Daystate Air Ranger
Daystate have taken Air Ranger MkII version to a new level – Terry Almond gets reacquainted
The Air Ranger is a mechanically operated precharged pneumatic (PCP) rifle as opposed to their electronic Air Wolf PCP range. The original Air Ranger was a great rifle and won a great many admirers when it was introduced 5 years ago, with its huge shot capacity, ten shot magazine, and practical but elegant stock design.
A lot of bottle
Originally designed for the high power US market, the FAC rated Air Ranger rifle was fitted with a huge 500cc buddy bottle giving 230bar to enable a useful amount of available shots at powers up to 60ft/lbs.
Once the decision was made to do a UK 12ft/lb version, the huge bottle was retained and this gave the rifle a 500 shot capacity in .177, and even more in .22 – almost enough for a seasons hunting…
The new MkII version supplied for our test would normally come with a slimmer 400cc bottle but in this case was fitted with an optional 500cc bottle. There is no difference in price.
So what have Daystate done to improve on the original model?
Starting with the stock, it has been stealthily improved in a number of areas. Gone is the integral trigger guard on the older version, to be replaced with a traditional metal trigger guard protecting the nicely curved blade.
The ambidextrous thumbhole stock has a larger cut out which accommodates the hand and wrist more comfortably and a thumb rest shelf has appeared in the form of two flat sections each side of the stock just behind the action. The slightly curved pistol grip remains the same with a sharply cut stipple effect panel each side to aid grip.
From the trigger guard forward, the deep grooves each side of the fore-end have been extended towards the front to give a more generous choice for hold while still retaining the lower ‘lip’ on the stock for extended hand positions without making contact with the buddy bottle.
Finished off in a hand rubbed walnut finish with a ventilated rubber butt pad it is a classy looking stock that’s for sure.
The action hasn’t escaped some updating too, as you would expect from a MKII version. Gone is the steel regulator used in the earlier one, to be replaced with a much more efficient ‘Slingshot’ hammer and plastic valve system which is a patented ‘anti-bounce’ design. The hammer uses inertia to open the valve upon firing, having virtually no contact with the valve. This valve is spring loaded and, working against inertia, eliminates any form of valve bounce. The result is a huge gain in efficiency over the old regulator – about 40% in terms of shot count. That is huge!
The original alloy breechblock has been replaced with a titanium alloy version along with a strengthened bolt, and various improvements have been made to the magazine to further enhance reliability.
The scope rail is generous for fore and aft movement but care has to be taken over the choice of mounts owing to the height of the magazine which would catch the scope tube if low mounts are used. This is where I feel that the stock would benefit from a slightly higher cheek piece.
The trigger is a delight to use, being a two stage multi adjustable unit fitted with a curved stainless trigger blade. Being a magazine fed multi shot rifle it is important that a safety switch is fitted and this is mounted at the rear of the action.
A match quality 17inch Lowther barrel is retained, as is the neat barrel shroud with integral baffles and a threaded end for a sound moderator if required. A pressure gauge is thoughtfully positioned on the left side of the fore-end and easily readable from the shooting position.
And there you have it! Certainly enough mods and improvements to earn its MKII title.
Although the Air Ranger has a buddy bottle air supply, it is not necessary to remove the bottle for charging. Located under the fore-end is a filler valve with a push on cover, allowing the bayonet type connector to be attached.
Filling from a diver’s bottle is simple enough after removing the dust cap under the rifle’s fore-end. I feel that this could have been a screw fit as opposed to a slide fit. I just get the impression that it will get slacker over time and the chances of losing it in the field become a possibility.
A full fill of 230bar will take the reading up to the top of the green section. My diver’s bottle only had 190bar available, and this took the rifle’s air meter reading up to where the green section starts, at the top of a broad yellow section. The yellow section lets you know that air is getting low, below this is a red area which indicates that the rifle needs a re-fill.
Even at this low charge, using Daystate 8.3grn pellets, the rifle put out consistent readings on the chrono right down to the bottom of the yellow section for 200 shots or so, only starting to drop off to any appreciable degree near the bottom. It averaged out at 770fps over the fill for around 11.3ft/lb. With the standard 400cc bottle and a full charge you can expect 260 shots in .177 or 300 in .22.
Filling the magazine is easy provided that the pellets are seated at the right depth. As with all magazine fed air rifles, too far in will allow the pellet head to protrude at the breech end and could result in a jam and not far enough in gives the same result due to the pellet skirt.
The answer is to use some sort of seating tool which I found to be the end of a blunt Phillips screwdriver. The bit on the end was just deep enough to seat the pellet before the thicker stem butted up against the magazine’s outer body preventing the pellet head from protruding at the front.
Once 10 pellets are loaded the magazine locks out and is ready for insertion into the receiver (breech cut out) on the rifle. The magazine is designed to be fed in from either the left or right side depending on choice by removing a small pin on the magazine and relocating it on the opposite side. This one was set up to be fed in on the left side.
The safety can be set on green for safe during loading and the basic steps are as follows:
*Cock the action fully using the bolt and slide the magazine in from the left. No rearward pressure needs to be applied to the bolt once cocked.
*Close the bolt and the rifle is loaded with a pellet in the breech.
*Release the safety catch and the rifle is ready to fire!
*Working the bolt back cycles the magazine to the next pellet and closing the bolt pushes the next pellet into the breech and so on.
There are many permutations of cycling and removing the magazine with this type of air rifle and, apart from the safety switch, the user should always be aware of the loaded/unloaded state of the rifle is in at any given time.
What’s it like to shoot?
In the field, the rifle feels well balanced and quick to point of aim, despite the larger air bottle. The neat stock extension underneath the bottle helps create a conventional feel to the rifle. I particularly like the thumb rest option as it allows the rear mounted safety to be toggled on and off with the minimum amount of hand movement whether left or right handed. This can be important in a stealth situation when hunting small game.
The Air Ranger is a delight to shoot and deadly accurate. It’s pretty much the norm these days for pellets to be making one slightly larger hole at distances up to and beyond 45yds and the Air Ranger is well capable of that.
I doubt that many users would bother to fit a sound moderator because the rifle is so quiet as it is. The barrel shroud and integral moderator do a good job in smothering any noise. The rifle came for test fitted with a MTC Mamba 3-12x scope with a graduated reticule and this proved perfect for the rifle in size and weight.
All up the combination weighed in at around 8.5lb which makes it ideal for lugging around the fields. Indeed, I have accounted for a good few rats and magpies during my time with it. I’m more used to using single shot target rifles, but the 10 round magazine gives the confidence of a follow up shot if required and is a great thing to have.
As a hunting/HFT combination, the Daystate Air Ranger fits the bill and manages to aesthetically please, despite the large naked fill bottle hanging out the end.
|Action||Bolt action, multi-shot precharged pneumatic|
|Air supply||400cc buddy bottle (standard) or 500cc (on test)|
|Stock||Walnut, ambidextrous thumbhole stock with ventilated rubber butt pad|
|Sights||No open sights, action block grooved for scope mounts|
|Overall Length||40.5 inches|
|Barrel Length||17 inches|
|Safety||Manual, re-settable rotary safety catch|
|Silencer||Integrally fitted active baffle system. Also threaded to accept optional additional silencer|
|Calibre||.177 on test, .22 available.|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates