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- Last updated: 16/12/2016
Until now the most common calibres for air rifles have been .177, .20, .22 and .25 with various attempts over the years to produce larger 9mm (.38/357) and even 50 cal! I have even seen people experimenting with existing pellets and swaging up or down in size to produce a “Wildcatted” pellet design. All bespoke, but all trying to obtain that one aim of something different and hopefully better.
You could argue “Why a .30 cal?”, but I have to say “Why not!”. Sure .177 and .22 will suffice for 90% of shooters but some like me enjoy shooting the odder calibres, I run several .20 Venom/V-Mach`s and a BSA Tactical .25 which I love. So when Pat Farey and Graham Allen arrived at my house wielding the new Daystate Wolverine .303 PCP they were welcomed with open arms and a haggis fry up. (Editor: Bruce’s exploits with haggis, bacon and sausage are even more extreme than his wildcat loads and long range vermin shooting).
I have to say Daystate have outdone themselves this time; the Wolverine is a beautiful looking rifle and despite its size (44 inches total length and 9.5lbs weight) it handles very well indeed. Build quality is superb and despite it’s over sized air cylinder it really looks nice with contrasting action and barrel finishes and well designed ambidextrous walnut stock.
Barrel and Action
Despite the Wolverine’s ‘303’ monika it is actually a .30 cal (which is actually a better option) and not a .311 as the original centrefire .303 cals were,. The pellets are made by JSB and form a classic domed head and long waisted profile with 0.300 diameter head and 0.308 diameter skirt and weighing in at 50.15 grains; that`s more than three standard .22 domed pellets put together! They are sturdy enough to cope with that hefty boot up the skirt from that air pulse on firing too.
The barrel is a specially made Lothar Walther that is choked at the muzzle and 23 inches long. It sits within a matt black anodised shroud that also acts as a primary expansion chamber to catch some of the muzzle blast. The end cap is set two inches in front of the muzzle and is threaded to accept ½ inch UNF threaded sound moderators. The barrel sits squarely into a titanium action which looks gorgeous against the black of the barrel and air reservoir and has a single supporting ring just in front of the fill cap. This is removed to reveal a typical Daystate q/d fill nipple that takes 250 bar pressure in the 300 cc capacity cylinder.
The bolt action is smooth and no harder than a 12ft/lb rifle and the bolt handle is easily switchable from right to left handed operation.
Trigger, safety and magazineThe safety is in two parts; as the bolt is opened the trigger is disabled until the bolt is returned, a sensible move and also there is a manual safety slide at the back of the cylinder just above the thumb rest on the stock.
Trigger wise, there are no complaints with a trigger pressure of 3.25 lbs with a slight first stage pull and then a clean sear break. The trigger blade is a bit narrow but fine to use.
The 5 shot magazine is a precision item. Self indexing as the bolt is retracted, a new pellet is aligned to the barrel. When the air pressure drops too low a pop up stop from the action stops the pellet from getting seated into the barrel. One thing that is nice about the size of the .30 cal pellets is that they are easier to load than say a .177. Total capacity of the magazine is five pellets and I had no problems with pellet feeding throughout the tests.
This is the pièce de résistance in my view. Truly ambidextrous in design and coupled with the reversible bolt handle you have a rifle for any persuasion. The walnut has a polished oil finish and has stippled panels, not checkering. This I like as they flow with the angles of the stock giving it movement and a good grip of course.
The forend is wide but very shallow with an inset manometer to check fill pressure and a laser etched ‘Daystate’ logo. The pistol grip has a thumbs up configuration and the cheekpiece`s are mirrored on both sides and angled up to the rear to position eye to scope perfectly. The butt pad is also adjustable for height for further enhancement.
Overall the handling is excellent, perfectly balanced and you hardly notice the weight of the Wolverine at all.
Results show that the first cylinder of air, although reading 250 bar pressure, must have been slightly lower as a second tank when filled to 250 bar showed slightly higher velocities although group sizes and shot consistency were nearly identical.
What was interesting and despite the velocity drop all three of us testing the Wolverine noticed at 50 yards those 50.15 grain Emperors where all still point of aim up to shot 16-17. After which the pellets dropped off significantly.
In reality being a five shot magazine I guess you will get two magazines at ‘full power’ 94-101 ft/lbs and a further five shots at 82-95 ft/lbs average, yet if shooting at 50 yards there is no real appreciable drop on target or group size.
Regarding trajectory; when zeroed at 50 yards the group was 2.0 inches low at 75 yards and at 100 yards the groups was 6.0 inches low but using the MTC scope reticule compensation was easy. With regards accuracy, what does one expect from a Daystate! At 50 yards you really do have one big hole and this was consistent up to shot 17 in most cases which is outstanding when you think about it. It’s actually nice to only have one pellet to test and not trying to work out the best pellet combination. The groups opened out to 1.0 inch at 100 yards from the BR Pivot rest table but it was a bit windy in fairness, 5-8 mph, but still very good performance.
Out in the field I really wanted some sling swivels, as I stalk with binoculars in hand, never a rifle but despite this the handling was no real bother. I had two rabbits, one at 37 yards and one at 56 yards and the sound of the report was nearly matched by the pellet impact on the skull! I also had a rather lucky shot at a roosting pigeon that lasered at 107 yards and the pellet entered the neck and exited above the wing and it dropped stone dead, unusual for a pigeon but showing the terminal energy of that big .30 cal pellet. Not only 100 ft/lbs on tap but a much larger cross-sectional area to hit home with, transferring all that energy to the target.
Actually shooting the big Daystate is a breeze, slightly more recoil but not much, the bolt operation is the same tension as a 12ft/lb PCP but that muzzle report is like a .22 Hornet yet with a deeper boom. I had no sound moderator but did try a .30 cal full bore mod which was ok but really the dedicated Daystate design would be better, the full bore moddy resonates too much.
Some people might think the Wolverine to be a rich man’s folly and I have to say I was one of these sceptics to start with, but after actually using the Wolverine out in the field I found it to be a very capable sporting rifle. Only the limited shot charge is a pain, but no problems for target or range work though and as Graham suggested, may be a buddy bottle system next? One other thing - sling swivels would be a must for me.
To me FAC does not mean ultra-long range, yes the Wolverine will humanely dispatch game at 100 yards, but to me an FAC air rifle has always meant greater kinetic energy and a flatter trajectory at normal air rifle ranges (or even out to 75 yards). For this the Wolverine is supreme, with extreme knock down power and more importantly limited over travel of pellet that is always a problem with a .22 rimfire.
It’s a credit to Daystate that they keep pushing the envelope in air rifle design and more importantly the Wolverine 303 is made right here in Britain. GM