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SMK XS38 Custom

SMK XS38 Custom

Under-lever airguns have been around for many years, but it was Weihrauch that re-energised the market, with their highly successful HW77 model, back in the mid-80s. A fixed barrel configuration has an advantage over conventional break barrel designs, since a separate lever is used to cock the action. By keeping the barrel fixed, wear over time is kept to a minimum.

Sportsmarketing have several under-lever options in their massive range of spring powered guns, and it’s the SMK XS38 Custom, that’s on test here. The 38 is a full-sized, full-powered sporter, which comes brimming with features, so I was keen to get started.

With Custom in the name, it’s fair to expect something a bit out of the ordinary, and the SMK XS38 doesn’t disappoint on this score. On opening the protective carton, I was particularly struck by just how big it is up close, with dimensions and weight that place it firmly in the ‘adult sporter’ category. Get over the sheer mass of the thing, and it’s surely rude not to appreciate the rather tasty woodwork. SMK use attractively grained beech, and with plenty of grain pattern showing through the thick, orangey brown lacquer, the overall look is very pleasing to the eye. An unusually long forend marks this rifle out, along with the curved cylinder end block, and with a better all-round standard of finish over standard models in the SMK line-up, there’s an air of quality, especially considering the modest asking price.

Modern thinking promotes ambidextrous stocks, which not only allow anybody to use them with ease, but also help to reduce production costs, as the number of options available to the customer are effectively limited. That said, the XS38 Custom’s stock actually comes with a right hand dedicated cheekpiece. In practise though, it’s so shallow as to be no hindrance to lefties whatsoever.

Sights As Standard

Fibre optic open sights come as standard with this model, and they really do offer a good sight picture. The rear-sight is fully adjustable via finger wheels for windage and elevation, while the moulded foresight assembly doubles as the under-lever clip. The usual coloured elements are utilised, and the impression of semi illumination in poor light is a very useful feature.

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Standard of finish overall is well up to scratch in this price sector, and with the metalwork receiving an extra metal polishing process, before the chemical blueing is applied – the resultant deep gloss finish is aesthetically pleasing. Wood to metal fit is spot-on, and a fair standard of engineering prevails.

I can’t over emphasise the worth of shooting any airgun with just open sights to start, gaining a feel for the basics along the way, but a sporting rifle such as this eventually demands that some form of glassware be fitted. Sportsmarketing fit an arrestor plate to the top of the receiver, at the rear of the dovetail rails, which means that with the rear scope mount fixed right up against the arrestor, any scope creep should be eliminated.

To cock the XS38, first pull the front plastic cap of the underlever slightly back to release it, then pull the lever down until you hear the mechanism engage and set. A pellet can now be loaded directly into the exposed breech. Under-levers of this sort need internal safety systems built in, and SMK have taken a reassuring ‘belt and braces approach’. To this end, the breech cannot close until the lever release catch (shotgun in style at the rear of the action) is first pressed forwards. This disengages the internal antibear trap device, allowing the lever to be returned to the closed position. The automatic and re-settable safety catch can now be pulled back to its rear position, and the shot taken.

The trigger on the XS38 Custom is specified as single stage, and whilst it is fairly crude, if the blade is slowly pulled to take up much of the creep, the final release is at least lessened. This rifle is comfortable in the aim, with the lead hand sitting nicely at the tip of the forend. At 8.8lbs, weight is significant, with centre of balance towards the front, which may not suit everyone; mass does help absorb much of the recoil however. The action felt a little rough through the cocking stroke, and there’s plenty of spring resonance through the shot, but after spending plenty of time shooting the ‘38, I really warmed to it.

Range Results

Over the chronograph, energy figures were incredibly consistent with a variety of pellet brands. SMK’s own Black BS55 Domed pellets returned a spread of 13fps and average energy of 11.7ft/lbs, whilst a spread of 10fps with RWS Superfield, and 11.9ft/ lbs was equally impressive.

Accuracy tests over 30yds saw the XS38 Custom print 1.25-inch c-t-c groups with pretty well anything I cared to select, which admittedly isn’t stunning, yet to be fair, well within the manufacturers claimed performance in their manual.

Conclusion

Take one look at the XS38 Custom, then pick it up and handle it, and it can’t fail to impress, as a full-sized general purpose sporter. Yes, there are many more options in this price bracket, and it may be too heavy and unwieldy for some, but if it does appeal, then you get an awful lot of gun for the money

  • SMK XS38 Custom - image {image:count}

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  • SMK XS38 Custom - image {image:count}

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  • SMK XS38 Custom - image {image:count}

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  • SMK XS38 Custom - image {image:count}

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  • SMK XS38 Custom - image {image:count}

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  • SMK XS38 Custom - image {image:count}

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34 Comments

  • I have owned and shot the xs38 for about 3 years now. Apart from the iron sights breaking (scope fixed that and necessary) It has been a wonderful rifle to use. I am a short guy with not a lot of strength in my arms and at the start it was very heavy but as time goes on it became ‘the norm’ and now anything else seems too light. Good rifle for the small price tag!

    Default profile image
    Kenny
    03 Jul 2021 at 04:09 PM
  • I am soon to be eighty six years old. (Where has the time gone?!) I had to wait until I was about forty to get my first real airgun. Bought from a catalogue for £16!  Now I have owned many air rifles,my current favourite being an HW 110 which delights me every time with its silence and accuracy. I went through the SMK stage and strangely, liked the XS 38 very much for its unpretentious looks, power and accuracy. My Nomad compressor has gone wrong and is going to hospital and it brought home the weakness of PCPs and I have on order my third TX 200 HC AND because Air Arms are experiencing temporary difficulty in meeting demand I am expecting an SMK XS 38 Custom tomorrow !!!!!

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    kneeque
    13 Jul 2020 at 04:49 AM
  • Hi I have the db5 which is ok so just ordered the xs38 to go along with my xs79 cs600w db5 2260 rat catcher a good mix co2 and two Springer’s. Will be in touch after I have fired the xs38.  Tom

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    Thomas Lyth
    05 Mar 2018 at 09:18 PM
  • Hi I have the db5 which is ok so just ordered the xs38 to go along with my xs79 cs600w db5 2260 rat catcher a good mix co2 and two Springer’s. Will be in touch after I have fired the xs38.  Tom

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    Thomas Lyth
    05 Mar 2018 at 09:15 PM
  • I’ve just got to say that I’m hitting matchsticks already with the XS38 and the trigger is really one stage, absolutely positive with no creep.Really pleased.

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    Mick George
    18 Feb 2018 at 08:40 PM
  • A great pest controller with grouping within 2cm up to 30 meters.  Beyond 30 meters it is unpredictable. Recoil is minimal however, mine has an audible spring twang.  Once it is bedded in, I will strip it and service it to eliminate this.  Overall, a great value pest control tool.

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    G Wellington
    18 Feb 2018 at 10:19 AM
  • OK. I,ve got the gun and it is as good as I expected and better! I cannot believe how good it is.The trigger is faultless and one stage, blinking lovely! I,ve fitted it with a good red dot sight and because of the rain, shot it at a target from my back door at 11 yards and I am delighted! The recoil is less than that of my TX 2oo, it is quieter too. Power is high , as usual, but will check it again with my Combro, when it has been shot a few times more.Actual finish is really good, gets better each year and I cannot understand how this air rifle gets so little publicity. What more can any one ask for an air rifle for vermin control?

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    Mick George
    17 Feb 2018 at 06:01 PM
  • This week I’m buying my fifth XS 38. This will be my third Custom. I do dislike that awful thumb operated underlever release and that ugly muzzle lump but love the way it shoots and its accuracy. As a no frills hunter, it takes some beating especially considering the price. It will take a well deserved place beside my Air Arms TX 200 and I bet I use it most of all !! It will remain my favourite gun out of all the countless airguns I have bought in my life.  Mick George, aged 82!

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    Michael George
    13 Feb 2018 at 06:37 PM


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