By: Jules Whicker
Jules Whicker reports from the recent launch of the radically new high power Daystate Wolverine in .303 calibre
With Tony Belas at the helm, Daystate have earned a worldwide reputation as an exceptionally innovative manufacturer of high-quality air rifles, thanks to a continuous and ongoing process of development and refinement, as well as to a series of spectacular special editions that includes the Buckmaster, Red Ranger, and most recently, the Grey Shadow.
But the rifle that has been holding everyone’s attention since it was announced back in March 2011, is the Wolverine, and for most the reason why can be summed up in one word - “Power!” - because it has been designed from the outset as a 100 ft/lbs, 30-calibre supergun. However, there are several other good reasons to be interested in the Wolverine, as we’ll see.
To mark the Wolverine’s arrival, Daystate set another precedent among UK airgun manufacturers, and organised a lavish launch party, inviting not only the usual suspects from the sporting press, but also aficionados from the Daystate Owners Club. The venue was stately Greystoke Castle, situated in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside.
The choice of Greystoke wasn’t due to its picturesque setting, but rather to its population of red squirrels and the involvement of the Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group in protecting them. Daystate have been an active supporter of the P&DRSG for more than two years, supplying the Group with air rifles for controlling grey squirrels and contributing a proportion of the profits from their Red Ranger and Grey Shadow special edition rifles to the charity’s coffers.
Having assembled at the castle, we settled down in the magnificent Great Hall, and were treated to presentations on Greystoke’s history, red squirrel conservation, and custom stock painting. Fascinating as these were, we were now more than ready to hear about the Wolverine, and of course, Tony didn’t disappoint, explaining the concept of a rifle that could offer the performance of a full-power Air Wolf in a lighter-weight package, and detailing all the unique features incorporated in the ultimate design.
One of the major challenges to overcome was the simultaneous development of an action, barrel and pellet for the quintessentially British “.303” calibre selected, and the fact that Daystate was able to source both a dedicated 50-grain pellet from JSB and a matched barrel from Lothar Walther is a credit to all concerned.
The action is also fundamentally new, being milled from a single block of titanium-magnesium 7075 alloy to give it the stiffness required to handle the stresses generated when the massive .303 pellet is propelled down the barrel by a pulse of air powerful enough to give it a muzzle velocity (MV) of around 950 FPS.
That intense air pulse required another change to the action, too, since if the rifle were accidentally discharged with the bolt open, the result would be more than a little dramatic. Consequently Daystate have designed the Wolverine so that it will only fire with the bolt safely closed.
Then there are those big 50-grain pellets. Inadvertently stuffing two (or more) into the breech would create a blockage that would be seriously hard to clear, as well as giving the aforementioned air pulse nowhere to go but back, so the Wolverine’s action features an ingenious pneumatic indexing pin system that prevents double charging from the 5-shot magazine, and stops it indexing when the cylinder pressure falls below 100 bar.
Another new feature is the manual safety catch at the rear of the action. Unlike the flip-up/flip-down unit on other Daystate rifles, this shows a sliding lever with a positive detent in a design that combines good visibility with a low profile. Right-handed users probably won’t feel the current safety needs changing, but in left-handed guns it’s right under the bolt handle, making it harder to see and all too easy to move when cycling the action.
In fact the whole rifle is good news for left-handers, because the bolt handle can be switched in seconds from right- to left-handed orientation with just an Allen key and a screwdriver, and the stock is fully ambidextrous, with twin cheek-pieces, and channels for a thumb-up hold chased into both sides of the pistol grip.
As you’d expect from Daystate’s proven Anglo/Italian pairing of Gary Cane’s design and Minelli’s manufacturing expertise, the handling, feel and appearance of the stock are excellent. And whilst the contoured recoil pad, roach-belly butt profile, and semi-enclosed trigger-guard are in keeping with Daystate’s house style, the Wolverine introduces an adjustable butt plate, striking stippled panels, and a long, slender fore-end whose precise relation to the magnum-sized air reservoir speaks volumes about Minelli’s mastery with wood. The walnut is good too, though what really impresses is not so much the figure in the grain but the depth and smoothness of the hand-oiled finish.
Tame to shoot but ferocious down range
On picking up the Wolverine for the first time, I was surprised how nimble it felt, despite wearing a scope and mounts on top if its specified base weight of 9.5 lb, and also that the balance was well forward, attributing this to the extra metal in the larger calibre barrel and air-reservoir. I wondered too how the rifle would feel with a moderator, such as the one under development with A&M Custom, attached to the end of the barrel shroud. Most of all, though, I wanted to shoot it.
And I didn’t have to wait long. Soon we were standing on the lawn at the back of the castle, looking at a knock-down pigeon target with a 40mm kill zone 100m away across an ornamental lake. First on the gun was former World Field Target Champion Stuart Hancock, who dropped it first shot, completely unfazed either by the serried ranks of journos or the gusty 15 mph crosswind!
But you don’t need the skills of a champion to shoot the Wolverine well, as I discovered when I managed to take the 100m target sitting, kneeling and even standing, though I took a sighter for the first and needed a second shot for the last. Clearly, this is a seriously accurate rifle/pellet combination.
Also impressive were the very modest amount of compensation required for wind (just 0.5 mils @ 100m); the unexpected lack of recoil (just a little muzzle flip); and the amazing sound (like a black-powder pistol going off). Obviously, with a moderator fitted the last two will be largely eliminated, but on the day the beefy report from the muzzle seemed a fitting complement to the hefty thwack delivered by the massive pellet to the target downrange - soon bent thoroughly out of shape! You may only get three magazines’ worth of shots from a single 250-bar charge, but each one is remarkable: mild on the shooter and ferocious downrange.
The .303 Wolverine is a great rifle, and tremendous fun, but is designed for US hunting conditions rather than UK ones, which regular FAC air rifles and .22LRs already have covered. More relevant to UK shooters then is the fact that next spring will see the launch of a 12 ft/lbs UK unlicensed version in .177 and .22, followed - we hope - in due course by a new FAC version set up to run standard airgun calibres.
As ever with Daystate, there’s plenty to look forward to!
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