Mark Camoccio goes back to basics as he turns his back on expensive air rifles and sees what the budget sector has to offer!
The sky’s the limit with airguns at the moment and you really can be relieved of some extraordinary amounts of cash to secure some of the top-level accuracy machines currently available. Hi-end custom stocks, even electronic power management systems are all available to the modern airgun shooter. However, what if you don’t want to spend out in such spectacular fashion, favouring a more ‘back to basics’, conservative approach? For some, an airgun will just be a tool to do a job and, for that reason, and a multitude of others, a tight budget may make sense. Under the spotlight this month, are several of the cheaper options available, still up to the demands of shooting live quarry, yet not likely to break the bank. Some even include scopes and mounts; BARGAIN!
HATSAN 125 SNIPER
Hatsan’s Sniper 125 is a boldly styled creation and comes supplied as a package, including scope, mounts, sling, sound moderator, adjustable stock and a bipod. It really looks the part, and its unusually large dimensions and features stand out. Rubber stock inserts add detail and feel to both the grip and forend. However, it’s those adjustable elements that really elevate the stock here. Firstly, the length of pull (LOP) can be increased by up to ¾”, by the addition of plastic spacers. Three additional spacers are included, and can be fixed in place, once the butt pad has been unscrewed. Secondly, the cheek piece can be raised or lowered to suit, by slackening the two large bolts on the reverse side of the butt. Cocking takes a fair amount of effort but accepting this is a rifle for ‘adults only’, by virtue of its oversized proportions, and significant heft (9lbs un-scoped), the task is highly manageable. On firing, the shot is a quick snap, with hardly any spring resonance, although recoil is still significant. The Quattro trigger is way above par, and overall, this model is a good solid workhorse.
RRP: £133 Inc. scope and accessories
Accuracy on test: ¾” @ 30 yards
Contact: Edgar Brothers; www.edgarbrothers.com
CROSMAN NITRO VENOM DUSK
This is another super sleek looking rifle from the Crosman stable, offering a general purpose specification, and sold as a package deal complete with a CenterPoint 4x32 scope and mounts. The Nitro Venom Dusk is fitted with Crosman's version of the gas-ram system, whereby the mainspring is replaced with a sealed chamber of gas, that gets compressed each time the gun is cocked. It all works rather well, keeping the cocking stroke super smooth, and the firing cycle very snappy. Of course, with no spring, there is no twang, but it is still quite noisy. The black synthetic stock is really well shaped too, offering an extended forend, slim pistol grip, and rubber butt section for good grip at the shoulder. Other features include the synthetic hand grip (not a silencer) at the muzzle, and that substantial Picatinny-type scope rail, for secure mounting of glassware. The test model proved a little pellet fussy, but with the right ammo, it was reasonably accurate too. A great general purpose or starter model.
RRP: £289 Inc. scope
Accuracy on test: sub-1” @ 25 yards
Contact: Anglo Spanish Imports;www.a-s-i.co.uk
The Kral Champion hails from Turkey, and is another full-power, break-barrel springer, designed to be easily handled for extended shooting. It has plenty to offer, including a stylish synthetic stock, that whilst a little over shiny, actually does its job admirably. There’s that dramatic, sweeping thumb-hole grip, cheek piece, and large muzzle assembly all part of the design. Fibre optic style open sights come as standard, with finger wheel adjusters, and the long barrel also helps make cocking an easy task, given the extra leverage. There’s an especially subtle breech assembly design and barrel lock-up is super slick. A basic trigger and average build quality shouldn’t detract from the fact that this great value model has proved surprisingly accurate, and pleasant to shoot on test. In short, another good choice for a manageable first gun, or budget hunter.
Accuracy on test: sub- 1/2” @ 25 yards
Contact: Range Right www.rangeright.co.uk
At 6.7lbs in weight, this has to be one of the lightest springers in Weihrauch’s line-up. Take another look at that highly competitive asking price, weigh up Weihrauch’s build quality and, for those on a budget, after a portable, yet powerful sporter, this model demands inclusion on any short list. ‘Power to weight ratio’ has to be the main selling point, over other HWs; and on that score, the ‘99S is hard to beat. A slimmed down main compression cylinder forms the centre of the action and, with a relatively short barrel and slim woodwork to match, the end result is a highly manageable, well finished sporter, fit for purpose. The rear of the stock may be a little plain, but top quality open sights and Weihrauch’s famous Rekord trigger surely outweigh any cosmetic blandness. Apparently, this model is a huge seller for official UK importers/distributors Hull Cartridge. Pick one up and it’s not hard to see why.
RRP: £240 guide
Accuracy on test: sub- ½” @ over 30 yards
Contact: Hull Cartridge Co; www.hullcartridge.co.uk
WEBLEY VMX Classic
I’ve always had a soft spot for Webley, since that classic old 1979 Vulcan gave me a gateway into the sport, and this latest VMX Classic is really an evolution of the species and damn good it is too. If our test rifle is anything to go by, this model has to be seen as not only terrific value for money, but a worthy addition to their product line-up and well up to hunting duties, and an ideal allrounder, for novice or expert alike. A fairly basic trigger but open sights are standard. It’s a full-sized, adult airgun, yet given its inherent light weight, it can be equally suited to younger shooters and novices alike (although Webley make a special junior version). On board features include the Powr-lok, Venom-designed mainspring and highly competent Quattro trigger. Metal finish lacks the finesse of some rivals, yet that full-length, hard-anodised silencer does have a classy feel to it. Action noise remains significant, yet an adjustable breech bolt and keeper/locking screw shows commendable attention to detail where it matters. Verdict; a highly capable, budget sporter, with massive appeal.
Accuracy on test: ½” @ 25 yards
Contact: Highland Outdoors; www. highlandoutdoors.co.uk
Introduced to quite a fanfare, this traditional, spring-powered sporter certainly looks the part, with its super sleek hardwood stock. OK, the scope (and mounts) included are fairly basic, but it gives any prospective enthusiast a taster of using a telescopic sight. That said, the quality of this model really does warrant better optics, as I can’t see any serious shooter sticking with the freebies for long! It is the stock though, that initially grabs the eye. Apparently figured from beech, the straight line styling and striking grain and colouring, all add to the appeal. The sleek forend includes that subtle palm-filling tip, which is extremely comfortable in the aim. Fibre optic sights come as standard, the breech lock-up is smooth; chambering a pellet is easy, due to the chamfer at the breech. The automatic safety catch is yet another clever piece of design, since it features a Weihrauch-style, resettable, push button release. Add in a smooth action, and some jaw dropping accuracy from the test model, and this Remington can’t fail to impress.
Accuracy on test: ¼” @ 30 yards
Contact: Sportsmarketing; www.sportsmk.co.uk
Gamo’s first proper entry into the world of pre-charged pneumatics (PCPs) was launched a few years back, yet still cuts the mustard. The action is actually made by BSA, including the barrel and, as such, is a tried and tested design, including their multi-shot magazine system. The attractively chequered beech stock feels supremely comfortable and supportive in the aim, although dimensions are perhaps more for the larger hand; whilst the SAT2 (smooth action trigger) mechanism is all part of the deal, and trips smoothly in operation. Solid accuracy on test from this model is testament to the overall design and, at the sub £400 mark, it’s still extremely competitive for a PCP. Bear in mind the additional cost of charging gear though, (£100-£150 for a bottle and gauge, or pump) as would be necessary with this mechanism. Serious performance and one of the cheapest multishots around.
Accuracy on test: ¼” @ 30 yards
Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd; www.bsaguns.co.uk
WALTHER ROTEX RM8 VARMINT
The trend for black tactical airguns inevitably lured Walther’s design team, and the Varmint version shown here, is the result. Being supremely practical, the use of synthetics as an alternative stock medium, is difficult to dispute. Shoulder this model, and the first thing that notices is the weight. A combination of a solid build and the density of the new stock means that the RM8 is no lightweight. There is however an overall feeling of quality, justifying the weight of just over 8.5lbs. The new thumb-hole configuration feels distinctly different from the earlier spec, yet all the original features are here; including a free-floating barrel, threaded, ported muzzle brake, 8-shot rotary magazine, manual safety catch, 2-stage adjustable trigger, fixed 200cc buddy bottle, manometer, Picatinny-style accessory rail, scope rail, and bolt action cycling. Walther’s Rotex RM8 was a looker from the start, but this latest variant is nicely executed and a great piece of design that really works.
Accuracy on test: ½” @ 35 yards
Contact: John Rothery (Wholesale); www.bisley-uk.com
AIR ARMS S400
OK, admittedly, this rifle’s RRP breaks the £400 ceiling for the rest of the line-up, but I simply had to include the classic Air Arms S400, as it still represents a superb investment in simple quality, for those prepared to spend just a little more. The S400 is a single shot PCP from this top British manufacturer and brand and is still arguably, not only the best rifle in its price range, but the cheapest entry-level PCP that is capable of winning outdoor airgun competitions. Bear in mind that this model was originally designed as a compact hunting rifle, and it clearly speaks volumes for what’s on offer, and the way this stalwart of their line-up still remains so popular across disciplines. Quality Lothar Walther barrels, a competent, 2-stage trigger, and good consistency when charged carefully, are all we can ask, and the S400 has delivered time after time. An all-time classic airgun then, relatively simple, built for field use, and superbly effective. An S410, 10- shot multi-shot version is also available at extra cost.
Accuracy on test: - ¼” @ 35yards
Contact: Air Arms; www.air-arms.co.uk
NORICA SPIDER GRS
There’s something about the styling of this gas-ram powered sporter that really appeals. More importantly, however, a smooth, relatively easy cocking stroke, and a firing cycle free from spring twang, makes for a satisfying rifle to shoot. That snappy shot release is maybe a little frantic, but it’s not overly violent, as several gas-ram releases have been in my experience. The synthetic stock features some stylish contours and detailing, and the drop down grip, and well defined cheek piece, combine to give this model a distinctive look in the rack. The red element foresight is an integral part of that stylish moulding at the muzzle, and this of course doubles as a cocking aid. Norica fit a small arrestor block to the rear of the scope rails, (a welcome feature across their product line-up) so scope creep should be eliminated. No spring means no metal to metal scraping noises as the piston engages, and the GRS system is very impressive in this regard. Barrel lock-up is positive too and, despite the rattling of the single-piece cocking linkage, all works well.
Accuracy on test: 1” @ 30 yards
Contact: Regael Ltd; www.regael.com