sLOVEnia LOV

(Slovenia Hunt)

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I was born in a small town that borders on the Orange River called Aliwal North. I grew up on my parent’s farm which was situated 10km other side the river in the province of The Orange Free State. Till today I remain a Cheetahs fan. From grade 5 I attended boarding school in Grahamstown; it was costly for my parents sending my brother and me to Kingswood College for many years; I am grateful to them and the school for the privilege.

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Real bullets coming to South Africa in 2018

Future Facebook posts for this product will be made under allesmooi.za,  but we wanted to share the very first introduction with The Powder Keg followers.

Pumpkin seed oil changed my life.  Prostatitis 10 years ago and today without any other medication my readings are equal to the average for the age category 20-25.  I religiously enjoy pumpkin seed oil – I am addicted to the taste, recipes using it; and now the health benefits are just a bonus.

The signature gun of The Powder Keg is a 500NE, but soon the real “lead in the chamber” will be the world’s best pumpkin seed oil.

No matter your industry, the products and services you sell often take on a life of their own. What does not change is fulfilling customer hopes, wants and desires. The arrival of our pumpkin seed oil could be the solution to underlying health issues, and in particular prostate problems. The taste is addictive.

In 2016 The Powder Keg ran a Halloween promotion with Kahles optics. Maybe destinies are predetermined and just maybe my part in The Powder Keg was intended to go beyond my love of fine guns. Or is it just that I got tired of carrying bottles of Kocbek oil with my every trip to SA? No-one ever wanted a cheaper oil, this was validation to partner with the worlds best!

The same as you get guns and then you get fine guns; you get pumpkin seed oil and then you get quality pumpkin seed oil.  The 2 main distinguishing characteristics of pumpkin seed oil are its TASTE AND HEALTH VALUE. Modern processes and poor quality seeds mean most producers reach too high temperatures that destroy its goodness; AND most suppliers are blending in order to reduce costs.   

Pumpkin seed oil was first produced in Slovenia.  Today Slovenia and Austria are regarded as having the highest quality. We chose the leading quality supplier in Slovenia and arguably in the world – Kocbek pumpkin seed oil; now in its 3rd generation and still employing the traditional methods of milling with original stone mills.

All the pumpkin seeds used by Kocbek come from farmers within a radius of 45 km of their mill. Interestingly, a family from Australia took pumpkin seeds from the Stajerska region to Australia, grew them and produced oil from them. They could not replicate the Kocbek taste so they reverted to importing from Kocbek.

With the oldest tradition, heart and experience, Kocbek unique unrefined oils of the highest quality will soon reach South Africa. Our relationship with Kocbek is no different to other Powder Keg supplier partnerships where the product and the people behind the organization are key selection criteria.

You will taste the high quality of Kocbek oil in many culinary offerings.  See the Kocbek website for some recipes www.kocbek.si  Top chefs around the world are using Kocbek oils. You will find Kocbek oil in top restaurants from Hong Kong to Dubai to Australia  (and South Africa in 2018).

We were too late for Christmas 2017; we say if you cannot afford a Spendal custom gun as a Christmas gift then the next best thing is a bottle of Kocbek pumpkin seed oil.  I traveled the world for many years and always carried a bottle of Kocbek oil with me; what was over was my departing present to special friends.

This is what a pumpkin looks like after a 500 NE pill passes gently through it.  This is how my prostate felt 10 years ago; today I will go head to head with any 20 year old with regard to prostate condition (and I am prepared to prove it). I cannot say that pure unrefined pumpkin seed oil was my cure, but I can say that I used no other medication. Check with Dr Google and make your own decisions.

Good health is like a white Christmas.  Live in the moment and don’t skimp on good flavors and good health.  Users of Kocbek unique unrefined oils never go back to other oils; and this is the AllesMooi mantra – customers for LIFE.

You need 6 kg of pumpkin seed oil for 1 liter of cold pressed oil and 3 kg of pumpkin seeds for 1 liter of hot pressed oil. Cold pressed oil is lighter in color and does not have the deep roasted flavor of hot milled oils. Kocbek hot milled process takes place between 100 – 110C ensuring the maximum preservation of nutrients.

We took a random sample of different producers cold pressed oil and NONE were cold pressed. AllesMooi products are what the label says. Rejuvenation of youth in a splash of pumpkin seed oil.

Going ballistic, or should we say Balistix

The Powder Keg team was privileged to have the team from Balistix present the benefits and features of Balistix bullets to a few of our important customers. I have been testing these bullets in Europe for a few months already with exceptional results in accuracy and on many wild boar.

Lance Stevens of Lance Stevens Precision Rifles did the presentation. Key criteria in our 2 brand strategy is choosing carefully the product that is the highest value-price-to-performance AND having a a chemistry with the organization behind the product (competence and ethics).  Lance Stevens and his team will conquer and we partner with winners.

Reasons I switched 100% to Balistix 1) rebated boat tail, accuracy of a flat base and BC of a botail 2) HBN coating, far superior than Molly, increases barrel life, reduces pressures, significantly reduces copper fouling and results in a lower velocity spread, especially between hot and cold bore shots 3) ogive before the bands 4) smooth bullet seating for concentric alignment 5) drive bands (not a grooved bullet) reducing the bearing surface and friction 6) accuracy 7) instant kills with minimal meat damage.

In addition, reasons why The Powder Keg will carry Balistix is 1) the people behind the organization (passion / competence / humility / values)  2) they have carefully chosen bullet weights with limited design variations (fewer SKU’s). Customers must know that when they develop a load there will be stock availability. Retailers can invest their capital in a smaller range, meaning more stock and permanent availability.

Those businesses that listen to their customers will succeed. Balistix is such a manufacturer. Passion is the difference between having a job or having a career; the Powder Keg aligns with businesses passionate about what they do. The evening closed with a small bite and chat under the open skies, not quite the bosveld but not bad for 500m off the N1 (Gordon off-ramp).  Balistix team, you are great;  but our customers are KING.

ALRHA shoot – long range optics on display

The Powder Keg was privileged to exhibit its long range optics at the African Long Range Hunters Association’s (ALRHA) year end shoot in Parys this past Saturday (2 December 2017). Not even the rain could dampen the enthusiasm which Paul Luff described as contagious.

Many shooters sheltering from the rain in the Gazebo used the opportunity to view Kahles and Delta long range scopes on display.  Below is a shooter viewing the K624i scope. Long range and F1 shooters who choose Kahles often opt for the Kahles K10-50 x 56 scope with higher magnification and the reticle in the 2nd focal plane.

There was a lot of interest in the newly released Delta Stryker optics.  A lower cost alternative to the Kahles K series but giving nothing away in optical clarity. The model below is the 5-50 x 56 Stryker with sunshade that comes with the scope. We encourage readers to watch an independent optics review that features the Delta Strykers at 22 min into the video clip –  https://youtu.be/Q1ldMtOoOwI

Herme pictured below is one of The Powder Keg distributors; he shoots F1 with the Kahles K 10-50 x 56. Herme is hugely impressed by the Delta Strykers and will be representing these scopes in a lower cost bracket.

The new Delta Strykers are available in 2 models with well chosen reticle options.  The 5-50 x 56 has the reticle in the 2nd focal plane and the 4.5-30 x 56 has the reticle in the first focal plane (preferred by tactical shooters).  Below is a shooter viewing the Delta 4.5 – 30 x 56.

The Powder Keg selected Delta and Kahles in its 2 brand strategy. Both represent the highest value price-to-performance scopes in their class, Delta in the middle and Kahles in the premium segments. Delta have a large range of scopes; the leading brand in Europe in their price category. The 34mm tube scope below retails for R19,000.

The Powder Keg is proud to represent Kahles and Delta in South Africa; a relationship that we nurture and grow with open and forthright communication.

We are grateful to have been part of the ALRHA shoot day; this is the “playground” where we learn in order to serve our customers better – THANK YOU

The value of quality clothing

A life lesson I learnt coming to Slovenia was the value of good clothing.  10 years back Jeff and I (Jeff was the American Military Attache to Slovenia) were picked up by a Slovene General to go climb Triglav, the highest mountain peak in Slovenia. We were told in no uncertain terms that our cotton clothing was a NO NO.

Every picture here is a moment over a period of a decade with the exact same pair of pants. I could have added another 100 but for fear that readers would think that was my only pair of pants.

I have no doubt that we would not have made Triglav had we not changed our pants.  Our new pants were literally the difference between day and night. They say that if you have not climbed Triglav you are not a real Slovene.

Both Jeff and I were in love with the pants; stretchy, soft, strong, extreme lightweight, fast drying and warm. In one word perfect. Jeff contacted me from the USA after his return; I had to post 4 pairs to him. We spoke of exporting the pants to the USA but this opportunity was lost in the fog of a corporate lifestyle.

10 years on; all that has changed is my hair is grey and the exact same pants faded, but they are still my favorite. My first initiative for The Powder Keg in 2016 was to source these very same pants for the business. I met with the owner of the company that produced the pants, but they discontinued with this fabric from Sweden because of cost.  How wrong could the measurement of cost be?

I have worn these pants on every occasion from hunting in extreme conditions, to hiking, and simply for comfort around the house. A few years back I bought my dad a pair and this is all he ever wears. Proven by myself for over a decade was enough passion and grit to find the same specification of fabric and have the pants produced for The Powder Keg.

I bought a pair of shorts in the same material back then. In the past 10 years I have spent thousands on different pairs of short pants but still these are outright favorites. Earlier this year I wore them when visiting lakes with my daughter Demi. How dare the manufacturer stop production because the fabric was too expensive?

I clean wardrobes every 6 months but these pants have escaped all 20 clean-outs.  The pictures below are 9 years apart; the same pants.  As I am typing this I am wearing the same pants and thinking to keep as a souvenir for what is to come.  I finally tracked down the fabric supply in Sweden and we have produced prototypes with more hunting features.

Reading this you can be excused for thinking “an idiot to be passionate about a pair of pants”. Judge when you have tried them. It feels like you back 20 years in fitness compared to wearing heavier cotton pants.  Used extensively in Africa or climbing the Alps, it does not get better.  Coming to The Powder Keg soon.

I like reading blogs by Ron Spomer, mostly I agree but not always. He wrote that the best clothing for Africa was cotton clothing. His main argument is that you never hunt in the rain so clothing does not get wet and that its was customary for lodges to wash laundry and that cotton was the least susceptible to hot iron burns.  Sorry Ron, my pants have never been ironed in 10 years and I like to walk a lot on Safari. 

The sweat of a good walk and stalk is my primary need for a quick dry material. Schoeller (Swiss) have launched cotton fabric called 3 times dry. You get feel and look of cotton with the advantage of quick drying. Extremely high cost, price starts at Euro 17 a sqm of fabric; still we in evaluation for premium safari shirts.

Closing with a picture of the first prototype. The color is blue only because this was a sample for prototyping and the supplier had stock in a short length.  Your 2018 outdoors will take on a new meaning.

How much to invest in a scale when reloading for hunting ammunition?

How much money should we be investing in a scale that measures to 0.02 of a grain, often referred to as 1 kernel of powder? I used to think very important. Typically one invests a lot of time and money in reloading because it is a fun hobby, especially when the bug to improve your groups (accuracy) bites.  Every now and then it is worthwhile to check the logic of what matters or else you will end up with drawers like this.

In reloading we never stop learning; in my instance mostly from experiences, meaning when I run into a problem I read-up on it; or when I observe stuff I think about its impact on reloading. There are millions of more qualified shooters than me who write on the subject, but I find most omit the practical side of reloading … the common sense, the stuff that matters.

Uniform velocity contributes to improved accuracy (fact). Velocity spread is a term used that quantifies the difference between the highest and the lowest velocity, and standard deviation (SD) the average difference between all shots measured. Double digit SD will show as a vertical string when shooting beyond 400 m (give or take).

There are many parts of reloading that contribute to uniform velocities such as having brass with equal case capacity (volume), equal neck tension, equal powder charge, same batch primers and powder, uniform bullets and so the list goes on. Generally the rule is consistency.

A material change in temperature has a material impact on velocity; potentially a greater influence in hunting than the other reloading factors (within reason). And here is my learning …

I loaded a batch of bullets for 3 different calibers (same day /same conditions) with meticulous effort in the various steps to have minimal velocity fluctuations.  I shot when the ambient temperature was 24 C.  All of the calibers recorded excellent velocity consistency.

I went to the range with the same loaded ammunition and repeated the test when the ambient temperature was 14 C. The velocity spread was minimal but with all 3 calibers the velocities were about 5% lower than recorded at   24 C (Labradar).

I did not embark on this test to validate the impact of velocity change due to temperature changes, but having stumbled upon the quantum of change I will perform the same test with the same bullets when the temperature is around freezing point. Unfortunately I did not keep my targets to check changes to point of impact.

This raises many questions such as bullet tuning (seating depth), ensuring your bullet leaves the barrel when the “node” / whip movement is stable for the longest period. Will the sweet spot shooting at high temperatures be the same sweet spot when shooting in the cold of winter mornings?

The rifle pictured below is a light weight 222. The gun (not me) shot 1 hole groups at 100 m with Berger 52 grains. A few months later with the same loaded ammunition the rifle would not group. We decided to change the barrel because we assumed the barrel was too thin (greater whip / node impact). Now we questioning ourselves, was the barrel faulty or was this the result of a change in velocity (temperatures) and we needed to re-find the sweet spot? A situation exacerbated in a ultra thin barrel?

Hunters should consider the material impact of temperature change on velocity and then determine how important is it for hunting ammunition to buy a scale that measures to the kernel of powder.  

My basic principles for loading hunting bullets; if we can within reason (time and cost) eliminate velocity spread then that makes sense.

  1. Use quality brass which eliminates the need for neck turning (in future parts I will explain my logic of neck turning, the pitfalls vs. benefits for the occasional re-loader),
  2. Use the same make of quality brass. I sort by weight when developing loads, although it is not an absolute determination of case capacity I consider it better than doing nothing,
  3. For new brass debur flash holes (only once); some manufacturers like Laupa discourage this step because there method of making the flash hole does not create punch burs,
  4. Remove primers with a universal decapping die and clean primer pockets,
  5. Full length size, push the shoulder back 0.001-0.002″ from the fired brass head-space measurement (I never neck size, my logic in future parts). Buy and use head-space gauges if you don’t already have,                                             
  6. Trim cases to uniform lengths. This step made quick and easy with Trimit or WFT equipment. It is quicker to trim the cases than measuring the case length, so I trim every time. I invest in a unit for each caliber, that way I know that I have case length uniformity year after year; and no set-up time needed.                        
  7. Do not mix standard primers with magnum primers. Bench-rest and long range shooters even keep to the same make and batch of primers,
  8. Case annealing is valuable but until I can purchase equipment that ensures a proper measurement of heat and timing I have chosen not to anneal (concern of doing more damage than good). The Powder Keg is tracking developments on equipment using induction where parameters can be input,
  9. Use a good scale; I have gone back to using my RCBS  auto and 10:10 beam scale for hunting ammunition; a contradiction of an earlier BLOG where I punted electronic scales that measure to 0.02 of a grain.                          
  10. Use a quality powder for consistency although in SA the choice is limited due to availability and price considerations. When you have found the sweet spot of your rifle, in my experience, it does not matter what powder you use provided you achieve the same bullet velocity,
  11. Find the powder range where the velocity change in incremental load increases varies the least (accuracy nodes)At this point I know that the velocity change is the least sensitive to a small error in powder thrown (FLAT SPOT). I prefer the “flat spot” closest to the maximum load,
  12. Tune the bullet (seating depth) at the charge determined above.  
  13. Re-check the zero of your rifle when hunting at significantly different temperature conditions than when your rifle was sighted in. If for no other reason … your own confidence.

Question the logic to become a better re-loader . I spend an inordinate amount of time in selecting products that The Powder Keg should stock and sell to ensure our customers have the best chance to buy right the first time.  I have paid a lot of school fees and don’t want the same for customers.

Proving out – I placed a few rounds in direct sunlight. After firing I could see pressure signs on the brass (primer and extractor markings) validating that the heat on the brass created additional pressure.  I load at accuracy nodes near maximums. In this instance the direct sunlight put my safe loads closer to the zone of risk.

Having great groups makes sense provided you understand the change of bullet impact in different environmental conditions and you practice in live positions vs. being a bench rest expert. If you can afford an electronic scale that does not drift then by all means buy it.

Alternatively, you can buy the Swarovski DS scope that makes all the climatic impact adjustments on your behalf. I have tried it on the range and it works well, but personally I do not like the size (40 mm tube) and for my traditional ways I do not consider it hunting. I don’t want to be fiddling with all the gadgets in the moment of a hunt; the animal will be the happiest of both of us because he will use those precious seconds.

Field Target Optics – Kahles 1050FT

Field Target is a air gun discipline that takes place in the outdoors in varying weather conditions and at varying distances with targets set between 8m and 50m.

The World Championships were recently held in Wales.  Lauren Parsons, silver medalist in the woman’s section and Proteas captain Reghardt van Jaarsveld are both using the Kahles 1050FT scope.

Reghardt describes the Kahles scope as the best high end scope for FT that he has used. Reghardt has owned and used all the high end scopes and says that Kahles (in his opinion) is better than all others even though some well known optics are significantly more expensive.

The range finding accuracy of optics through the different temperature ranges is critical for shooters to perform at the highest level. Reghardt says that even under extreme weather conditions he has not experienced a shift in ranging. Kahles optics are produced from a solid aluminium bar that is pre-treated to remove strains and stresses.

Irrespective of the moment in the World Championships Reghardt never had any concern or doubt of a mistake in reticle rotation because the 17 MOA per rotation has a calibrated reticle for bracketing to double check ranging or where ranging is impossible due to heavy mirage or very dark situations.

Reghardt in the subconscious state, critical for precision shooting. Other features that Reghardt likes on the Kahles scope is the illuminated reticle, even spacing between ranges on the “side-wheel” and a 30mm tube which eliminates the need for special more expensive mounts.

Reghardt and Lauren have done ranging tests over a few leagues with the Proteas and Kahles proved the most consistent with the fewest ranging errors.  In case you wandered, Reghardt is not sponsored by Kahles, he paid full retail price for his scope. The Powder Keg and Kahles are proud to have an “independent” ambassador for the scope.

The Powder Keg congratulates Lauren for achieving a silver medal at the Worlds 2017 held in Wales last month.

Encouraging ethical hunting and sport shooting among all

I start this BLOG with the penguin lesson,  relevant in most real life situations and relevant to The Powder Keg initiatives of real change.

10% of the penguin colony are leaders searching new territory, 80% are undecided, while 10% are blockers refusing change. The Powder Keg is seeking ambassadors in the 10% to focus on the undecided 80%, to pull them to the side of leading change, while ignoring the 10% blockers who require inordinate energy to change.

By communicating this message The Powder Keg may risk losing a page like or worse, a customer;  but that is acceptable if it means getting to the bigger issues that matter.  By focusing on the 80% who only need reassurance that change will improve their space we can increase the hunting and sporting shooting fraternity exponentially.

More and more our love for the hunt and the adrenaline of sport shooting is threatened by the anti-gun establishment and animals rights activists. If we do not react in a different way then we cannot expect a different outcome.  Doing nothing is 100% wrong.  We have a responsibility to protect our space in hunting and shooting and to nurture and grow interest among a larger group of people.

There are thousands of hunters and sport shooters that know this industry better than we do; all we ask is that of the 10 concepts we introduce, search those 2 that might be game changers and don’t focus on the 8 that may be stupid because we know less than you do.

There are numerous articles defending our rights and communicating facts around the contribution that ethical hunting makes to conservation. But the needle has not moved, we slowly losing ground.  Educating and reversing the ignorance of anti gun and anti hunting groups is impossible without increasing our numbers and gaining support for hunting and sport shooting from the entire demographics of our population.

Social media is an ideal platform for false coverage of guns, hunting and sport shooting.  Extremism and a few individual lunatic gun shootings further push sentiment against legal gun ownership. We have to do things differently, with purpose and with heart.  We need new ambassadors.

This BLOG is focused on encouraging more people of all races to get involved in ethical and responsible hunting; and sport shooting.  The traditional group of hunters and sport shooters are a white male dominated group. In countries like the USA and SA we tend to associate certain communities possession of guns with violence. We must be united with proper initiatives to halt and reverse the growing anti-gun sentiment.

Dr Danie Craven took rugby to Argentina and today they are capable of beating traditionally recognized teams. Mandela wore a Springbok rugby jersey because he understood the power of sport to unite. Look at the increased black talent in cricket and rugby which were traditionally white sports.

I recently went to the West Rand shooting range near The Powder Keg.  Every shooter was white and the range officer a black gentleman. It was a privilege to witness the comradery and the adherence to instructions from the Range Officer proving many different values within the shooting community and between races.  It is time to think out of the box.  To behave differently. To be proactive. 

At The Powder Keg we have approached national shooting institutions to work together on development programs, but progress has been pedestrian. We identified a talented and aspiring black trap shooter to sponsor with a shotgun but we were unable to conclude with his employer. Time out.

Our suppliers are supporting The Powder Keg initiatives to promote responsible hunting and sport shooting among all South Africans.  Our actions will be consistent with our words.

I have enjoyed many days in the bush with Manne Dipico and Anthony Rooiland. We we were continuously  entertained by Manne with his incredible sense of humor and humility. Anthony is a great shot while Manne was a man of two extremes, the best dressed hunter our group ever seen but also the worst shot. Manne simply loved to be in the outdoors with hunters even though he preferred not to shoot. We need such ambassadors.

The future of ethical hunting and sport shooting relies on attracting more responsible hunters and sport shooters into our world. Nothing more and nothing less. The gun industry in South Africa will die a slow and painful death if we are not bold and urgent in encouraging more black shooters to participate. Our industry feels the pain of the recession more than any other; have you ever asked yourself why? 

Challenged for my encouragement of woman in hunting and sport shooting

In a recent post (hunting wild boar in Croatia) I expressed an opinion on the need to encourage more woman folk to participate in what for many years has been a male dominated sport. I appreciate the feedback in whatever form or content, and decided best to respond in a Blog under the category of “leadership and philosophy”.

I have strong opinions, in the corporate world I would tell my teams “my opinion vs. your opinion, I win. Your facts vs. my opinion, you win”. I respect others points of view but I must be convinced with facts. I have no personal ego for my position and will change when others have a better way forward.

I have received no creditable feedback that changes The Powder Keg commitment to encouraging woman in shooting. 

Ego, another leadership pitfall where woman mostly fare better than us men.  Ego is a big downfall in becoming an exceptional leader because ego gets people to take positions, the deeper the argument the more entrenched positions become. People with strong egos typically keep digging their hole deeper. Maybe Trump has a bigger ego than rocket man.

I learnt hard lessons after moving to Europe; I was too quick to judge. You must live in a country to understand WHY before opening your mug. For instance, I was extremely critical of the fact that woman had 12 months of maternity leave and companies had to protect their positions during this absence.  I came to Europe with a tunnel vision of my perspective of how things should be; just as I was ignorant about custom guns.

In managing the European business I found that woman have extreme competence in business, dare I say more than many men folk. Finding competent workers is a big challenge that leaders have; for me to protect the positions of competent woman during their maternity leave was worth every cent.

I am reminded of the penguin story; 10% of penguins look for a better place, 80% wait to see which way to go, and 10% are blockers.  For hunting and sport shooting to gain a better image we should focus on the 80% and get them to our side. Forget the 10% blockers. Woman will be influential in that 80%.

In Slovenia on average 99% of woman work, it has been like that for generations. The system nurtured that outcome. Woman never compromise their independence. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; in my opinion the men are no-longer “manne” and that is not a positive trend either. Fewer and fewer younger people are joining the hunting families (in Slovenia); they were too slow to involve woman and now the woman have got them by the “balls” and the woman are not interested in shooting.  Too late. 

A reason that I quickly came to recognize the strength of woman in Slovenia was due to a precondition that all my direct reports had to be stronger in their functional roles than I was. Many woman fulfilled that criteria. Good leaders have a high level of self-confidence; with self confidence they surround themselves with strong teams.

In Austria in recent years a greater number of woman are enrolled in the hunting system than men. Woman folk want to enjoy the outdoors too. Ask professional hunters here and they will tell you that woman quickly become competent marks-woman because they do not have that testosterone and ego which can be a handicap in precision shooting.

Unlike all other sports where testosterone gives men the advantage; in shooting it can be the opposite. Off-course this is not relevant in every shooting discipline; like when shooting guns with heavy recoil, strength does count.

Nations that enjoy the greatest woman rights, in my opinion, will have the greatest advancement.  Children spend most of their childhood with mothers.  Characters are mostly formed as children. Minds are the most absorbing when young. Spending those early years with a respected and competent mother count a lot; hence I question the advancement of those nations that depress woman’s rights and rely on oil reserves only.

Maybe I am an Alpha male and that is what allows me to empower woman and still know that I am in charge:) Oysters not needed but they are good.

One of my leadership philosophies has been “2 balls in the hand vs. 20 in the air”; probably because I am an Alpha male I am limited to doing one thing at a time. I have observed that woman (and Omega men) have a better ability to multi task.  I am not suggesting that is better, simply an observation.

We shoot better when our actions are subconscious; in the conscious state we are deliberate, slower and clumsy. Maybe our testosterone might keep us men away from the subconscious state more than woman,  meaning that we need more practice (repetition) to be in that ideal state of precision shooting.

Congratulations Lauren Parsons for your silver medal in the ladies division of the Field Target World Championships held in Wales!  We pleased to read your reliance on Kahles optics in your achievement.

,

Wild Boar Hunt Pakrac Croatia

We departed Ljubljana 3 am and arrived in Pakrac (150 km south of Zagreb) well ahead of our 7 am schedule. This gave us time to enjoy a cheese Burek at a local bakery which is eaten in combination with a yogurt to help digest the cheese Burek (oily).  Maybe my age but I find one Burek enough to last me a few months.  The picture below is the main building of the hunting family we were hunting with.

A driven hunt in Autumn is unusual, hot for beaters and dogs and the forests still dense with leaves.  We were asked to help cull pigs because the hunting family was incurring escalating farmer damages.  The hunt was planned for 16 of us from Slovenia with each of us contributing Euro 100 to the hunting family.

Typically the area where pigs hold up in is thicker bush areas, often separated by a dust road and more open forest on the other side of the road. When I first hunted pigs I was too slow, distracted by the amount of trees in your field of view as the pigs ran. The right advice I got was “there is more open space than trees so follow and shoot”.

Knowing that visibility in the forests would be far worse than in winter I gave greater care to my own visibility.  Blaze orange or reflective green are compulsory for visibility but I found the green much less suitable given the summer conditions of leaves.  At times it was hot, forcing us to take jackets and hats off and placing them on high branches to increase visibility.

The success of our hunt was impacted by many locals searching mushrooms in nearby forest areas. After weeks of rain the conditions were perfect for mushrooms and the locals were having a “feast” of a time.

The hunt for the day consisted of 3 driven hunts, meaning we would travel to 3 separate areas and each time we were set-up in a line with beaters and hunters driving the pigs out. There is a lot of luck involved because pigs group and if they are not in the hunted block then that drive yields no pigs.

Waking up at 2 am was fair reason for a nap in the forest, but keeping your visibility never compromised.

The hunt yielded fewer pigs than normally. I never saw a pig but that did not distract from my enjoyment of the nature and the camaraderie. The wealth and fame of Zagreb is only a 90 minute drive north yet many villages such as Pakrac are poorer. There are reminders everywhere of the fierce fighting between Croats and Serbs 18 years ago; houses remain with bullet holes and many homes owned by Serbs are still abandoned. A stark reminder that there are no winners in war.

After every hunt it is customary to meet back at the hunting family premises where shot animals are laid out and various thanks expressed. The tradition here is that every hunter who shot a boar buys a case of beer; the reason that you see the beer placed in front of each boar. Hanging up and out of picture was another big boar shot earlier in the morning.

A contrast I find hunting in Croatia is that there is ZERO woman involvement. I believe differently, but then who am I to express a view on other nations cultures and practices; suffice to say that in my opinion and in order for responsible and ethical hunting to prosper we must be open to positive influences and change. I do believe that woman are fundamental to the future of hunting and shooting.

You only have to live in Shanghai to witness how a male dominated culture is now being reversed by a new generation of woman and China will be much better for that.

The hunt for the day ends with the local hunting family members serving a spicy meat soup and cooked wild boar. The locals of Pakrac are incredibly hospitable; this was my highlight of the day and making 7 hours of driving worthwhile.

In every collective hunt there is bound to be some incident that creates tensions. This day it was about a hunter accused of moving forward of his line thereby encroaching on the shooting area of hunters on his flanks. I notice that hunters familiar with the territory get themselves into the most favorable positions; something I consider selfish and not sporting.

Aligned with a hunting concession in Europe

Hunting in Europe is expensive by comparison to South Africa.  Having said that, you have not had a full experience until you have hunted outside of SA. The Powder Keg lifestyle offering is founded on the principle that so many people end up regretting what they did not do vs. what they did do.

Hunting in Europe is about experiencing the culture, the weather conditions, the history of the territory, their management of game, hunting traditions and just having a fun time. The Powder Keg has aligned with a hunting concession in an area of 70,000 hectares in the southern part of Slovenia that borders onto Croatia.

The surrounds of Koćevje is stooped in tradition and history. This southern part of Slovenia is the most remote part of the country. 90% of the hunting area is forests. Prior the 2nd WW their were many villages of German inhabitants. During the war Hitler considered the area non-strategic and relocated all Germans to the west of the River Sava. Villages of more than 600 years old were left to ruin.

The picture above gives an idea of a cold winter in Kočevje.  Hunting is not permitted when the snow level exceeds 40 cm; it is considered unfair to animals. Animals cannot move freely and they lose unnecessary energy needed to protect them in early spring in the event of a late cold spell.

Camaraderie of a hunt. It is customary to meet for hot food and a little wine between driven hunts (collective hunting). Winter days are short and usually only 3 driven sessions are possible. In this hunting area dogs are not used, only beaters, because the animals are less disturbed and run slower.

The impact of the 2nd WW was significant in the area.  After the 2nd WW a security tunnel was built at Gotenica (borders on the concession area) and a large area was closed to the public; a “safe haven” for politicians. Residents of local villages in the area were not permitted to leave until 1985 when the area was again open to the public.

Above, prior the start of driven hunts safety instructions given and hunters told what game they may shoot. The entire open area of 70,000 hectares is divided into a few hunting concessionary areas. The total area annual game quota approximates 2,000 Red Deer, 500 pigs and 12 brown bears.  The meat is Government property, about 50 tons sold to local residents and 100 tons to a specialized processor of game meat.

We looked at a choice of 2 hunting lodges; the former Tito lodge and the lodge pictured above.  Although the Tito lodge has a lot of history the above lodge is in the heart of the hunting concessionary area and its surrounds more inviting. This accommodation will be upgraded by the main concessionary holder as part of the 20 year concession.

The closure of collective hunting days is always in accordance with local cultures and traditions. Every animal shot, hit by a vehicle or other, is categorized and recorded against the game management plan, a plan that over many years has been optimized for the conservation and breeding of game.

Cost structures for hunting in Europe are more complex than in South Africa and the system of “trophy” measurement would not be easily understood by non-Europeans.  I am supporting the process to have a simplified offer that is more fixed than variable.  An urgent work in progress, the concession starts 1 August 2017.

Our choice of the best all-rounder hunting scope for Southern Africa

I was in Vienna when I heard “our hunting scopes are designed by hunters for hunters” that I decided it was time to evaluate what mattered most for hunting scopes used in Southern Africa.  Considerations do not include long range hunting, meaning that we talking distances of up to 400 m.

A scope reticle equates the front sight, it must point to where the gun shoots! The scope must first and foremost hold zero, hence robustness is a fundamental requirement.  The scope is the weakest link of rifle, scope and mounts?  Kahles won’t agree, this rifle found in the mountains 40 years after it was lost with their scope still functional.

30 mm tube diameters are the most widely used hunting scopes in Southern Africa;  a trend started on the incorrect assumption of greater light transmission. Other than greater turret adjustment there is no optical or robustness benefit of a 30 mm tube over a 25.4 mm tube scope. Light transmission is a function of lens coatings and the objective lens and not the tube diameter.

Choose the scope diameter which gives the best balance for your rifle; fit a 25.4 mm tube scope to a light small rifle and a 30 mm tube scope to a bigger heavier rifle.  Keep in mind that you can mount a 25.4 mm scope lower.

Ring mounted scopes are by far more popular than rail mounted scopes in Southern Africa. This is a trend based on the availability and lower cost of ring mounts vs. rail mounts.  A rail mounted scope offers many more advantages than a ring mounted scope, except that the lowest mount can normally be achieved with ring mounts.

Foreigners travelling to Africa often take a 2nd cheaper scope with them because anyway they almost all use detachable mount systems. Flight and safari costs are expensive whichever way you look at the Rand, hence a 2nd cheaper optic is a good insurance policy for them. As a minimum ensure that your open sights are accurate.

How to judge the durability of a scope?  I stay with trusted brands because they normally provide a host of other important benefits also. Some measure durability based on the scope guarantee; I am doubtful of that correlation. Test a minimum of 30 shots with every new scope, factory faults will show up early on.

Scope magnification and objective lens are important criteria based on application. A larger objective lens provides greater light transmission than a scope with a smaller objective lens. In Southern Africa light conditions are usually bright. Hunting stops shortly after sunset because the period of twilight zone is minimal.

For bright daylight hunting conditions in South Africa you will seldom, if ever, need an objective lens of greater diameter than 50. I like a scope and the rifle to be in proportion and the scope to be mounted as low as possible. My selection for Africa is a scope objective of 42 –  50; all you need and less bulky than a 56.

We are not considering long range hunting (over 500 m) where a larger objective lens does add benefit as the magnification is cranked up. Light transmission is a factor of the objective lens divided by the magnification. Below, testing the long range Swarovski DS hunting scope; fitted to a sporting gun for test purposes only.

Illuminated scopes? I doubt ever a situation in Southern Africa with the bright light conditions and a scope of good optical clarity that you will not be able to clearly see the black cross hair on an animal. Light conditions hunting in Africa are very different to hunting in Europe. If an illuminated reticle gives you more confidence then go with it.

Everyone ponders magnification.  Do not over magnify, especially in the hunt. When shooting off sticks I always advise to turn the magnification right down. You might think that you cannot see well but you will shoot better.  Less shake, more confidence and less risk to snatch the trigger. Prove it to yourself on the range!

The one gun (30-06) one hunting scope for Africaa magnification of 2-10 is ideal. With a power of 2 the field of view is wide enough for hunting the big 5 at close quarters and a 10 magnification is plentiful for hunting out to 400m, considering that 95% of your shooting will be between 100m and 350m. More mistakes are made at higher magnification than at lower magnification!

With a 10x magnification you do not need an objective lens greater than 50.  At a magnification of 10 you get an exit pupil of 5 mm which is sufficient light transmission for all hunting conditions in Southern Africa. Keep in mind we not discussing varmint hunting in moonlight conditions.

An important criteria is the lens coating! We always recommend to buy a scope with the “most” anti-reflection coatings that you can afford; the less light that is reflected back the greater the light transmission, and glare is minimized.

Turrets are a personal choice, either way they must be simple to use and you must practice with them.  I use turrets for longer range shooting (normally you have more time for set-up) and ignore the turrets for hunting up to 150 m. Simple and easy turrets avoid wasting time fiddling. You don’t need an accessorized scope! If you have spare cash buy turrets or else you better off buying higher quality lenses and using the “point-blank-sighting” range.

Hunting in Southern Africa is likely to be in dusty environments and dust quickly builds up on the lenses. Often overlooked is carrying a simple lens brush. Wiping lenses with a cloth can easily damage quality lenses.

Our “one” universal scope for hunting in Southern Africa is pictured below.  You don’t need more out to 400 m (10x), you don’t need a wider field of view (2x) and you don’t need a brighter image (50 objective). With Kahles you can buy turrets and fit anytime if you choose; AND you will never miss the moment!

See a new world with binoculars

Binoculars are fun and even more fun if you choose the right binoculars.  A lazy way of hunting is to rely on your professional hunter to select the game, but in doing so you miss out on the visual experience of being in the outdoors.

Likely you will use your binoculars more than you will use your rifle and scope, hence we recommend that you buy the best binoculars that you can afford. Your specific use is the most important selection criteria in choosing right.

My criteria for Africa is a pair of light and good optical clarity binoculars which I can always have with me, or close by me. Portability and good optical clarity wins in Africa over a heavy and bulky pair of binoculars of higher light transmission that you get with larger objective lenses. The Africa light is bright enough.

Hunting in Europe is typically from a hide and in low light conditions of early morning or late evenings. Here a bulky pair of binoculars is less of a handicap and you benefit from the light transmission of a larger objective lens.

The choice of magnification. Light transmission (size of exit pupil) is determined by the objective lens size divided by the magnification factor. You get greater light transmission (greater exit pupil) with smaller magnification assuming the same objective lens size. We recommend lower magnification with smaller objective lens binoculars. For walking or using binoculars in bright conditions my choice of binocular is an 8×32 (light, portable, used standing without shake and a wide field of view). An 8x has a wider field of view than a 10x and you can see all you need up to 400 m .

From stationary positions or low light conditions my choice is a 10×50 because you can normally set-up with a support, and the larger objective gets you last light. I never choose a binoculars of greater than 10x unless I am using it off a tripod or a dead rest because the “shake” distracts from the visual experience.  If needing more than a 10x magnification it probably becomes worthwhile considering a spotting scope.

The older style porro prism binoculars cost approximately 50% of the equivalent optical clarity in a roof prism binoculars.  I always advise to upgrade binoculars, even before upgrading your rifle, but where cost is a key factor and you accept a more bulky and older looking style binocular then porro prism is an excellent choice. Roof prism binoculars are lighter and less bulky but they cost more to manufacture.

If forced to choose one binocular only then I would select a roof prism in 8×42 – a fair compromise between weight, portability, brightness and field of view. This would be the 30-06, one rifle choice, but because I own more than one pair of binoculars and more than one rifle I do not own either a 8×42 binoculars or a 30-06 rifle.

Good binoculars have a diopter adjustment.  This setting equates the correction of a pair of spectacles.  I take care to set the diopter on the eye-piece accurately and then leave for a few years because your sight correction is stable (provided no-one else uses your binoculars). The diopter does not need to be changed for different distances!

Most binoculars are to some extent shockproof, waterproof, dust proof and fog proof.  The level of robustness is often a correlation of the price. I once bought a pair of binoculars and placed them in a basin of water overnight – a test I carried out while the product was under guarantee. Below, a scope being tested for waterproof at the factory.

For a light, compact and portable pair of binoculars it is especially important to chose a high quality optic because of image compromise with smaller lenses.  Lens coatings are critical, the more anti-reflective coatings the greater the amount of light that passes through. See the white circles on the eyepieces below, this is the exit pupil. A size of 4 mm is adequate for bright conditions in Africa, off-course larger means a brighter image.

Kim Jong-un having issues with his binoculars – all the “trouble shooting” in the world cannot improve his vision. Ego is like dust in his eyes.  He should clear his ego, invest in quality binoculars and see a new world!

Criticism for not showing shot animals on our Facebook page

There have been observations and some criticism that The Powder Keg does not publish pictures of shot animals on its Facebook page. There is no easy answer but we have chosen to limit pictures of shot animals for a few reasons.

It is partly about trying to understand today’s connection with people.  For example, although the anti-hunting establishment are dangerously uninformed about hunting we seek ways of positively influencing them vs. giving them material to put at risk our passion for the outdoors and hunting.

The anonymity of social media gives the opportunity to publish widely misleading information without consequences. But we (the hunting fraternity) also “shoot ourselves in the foot” from time to time by posting unsavory hunting scenes and videos which do us harm.

Paul Luff and I are proud hunters and every animal we shoot is shot in a legal and ethical manner. We know the contribution that hunting makes to conservation.  By not publishing pictures of shot animals we are not “sitting on the fence” … and here is WHY.

The Powder Keg is not focused on hunting alone, and we are not focused only on selling products and services; we are passionate about selling an experience, a purpose and a lifestyle.

We are passionate around getting more people of all sexes and all races involved in hunting and sport shooting.  We are passionate about responsible and ethical hunting practices. We are passionate about changing the negative image around guns. We do not expect overnight success. 

Money is not our key driver; we believe that relationships are our real capital; we are focused on fostering relationships that will bring new hunters and new sport shooters into this great space.

There are reasons in favor of publishing pictures with legally and ethically hunted animals, “fishing where the fish are”. With every decision there are compromises. Twenty – 30 years ago we were encouraged to get “dirty and rough” in rugby scrums and now with cameras you a scorned upon for being sent off.  We have to change with the times, sometimes whether we like it or not. The business we are building is wider than hunting alone.

I have hunted in different countries and in all they have their own culture around hunting. Keyboard “bashers” have no right to impose their cultures on others provided hunting is conducted in a legal and ethical manner – BUT THEY DO! In every country I have hunted in their are rules, regulations and laws around the management of game.

Our Pricing Strategy

The clarity of our mission, vision and strategies; and our principles of transparency, fairness and consistency make it easy to explain our pricing strategy. And we are proud to share this. Even though we operate in a retail space we limit specials in favor of consistent and fair pricing. Creating trust is an important element of our team.

We do have product promotions where we aim to increase product exposure. Promotional awareness is communicated on Facebook and via email to our data base. Our distributors are informed in advance and they are encouraged to participate in promotions.

There are instances where we decide to discontinue a product line or product brand and offer prices to clear the goods. We do not expect many clearance sales because we test products thoroughly in advance and we stay with the golden thread of our strategy. We do however make mistakes, what matters is less the mistakes vs. how quickly we get back on the mountain.

In some cases we change our strategy like we did for our 2 brand strategy in clothing; we will no-longer carry an entry level local brand because this space is too crowded. Our resources are better spent elsewhere, hence our current pricing to clear clothing and focus on Chevalier. Clothing takes space, we do not have a space issue, but space must anyway be used effectively. Normal clothing can be purchased in most shops. We focus our attention on a premium quality and style of clothing from Chevalier that is not otherwise available.

Pricing of our imported products are adjusted when the Rand moves +-5% from the last adjustment in order to have pricing relevant and current to global pricing. For example, our optics cost the same in SA as in any other foreign country. The days are over where every country had its own pricing level, internet has created a global trading village. Rand weakness & volatility of 2016 was costly, but like Kahles optics we in business for the long term.

Huntex Gallagher Estate was an example of our discipline to keep to our business principles. Everyone around us was discounting products, we even had a first time gun buyer say that he was advised by a dealer to rather buy a 300 H&H vs. his choice of a 30-06.  We focus on value and life-long customers vs. short term dumping of excess products. The success of our pricing strategy reflects in a 40 year legacy, we in business for the long term.

Kahles optics at TPK

Visit The Powder Keg and see why Kahles is considered best in class. Kahles produce a premium 1″ scope with illuminated reticles.  Many hunters are upgrading to Helia 3 without the need to change their mounts. The 1″ tube transmits the same light as a 30 mm tube. Many customers choose the slimmer design to match their rifle and lower mounting.

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Kahles carefully considered their line of 30 mm scopes (CSX / CBX / Helia 5) and decided to standardize on a single range of premium 30 mm scopes (launched at IWA). The current range of 30 mm scopes are standout best in class when considering value for price, but we applaud this strategic direction of Kahles. We selling all stocks of premium 30 mm Kahles scopes at our cost in preparation for the standardized range.

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Long range shooters world over are literally going crazy about the K624i. The American market is taking every unit that is available. Vienna is supporting The Powder Keg initiatives on the hunting range of optics by giving us stocks of K624i, albeit a longer lead time. Kahles hunting optics have the same quality of lens, innovation and Austrian workmanship as does the K624i, it is only a matter of time before all hunters make the obvious choice in the Helia range of optics.

Official Dealer

Great news from Kahles is that the K16i, previously only available to law enforcement is now available to the civilian market. The special design of the K16i makes it the most robust scope in its class. The wide field of view, lens clarity and 1-6 magnification with reticle in the 2nd plane make this a winner for driven hunts or close-up encounters.

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I had the bad habit of not using binoculars when hunting. I never had quality binoculars as a young hunter and got by spotting through my rifle scope. Now that I recognize the value of hunting with binoculars I just could not get used to the bulk and weight around my neck, irrespective of straps or shoulder harnesses. The compact and light weight high lens quality Kahles binoculars have changed my world; I am a better hunter for that.

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Kahles have pioneered many new innovations in rifle scopes. Their optical clarity and robustness is evident in scopes of more than 50 years old, allowing a worthwhile investment in color case hardening of steel tubes of old optics! Not for sale but for the soul; and to recognize Kahles the pioneer.

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Our customers asked ….

When customers ask there are normally more with the same thoughts and questions. In this blog I will address why The Powder Keg stopped selling and trading in old firearms when others have started to do this as a new initiative.

When we bought The Powder Keg from the estate of the late Dr Lucas Potgieter there were approximately 500 second hand firearms in the safe. I best describe the situation as fog; a distraction to running a disciplined business with proper controls and clarity of vision.

Every business operates under different circumstances; good strategy in one business is often bad strategy in another. Also, good strategy is normally a differentiated approach; a copy strategy is normally not good strategy.

When fixing a business, do it quick. The number of second hand firearms on our premises was a cancer that could not be cured in a reasonable time frame given the licence procedures in SA. Our business needed surgery.  We boxed 2 crates of our old pistols and after 6 months of trying to have these destroyed we gave them to another dealer with a different strategy.

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Similarly we got rid of our second hand rifles with little or no value and asked customers to collect their storage firearms. The storage of firearms is a good business if that is your main focus and if you have a warehouse for storage. We needed to focus elsewhere.

The average value of the 500 firearms approximated R1,000 each. At best we could realize an average margin of R250 per firearm.  Consider the effort to sell, complete license applications, control stock and the cost of insurance while compromising stock control and the opportunity cost of not doing what matters. Waste, we had to cut fast and deep.

A lesson I learnt from Carlyle Private Equity in the financial crisis of 2007- 2009, cut deep and then cut again, better to make corrections later than not being around to have that chance. My biggest frustration in the firearms industry is that you cannot make legacy issues a 1 day problem; you simply cannot get rid of an accumulation of unwanted firearms quickly.

In every decision you have benefit and compromise. Employees who were part of The Powder Keg for many years could not understand why we refused to compromise on keeping second hand firearms.  To get rid of the second firearms we needed decisive action, no grey areas,  even though in some instances (viewed in isolation) this was a lost profit. We had to be clear and decisive on our goals and time to implement.

In China there is a no drink and drive policy (ZERO). No grey area. A limit allows for subjective evaluation i.e. “I should be fine with one more”. The same rule for new drivers in many European countries; kids in these countries will not risk losing their license; there is nothing not to understand about a ZERO allowance rule.

Similarly, when the production director of a manufacturing plant in our business needed to reduce the cost of overtime worked he banned overtime and stomached the impact of those instances where there was a cost to production shortages. At The Powder Keg we implemented lessons learnt from our past.

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To be a good leader you must be courageous. At The Powder Keg we have clear strategy and we focused on that golden thread. Selling second hand firearms might be a future strategy at The Powder Keg but not until we are perfect and successful in other more important matters.

Doc Lucas was in the business for 40 years, he sold second hand guns and he stored everyone’s firearms, why would we now consider this bad strategy? New eyes are important in all businesses. If you throw a frog into hot water he will jump out. If you place a frog in cold water and slowly heat the water the frog will cook to death because the slow temperature increase is not recognized as an event to act upon.

A police inspection that took 5 hours is now possible in 30 minutes.  As we continue to implement lean principles at The Powder Keg we should get a police inspection down to 15 minutes – our next goal.

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Huntex 2017 – TPK Strategy

The Powder Keg strategy for Huntex is focused on brand awareness and brand building of products that we represent exclusively or those products that are differentiated. We will not duplicate our store at Huntex; we are focused on long term value creation and not short term commercial suicide.

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The main reason that The Powder Keg will exhibit is to create brand awareness of those brands that we represent exclusively AND where these brands are not exhibiting themselves.

The Powder Keg does what it believes is the right thing vs. “follow the crowd”. To be noticed you must step outside of the crowd or else you are lost in the noise. Huntex in the past was a commercial playground of specials which in our opinion is short term commercial suicide or simply marketing ignorance.

The Powder Keg as seen from Hendrik Potgieter Road

The Powder Keg has chosen a hybrid approach in order to cater for visitor expectations.  We will sell 1 model (max 2)  in each of the brands that we represent at special pricing. We will communicate in advance on Facebook those Huntex  promotional products and prices allowing allocated stock to be sold to our existing customer base before Huntex. Key benefits – loyalty to existing customers and limiting the distraction caused by selling at Huntex.

Family of elephants marching through savannah at dusk with glorious view of sunbeams breaking through impressive cloudscape

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Hunters Contribution – Slovenia

Every hunter must work a minimum of 30 hours in their hunting family every year contributing to the management of game, cleaning of the hunting area and the upkeep of the hunting facilities. Under exceptional circumstances where a hunter is unable to fulfill his work commitment he must make good with a payment, however this is frowned upon because the purpose is to contribute to nature and not a material contribution.

I am pictured below with Dusan, friend and past mentor, where we work together in a sector of our hunting family.

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A large portion of the work to clean the hunting area must be performed before the 15th of March of every year. I learnt the reasons why this year because I was behind in my contribution; a law in Slovenia forbids the cutting of branches and forest clearing after 15th March because this is considered the time (spring) when birds start nesting. Hunters contribute to nature in every way possible.

Below is one of the meadows in our sector of Udenboršt which we are responsible to maintain.

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The hunting system has been developed over centuries; regulations and information are well documented e.g. every hide is numbered, its GPS coordinates recorded on an online hunting information data base available to hunters.

Feeding points are also recorded together with their main purpose stated. Only wild boar may be hunted at specially designated feeding points in order to control their numbers. All feeding points must be cleared after 21st March (through summer). Animals have natural food in summer and feeding is prohibited. Wild animals must continue their instincts of self preservation without human interference.

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The Government employs hunting inspectors that control the area. Offences are punished by means of a monetary fine for both the hunting family association and separately for their President. Each hunting family association has a hunting keeper who is required to support compliance of regulations. A typical offence that is punished severely is illegal feeding where potentially irresponsible hunters try to lure animals.

The bottom left jaw of every animal shot must be presented at a specific location during a specific week of the year where hunting inspectors validate records of animals taken. A hunter in our family was recently fined Euro 450 because it was established from the tooth that the female pig was 1 year older than what was allowed to shoot.

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A part of our work includes the maintenance of hides to ensure that structures are secure and safe. The main purpose of a hide is safety, giving a downward angle of the bullet. Other than in the large Government forest and hunting areas all other hunting takes place in close proximity of houses and people are constantly walking in the nature.

Recently there was an incident of vandalism at certain hunting offices of an association in Slovenia. Their anonymity and spineless nature reflects on their inability to be forthright and willing to engage in constructive debate. It will be difficult to engage people who have no respect for private property and who are not willing or competent to propose alternatives, but as responsible hunters we want to engage and find solutions in a changing world.

Slovenia Protests

Not what is said, but what is heard

The Powder Keg (TPK) launched it’s new website 6 months back and it’s Facebook page about 4 months back. We cannot be the best in such a short time, but what is important is that we are better today than we were yesterday.

Family of elephants marching through savannah at dusk with glorious view of sunbeams breaking through impressive cloudscape

The new generation that have grown up with social media, in my opinion, do not have the patience to read more than a few lines of a posting on Facebook. I wanted to check myself, to see if our messages were being heard. Nina, daughter of a great family in Slovenia has often “liked” the TPK Facebook posts, hence I decided to ask her to articulate in 3 schematics what she believed were the main messages we delivered.

Nina’s first observation was that the team of The Powder Keg practice abundant thinking, she likens this with “out of the box thinking”. In her words “you always considering to do something that others do not do”.

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Nina is a lover of animals and when she was younger I had to tell her that we only hunted animals that were sick. Older, and with a more balanced and realistic approach to life, she is now a believer that responsible hunting is important to conservation. Many species would be extinct if they had no commercial value and if proceeds from hunting was not available for conservation.

Her second observation was that The Powder Keg focuses on shooting products that improve shooting results.  Her pictorial of this was a target with shots in the zone (below). Customer value should be measured in the field.

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I did ask Nina to describe what words she thought best described the TPK culture and business way because research has shown that customers get to learn and understand the culture of a business from Facebook postings and blogs.

Nina’s last of the 3 pictorials to describe The Powder Keg are depicted in the photo below. Likely she was influenced by her overhearing many business calls and her deeper understanding of my personality; hence this outcome may not to be the influence of her reading only.

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A lesson I learned in this process was that Nina made no reference to customers.  The Powder Keg lives “customers first, always” but we need to align our messages to ensure that we are being heard. We only exist because of our customers, without orders we close shop. My takeaway, The Powder Keg must become more customer eccentric in words and in actions.

Demi shooting with Dave Hurr

Venue for European Championships 2017

Pragersko, a small village on the East of Slovenia will again host the European Championships in both shotgun and rifle disciplines during August. The shooting range is on a 22 hectare piece of ground with 1500 sqm under roof. The picture below is of the main building which houses a store for shooting equipment sales, restaurant and ablutions. There is a massive score board which is updated electronically from the different ranges.

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During the initial years of operation the range was focused on shotgun disciplines; Universal Trap, Trap and Compact.  I estimate 12 ranges.  Slovenia enjoys many sunny days but not on the day that I visited the range. In winter the range opens on weekends only, for instance on Sundays from 10am to noon. I brought my shotgun to shoot but being a “softie” to this cold the shotgun stayed locked away.

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I have been fortunate to visit both a World Championship and a European Championship in shotgun disciplines at Pragersko (before the rifle ranges were built). They are truly spectacular events. By 12th Feb 2017 there were already 800 shooters registered to participate of which 26 are South Africans.

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Owner of the range, Igor Rakuša, was himself a former Yugoslavian Champion and his dad before him. If you read the BLOG under the category SPORT SHOOTING you will see how I first met Igor some 11 years ago. Igor and his family are not only keen hunters but they excel in all forms of hunting.  Tomorrow I will travel with Igor to the fair in Vicenza and after we will visit a large dealer in Brescia. Bulk buying in Europe will bring benefit to all customers of The Powder Keg.

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The 50m indoor range is impressive. The investment in electronic targets alone approximates 500K Euro. I learn every day of my life and I learn a lot from Igor about shooting and business.  Igor is working on a hunting concession in central Europe where the total annual quota approximates 2000 pieces (mostly pigs that must be controlled). This is part of the bigger plan for The Powder Keg to bring European safari and tourism to South African families.

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The rifle and handgun ranges are indoor and outdoors. The longest range length at the moment is 100m. Going longer means tunneling. This is in the plan but it is challenging to get payback in Slovenia where the population is 2 million. Ranges are big investments, hence linking adjacent businesses such as hunting. The range is an ideal platform for bigger opportunity and The Powder Keg will be much stronger through this European link.

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Pig hunting is big in Europe and no where is it more popular than in Slovenia. Pigs are hunted from May till end December, driven hunts taking place in November and December when the forests are bare and grounds covered in snow (hopefully). Driven hunts require practice.  The range at Pragersko is an ideal venue to practice on a moving pig target.  The range is 50 m.

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Take a close-up look at the mechanism and railway sleepers in the background. There is also a moving target range for .22 rifle; the range in photo is for big rifles. It is a professional set-up.

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I look forward to meeting with shooters from South Africa. Please follow The Powder Keg as we continue to reinvent customer experiences (ultimately up to us an individuals). The big difference I observe with Europeans is that they continually seek new experiences and travel regularly. Europeans save money to travel and hunt abroad – to live life.

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Last Wednesday was a 13 hour day visiting Kahles in Vienna, tomorrow we start for Italy at 5am, all this so that The Powder Keg can deliver superior customer service and the best value price-to-performance equipment.

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Kahles conquering Africa

In this blog – why Kahles will conquer Africa. A public holiday in Slovenia was the ideal opportunity for Ales Spendal and I to travel to Vienna to meet with Peter Aichberger (head of global sales) at the Kahles headquarters and factory. In the entrance was this pictorial display of a rifle found in the mountains 30 years after it was lost. The Kahles rifle scope on this gun still functions and is on display, testimony to the robustness of Kahles optics.

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Kahles and Swarovski are in the same stable with regard to ownership, but they work independently from each other. The Kahles premises is a “GREEN BUILDING”, the entire premises’ temperature and humidity is kept constant without the use of fossil fuel and it shows.

The constant and static climate control in the process is critical to ensuring uniformity of metal forces considering that key components are produced to within 1 micron of tolerances. Scope tubes are produced from a solid bar of aluminium whereas most competitors would start with hollow tubes. In the picture below Peter is holding one such solid bar.

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Before processing the solid tubes of aluminium are placed in an oven under a specific (and secret) heating and cooling cycle in order to eliminate forces, stresses and tensions within the metal. Proprietary information is protected throughout the facility by having only 2 people, different people in each area,  entrusted with the data and set-ups. For example, Peter did not know the recipes for this particular process.

Kahles tubes are transformed from a solid bar of aluminium to a completed tube in a 2 stage process. This is significant because fewer stages means less inherent risk of product defects. Fewer transitions, greater consistentcy.

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A key observation was how human reliant the assembly process is. Austrians lead in automation, hence processes that remain reliant on people are not because of costs or technology, but simply necessary. The high work ethic of Austrians, given their part in assembly, is fundamentally why I will never buy a scope produced anywhere else in the world. I apologize for those who I may offend, but let’s not have our emotions moved quicker than our intelligence.

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The assembly area is clean, the work flow well organized within cells and each work station is supported with the highest level of technology and sophistication to support the individuals in their work. The work cells are “hooded” by a flow box that suctions any dust particles away from the work surface. In the picture below are the slippers that we had to put over our shoes, it literally felt like we were skiing around a floor surface that you could eat off.

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Ever had a concern about the waterproof capability of a Kahles scope? See the test below.  Trapped air would be immediately visible, similar to placing a bicycle tube in a tub of water to locate the leak. Air is vacuumed out of the scope and the scope is filled with Nitrogen prior sealing. Computerized tracking provides measurements throughout the process.

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Final inspection is carried out on 100% of the optics. This inspection includes validation of parallax which is simulated for different distances and the validation of reticle movement. The reticle movement parts are perfectly machined parts containing zero plastic.  In Peter’s words “one click is one click is one cm at 100m“. In the picture below are 2 persons responsible for final inspection. My ugly face is serving a purpose, obstructing the target viewing area which is proprietary information.

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We were showed the repair area, I estimated less than 50 scopes returned from global markets and only 2 persons working in the area. A statement of Kahles quality and workmanship. The importance of quality and reliability is the mechanism on the one hand and the lens optical clarity on the other. Some manufacturers succeed in one of these areas, a few in both; Kahles succeed not only in both but in bringing them together in a best in class optic.

Another observation is Kahles great leadership; Peter is clear on design drivers. Kahles is focused on features that matter to hunters and sport shooters such as robustness of build quality and optical clarity. Kahles selected green as the light spectrum of choice in their lens development because green is the dominant color in nature, and this truly means the first 5 minutes of daylight and the last 5 minutes of daylight belong to Kahles.

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Peter is a keen and responsible hunter and this gave me the opportunity to understand some of the thinking behind Kahles designs such as why Kahles do not make a hunting scope with parallax adjustment. Peter was quick to add that parallax adjustment for shooters using high magnification scopes was in the development process special; Kahles developed an innovative and unique parallax adjustment (patented) which is integrated in the elevation turret making this critical long distance feature ergonomic for shooters. This parallax adjustment is integrated in the complete range of long distance “K-series” Kahles optics. Buy the worlds most sought after long distance scope, the K624i. Every scope produced is sold.

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Another important and critical reason why Kahles will become the driving force in South Africa is because The Powder Keg commitment to provide customers with the best products and after sales service. I personally carried 2 very old Kahles scopes of South Africans to Kahles for repairs.  What I learnt is that Kahles only repair scopes with a serial number from 340 000 onward. The one scope just scraped in.

I learnt from the scope with “hair” on the reticle that it is a phenomenon of previous generation scopes where particles from the inside of the tube would dislodge after years of use and be attracted to the reticle in a magnet type way. New reticle technology and anodized scope tubes have eliminated this problem. A “hairy” reticle can be cleaned by Kahles, but after further years of use the same phenomena could start to show.

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Why I prefer Kahles Helia 3 scopes (1″) for hunting.  Show me a higher quality 1″ scope with illuminated reticle – none. It is fallacy that you have greater light transmission in wider tube diameters. My prime requirement for scope fitment is a scope mounted as low as possible. A 1″ tube scope can be mounted lower than any of the wider diameter tubes. A hunting scope must be light and elegant to fit the gun (picture above). It is imaginary to think that a 30mm tube is stronger, all tubes are processed in the same manner.

An advantage of wider diameter scopes is the increased reticle movement capability. The main reason that you might run out of clicks on a 1″ hunting scope is poor mounts or poor mount fitment. The mount is the weak point between the gun and the scope, the reason why Europeans fit only quality mounts and the reason why Europeans upgrade their 1″ scope using existing mounts.

Below was our parting view of Kahles on 8th February 2017.

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Wild boar hunting in wet snow

Hunting experiences in central Europe are unique, and conditions can be spectacularly different from hunt to hunt. Yesterday I woke at 3 am to travel to a private hunting concessionary area in Croatia that borders on Bosnia. Experiencing the history of the area, the company and the spectacular scenery was enough; shooting wild boar would not determine the success of this hunt. Typically hunters all gather at a venue prior and after the hunt. This was the hunting cottage where we enjoyed breakfast before hunting and ate dinner before departing on the long road home.

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I have often hunted in snow but never in conditions like this. The day before there was a downfall of “wet snow” of about 25 cm which had frozen on the trees overnight. When we arrived at 8 am it was -5 C, cold but bearable because there was no wind which would have driven up the chill factor.

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I traveled with Igor Rakusha who comes out of a long tradition of shooting and hunting. See my blog category “sport shooting” on how I met Igor.  Although the trip was long I used the time to soak up as much as I could learn from Igor. He said that it was unlikely that we would shoot much that day because pigs sense the bad weather, feed up and then group overnight and don’t move much.  The dogs do not get a good sense of smell (frozen conditions) and you need luck to be in the same area as the pigs are.

As we approached the hunting area the road narrowed into a single lane with literally thousands of branches hanging across the road.  The weight of the snow caused the tree branches to hang down and sometimes breaking off. Getting to the area of the driven hunt was slow because of these road conditions. Most South Africans would freak if required to drive through branches like we did, but Slovenes love for the hunt overrides all materialistic concerns.

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I expected harsh weather and spent a few hours preparing for the hunt. I packed snacks, hot tea and additional dry clothing. I decided to break my bad habit of hunting without binoculars, but this was pathetic. Hunting wild boar in dense vegetation does not call for binoculars.  Despite all my preparation from prior hunting in snow I was not prepared for these conditions.  I chose my best “chair-back-pack” because of its size and the seat which is critical for the few hours waiting on a driven hunt. As I opened my back-pack melting snow from the trees created a mini-avalanche over my kit.

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I initially thought I could clear the snow before it melted but I never could sit. Snow from the branches would fall continuously as rising temperatures and sun caused it to melt. It took a few of these snow falls for my heart to stop racing because each time it sounded like a group of pigs emerging from the forest. This brings me to the other main reason why it would be difficult to shoot pigs, the continuous noise of falling snow makes it impossible to hear approaching pigs. You had to be more alert with vision than hearing.

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The most critical part of clothing for these hunting conditions, other than warm Gore-Tex type clothing, is a hat that protects your vision from falling snow. I would also opt for a simple stool to sit on which could be put out when sitting rather than my integrated seat made of a material that can and did get soaked.

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The other striking contrast in the day was the change of environment in only 4 hours.  By noon most of the snow had melted from the trees, a quietness descended, but by the end of the first driven session the beaters and their dogs were tired. The afternoon driven hunt was always going to be a challenge and it was.  We would have been better off to wait until noon and focus on one intense driven session.

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There are many beautiful stone and wood houses in the area – many deserted. I had a feeling of remoteness. The private concession that we were hunting in was within a 20 km zone of the border with Bosnia. This area was mainly populated by Serbs who fled their properties in the war of 1998-2001 between Serbia and Croatia. There were many atrocities committed on both sides and given how recent this war was it is understandable that the Serbs who lived in the area before are reluctant to return even though ownership was returned through the European Union insistence.

There were 18 hunters. Normally they would shoot 12 – 20 boar on a days driven hunt. Given the weather conditions we did not find the main group of wild pigs and only 2 large boar were shot. The older males behave differently, they tend to move quietly on their own, often going back behind the beaters. I was fortunate for a Rhoe deer to come to within 10 yards of me, stand and observe me for close on 10 minutes. At one stage he even took 2 steps closer. This amazing experience proved that deer had poor eyesight and the frozen snow conditions made it impossible for him to smell me. As long as I did not move the deer stayed. The picture below could only be taken after he ran off.

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The area has wolves which caused the Red deer to move out. They simply got tired of being hunted by wolves and moved out. Rhoe deer are territorial, proving the life lesson of our need to change and adapt or be consumed. My day was successful because I experienced history, different weather conditions, met great people, enjoyed much learning; and then I arrived home to the trophy my family had created … I am not the best hunter but I am better than I was the hunt before.

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Lifestyle choices – Family Safaris Eu

Part of The Powder Keg vision to be the best run and most respected business for the benefit of our customers requires us to keep reinventing customer experiences.  In order for The Powder Keg to gain discerning customers we have to be a stand-out business. We want hunters and sports shooters to see a NEW WORLD rather than seeing an OLD WORLD better. The Powder Keg is pioneering customer experiences in order for you to see a NEW WORLD.

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The Powder Keg is well positioned to offer a lifestyle investment that includes the whole family. In planning European hunting opportunities for South African customers we started off by trying to define what a successful hunt actually means. Fortunately there is no one fixed criteria that makes up the perfect hunt and it certainly does not need to be where the result is an animal taken. I found the joy of hunting in Slovenia to be more the local hospitality, traditions and country landscape than taking an animal.

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Africa is blessed with many different animal species, if you not successful with your first choice of animal you can make-up with other species of game. Also Africa is blessed with many sunny days so it is unlikely that your hunt will be completely fouled up by bad weather. In Europe weather can influence your hunt, especially when hunting in mountainous terrain. There is also not the same abundance of animal species. Animals move freely meaning that not even the best outfitter can be sure to get you in the best place for an animal.

So, if in Europe we cannot hedge a hunt success with multiple game species or if the weather stats are less favorable, how can we ensure our customers an awesome experience? The obvious answer lay in combining hunting and tourism, ensuring families a memorable stay in Slovenia or its surrounds. In designing a lifestyle adventure we applied the overriding principles of “a local experience and flexibility in itineraries that makes the best of weather conditions”. For example, a trip to Venice would be planned according to the best weather days.

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The most challenging species to hunt in Slovenia is the Chamois or Gams as called by the locals. It is however the most striking landscape to hunt in and a privilege mainly for a fit hunter. It is not unusual to reach 1600 m above sea level by sunrise; fortunately driving a fair way before setting out on foot. I recommend this hunt because you will get to experience Slovenia from above the clouds on a foggy day or see for miles on a clear day.

Dusan, my mentor to becoming a Udenborst hunting family member, but more importantly a great friend

Slovenia has the highest population of brown bear in Europe (around 400). Shooting quotas are strictly adhered to by a Government system predicated on conservation. Hunting bear in Slovenia is only permitted from a hide because of the danger, meaning that you can spend up to the early hours of morning waiting in a closed hide. Bears are smart and have acute sense of smell. Your guide will have a bottle to relieve yourself in, if needed; I still need to inquire about the solution for woman folk.

Good rifles and appropriate calibers will be provided so that you are not handicapped with gun safety when not hunting. We will get you to a range to ensure familiarity with the rifle and to check the rifle. Most likely the range will be a 100 m range in Ljubljana center. Your visit in Ljubljana would not be complete without a visit to see the workshop and custom guns of Ales Spendal where you can also fulfill any clothing needs for the hunt.

Shooting range Ljubljana Slovenia

Visiting Slovenia is a truly unique experience that I guarantee you will repeat; the people incredibly friendly and the landscape diverse for such a small country. The strength of this nation into the future, in my opinion, lies with the strength of the Slovene women.  They are, again in my opinion, a much stronger sex than the Slovene men folk. Here is my link between a countries future and its women – children spend more time with their mothers than with their fathers, strong mothers create future generations that will be better equipped to succeed.

You can tour Slovenia as a tourist, surf the internet, there are many great internet sights that are informative. Touring Slovenia as a tourist is easy and safe. The Powder Keg offering however is unique and differentiated. My greatest memories and still today my greatest moments are connected with locals and with what the locals do. My favorite eating places are places where I have been hosted by locals. The lifestyle investment that The Powder Keg offers includes all the touristic sights but introduces you to the lifestyle of the locals and a hunting opportunity.

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Whether your Powder Keg adventure includes hunting or not, my recommendation is 14 days to enjoy Slovenia and the neighboring countries. The days are gone where I used to run from pillar to post ticking the boxes “SEEN”, instead I prefer to enjoy the lifestyle living that sets central and eastern Europe apart from other destinations. Make your purpose of visiting Slovenia to enjoy and de-stress. My advice to The Powder Keg staff for 2017 is do fewer things as long as you do them really well; and this is my advice for your family safari to Central Europe.

When I first came to Slovenia in 2016 we had 4 clear seasons, but with changes in weather patterns the weather is much more mixed and unpredictable, what is clear is that summers are hot and winters cold. Hunting and sight seeing are different depending whether it is winter or summer. I prefer hunting in winter especially if there is snow about, it is a different and an amazing experience.  Sight seeing in winter is less pleasant, the days shorter, however Ljubljana over the festive season beats most famous Christmas destinations.

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Google Slovenia information and visit the tourism site of The Powder Keg partner Graeme Chuter (http://www.slovenia-transfers-tours.com/). These insights are sure to wet your appetite.  To have started the job is to have done half the job, call Paul Luff at The Powder Keg or contact me directly and lets put together an unforgettable experience for the family. In the picture below is the famous BLED lake where every tourist guide will take you, but Graeme will add the touch which he gained in his 12 years living in Slovenia conducting boutique tours.

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The Powder Keg, seeking high-expectation and discerning customers, South Africans who will acknowledge and enjoy hunting and tourism in Slovenia like a local. Our goal is customers “cradle to grave” meaning that we must continuously delight with improved, honest and consistently good customer service.

Pioneering new spaces

Getting greater women involvement in sport shooting and hunting. 

A part of The Powder Keg culture is pushing the boundaries; being proactive allows us to influence what others do not consider.  Paul Luff and the local team do the hard and important work of growing our existing business and looking after our existing customers.

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I use my remoteness to seek areas of strategic growth. We are focused on increasing the size of the market and not only fighting for a piece of the existing market. Our initiatives seek to engage people of all sexes and races to participate in the amazing sport of shooting. 

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I start with this headline on the Clay Target Shooting Association of South Africa’s website, “welcome to the thrilling and visually exciting sport of clay target shooting – you are now connecting with one of the oldest and safest sports in the world!” We must contribute to improving the image of “guns and hunting” because responsible hunters and gun owners are being tarnished through irresponsible, ignorant and biased media reporting.

With that introduction the point of this BLOG, women shooters . Generally us men have bigger egos than women and this is immensely restrictive to our advancement. For example, the advice to men about starting the sport of 3 gun shooting is “toss your ego aside and jump into the arena”. In getting women involved in shooting we fortunately do not have the ego hurdle to climb. We do however have to be a supportive community to show that getting involved is easy for women.

The Powder Keg is a family store. The golden thread of our business is not “GUNS” but includes creating an environment where women feel at home; buying gear for themselves or simply being supportive of their families involvement in the sport of hunting and shooting. Who better to uplift the image of guns and shooting than women.

In Austria alone there are more than 12000 registered female hunters, and growing. Some Austrians concede that women may be better hunters than men, their reasoning includes women’s respect for the animal; and that they make sure that the meat, the fat and the fur are not wasted.

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The point I am trying to make is not which sex is a better hunter, but to point out that more and more women in Europe are choosing to spend their free time in the nature, gun in hand and dog at side, hunting for food, fun and companionship.

In Europe women hunters contribute to keeping the old huntsmen’s traditions alive and keeping us men folk better behaved, although not all hunters like it, especially hunters with old habits and fixed paradigms.

I think women have improved hunting in Europe, made it more elegant, they are less interested in hunting just for “trophies” to hang on the wall, instead they hunt primarily for food, camaraderie and because of their love for nature.

The Powder Keg stocks a range of Chevalier hunting clothing for women that is functional and elegant. Our goal was more, a gun that would be a “signature gun” for women hunters.  Research suggests that women are more precise with their shots vs. just blasting away, hence The Powder Keg decided on a single shot break-down gun; a type more suited to creating an elegant, light weight and short rifle.

Here is a “sneak peak”, a 308 Win weighing in just over 2 kg without scope. The gun is that well designed that recoil is no issue despite the light weight. We did not want to insult women with a “signature gun” in a .22 caliber:)) We fitted a scope of 1″ tube diameter that complimented the sleek and elegant lines of this round body action, and there is no better 1″ illumination scope than a Kahles Helia 3 scope.

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I am hopeful that through The Powder Keg initiatives to get more women shooters and women hunters involved my daughter will rekindle a flame that was part of many days that we spent in the veld together.

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Demi shooting with Dave Hurr

The Powder Keg and Kahles are proud to be associated with Lauren Parsons, ladies Field Target World Champion in 2015 and SA Ladies National Champion in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Lauren shoots with the Kahles 1050FT scope. We will join with Lauren to support initiatives for a greater involvement of women shooters and women hunters.

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Straight Shooting on Leadership

This time of the year is about reflection and adjustment in our commitments for 2017. I like to make public what I commit to because I find this keeps me “honest”. When your goals are private, breaking them is hidden and easier. Take the silencer off your gun when committing to 2017 goals.

Our Powder Keg vision for 2017 is unchanged, to be the best run and most respected shooting outfitter in South Africa for our customers. Our mission is to provide our customers with the highest value price-to-performance equipment and service. Accurate shooting requires a steady hold; we holding our vision and mission.

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We are not the biggest in the industry so we will “shoot outnumbered and WIN“. People talk about wanting to win, we need to win.  Winning is defined in many different ways, this is the reason why we are clear about our vision and our mission. We will be “best in class” in chosen segments; you can be “best in class” with the proper shooting gear and practice. Most of us do not have the resources to be “best in class” in all shooting disciplines and definitely not the time; by choosing and focusing on a discipline you have a chance to “shoot outnumbered and WIN“.

I want to reflect on our team and teamwork, a reference often flogged to death; for me what is important is to be part of a winning team because who wants to be part of a losing team?  First and foremost in our team is the instilled family values like honesty, integrity and respect for others.  With this core we embark on continuous improvement in 2017.

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I got involved in The Powder Keg because of a passion in fine guns, the outdoors and the value I could bring by being resident in Europe. My reflections after 1 year – I am more passionate than ever about fine shooting gear but I do not like elements of the industry such as the licensing process and the prerequisite for employees to have a Competency to Trade which limits the pool of people available to hire.  I understand the need but it is immensely prohibitive.

I like to build a team balanced with experience from within the industry and new ideas of people from outside of the industry.  My last CEO came from another industry into our leadership team of many years experience within our industry, he said “look for those 2 things in the 10 things I say which could be materially beneficial to the business and don’t focus on those 8 things that might be nonsense given I don’t yet have experience within your industry”. I have seen people who never fired a gun before pick up a firearm and shoot accurately. 

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Paul Luff (managing The Powder Keg) and I are different in important ways; if we were the same then there would be need for only one of us.  The distance that separates us does create frustrations for each of us, but this is the reason that neither of us can afford to be average. We have to add value in different dimensions.  It is critical however that we share the same vision and the same urgency to achieve, much like a rifle where the most accurate barrel, the most effective receiver and the highest grade stock must be in perfect balance for optimum results

This brings me to straight shooting on leadership. I have strong opinions, my opinions your opinions I win, BUT your facts my opinions, YOU win.  Leadership tends to be biased to either an intellectual approach or a relationship approach. Although I qualified as a Chartered Accountant my style is more relationship than intellectual which probably explains why I only lasted 6 months in a finance role.  My role in The Powder Keg must be more intellectual (living abroad) because Paul Luff is more relationship, key to our customer value.

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7x57R -K95 Stutzen – straight shooting

What I search in a team is urgency to act and a desire to learn and improve. Without urgency you don’t change anything.  Leaders who are self confident find it natural to lead; they don’t have a personal ego to satisfy and instinctively take responsibility for mistakes; giving others credit for successes. Confident leaders surround themselves with strong teams while insecure leaders hide behind weak teams. Professional hunters must have patience to succeed well; retail is alive and you need urgency to succeed.   

The leader of every function reporting to me had to be stronger in his function than I was. If I was smarter then it was not a reflection of my smartness but rather validation that I did not have the strongest players in key roles. I always encouraged vigorous debate, never personal, but at a time there must be consensus or majority vote. This eliminated the excuse or reason for passage talk. Toxic people did not fit our environment. If I hunt dangerous game the PH must be far more accomplished than I. 

Ego is a big cause of failures because it causes people to take positions, their ego gets deeper and deeper entrenched in positions and they become defensive of bad decisions.  I have a strong ego in the vision and mission of The Powder Keg but not in me personally, so I adopt to facts that reflect a better way to my opinions.  My advice when egos get entrenched in positions is to stop digging. Climb a tree and make sure you chopping in the right forest. Stop shooting, pause and reflect.

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Leadership by example is critical, never under estimate your impact on others. If you are not showing the way how can you expect others to get stuff done?  Effective leaders motivate their teams; I am yet to see a leader who does not lead by example motivate a team. We need to get staff to work to their potential and not to their compulsory minimum. I have not had success changing people, especially older people who are generally more entrenched in their habits. Fit a square peg in a square hole or find a round peg if you only have a round hole.  You cannot force a 30-06 round into a 308 just like you will not change a leader who’s profile does not match your businesses need. Change the gun!

Leaders have “balls”. Many employees in senior positions in large global corporations are followers (you need them also … sometimes).  I recall the HR Director of a $2B company I worked for answer to the question of a new incoming CEO about what we wanted to achieve under new private equity ownership and he said “to prove to the company that sold us off that we could make it”. I do not what to hunt Buffalo with a PH who is a “pussy cat”.

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I am very forthright, probably something I got from my mother; she called a spade a spade. I encourage everyone on my teams to be transparent and forthright. We all screw up (provided only once and we learn from it), there is no point to hide and try solve the mess yourself while risking much more in not getting help early on. Being too proud can have serious consequences.  Agree with your PH about how he will back you up before you take the shot.

I was sometimes a fish out of water in the American company I worked for because I said what I believed in while many said what they thought the CEO wanted to hear. I resonate with parts of Donald Trump, I find his break with the establishment refreshing. I am not agreeing with his policies but for the first time I see an American leader saying what he believes in vs. what would have been politically correct to say. I build teams who are kick ass and not suck ass. When shooting it is the result that counts and not how you got there.

This reminds me of when I said to my past CEO – many who agreed with his point of view on something were the same people who agreed with an opposite perceptive of the previous CEO, and without any debate. He told me that he liked that because it meant that he did not have to negotiate with them. There is no right or wrong on leadership styles but this behavior in my opinion sub-optimizes organizational value.

'I need you to be more decisive when agreeing with me.'

I rather be respected than liked (although both are often linked). Successful people “know how to say NO“. I find people with a personality bias of “to be liked” cannot say NO. They will, with good intentions, “give the house away”. I have experienced individuals with a “like me” personality to be trustworthy but mostly I do not have confidence in their ability to run successful operations because they cannot deal with tough issues. For them it is easier to say YES than NO.

Energy is vital and this is the reason I don’t like to be around negative people – they drain my energy. My advice is run away from negative people. Positive people are more proactive and therefore have a larger circle of influence. Every organisation is more or less divided into the 20% who pursue change, 60% who are not sure (on the fence) and the remainder 20% who flatly reject change. I focus on the undecided 60% to get them to pursue change and eliminate the toxic because they risk pulling the 60% their way.

My advice on change is get to love change because it is the only constant in life. If we do nothing then we going backwards because everyone else is going forwards. I often say “just do something because doing nothing is 100% wrong”.  All I am doing is emphasizing the need for change because there are always better ways to get ahead.  If you serious about shooting reload (if you don’t already), this is a sure way to get ahead and love it. 

When I want something done I give it to a busy person.  I find that busy people don’t want to be average, they possess drive.  For those less energetic I always encourage them to start because for them having started is to have done half the job.  Getting in the car to drive to the highest mountain in Slovenia was already half the climb for us. 2016 was our start and the beginning of a great era at The Powder Keg.

you not Slovene until you have climbed Triglav, the highest peak. Here I am with Jeff, the US Military Attache to Slovenia at the time

Triglav, the highest peak

I have a strong bias for discipline and process. I don’t tolerate exceptions, not for me nor for any of the staff. I dislike nepotism so prevalent in businesses today.  This becomes a cancer in business. Like in sport like in business, if you going to make a mistake make it quickly and get on with it.  Cancer in business must be cut out, it is better to cut too deep and come back vs. not being around to come back. When attacked by a lion it is better to shoot than not being around to explain why.

Discipline starts with oneself. I weigh the same at 53 as I did when I was 23. I am as fit now as ever in my life (not that I am very fit but I maintained a level). Off-course genes count a lot but as my dad warned me, we don’t have good genes.  I have never made my genes an excuse, it simply meant greater “grit” to get ahead.  I am pictured below after having cycled up to the top of a ski resort called Krivavec. I had to include the picture because I have never had the courage to repeat. Shooting is a great sport that you can improve in with age.

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Success breeds success; the most successful people understand what matters and then they focus on what matters. It is important to empower staff and have them grow. I used to like hearing about other companies trying to poach our staff, that meant we were doing stuff right.  No-one poaches staff from a poor organisation. There are some people who you just cannot empower, don’t give up on that leadership skill, rather employ the right people. Hire the right PH if you hunting leopard or stick to hunting quail. 

When managing over 1000 staff and multiple global locations it was inevitable that you had to dismiss people. I found this “normal” because it was always for good cause and knowing unemployment is high there are many people crying out for employment privileges. Why would you keep a non-performer who jeopardizes the whole business while knowing that so many people need employment? Mostly when a non-performer is dismissed his coworkers would comment “why did it take them so long?” You find the best trackers with the best PH for good reason.

What I seldom find in people is balance, and here I am the prime bad example. My dad said it is in our genes, everything we do is over the top (good and bad). This is the reason I always have my last will and testament current; respect to my loved ones.  The more balance we have the more effective we will be.  We all have blind spots but here I fail so miserably that if I could not recognize this failing in me then there would be no hope for me.

I love to see people successful, the reason I like to share my life lessons. Why would I want others to take the same number of years I did when they could gain in a split second from my sharing? We must be guarded how we interpret “we are what we are”.  Our personalities are molded by the age of about 18, but we can influence if we choose to. Until we experience stuff it it does not really sink in. It took me this past year to realize that I must “stay” within the parameters of my nature and personality.  This helps me to get balance.

Make performance your security in life.  Make it happen or else it won’t.  Make your actions consistent with your words. I recall my Latin American boss about 15 years ago tell me “don’t sell me a dream and deliver a nightmare”.  I remember that like it was yesterday.

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What do I mean when I say that at The Powder Keg we must shoot outnumbered and win. It means that we must differentiate our value, if we are not different then we are not going to be noticed. We must choose carefully what 2 balls we want in hand and ignore the temptation of 20 in the air.  We have a road-map of our future and carefully chosen bullets.

My final sporting clay … If the business cannot grow profitably without you then pause and reflect, reality is “you a shit leader”. Leaders who think a business cannot survive without them are generally insecure.  Great leaders build organizations that are successful long after they have left.

Don’t drink and shoot.  This hunter is a “fuckareweebird”.

drunked-hunter

Wishing you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a PROSPEROUS 2017

staff

At this time of each year we are reminded of how quickly time passes by; or in some instances how life passes us by. I make this small distinction because we have control over our destiny, to some or other level of influence. Generally the more proactive we are the more we influence.

I have learnt many life lessons living in Slovenia (central Europe) the past 11 years. Europeans I have found value life experiences more than material accumulation. I am often reminded that when you older you never regret what you’ve done but what you have NOT done.

The picture below is of the main square in Ljubljana. I am a little biased but not far off when I score Ljubljana as the best city to visit in Europe. Ljubljana was voted the green capital of Europe for the past 2 years.

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Ljubljana city is beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and numerous stores selling food, drinks and small Christmas gifts; mostly hand made.

