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Night vision ratting on a budget

Richard Saunders comes up with an inexpensive way of tackling rats around the farmyard when the sun’s gone down

Well, of course there was a time before IR and thermal. Lamping is as effective today as it ever was.

However, regardless of your kit, the challenge with night shooting is judging distance accurately to adjust your aim and compensate for a pellet’s trajectory.

Shot from a legal-limit rifle, a .22 pellet, for example, can drop as much as four or five inches over 40 metres. Most of us usually overcome the problem by aiming above the target to allow for pellet drop, or under to allow for pellet rise at targets which are much closer. It’s a very effective technique. However, using apps or hours spent on the range working out aim points for different distances is all well and good assuming we know exactly how far that rabbit or pigeon is when we’re out hunting.

Thankfully, we’ve got handheld rangefinders to help us out. But in the dark, when judging distance is even more difficult, they don’t work. You could buy a digital scope with a laser rangefinder (LRF) function, but they’re expensive. So, if lamping is the solution to low-cost night shooting, then we’ve had it. Or have we?

A solution struck me when chatting to a member at Reading Air Target Shooting Club. He was showing off a new red dot laser sight that he’d fitted to his pistol. It was doing the trick and the tin cans were flying.

“This is great,” he said. “It’s a torch as well.” On hearing that, a light went on in my mind as well. The product turned out to be a Fenix GL22 – a 750 lumens LED
torch with a <5mw, 640-660nm red laser dot that can be operated either together or independently.

Once aligned with the scope’s 20m zero, the GL22’s laser appears above targets that are closer and below those that are further away


Put into practice

Weighing only 94g and just 67mm long, it is designed to go on the underside of a pistol. However, I reasoned that if I could mount it on top of a scope, then I could not only use it to illuminate close-up targets, but also use the red dot as a rudimentary means of telling me if a target was closer or further away than my zero distance.

A few days later, and following the subsequent purchase of a Fenix GL22 Rail Light for a fairly wallet-friendly £119.95, I was ready to put theory into practice.
The GL22 is equipped with a mount to attach to a Picatinny rail, which I purchased from Sportsmatch.

I used an accessory scope ring from Sportsmatch to attach it to the top of my Hawke Vantage SF 4-16×44 sight which is affixed to my .22 BSA R-10 SE.

Before field testing the GL22 on a rat-shooting trip, I paid a visit to the range to zero the rifle, scope and laser dot, and check if the theory of using a red laser as a range indicator worked in practice.

Richard used a Picatinny mount to attach the Fenix GL22 on top of his scope

Albeit in miniature, windage and elevation on the GL22 is adjusted in the same way as a scope, although you’ll need to use the small Allen key provided.

And with the torch attached upside down on top of a scope rather than the underside of a pistol, the up/down and left/right adjustments are reversed.

Once I’d got my mind around that, it took seconds to align the dot of the laser, which I found easy to see at long distances, with the centre of the Hawke’s reticle at 20 metres.

I love it when a plan comes together; with a target set at 10 metres the red dot sat one mil dot above the centre of the crosshairs, and a mil dot below at 30 metres.

As my practice session unfolded, I had to resist the instinct to use the laser dot as an aiming point at distances other than the 20-metre zero, and remind myself instead to use the scope’s mil dots to apply holdover and under.

Large switches are easy to operate in the dark, which is this unit’s natural environment

However, before long I was able to gauge the distance of a target by the relationship between the red dot and the centre of my reticle well enough to hit spinners between eight and 35 metres every time.

The session gave me all the confidence I needed to take the setup on my next ratting session. The following night saw me visit a smallholding permission which keeps a few of just about everything – pigs, chickens, cows, sheep, goats, ponies – everything you need to inadvertently encourage plenty of rats.

Long summer evenings mean a late start when it comes to ratting at this time of year, and it was a little after 9pm when I rolled into the yard. After making a fuss of the dogs who know to expect a biscuit when I turn up, I proudly explained my ingenious approach to the farmer.

He really wasn’t interested and wandered off. Unperturbed, I planned my session. The pig pens are always a good place to start. I had the advantage of having shot from that position many times before, so I already knew the distances I could expect to shoot over.


A rechargeable battery is provided, but run time is limited so be sure to take a few spare CR123 cells with you


Pig pen precision

Pinging the GL22’s laser dot around the pens confirmed a killing zone of 10 to 22 metres and with the dot indications mentally converted into holdover, I was ready for the rats to put in an appearance.

In the spirit of my ratting-on-a-budget field test, I’d left my thermal spotter at home. Fortunately, ambient light from the moon and a nearby road meant I was able to sense the rats moving, but I settled into a routine of switching the GL22 torch on every 10 minutes to sweep the pens.

The first rat showed itself peeking out from under one of the empty pigsties. The GL22 has a couple of large lever switches that are easy to find in the dark. Either one turns on the torch and red dot.

Despite being mounted on top of the BSA R-10 SE, the Fenix GL22 had little to no effect on its balance

The light was bright enough to illuminate the scope’s reticle and the rat as it sat blinking. The laser dot was a mil dot above the centre of the reticle, indicating a distance closer than my 20-metre zero. Applying some holdunder, I squeezed the R-10 SE’s trigger, and with a meaty “thwok”, the rat rolled onto its side, tail rotating in a circle to indicate a clean kill.

Feeling elated that my system had worked, I switched off the GL22 and resumed my vigil. The next couple of hours required only one battery change, which was easily achieved by simply unscrewing the lens and swapping the rechargeable 16340 battery for a CR123.

I accounted for another dozen rats from the pig pens and around the chickens from as close as seven metres out to 25. Each time, the GL22 lit up the target and the laser’s red dot gave me enough of an indication to adjust my aim point accordingly.

So, if you’re looking for a cost-effective means of shooting rats and rabbits and working out distances, the Fenix GL22 is a viable alternative to more expensive digital IR scopes. Make sure you spend plenty of time on the range though as the red dot will not tell you how much holdover to apply, just that you need some. And be sure to take some spare batteries with you.


That late night ratting field test proved the Fenix GL22 to be ideal for close-up pest control