Mark Camoccio gives his opinion on the distinctive and purposeful looking Gunpower Stealth modular air rifle
Take-down rifles really do divide opinion, yet there’s no doubting the valid case on which the idea is based. The concept is simple. A take down airgun is one which can be quickly and easily dismantled, or broken down, into just a few main constituent parts - with the idea being that the rifle can then be contained within a smaller, less obtrusive or obvious case, than is possible with a conventional full length rifle.
A classic example of application, where this type of airgun would be suitable, even preferable, is where a pest control job may arise near a suburban area, where some locals may become agitated at the sight of marksmen turning up bristling with kit. Like it or not, keeping a low profile, really is the name of the game in certain situations, where acknowledging that not everyone may share our enthusiasm for the shooting sports goes hand in hand with a diplomatic approach.
A smaller, shorter case is far less conspicuous than full length rifle spec, and its here that the take-down excels.
Talking of low profiles, Gunpower seem to tick over without too much fanfare in the UK, yet their fan base here (and in the USA) is significant. The company offers highly distinctive products, which, whilst not to everyone’s taste, have immense appeal in certain quarters. Slightly Star Trek styling is a fair description, but get beneath that, and there’s some serious performance to be had.
My test rifle here is their Stealth model, which is a bold statement in futuristic design if ever I saw one! All Gunpower models to date are built around a similar chassis, sporting that super distinctive high rise scope rail, which is an integral part of the design. The Stealth offers a take-down specification and undeniably macho looks, but whilst admittedly I’m not overly keen on military styled air rifles, the sheer functionality of this rifle, makes a good case for the defence.
That main chassis is machined from aircraft grade aluminium, and the three part stock consists of a fore-end and drop down pistol grip, moulded from polymer, and the buddy bottle itself which doubles as the cheek piece and butt. The take down spec comes from the fact that the buddy bottle is quickly removed by simply unscrewing it from the rear. The ultra short, pistol-like assembly remaining, is obviously then rendered inoperable until the power supply is reconnected; thus any legalities arising are suitably by-passed.
The matt black coating applied to all the metalwork is very well done, and the main chassis itself feels well machined. The polymer fore-end and grip have a nice feel too, with ultra precise moulding being particularly impressive. Three fixture rails are incorporated into the Stealth’s design, with dovetails running along the top and bottom of the front section, in addition to the scope rails. The fore-end is attached to the under-rail, yet I can’t help thinking the manufacturers have missed a trick here, since the fore-end fits to the underside into a set position, rather than being able to be positioned anywhere along the rail to suit. That said, it’s comfortable in use.
As for the ambidextrous grip, that same rubberized feel of the polymer, coupled with a perfect angle and flared bottom edge, come together nicely- function without fuss. Moving to the rear of the Stealth, the 500cc ‘buddy’ air bottle features a large wrap-around rubber cover, to prevent contact between the shooters face and cold steel, and on a freezing Winter’s morning, this will feel like a Godsend believe me! The butt plate is formed from a composite strip attached to a discreet metal assembly, clamped to the bottle at the rear. Very basic, but again, in keeping with the utilitarian blueprint.
At 5.25lbs, the Stealth is a relative lightweight, and with centre of balance directly at the trigger, it is surely manageable by most.
As standard, this rifle’s RRP is quoted at the time of going to press, as £449; yet bear in mind that the rather essential charging adaptor is sold as an optional extra, and the more realistic price of £479 is arrived at. Other optional extras are available, with a silencer, and bipod among them - more of which in a moment.
These rifles are to be charged to 200bar max, and this is done by firstly unscrewing the buddy bottle from the action. The chunky filling adaptor is then screwed to the bottle, and this in turn is connected to the air supply. Given the dimensions of the bottle, just screwing this whole assembly into the side of an air tank /divers bottle is by far the easiest option. Once charged, the bottle is just spun back into place at the rear of the action, and the shooting can begin.
Loading the Stealth is done by pushing the large foam covered cocking knob forwards until the hammer and action are cocked. This sliding breech then reveals the lip of the barrel, where the pellets can be directly fed into the rifling. Any competition nut will tell you that this is the best way to load an airgun, since it allows the shooter to ‘feel’ and therefore call a bad pellet. Too slack a fit, and the pellet could be unstable in flight, too tight and an inordinate amount of energy will be required to launch it.
Once a pellet is chambered, the sliding breech is pulled backwards to close, and simply nudged to the left or right, which will keep it in place. This breech closure is praised by many that own these rifles, but in my opinion it’s a little too subtle, and I would prefer a more positive locking design. Having said that, no problems were experienced on test.
The trigger fitted to these rifles is quite acceptable, and whilst appearing a little basic, with the plastic moulded shoe, it does allow for an adjustable position. An automatic safety catch sits just in front of the trigger, and whilst rather spindly in appearance, it does the job.
With a name like Stealth, you could be forgiven for expecting whisper quiet performance, which isn’t quite the case. Fire this model without a silencer, and there really is a significant crack. However, with the dedicated silencer screwed into place (as stated an optional extra, but supplied for the test), muzzle report is massively muted. The noise from the hammer remains in isolation though, so overall not as quiet as some of its rivals.
On test over the chronograph, I recorded 100 shots with a variation of 24fps using Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets; impressive going, and ample enough shots for most scenarios. I would always recommend charging the rifle after each session in any case; yet if huge shot counts do it for you, then the following should be noted. Gunpower claim that the Stealth in .22 calibre, as per my test rifle, should produce around 400-500shots. On test, velocities had already dropped by around 50fps after 150 shots, so for serious tasks, that initial band of 100 shots would be the answer. Other examples of this rifle may vary of course, but this is how the test model performed for the record.
Accuracy was extremely good, with some genuine ragged holes at 25yds which could support a .22 pellet! Tight groups still formed over 35yds, and I was left with the distinct impression that fed the right ammo, this Stealth is a serious tool.
I shot the Stealth from a rest, but the fitting of a bipod to this style of rifle is a pre-requisite for many, and wholly in keeping with that classic image and profile.
If this style of rifle appeals, then there’s no doubt that this model has much to recommend it. The main sections of the action are nicely machined, and with serious accuracy on offer, and a unique feel all of its own, the continued success of the Stealth should be assured.
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates