Mark Camoccio gives us his top ten recommendations for a hunting PCP air rifle
Choose to take to the field and hunt live quarry, and the airgun in question needs to be capable of accurate performance down range. Respecting our quarry is the key, and a good rule of thumb is to only attempt shots at distances over which we can achieve ¾” groups. In practise, given the requirements of the odd kneeling shot, or an awkward position, that distance will be naturally restricted for many. It is, of course, a prerequisite that any hardware used is capable of proper accuracy in the first place, and all the models shown here have performed well on test. All are multi-shot pre-charged pneumatics (M/S PCPs) too, meaning that they use a magazine to hold a number of shots at the ready. Charging gear will also need to be factored in, be that a dedicated hand pump or divers bottle, so allow £100- £150 in addition.
AIR ARMS S510 R ULTIMATE SPORTER
Accuracy: 3/8” @35yds
Contact: Air Arms; www.air-arms.co.uk
Air Arms’ strategy to offer regulated versions of their more high-end models, means that there is now a ‘regged’ version of the highly successful Ultimate Sporter. Aimed at the serious hunter, this stunning piece of machinery comes fitted with a fully adjustable, ambidextrous laminate stock, that allows for the cheek piece to be raised and lowered, as well as the butt pad to be adjusted. Opt for walnut and there’s a black, soft-touch cheek piece too. The highly successful S510 action is here, which means not only slick side-lever operation, but also the Air Arms 10-shot rotary magazine system. A simple rotary centre, free from any wind-up mechanism, makes this design one of the most reliable on the market; but factor in a 2-stage trigger, sling mounts, accessory rail, shrouded barrel, a dedicated version of the Q-Tec silencer, quality Lothar Walther barrel, and of course that finely metered velocity, and this has to be one of the most refined hunting rifles available.
Accuracy: sub- ½” at 25 yards
Contact: ASI; www.a-s-i.co.uk
Benjamin, now part of the mighty Crosman Corporation, is a famous old American brand, and the Marauder has been their mainstay PCP for some time. Its big, bold styling certainly looks the part and, with some recent upgrades, it now comes with an improved action too. Our test model is the syntheticstocked version, and at 7.3lbs, is significantly lighter than the hardwood stocked version at 8.2lbs. The synthetic compound has a nice feel to it and that pleasantly angled pistol grip, coupled with the long, flared, forend results in great handling overall. Early versions were able to take on board CO2 when sold in the USA, but everything stays conventional with the revised spec. There’s a 10-shot, bolt-operated magazine, 2-stage adjustable trigger (now set further back), full length barrel shroud, and adjustable cheek piece, Benjamin now install a ‘de-pinger’ to reduce the shot noise, valve/hammer vibration, and with a simplified solid receiver and that sleek matt finish, this is an aesthetically pleasing sporter with much to offer.
Accuracy: sub – ½” at 40 yards
Weight: 6lb 8oz
Contact: Hull Cartridge Ltd; www.hullcartridge.co.uk
When Weihrauch introduced their HW110 model, extensive use of non-metal components seemed a radical departure for this traditional German manufacturer. Yet, with ballistic polymer an ultra-modern material used throughout the firearms industry, initial reservation has given way to an appreciation of the advantages. Strength with less weight is the prize, and the latest HW110K carbine version is a superb example of just what’s possible. Top features such as 2-stage trigger, Weihrauch’s own quality barrel, a super quiet action, courtesy of their highly efficient silencer, and the side lever multi-shot mechanism, give this model a real head start in the field. This carbine also gets an ambidextrous and tactile ‘soft touch’ stock (effectively beech wood, coated with a thin layer of rubber type compound) and the result is comfort and great handling with a unique feel. Loading the magazine can be fiddly, but with regulated velocity and refinement a given, performance is superb.
WALTHER ROTEX RM8 VARMINT
Accuracy: sub – ½” at 35 yards
Contact: John Rothery (Wholesale); www.bisley-uk.com (trade enquiries only)
Built by Umarex in Germany, the Rotex RM8 offers an un-regulated design, with a 200cc buddy bottle at its heart, and an 8-shot rotary magazine, neatly installed in the receiver. The system is bolt-action and the latest Varmint version of the Rotex RM8 offers the enthusiast further versatility, with the addition of a rather stylish synthetic stock. All the same features are here, including a barrel diffuser, safety catch, low profile rotary magazine, and a particularly sweet, 2-stage adjustable trigger. The new thumb-hole configuration feels distinctly different from the original spec, including that highly attractive swell of the forend, with a similar sweep to the latest BSA styling; which is praise indeed. High grade synthetic moulding is utilised and overall handling is excellent. We still get the huge shot count (in the region of 180 on test) from the buddy bottle fed action and the list of features does seem great value for money.
HATSAN GALATIAN III CARBINE
Accuracy: sub – ½” at 35 yards
Contact: Edgar Brothers; www.edgarbrothers.com
Hatsan’s Galatian range of pneumatics are real eye catchers, more akin to a pumpaction shotgun than an air rifle. There are a multitude of options and the grade III here denotes an adjustable, synthetic, thumb-hole stock; available in carbine or as a full-length rifle. This Carbine comes complete with its own plastic hard case, spare seal kit, spare magazine, sling and charging adaptor. The glossy anodised bull barrel is actually a shroud, and with that swelled section towards the muzzle, there’s some seriously macho styling going on. Sling swivels are included, along with three-way, Picatinny-style accessory rails. Side-lever cocking is also featured, and that drop-down lever means fast fire action is on the cards. A seam is visible on the underside of the synthetic stock, and the trigger guard is plastic, but otherwise, finish is impressive. As for the adjustments, length of pull, cheek height, and angle and height of the butt, can all be adjusted, so again, plenty of gun for the money.
