In The Red

In the Daily Telegraph, Matthew Lynn explains what happens when the coffers start to run dry across Europe:

[Last Tuesday] was the day when France ran out of money. As of Nov 7, all the money the government raises through its taxes – and this being France, there are literally dozens of them – had been spent. The rest of the year is financed completely on tick [credit].

In other words, for the French government to continue to function, the rest of November and all of December requires that they borrow money — i.e. run a current account deficit.

Most governments these days do the same, of course: the article goes on to point out that Spain likewise ran out of money on Saturday Nov 11, Romania on Nov 13, Poland will be broke on Nov 21, and Italy on Nov 26. The UK, astonishingly, will run out of money on December 7, while of the other large numbers, only Germany (duh) and Sweden (!!!) will be funded into the new year from their current tax incomes.

So, you may ask, how does the U.S.A. stack up against these spendthrift Euro countries?

We ran out of money in mid-October.

Feel free to write to your Congressweasel, or else sharpen the pitchforks, pluck the chickens and heat up the tar. Guess which action I prefer.


Proper Kit

Several people have asked for details on the shooting equipment we used in the Angus Glens last week.

Here’s a pic of the rifles we took up:

From left to right, they are: Combat Controller’s Browning A-Bolt, Mr. Free Market’s two Blaser R8s (the other is a “back-up” in .308 Win), my Mauser M12, and Doc Russia’s Remington 700. All of us used Harris HBLMS (9″-13″ tiltable) bipods, as they’ve proved to be the most reliable and rugged.

Here are their details, in order of seniority. (Mr. FM has been going up there for the past twenty-odd years, CC for seven, and Doc for four.)

Mr. FM:
Rifle:  Blaser R8 Professional
Caliber:  .300 Win Mag
Ammo:  RWS Evolution 165gr RapidX
Barrel length:  24″ (six groove, 1:11″ twist)
Scope:  Swarovski Gen 1 Z6i 2.5-15×56 w/ illuminated reticle + Swarovski ballistic turret
Binoculars:  Leica 8×42 Geovid w/integral 1,200-meter rangefinder

Rifle:  Browning A-Bolt
Caliber:  .300 Win Mag
Ammo:  Federal Premium 165gr Trophy Coppertip
Barrel length:  20″ — cut back from its original 24″ –(1:10″ twist)
Scope:  Trijicon Accupoint 2.5-10x56mm
Binoculars:  Steiner Safari 8×42

Doc Russia:
Rifle:  Remington 700 M40 long action (custom-built by Fivetoes Custom Rifles)
Caliber:  .300 Win Mag (Hornady  140gr)
Ammo:  Hornady Superformance 180gr SST polymer tip
Barrel length:  22″ (Proof Research Carbon-Fiber)
Stock:  McMillan M40A1 synthetic
Scope:  Nightforce NXS 2.5-10×32mm, with ballistic turret and Vortex Optics anti-cant device
Rangefinder:  Sig-Sauer Kilo 2000 (doubles as his binos)

Rifle:  Mauser M12
Caliber:  6.5x55mm
Ammo:  RWS Dual-Core 140gr HP
Barrel length:  22″
Scope:  Minox ZX5i 2-10x50mm 30mm tube w/illuminated reticle, on Mauser Hexalock Quick-Release mounts. Unusually, it has a German #4 reticle:

My equipment was based simply on my own experience and, as we all know, was not tested on this trip. But all agreed that my rifle and scope, at least, were quite adequate for the task. (The rifleman, maybe not so much.)

Just a few additional thoughts:
We all agree on the wisdom of using range-finders. In featureless terrain such as in the Glens (and in places such as eastern Montana and the prairie states), it is almost impossible to gauge the correct distance to target because of hidden crests, no reference points such as trees, and so on. If possible, get a range-finder that can reach out to 1,000 yards/meters at minimum — not because you’re going to take many shots at 1,000 whatever but because the longer the reach, the higher the quality. If the range-finders are incorporated into binoculars (e.g. Mr. FM’s Leica), so much the better. And when it comes to binoculars: cheap ones just don’t work, period. I tried using the “back-up” Bushnell 6×32 binos, and they were just inadequate. Leica, Swarovski, Zeiss, Steiner, whatever: don’t skimp on the quality because it will almost certainly screw up your hunt.

Ballistic turrets are not absolutely vital, but they certainly make your precision a lot easier to come by. With his turret, Doc Russia calls his shots to within an inch of point of impact at almost any distance, and his number of one-shot kills has climbed to close to 100% on flat terrain (the uphill- and downhill shots still “need work”, as he himself admits). Also: have a ballistic chart for your ammo’s performance in your rifle (the manufacturer’s specs may not reflect reality, in this regard), and keep it handy. All three of the experienced stalkers in our group had them taped somewhere (sleeve, rifle stock, wherever).

Doc also has an anti-cant device (bubble-level) built onto his scope. When the horizon is hidden in the mist or otherwise unreliable and your firing position is not on level ground, a tilted rifle makes nonsense of ballistic tables.

Personal fitness. Muscle pain, puffing and panting, pounding heart and gasping for oxygen are no way to go through hunting, son. All the pros like Craig Boddington emphasize serious exercise as preparation for every hunt. I walked a couple miles each day before my trip back to the UK, up and down quite a steep hill between my residence and the village. I should have carried a heavy pack and done the thing twice or three times a day. Even Doc Russia, who works out in the gym in his garage, referred to himself as “fat and out of condition” after his first stalk. Our Head Stalker Dougal can walk the glens all day, and has been known to run(!) up to four miles in search of a wounded deer — and even if you can’t get to that level, halfway is an absolute prerequisite.

One last point: all our rifles, as seen in the pic above, carried sound suppressors / moderators, and I cannot impress enough on my Murkin Readers what a difference  these can make to hunting. Quite apart from the noise reduction (itself a wonderful benefit), the reduction in felt recoil is considerable and therefore makes target re-acquisition much quicker. The noise reduction, of course, simply turns “ear-splitting” into “bloody loud”, as we all know. (Ignore Hollywood’s depiction of a small phut! when shooting anything other than a .22 or 9mm subsonic cartridge. When sighting in our rifles on Day One, Doc touched off a shot before I could get my hands or plugs to my ears, and they were still ringing a half-hour later.) I would urge everyone to write to their Congresscritter(s) and urge them to get the HPPA (pro-moderator/suppressor) legislation to the President’s desk ASAP. It’s long past due that Americans can enjoy the benefits of suppressed-fire hunting and target shooting that our European counterparts have always had.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Any further questions can be asked in Comments or via email, as usual.


The tear of my left knee’s lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is only partial, according to Doc Russia. Nevertheless, it’s bad enough that I need 6-8 weeks’ “light duty” (as we called it in the army).

This means that I will not be able to make the Portledge high bird shoot in Devon with Mr. Free Market on Wednesday, because the shoot involves scrambling along muddy hillside paths and steep climbs and descents and both he and Doc Russia have banned me from any such foolishness. So High Bird Shooting will remain on Ye Olde Buckette Lyste until sometime in the future, and all my shotgun lessons at Barbury and Royal Bisley were for naught. (Not wasted, of course — lessons and practice are never wasted — but for this event, irrelevant.)

I’m even wearing a knee brace just to get up and down the stairs at Free Market Towers.

Other than a sprained ankle as a boy, this is the first time in my life that I’ve suffered any kind of serious physical injury.

And I don’t bloody like it.


As the movement towards the suppression of humor — i.e. funny jokes, satire and such — seems to be gathering steam, I become more and more determined to resist it. Example:

“Wait: you put a baby into a microwave oven?”
“What happened?”
“Dunno. I was too busy masturbating.”

More as I think of them. Oh, and by the way: imagine that I had said “Muslim baby” in the above joke. No doubt there would have been convulsions of outrage.

