Hunting with an airgun requires stealth and field-craft, but a pre-requisite remains, that the gun used is accurate enough for the job. Under the spotlight here are five of my favourites, that have proved best sellers for good reason.
WALTHER ROTEX RM8 VARMINT (PCP)
The Walther brand, built by Umarex in Germany, has earned a reputation for quality over many years, but their foray into the buddy bottle sector, was a while coming. The Rotex RM8 offers an unregulated compressed air design, with a 200cc bottle at its heart, and an 8-shot rotary magazine, neatly installed in the breech block, and it all works well. The new Varmint version of the Rotex RM8 is a clever addition to the range, and brings further versatility to this popular buddy bottle fed model. The new thumb-hole configuration feels distinctly different from the original spec, with that attractive swell of the forend creating a hand shelf, with much the same sweep as the latest BSAs for example. In other words, the Varmint stands as a clear option from the original model, which is as it should be. We still get the huge shot count (in the region of 180 on test) from the buddy bottle fed action, and all the same features are here; just sitting in a great handling synthetic stock. Factor in the sweetly weighted two-stage trigger, and this model has to be seen as great value for the current asking price. Weight 8.5lbs. Accuracy: sub half inch c-t-c at 35-yards. Price: £400 Contact: Armex Ltd. www.armex-airgun.co.uk
AIR ARMS ULTIMATE SPORTER (PCP)
One of the new breed of high-end Air Arms models, the Ultimate Sporter is aimed at the serious hunter, who demands refinement and versatility from their chosen kit. This model comes complete with a fully adjustable ambidextrous laminate stock, which is superbly finished, and allows for the cheekpiece to be raised and lowered as well as the butt-pad to be adjusted. The result is a sporting gun that can be made to fit the shooter, relieving stress and muscle fatigue in the aim. The action is based on the company's highly successful S510 action, which incorporates that super slick side lever, and of course the Air Arms 10 shot rotary magazine system (same as fitted to the TDR). With just a simple rotary centre, free from any wind-up mechanism, the magazine cassette has proven to be one of the most reliable on the market too. Other features include two-stage trigger, sling mounts, an accessory rail, shrouded barrel, and the latest Q-Tec style silencer. All in all, a seriously refined piece of machinery. Weight 7.1lbs. Accuracy: 3/8-inch @35-yards on test. Price: £955 Contact: Air Arms www.air-arms.co.uk
DAYSTATE HUNTSMAN REGAL (PCP)
Daystate’s latest Huntsman Regal has been well received, and has an army of fans. At around the 6.3lbs mark, it also remains one of the lightest rifles in its class. I've never quite taken to the lines of the forend, but that personal observation aside, the sheer quality of the stock and timber finish overall on this model is phenomenal. It’s superbly refined handiwork from Italian stockmaker Minelli, placing this latest Huntsman in a different league from my original Huntsman FTR from the 80s! Okay, Daystate themselves are very much a different company, and this model makes good use of the cutting-edge technology available. Steve Harper’s Slingshot valve system returns good consistency, (60-100 shots) whilst the option of single shot tray or multishot via rotary magazine, something Daystate tend to offer throughout their range, is a nice touch. Modern Daystate triggers never fail to impress either, and the subtle curved shape of the blade is a real asset. In short then, my petty reservations aside, the Huntsman is a fine mechanical alternative to the company’s electronic fare. Accuracy: sub half-inch at 35-yards. Price: £823 Contact: Daystate www.daystate.com
FX INDEPENDENCE (PCP)
I've always loved the concept of the single stroke pneumatic, and it's the fact that you remain free from the ties of a diver’s bottle or pump, and that the power source is free, that holds such appeal. It should come as no surprise then, that the Independence (perfect name by the way), is one of my all-time favourite airguns, for that very reason. Okay, the Independence isn't single stroke, relying on a gradual top up routine, yet the end result is similar. This FX may be a tad pricey, but its clever design really deserves recognition. The main cylinder can be charged from a bottle, and a full charge will give around 25 shots if shot to empty. But that would be to miss the point. For the real selling point remains the super-efficient, on-board pumping system. The beauty of the system is that the cylinder can be topped up by an easy stroke of the side-lever after each shot, or several strokes can be undertaken, and the residual pressure upped accordingly. In practice, this gun is incredibly versatile, and with the latest Smoothtwist barrels (fitted to all FX models these days) proving a match for Lothar Walthers, there's much to get excited about. Weight 7.9lbs. Accuracy on test: sub ¾-inch over 35-yards. PRICE: £1180 Contact: ASI www.a-s-i.co.uk
COMETA FENIX 400 CARBINE (spring piston)
There's something about this model that appealed from when I first tested one some years back, and it has to be the combination of traditional manufacturing and modern design. For the Fenix 400, from the old Spanish Cometa brand, is simply very appealing. This latest Carbine version is sleeker than before, yet despite a super short barrel and the factory fitted full sized silencer, cocking the action is still fairly straight forward. It does have a long stroke, and my test model came with a tight breech, but a quick jolt releases the barrel, and the subsequent stroke is smooth. Attention to detail includes an adjustable breech bolt and keeper screw, which pretty well 'future proofs' wear on the barrel axis- and it's a nice touch. Recoil on test was more of a mild bounce, than anything harsh, and with a perfectly acceptable two stage trigger, and an impressive standard of chemical bluing and finish overall, there's plenty to get excited about with this classic traditional sporter. Accuracy on test ¾-inch c-t-c groups over 30-yards using Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets. PRICE: £250 Contact: John Rothery Wholesale www.bisley-uk.com
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