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I sincerely wish that we create a Powder Keg family and that we meet not only at The Powder Keg but when your family visits central Europe.

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Christmas is a time of reflection, worship, celebrations and enjoying family time; something we at The Powder Keg relate to because our team has instilled family values of honesty, integrity and respect for others.

The vision of the Powder Keg will be further entrenched in 2017,  to be the best run and most respected shooting outfitter in South Africa for the benefit of our customers.

Best wishes to all for a merry Christmas and may you make 2017 everything that you want it to be!

Describing a hunt in Slovenia

Yesterday (11/12/2016) I attended a traditional hunt in Slovenia.  A group of hunting friends arranged a hunt in a Govt. territory in the south eastern part of the country near the border with Croatia. This hunting area has a large population of Red Deer, Pigs and Brown Bear. It is a typically wooded forest area.

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This particular Govt. game area is required (called a plan) to shoot 200 red deer and a certain number of pigs (I forgot to ask what that number was) by the end of 2016. The plan is a structured and enforceable requirement based on game counts for the management of game. They were far behind their compulsory quota making our hunt possible.

I do not know how costs were apportioned but I was part of a group of about 20 that each contributed 80 Euro to the days driven hunts and a meal after. At the start of the hunt we were told which animals we were permitted to shoot because every animal had to be part of achieving their annual planned off-take. On this hunt we were allowed to shoot all pigs, female red deer and young red deer males with horns not extending past the height of their ears.  Fox were also permitted to shoot; I gave up on 2 occasions to shoot a fox because often pigs follow the fox and I did not want to create a noise that would detract from the bigger picture.

The meat from the game is kept by the Govt. because we were hunting in a Govt. area. They sell the animals to the venison market and proceeds are used to maintain the game area and feed animals in winter.

After driving for just over an hour from Ljubljana on a secondary type of road we arrived at our meeting place, a local restaurant (Gostilna) in close proximity to the hunting area. Here everyone gathered for a coffee or something stronger and the paperwork for the hunt was completed.  I used the opportunity to jump into a change room and put my thermal clothing on because leaving Ljubljana at -4C I did not expect temperatures of -8C at the hunting area.

In the picture below is Ales Spendal (middle) and Tinus (right) who organised the day for his group of hunting friends.  Typical and necessary with temperatures well below freezing point we are pictured drinking a shot of Chivas Regal before starting the day.

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The hunt was a driven hunt meaning that hunters are placed in an organised pattern with “beaters” and their dogs pushing the game. It is compulsory in this format of hunting to wear high visibility clothing (and a good idea). The day comprised of 3 sessions of the driven hunt; after each we would gather, congratulate the successful hunters, have a small snaps to warm up and prepare for the next driven session. The picture below is a typical scene between the driven sessions.

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The last driven hunt ended at about 15h30 when the light started to fade rapidly and the warmth of a beautiful sunny day began reversing into the cold of winter shadows. We love cold winters because that is how it is supposed to be; warmer climates and especially warmer spells in the winter period create havoc with nature; the reason most bears are no-longer sleeping like they did in the past.  For this reason I was told how to react if confronted by a bear because shooting a bear is only allowed in self defense and after numerous attempts to shout it off. Important is to warn the bear of your presence early on so that he is not surprised by your close encounter causing him to act irrationally.

All hunters and helpers congregate at the end of the hunt in a closing ceremony. I find this tradition truly amazing even though I cannot follow what is being said because (pathetically) I still do not speak Slovene. Hunters throughout the world attest to the comradery of the hunt and even though I do not speak Slovene I feel at home with lovers of the nature and truly awesome people who appreciate the simple things in life.

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After the traditional closing ceremony and more drinks around vehicles we head back to the local Gostilna for our evening meal. The day is not over until after friends have enjoyed the company of each other, consuming an abundance of good food, drink and sharing stories of the day.  The picture below is the local Gostilna that hosted our closing get-together.

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My lessons learnt include preparation the night before so that you remember to take proper clothing, gear, eats and drinks for the many hours spent in the forests. A stool or a backpack with a chair is essential,  you cannot stand all day or sit on frozen ground. Autumn leaves are scattered all over so it is hard to imagine cleaning a space from where you plan to shoot from, but it is possible and matters.  I always select a tree from which to take cover and to use as a shooting support. Probably the most important item not to forget is a HAT because this is a key part of the traditional ceremonies before and after the hunt and to fix a leaf from a tree if you shoot an animal (the other part is placed in the mouth of the deer – to signal the last bite). After each driven hunt session it is easy to see who was successful and therefore who to congratulate.

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Hunting in Slovenia is an essential part of the management of game and the conservation of their animals. Hunting is carried out in a responsible manner and with respect to their environment. Centuries of tradition are maintained and I am truly privileged to have been included as a local.

Technoframes cases and displays

ZERO range of ammunition boxes in black- safer, stronger, better, cooler - unbeatable features

ZERO range of ammunition boxes in black- safer, stronger, better, cooler – unbeatable features

My fascination with Italian business has been their ability to reinvent themselves and stay ahead of cheap knock offs and copies. Combine this entrepreneurial character with a renowned flair of leading global trends in design and engineering precision, then you get products such as these beautiful ammunition boxes from Technoframes.

Think of how we defined Italian kitchens in South Africa. Today none of those initial designs and materials are used in Italian made kitchens, they have long moved on to new designs and new materials that defy most of our concept of beauty and functionality. Fine guns are the art in my life that brings me the joy others see in a Picasso painting for example, so for me it is important to add uniqueness in everything that touches this fascination of mine.

At The Powder Keg we believe in a few important dimensions of life and business such as “what is the point to be average” and “we sell what we shoot and use vs. shooting and using stuff that we sell”. All of the products that we sell were first tested and trialed; when validated we try to find common ground in partnership with the supplier.

Some of my personalized ammunition cases from Technoframes

Some of my personalized ammunition cases from Technoframes

We like the functionality and design of the ZERO range of ammunition boxes. This range represents technical innovation and high quality manufacturing in a product that compliments the firearms that you own. These ammunition boxes provide shooters and hunters with a safer and stronger way to store ammunition; and the design and appearance just make it a “cool” ammo box to own.

Solid aluminium, brushed and anodized in silver - the new improved ZERO range from Technoframes

Solid aluminium, brushed and anodized in silver – the new improved ZERO range from Technoframes

The Zero range of ammunition boxes have unbeatable finishes, they are solid yet portable and can safely store up to 50 rounds (28 in some of the big calibers). The ZERO box has a resistant foam on the inside that prevents rattling and retains cartridges even when held upside down. The frame is constructed from solid aluminium which is precision engineered to perfection. Each case is manually brushed and anodized in either black or silver.

At The Powder Keg we understand the impact of the weak Rand on affordability of imported product hence our first shipment of ZERO ammunition boxes will be in silver and without caliber engraving.  The reason for this is that the black finish costs more to complete and the ammunition boxes have families of calibers allowing us to optimize the stock holding. We will listen to our customers and will adapt our strategy to customer needs.

The Powder Keg is in continual search of innovative new products that will add value to the passion of South African firearms enthusiasts. For those who reload this is a must, for everyone else who shoots a firearm it is a must also. I learnt from the Europeans the importance of investing in yourself, it is this commitment to life that drives the Italian design for excellence.

Kahles Ballistic Drop Compensator

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KAHLES ballistic drop compensation “hits the mark every time”

It is sometimes necessary to cover long distances. In such cases, there is a high demand for an easy-to-use device to help compensate for ballistic drop in order to ensure accurate long- distance shots. Precision, ease of use, flexibility and controllability combined with maximum accuracy: All of these important characteristics come together in the innovative and patented KAHLES ballistic drop compensation feature, offering everything you need for targeted shots over various distances.

We have developed our new and innovative KAHLES ballistic drop compensation feature with the help of our active customer focus and the insights that it gives us. It combines preci- sion and simple operation – everything you need at that crucial moment. With the KAHLES standard ballistic rings, which are available for common calibres, or the KAHLES individual ballistic rings*, which are tailor-made to customer requirements, achieving excellent shooting accuracy has never been so easy and straightforward. With the KAHLES ballistic drop com- pensation feature, the days of having to work out how far above your target you should aim when shooting at long distances are now over.

The KAHLES ballistic drop compensation device is housed in a fully robust case, available in two different variants: Polished brass or black anodised aluminium. It is available as an op- tion on all Helia 5 rifle scope models, and can also be retrofitted and used on older Helia 5 products.

The fitting or retrofitting of the KAHLES ballistic drop compensation device can be performed quickly by a gunsmith. This involves removing the elevation knob and replacing it with the ballistic drop compensation device along with the required KAHLES ballistic ring. The rifle is then sighted in at 100 metres and can be tested at several different shooting distances. This testing process means that independent adjustments (such as barrel length) are no longer necessary and that, after testing has been completed, the scope is professionally aligned to the relevant ballistics and rifle.

david da silva

David Kudu A

I was born in a small town that borders on the Orange River called Aliwal North. I grew up on my parent’s farm which was situated 10km other side the river in the province of The Orange Free State. Till today I remain a Cheetahs fan. From grade 5 I attended boarding school in Grahamstown; it was costly for my parents sending my brother and me to Kingswood College for many years; I am grateful to them and the school for the privilege.

I am married to Andreja (Slovene). I have an amazing daughter Demi who is finishing matric at Collegiate in PE. My wife Andreja has a leadership role in a well-respected Slovene company. Andreja has two great kids, Rok is first year Varsity and Nina is 16 (going on 22, nicely). We are blessed that all our kids have strong values. About 96% of mothers in Slovenia work, so home tasks of cleaning and cooking fall onto both parents; I don’t cook so Andreja has a tough time with this South African man. Women in Slovenia are in my opinion a much stronger race than the Slovene men, hopefully Andreja has other benefits

My dad, Justine & Andreja

My dad, Justine & Andreja

I don’t find writing about myself “easy”, I have always believed that it is more relevant what others say about you than what you say about yourself. As I get older I am more inclined to write about my experiences in order to share that which I have had the privilege to learn in my life. My drive is a desire for others to know early on what took me 50 years to learn. I have paid school fees for 50 years and I am committed to keep learning and sharing.

We all learn life lessons throughout our lives. My dad taught me that a simple life has its own rewards and to always pay your debts. My parents embedded in us from childhood a behaviour of “your word is your honour”. Boarding school taught me the values of being independent from a very early age. When my dad dropped me off at Kingswood as a 10 year old his only advice was “always own up”. I truly believe that the accountability and responsibility instinctive in me comes from my schooling where not owning up was branded as being “yellow”.

I don’t believe that you can over communicate or over train. If I could change anything in my past it would be to have given greater attention to more effective communication. It is important to keep learning; I have found that on the job training makes up 90% of our learning after university. I was fortunate to start my working career with a global company and an icon in SA at the time, Goodyear. I travelled the world, I met incredible people and I got the opportunity to live abroad.

My last 10 years in the corporate world were probably my greatest learning in life. Working for an American company and living in Europe gave me insights into both good and bad of these two nations and hopefully I have adopted the great of each. My last 4 years were easily the most challenging; my boss who was President and CEO of the company had incredible strengths and incredible weaknesses (in my opinion). It is not the purpose here to expand other than to say that I was privileged to be part of such a dynamic process and practicing the strengths of my boss make me a much more effective individual.

A large part of my success in the corporate world was founded on TRUST, a combination between sincerity, ethical behaviour, empathy and subject matter competence. I got away with a lot because people trusted that, when I said something it was said with belief and sincerity. I have strong opinions, my opinion vs. your opinion – I win; your facts vs. my opinion – you win. I never take positions, I have no ego about my opinions; I am driven by continuous improvement and will always change direction when information points to a better solution.

My dad & Andreja , Demi & me

My dad & Andreja , Demi & me

Questions & Answers

The Powder Keg as seen from Hendrik Potgieter Road

The Powder Keg as seen from Hendrik Potgieter Road

The Powder Keg is celebrating 40 years of business in hunting supplies; was this an influencing factor in your decision to buy the business?

Not the 40 years specifically; I would say more the legacy of LJP who in many respects was a pioneer in the firearms industry. I have known of the Powder Keg since my childhood passion in guns and hunting. Having Paul Luff, a professional hunter and someone who works well with customers running the business was an important factor.
I see 40 years of The Powder Keg as tradition and excellence of a timeless pioneer.

I understand that you live in Slovenia, how is it that you got involved in The Powder Keg?

My career was 23 years in a division of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. which was later sold to Carlyle Private Equity. When Carlyle sold the business I decided it was time to start my own business in an area of my passion.
In a discussion with Neal Seady (now living and working in Abu Dhabi) I asked if he wanted to sell his dealers licence. Neil referred me to Paul Luff who at the time was managing The Powder Keg on behalf of the executors of LJP. Neil’s exact words were … Paul is a no bullshit type of a guy.
Paul and I never knew each other but we shared the same circle of friends – that was enough.

Are you planning to move back to South Africa and be active in the management of the business?

For now – no. The value I bring to the business is derived from living in Europe i.e. building relationships with suppliers of products that fit the strategy and profile of The Powder Keg. I love South Africa, but the business needs me in Europe. Paul Luff and I talk daily on Skype. I will go where I can add the most value.

Why did you invest in the gun industry in South Africa?

Probably because my emotions are moved quicker than my intelligence. I “love” fine guns and the outdoors; it is this love affair and passion that will get me over hurdles and make us successful. Each of my private rifles are worth more than the vehicle I drive. Also, I believed that I could make meaningful contributions to the industry. I was told that there was a broad distrust in the values and ethics of the gun trade. I have successfully changed company cultures all over the world, I wanted to grow a business that was standout from the herd. Making your passion your business is a privilege.

What are these values that you want to bring?

Fundamental in everything I do are – trust, one for another (i.e. team work), a passion to win and freedom to act. I teamed up with Paul Luff because we share these common values. Our customers first – always, they must trust us and we will earn their respect. I prefer to be respected than liked; customers and my team might not always like what I do or say but they will respect the logic that I share behind every decision.

Did you consider the competitive landscape in your decisions to invest?

Yes. I like what Safari and Outdoor brought to the industry – they lifted the bar on professionalism in the industry. We can never be what Safari and Outdoor are AND we don’t want to be. We have good strategy, meaning our strategies are differentiated. Competition is healthy and critical to the industry. I don’t over-indulge in what our competitors are doing, I rather focus on doing well that which we have chosen to do.

Can you share with us your strategies?

The detail – not just yet. What I can share is that we will uphold the highest level of ethics in everything that we do at The Powder Keg. We will work with the police to solve problems – I don’t like only criticism, we must be part of the solution. We will deliver value to our customers. We will work closely with our suppliers because they are fundamental to our success. We will differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We have a lot to change and that’s the value I see in the business.

What is your vision for The Powder Keg?

I ran a successful $400M business responsible for all countries outside of the Americas. I mention this to illustrate that I would get bored with a shop only. I did not buy a gun shop. We will grow through innovative approaches to market with partners who share our values and principles of win win. LJP left a 40 year legacy, we will contribute to the transformation of this legacy.

Do you hunt in Slovenia?

I was the first foreigner to be accepted to a hunting family in Slovenia. This process required 2 years before I qualified. There are no agricultural fences in the country so it is the duty of the hunting families to manage the game. Hunters in Slovenia do a lot for wildlife – I am required to work 30 hours a year in the family, feeding game in winter and cleaning the hunting territory.

Do you speak Slovene?

I am ashamed to admit that despite having lived in Slovenia for 10 years and being married to a Slovene I don’t speak Slovene. There has not been a need, however I miss the comradery in hunting because the older generation don’t speak much English. But all Slovenes appreciate the 20 words that I do know even though (to me) they are not as descriptive as they are in Afrikaans.

you not Slovene until you have climbed Triglav, the highest peak. Here I am with Jeff, the US Military Attache to Slovenia at the time

you not Slovene until you have climbed Triglav, the highest peak. Here I am with Jeff, the US Military Attache to Slovenia at the time

What animals have you hunted in Slovenia?

I have shot Chamois (GAMS) at 1600m elevations; deer and wild boar on the flats. I have hunted in snow and in the heat. I have participated in driven hunts and shooting from a hide. I am yet to shoot Red Deer and decided not to shoot a brown bear. I will have a blog on our website where I will share my hunting experiences; my plan for 2017 is to host family hunting safaris in Slovenia. I want families to enjoy a wide range of activities including hunting.

hunting in snow at BRDO, Slovene residence & hunting ground of Tito, late president of ex Yugoslavia

hunting in snow at BRDO, Slovene residence & hunting ground of Tito, late president of ex Yugoslavia

How would you compare the licencing process in South Africa to Slovenia?

What I like most in Slovenia is the emphasis on licensing the person vs. the firearm. The process to own your first firearm is involved, stuff like medical and psychological tests, exams on local animal species and the local gun laws, one year practical in a hunting family with a mentor etc. but now it takes a maximum of 5 working days to get a licence. I see no purpose in the time and resources spent licensing individual firearms, the focus should be on the assessment of individuals, their character and sanity for example.

You said you love guns and the outdoor, what firearms do you own in Slovenia?

I came to Slovenia with tunnel vision of what I grew up with in the Eastern Cape. American calibres, high velocity, heavy barrels and serial guns. In my quest to own one true custom gun I met a great friend in Slovenia – Ales Spendal, one of the finest gun makers from Ferlach Austria. I sold most of my serial and high velocity calibres and have a collection of European calibres made by Ales – his guns are art, he takes up to 3 years to complete each piece.

my 20 gauge built by Ales Spendal

my 20 gauge built by Ales Spendal

What is your favourite custom and serial rifle?

Double in 9.3 x 74R made by Ales Spendal. I had him make me the finest 500 NE, for what I was not sure at the time, but this gun will become the icon of The Powder Keg, it is displayed in all our stationery and adverts. In serial I only own Blaser because they are accurate out of the box and because they are shorter (important for limited space in hides). Others will add quick loading but I love double guns and only use double guns for pig hunts in Slovenia.

9.3x74R with bear and wolf engraving

9.3x74R with bear and wolf engraving

Do you reload your own ammunition?

I have been reloading for the past 30 years and still learning. This is my passion and GO TO when I need a break at home. Regulating double guns by reloading is fulfilling. Mostly my doubles were regulated with heavier slower bullets but I have had successes regulating lighter bullets at higher velocities. I do not load for anyone else, I simply don’t want that responsibility.

My reloading bench in Slovenia

My reloading bench in Slovenia

What reloading components do you use?

I spend a lot of time and effort on my loads so I use only premium components. It is expensive to shoot animals in Europe and besides it is only fair to animals to have a clean kill – if I make a mistake it is not because I saved on component costs. The Powder Keg will carry premium components. It is important to practice (for me anyway because I am not a natural) so I would use cheaper components for practicing.

Chamois shot at an elevation of 1600m on the mountain peak that divides Slovenia & Austria. Shot at 320m with my 7x57R Stutzen using premium bullets

Chamois shot at an elevation of 1600m on the mountain peak that divides Slovenia & Austria. Shot at 320m with my 7x57R Stutzen using premium bullets

What reloading equipment do you use and will The Powder Keg also be selling it?

I have continually upgraded my reloading equipment at a heft cost, I don’t want our customers to pay the same school fees that I have paid. I still own a Forster press that I bought from Kassie Kasselman at QPS some 15 years ago. The Powder Keg will sell carefully selected equipment in the different reloading processes and our team will be trained in the benefits and features of the products we sell. I don’t believe that there is any manufacturer who has the best components across every reloading process.

Have you had any successes at The Powder Keg since ownership?

We took ownership of the business in Jan 2016. We are building the platform for 2017 around carefully chosen strategies. In 2016 we only had time for opportunistic local purchases, but in only 5 months we have secured exclusive representation of Kahles and Delta optics, Chevalier clothing, Huglu shotguns and custom guns from Grulla and Ales Spendal. We have secured other non-exclusive supply relationships that fit our strategy.

You talk a lot about The Powder Keg strategies, so I want to ask you again about these?

Let’s just say for now, if you don’t know where you are going then any road will take you there. We know what will be the golden thread at The Powder Keg and we will focus on good implementation. We have refreshed our logo and in the next few weeks our new image will be portrayed on our website. We want The Powder Keg to become a relaxing and convenient haven for hunters, sports shooters and their families. We want to serve and satisfy. We want The Powder Keg to become the destination of choice.

You mentioned Chevalier clothing, can you give some more insights into the clothing lines that you will sell?

Clothing was a big learning curve and paradigm shift for me. On one occasion I was sent home before the start of a hunt because I arrived in camo; on another, an alpine hunt, I was first taken to buy suitable clothing; these were lessons learnt apart from cold weather conditions. It gets very hot in summer so clothing in Europe is designed for all conditions. I discarded all clothing I bought during my numerous business trips to the USA, there is just no comparison to European clothing designers. For the past 8 years I have only owned 1 piece of Chevalier clothing for every season so I am pleased to bring this product to The Powder Keg.

Chevalier clothing for all weather conditions & the different types of hunting

Chevalier clothing for all weather conditions & the different types of hunting

Do women hunt in Europe?

I am told that in 2015 in Austria more women hunters enrolled than men. I have not validated this but directionally this is true. More and more clothing and firearms are being developed specifically for women. The Powder Keg will carry a range of quality designer Chevalier clothing.
In Slovenia not many women are members of hunting families but this is changing. In the past it seems that men used the hunting excuse to escape their wives, more than shooting anything.

What do you miss most and least about South Africa?

I miss my daughter the most … living apart from my daughter (Demi) has been tough. I miss my family and friends and the outdoors. Hunting in SA is a privilege and partnering with conservation must continue to grow. What do I like least? There is corruption globally, no purpose to comment on this, but I dislike the violence that accompanies crime. Slovenia is probably the safest country in Europe, girls of 6 years and older ride unaccompanied on public transport. Children can still be children.

Demi shooting with Dave Hurr

Demi shooting with Dave Hurr

How does hunting compare in Slovenia to South Africa?

Let me start with the non-hunters joking definition of a Slovene hunter – a drunkard walking through the forest looking for the shortest cut to the nearest pub. What they call communal hunting are days that hunting families invite other hunting families to their hunting area. This typically involves traditional formalities and lots of drinking with very few animals shot.

a communal hunt where traditions are practiced, instructions at the start, green clothing & hats

a communal hunt where traditions are practiced, instructions at the start, green clothing & hats

There is no comparison because of the differences in habitat, space and regulations; however what is common is hunters’ respect of wild life. Slovene hunters are active in their communities, maybe something that originates from the positive aspects of socialism. If only we could all learn from each other with open and enquiring minds then hunters would all be in a better space.

Have you brought any Slovenes to hunt in South Africa?

On at least 5 different occasions. They loved their experiences and all will return when they can afford to. All valued the companionship of the hunt – shooting trophy animals was not what defined for them success in the hunt. They were often overawed by the sheer size of the animals. They loved the South African people irrespective of background.

Ales & Maja Spendal with Roman after his 1st animal in Africa

Ales & Maja Spendal with Roman after his 1st animal in Africa

What are your favourite hunting calibres?

I prefer heavier calibres to light calibres in every instance other than shooting vermin. Every hunter will have a bad shot, with heavier calibres there is a much better chance to track and find quicker. For light deer in Slovenia I like my 7x57R only because I reload with quality bullets at higher velocities than factory ammunition. For bigger deer or pigs I use 9.3mm calibres. In South Africa I opt for 375H&H most of the time. In Europe everyone shoots for the meat yield, there are limited animal quotas so meat damage is a big factor in choice of calibre and bullet (bigger and slower).

You spoke about the 500 NE that is becoming the icon showpiece for The Powder Keg – how do you manage the recoil?

I only shot this rifle in the regulation process. I bought this double for investment, but what I did learn is that recoil is more an imaginary issue to deal with than a real issue. After shooting the 500NE (not much recoil) I am more comfortable shooting every other calibre (psychological). I taught (maybe convinced) myself to love recoil and now I thrive on bigger calibres although I weigh only 80 kilograms. My bad habits are the same irrespective of calibre (imaginary noise and recoil anticipation) hence I always opt for bigger calibres. You are not done with your rifle collection until you own a double in a big calibre, you load for it and your enjoy shooting it.

My 500NE built by Ales Spendal which appears on all stationary of The Powder Keg

My 500NE built by Ales Spendal which appears on all stationary of The Powder Keg

Clay pigeon shooting

Shooting day for Foreign Military Attaches to Slovenia

Shooting day for Foreign Military Attaches to Slovenia

I confess upfront that I am no expert in sport shooting, actually the reverse is truer, but I am committed to get on the range and become a proficient clay buster. I am probably too old to go from good to great but I will go from bad to good. This blog is more insights into my experiences in clay shooting and not in other forms of sport or tactical shooting.

I never grew up with a shotgun (unfortunately). Neither my dad nor my older brother were much interested in shooting so I was left to my own devices. I was always supported in what I wanted to do but I was never exposed to the experiences of say bird shooting with a shotgun. All my dad owned was a very old single bore shotgun that I was too scared to shoot. He did buy me an old 410/22LR which has now been passed on to Dennis Goslin.

It was only much later, about 13 years ago, that Neal Seady, Ivan Jones and Clive Taverner of PE introduced me to clay pigeon shooting at the Port Elizabeth Clay Target Club. I enjoyed immensely even though I was frustrated by slow progress. At 40 years of age I was no longer used to struggling and learning as when a teenager. To make matters worse, years of shooting rifles had got me fixed in the habit of aiming and it was difficult to shake this habit. My shotgun also bruised my cheeks badly, at the time I thought it was the fit, but more about that later.

As part of my work I relocated to Slovenia in 2006. It was in the same year that I met Igor Rakusha on a flight from Chicago to Frankfurt. We were sitting next to each other when Igor recognised that I was reading a gun magazine I bought in the US. So the conversation started and we realised that we were both headed to Slovenia. I will explain a bit about Igor; it was Igor who got me back into shotgun shooting in Slovenia. Igor has close relations with Berretta and he arranged for my first firearm purchase in Slovenia, a Berretta SO5.

Igor is the owner and director of the SHOOTING CENTER GAJ in PRAGERSKO Slovenia. Igor was a previous national champion of Slovenia and came 13th in the World Cup in Olympic trap. Actually competitive rifle and shotgun shooting was brought to Slovenia by Igor’s grandfather, Francis Rakuša who was a former Yugoslavia champion. The shooting range is impressive, a venue for the European Championship where about 400 contestants from 40 different countries compete; also the World Cup in 2009. The range holds on average 15 national and 9 international competitions a year. By 2018 the range would have been developed for European and World events in various disciplines including air rifle, small calibre weapons etc. The range is frequented by high profile shooters from the Middle East such as Almed Al Maktoum who is a member of Dubai’s ruling family.

One of the many business ventures of Igor is a factory for making of clays which are exported all over the world. It sounds like a simple process but these clays of 110mm weighing 105 grams must be designed to break as easily as possible so that a hit can be scored with as few pellet contacts as possible.

The range in Pragersko is an hour and 15 drive from my home; when you count the time in both directions it becomes a “slep” so I have not done much clay shooting lately. The hunting family I belong to had a trap shooting range in the forests overlooking a beautiful valley, probably the most picturesque shooting range in the world. This facility was used one afternoon a week for decades, but all good things come to an end. Land belongs to private owners and hunting families only have the rights of hunting. Ownership of small land lots is common, it amazes me how everyone knows which piece of land belongs to whom. Back to the range, I have never understood the whole story, which is very common for a foreigner in Slovenia, but I am told that one of the land owners complained and the hunting family president of the day accepted to stop clay pigeon shooting too easily and too soon. The range has been closed ever since. Moral of the story is never give up without a fight.

Many hunting families have their own clay pigeon ranges, I was recently introduced to a range in the hunting family of Ales Spendal. The setting is beautiful and the facilities excellent so hoping to join Ales on some of his shooting outings there. All hunters revel in the comradery of the hunt between hunters; for me it is more important than what I shoot or don’t shoot – this is where I miss out the most because I do not speak Slovene and most of the hunters in Slovenia speak German and not English as a 2nd language. This is only true in the hunting fraternity because in no other sphere of life have I ever needed to understand or speak Slovene. This probably highlights the fact that the younger population are more interested in tech games than in the love of the hunt.

Back to the shotgun stock that was bruising my cheek. I learnt from Igor that I was not holding the shotgun properly; I was holding the shotgun more like a rifle. The impact of this was far greater than a bruised cheek because the stock of my Berretta S05 was made with too much offset, the likely outcome of how I was holding it during the fitting I have fitted the stock with a Berretta gel pad and I am good again, but I remain disappointed to have such a magnificent shotgun with an “adapted” stock.

The other simple lesson that I learnt from YouTube videos was never to look down the barrel of the gun but to focus on the clay. Probably this was so obvious to the great shooters who introduced me to the sport that they never taught me this basic important principle.

I will close this blog with some reflection. My dad always reminded me that when I believed I was right then it was time to pause and reflect. It is important in our lives to put back into sport and society what we got out. I can reflect on my part of Dennis Goslin starting clay pigeon shooting at about 56 years of age, he went on to win his seniors colours. I have enjoyed taking many Slovenes including Igor and his family to hunt in SA. My hunting family mentor and close friend Dusan Ravnihar has been with me to SA on 3 occasions and Ales Spendal and his wife joined us on the DeBeers farm hunt in Kimberly in 2014. The conclusion of my reflection is that I owe much more because I have gained so much in friendships and experiences from hunting and sport shooting.

 Shooting my Beretta SO5 at our hunting family range, now closed

Shooting my Beretta SO5 at our hunting family range, now closed

Hunting system in sLOVEnia

Dusan, my mentor to becoming a Udenborst hunting family member, but more importantly a great friend

Dusan, my mentor to becoming a Udenborst hunting family member, but more importantly a great friend

I left South Africa for Slovenia in January 2006; the two biggest changes I encountered on arrival:

• It was the coldest week of the past 10 years of living in Slovenia – minus 20 Celsius
• There were no agricultural fences; how was hunting practiced?

The weather in Slovenia is cold, but minus 20 Celsius was the exception. There are some days in winter that drop to minus 10 Celsius, but it is a dry cold. Winters are pleasant because clothing and properly insulated living spaces cater well for the cold. Winters on our family farm in Aliwal North were much “harder” to endure.

Having hunted the first 42 years of my life on our farm in South Africa, and with friends on private farms, created in me a fixed mind-set of “hunting”. I don’t have a personal ego, hence easy to describe myself 10 years ago as ignorant about different global hunting practices. In Slovenia hunting was completely different and it took me a while to understand. Here (and other European countries that I have hunted in) they practice centuries of tradition and systems.

In this BLOG I will write only about the “systems” of hunting in Slovenia. The best way to understand is to think about vast amounts of land with no fencing. The public is free to walk anywhere; you will find Slovenes walking in the forests and mountains in all weather conditions. Owners of land (farmers) have the right to use the land but they have no hunting rights on their land.

Slovenia is broken down into over 500 hunting areas (keep in mind that the population of Slovenia is only 2 million and a land area of 20,000 sq km; each such area has a hunting family responsible for the management of game in their area. If farmers suffer damages from say deer eating their produce or pigs damaging their corn fields, they have to contact the hunting family responsible for the management of game in that area. The hunting family must solve the problem and is liable for damages to the farmer (half of the damages is paid by the Government).

Management of game includes feeding the animals in winter (mainly salt points) and meeting the Government determined quotas of game. Each hunting family is given an animal quota for take-off every year and the hunting family is obligated to meet such targets or they are fined. Hunting families have their own internal rules; in the family I belong to each hunter is allocated an animal species that they may shoot, but when the overall quota is reached then we are notified that we may not shoot further (irrespective of whether you have shot an animal or not).

I was the first non EU nationality to be accepted to a hunting family in Slovenia. The process of admission takes on average 2 years. I was helped through this process by hunting friends in Slovenia, all of whom have hunted with me in South Africa. The first year comprises detailed medical and psychiatric tests, exams in firearms and modules for each animal species, firearms competency and the last module and exam being the legal system of hunting in Slovenia. The 2nd year is more practical, working in a hunting family under the guidance of a mentor.

getting to my needed annual quota of 30 hours, a steep mountainous area at 1100 m altitude

getting to my needed annual quota of 30 hours, a steep mountainous area at 1100 m altitude

Every year each active member of the hunting family has to work 30 hours in their family, these hours to be completed before the 1st of May (start of hunting). In exceptional conditions you can be released provided you pay Euro 300 to the hunting family. Hours and penalties could differ slightly from family to family, but they all apply the same principles. The work is varied, I have done mostly cleaning of the hunting area, feeding of the game in winter, and repairing of hides. Hunting of problem animals to prevent crop damage does unfortunately not qualify as work hours.

Every hunting family is an association with elected presidents and other officers that are responsible to ensure that all laws and obligations are properly adhered to. For example, every hunter must have his firearm signed off by the hunting family prior being permitted to use it for hunting. Shoot days are organised where you are required to achieve 3 shots within a determined circumference of the bull at 100 m. Every hunter as a yearly booklet that records his work hours and his rifles approved for hunting. Seeing some of the firearms at these shoot days (and users) I have got to respect this requirement. It is only fair to game that all hunters and their equipment are proven every year.

There are two categories of “shooting” qualifications in Slovenia, a licensed sports shooter or hunter status. Getting the status of a sport shooter is comprehensive but less problematic than a hunter. Anyone resident in Slovenia who passes the prescribed medical tests and firearms competency tests can qualify as a sports shooter. This status allows you to buy a firearm for sport shooting and its transport to a sport shooting venue or back to the place of safekeeping. Firearms licensed for sport shooting may not be used for hunting. I bought my first firearm in Slovenia (12G Beretta SO5) under the status of a sports shooter.

In a later blog I will discuss the licensing process of firearms in the EU. I’ve included photos of my hunting book that shows the rifles approved for hunting, animals allocated for hunting, hours worked and my hunting card that has a sticker on the back for each of the years of active membership.

Dusan blooded after shooting his first buck near Graaf-Reinet, a springbuck

Dusan blooded after shooting his first buck near Graaf-Reinet, a springbuck

Reloading scales

trial and error getting to the optimum solution in powder measurement accuracy

trial and error getting to the optimum solution in powder measurement accuracy

In this blog I cover my experiences and learning in scales measuring powder for the reloading of rifle ammunition. I once bought the top end progressive RCBS loader for shotgun shell loading but without ever learning how I gave the equipment to Dennis Goslin who was shooting a lot of trap at the time (and still today). In Europe very few sport shooters load shotgun shells because the cost of new is relatively inexpensive and they claim that you cannot reload a shell of higher quality than factory ammunition. The converse is true with rifle ammunition.

My writing is not intended to convey facts on what the best reloading scale is because needs differ from person to person and hence the choice of scale will be different. The main purpose why I reload rifle ammunition is to have improved accuracy and bullet choice of optimum design for the application. Cost is a factor for those cartridges that just cost a bucket like 500NE, but generally my purpose is not a lower cost. It takes a lot of time to reload so I make this investment in time for high quality reloaded ammunition.

Hunting in Europe is expensive and generally limited when compared to South Africa. For this reason I find myself on the range in Europe more often than when I was in SA. The curses of being a perfectionist combined with range shooting push me to continuous improvement in accuracy not really needed for hunting in Europe (mostly short distances). I standardise on loads using premium components given my main purpose is “the love of the hunt”. I load for too many calibres to afford too many variables per calibre; I even push the limits on standardisation of powder between calibres to avoid a can of powder for each.

Back to scales, the picture shows me with my existing array of scales, and like for numerous other reloading equipment, I have given about the same number away to friends. Until recently my practice for all small and medium calibres was to set the RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 scale at 0.2 of a grain below the selected charge and then to trickle up on the RCBS 10:10 beam scale. I did a lot of reading on electronic scales but kept to the beam scale. In trying to improve the accuracy of my beam scale I read on a forum about Scott Parker in the USA who tuned beam scales to sensitivity of 1 granule of powder. I contacted Scott and he sent me an old Ohaus scale that he had tuned ($200).

It was at about the same time that I received the Ohaus scale from Scott that I bought the small and inexpensive electronic Peregrine scale. This scale is what prompted me to write this blog. The first time I used the scale I nearly gave up on it. This experience reminded me of learning to ski at 42; I nearly gave up on skiing when I first put skis on. Thank goodness I pushed through and discovered the greatness of skiing. The Peregrine scale was the same. It took me ages the first time I used it, but soon I learnt to pour from a trickler to close to the weight charge needed and then to trickle in the traditional way. It takes me almost the same time as the RCBS ChargeMaster would take to throw a load, but accurate to 0.02 of a grain. I now only use my Peregrine scale, except for 500NE.

A small issue that I don’t like about the Peregrine scale is the plastic dispenser. The static build-up created a mess when I first used it; I quickly replaced it with the metal dispenser from my RCBS 10:10. I owe it to the management and ownership of Peregrine to bring this to their attention, but I am comfortable writing about it because this scale has catered perfectly to my perfectionism in reloading. My school fees paid in reloading equipment upgrades is similar to the journey most golfers endure, upgrading drivers to get a few extra yards off the tea or a new putter to reduce strokes on the green.

My reloading bench in Slovenia

My reloading bench in Slovenia

Case Trimming

school fees paid getting to the ideal trimming solution

school fees paid getting to the ideal trimming solution

I consider case trimming to be a critical process in reloading; but a process I find the most laborious of all the reloading steps; then I discovered a trimmer that indexes off the shoulder datum of brass. Now trimming is a breeze!

I have included a picture of myself with the different trimming devices I currently have (excludes what I have given away). I used the lathe type approach until discovering WFT (World’s Finest Trimmer) and later Trimit which index of the datum of the brass shoulder. All the equipment trimmed to accurate case lengths, however WFT and Trimit cut the laborious time to trim by a factor of at least 5:1. Best illustrated in a timeline of development.

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The reason that you see 2 Forster lathe trimmers is that I needed to buy the Classic Case Trimmer when I started to reload for 500NE (trimming after each resizing is necessary to match case lengths with bullet crimp grooves).
When I had lathe trimming devices I would trim cases when case lengths got close to the maximum length tolerance, but now the process of trimming with WFT or Trimit is that quick that I trim every case after sizing. The advantage of this is that I am assured of equal neck tension due to equal neck lengths and ensure cases that will be crimped match the die setup to bullet crimp groove.

P1000067

What is the difference between WFT and Trimit? The first WFT model has a fixed die insert; for every calibre family you require a standalone body with fixed die insert. This is the cheapest option if you reload for a single calibre or have calibres in the same family (e.g. 243Win /260Rem /7mm-08 /308Win). My preferred equipment (more expensive) is having this model for each of my calibres’ because I only setup once and never again. I changed away from lathe trimmers because of time to trim which for me includes setup time. This way I am assured of having the same case length from batch to batch year after year.

WFT2 has interchangeable die inserts meaning that you buy the body once and die inserts for the different calibres; cheaper option for loading of more than one calibre. This is fine but you must do the setup every time you change calibres. Trimit1 is identical in function (interchangeable die inserts) with the added benefit of a micrometre setting. I find this useful given the need to change setup when changing calibres and getting back to the same length setting as previously cut for that calibre. This is the reason that The Powder Keg stocks Trimit1 and not WFT2.

Trimit2 is a 3 in 1 process with the added benefit of inside and outside chamfer and deburr; similar to the Forster 3 way cutters which work on their lathe trimmer. Forster 3 way cutters work well but they are only available on a limited number of calibres. The Trimit2 has interchangeable dies but I find the setup a little more sensitive, but then I am technically challenged. If money was no issue and if I was starting without any existing trimming equipment I would buy a Trimit2 for each calibre I reload for. Set-up once and never again with the benefit of chamfer and deburr of case mouths.

It is important that when using case trimmers that index off the shoulder datum that you stick with the same sizing process i.e. if you change from neck sizing to full length sizing or vice versa then you will have the cut length marginally impacted. The picture shows trimmer for a 9.3×62 case, my favourite European calibre; normally I trim outside to avoid the trimmings “mess”.

P1000070

Cases of uniform length are an important part of good case preparation, now we have the equipment that allows you to trim cases to accurate lengths in quick time. Make the effort in good case preparation and be rewarded with consistent accuracy. Know what matters and focus on what matters – case trimming.

neck turning & neck tension

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Here are some of my insights into case neck turning and case neck tension. I strive to load the most accurate hunting rounds possible; my hobby, my perfectionism, my drive for continuous improvement and compensation for being an average marksman. The reality is that no matter how good your equipment is, it counts for zero if you cannot use it. When I encounter problems I get to understand the root cause of the problem in order to avoid repeat issues. The purpose of the blog is not information on setups or procedures, such information is available in many forms, but to share some of my practical findings that may help you.

Case neck turning is performed for accuracy improvement or when the need arises to cut away excess brass flow at the neck and shoulder junction (after multiple loads). I will discuss the elements of accuracy; if a need then no discussion, just do it. Uniform neck turning will contribute to improved bullet seating concentricity (provided case alignment) and uniform neck tension around the circumference of the bullet. The need for neck turning is largely influenced by the quality of brass being used. I find less benefit in turning Laupa and Norma case necks because their uniformity is good anyway. If you don’t want to outside neck turn cases then as a minimum buy quality brass.

I find the benefit of case neck turning to be minimal for bigger calibers. I have loaded a lot of 9.3 x 62, 9.3 x74R and 375 H&H; all shot sub MOA groupings without any neck turning or any special case sizing procedure. Given good accuracy results and given that these are hunting calibers used for shorter shooting distances I have stopped neck turning on bigger bores. I do not use sizing dies that require neck bushings nor do I use expanding mandrels in any of these bigger bores. I condition this practice with using quality brass. I have found loading for bigger slower calibres easier than for smaller higher velocity calibers. I found slower bigger calibers shoot better groups across a wide spectrum of bullet weights compared with smaller high velocity calibers.

Let’s now focus on the smaller bores. There is no absolute transition point because the application is more relevant in deciding the extent of case preparation. I have found bullet concentricity to have a significant influence on accuracy; I have not yet experimented with the influence of uniform neck tension on accuracy. I outside neck turn for reasons of bullet concentricity rather than for benefits in accuracy of uniform neck tension. Bench rest shooters and long distance shooters take every step in case preparation to ensure maximum uniformity because accuracy deviations are exacerbated in long range shooting.

Neck tension is the amount of grip the case neck has on the bullet. We are focused on smaller calibers hence crimping is not considered. I am not going to try define what the case neck tension should be because this varies between bench rest shooting, single shot rifles, hunting conditions, higher recoil calibers etc. Directionally bench rest shooters prefer less neck tension whereas hunting conditions or higher recoil calibers require more neck tension in order to avoid bullet creep in the field or in a magazine under recoil. I recommend that you experiment in neck tension for your particular rifle and use.

Neck tension is determined by how much smaller the inside diameter of the case neck is after sizing compared to the diameter of the bullet being seated. Case neck inside diameter should be in the range of about 0.01” to 0.04” less than the bullet diameter depending on application (and gun preference). For me what is more important is to keep the same neck tension from batch to batch after achieving a good load. Ensuring the same neck tension for all rounds is another reason why I trim cases after every resize to ensure case neck length uniformity.

You need to approach neck tension based on the equipment being used. If you are using competition type dies with neck bushings then you need to select the bushing size that gives the case neck tension desired. Selecting the proper bushing requires an accurate measurement of the case neck wall thickness. Be aware of the change in case neck wall thickness if changing the brand of brass or performing outside neck turning. My purpose is not to write about the different ways to select the bushing size (many articles on how) but to highlight those variables which may influence your choice of the reloading process; it certainly changed how I reload.

My trial (or stupidity) in trying to optimize case neck concentricity by removing the expander ball showed the effect of too much case neck tension. In an attempt to avoid the risk of case misalignment when the expander ball pulls back through the neck after the neck was down sized on the down stroke, I removed the expander ball. When I seated the bullets I had excess run-out, poor concentricity. The cause was too much neck tension on seating which impacted the bullet alignment. The inside neck diameter was too small compared to the bullet diameter.

I have many competition sizing dies with neck bushings but became frustrated by the variables in case wall neck thickness; hence I sought a method similar to the function of the expander ball but without the risk of case neck misalignment. What I like about an expander ball is that the inside case neck diameter is always the same after sizing irrespective of case neck thickness (same neck tension). I therefore added a step in my loading procedure that achieves the same as the expander ball in the sizing die but without the risk of case misalignment:

1. I remove the expander ball from the resizing die when sizing,
2. I use an expander die body fitted with expander mandrel to expand the inside case neck to a uniform inside diameter. Case neck alignment unaffected.

Expander die bodies, short & long, plus numerous of my expander mandrels

Expander die bodies, short & long, plus numerous of my expander mandrels

A valuable lesson learnt with this procedure, it is important that the case does not bottom out on the expander body die, this will impact case neck concentricity. Set the expander body die in the press so it cannot bottom out. I always check a sample of cases for concentricity after the different reloading steps to catch a concentricity problem before starting a further step in the process.

It would be amiss of me not to point out that if you always used brass of the same case neck wall thickness then sizing with a properly selected bushing would achieve the same outcome without the additional reloading step I perform with the expander mandrel. In this way you eliminate 100% of the risk of case neck misalignment provided you use precision quality bushings. I have bushings in a range of +- 0.01” hence I could change the bushing with small variations in case wall neck thickness but the reality is I find it difficult to get accurate case neck wall measurements.

precision measuring equipment to measure case neck wall thickness

precision measuring equipment to measure case neck wall thickness

I have travelled a full circle on outside neck turning. I started with the Forster hand held tool, then I bought the 21st Century lathe system with different cutter angles to prevent cutting into the shoulder. “Fancy” and it works well, but I use it less and less. I prefer to use quality brass and cut out on some of the need to outside neck turn. I always focus on concentricity and hence I perform the additional step of case neck expansion with an expanding mandrel on the smaller higher velocity calibers. Uniform neck thickness achieved with outside neck turning does contribute to bullet seating concentricity but with good brass I find the benefit minimal for hunting purposes.

I will close with a hunting lesson and habit that came out of reloading, but probably more my personality. I spend a lot of effort in brass preparation and care, I retrieve every fired brass from my rifle. At a recent pig hunt in Croatia I shot a running bore at 5m with a 9.3×62. My shot was slightly forward which swung the boar around to face me at 5m. I did not work the bolt like a bolt should be worked and this pussy had a jam and a wounded boar staring him down. I looked for a tree, but lady luck, there was Ales who saved my bacon. The lesson is obvious, forget about your brass in hunting situations, live for the hunt and not the brass.

Forget about your cases when shooting dangerous game - work your bolt like a bolt was designed to work

Forget about your cases when shooting dangerous game – work your bolt like a bolt was designed to work

Hunting Rhoe Deer

My favorite hide gun, a K95 Stutzen, short & light, Peregrine bushmaster - combination shoots like "hell"

My favorite hide gun, a K95 Stutzen, short & light, Peregrine bushmaster – combination shoots like “hell”

The hunting of Rhoe Deer is mostly carried out from a hide in the early morning or in the evening. I remember sitting in a hide with my daughter Demi and she commented, “this is not hunting”. We quickly get trapped into thinking and expecting experiences to be and mirror that which we are familiar with. The proper English terminology for this behavior is paradigm; I refer to it as tunnel vision. This is true across all aspects of life and the reason I encourage people to travel and experience different cultures and different ways of doing things.

My daughter bored, silence in the Hide (or apartments as termed locally)

My daughter bored, silence in the Hide (or apartments as termed locally)

I would like to “stay of” the blog subject for a brief moment on “paradigms”, hoping that my life experiences can influence lives positively. I worked “more or less” in the same work environment for 23 years, and although I was fortunate to have many different roles and responsibilities globally I did not change my environment dramatically enough in order to reinvent myself. Forget about the days of being in the same company your whole life, change every 5 years, it is important to your growth! My relocation and living in Slovenia was the biggest contributor to the changing of my paradigms.

Hunting from a hide was established in Europe centuries back for good reasons. Europe does not have vast open plains, and in Slovenia for example people are free to walk anywhere (obviously not through a farmers crop) hence hunters must be acutely aware of the environment in which they are hunting. A hide gives you height from which to shoot ensuring the bullet is quickly embedded in the ground. Hunting deer alone in the forests is not only a near impossible task but a risk to human lives because almost everyone enjoys walking in nature. The only time hunting is carried out in the forest is during the hunting family “shoot days”. There is communication to the public about the hunting area and the area is sign posted at entry points to inform of the danger.

Roe Deer are relatively small in size with a shoulder height of about 65 cm and a weighing around 25kg. Males have shortish erect antlers and a reddish body with a grey face. Mature roebucks get their set of antlers in December which fully develop by April; they lose them again around late September. Older females can by exception grow a set of smaller antlers. The Rhoe Deer is territorial making it easier to hunt a selected animal as they normally appear in the same area; maybe not every morning or evening but a few times in the week. The main competition is your fellow hunter because whoever gets to the hide first has the right to shoot in that location.

Mature Rhoe Deer, a sign to look for is the clearance of the horns above the ears

Mature Rhoe Deer, a sign to look for is the clearance of the horns above the ears

Rhoe Deer become accustomed to their environment; you will often see deer near the edge of the forest close to a highway. They become totally accustomed to travelling vehicles. When driving through a hunting area and you see a deer then you need to drive past because immediately that the vehicle stops they disappear into the forest (much like shooting crows). I hope to get a quality photo of a deer that I have seen at the shooting range in the city center of Ljubljana. The deer continues eating in the close proximity of the target (100 m range) despite shooting!

Roebuck hunting is not physically demanding because it is mostly carried out from a hide. The weather can influence your hunt; but rain is good since deer tend to come out of the forests before and after the rain. The hunting season for mature males, young males and females is May to end October. Mature females and young deer may be hunted through to the end of December. I do not want to repeat what I wrote in my blog about hunting systems in Slovenia but it is worthwhile to note that there is a Government quota (compulsory) of take-off in every category of deer. The hunting family that I belong to have chosen to limit the quota to 2 per week in order to avoid the full quota from being used up early in the season. Kills from all causes count to the quota such as deer hit by cars.

Kriška Gora mountain range, the hunting area of my family - Udenbošt

Kriška Gora mountain range, the hunting area of my family – Udenbošt

Although I am part of a hunting family there is a lot that I still do not understand. In 2015 I shot a mature Rhoe deer at the end of the season, which coincidentally was the last mature male on the annual quota. Then I was told that I had to shoot a female deer in the same year in order to qualify for another male deer the following year. This hunting family rule came about because hunters did not generally shoot enough female deer in order to meet their annual quota, hence a type of forcing strategy to shoot female deer. Later in 2015 I used the opportunity of farmers reporting of damage to shoot a female deer. I did, but still when the 2016 allocation was made I was not allocated a Rhoe deer to shoot in 2016, so I don’t follow altogether:)

My first Rhoe Deer in Slovenia with my mentor Dusan. The hat & last bite placed in the mouth of the deer is tradition

My first Rhoe Deer in Slovenia with my mentor Dusan. The hat & last bite placed in the mouth of the deer is tradition