Air Arms Pro-Sport
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- Last updated: 30/01/2017
It’s been a few years since I last tested a Pro Sport, so getting re-acquainted with what has to be regarded as one of the most respected models in the Air Arms range, has been a satisfying experience. Conceived and designed by airgun genius Ken Turner, this particular gem has gone on to become something of a modern classic.
I’ve said it before, but it does nail the point - the Pro Sport is basically a modern take on the old BSA Airsporter. From that exquisitely styled stock, through to the perfectly recessed cocking lever, the Pro Sport is a glorious piece of performance art. OK; maybe the Airsporter still shades the ‘Best looking air-rifle’ label, with its parallel sided stock and ultra curvaceous profile, but where questionable engineering and finish let it down, the Pro Sport just shines.
Ken Turner of course, has had a long and respected association with Air Arms, and I’ve collared Ken in the past (now happily retired) to set up a couple of guns for my private use - one being a Pro Sport, complete with walnut stock and match trigger. I subsequently let that masterpiece go, in what can only be described as an act of rash stupidity, and shouldering this test model has reminded me just how stupid I’ve been!
Even in beech stock guise, this is one pretty air rifle, and with that centrally stowed lever configuration, balance feels spot-on too. Weight is of course a major consideration with this upmarket springer, since the Pro Sport tips the scales at a fairly significant 9.5lbs. For some maybe, that will prove too much, but for anyone after an adult sporter with serious potential, look no further.
A spring powered piston sits at the heart, but with TX 200 derived internals on board, there’s much more to this rifle than meets the eye. That spec list incorporates a concentric piston, meaning air flow is truly in-line, and therefore at its most efficient. The piston itself runs on nylon bearings (eliminating metal to metal contact), and an internal anti bear trap system means that fingers can’t be trapped inside the loading chamber once the action has been cocked. Fixed barrel accuracy is of course a major asset, and here, a 9.5inch tube sits within a shroud, creating that most satisfying bull barrel look. As for the mirror like blueing, the overall finish really is first class.
Stock wise, Minelli woodwork is becoming industry standard across the British airgun scene these days, and this particular beech stock is further evidence of their competence. The potential to produce in large quantities has given this Italian stock maker the upper hand, yet no one can dispute the quality of their workmanship. Skip-line chequering and a rosewood cap, set off that beautifully sculpted pistol grip, whilst a pronounced Monte Carlo roll-over cheek piece not only looks the part, but provides perfect eye/ scope alignment too. Stylish flutes at the tapered fore-end, and a ventilated rubber recoil pad complete the features list, and the end result is both eye-pleasing and supremely functional.
Mind Your Fingers!
To cock this rifle, the slick matt finished under-lever (deliberately left in the white to contrast with the blueing) is first pulled from its snug recess beneath the fore-end. Pull the lever all the way down to cock the action, then whilst holding the lever in the left hand, a pellet can be chambered with the right. Yes I know it has an anti-bear trap, but good practices dictates this extra precaution! Clever design incorporates a neat slot cut-away from the bottom of the loading chamber that lets any pellet dropped fall harmlessly through, rather than block the sliding breech, as can sometimes happen with this style of gun. Direct feed into the barrel is another plus point, allowing the shooter to feel a bad pellet before fully loading - be it too tight or too slack.
An internal anti-bear trap device, as mentioned, means fingers cant get trapped in the breech area once the action has been cocked, but don’t be too eager with those digits. With no ratchet system (unlike the TX200), the sliding breech is still under enormous spring tension until that stroke is completed.
One slightly irritating characteristic of the design concerns the way the safety catch can sometimes fail to engage at the end of the cocking stroke. You’ll know when this happens, since the under-lever will sit proud of the woodwork once it has been returned at the end of the stroke. In this eventuality, just complete the stroke again. Be positive in the downwards cocking stroke in the first place however, and this shouldn’t be a problem. Cocking effort incidentally, is surprisingly minimal, with mechanical advantage at a premium. Over-centre engineering sees that under-lever come to rest within its recess, purely under its own tension, with no clasp required. Subtle is the word… and it’s a recurring theme with this rifle.
Ok; so we’ve ascertained that this is a serious piece of airgun on test here; so how does it shoot? Well my first stop had to be the chronograph, as I like to see consistency figures at the start. Just test firing the action over my Chrony, the level of refinement was immediately apparent. A super slick firing cycle, free from spring resonance and excess vibration, is always encouraging, and in that regard, this Pro Sport really excels. It’s comparatively quiet too; with any muzzle report from that super short barrel, tamed by the integral mini expansion chamber, stowed away in the last couple of inches of the shroud.
A variety of pellets proved remarkably consistent, but with JSB’s largely the bench mark ammo these days, my Air Arms Diabolo Field’s were given pride of place. Ten shot strings of just 11 fps stated the obvious; namely that the skilfully balanced mechanism was consistent as well as civilized, but I couldn’t wait to see those group sizes.
Good triggers make the task so much easier, and the Pro Sport’s is a fine example of the art. The CD unit was always a match for Weihrauch’s Rekord design, and whilst the blade is maybe a little thin and overly curved, compared to its broader, ribbed rival, the subtlety of the mechanism overall, is renowned. This one is even gold plated, and that’s a nice touch, wholly befitting of the class on offer here. Bling aside, with some expert adjustment, the Pro Sport’s trigger becomes a true asset, and the perfect release to exploit this rifle’s inherent accuracy to the full.
As for down range performance, as already laid bare here, the Pro Sport is a serious technical tool, and if you do your part, you should be amply rewarded. From my favourite over-the-arm FT position, where only the pistol grip is held, I managed 5 shot groups of just over a quarter inch, shot at 30yds, which is pretty superb from any airgun. Take into account the satisfying snap of the action as the shot goes, and what we have here is engineering refinement in motion.
In short, pedigree and class come as part of the package here, with top flight accuracy and performance a given. Great handling and poise elevates the Pro Sport above many rivals, leaving this mini masterpiece sitting pretty, at the summit of production air rifle design and manufacture. Yes I’m pretty effusive on this one, but it’s no exaggeration to say that tuned performance really does come straight from the box!
Hunting, HFT or FT, the Pro Sport can take it all in its stride. So it all comes down to personal taste. If the weight isn’t a problem, then this exquisite piece of British engineering guarantees to put a smile on the face of any connoisseur.
CONTACT: Air Arms Tel 01323 845853
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