Now imagine that some Muslim academic asshole had told the joke using “Jew baby” instead. Do I hear… crickets?

The Hill

The area known as the Angus Glens is a hard, unforgiving place. Here, just south of the Cairngorm National Park, the climate is brutal in November, and it shows in the faces of the locals: pinched, weathered and stern. The wind is icy, and it always blows hard — gusty, intense and with speeds of 25mph all the way up to gale strength. The daytime highs hover around 34°F (wind chill: 25°F), plunge to 28°F at night, and the cold is bone-chilling; damp and icy, clothes do not dry out even inside, needing assistance from radiators or a blazing fire in the hearth, and boots hardly ever dry out even then. In Scottish terms, it’s late autumn.

It gets worse as you climb up into the hills. The temperature drops to well below freezing and the wind chill, on any day, falls to about 18°F. There is always moisture in the air: mist and fog on the warmer days, icy rain most of the time, and if a cold front comes through, driving sleet and snow.

That’s in the air. On the ground, conditions are even more brutal. Mostly, the hills are covered with heather which is soft and springy underfoot — it’s like walking on foam rubber — but it is horribly uneven, and without strong support from your boots, you will not cover more than a dozen yards without turning your ankle, or worse. Falls are frequent, because the heather hides dips in the ground, grass tussocks and tiny spring-fed streams of icy water trickling down into the Isla River. You can fall forwards, backwards and sideways depending on where you place your feet, and the only good thing about the heather is that it can cushion your fall — unless, of course, you happen to land on one of the many rocks which dot the landscape, sometimes peeking out from the heather, but mostly concealed under the foliage. Where possible, you try to avoid the lichen-covered rocks because they are as slippery as hell. There is no level ground. You are either walking uphill, which places unbearable strain on your thighs’ quadricep muscles and calves, downhill which plays hell with your knees, or sideways which can strain your ankles to the breaking point, even in good boots.

It is a place where, as Mr. Free Market succinctly observes, things can go wrong very, very quickly and very, very badly.

I scrambled in these hills and fell three times during the first few hundred yards, with no ill effects other than injured pride. Doc Russia, who was with me, only stumbled a couple of times (“because it’s not my first rodeo up here, Kim”) while our guide, Head Stalker Dougal (of whom more later) strolled about like he was on a garden lawn, texting his girfriend. I went uphill about half a mile, downhill about the same, and sideways about two miles. Then we arrived at the place where we would have a clear shot at a deer, only to find that the herd had moved off and were now at least a thousand yards away, invisible over the brow of a hill. So we set off in pursuit, back up the hill and sideways just under the brow for about a mile. On a few occasions, the pain in my knees was so bad I had to call for a couple minutes’ rest. Then Doc would help me back onto my feet and we’d set off again. We were going back down the hill, guided by Mr. Free Market’s radio commentary from his position in the valley, where he could see the herd.

Then, disaster. I fell sideways, only this time the tread in the heel of my boot caught in the heather and I twisted as I fell, tearing the lateral collateral ligament in my left knee.

It was just two hours in on Day 1, and my week’s hunt was over.

Doc helped me down the hill — we were unreachable except by helicopter, and no helicopter was going to fly in those conditions — so there was nothing for it but to suck it up and go down the hill about half a mile, across the stream at the bottom, and up the hill on the other side to the waiting Land Rover. I held onto Doc’s arm for dear life (Dougal’s pitiless comment: “Ye look like a fookin’ auld married couple”) and somehow I made it.

The hunt went on without me. Doc got one deer, Mr. FM another, and then the mist turned into dense fog as the temperature dropped to well below freezing. Even the tireless Dougal had to admit defeat, so we went back down to the processing station so that he and Mr. FM could take the quad bike and tractor back up the hill to fetch the two dead deer.

The next day would prove much more rewarding, for two of us at least. Mr. FM stalked deer on a neighboring estate and got one, and I went up the hill with Doc again, this time purely as an observer. Doc dropped five deer before lunchtime, whereupon the weather turned again and we had to abandon the hunt for the day.

