Air Arms Pro-Sport .177 calibre
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- Last updated: 30/01/2017
The Air Arms Pro-Sport in my view would win a beauty pageant for air rifles - if ever there was such a bizarre event - purely on its sleek lines and classic curves. The deeply blued metal work seems to flow effortlessly from receiver to muzzle whilst the striking grain of the walnut woodwork sculpts itself around the action and shrouded barrel to make, in my view, a superbly styled sporter.
Fixed Barrel – Lever Action
The Pro-Sport is a spring powered air gun that operates by means of an underlever - machined from a single piece of alloy – that is nicely tucked out of sight as it sits in a recess of the stock’s forend. Unlike break barrel springers, this means that the barrel is permanently fixed in line with the receiver and this certainly contributes to the excellent accuracy of the gun.
The cocking action is the heart of the rifle and it is literally the pivotal part of this gun with its linkages and springs culminating in an underlever design that takes the effort out of operation. It is ratchet free, unlike its TX200 sibling due to a clever automatic piston interceptor. Once the gun is cocked the brushed aluminium cocking lever is quietly returned under its own tension to lie just off the stock face, then a firm push/squeeze closes the last inch into the stock recess.
The piston and piston slide both run on synthetic bearings. There are two such bearings to the front and rear of the piston. They fit as a ring around the circumference, whilst another set of bearings are positioned on the piston compression slide. This improves the performance of both units and ensures that there is very little friction between the internal moving parts and that the action feels and operates incredibly quietly and efficiently. There is absolutely no spring noise on compression; the piston just glides backwards silently and is just a smooth and silent on firing.
The one piece receiver unit is deeply blued and sports a set of dovetail grooves for scope mounting along 9 inches of its length. The underlever sits on the base of the receiver attached to a one-piece rail system as on the old TX200SR models, but being stationary it provides a solid mounting to house all the linkages and keep them properly aligned.
The famous Air Arms CD trigger unit neatly fits in to the rear of the receiver and is furnished with a gold plated trigger blade that can be adjusted to suit your own personal tastes. Fully adjustable for weight there is a scant 10 ozs or so between first and second stage pressures with an overall trigger pressure of 24 ozs to achieve let off. This trigger is superb on the factory settings so leave well alone. As the action is cocked the safety catch is automatically applied and an indicator button pops out of the left rear of the receiver housing. To fire the Pro-Sport simply depress the button with your left thumb to disengage the safety mechanism and you are ready for a bit of sport.
Location of the loading port is a tad problematic to me, it is located on the right side of the receiver and is a cut recess that spans an arc from top centre to the top of the wood work on the right hand side and extends back about two inches. Plenty of room but as you hold the rifle in the right hand, the left hand is used to cock the rifle, the underlever locks in the rearward position and the auto safety engages, your left hand would then be better to load a pellet in but the port is on the right. You have to change to the left hand to support the rifle whilst the right hand now thumbs in a pellet. No real shakes but as with a right hand bolt a left hand port on a bench rest firearm the Pro-Sport would benefit from a reverse in geometry. [Editor’s note: unlike Bruce I prefer the loading layout the way it is, as I hold the rifle at the pistol grip with my right hand while operating the cocking lever with my left hand. I then put the rifle butt loosely under my right arm and let go of the pistol grip so as to use my right hand to load the pellet into the breech. This method is simple and safe – as you are holding the lever (thereby not trusting any mechanical safety device) and your right hand is nowhere near the trigger!]
The barrel is a 12 land choked Walther Match grade unit which at only 9.5 inches long ensures optimum performance from the Pro-Sports fast lock time. The barrel is totally covered by a metal shroud of 11.75 inches that gives the distinctive bull barrel look, straight from the tapered receiver mouth to the muzzle, and it hides a unique silencer arrangement. The pellet exits the barrels muzzle and then travels through a series of baffles and by the time it exits the shroud the only noise that can be heard from the rifle is a puny phut. Because the rifle is so mechanically quiet because of the synthetic bearings, it sounds really quite odd in truth – giving out a low ‘phut’ - not a hint of muzzle blast at all.
The word ‘gorgeous’ I feel is an apt tribute to the Pro-Sports stylish stock. Available in either beech or walnut the test rifle wore a striking well figured, if not light coloured walnut stock. The forend has a twin deep valance to either side that acts as a very useful grip in addition with the twin chequered panels that adorn either side of the wood work. and pistol grip. This is now laser cut with a very precise skip line chequering style with side panelling incorporating scroll motifs. No doubt very clever but just a little bit over the top for me personally. More traditional is the beautiful profiled cheek piece that raises to perfectly accommodate the cheek for correct eye alignment. It has a very curved back edge and rolled over to the right hand side, so impossible to shoot left handed. To finish off is a black 1 inch ventilated and grippy recoil pad making the length of pull a decent 14 inches.
Accuracy was tested at 30yds with all results being the average of each five shot group. Velocity was measured with an F1 Chronograph.
Highest velocity went to the Defiant pellets that at 7.5 grains weight were the lightest and yielded an average five shot velocity of 834 fps. Impressive, however accuracy was average compared to some other pellets at 0.64 inch at 30yds despite an energy figure of 11.6ft/lbs.
The RWS Hobbies and Bisley LRG pellets, also relatively light at 6.9 and 7.6 grains respectively shot high 820 and 816 fps velocities and generated 10.3 and 11.2ft/lbs energy a piece. The Hobbies shot an impressive 30 yard group for five shots at 0.57 inches with the LRG’s slightly larger at 0.77, still very good for a springer.
There were several mid ground contenders such as the RWS Superdomes, FTT, Superpoints and Lazadomes that all shot consistent 0.5 to 0.75 inch groups from just under 10 ft/lbs to a healthy 11.6 ft/lbs mark.
Most accurate and consistent were the JSB Exact, Air Arms Field and Bisley Magnums, with velocities of 785, 789 and 673 fps respectively, easily achieving sub 0.5 inch group at 30yds. In fact the JSB Exacts were 0.29inches and Air Arms AA Fields gave 0.26 inches; this is unbelievably accurate for an ‘off the self’ springer at 30 yards. Suffice to say I bought the test rifle from C H Westons… if there is one thing I have learnt over my 30 years of shooting it’s “never let a good rifle go”.
For field use either the JSB and AA Fields produced deadly accuracy at all rabbit ranges and accounted for nearly a dozen bunnies. When zeroed at 30yards the JSB’s were spot on at 15 yards with a mid range height of +0.3 inches at 25 yards whilst at 40 yards it is low by -1.3 and at 50 yards you are -3.9 low. In reality a very usable trajectory for realistic rabbiting.
You have to shoot a Pro-Sport to truly appreciate the high class engineering and real time performance. For an off the shelf air rifle it is very hard to find a better made, better looking or handling hunting tool than the Pro-Sport. Accuracy, power up to the legal limit and effortless self contained propulsion - which I appreciate more and more these days - just lets you go out and shoot and not worry about all the gubbings that a pre-charged pneumatic requires.
The trigger release and handling aided greatly to the accuracy of this Pro-Sport. The weight and solidity does deaden the firing cycle, which is minimal, and helps you get the most from this springer. The suppressed barrel shroud really works superbly and makes the Pro-Sport sound very quiet which it certainly is not as the field tests prove. Pound for pound the Pro-Sport offers superb quality and value for money combined with stylish, accurate and powerful performance, giving even a pre-charged pneumatic a run for its money.