Mark Camoccio looks at what rifles are available for junior shooters to start their airgunning journey
Any newcomer to our sport, and youngsters in particular, can easily be put off right at the start, by over sophistication of the equipment on offer. Hand any youngster a large, heavy and ungainly adult sporting rifle for example, and the length and weight will be a real handful. Just reaching for the trigger can force tiny hands to be overstretched and strained, whilst full sized stocks are impossible to shoulder properly, if you are a slightly built 9 or 10-year-old for example. The good news is that an increasing number of manufacturers are taking the problem seriously and introducing their own dedicated junior models.
And for the best of these, read ‘no frills’ uncomplicated design. For this reason, little can compete in the simplicity stakes, with the humble, break-barrel, spring-powered sporter. Little wonder then, that eight out of the ten rifles featured here, are of this design and build, although two of these carry gas-ram internals, where a contained chamber of air in a gas-strut, replaces the conventional mainspring. Two others are pneumatic, and whilst three aren’t strictly junior rifles, they have all been selected for their ease of handling, slick design, and relative lack of weight.
The Kral Devil is a conventional break-barrel, spring-piston design air rifle and, despite the fact that it generates full power, it’s still reasonably light, and user-friendly, making it easy to handle by younger shooters. The model shown here sports the black composite stock, and comes complete with an arrestor block, fibre optic open sights, and muzzle sight/cocking aid assembly. The finish to the synthetics is a bit ‘plasticky’, but wood or cammo versions of the stock are available too so there’s plenty of choice. The stock moulding is actually very comfortable in the aim, and the breech lock-up is very sweet in operation. Cocking the action requires only moderate effort, and whilst the trigger is fairly basic, overall, the Devil has a lot to offer the beginner and junior. Definitely one to grow into.
UK Distributor: Rangeright, 01423 881919 www.range-right.co.uk
HATSAN 1000S STRIKER JUNIOR
Black synthetics are highly popular, so the Hastsan Striker Junior has a head start in that respect. This model is a scaled down version of their popular and full-sized Striker model and features a composite stock that keeps weight to a minimum, whilst displaying plenty of design flair in the moulding. A welldefined cheek piece is a good start, along with plenty of precisely moulded panels of chequering and a rubber butt pad. Where this rifle really scores though, is with the shortened length of pull, which should gain it many junior fans. Power is kept deliberately low, which in turn means cocking and handling are that much easier. Hatsan claim 5-6ft/lbs, and on test, chronograph figures returned around 4ft/lbs with a variety of pellets. However, at the relatively close ranges over which these guns will be used, power becomes largely irrelevant. A good budget option then, specifically aimed at budding little shooters.
Contact: Edgar Brothers Ltd, 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com
The stylish Browning M-Blade is another, deliberately, low-powered, spring piston airgun, aimed specifically at junior shooters. Scaled down dimensions overall include plenty of detail and design flair. It comes well specified with a stylish forend, and a good chunky rubber butt pad, whilst the pistol grip is properly formed to accommodate smaller hands, so the trigger finger won’t be at full stretch, straining to get a comfortable position. Build quality is also worthy of note, since the Browning is made by Umarex in Germany. As such, engineering is quite refined, with good quality deep bluing on the main cylinder, and a precisely moulded synthetic stock. The barrel and breech block are coated in a plastic compound, and whilst this could feel cheap, it’s actually really well done, with a nice protective feel, and of course helps trim weight overall. The M-Blade operates at around the 6ft/lbs level and, as previously mentioned, low power equates to less effort and milder shooting characteristics, all round. Another good budget option then.
UK Distributor: John Rothery (Wholesale) www.bisley-uk.com
AIR ARMS S400
Any excuse to mention one of our very favourite airguns is hard to resist! As the Air Arms S400 still stands as one of the very best, straight forward pneumatic designs on the market, irrespective of price; produced by a British brand, now respected worldwide for their quality of design and manufacture. OK, admittedly this model isn’t a dedicated junior specification, and as with any PCP, the cost of charging gear (normally £100-£150 for a diver’s bottle or pump) needs to be factored in on top. But plump for the carbine model, and weight is trimmed to a highly manageable 5.5 lbs. The S400 features an extremely accurate recoilless action, in a slim-line beech stock, and it’s a combination that has proved highly popular with ladies and juniors alike. The most pricey model here by some margin, but you would be introducing any youngster to serious performance, in a slickly produced and quality package. Again, with more adult dimensions, maybe a gun to grow into, but one to aspire to, once it can be coped with.
Type: Pre Charged Pneumatic
Weight: 6lbs (5.5lbs Carbine)
Contact: Air Arms 01323 845853 www.air-arms.co.uk
BSA JUNIOR ULTRA JSR
The Junior Ultra JSR was a bold move for sure, by BSA, as the first pre-charged pneumatic aimed specifically at youngsters. It’s a multi-shot design, utilising BSA’s 10-shot magazine system, and the specification is impressive. Bolt action, pressure gauge, beech sporter stock, quality two-stage trigger, and floating barrel. However, the major feature is of course the properly scaled down stock that juniors can handle with ease. Whilst the action is identical in appearance to the standard Ultra, BSA have cleverly opted for reduced energy levels, down to 6ft/lbs. This has multiple benefits. Lower power means that this gun can be used in more confined areas with less noise generated in the process. Beginners and juniors just don’t need full power, and low power in a pneumatic equates to far more shots per charge of around 80, super consistent shots, and 120 plus in the tank! Overall then, the JSR is another excellent option, that shoots as well as it looks.
Type: Pre Charged Pneumatic
Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd www.bsaguns.co.uk
NORICA THOR GRS
The Thor GRS, from Norica, is another junior model, and this one is fitted with a gas-ram power plant, which is smooth to cock, and slick to fire. The eye-catching synthetic stock is maybe a little garish, but various colours are available, which will probably appeal to younger shooters. The blue version did have a curious odour of washing up liquid on test, but overall feel is spot on, with the ambidextrous configuration pleasingly supportive. A well-defined cheek piece and a decent butt pad always help and, although the trigger is basic, this model does come with a handy foresight assembly which acts as a cocking aid. The grip is also very comfortable, although full sized, with the main negative perhaps the ragged edges of the inside of the forend. Norica have designed the Thor GRS to produce medium power, in the region of 9ft/lbs and, whilst not as easy to cock as some rivals here, it still handles well.
Contact: Regael; www.regael.com
CROSMAN NITRO VENOM DUSK
Crosman are a huge American operation, and this model is representative of much of their modern output. Sleek and stylish, this Crosman Nitro Venom Dusk utilises a sealed chamber of Nitrogen inside the gas-ram power plant, and the result is one of the better systems of this type on the market, being slick and pleasant to shoot. The break-barrel Nitro Venom is a full sized, full power model, but its design is such that a combination of medium weight and fair cocking effort, makes it ideal for newcomers and juniors, as they mature. Specification wise, the ‘Dusk’ in the name denotes the synthetic stock, and we also have a two-stage trigger, fitted synthetic cocking aid, manual safety catch, and a pre-fitted Picatinny style scope rail. Crosman play their ace by selling this model as a package, complete with a 4x32 Centerpoint scope and mounts, so it’s effectively already to go from the off. The trigger is no great shakes, but in this price bracket, this rifle remains a good performer overall.
Contact: Anglo Spanish Imports, 01728 688555 www.a-s-i.co.uk
WEBLEY VMX CUB
The VMX Cub is one of the latest models from Webley and is an extremely good looking, traditional springer aimed at youngsters. All the same attributes are here as in its larger adult stable mate, the Classic, but in a scaled down format and with its break-barrel configuration and attractive chequered hardwood stock, it really looks the part. Fibre Optic open sights come as standard, as well as a two stage trigger, rubber butt pad and Powr Lok mainspring. As previously mentioned, novices learning the art of shooting simply don’t need full power, so Webley have designed the Cub to produce between 5-6 ft/lbs of energy. It has a shorter cocking stroke, and a weaker mainspring, so is significantly easier to cock than a full size gun. A weaker spring in kinetic terms translates to a milder trigger, which can be set lighter; and reduced energy means less recoil, meaning the whole shooting experience is more enjoyable.
Contact: Highland Outdoors; www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk
GAMO JUNIOR HUNTER
Gamo’s Junior Hunter is a totally dedicated model, and everything is effectively scaled down. The result is a brilliant little rifle, perfect for encouraging little people to take up shooting. There’s a super small pistol grip- complete with attractive panels of chequering, and whilst a simple rubber butt pad would have been nice, with an overall RRP sub £100, and everything else so well thought through, this model still makes a lot of sense. Power is super low around 3.5ft/lbs, so cocking is smooth and easy, and that’s just what we need at club level, to help kids who are super keen, prepared to be safe, yet just not capable of lifting or handling safely full sized kit. Despite that low power, great accuracy is still possible, so this gun is quite an eye opener, and given its diminutive stature and specification, surely one of the very best junior guns currently available.
Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd www.bsaguns.co.uk
WEIHRAUCH HW30S KIT
Weihrauch’s HW30S kit comes with a sleek cocking aid fitted at the muzzle, and a branded 4x32 scope and mounts as standard, which on the face of it, looks great value for money all in. Weihrauch have also trimmed two inches off the original barrel length, and slimmed everything down still further, which in turn has lost a modicum of weight along the way. The result is a highly compact, break-barrel, spring piston powered sporter, that has a specially reduced power plant, a quality two-stage trigger, and a smart ambidextrous beech stock. This time, power output is in the region of 7 to 8 ft/lbs, so unsurprisingly, cocking the action is very easy. Weihrauch of course means German quality, and their renowned Rekord two stage trigger has plenty of potential sensitivity available, after some judicious adjustment, so perfect for engendering good trigger technique at an early age. All in all, a quality option, that can’t fail to impress.
Contact: Hull Cartridge Ltd, 01482 342571 www.hullcartridge.co.uk