A rough night for “Rus­sell”

Schöffel’s Ptarmi­gan Pro is billed as the “ul­ti­mate shoot­ing coat” but af­ter a thor­ough test, Richard Richard Ne­gus con­cludes its uses are lim­ited

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - PRODUCT TEST -

The Schöffel Oakham fleece gilet was once the uni­form for a se­lect few — mainly land agents and traders of fine wine. To­day, how­ever, the “Cirences­ter life jacket” — and other sta­ples from the Bavar­ian brand’s range — have be­come de rigueur. Schöffel now graces the cloak and boot rooms of Bri­tish ru­ral types.

I hes­i­tat­ingly ad­mit that I don’t own a “Royal Ag cardi­gan” and have re­mained im­mune to the lure of any gar­ments made by the 214-year-old, fam­ily-owned com­pany. What with my Schöffel-free closet, hedge­lay­ing day job and muddy sport­ing life, I was sur­prised when the Ed­i­tor asked me to re­view the lat­est Schöffel of­fer­ing: the Ptarmi­gan Pro. With a hefty price tag of £599.95, it is billed as the “ul­ti­mate shoot­ing coat”.

I lifted the Ptarmi­gan Pro from its box and waxed-pa­per shroud and cra­dled it gen­tly, in much the same way as I held my son when he was first put into my arms. Both the coat and my in­fant son re­acted nois­ily: baby Char­lie with a bawl­ing cry; the Schöffel with a rasp like sand­pa­per over rough-cut wood. It would be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to de­scribe the Ptarmi­gan Pro’s Gore-tex ma­te­rial as deaf­en­ing, but the coat’s scrunch­ing and crack­ling would spook any rab­bit that I might try to stalk.

Slip­ping the coat on, my first im­pres­sion was of its snug fit. I am

6ft 2in and fairly broad of shoul­der. A fre­quent com­plaint I have with shoot­ing coats is a short­ness in the arms. This de­sign flaw of­ten leaves you, with gun mounted, re­sem­bling Don John­son in full 1980s, rolled-sleeve mode. Not so with the Ptarmi­gan Pro. I went into the gar­den, clutch­ing my Lin­coln, to try out the coat’s fit with gun in hand. I prac­tised imag­i­nary shots at tow­er­ing pink­feet and spring­ing teal — no Mi­ami Vice look for me, thanks to the coat’s lengthy sleeves.

I took a stroll to see if I could shoot a real pi­geon in it rather than just fire at fic­ti­tious fowl. Gun in slip, I tum­bled a hand­ful of car­tridges into the left pocket and marched through my vil­lage, the Ptarmi­gan

Pro rhyth­mi­cally rasp­ing. I crossed the road and into a stub­ble field. I noted the butt-pad in the right-hand shoul­der lin­ing. This is a re­mov­able gel pad and there is a lit­tle slit for it on the other side for “left­ies” too.

Wedged

It was too fid­dly to re­fit in the field, so I at­tempted to stow it in the off­side pocket. This proved to be im­pos­si­ble, as the left pocket was al­ready filled to burst­ing with a mere dozen car­tridges, the coat’s re­mov­able hood and my sun­glasses. Stuff­ing the butt pad into the right pocket in­stead, I moved to un­zip my gun­slip. My hand re­mained wedged in place — the car­tridge pocket is bizarrely nar­row and lacks any prac­ti­cal depth.

I fi­nally man­aged to ex­tract my­self to shoot a soli­tary woodie that wing- cracked from the cover. The coat was flex­i­ble and un­re­stric­tive to shoot in, but I had nowhere to put the bird. I had for­got­ten to bring a game bag and Schöffel had ne­glected to pro­vide a game pocket, pre­sum­ably to pre­serve the “tai­lored fit”. I re­turned home, se­cret­ing the pi­geon in my gun­slip.

On the first day of the wild­fowl­ing sea­son I planned to go out on an evening flight — a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to try the Schöffel in the field. The Ptarmi­gan Pro re­ceived a range of re­sponses from my fel­low fowlers. From “Dan­ger­ous Dar­ren”, a tut and a shake of the head due to its dark colour­ing. “Photo Steve” liked it and, af­ter try­ing it on, de­clared it to be “per­fect for a driven par­tridge day”. “Pin­head Ian” also ad­mired it and asked if I would gift it to him once i had fin­ished tri­alling it. he thought

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