BSA GOLDSTAR SE WALNUT
Accuracy: sub – ½” at 45 yards
Contact: BSA Guns; www.bsaguns.co.uk
BSA are of course a household name, and still produce all their pneumatics on its hallowed ground in Birmingham. The company’s flagship Goldstar SE has been designed with Hunter Field Target (HFT) competitions in mind. Its had plenty of success; but it’s focus on performance is always going to transfer to hunting scenarios. The specialised stock, (available in Walnut, Black Pepper laminate, or red white & blue laminate) features an adjustable front raiser plate block, adjustable cheek piece, and butt pad assembly, meaning any serious shooter can set it up to their build; and it’s well worth taking the time to do this. The action is regulated, and BSA fit their own cold, hammer-forged barrels, (fully floating incidentally). A 2-stage trigger and factory-fitted air-stripper come as standard, but fit a silencer, and the muzzle report is negligible. Single or multi-shot- the choice is yours.
Accuracy: 3/8” at 45 yards
Contact: Michael Tawn Airgun Supplies; www.tawnadoairguns.com
Rapid Air Weapons (RAW) are built in the USA, to a very high standard, and the HM1000 is a buddy bottle fed PCP, specifically aimed at the hunter. The specification leaves little to be desired, with a free-floating barrel, side-lever cocking, match trigger, and impressive walnut woodwork, unusually made in-house. The stock has a full target grip, complete with thumb shelf, and really does offer excellent positional support. Rapid Air Weapons are synonymous with bold styling and robust build, and the HM1000 is a prime example of what they are all about. Admittedly, you may end up gripping the buddy bottle in the aim, but an army of fans just love this configuration, with its large shot count, (the HM1000 can clock between 150-200-shots from a charge) and distinctive profile. Theoben-style magazine cassettes are utilised for this multi-shot system, and these come in either 12 or 17-shot options. Just flick the side-lever, and the refinement is immediately apparent.
WEBLEY RAIDER 12
Accuracy: ½” at 30 yards
Contact: Highland Outdoors: www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk
Webley’s latest Raider 12 is a very attractive airgun indeed, and is available as standard, or with what Webley term, an ‘Integrated Quantum Silencer’. The latter version sports a full-length barrel shroud, and I have to say, is still aesthetically pleasing. Available in either walnut or polymer synthetic, either route offers a prominent cheek piece, super sleek forend, deep section just forward of the trigger, and a well-proportioned grip. The result is surely one of the most streamlined and attractive pneumatics on the market. However, it’s not all about looks, since this model also comes supplied with 2 x magazines (14-shot in .177, and 12-shot in .22), a 2-stage trigger, pressure gauge, and decent butt pad. This is another sidelever design, which means that the multi-shot action can be worked and the next shot indexed, just as fast as that lever can be cycled.
ZBROIA HORTITSIA 450-220
Accuracy: ½” at 35 yards
Contact: Regael www.regael.com
Zbroia hail from the Ukraine, and the Hortitsia 450-220 model shown here, is a multi-shot, bolt action PCP, with an original profile. Those 450-220 figures relate to the barrel in millimetres and cylinder capacity in ml, and whilst our tester was the larger spec, a shorter model is also available in a 330-180 configuration. Two rotary style mags are supplied, either 10 or 12-shot dependent upon calibre, and there’s also a fully shrouded barrel, Picatinny rail, 2-stage trigger, pressure gauge, and regulated action. The sporter stock initially grabs the eye, with its sleek forend and full, drop down pistol grip. Perhaps the most unusual feature is the bolt mechanism, which is in essence a straight-pull type, just push it home, and it automatically locks in place. Intriguingly, the actions are available in either black or red finish, and the woodwork is available in standard wood, black or white, so plenty of options. In short, the Hortitsia is a different take on a well-worn them, with plenty of design flair in evidence.
Accuracy: ½” 35yards
Contact: Range Right; www.range-right.co.uk
Turkish manufacturer Kral is best known for its striking range of budget springers, so the launch of the company’s first PCP in the shape of the Puncher, caused quite a stir. The Puncher now looks fairly tame against Kral’s own Armour derivative, but whilst the barrel over cylinder layout hardly breaks new ground, it’s both a smart and very capable rifle. Attractive Turkish Walnut always helps the cause, as do those pretty lines, but there’s more to this rifle than mere aesthetics. Multi-shot capability comes with a 12-shot magazine in .22, and 14-shot in .177, whilst there’s side-lever cocking, a 2-stage trigger, pre-threaded muzzle, probe charging, integral pressure gauge, manual safety catch, dual scope rails, fibre optic open sights as standard, and even a power adjuster! An honest appraisal concludes that the magazine system is a bit fiddlier than some, but all works OK with familiarisation. The trigger is easy to adjust and well-shaped and, with a good level of performance on test, the Puncher is a great handling package, all in for reasonable money.