Problems with customised gun and more in the latest Ask the Experts

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What if my custom gun isn’t right?

Question: I have now reached the point where I have decided to upgrade my gun. It has served me well, but it was ‘off the shelf’ with a standard design and specification, and hasn’t been fitted to me. I would like to buy a gun to my specification, with my choice of barrel length, rib and chokes, as well as my preferred fore-end shape and an adjustable stock. I do worry about having a gun that is more ‘bespoke’ like this though. What are my legal rights if something goes wrong or isn’t quite right? With a gun so specific to my requirements it might be harder to sell in the future.

Your consumer rights still apply, but make sure you communicate your needs clearly

Stuart Farr says: What you’ve described here is more a ‘custom’ than a ‘bespoke’ gun. Bespoke generally means a product where the design, materials, specification and manufacture are focused solely on the needs of one person. A custom gun falls between bespoke and ‘off the shelf’. It commonly utilises standardised components but in different combinations so as to make the product different from the norm. Custom-made can be highly beneficial, but potentially requires greater input from the retailer in terms of advice and product knowledge.

From a consumer law perspective, your rights remain the same, but for something customised, fitness for purpose under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 becomes more important. You would expect the retailer to be careful to understand your needs, and use his skill and knowledge to supply something that will do the job. Equally, you need to do your part in explaining what you want, and what you will use it for.

As an extreme example, if you wanted a gun solely for Trap shooting and were sold a gun with short barrels and open chokes, you might question its fitness for purpose! But did that happen because you failed to explain properly, or because the retailer doesn’t know what he’s doing? It’s an extreme example, but it demonstrates the need for clear communication on both sides to avoid the customisation process potentially ending in disappointment.

Staying alive

Questions: I manage ok in practice, but I find I get tired during competitions and don’t perform as well as I know I can. Can you offer any advice?

Becky McKenzie is a proponent of proper nutrition and hydration, especially when shooting

Becky McKenzie says: When we’re competing, we tend to try a little harder physically, and of course a competition is mentally tougher than a practice round. Nutrition and hydration play a large part in keeping you alert and energised, so it’s worth taking seriously. If you get dehydrated, it affects the way you perceive the speed and movement of the targets.

Make sure that you take some water or an electrolyte drink in your bag so
you can keep sufficiently hydrated. I like to use an electrolyte powder such as Science in Sport’s Go – you just add a scoop of powder to plain water and it replaces the salts that you lose in hot conditions, keeping your brain in tip
top condition.

I suggest you also take a little food with you. I find a banana, some plain digestive biscuits or a protein bar all work well to keep my energy levels up during a competition.

On the nose

Question: This is a bit of a long shot, but can you tell me where I might get a replacement nose piece for the original HiDefSpex Panther no-post lens ? The rubber has broken off two of mine and they’re not comfortable to wear.

Broken nose pieces can render lenses uncomfortable to wear or even unwearable

Ed Lyons says: That may be something you need to order direct from Pilla as it’s an older design and has been discontinued for a few years. Alternatively I have known shooters use a nose bridge from something like an Oakley M Frame to slot into the gap, which fixes the issue – it’s a bit more chunky than the Pilla version but makes them perfectly usable. You can find these readily on eBay.

When is half choke not half choke?

Question: I see and hear all manner of advice on which chokes to use to tackle different targets, including some on internet forums who argue it makes no difference – just stick in a pair of Half Chokes and forget about it! I understand that choke does make a difference, particularly with closer targets like Skeet and longer ones in Trap and the more distant Sporting clays. I have been trying different chokes on different targets, and find it fascinating to see the results.

Reading the cartridge tests in Clay Shooting magazine, however, I’ve noticed that the pattern test results vary quite widely from one cartridge to the next. I’m now wondering when I put in a ‘Half Choke’ tube will I actually get a Half Choke pattern, or will that vary depending on the cartridge, as it seems to do in the cartridge tests?

Opinion on chokes is divided in the shooting community – which we can all agree on!

Richard Atkins says: The simple answer to your question is yes – the cartridge that you choose will of course have a profound influence on the actual patterns you get. That is one reason to be cautious of any advice that you’re offered on internet forums.

People will suggest wildly different amounts of choke in response to the same question, but that’s little help unless it comes with a precise description of the cartridge and shot size to be used. 

When we test cartridges for this magazine, they are all fired through
the same fixed Improved Modified barrel at 40 yards. The only exception to this is Skeet shells, where we use a more appropriate set-up. This ensures that the results can be compared directly with tests we’ve carried out on other cartridges.

You’ll note that we calculate the pattern percentage from a precise count of the average number of pellets in the cartridges on test; we don’t just rely on a chart to work out how many there should be based on the shot size and load.

There are published tables of the pattern percentages you should expect from a given degree of choke. For instance, Imp Mod choke equates to 65% of the shot pellets in the cartridge arriving within a 30in circle at 40 yards.

In the real world, however, the pattern results obtained from different cartridges can vary considerably. So putting an Imp Mod choke in your gun may not provide the 65% pattern density you hoped for – it might be significantly tighter or wider, depending on the cartridge you use. 

During the past couple of years of tests, different cartridges fired through that same Imp Mod test barrel have produced patterns ranging from barely Quarter Choke (55%) to more than Full Choke (70%).

These results make it very clear that the only way to know the pattern results you will actually get from your gun, choke and cartridge choice is to pattern test them!

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