Daystate Huntsman Classic
Mark Camoccio gets to grips with a new take on an old favourite – the Daystate Huntsman Classic
Over the last few years Daystate have been one of the most innovative of air rifle manufacturers, and the trend continues with a wave of new models and upgrades, including my test model here - the Huntsman Classic.
It was Daystate, don’t forget that pioneered the resurgence of the modern pre-charged pneumatic; with the original Huntsman playing a big part in the company’s formative years.
With Daystate’s recent ethos of ‘cutting edge’ technology and hi-tech electronic wizardry leading the way, one could partly forgive them for neglecting the traditional approach, to concentrate on the niche market for which they’ve become so respected. However, with an inspired and talented team behind the operation, no such narrow view has been allowed to propagate; hence a parallel product base has existed to satisfy the ‘keep-it-simple’ fraternity.
Electronics are all very well, but they just don’t suit everyone, so traditional mechanical actions are still available - and going strong, I hasten to add. Unbelievers and heathens among the populace, are well catered for, with visually near identical models minus the techy bits, sitting in the Daystate product line-up.
This new Huntsman is an unashamed retro offering; bringing together modern Daystate manufacturing techniques, with supposedly more ‘old school’ styling, to quote the sales blurb…
The configuration on paper (at least) reflects that of the original Huntsman, with a conventional PCP sporter action, set into a slim-line walnut ‘sporter’ style stock. What partly accounts for the unique feel of this rifle, however, is the extended barrel/shroud and shortened main air cylinder - giving the new Huntsman the feel of a cartridge rifle (or carbine).
The bolt action Huntsman is an ultra compact and extremely manageable hunting rifle, which, at 5.7lbs, is unlikely to tire the user, even when out for an extended foray in the field.
So let’s start with the most striking part of this rifle - that walnut furniture. It’s largely back to the roots stuff, with the profile bearing some resemblance to the early models when Don Lowndes was overseeing production, back in the ‘70’s.
The dimensions are slimmed at the forend, with the actual width pared to a bare minimum. A schnabel tip affords a decent grip in the aim, whilst excess timber is relieved just forward of the trigger. Laser cut chequering (industry standard these days) is nicely executed, and provides good grip, whilst a conventional roll-over cheek piece is well defined and prominent, giving perfect head alignment.
The good quality, soft rubber butt pad does the job, yet I can’t help wishing Daystate had fitted the superbly arched, shoulder hugging version adorning most of their other models. The pistol grip all feels perfectly fine, but the lack of a thumb shelf is a regrettable omission. Another point of note concerns the stock finish, which seems more of a lacquer than oil based. On a good note, sling swivel mountings do come fitted as standard.
It’s the overall visuals that I’m undecided about here though. In the quest to be different, Daystate have undeniably given the new Huntsman a unique profile; yet the ultra slim-line approach comes across as just a little weedy to me.
The bluing is brown…
Look a little closer, and it becomes apparent that more radical visuals are on offer with this ‘Classic’ retro in the form of a brown coloured air cylinder and valve cover. BROWN! How dare they? Of course any colour other than black is less inclined to absorb heat; not to mention being more likely to blend in with surroundings - but just who do Daystate think they are, trying to apply logic?… Upstarts! Again it’s a matter of taste, and as I speak, deliberations are still taking place as to whether alternatives will be sanctioned; but word on the street is that both brown and black will be in circulation. Daystate are gauging response, so watch this space.
The 15.75inch barrel sits inside a chunky shroud over 20inches in length; giving a streamlined ‘bull barrel’ effect, with the barrel itself sitting in a very soft seal within a clamp. A slight jarring can be heard, if the shroud is tapped, which, whilst disconcerting, is proof of the near free floating set-up - a good thing, believe me! Indeed I raised the very point with Daystate’s head of sales,Tony Belas, who confirmed as much, and reassured with regards to the deliberate flexibility of the mounting.
The tip of the shroud is fitted with a threaded end to receive a silencer, and with Daystate supplying an Airstream model along with the test rifle, it was ‘rude not to’, as they say. With an additional 7.5ounces at the muzzle, balance was improved for me; although this Huntsman sits nicely on the target as standard. Muzzle report was low too, although there wasn’t a great deal to tame in the first place.
Anyone familiar with the latest Daystate bolt, breech block housing, safety tab and magazine, will note these features are all present here - and the Huntsman is a better rifle for it. The 10-shot, spring-loaded magazine is nicely made and reliable, although, for faultless operation (in keeping with most other designs), a deliberate approach to cycling the bolt and cocking the action, is always best practise. On test, it was just that… faultless.
The Huntsman is a no-nonsense sporting rifle, and as such, wouldn’t be bogged down with such paraphernalia as a regulator. Careful charging though, to a fill pressure of 200bar, sees a return of between 50-60 shots (53 on test) in .177, with respectable consistency of 26fps over the charge; helped in no small part by the new patented Harper Mk4 valve set-up. This micro valve apparently free floats, utilizes an anti-bounce hammer, and is 30% more efficient than previous designs. A .22 calibre version should return around 75 shots so I’m reliably informed.
Quality triggers have been a feature of modern Daystate’s for some while now, and the unit fitted to this Huntsman is crisp and clean. The blade sports a subtly curved, flat surface which falls perfectly to the finger, and certainly contributes to the top class accuracy on offer.
Over 35yds, using Daystate Select pellets, as recommended by the manufacturer, quarter inch groups (measured centre to centre) proved to be the norm - underlying the integrity of the marque. Admittedly I shot these from a bean bag rest, yet in the kneeling and standing positions, the balance is still impressive.
My old Huntsman, fitted with the FT factory stock, (circa mid’90’s) was a fantastic little rifle, and selling it was a disgraceful decision on my part. OK, the engineering was typically agricultural and basic (hard to believe, but synonymous with Daystate at the time), yet the sheer simplicity, function, and raw accuracy, was beyond reproach.
This current offering, obviously at least matches the performance of the old model, yet just seems to lack something in the overall visual profile.
I can’t help but compare it with my old favourite, yet as previously stated, it really is a matter of taste, and leaving aside my watery-eyed hankering for the past, if an incredibly light and versatile sporter is what you are after, then this Huntsman Classic will deliver the goods – absolutely no question.
|Country of Origin||England|
|Calibre||.177 (on test)/ .22 available|
|Velocity||Using Daystate Select pellets supplied:
Variation - First 47 shots: 19fps. Over whole 53 shots: 26fps
|Shot Count||53 within acceptable margins (see variation)|
|Trigger||2-stage sporting unit|
|Options||Possible choice of cylinder colours: brown or black
Open sights can be fitted if required
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates