Theoben Rapid MFR Carbine Adjustable
- 6 Comments
- Last updated: 27/01/2017
Theoben originally came to prominence through their ground-breaking gas-ram concept, which ingeniously replaced the mainspring within a spring-powered air rifle, with a self-contained, air powered piston. Famously inspired by the shock absorbers on a motorbike, this clever piece of design was always destined to firmly establish a place for the company in the airgun design hall of fame.
Theoben’s foray into the PCP sector of the market, was hardly a quiet affair either, with the original Rapid 7 offering the hunter something radical, yet highly practical. With an outsized (ugly, more like) ‘buddy bottle’ at it’s heart, the Rapid concept was never going to be to everyone’s taste, yet the Cambridgeshire maestros certainly lead where others followed; and today, the format is extremely popular and widely used by other manufacturers.
The fact that a ‘Rapid 7 Owners Club’ exists at all, is surely testament to the passion and loyalty that the brand engenders. On a personal level, I could never abide having no fore-end on a rifle, and being expected to grip a cold steel air bottle instead of wood just seems crazy to me. Let’s just say I won’t be buying a MkI Rapid any day soon.
Yet Theoben aren’t the sort of company to rest on their laurels, and with an ever expanding product range, there’s now surely a rifle to suit most tastes and air rifle shooting disciplines.
The old days where Theoben really only ever catered for the hunter, (they admitted as much) with maybe a few products offering the odd token gesture to the competitive Field Target shooter, seem to be leaving us, and with their latest line-up including some HFT orientated specials along with some other models offering impressive specifications - even the most demanding of shooters needs to sit up and take notice.
The Mk4 Trigger Transformation
The test rifle here is the very latest Rapid MFR, sporting a new adjustable thumbhole stock - an exciting option to consider.
The latest MFR format itself, however, is a real eye-opener, and when you take a closer look, the technical specification begins to stack up. OK, we’re looking at an asking price of around £920, placing this model firmly at the upper end of the market, but I defy anyone to handle this rifle and not be mightily impressed. Let’s see why.
As a rabidly obsessive competition shooter, the demands of FT and nowadays mainly HFT, largely dictate which rifle I would consider. In addition, a worrying obsession with ultra-light triggers has sadly precluded many a rifle option on these grounds alone.
With the MK4 trigger unit at the heart of many of Theoben’s modern line-up, they have removed at a stroke, the major reason for a competition shooter to snub the brand. This computer designed trigger ‘cartridge’ is nothing short of superb, giving true match performance i.e. crisp, and ultra light let-off points where desired. A great trigger is a good starting point if ultimate accuracy is the goal, and the MK4 unit is just one reason why this rifle is as accurate as it is. My only gripe is the blade itself. I would prefer a more subtle straight blade, which would bring further refinement to trigger release.
Rugged and Reliable, Yet Civilised
Theoben were always superbly engineered (and finished) and with the main breech block from the Rapid series in place on this MFR, operation is both slick and reassuring. For Theoben, think ‘Land Rover’ for bold, robust over-engineered components. Nothing is spindly or fragile - just purposeful, with function guiding strong design.
The large circular bolt handle is trimmed with a rubber strip, to aid grip, and the internal mechanism is remarkable - more of which in a moment.
MFR actions still run via a buddy bottle, but with improvements with regards to the efficiency of the regulator used, Theoben have been able to utilize a scaled down 280cc capacity bottle, which is easier on the eye, being far more subtle than it’s larger 400cc stablemate.
Shot count is still impressive though, giving around 220 in .177 calibre (on test) and 300 in .22 calibre. With these latest variants, the internal plumbing has been sorted too, and the new valving brings a simple screw-off/ screw-on routine for bottle changing. No more ‘giving the bottle a quarter turn, then firing several shots to empty the air from the linking inlet’ - indeed it’s all very simple and civilized now.
Once disconnected from the rifle’s action, charging is done by screwing the air bottle directly onto a divers’ cylinder or dedicated air pump. For that reason, no adaptor is supplied.
The MFR sports a 16inch barrel, housed within a 1inch diameter shroud, that stretches to 19inches in length. This shroud obviously creates a distinctive, bull-barrel profile for the MFR, but also cleverly doubles as a silencer, by venting and dissipating the excess air within the full length of the casing. Whilst on test, I didn’t consider the MFR particularly quiet, yet the acid test is always in the field, and on more than one occasion, rabbits would stay put when their friends nearby had just been despatched - which speaks volumes for the down-range report.
And so to that rather lovely woodwork. Apparently designed in conjunction with Mick Thomas from the Hunter Field Target circuit, this thumbhole design is now available on the Hunter Carbine Rapid model too. The new adjustable features are a good place to start, and all help to boost the MFR’s credentials in any competition environment.
A Wegu style butt pad, is adjustable for height within its track, at the turn of a chunky Allen bolt. The ultra concave configuration of the rubber gives ‘shoulder hugging’ contact. An adjustable cheek-piece is the icing on the cake, again being height adjustable once the single Allen bolt has been slackened off from the reverse side. One point here though, concerns the way the cheek-piece has been cut out; with a less than perfect seam visible when the section is in the closed position. Once opened, it becomes an irrelevance, yet bear in mind the asking price for this model, and it’s a minor detail which could irritate. Having said that, this stock is one of a small initial sample run, and this tiny nit-pick aside, it’s a beautiful design.
The boldly flaired, extended fore-end nicely draws the eye away from the half concealed air bottle, and offers a proper grip to the leading hand too. The company logo is nicely etched into the underside of the fore-end, just forward of the single mounting hole to the action.
An integral wooden trigger guard provides the perfect platform for a target style grip when taking shots from the standing position, whilst the thumbhole configuration, complete with twin thumb shelves, is sublimely comfortable, not to mention functional. Did I say twin thumb shelves? Well yes. This walnut stock cleverly offers superb control whilst still being totally ambidextrous! No mean feat, so hats off to all concerned.
Theoben supply these rifles with a single shot, plastic insert, that simply pushes into the action block (and works a treat, with the bolt probe guiding the pellet home). If that doesn’t appeal, they also supply their highly regarded magazine system, which needs love and respect, being a little more fragile than some, but in operation, once in place, it is excellent.
But hold on… in addition, this rifle can also be directly finger–fed into the barrel, via the scalloped channel relieved at the side of the breech. If I’m not much mistaken, we could be fooled into thinking that Theoben do care about competition shooters after all - direct feed being the optimum loading system for maximum accuracy at the end of the day.
Over the chronograph, and over 200 shots, this regulated Rapid MFR posted a variation of just 9fps using the Air Arms Diabolo pellets supplied, straight from the tin. Sorry, did we hear that at the back? A 9FPS VARIATION OVER 200 SHOTS. I’d say that’s pretty phenomenal, and easily one of the most consistent rifles that I have tested to date.
It’s not just those startling figures that impress here though; it’s also the manner in which this MFR goes about its business. Pull the chunky bolt up, rearwards, and down into its ‘c’ shaped holding slot, and marvel at the crisp clicks and clunks as the trigger sears engage, and the hammer mechanism primes itself. Everything is super slick, smooth and utterly predictable… this is quite the most satisfying rifle I have shot in a long, long time.
All this flattery would stand for nothing if the groups didn’t print as they should, but they did! At 30yds, genuine ragged holes were easily attainable, so I soon moved to a more demanding 45yds, where superb 3/8” groups had the last word.
To say this Rapid MFR has impressed, is an understatement. What we have here, whether Theoben like it or not, is a top class, supremely accurate rifle, capable of FT and HFT competition standard performance. Oh, and by the way… feel free to go hunting with it.