And now a brief aside while I discuss the equipment we used, because it’s important.

I discovered that under the typical conditions on the hill, my 6.5x55mm ammunition would have been if not inadequate, not optimal. (Mr. FM has used the cartridge for years as his deer-slayer, and disagrees with my take, by the way.) The wind would have blown the 140-grain bullet all over the place, so even with the Swede’s velocity, its slender bullet and excellent sectional density, a 100- to 150-yard shot would be okay; but after a tiring scramble with racing heart and labored breathing,  a 300-yard shot (about the average shooting distance up on the hill) would have been iffy at best, disastrous at worst. So while the 6.5mm Swede is a decent cartridge for deer, on the hill it would require almost a perfect shot to make a one-shot kill — and I’m not at all that sure of my skill with a rifle, under those conditions.

The cartridge to use in the Angus Glens is, unquestionably, the .300 Winchester Magnum (as used by my companions).

Mr. FM was using the RWS Evolution 165gr RapidX-tipped cartridge (at 300 yards, it’s traveling at 2,309 fps delivering 2,178 with -10.4″ drop, from a 100-yard zero).

Doc Russia was using the Hornady Superformance 180gr SST polymer tip (2,533 fps, delivering 2,564 ft-lbs and -9.9″ drop at 300 yards, from a 100-yard zero).

Combat Controller used Federal Premium 165gr Trophy Coppertips (2,500 fps delivering 2,290 ft-lbs with a -10.4″ drop at 300 yards, from a 100-yard zero).

With any of the three cartridges, the .300 Win Mag bullet cuts through the wind with almost no effect, and the thump of the bullet’s impact sounds like a bass drum slap, even at 300+ yards. With the proper placement in the heart and lungs, it’s a one-shot kill with maybe a few staggering steps. With a less-than-perfect shot, the animal may make but a hundred or so yards before expiring, or at least dropping so it can be dispatched. Because Doc, CC and Mr. FM are all excellent shots, the vast majority (16 out of 19 deer in total) were taken with one shot. The RWS Evolution and Federal Trophy .300 WinMag 165gr-rounds are very good; the Hornady SST 180gr is magnificent.

Had I had the chance to take a shot with my ammunition under the same conditions, I seriously doubt that the outcome would have been the same. In fact, I’m positive that I would have screwed things up; and as much as I love the 6.5x55mm Swede, it’s not the cartridge for the Angus Glens — not for me, anyway.

More to the point, however, is this: the Glens have been a very humbling experience for me. The terrain and climate are one thing — those, I can deal with — and while injury is always possible, that’s an uncontrollable circumstance. (Combat Controller, of whom more later, once nearly broke his ankle on Day 1 of one of his earlier hunts here simply by stepping into one of those concealed streamlets I mentioned earlier.)

But climate and terrain aside, to take a shot at an animal under the conditions on the hill requires skill with a rifle that I no longer have. To be brutally honest (and the Glens will force that out of you), I need more practice and to have a great deal more familiarity with my rifle and its performance than I had for this trip. In that regard, my injury at the beginning of this week may have been a blessing in disguise — because chasing a wounded deer for miles in these conditions might have killed me quicker than I could have killed a deer.

The next time I visit the Angus Glens as Mr. Free Market’s guest, I’m pretty sure I’ll be bringing a .300 Win Mag rifle, with the Hornady SST 180gr feed. I will also be a better-prepared rifleman. This, I promise. Yes, I’ll be a year or two older; but I’ll also be about ten years wiser. The Glens do that to you, too.

To be continued, in more detail and with pictures… but in the meantime, here’s one of Doc (right) and Dougal fetching two of the deer carcasses Doc popped at 200 yards uphill.

Remembrance Day

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae, “In Flanders Field”

…and to update the sentiment:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
— Robert Laurence Binyon,  from “For The Fallen”