Mark Camoccio selects 10 air rifles suitable for the task in hand…
We all enjoy the fabulous world of airguns in our own way and, of course, that’s how it should be. Many of us enjoy getting out into the countryside, and doing our bit to keep pest species under control and, whilst there’s nothing wrong with being at one with nature and enjoying the occasion, this branch of our sport should always be undertaken with due care and consideration for our quarry. First and foremost, we need to set ourselves a self-imposed limit, to only shoot at distances, at which we are confident of accurate shot placement; but it’s also imperative that we use hardware which is frankly, up to the job. All the rifles listed here have performed under test conditions, but it has to be a good rule, that if you can’t produce the goods on paper, then you should forestall any hunting foray, until you are confident that you can.
Target rifles are, in theory, all about performance and the ability to produce tiny groupings down range is a pre-requisite for any budding enthusiast who fancies taking their place on the rostrum. Holding your nerve ultimately becomes the biggest decider, but the chosen hardware needs to be top-class.
Sophistication and specialist features are the order of the day; all with a view to smoothing the path of the competitor, as they navigate a course of targets; be that in Hunter Field Target (HFT), or the flagship outdoor airgun discipline of Field Target (FT). We’ve selected a mix of spring power alongside pre-charged pneumatics too, and this serves to illustrate the wonderfully diverse airgun market that we have today.
WEBLEY VMX CLASSIC (Spring)
Contact: Highland Outdoors. highlandoutdoors.co.uk
This traditional, spring powered break-barrel model, is one of the latest from the famous Webley brand, and whilst it's that smart woodwork that catches the eye, there are a host of features fitted as standard. Full power is delivered via a Venom-designed Powr-Lok mainspring, but there's also a two-stage adjustable trigger, automatic safety catch, arrestor block, muzzle grip and fibre optic adjustable open sights. Everything feels robust, yet with overall weight is still only 6.5lbs, it's all very manageable. Cocking effort is fair, and the barrel lock-up is reassuringly solid. The trigger is pretty basic, yet given that remarkably low RRP, it's well above average for this grade of airgun. A basic springer indeed, but consistency and accuracy are unlikely to disappoint. A real bargain sporter, and it performs well.
GAMO COYOTE (BEECH) (PCP)
Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd. www.gamo.com
The Gamo Coyote made quite an impression on its introduction a few years back and, with the PCP action made in Birmingham by BSA, it's basically a tried and tested design, including their multishot magazine system and a cold hammer forged barrel. It still costs less than £400, making it one of the most keenly priced PCPs on the market. Good looks come courtesy of the Gamo made chequered beech stock; yet whilst this feels supremely comfortable and supportive in the aim, all the dimensions are more for the larger handed shooter. Our advice is therefore to handle before purchase. That flared and chequered forend gives the Coyote a distinctive profile for sure and, with features like the muzzle diffuser fitted to the threaded barrel, there's plenty of detail going on. A version of Gamo's SAT2 (Smooth Action Trigger), is here, and it all works well in operation. A great all-rounder for the money.
BROCOCK COMPATTO SNIPER HR (PCP)
Contact: Brocock. brocock.co.uk
Brocock's Compatto is best described as a semi-bullpup. Where a 'conventional' bullpup design sees the gun's action sitting right to the back of the stock, the Compatto sets the action back around 5-6-inches; and it's this compromise which gives this model an original feel. It is of course all about balance and personal taste. The latest Compatto Sniper HR sports a Dutch designed Huma regulator (hence the initials), so should be more consistent over the original model. A10-shot, bolt operated rotary magazine is also part of the spec, along with the quick fill probe style of charging, quality two stage trigger, synthetic soft-touch ambidextrous skeleton stock with adjustable butt pad, fully shrouded barrel, built-in manometer, three-stage power adjuster, manual safety catch, and threaded muzzle. This is a compact multi-shot PCP, with attitude!
HATSAN NOVA STAR (PCP)
Contact: Edgar Brothers. edgarbrothers.com
Arguably the best looking Hatsan model to date, the brandnew Nova Star is a real head turner. The dominating feature is of course the buddy bottle configuration and here we see a state-of-the-art carbon fibre 480cc bottle all part of the deal. The matt finished Turkish Walnut stock is a lovely piece of design and it's fully adjustable with a rising cheek and butt section. Hatsan cram a lot of features in as standard with this model, including magazine storage in the butt, side lever cocking, an adjustable, two-stage trigger, Picatinny style accessory rail, manual safety catch, fully shrouded barrel, threaded muzzle for a silencer, probe style charging and the option of single shot or multi-shot, via the two magazines supplied. A lot of gun for the money if you like the configuration.
FX STREAMLINE (PCP)
Contact: ASI. a-s-i.co.uk
Compact and versatile is the name of the game here and, whilst this sleek model is another multi-shot PCP, there's always a unique feel about FX airguns, made by those innovative chaps over in Sweden. Uncluttered lines for sure but look closer and the features start to stack up. There's a regulated action, a highly competent two-stage trigger, manual safety catch, manometer, and of course that ultra-subtle side-lever. This model features an 11-shot magazine, an on-board power adjuster, with 3 power levels of around 4ft/lbs, 8ft/lbs and 11.5ft/lbs. and with 200 shots in .22 calibre recorded, set to full power on test, shot count is also impressive. Our gun was right hand walnut spec., but a synthetic stocked version is also available, and this will trim the asking price by around £100. FX charm, nicely made, and highly accurate on test.
AIR ARMS HFT500 (PCP)
Contact: Air Arms. air-arms.co.uk
Top British brand, Air Arms, have a proud history in outdoor airgun competition and the HFT500 is their dedicated competition rifle aimed at the sport of Hunter Field Target. Technically, it's unregulated, but expect a large shot count regardless; courtesy of that extra-long cylinder. There's a laminate sporter stock with an adjustable cheek piece and butt section, semi-match trigger, fully floating Walther barrel and a super slick side-lever action. Add in a factory fitted air-stripper at the muzzle and it'not difficult to see why this competition special has taken such a hold. A forend raiser plate (hamster) is available as an optional extra, but as it stands, this model is competition ready. A streamlined, compact rifle, with devastating down-range performance. It's already taken a haul of silverware. Need we say more!
RAPID AIR WEAPONS TM1000 (PCP)
Price: From £1499
Contact: Michael Tawn. tawnadoairguns.com
Rapid Air Weapons, (RAW) are made in the USA and they well and truly hit the ground running when they introduced several models, aimed specifically at hunting, Bench Rest, and outdoor competition. The TM1000, on show here, is built for either HFT or FT competition shooting. Much of their appeal lies in the relative simplicity of the layout, with a chunky, ultra-robust breech block, supporting a freefloating barrel. Direct feed to the barrel is also a feature of the design, whilst the super slick side lever is a match for the likes of Air Arms'FTP900, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. The superb laminate stocks are made in-house and can be supplied with either a butt hook or rubber alternative. Not cheap, and a full-blown specification with laminate woodwork would be nearer £1630 upwards as a rough guide, but walnut stocked versions come in cheaper, trimming the RRP significantly. Recent upgrades include a 'Titanium Skinned' barrel and titanium cylinder as standard. Black actions are also coming, with carbon fibre shrouds a further option. As an import from the States, final RRP's are dependent upon the exchange rates and duties applicable at the time. Serious, proven hardware for the connoisseur.
ANSCHUTZ 9015 (PCP)
Contact: RUAG Ammotec. ruag.co.uk
The origins of Anschutz's rifles of course lie in 10-metre Olympic target shooting and their rifles come bristling with all manner of refinement. With two World Championship FT titles being taken by Airmasters converted model 8002s in recent years, popularity in the Anschutz name remains high. The latest 9015 One Field Target is a factory prepared 12ft/ lbs FT model, again aimed at the real connoisseur and it's highly versatile, with perhaps the central articulation in the stock allowing for cast bias, the standout feature. There's incredible adjustment from the stock, with an aluminium chassis, separate cheek, pistol grip, and forend components; all similar in modular design to the Steyr range. A top-flight match trigger is a given, but there's also a floating stainless-steel barrel that looks the part. There's a hunting version and a simplified (far cheaper!) Black Anthracite stock option, so plenty to consider with these target specials. An air of sophistication that's hard to beat.
STEYR CHALLENGE FT (PCP)
Contact: Harry Preston (Steyr UK) steyr-uk.co.uk
Steyr is similar to Anschutz, in that their models started life as 10m Olympic grade rifles and morphed into full-powered outdoor winning machines. Again, there's a central aluminium chassis, around which the action is based, and here, many competitors often customise the removable cheek piece, grip, and forend riser plate (hamster), with laminate or specialist wooden components. With a multitude of adjustments to make, the shooter can set the rifle up to fit perfectly. The latest Steyr Challenge FT sees a deeper aluminium cage forend and also the inclusion of an ultra-deep, adjustable forend section. The classic side lever cocking lever is still here, as is the full match trigger and, whilst looks are again akin to something from Robocop, a growing fan base is testament to their ruthless efficiency. Talk to many FT (and HFT) shooters and they speak of the appealing simplicity of the design and, with several individuals offering a modification service, Steyr are now well established as top kit within the competition community. Build quality is sometimes criticised, but you simply can’t argue with the tally of tournament wins for this top Austrian gunmaker.
WEIHRAUCH HW98 (Spring)
Contact: Hull Cartridge Co. hullcartridge.co.uk
Whilst Weihrauch's spring powered HW98 has been around for some while, it has had a few very subtle upgrades over the years, such as a neatly slimmed off forend, which feels great in the aim. It remains one of the most appealing models in Weihrauch's esteemed line-up, simply because it stands out as relatively unique and the famous German manufacturer got it about right, first time! Best described as a cross between a target rifle and a sporter, two main features stand out. Firstly, there's a heavy, bull barrel, that gives fabulous front bias to the balance. Then there's that adjustable semi-target woodwork, complete with an adjustable cheekpiece, adjustable butt section and drop down stippled target grip. Take the time to set the stock for personal preference and correct eye/scope alignment, and you'll really notice the difference with this break barrel special. Build quality and standard of finish are well up to Weihrauch's usual standards and, of course, there's the small matter of the Rekord two-stage trigger!
Top class spring power, capable of anything you want.
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