Hogan Firearms Ripley Elite FT
Mark Camoccio takes a look at the latest Field Target version of the Ripley Elite
Ripley ownership has been a desirable status for some years now, yet up until now, these pneumatic rifles have remained largely hand-built items. The original Ripley Rifle was lovingly created in very small numbers for serious connoisseurs by Steve Wilkins in his workshop. Rumours of the waiting list do the rounds every so often, but if you don’t want to expire before your order sees light of day, then help is at hand!
Enter Jim Hogan, a Yorkshireman and rather accomplished engineer, with several notable rifle designs to his name - and a company tie-up which really does sound like cause for celebration. The new collaboration between Jim Hogan (gun manufacturer), Steve Wilkins (the originator of the Ripley brand), and Highland Outdoors (distribution company), has resulted in a new venture, Hogan Firearms, which is now producing the Ripley Elite rifle on the latest cutting edge machinery.
The end result, is that with the aid of modern CNC manufacturing techniques, something close to the original Ripley design can be produced in far greater numbers, (and probably more consistently for that matter) which means demand is far more likely to be satisfied. Economy of scale means that the asking price of this new version is significantly reduced too; which is all good news for us punters.
The FT version
This new Ripley Elite has been in production for some weeks now, but what I have here is the very latest Field Target spec model, sporting - most notably - the new FT furniture.
I’ve been keen to evaluate this new Elite ‘Ripper’ ever since the plans were mooted, yet having caught up with a promotional sporter model at one of the shows earlier in the year, I have to confess to initially being a little disappointed. Weight is in my opinion, becoming a key factor, and with the sporter version of this Ripley tipping the scales at a modest 6lbs, spread over a particularly short action, the rifle seemed just a little light overall for my tastes.
Each to his own, as they say, and whilst the same action is in place here, the additional weight afforded by the silencer and the FT woodwork, somewhat restores the balance. Personal taste plays a big part in rifle selection, and weight distribution is a serious business, but for FT in particular, many shooters prefer heavier rigs. In my experience, a compromise needs to be struck, with a fairly weighty rifle proving steady in the aim for the main sitting (free style) shots, yet becoming a burden for the dreaded standing shots. This is where the added mass of the FT stock here, plays a big part.
So specifications first- then we’ll see just how this rifle really feels and performs on the range
All legal limit Ripley Elites currently come fitted with the same action configuration, being a pre-charged pneumatic, sporting a conventional barrel over compression cylinder design. FAC models (requiring a 6inch longer action) are available on request to those with the necessary paperwork.
Two types of metal finish are available - either traditional chemical bluing, or a matt satin coating, and since the test rifle came supplied with the latter, I can certainly vouch for the quality feel and practicality of the process. If this rifle is to see service in the field, then the dulled matt finish must obviously help to minimize reflections - thus less likely to spook quarry.
All the components of this rifle are particularly well machined, with bevelled edges neatly finishing off that impressively robust breech block, for example. Slick detailing really does make this rifle stand out, which demands closer inspection; such as the signature chunky bolt handle. Ripleys were one of the first PCP’s to offer a high quality, hand-filling cocking bolt, and the bold design is attractive, but more importantly, comfortable in use.
One area that differs slightly from many original Ripleys, is around the muzzle housing. One school of thought in FT circles concerns muzzle brakes, and the cutting of small slots or flutes in the top or sides of the expansion tube, directly in front of the muzzle. The idea is primarily to combat muzzle flip by venting the spent air in particular directions. I’m not entirely sold on the idea, having tested many rifles which have proved highly accurate with straight forward, fully enclosed silencers in place.
Hogan have chosen to supply their Ripley with a short barrel finisher in place, which can then receive an additional silencer, and I have to concur with their approach. A standard 1/2inch UNF thread can be revealed at the muzzle, at the twist of the rather neat, knurled cover ring, and once Hogan’s own ‘DecimEater’ silencer has been screwed into place, the rifles rather obtrusive report is tamed to a whisper.
A 100% British – apart from the German bit…
Whilst Hogan firearms are rightly proud of their home grown business, the claim of ‘100% manufactured in the UK’ is a little spurious, since in the same breath, a ‘Lothar Walthar choked match barrel’ is listed… which is ever so slightly … er …German. This apart, the components are indeed produced in good old Blighty, including the woodwork, which is made by Custom Stock of Sheffield.
Obviously, being the FT variant, the main distinguishing feature of this model is the brand new FT woodwork, and very tasteful it is too.
Extensive stippling covers the thumbhole, palm swell and the entire underside of the deep section of fore-end, providing plenty of grip in the heat of competition. That deep section of fore-end is the perfect platform for ‘target style’ supported standing shots, whilst the front tip tapers subtly to afford a comfortable forward hold when kneeling. A full 90degree drop down pistol grip and slab sided rear, offer a no-compromise FT bias. Couple this with a fully adjustable cheek-piece and rubber butt assembly, and even the most discerning competitor should be happy.
Charging the Ripley is simplicity itself, and with the filling adaptor (supplied) attached to the air supply, it just needs the probe to be inserted into the rifles valve inlet, located directly under the muzzle at the tip of the cylinder. The rotary style, knurled valve cover is twisted to reveal or cover the inlet, and again, feels particularly slick and well engineered. On a personal note, for peace of mind, whilst dealing with the compressed air filling process, I feel happiest with the Air Arms style ‘T’ bar (locking valve connector); although whilst very safe, this can prove particularly awkward and fiddly. By contrast, this Ripley probe ‘plug and squirt’ design, is by far the easiest, not to mention quickest route to getting air onboard. Just ensure that the probe is fully inserted and stays that way for the early stages of charging. Once high pressure has built up, it is held in place as a matter of course by the ‘o’ rings, all the way up to the manufacturers prescribed 200bar.
And so to the range
Triggers are one of my passions, so when Jim Hogan confirmed he would be fitting their latest adjustable match set-up to this rifle, I was certainly keen to begin testing.
Pulling back that over-sized bolt confirms and the short stroke immediately becomes apparent. Further encouragement comes from the realization that the breech loading channel is all formed effectively from an extension of the barrel itself. This means that the pellet isn’t required to ‘jump’ from one channel into another, so accuracy is in theory at least, maximized.
That cocking motion really is a slick business, and with the new match blade comfortably spreading the load on an already super-light trigger unit, it’s difficult not to drool at the spec on offer here. One slight criticism concerned the surprising amount of creep in the trigger, since it had been sent directly from the factory, although I’m sure this can be adjusted out with some careful tweaking. The new blade itself is a huge improvement on the standard issue, and I would personally opt for this FT or hunting wise! Adjustable for angle, the cost as an optional add-on remains to be set for the record.
Chronograph readings confirmed 80 good shots with a spread of +/- 10fps, whilst accuracy was effortless and excellent. Pellet trials at initially 30yds, then 45yds was the plan. At 30yds the Daystate FT’s were tearing 3/16inch holes, which was encouraging indeed. Defiant pellets were also astounding making sub 1/4inch.
Regrettably, the 45yd session was cut short by persistent inclement weather, but the Daystates had already posted sub 1/2inch clusters to prove the Ripley’s credentials beyond doubt. Further trials with the Defiant pellets have been pencilled in though.
In this new FT version of the Ripley Elite, Hogan have arrived at a well thought out package that could go some way to restoring the marques presence on the Field Target circuit. Safety in numbers as they say, and one glance at the success of the EV2 confirms that if you get enough rifles out there onto the circuit, results should follow. From what I have seen here, Ripley could just be on a war footing!
|Model||Ripley Elite FT|
|Country of Origin||UK|
|Type||PCP match rifle|
|Calibre||.177 (.22 available)|
|Overall length||35inches (without silencer)|
|Stock||Walnut match style|
|Power source||External air bottle or pump|
|Shot count||80-100 per fill|
|Velocity||using Daystate FT 4.52
high - 780fps
low - 760
ave - 772
spread - 20fps over 80 shots on test
|Trigger||2-stage, adjustable match unit with optional match blade fitted|
|Price||£789 (Sporter version £649, Thumbhole version £719, FAC models on request)|
|Options||DecimEater silencer £39.95
FT stock as retro fit item £360
Match trigger blade assembly P.O.A.
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates