Falcon Prairie Bm Lighthunter
Pete Wadeson tests the Falcon Prairie Bm Lighthunter, an upgrade of one of his all time favourite PCP’s
Regular readers will know of my liking for the original Falcon Lighthunter. I still own an original single-shot Lighthunter 12L (Laminated stock model) that shoots as accurately now as it did when first purchased. I’m now in the fortunate position to test drive the latest version from a range which Falcon have seriously down sized and upgraded.
When NSP took Falcon under their wing to run alongside, yet as a separate entity to their main airgun manufacturer Air Arms, nobody could foresee the changes that would be made to what unfortunately was becoming a much overlooked brand. The good news is that all these and up-grades bring Falcon Rifles bang up to date and in my opinion these luxury class rifles now easily stand alongside the best of them.
New designs and higher quality
Here we have the new look Lighthunter Bm on test, and the letters after the model name denote what version the rifle is, so we have the ‘B’ (Bull Barrel), m (multi-shot) version.
All Falcon models have been modified for the better, and cosmetically both stock and action quality far exceed the originals. The first and most important change was to address a major problem on the multi-shot rifles, in other words re-designing the magazine system.
Though you could get used to filling the old design plastic magazine it would still ‘jam’ on occasion when you cycled the bolt to access another pellet on what in days past was called the Falcon Raptor. The new magazine is testament to the fact how changing one unreliable feature can transform a multi-shot PCP into an air rifle that any hunter would be confident in using. However, a lot more has changed with the emphasis of the Falcon brand being high quality with ‘classy’ looks. So first up, a look at the new stock design.
In form its skeletal look is very reminiscent to the original Lighthunter stock and you have a choice of high grade walnut as per the test rifle or you can choose plainer beech furniture.
The name of the rifle says it all, as weight saving is made by removing as much wood as possible yet retaining strength and crafting a stock that feels solid and good in the hold. Wood is taken out of the butt section leaving a medium height fully ambidextrous cheekpiece. This is coupled with a large thumbhole and steep drop down pistol grip. A thick ventilated black rubber butt pad takes care of shoulder fit. The forend is very slim with a nicely rounded underside ending in an extended angular Schnabel tip. Skip-line laser cut fine chequering is seen as twin panels set either side of the forend and one large panel either side of the grip.
For my money there are few PCP air rifles that handle as well as the Lighthunter and little wonder no others dare try to replicate it.
Air and ammunition
The rifle now fills via a probe that inserts into the inlet valve port on the underside towards the front of the air reservoir. This is easily accessed by rotating a chunky serrated edge collar at the very front end which also holds the useful air gauge. A recommended fill of 200-bar gives 65 full power shots in .177 calibre as per the rifle on test or 80 shots in .22 model.
The changes to the 8-shot removable magazine is the feature of most change, both in relation to the materials it’s manufactured from and how the new design increases the operational performance. The new magazine is outwardly still approximately the same size, but is now made from metal and though the inner drum indexes around as before by bolt operation, the inner drum is alloy and has retaining ‘O’ rings so pellets don’t fall through the chambers.
To fill the magazine, fully draw back the ergonomically styled polished Stainless Steel cocking bolt and drop it into the rear keeper slot. The magazine easily slides out for you to manually rotate the central inner drum clockwise until it comes to a natural stop with an empty chamber showing. Place a pellet into the empty chamber and turn the drum anti-clockwise repeating the loading until all chambers are filled. When finished, rotate anti-clockwise until it comes to a natural stop. The hole through which the pellets were loaded should now be partially blocked by the outer magazine casing. Once returned into the breech via the right of the action, the indexing ‘gear’ operated by the action of the cocking bolt being returned to its original position pushes a pellet from the magazine into the breech.
The difference this new magazine makes is quite simply amazing, and due to the well-formed cocking bolt being so smooth in operation, any Falcon multi-shot is now trouble free and the equal or better than all the other systems on the market.
Lighthunter in action
The stock shape forms around the trigger to make an integral guard. This trigger is still the same 2-stage multi-adjustable match grade unit with a wide nicely curved and ridged finger friendly metal blade. The manual safety lever is set to the left hand side, just behind the trigger blade. Though it can only be operated when the rifle is cocked, once pushed forward to put on safe the safety isn’t in any danger of accidentally being pulled back with the main trigger blade and can easily be re-set should you hold off taking a shot.
The action block is railed for scope mounting and suits any size of optic set in the correct mounts. For test I used a fixed magnification Falcon Optics 7.5 X 50 Menace (Falcon Optics are no relation to the rifle company).
I screwed the optional extra dedicated Prairie Falcon Silencer into the barrel shroud that acts as a primary silencer. Personally I feel the extra can is needed and is nicely styled to suit the rifle and tames muzzle report to a bare whisper.
Once everything was set up, in no time at all the rifle was producing tight groupings. In other words calibre size clusters at 30yds thanks to the semi-floating Lothar Walther barrel, superb trigger unit coupled with the assured hold afforded by the stock configuration.
So, is the new version better than the original? I’d say it’s far better, despite the extra length (7”) that the silencer adds to the un-silenced 35” long air rifle. I feel the Falcon Lighthunter should be considered by any hunter looking for a rifle that shoots as good as it looks.
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates