Mark Camoccio gets a chance to try a very sophisticated springer... so what will he make of the Walther LGV Master Ultra rifle
I don’t deny I’m a very lucky chap. Getting to handle and test the very latest air-powered gear is an immensely enjoyable part of my work these days, and I rarely lose sight of the fact. Many supposed ‘new’ models are of course simple reworks of an old design, or sport just a ‘new stock upgrade’; but just occasionally products emerge that stop us all in our tracks.
When news of the LGV first leaked out from various trade shows around the globe, I for one became a little over excited. You see, when a big name such as Walther announces some major investment in spring-powered airguns, enthusiasts such as myself get understandably excited. With pneumatics dominating the scene for the last two decades, the humble ‘springer’ has been largely side-lined, often overlooked as a second class tool when compared to the recoilless alternative.
Indeed, it’s sometimes easy to forget just what a quality spring powered airgun can do. Yes of course they’re harder to shoot well, but as someone who handled the fi nest tuned specimens from Airmasters back in the ‘80’s, taking a goodly amount of silverware in the process, I’m acutely aware of the outer limits of performance possible from a spring/piston design, running at its optimum.
Hi Tech Spec
This was the design brief for the LGV - a break barrel, spring piston driven airgun, fi nely engineered to close tolerances, sporting internal tweaks and features to minimize recoil, noise and vibrations.
Whilst many airguns are (quite understandably, especially in times of recession) made down to a price, the LGV is produced in the knowledge that a market exists for a no-compromise spring gun for the serious sporting shooter who wishes to push performance levels to the limit.
An abundance of R&R has apparently gone into this model, and every piece of know-how and received wisdom in the betterment of spring piston design has been incorporated along the way.
The manufacturer’s claims for the LGV action are based on the inclusion of specifi ed technical features at its heart. I’ll focus on the manufacturer’s claims and general gun-spec first, then we’ll see just how this most exciting prospect shapes up in real world range time.
Walther have initially introduced the LGV concept as a range of five different models; all with the same action at their heart. There are two Challenger versions sporting synthetic stocks, one supplied with open sights, and the other with open sights and barrel weight; an LGV Master, with beech stock and open sights. Then comes the LGV Master Ultra (on test here) with the same beech stock, open sights and barrel weight; and fi nally the LGV Competition Ultra, sporting a rather attractive fully adjustable stock.
Super Silent Technology
The LGV’s ‘Super Silent Technology’ is all about play between many of the moving components. Firstly, a superslick barrel lock is fi tted to this rifl e, which ensures that the barrel can only be broken by fi rst pushing up the lock handle. A perfect lock-up is therefore assured, with any shock from fi ring having no effect on the barrel’s rest position. With the pivoting breech area seen as the main weakness of any breakbarrel design, the inclusion of a barrel lock becomes the holy grail where solid reassurance is concerned. Various barrel locking devices have been fi tted as aftermarket custom additions over the years, but with all versions of the LGV coming with this excellent feature as standard, this alone gives some idea as to Walther’s statement of intent.
With regards to the cocking rod, all contact points have guides made of synthetic material backed by compression springs. This ensures perfect contact with the piston when the rifl e is cocked; with the idea being that any scraping and abrasion of metal parts along with associated noise, is all but eliminated. An articulated linkage allows for the slot cut into the stock to be smaller, thus the woodwork in this area is stronger.
Vibration Reduction System
The piston is mounted on lowfriction synthetic rings (in much the same way as the TX200) meaning it runs quietly with no metal-to-metal contact with the cylinder walls. In addition, Walther’s design ensures that the piston has no direct contact with the cocking rod, reducing further wear, friction, and noise.
The mainspring itself is made from specially tempered valve spring wire, and the inclusion of a full length spring guide all helps reduce vibration.
Spring vs Gas Ram
Walther have stated that opting for traditional spring power in preference to the use of a gasram power plant for the LGV was a conscious decision. They reckon that the recoil of a gas-ram is sharper and therefore harder on components than that of a comparable spring piston design, and although I have no scientifi c data to hand, in my experience of testing many examples of both, I’m inclined to agree.
They claim that the LGV action is just as quick as a gas-ram too, with piston impact occurring after approximately 8 milliseconds. Fast indeed, and with further tests apparently demonstrating the lack of spring fatigue, even after the rifl e has been cocked for long periods, it’s clear that some serious thinking and research has been applied here.
Getting To Grips
OK; we’ve heard the pre-sales blurb, and we now know there’s some serious stuff going on inside the LGV, but it’s time to feel the merchandise.
Rarely have I been so keen to get to grips with a new gun as I was with the LGV, and some rather slick packaging helped to fuel the expectation. Once inside the smart carton, and I have to admit to being just slightly underwhelmed, due to the bland shaping of the ambidextrous woodwork. My test model came specifi ed as the LGV Master Ultra, and without the racy features of the Competition spec, it does look a little conservative. That said, get over that initial disappointment , look a little closer and appreciate the supreme precision of the laser cut chequering and Walther motif, the quality of the timber, and the soft rubber pad supplied. Note also the properly seated socket head stock screws, and the neat silver badge beneath the grip.
With Walther obviously world renowned on an engineering level, to state that the fi nish and build quality of the LGV is top notch is an understatement. Deep lustrous chemical blueing coats the fi nely polished metalwork, and the all-metal construction just oozes class.
Walther supply this model with superbly precise conventional open sights, including a hooded fore-sight with interchangeable elements. This Master Ultra spec also comes fi tted with a super slick barrel weight, which really looks the part. A removable knurled ring protects the crown at the muzzle, and also conceals the fi tting point for a silencer if so desired.
A quality two-stage trigger is another necessary feature for any top class springer with ambitions, and the LGV doesn’t disappoint in this area either. In short, it’s a sophisticated multisear design, befi tting of this rifle’s quality. Adjustable for both length of travel and weight, I found it pleasantly precise and crisp in use. I chose to leave the mechanism well alone however, due to the absence of any instructions regarding adjustment with my test gun. Almost certainly those guide notes will be included with normal gun sales, so rest assured. Nice visuals then.
First impressions on handling are dominated by the weight. The LGV Master Ultra is no lightweight, tipping the scales at 9.3lbs, which is signifi cant in anyone’s book; especially for a break barrel. Where basic physics are concerned, sheer mass of course helps to absorb recoil. Stability is another factor, and if this rifl e is to see outdoor competition, primarily on the HFT circuit, then weight in itself can indeed help to keep the rifl e on target.
As mentioned, to cock the LGV, the barrel locking catch has to be fi rst squeezed upwards. Subsequently breaking the barrel then reveals just what we’re dealing with here, as quite the smoothest cocking stroke ends with a satisfying crunch. Any disciple of truly tuned spring power or the legendary Whiscombe models, will appreciate what I’m getting at here. That distinctive crunch and the fact that the barrel self supports in the open position (once broken) courtesy of the perfectly set breech jaws, are all synonymous with fi ne engineering, and they speak volumes for the LGV’s quality.
That said, it’s a smooth cocking stroke - not the easiest - and here is one of my gripes; intriguingly, the barrel on my test model measured 15.5inches, yet the brochure shows the specifi cation across the range as 16.5inches. This suggests to me that some fi nal tweaks have been made at the latter stages of the LGV’s development. Walther have opted to fi t the same length barrel through the range, and I can’t help thinking a longer version, at least available as an option, would make sense. Despite the growing trend, even obsession, for all things carbine, I think that the extra leverage of a rifl e length barrel (say 18” – 19”) would not only lessen cocking effort, but help the rifl e’s balance too. A fractional increase in lock time would be a small price to pay in my view.
The LGV Master Ultra still balances nicely, certainly with that barrel-weight in place, and with the weight already at a premium, I can appreciate the designers’ dilemma. Spring powered air rifle design is always a compromise after all, and Walther deserve much praise for this venture overall.
On the range
At this stage it should be noted that a small amount of smoke was evident from mild dieseling initially, but with no apparent affect on results. As with many new spring guns, any excess lube should burn off in time.
Chrono stats first, and consistency with a variety of ammunition was predictably on the button. My .22 model produced a ten shot string with just 11fps variation with Air Arms Diabolo, and 14fps with Crosman Premier. I was told by the UK importers Armex, that power levels are being set in the region of 11.4ft/lbs, and with my two test brands recording an average of 11.8ft/lbs energy and 11.4ft/lbs respectively, this statement proved a good guide.
Power in itself stands for nothing of course, and the LGV stands out for that gloriously muted fi ring cycle. Forget ‘Silent Technology’, for there’s still signifi cant noise as the gun fi res. However, with the action effectively highly tuned, compared to the majority of spring powered rivals, the lack of resonance and spring twang is marked. Of course it recoils too, yet in quite the most, civilized fashion.
That ‘feel’ translates where it matters, with down-range accuracy well and truly up to scratch. Over 30yds, the AA Diabolo’s tore genuine ctc quarter inch clusters. Likewise RWS Superfi elds. The Premier’s produced slightly larger groups, just under half inch. A rifl e of this class though needs to be pushed, and over 50yds, with the JSB AA ammo, I managed 3/4inch groups from the over-arm FT stance and if a cross-wind hadn’t persisted, I probably could improve on that.
Yes, the LGV has certainly caused something of a stir in our airgun community, and having now handled the merchandise, I can see why. The sheer mass of the thing will dictate sales in some quarters, since it’s not for the feint hearted. That said, if you just don’t fancy air tank top-ups, diving shops, manual pumping or any of the other paraphernalia associated with the PCP world, then this precision tool represents a serious self-contained alternative, with mouth-watering build quality.
Maybe a little heavy for hunting, but easily an option for HFT. Paying the extra for the Competition Ultra version has to be worth it too. Either way, the LGV is not only superbly executed - it’s a proper airgun, with a spring at its ultra refi ned heart, and for many, including myself, that’s cause enough for celebration.
Well done Walther for keeping the faith. GM
|Model:||Walther LGV Master Ultra|
|Type:||Break-barrel spring powered|
|Calibre:||.22 on test, .177 available|
|Barrel Length:||15.5inches on test model|
|Guide Price:||£556 as specified|
|Options include:||Challenger versions (synthetic stock) Competition Ultra version (adjustable beech stock)|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates