Air Arms S510-SL Carbine
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- Last updated: 27/01/2017
They say if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, but that’s what Air Arms has done with their popular and successful S400/410 series of rifles. It must have been a difficult decision to make, but technology doesn’t stand still. With that in mind let’s take the tour around the latest and possibly greatest PCP hunter Air Arms has ever produced.
Strong words from the very beginning, but then again this rifle has that effect on you. From the very first moment I saw it emerge from the box I was impressed by every detail that caught my eye, and none more obvious than the new look walnut stock. This newly designed furniture has the familiar high right hand roll over cheekpiece with a thick ventilated rubber butt pad. The neck is slim and nicely contoured as it passes over from the left and coupled with the relatively chunky pistol grip offers a very comfortable hold. The grip has a rosewood end cap with slim maple spacer, this is also repeated in the semi Schnable forend.
Talking of which, the forend of the S510-SL is much slimmer than its predecessor but it’s been trimmed in a sensible manner. It curves and tapers inwards from where the attractive and functional, laser-cut, skip-line chequering begins. Finished off with fleur-de-lys decoration, this precision cut and generous chequering is as stylish as it is practical, and is not only applied either side of the forend but also underneath, and of course at the pistol grip.
The handling of the rifle is exceptional but I for one was expecting nothing less. The rifle’s cosmetics even translate over to the action; particularly the curved scalloped ridges that adorn the fill point cover cap and even the thread protection cap at the muzzle. Though they in themselves undoubtedly add that tad extra in terms of looks they are practical as well, as they also aid grip. Once the dust cover cap is unscrewed it reveals the very safe fill point with ‘T’ bar securing point for the brass push over fill adaptor that is supplied with the rifle. This most safe and practical of charging arrangements is just one example of the attention to detail that has made Air Arms PCP air rifles so popular.
The S510-SL requires a 190-bar fill and in .22 calibre the company quote an approximate shot count of 70, while you can expect 60 shots from the .177 calibre version (as on test). I had the test rifle for a couple of months and quite frankly found it definitely gave more than 60, but good on Air Arms for not making over-inflated claims. A nice touch is the air gauge set into the underside of the stock, so you can keep check of the status of air in the cylinder.
Air Arms first used a side lever cocking mechanism on the Xtra Hi-power S400/410 models and of course the EV-2 FT rifle. The reason the side-lever was employed for the FAC rated rifles was to ease the cocking effort needed for a rifle developing over 30ft/lbs of muzzle energy. However, tales of the company being inundated with requests for this system to be fitted to the 12ft/lb models may or may not be true. What I do know is Air Arms don’t ignore feedback from the consumer and you could say they’re giving the public what they wanted. You could also argue they waited until the public had accepted this type of mechanism before incorporating it into the build of their latest PCP, but in my opinion that’s irrelevant as the side-lever is as efficient as it is now widely accepted.
The 3 ½” long side-lever of the S510-SL is very stylish, and sits very neatly alongside the right hand side of the action at the very rear of the breechblock assembly. To release the 10-shot magazine, or to cock the rifle, you just hook your forefinger under the very front of the side-lever which curves outward for ease of access and simply draw it back to lock fully rearward. To remove the magazine you have to pull back a tad further so the probe fully exits a chamber in the magazine, then the removable 10-shot rotary magazine can be manually slipped out from the left of the action. Loading the 10-shot Perspex fronted magazine is a simple affair - you just rotate the inner alloy drum dropping a pellet into each empty chamber as it lines up with access hole in the Perspex cover plate.
When filled, replace the magazine back into the action until it fully abuts up to the slanted side plate at the breech and then return the side-lever to its original closed position. This operation has now cocked the rifle and probed a pellet directly into the free-floating Lothar Walther barrel. For the next shot you just operate the side-lever and the magazine auto-indexes around, while the probe seats the next pellet into the breech ready for firing.
The 2-stage adjustable trigger is the same unit as seen on the S400/410 series, that being a black alloy blade with a manual safety ‘button’ positioned through the trigger blade itself. Push over from the right to put on safe, in from the left to put into live fire mode. The trigger is a precise unit and one with plenty of adjustment, and as the many S400/410 owners will attest to – it works a treat.
The chunky looking bull barrel shroud isn’t just cosmetic, as it also acts as a primary silencer. Air that would follow the pellet on firing is also ‘directed’ down back inside the barrel shroud to exit out through 3 vent holes found just forward of the front end of the breechblock. It does an admirable job of taming muzzle report from the expected loud crack to a sort of hammer hitting wood sound. Many hunters will find this acceptable, especially shooting in the open. In the woods or confines of a hide I’d advise you make use of the option to fit a secondary silencer. This can be done by unscrewing the stylish end cap that reveals a standard ½” UNF female thread. Yes, female. Very unusual, as most silencers use female threads themselves so you’ll need a silencer adaptor (from someone like Best Fittings – see the News section) but word has it Air Arms will have released a dedicated silencer for the rifle by the time you read this review.
Those Are The Features – But How Does It Perform?
I could say incredible, but I think most airgunners will require more information. Using the grooves cut into the top of the action block I scoped up with a Hawke Airmax AX 3 – 9 X 50 with MAP 6 Ballistic Reticle in high mounts - an ideal pairing. I set a 30-yd zero using Air Arms Field and tight clover leaf holes where boringly easy to achieve from a rested position. On my enclosed range I found the primary silencer did a fair enough job for taming report but for most hunting trips I fitted an old Venom Arms ‘special’ I had in my gun room and then the rifle really did turn into a silent and deadly vermin termination tool. Even with my dusty steel can up-front the carbine size rifle didn’t feel in the bit unbalanced and even scoped just tipped the scales at 7.5lbs.
It has great handling as well, and accuracy is something that starts to become more noticeable the more trips out you have with the S510-SL. Any shooting position you can think of bar something out of the Karma Sutra is easily achieved, and operating the side-lever soon becomes second nature - and as a long time S410K user myself, I didn’t miss the bolt action in the slightest. In fact at a push, I’d have to admit I prefer this mechanism.
I never thought I’d say this but though the S410K will I’m sure carry on selling well with hunters and the S400 series with HFT competitors, I can’t help thinking on looking at the rifles side by side just how much the S510-SL makes the S410K look dated. That’s not entirely cosmetic or due to the side-lever cocking facility either, as there’s just something about the Air Arms S510-SL that stops you in your tracks to take a closer look at every detail. Be that the finish of the metalwork which is stunning or the luxurious looking stock, the neatness of the cocking system, bull barrel shroud and integral silencer – the whole package. On reflection, the decision to take another step up the ladder I feel was a wise move by Air Arms. Only one minor niggle is that this is classed as the carbine, being 37.5” in overall length minus a secondary silencer. I mention this because it makes it approximately 2” shorter than a silenced S410K. However, depending on what you fit up-front means the rifle will be longer than the S410K. I know, considering the other features, that this is a minor point as I’m sure the S510-SL will soon become as popular as its predecessor.
£657 in walnut stock as shown. Beech version £592. Left hand stock available for £669 (walnut only)