Bullpup PCP air rifle Round Up
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- Last updated: 27/01/2017
Terminology: Bullpup: a gun whose working parts are located behind the trigger. Bullpup PCP airguns have been around for a good while, older shooters may recall the custom Daystates and Falcons produced by B&M Modifications. Since 2013, however, they have seemingly been popping up like mushrooms. This popularity surge probably owes a great deal to the impressive long-range airgunning videos of internet star Ted Bier, whose YouTube moniker -EdGunUSApaid tribute to his choice of rifle, the Russian EdGun Matador. Ted clearly remains a bullpup fan because he has subsequently moved on to using an FX Bobcat, and when I came across him again at IWA this year he was on the Crosman stand, discussing another new bullpup, the massive Benjamin Bulldog .357.
Such a celebrity endorsement for bullpups couldn’t have come at a better time either because, in our exuberantly consumer-driven society, manufacturers always need something new to offer their customers, and airgun manufacturers are no different. If not bullpups, what were they going to do next?
The truth is that bullpups and PCP airguns were made for each other as, without spent cartridge cases to eject, it no longer matters which shoulder you shoot from. What’s more, PCPs gain efficiency from longer barrels, allowing higher FAC-rated power levels and more shots per charge. The hunter also benefits from the inherent compactness; when shooting from a hide, vehicle or just in general handling. Plus they offer a discrete and very non-gun looking package when cased or boxed. Equally they speak of modernity and progress; they are literally the latest word in airguns; plus they look different… everyone hasn’t got one; YET!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – so some might find their compact form squat, ugly and untraditional, regardless of some great new designs coming on to the market.
Others will complain that having the air transferred to the pellet right by your cheek is inherently dangerous. But look carefully at current designs and you’ll see that such concerns have been addressed, often by screening this area with a reversible cheek-rest. In any case, when was the last time you heard of a modern PCP ‘letting go’? Another frequently-heard argument is that bullpups are heavier than conventional designs, but this is often because their critics are unfairly comparing the two types by overall rather than barrel length alone. Nevertheless, it is sometimes true that the equivalent bullpup weighs more. In all cases more of the weight is between your hands, preventing it from being unwieldy.
Ballistic concerns raise their head too, since the in-line layout of the stock a feature imposed by the run of the barrel means the scope has to be mounted higher above the bore. Thus more care needs to be taken about muzzle clearance, more aiming off (high) is required at close range, and canting the rifle has a more detrimental effect on accuracy. Valid points, though muzzle clearance on a scoped rifle should never be taken for granted as I was reminded recently when I shot my office window sill instead of the squirrel raiding my bird feeder! Whilst at mid to longer ranges a high scope has the effect of a flatter trajectory and cant is easily remedied by fitting a bubble level!
My own misgivings centred on the position of the cocking lever. The first models simply moved a standard bolt-action back into the butt, placing it right by your shoulder, though operation is not as awkward as it looks. This improved as more manufacturers used side-lever actions, which are far slicker on any type of PCP! Better still; the latest trend is towards locating a charging handle amidships. Many new models also feature reversible handles for left-hand use, and I expect we’ll see some truly ambidextrous designs in the future.
The No.1 charge however, is that they have creepy, heavy triggers that undermines accuracy and shootability. This is due to the need for long transfer rods between the trigger – located amidships and the sear several inches away in the butt. However, this generation doesn’t do justice to the latest designs. On the new FX bullpups, for example, the trigger feels at least as good as on any of their standard models. Daystate’s Pulsar has an electronic trigger, so no physical linkage is required at all. Try before you buy, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
So here’s a run-down of what’s out there now. Not all the models below are currently available in the UK, but most are and some soon will be.
HTTP://ATAMAN-GUNS.COM [NO UK DISTRIBUTION]
The standard platform is called the M2R. At once sturdy and exceptionally accurate, it features a regulated 300-bar action with a massive breech block showing M1913 optics rails on both receiver bridges, a generous cutaway that accommodates a removable magazine system and a full-sized bolt with a handle that can be switched from right to left-hand orientation and finishes in a large ball (black for hunting and chromed brass for target models).
Full-length barrel shrouds enclose choked Lothar Walther barrels. Stocks are ambidextrous, with a cheek-piece ahead of the breech cut-out, and come in a choice of walnut, or beech with a tactile rubberised coating in black or green.
01785 851304; WWW.BROCOCK.CO.UK
Launched at IWA 2015, the Compatto Italian for compact is an all-new semi-bullpup design (the action is only just behind the trigger). Features include a clever trigger that provides a crisp and creep-free break; a laterally-pivoting, resettable safety within the trigger guard; a multi-shot side-lever action that uses a new 10-shot clockwork alloy magazine; a power adjuster giving a maximum of 30 ft/lbs in FAC format; a shrouded barrel with a threaded and capped muzzle; a skeletonised thumbhole stock with a buttpad that’s adjustable for height, pitch and cant, and a choice of black or olive-green soft-touch finishes. Brocock have kept the compact, light and quick-handling virtues of previous rifles but have taken things forward mechanically and aesthetically and have improved quality control and customer support. Better still; prices remain keen, with the No one has done more to popularise bullpup Compatto due to retail at just £585.
JOHN ROTHERY WHOLESALE (NEAREST DEALER)
In 2013 Spanish airgun manufacturer Cometa had a bullpup version of their first PCP, the Lynx, on their stand at IWA. Clearly some way from being a production model, it showed a rather rough-hewn stock reminiscent of existing Russian designs. There was no sign of a bullpup in 2014 but this year it was back, more polished, but still looking as though imitation had played a greater part in its design than inspiration, still some way from being production-ready, and presented in both standard and short variants. The former showed a walnut stock and a semi-chassis intermount, whilst the latter had a black synthetic stock, conventional intermount and a short Picatinny rail under the forend. Both have conventional bolt actions… soooo last year! As the standard-format Lynx is still a rarity in the UK, I don’t see a bullpup getting here any time soon. In any case, Cometa clearly still have a way to go before their gun is ready for an increasingly crowded market sector.
WWW.CROSMAN.COM. [UK] ASI, 01728 688555; WWW.A-S-I.CO.UK
American airgun giant Crosman were rolling out the big guns again this year – literally! The Benjamin Bulldog .357 is an imposing big-bore bullpup PCP with looks reminiscent of the legendary HK G11. Its fully-railed aluminium and polymer chassis houses a shrouded, suppressed barrel, a 340 cc cylinder, and a reversible (right or left-hand) side-lever action that takes 5-shot magazines and delivers 200 ft/lbs at the muzzle. As such, it takes over from Crosman’s previous big-bore PCP, the Rogue. It may use the same ammo, yet it is more compact (36”), lighter (7.7 lb), has a higher shot capacity (10), and does away with the electronic complexity of its predecessor.
01782 791755; WWW.DAYSTATE.COM
Daystate’s Pulsar is surely the pick of the litter. In the first place it is a joy to look at and handle. The technical expertise is simply exceptional, as is the quality of materials, fit and finish. Then there are the little touches: a spirit level built into the rear of the intermount; a laser sight built into the front end; an accessory rail under the hand-guard; a soft-touch polymer cheek-piece insert; a 3-way adjustable recoil pad; a lever action that can be switched around for left-hand use; and of course a digital display on the side.
The first models are in grey or camo laminate, with a special edition Oro (Gold) Series in high-grade walnut with a gold-plated cocking lever, barrel collar, trigger blade, and muzzle detail. These will shortly be followed up with a black synthetic version with a soft-touch stock and carbon-fibre-look cheek-pieces. I’m sure it’s going to be a landmark rifle for Daystate and a benchmark for the industry and I can’t think of any other company that could make a gun like this! The Pulsar commands a premium price, but quality and performance will out. Now that’s how to rationalise a shooting purchase!
HTTP://WWW.EDGUN.RU/ EN [NO UK DISTRIBUTION]
Edgun are best-known for their Matador bullpup, which is available in Short, Standard and Long versions. In 2014 the R3M, multi-shot version was introduced, with storage for 4 X 10-shot magazines under the intermount. An improved trigger was introduced along with, a longer receiver block, a full-length shroud that tensions a more refined Lothar Walther barrel. Also an intermount with 10 MOA of cant for longer ranges and the option of an oil-finished walnut stock or a grey soft-touch coating.
My favourite however, is the Lelya, an ultra-compact, full-power gun that measures just 20” from its rubber butt pad to the muzzle of its integrated moderator – making it OK for sub-12 ft/lb but too short to run on a Section-1 ticket. Edgun founder Eduard Gafarov tells me he could easily make the moderator a bit longer: “no problem!”) Best of all is its unique and beautifully neat single-shot action featuring a semi-auto-style half-slide that springs to the rear when released, exposing the breech and cocking the hammer. All models have ambidextrous stocks, come fully-moderated as standard, and are very nicely made and finished. Yet, as every Edgun is essentially hand-built by Eduard himself, production volumes are low and prices high. There’s no UK distributor but you can order direct.
WWW.EVANIX.COM. [UK] AC GUNS. TEL: 01424752261; WWW.ACGUNS.CO.UK
This Korean company has played an important role in stimulating new thinking in airgun design, so it’s no surprise that their line-up includes a couple of bullpup rifles: the Rainstorm and MAX-MN. Both have side-lever actions and the Rainstorm showing a unique full-length stock that encases the barrelled action, with cutaways that give access to the magazine, operating lever and filler valve. Plus a full-length M1913 rail on top and at 6 o’clock, one-piece riser mount and an AR-type grip. The MAX-MN opts instead for a half-andhalf build with a chassis-type intermount and cylinder shroud but a one-piece grip and butt made from walnut or black synthetic. Both models have shrouded barrels with integral sound moderation. They may look extreme, but they’re lighter than they appear and handle very nicely.
The Rainstorm is available in .177, .20, .22, .25, and .357 calibres. UK distribution is ably handled by A.C. Guns, who offer them as standard in .177 or .22.
HTTP://KALIBRGUN.RU. [UK] CHESHIRE GUN ROOM, 0161 480 8222; WWW.CHESHIREGUNROOM.COM
Kalibrgun are based in Moscow, but manufacture their rifles in the Czech Republic. They are responsible for one of my favourite airgun designs the Colibri (Hummingbird). It’s beautifully neat little bullpup, with its cocking handle amidships on the left, its cylinder ahead of the trigger guard under the shrouded and suppressed barrel, and its 14-round- magazine tucked into the butt. The pistol grip and butt are walnut. Air gets from the cylinder to the breech via a slim transfer tube that hugs the contours of the intermount similar to the FX Impact, the intermount is topped off with a Picatinny rail. The Colibri is billed as a semi-auto, but in fact it has to be manually cocked for each shot and it is only the magazine that indexes automatically, making it UK legal. Sadly, however, these guns have yet to make it to the UK.
Fortunately, KalibrGun’s core model, the Cricket, has. With a rear-mounted side-lever, a detachable magazine holding 14 (.177 and .22), 12 (.25) or 8-shots (.35), and an ambidextrous stock with a height-adjustable butt pad in a choice of walnut or polymer, the latter with integrated storage for spare magazines. Magazines sit deep in the action and load through the uppermost chamber. Standard-calibre barrels are made by CZ whilst the larger-calibres are Lothar Walther and all are choked and wear fat 30mm suppressor shrouds. The Cricket is offered as a regular or compact bullpup in two standard barrel/overall lengths (390mm/620mm and 450mm/680mm). For guns in .25 or .35-calibre, this is 600mm/840mm. Kalibrgun Crickets are currently available in the UK from the Cheshire Gun Room.
SNOWPEAK AIRGUNS (SPA). WWW.CHINA-AIRRIFLE.COM [NO UK DISTRIBUTION]
The Chinese military are keen on bullpups and their airgun manufacturers aren’t far behind. Snowpeak Airguns (SPA) have two models: the P10 and P12. Both show a simple but attractive beech stock, a shrouded, suppressed barrel, an intermount with a Picatinny rail, and a conventional bolt action, and both are offered in .177, .22 and .25 calibre. The difference is that the P12 is a single-shot design whereas the P10 has a detachable magazine that holds 10-shots in .177, 8 in .22 and 6 in .25. No one is yet bringing them into the UK, but I suspect these budget-priced, no-frills guns won’t be absent for long.
So many makers have now put so much energy into the design of PCP bullpups that they are surely here to stay. What’s more, their radical appearance has opened up new frontiers of airgun design, and injected an unprecedented excitement into the world of airgunning. Besides getting to grips with the guns featured here, I’m keen to see how those major PCP producers who’ve missed the first wave (Air Arms, BSA, Hatsan, and Weihrauch) are going to rise to the challenge!