Zeiss Shooting Weekend
We welcome Shooting journalist Chris Parkin to 'County Deer Stalking', Chris kicks us off with an exciting article about his recent, highly memorable trip to Denmark with Zeiss, Sauer and RWS, (Ulfborg 2013)
Personal thoughts, Technical reasons
"Chris, fancy a trip to Denmark?"....I think every shooter when honest, has times where the sport can become a bit tiresome and a break or change of direction is needed. Some elements of the sport have become very equipment oriented and in particular, the pinnacle of accuracy can involve many hours at the reloading bench.
I found myself enduring a long spell of this mood earlier in the year and the Denmark trip was not only a diverting journey, but reminded me a lot about myself, my former competitive mindset and what really does make me tick. It isn't the guns, scopes or ammunition; it is the need to make that one shot count, every time. Whether a comp is 1 shot, 10, to or 100, you can only shoot one at a time and using what is effectively issued kit, takes you mind away from the 'baggage' and directs everything into One Shot.
I seem to shoot pretty well, never had any great worries or issues and when I look back on the many hours of setting up kit, be it guns, bows or cars, the start line almost needs to be a line in the sand that once crossed, kit is forgotten, you simply tell yourself it WORKS and then accept the results. I'm good at just accepting things I can’t change and post-match is when it is time for de-brief. Returning to this type of shooting has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the sport again.
In reflection, it corresponds with my attitude to testing new equipment, just get on and shoot it, coming away from the experience with the literal opinion a piece of kit is `boring`. Post-match, this translates to "it just plain works, no hassle, no problem" and other than examining the minutiae, is what leaves a lasting opinion and means that my most regular mistake with any different gun is turning the turrets the wrong way on the scope, a skill that has been ingrained in my subconscious and therefore deserts me when 'clockwise is down'.
Our Gear is good, WE WILL prove it!
Starting out last year, Zeiss, in cooperation with Sauer and RWS though it would be a good idea to invite shooting journalists from across Europe to a range in Ulfborg, Denmark to try out rifles, ammunition and of course the scopes of which they are so proud.
The official press flyer instructed us to arrive at Billund airport in Denmark by 3pm on Friday the 28th June and other than bringing casual clothes and wash kit, we would be looked after. Reassurance was set in place that ammunition would be plentiful and a good sense of humour mandatory so I made my way to the airport built by, if not with, Lego and boy was I going to get a surprise.
Zeiss were onto a good start when I was invited, clockwise is definitely 'up and right' in their world. FFP/2FP and either mils or minutes are long absorbed into what are generally conscious calculations requiring only a moments conversion and the glass held no surprises, delivering a razor sharp image with a reticle that for a mix and match shooter like me is a delight, the no.60 illuminated. With a simple fine crosshair of the old school, coupled with analogue control on the illuminated red centre dot that subtends only 0.01 of a Mil, everything is in place for a shot on a tiny distant object in daylight or centering a reticle quickly at low mag for a snap shot as the light fades. Although at 12x with no measured graduations on the reticle for target measuring and range calculations, the delightful simplicity of the image presented paired well with a shoot that encouraged shooting, not mathematics. The idea of the Zeiss, Sauer and RWS’s venture was to get hunters (and the odd clickety click target shooter like me) to play with the new ASV+ turrets and learn to enjoy long range for what it is when not taking shots at live quarry, bloody good fun!
The package was set up prior to our arrival; everything was zeroed leaving us just a few shots to make ourselves happy with the turret settings before setting out on a weekend of gun fun. The ASV+ range are calibrated in the usual metric 10mm at 100m clicks or 0.1 Mrad but come with 8 collars that can be mounted after zeroing and will match the trajectory of any calibre to within close proximity.
We aren't talking F class precision but out to 600 metres for a market that doesn't need that last 1/8th MOA or 0.05 Mrad, it is very accessible to the newcomer. We won’t get into the ethics of the situation but all this money spent might just one day get Zeiss to make US a tactical scope, they have all the components just not the specification and although we could divert towards Hensholdt, when was the last time you saw one for sale?
Sauer is a name going a long way back, generally known for hunting rifles, here the new 101 is really no different, a polymeric or walnut stock is saddled up with an innovative bedding system to hold a sporting weight barrel with a 5 round detachable magazine with toughness a pre-requisite! Although cheaper than the 202, the rifle has delightful German build quality with a 6 lug bolt locking straight into the barrelreinforce. Not threaded, the barrel has an interference fit into the action and pinned for solid location control. Mag feed and accuracy were faultless and though the polymeric build might put some people off, it does run silently, smooth as silk. We were given rail mounted scopes but a weaver base option is standard and makes life very easy, avoiding the often expensive mounts that can accompany European guns and the trigger was a delight. No creep, drag or grind at all, it just snapped at 2lb EVERY time. The bolt has been designed for ultimate safety and although it does not feature a de-cocker, the catch on the bolt shroud has an internal safety button that must be depressed to slide the catch to fire.
I didn't love this function but it will doubtless become second nature to an owner. Twin plunger ejectors ensure positive ejection and as well as locking the bolt closed, live rounds can be ejected on safe, using the bolt release catch which overrides the lock. The firing pin itself is locked, not just the trigger!
I find hammer forged German barrels to be forgiving of most ammo types and for what is a stalking rifle, likely never to be used with endlessly evolved handloads. A gun like this may travel hard during its life and the RWS ammo we were issued fit the bill perfectly. A premium brand no doubt but it just shot, shot and shot. I won’t lie and say my gun was treated lightly; I’m a bit paranoid about getting my guns very hot with long shot strings but the gun became literally untouchable on several occasions. The most accurate shooting test it received in terms of pure short range accuracy was a 5 shot string shot prone resting on my rucksack at 100m. All 5 shots touched and that was certainly good enough given the circumstances to assure me of the gun's credentials. So we get back to the start, here I am, an issued gun, My Gun in fact for two days so what did we get up to......................
I arrived early at the airport and as other shooting journo’s flew in we all got acquainted and chatted about what to expect. Many had come to the event last year and reported a good time ahead and when Dr. Armin Dobat from Zeiss arrived to sort lunch and `refreshments`, we all tucked in before boarding a minibus for a 60 minute transfer to Ulfborg, good humour was already bubbling……… I had read reports from last year and all looked to be a jolly fun time shooting guns we weren’t allowed in the UK and generally having a few product demonstrations and seminars to assure the chiefs back in Germany we weren’t JUST having fun.
In Ulfborg we were all shown to 4 man bunkrooms in the large clubhouse and shown the various washrooms, bar and dining areas. This was previously a military facility, but apart from the generally flat terrain and odd distant bang, we could have been at Butlins with the soft sandy ground beneath our feet. After a brief trip to the bar, we were all `refreshed` and grouped outside for the official welcome from the three companies with a description of the two days ahead. Invited to replenish our `refreshments` at will and just to note on the bar tab, various other companies including Harkila started to outfit us with clothing, rucksack chairs, ear defenders, quad shooting sticks before we sat down to dinner and product demonstrations.
The new Sauer 101 in .308 Win was to be our personal issued rifle for the weekend, equipped with the New Zeiss 3-12x56 HT scope and ASV+ turrets. A very well organised rota was split around the room organising the 25+ journalists from as far afield as Finland and Italy into 4/5 man teams for the following day. RWS assured us we must make do with 49,988 rounds of ammunition to which we all mumbled mock disappointment. Novelties such as a .50 BMG rifle were flashed around to try out for those not acquainted with them, but the novelty for me was a 500 S&W revolver, complete with muzzle brake!
The evening continued with relaxed conversation and stories of hunting before a night’s sleep drifted toward a 7 am breakfast alarm. All day Saturday involved moving from range to range using various types of gun including pistols on stationary and moving targets at ranges between 10 and 540 metres. The complex at Ulfborg is listed as having `35 lanes` but when I tell you each `lane` is a range itself, usually having 8+ firing points it is easier to imagine something the size of “Century range” at Bisley, but split into small packets around the woodland and coastal sand dunes, it was awesome!
The whole day revolved around the fun elements of shooting but more importantly, introduced us to all the targets we would be using to compete the following day in the Scandinavian style “Field Shooting” experience. I have to honestly say I am more of a shooter than a hunter although I do both and the introduction to running stags was awesome, all done standing with both stationary and running shots. I actually took to it quite well using a Sauer 303 semi auto rifle in 30-06 with a 1-6x Zeiss atop it. More of a catastrophe was the `Tusker`, a small boar that zips across a 10 metre gap about 30metres away and needs 3 shots, I was rubbish. Shooting from sticks was fine, I’ve done that before and the quad sticks supplied were very stable and adjustable to personal preferences. Seated and standing shots unsupported were a baptism of fire but I have a few past skills that may have translated well to it, more of that later? All prone shooting was done using just elbows TR style with the standard sling or rested on the rucksack given to us the night before that we had been encouraged to stuff with spare clothes for ideal rested shooting height.
BBQ lunchtime came around with a menu suited to a true carnivore’s appetite and before I knew it, I had shot over 300 rounds in a day at various ranges through all sorts of weapons. It now dawned on me how my `issued` 101 had just slotted into place and felt easily at home. I am probably more of an optically clickety-click type shooter than some of the other guys there, but the general opinion was the rifle and scope were a great package. My background made me look at it from more technical standpoints and considering the shots at long range were no easy task, I have to say the rifle was bloody good both ergonomically and mechanically with an exceptional trigger!
The Evening BBQ and drinks led to much conversation about tomorrow’s competition, past winner’s chances’ and a few surprises in the format. Bed arrived at midnight, still light in the sky at these northern latitudes.
I had very few thoughts about the competition, although generally informal I had the feeling many treated it seriously with journalistic pride surfacing to gain the badges of honour available.
Each four man group were sent out with an instructor for the day and walking around what can be likened to a “golf/shooting” course for 6 hours with gun, sticks, ammo and water. Each `lane`, many of which we hadn’t encountered on Saturday had a specific target discipline and shooting position laid on which we were to follow exactly. Our instructors would both score and judge all performances on everything from roe deer targets to Moose and Boar along with steel plates at long range and a charging Buffalo.
I was thrown back in time as the 4 of us set out, quietly approaching each layout with a touch of hesitation. I actually found it quite emotional as it reminded me to tackle each target in turn, pay attention to the format, rules and scoring. I just clicked back into my competitive Archery psyche (editor’s note, Chris formerly shot Compound Bow competing internationally in target and field archery disciplines for Great Britain). Squeeze the trigger... I could detect a hint of nerves in myself as I clinically addressed each target and was immediately pleased with maximum scores on targets, some not dissimilar to Deer Stalking Certificate type qualification shoots. It then got interesting as we found Axel from Sauer all dressed up as a theatrical Professional Hunter, giving us instruction on shooting a .458 Lott Sauer 202 at a charging buffalo target. 4/5/2008 was the day I became a Dad and superstitious as I am, was grinning with the chance to shoot what many consider a bit of a handful, but to me was a lucky number.
My hand went straight up, “I will shoot first”, but although I shot it well and put two BIG holes right next to each other they were too low to score as `lethal` and I had dropped 10 points, I was gutted, I thought my day was done for. We took a hundred scoring shots seated, kneeling, supported, unsupported, from sticks, prone, elbows, rested on a rucksack, you name it, any combination was possible. Aiming a compound bow in the wind is very hard, all you can do is begin to squeeze the trigger and concentrate your aim, the tiny surprise as the shot releases will guarantee you won’t flinch and over time, the subconscious trust your body develops across its physical and mental procedures WILL work and I thank the fact my brain must still remember it is wired that way.
A few rumours filtered around the shoot that known `players` including last year’s winner had made costly mistakes (450 metre elevation setting at 100 metre shot MISS!) but I made damn sure I wasn’t going to. The long range shots I considered my specialty came right at the end for my group’s day. Unsupported standing 540 m shots at figure 11’s were an unknown quantity and not as terrifying as I dreaded but I was confident from prone with my rucksack as a rest that they were going down. And they ALL did!
Well the day was done, everyone was smiling and we each had to hand `our` rifle back in to the Sauer guys at the armoury. A quick meal, pack the bags and the minibus awaited for our airport transfer. The representatives from Zeiss, Sauer, RWS and others all thanked us for attending, awarded the podium winners and a fantastic weekend drew to a close with memories of new friends, new shooting stories and appreciation that there are some companies really pushing the envelope on technology and happy to PROOVE their gear works.
I’m not sure I dare remember how hard I treated the rifle, red hot, bullet after bullet it kept on going and has burned a scorched memory into my head of just how confident it left me. Zeiss were no real surprise, they just ride the cutting edge of what is optically possible but new blood seem to be pressing the undeniably superb lass makers into dialing turrets with fantastic reliability, intuitive operation and for a market where it wasn’t considered desirable. RWS’s ammo was just `boring` it worked very well and I have since learned much about the R&D that goes into their product which seems strangely calm on the surface yet fiercely scientific in the laboratory. The product stands up to be counted and the 22 Benchrest crowd certainly seem to love their rimfire match ammo.
Finally thanks to; Zeiss, Sauer, RWS ammunition & Harkila.
Editor’s Note: Chris was too shy to say he finished 3rd place at the shoot and came home with a trophy. He was apparently speechless at the prize giving which is certainly OUT OF CHARACTER!
Look out for more articles by Chris Parkin in the coming weeks!