Richard Saunders tries out not only a Nite Site rangefinder, but an FX Verminator
Shorter days often mean that winter shooting trips have to be carried out in darkness, or at least in light values that compromise the effectiveness of a standard scope, and that means having to invest in lamping or night-vision kit.
For me, it’s the Nite Site Viper, a product I have been using for years. I like it because I can scan fields and pick targets at airgun ranges without having to re-zero. However, most of my night-time shooting has been around farm buildings for rats, with ranges that are pretty much a known quantity, but when it comes to rabbits at night, my success rate is much lower because I struggle to estimate ranges accurately. As a result, I’ve tended to use lamping gear rather than the Viper, and just recently, the rabbits on my golf course permission have become a little lamp shy. So, when the course owner called to tell me that the bunnies had been making their own bunkers on the ninth green, I wasn’t too confident of being able to do much about it.
I’d steeled myself for an assault on the garage to unearth my lamping gear when I received an email offering the chance to test Nite Site’s laser Rangefinder. If that wasn’t fortuitous enough, a phone call an hour later asked if I’d be interested in field testing an FX Verminator.
NITE SITE RANGEFINDER
Weighing just 150 grams, the rangefinder attaches to the infrared beamer mount on any of Nite Site’s NV products, and sits alongside the viewing screen. Powered by a three-volt CR2 battery, it measures distances in yards or metres, as well as in fog or normal conditions.
With the unit positioned so the flickering laser, which you can see on the screen, is aligned with your reticle, the rangefinder constantly updates the distances of what you’re aiming at. The read-out also provides battery life, and the extent in degrees to which your aim is elevated or pointed downward.
FX VERMINATOR MK II
The Verminator Mk II is a black, synthetic, take-down rifle. The barrel is fully shrouded, unlike that of the Mk I, and a one-piece action replaces the old two-piece. The stock fits around the 400cc buddy bottle and sets you up nicely to use the pistol grip. Charging to 220 bar gives a claimed count of more than 350 shots at 12 ft.lbs. through the FX’s Smoothtwist barrel, which concentrates ‘rifling’ to the last few inches. An hour on the range to set up the Viper and rangefinder on the Verminator, and get used to the silky-smooth side-lever and 12-shot .22 magazine, and I was ready. Rabbits don’t have the best eyesight, relying instead on their hearing, sense of smell and ability to feel vibration – super-powers they seem to dial up at night. I stopped every 20 metres to scan the fairway, and was soon immersed in the dark and thrilled at the sensation of moving quietly, with every sense on overdrive. I turned my Viper on again for another scan and could see three rabbits between 30 and 60 metres away, according to the Rangefinder.
They were standing on their hind legs and clearly aware of me – the closest was on the verge of making a run for it. From a sitting
“the flickering Rangefinder indicated the nearest to be 30 metres away”
position, with the FX Verminator resting on my knees, I checked the Rangefinder again, confirmed the range at 28 metres, and placed the reticle at the base of the rabbit’s ear. The gun popped and the pellet streaked across the Viper’s infrared beam before hitting with a meaty thud. The rabbit did a back flip and then lay on its side, kicking its feet for a second or two.
EASIER STILL AT NIGHT
I resumed my wandering, the Verminator slung over my shoulder, and headed toward an area that has produced a few rabbits in the past. In daylight, it’s a straightforward stalk because a ridge hides your approach as long as you keep low and avoid silhouetting yourself. In the dark, with that obstacle removed, it would be easier still.
The Viper showed the ghostly image of half a dozen bunnies, and the flickering Rangefinder indicated the nearest to be 30 metres away – exactly my zero range. I was so smug; rabbit number two was as good as mine … and then I kicked my shooting sticks and scared them all off. With that lesson in humility well learned, I prepared to call it a night. I have a habit of finishing my golf course sessions with a cup of tea on a bench at the top of a hill that provides a view of the town lights to the south. As an added benefit, the bench faces a hedgerow that is home to a few rabbits.
I poured my tea, the Verminator rested on the sticks and in my lap, and then sensed rather than saw something move. I lifted the rifle to check. Sure enough, the Viper’s screen revealed a fully-grown rabbit. I cocked the rifle, grateful for the quiet side-lever action, and took aim.
Having shot from the bench many times, I was confident that the range was 30 metres and almost didn’t bother to use the Rangefinder until I reminded myself that I had come out was to test it. I turned it on and was glad I did. The bench must have been moved from its usual position because the flickering infrared pulse showed the rabbit to be just 18 metres away. I would’ve sworn it was much further. I was tempted to ignore the little screen and rely on instinct, when I realised the shot would be a true test.
At 20 metres the .22 Verminator would need a mil-dot of hold-under. Trusting the technology, I lined up the shot, and once again, the Verminator spat and I glimpsed the Air Arms pellet which, sure enough, found its mark with lethal accuracy. It’s early days – or nights – yet, but I already think I’m on course for a significant step forward in my night hunting. I
Even with Nite Site NV gear attached, the FX Verminator is highly manoeuvrable and compact.
Nite Site’s Rangefinder takes the guesswork out of judging distances in the dark
In the dark, the Rangefinder measures in both metres and yards in normal conditions, and in fog.
I’ve used the Nite Site for years and know it very well.
Nite Site Rangefinder slots in next to the Viper’s viewing screen and you won’t notice the extra 150 grams.
You have to load the first pellet into the Verminator’s magazine skirt-first. AA Diabolo Field pellets work well.
FX Verminator’s slick side-lever cocks and cycle pellets from the 12-shot .22 magazine.