Mark Camoccio selects air rifles that are perfect for introducing youngsters to the sport of airgunning…
Encouraging the next generation of shooters into our sport has never been more important, and we can all play our part in this vital process.
Getting youngsters to come along and give airgun shooting a try, is the first hurdle, and admittedly it’s not always easy prizing them away from the dreaded Xbox! But one thing’s for sure – we all have to make an effort, if we are to safeguard our sport and shooting rights for future years. Manufacturers are an integral part of this process, and designing products with youngsters in mind, is a big help, as adult fare is often way too cumbersome and off-putting.
Many airgun companies offer junior rifles of sorts, sometimes adult guns that have been adapted, and sometimes going the whole hog with smaller lighter fare, designed from scratch. The good news is that there’s been a flurry of dedicated junior models of late, aimed at the little people among us; and it’s a heartening sight! Prices quoted are approximate.
AIR ARMS S200 (PCP)
I'm starting with a well-established favourite, and whilst the S200 isn't a dedicated junior model, it has proved highly versatile. The majority of this rifle is made by CZ in the Czech Republic, for Air Arms, and sports their own top-grade CZ barrel – so it nicely fills a gap in the market for a high quality, relatively low-priced precharged pneumatic (PCP). An extremely accurate recoilless action sits in slim-line woodwork, and the result? – a rifle that is as popular with ladies as it is juniors.
Admittedly, the S200 no longer looks as affordable as it once did, but it does represent a sound investment in a piece of quality technology, capable of superb accuracy. Expect 45-55 shots from a charge.
Accuracy on test: ½-inch c-t-c @ 35-yards
Contact: Air Arms air-arms.co.uk
BROWNING M-BLADE (Spring powered)
The Browning M-Blade is another new spring model which is deliberately low powered and aimed specifically at smaller junior shooters. This one comes with scaled down dimensions overall, and there's plenty of detail and design flair. It comes well specified with a stylish fore-end, and all importantly, a decent rubber buttpad, whilst the pistol grip is slightly more compact than normal, so small hands won’t be at full stretch. Build quality is also worthy of note, and being made by Umarex in Germany, as expected, engineering is quite refined, with good quality, deep bluing on the main cylinder, and a precisely moulded synthetic stock. The barrel and breech block are coated in some plastic compound, and whilst this could so easily feel cheap, it's actually really well done, with a nice matt protective feel. Again, with juniors in mind, power is kept low, and the M-Blade operates around the 6ft/lbs level. Where spring power is concerned, low power equates to less effort and milder shooting characteristics, and that's exactly what we get here. A good budget option then.
Accuracy on test: 1.3-inches c-t-c @ 25-yards
UK Distributor: John Rothery (Wholesale) bisley-uk.com
CROSMAN TR77NP (Gas-ram powered)
Replacing the mainspring with a contained chamber of gas or air inside a 'gas-ram', is undoubtedly a clever idea (originally devised by Theoben), meaning that this type of airgun should be smoother and have less vibration on firing, than a conventional spring gun. Yet from what I've seen, the success of how the original design is interpreted by individual airgun manufacturers, varies enormously. Crosman's Nitro Piston models have been very smooth in my experience, and the TR77NP is a worthy addition. The combination of super light weight, and an amazingly easy and smooth cocking stroke, just puts a smile on the face. This model comes with that all-weather military styled synthetic stock, and this features an intriguing storage area behind the recoil pad. There's also a twostage trigger, but it's perhaps the power to weight ratio, and good consistency- a usual bi-product of the gas-ram power plant, that impresses the most! So, what's not to like as they say. In short, a great budget or beginner’s rifle, well up to the task, and a steal at £199 including a 'Centerpoint'4x32 scope & mounts!
Accuracy: Expect groups of around 1-inch over 25-yards
Contact: ASI a-s-i.co.uk
BSA ULTRA JSR Junior (PCP)
Up until now, dedicated junior guns have been confined to the traditional spring piston/ gas ram 'recoilers'. But that's all set to change with this bold step from BSA, as their Ultra JSR is a pre-charged pneumatic aimed fairly and squarely at youngsters. It's a multi-shot pneumatic, utilising BSA's latest 10 shot magazine, and the spec is impressive. Bolt action, pressure gauge, beech sporter stock, quality two-stage trigger, and floating barrel. Yet take a close look at the JSR, and it soon becomes clear that this gun is no half measure. For at last we have a properly scaled down stock that juniors can handle with ease, and whilst the action is identical in appearance to the standard Ultra, BSA have cleverly opted for reduced energy levels, down to 6ft/lbs. This has multiple benefits. Lower power means this gun can be used in more confined areas with less noise generated in the process. Beginners and juniors just don't need full power, and low power in a pneumatic equates to far more shots per charge; 80 super consistent shots, with 120 plus in the tank! Overall, the JSR is an excellent PCP option, that shoots as well as it looks.
Accuracy: 3/8-inch c-t-c over 25-yards.
Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd bsaguns.co.uk
GAMO JUNIOR HUNTER (Spring powered)
Small kids and youngsters are still growing and their muscles developing, so any prospective rifle needs to be tailored to their dimensions, physique, and limited strength. Everything about the Gamo Junior Hunter is effectively scaled down, and the result is a brilliant little rifle, dedicated to juniors. That even means a super small pistol grip- complete with attractive panels of chequering, and whilst a simple rubber buttpad would have been nice, with an overall RRP sub-£100, it's difficult to grumble. Power is super low around 3.5ft/ lbs; so, cocking is smooth and easy, and that’s just what we need at club level, to help kids who are super keen, prepared to be safe, yet not up to the rigours of full-sized kit. Despite that low power, I still recorded superb accuracy on test, so this gun is quite an eye opener, and surely one of the very best junior spec sporters on the market today.
Accuracy: ½-inch c-t-c over 30-yards on test
Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd bsaguns.co.uk
HATSAN STRIKER Junior (Spring powered)
The Striker Junior is a scaled-down version of Hatsan's popular Striker model and is obviously aimed at the budget end of the market. A composite stock keeps weight to a minimum, and it displays plenty of design flair in the moulding. Juniors like to be trendy in my experience, and black synthetics are all the rage so, this Hatsan rates well on that score. A pleasingly angular forend, coupled with a well-defined cheekpiece, is a good start, along with plenty of crisply moulded panels of chequering and a rubber butt pad. Where this rifle really scores though, is with the shortened length of pull, which should gain it many junior fans. Hatsan also keep power levels low, which in turn means cocking and handling are easy. Hatsan claim 5-6ft/lbs, and on test, chronograph figures returned around 4ft/lbs with a variety of pellets. However, at the relatively close ranges over which these guns will be used, an odd ft/lb is neither here nor there, as power becomes largely irrelevant. A good budget option then.
Accuracy: Penny sized groups over 10-yards/1.5- inches c-t-c over 20-yards on test
Contact: Edgar Brothers edgarbrothers.com
WALTHER TERRUS (Spring powered)
The Terrus is a slimmed-down break-barrel, spring piston powered airgun, designed to be a relative lightweight, yet deliver power near to the UK legal limit. It's dimensions just happen to make it very manageable for juniors and lady shots too. A super slimmed down compression cylinder helps, and in terms of weight, the Terrus tips the scales at a highly manageable 7.25lbs. A slimline beech stock contributes to that lowly weight figure, and it's also rather attractive, with natural grain on show. Power to weight ratio, is the governing factor here, and I was expecting much more kick and harsh characteristics, from such a seemingly slender power plant. Yet the Terrus is a most pleasing airgun to shoot, which frankly belies its power output. Walther are a premium brand, and with a highgrade barrel, and their quality XT trigger unit on board, the Terrus was always likely to impress. Add in great build quality, a slick firing cycle, and phenomenal accuracy on test, and I think we can say this model gets the thumbs up.
Accuracy: quarter inch c-t-c over 30-yards
Contact: John Rothery (Wholesale) bisley-uk.com
KRAL CHAMPION (Spring powered)
The Kral Champion is another conventional break barrel design, but with full power output up to the UK limit. The thumbhole configuration, coupled with that oversized barrel/foresight assembly, makes for some bold styling indeed, fairly pleasing to the eye; though the finish to the synthetics is overtly ‘plasticky’, lending a slightly garish feel to an otherwise impressive piece of kit. Get past that lairy exterior though, and this gun really does have much to offer. The stock moulding is actually very comfortable in the aim. As for the cheek piece (part of the fully ambidextrous configuration), I found I still managed good alignment with the scope, despite it looking too low. The breech lock-up is very sweet in operation, and fibre optic sights come as standard. The trigger is fairly basic, but I still managed great accuracy on test.
UK Distributor: Range Right range-right.co.uk
Accuracy: ½-inch c-t-c at 25-yards on test
WEIHRAUCH HW30S Kit (Spring powered)
The HW30S Kit from the renowned Weihrauch brand, based in Germany, ticks most of the boxes for a dedicated junior airgun. I tested the standard HW30S a few years back, which comes fitted with open sights, but this kit version comes with a sleek cocking aid fitted at the muzzle, and a Weihrauch 4x32 scope and mounts as standard, which on the face of it, looks great value for money all in. Weihrauch have also trimmed 2-inches off the barrel, and slimmed everything down still further, which in turn has lost a modicum of weight along the way. The result is a highly compact break barrel, spring piston powered sporter, that has a specially reduced power plant, a quality two-stage trigger, and a smart ambidextrous beech stock. Consider that this model is designed to produce between 7- and 8ft/lbs, and it should come as no surprise just how easy it is to cock the action. Their Rekord two-stage trigger unit helps of course, with plenty of potential sensitivity available, after some judicious adjustment. All in all, a quality option that can't fail to impress.
Accuracy on test: sub ½-inch c-t-c @ 30-yards
Contact: Hull Cartridge Ltd hullcartridge.co.uk
NORICA THOR GRS (Gas-ram powered)
The Thor GRS, from Norica combines a gas-ram power plant, with an eye-catching, if a little garish, synthetic stock. Various colours are available, which will probably appeal to younger shooters, but my blue version did have a curious odour of washing up liquid on test! As for overall feel, the ambidextrous configuration is pleasingly supportive. A well-defined cheekpiece and a decent butt pad always help, and although the trigger is basic, this model does come with a handy foresight assembly which acts as a cocking aid. The grip is also very comfortable, although full sized, with the main negative perhaps the ragged edges of the inside of the fore-end. Norica have designed the Thor GRS to produce medium power, in the region of 9ft/lbs, and whilst not as easy to cock as some rivals here, it still handles well.
Accuracy: just over 1-inch c-t-c at 25-yards
Contact: Regael Wholesale Ltd. regael.com
Recoilless pneumatics are far easier to shoot, but do bear in mind that, as with any PCP, the number of shots are limited before a recharge of air is required. Secondly, on that very note, unlike the humble spring-piston models, any PCP system will require charging equipment, which will add £150-£200 onto the overall budget, whether you opt for a pump or diver’s bottle. I think the golden rule is, if you feel you’ve arrived at your chosen sport, then investment in gear is just that- an investment. If uncertainty reigns, then stick to a more modest spring powered set-up, and leave the pre-charged world until a later date.
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