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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Wisport Forester; The Accidental Bushcrafter

For a bit more information about the decision to start doing this please check out our new GEAR PAGE. 

There will be about one gear review a month along with our normal posts, you can expect posts regularly again now as of January 2018. 

We hope you enjoy the first review on the Wisport forester Rucksac. 

I recently received a new pack from Military 1st, I was looking for a pack which I could use to TRANSPORT a firearm and basic equipment while I was out deer stalking. I say transport because I wasn’t looking for an alternative to a sling for my rifle, I’ve not come across a more expedient and quiet carry system than a rifle sling ever and I’m not looking for one, what I was looking for was something that would allow me to carry my rifle comfortably without having to haul an unwieldy and uncomfortable gun slip around over one shoulder if I had to walk a couple of miles from my vehicle to my cabin or to where I will be starting my stalk from. Rifle slips are not comfortable to carry for long distances and when I have to walk to the little cabin where I will occasionally sleep before an early morning stalk the mile or two walk with the gun slip bumping against the back of my leg the whole way is tiresome.
Today's lesson; When I launched the gear reviews on this blog I promised that every one of them would contain a lesson not just pure review about a piece of equipment. So today's lesson is on firearms ownership in the UK. I write a lot about firearms on this blog and I have already justified my position in firearms and their use as part of a bushcraft skill set many times, you can find out about that HERE so I'm not going to repeat myself but I am going to explain a bit about the UK's firearms laws as they apply to me personally and professionally. 
With this review I look at a rucksack designed to carry a firearm, this may well not be a feature that many people need but as I have a background in game, wildlife and deer management and am actively involved in the management of deer population in the UK including carrying out deer stalking and culling it is a feature which would be very useful to me.

Owning a firearm for deer stalking for any other purpose though is not strait forward. First lets deal with air rifles, yes they are firearms as in UK law a firearm is a barrelled weapon which fires a projectile but as long as they are not too powerful you do not require a licence to posses one. The limit is 12 ft/lbs of energy. Any air rifle capable of firing a projectile with more power than this requires a section 1 firearms licence for you to be able to posses it. Air rifles are extremely useful for pest control of species such as rabbits, pigeons, squirrels and rats and are a great way to put food on the table too.

However they have limited range and power and so to be more effective more powerful firearms are required for certain situations. Deer for example, it would be illegal, not to mention stupid, irresponsible, cruel and ineffective, to shoot a deer with an air rifle. To shoot deer (in England and Wales) legally you need to use a rifle with a legal minimum calibre of .240 which produces a muzzle energy of at least 1700 ft/lbs, for the smaller deer species (reeves muntjac and Chinese water deer, you can use a minimum of .220 with a muzzle energy no less than 1000 ft/lbs and a projectile no less than 50 grains in weight. To possess this kind of firearm you will need a section one firearms licence.

These licences must be applied for through your local police constabulary, you will need to explain your reason for wanting a firearm, give evidence of the land over which you want to shoot it, prove that you have a safe place to keep it, ask for the specific calibre you require and justify that preference, provide Character references and details of your GP, disclose details of an convictions or mental illness. Once you have made and paid for this application you will be visited at home by a firearms enquiry officer who will clarify the details of you application, check that you have an appropriate gun cabinet and separate storage for ammunition and ask about your reasons for wanting firearms. In England and Wales this visit will be carried out by a non uniformed enquiry officer, in Scotland it will be by a uniformed officer.

You will need to justify why you want a firearm of a particular calibre and explain your planned use of it, that may be for pest control deer stalking, target shooting etc... if you want a firearm for target shooting you will need to be a member of a club. At first you will be restricted to shooting at the land which you have provided details of to the constabulary (you can give them details of multiple places) but may over time and with experience be granted an open licence allowing you to shoot over any land where you have permission, you will always have to have at least one piece of land registered with the constabulary though. Your licence will restrict you to own a particular firearm or firearms of the calibres that you have been granted and for the reasons that you have given, these will appear as conditions on your licence on the very first page and ARE LEGALLY BINDING.

You must abide by these conditions even if they seem a bit odd; for example it is legal to shoot a muntjac with a .223 but if your condition for owning one is for shooting vermin and targets strictly speaking you can't shoot deer with that rifle. It's a strange situation but worth being aware of.

Your licence will also the exact firearms you are allowed to purchase by calibre and will stipulate the quantity of ammunition you are allowed to purchase, every time you purchase a firearm and ammunition it will be written on to your certificate and you must inform the constabularies firearms licencing team of your purchase or disposal of a firearm.

Shotguns are not covered by section one licences unless they are capable of holding more then two rounds in a magazine, these high capacity guns can be placed on a section one licence with the appropriate justification. Shotguns are normally carried on a section two licence which is applied for in the same way as a section one with a few exceptions, no named land is required taking into account the number of people who will shoot clay pigeons, go on pheasant shoots as guests etc.. at a range of different places. Although you need to keep shotguns locked up like you would a section one firearm there is not the same requirement for a separate safe for ammunition, and a shotgun certificate will not include conditions like a section one firearms certificate does.

That is the very briefest of lessons on firearms licencing and ownership in the UK.
On With The Review;

Military 1st provided me with the Forester by Wisport which seemed at first glance to be everything I needed. It is sturdily constructed by Polish manufacturer Wisport and not only has a total capacity of twenty eight litres, plenty for a day’s food, map, knives, binoculars, ammunition and other assorted stalking paraphernalia but a built in rifle sleeve which seemed like the perfect solution to carrying my rifle. The pack retails at £79.95 and full specifications of the pack as available on the Military 1st Website are;

  • Capacity: 28L
  • Primarily designed for hunting enthusiasts
  • 1 main compartment with large inner sleeve pocket
  • Front pocket with waterproof zippers, sleeve pocket, zipped pocket and MOLLE strap
  • Unique engineered rifle mounting pocket
  • Tough leather on high-use areas
  • Two side pockets
  • Quick-detach ACS carrying system
  • Adjustable shoulder straps and back section padded with air mesh
  • Enlarged and adjustable waist belt with buckled strap
  • Chest strap with buckle
  • Two pairs of side compression straps
  • MOLLE compatible
  • SAS zippers
  • Duraflex buckles
  • All seams secured
  • Material: Cordura Nylon
  • Dimensions: approx. 19.7"x10.6"x9.1" (50x27x23cm)
  • Weight: 1150g
  • Manufacturer: Wisport
  • Made in Poland
  • 5 years manufacturer warranty

It was this rifle pocket that I was most interested in. The other features of the pack, while executed excellently with strong fabric, good quality stitching and durable hardware used throughout the construction, are available on every other backpack, it was the packs ability to be used to carry a rifle that was important.

The Forester is built of heavy nylon and sheds water excellently. 
Before you attach a rifle to this pack one particularly excellent feature becomes clear, the fact that pocket for the rifle is not visible the whole time, it folds away into a small zipped compartment just under the front pocket of the pack and it is not obvious that it is designed to hold a rifle which is important as I don’t want to broadcast the fact that I shoot or own weapons if I choose to use the pack for more mundane tasks than going stalking. 

However as soon as I tried to mount my rifle in the specially designed ‘rifle mounting pocket’ I discovered a serious flaw; a scoped rifle won’t fit at all. Looking back at pictures which appear on the Military First website and the manufacturers website it is clear that none of the weapons pictures in this pack or in their ‘Reindeer Hunt’ pack which features a similar rifle pocket are hunting rifles, they are both un-scoped air rifles, in the 2016-17 catalogue the ‘Reindeer Hunt’ pack is pictured with an SMK B2 air rifle mounted to it and on the Military 1st Website it appears that the Forester has an air arms TX200 in it’s rifle pocket, it’s worth mentioning that the TX200 can’t be purchased new with any form of open sights fitted to it so carrying it without a scope is pointless (I happen to have owned the carbine model of the TX200 for many years, it was in fact the first air rifle I saved up and bought as a teenager and I will be doing a post on it in the next few weeks). So my first and deal breaking criticism is that the pack can’t accommodate a scoped rifle at all so it was out of the question for using to transport my stalking rifle in.

My Air Arms TX200 HC clearly does not fit in the rifle pocket, my stalking rifle, which the pack was intended for doesn't  fit either. I use a Tikka T3 chambered in .243 for most of my deer stalking and will be doing a full review on it here soon. 
Additionally what I really needed was to be able to carry the gun while still in some sort of slip or covering to keep it out of the weather during transportation or just to avoid startling anyone I might encounter on my walk to my cabin or to the start of my stalk. So I thought I would try mounting a shotgun or my BSA sportsman five which doesn’t have a scope onto the pack in a slip, this didn’t work either shotguns and unscoped rifles will clearly fit in the pocket but they won’t fit with any form of slip or cover. The only reason to carry a weapon un’bagged would be to enable quick access to it, however the rifle pocket does not allow quick expedient access to any weapon mounted in it, the pack has to be removed completely to remove and replace a mounted weapon and several straps need to be loosened or tightened each time the weapon is removed or replaced. This tightening and loosening of straps every time the weapon is removed or replaced from the pack raises another issue which makes the pack less than suitable for carrying weapons. If the pack is not completely full when a weapon is mounted even with all the straps cinched tight the weapon flops back and forth quite considerably even bashing against the back of my head as I carried a weapon in a mostly empty pack. Conversely if the pack is completely full the fabric becomes so tight that it is almost impossible to situate a weapon in the pocket without unpacking the main compartment.

The pack will accommodate a shotgun or unscoped rifle but, the barrels will bang against the back of your head if the pack is empty and accessing the weapon quickly and quietly is impossible.  
These issues unfortunately make the pack entirely unsuited to my intended purpose of using the pack to carry my rifle.

This pack has become my go to bag for bushcrafting. The ‘rifle pocket’ has become an axe pocket allowing me to carry a larger axe securely without it poking out of the top of my bag. I’ve also used the rifle pocket to carry a bow for friction fire lighting, shelter poles and other equipment that is longer than comfortably fits in the main compartment of the bag. The front pocket is just the right size for stashing small tools and equipment for whittling and fire lighting while the main compartment will easily fit a light weight sleeping bag, shelter and cook kit.

The forester does fantastic duty as a bushcrafting pack. 
 So my conclusions are that this is a great pack, however when a product that is in most respects great but has a features which it claims as a unique selling point or special feature which sets it apart from other products the manufacturer has a responsibility to make sure that feature is fit for purpose, and in this case they haven't. Every thing but that special feature is great about this pack but when you consider that the whole reason I wanted this pack was to carry my rifle it is not at all fit for purpose.  

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