as old boots and meant to last a long time and is hard wearing. The front zip is long and reaches to the midriff again to aid cooling. The elastic cuffs are comfortable and can be drawn back to convert to short sleeves very easily. The sleeves stay put too. There is no pocket anywhere on the shirt and I think this to be a plus as the shirt is so light anything placed in a pocket other than a feather would alter the whole balance of the shirt in a negative manner plus provide a double thickness in a place where the wearer would prefer a cooling breeze. By far the best of its kind that I have worn so far. $69.99.


Leave a Reply