Mark Camoccio selects 10 air rifles that are perfect for hunting and pest control duties…
Take to the field after live quarry, and the hardware needs to be well thought out, comfortable, accurate and reliable.
All the rifles here have plenty to offer the outdoor sportsman or woman, and whilst the majority are pneumatics with pedigree, I have also included a couple of my favourite spring powered models, which are highly capable rifles, given the right conditions.
Air arms S510 TDR (PCP)
The S510 TDR is the latest version of Air Arms' special Take Down Rifle, and this time, it gets the barrel shroud and side lever from the S510, along with a larger hard case to put it in. Increased case dimensions mean that some of the low-profile appeal has gone, yet the big plus is that the new Q-Tec silencer included, can now be left on and packed away in situ. The winning combination of a quality, genuine two-stage trigger, Lothar Walther match quality barrel, consistent power plant, and great Air Arms build quality and finish, make this latest TDR every bit as desirable as the standard model on which it's based. Air Arms quote a conservative shot count with this model, but we've had just under 70 super consistent shots from the test rifle, so have no fears on that score. The Air Arms magazine system is nice and simple too. Add in the ingenious way that the action comes apart and stows away, and it's hard not to be impressed by surely the best take down hunter of them all!
Accuracy tested: just over quarter inch c-t-c over 35-yards.
Brocock bantam compatto HI-LITE (PCP)
Brocock's standard Compatto gave us a new approach, since it moved the action around 5-6-inches further back, but unlike a full bullpup design, still allowed for conventional use of the stock cheek piece. The Bantam Compatto Hi-Lite, builds on the success and popularity of the Compatto, but switches power source to a sizeable front mounted buddy bottle, meaning that shot count is huge. Weight is also reduced with use of carbon fibre for the bottle and, for fans of this style of PCP, it’s a welcome development for sure. The PCP bolt action uses the standard rotary 10-shot magazine and comes complete with an integral pressure gauge, two-stage semi-match trigger, Slingshot hammer system, re-settable safety catch, stained and lacquered ambidextrous skeleton beech stock, with adjustable cheek and butt sections, a reach-forward scope rail, full-length barrel shroud incorporating a built in baffled silencer and adaptor for second stage silencer, and adjustable power to 3-levels. In short, that's quite some specification sheet, and a clever evolution of the Compatto format.
Accuracy: sub half inch at 35-yards
FX streamline (PCP)
Compact and versatile sums up this new model from those innovative chaps at FX over in Sweden. Looks-wise, the Streamline is just as its name suggests – unfussy, smart but maybe a little conservative. Look closer though, and it comes bristling with features that are what we have come to expect from FX. Firstly, the pneumatic action is regulated, and can boast an impressively high shot count. Then there's the shrouded Smoothtwist barrel that has the option to fit a secondary silencer. There's a highly competent two-stage trigger, manual safety catch, manometer, and of course that ultra-subtle side-lever. FX's multishot system is here too, and this time an 11-shot magazine sits at the heart. There's even an on-board power adjuster, with three power levels 4ft/lbs/ 8ft/lbs/ 11.5ft/lbs (approx.), and with 200 shots in .22 calibre recorded, set to full power on test, this is an impressive rifle for sure. Our gun was right-hand walnut spec. but a synthetic stocked version is also available, and this will trim the asking price by around £100.
Accuracy on test: just over quarter inch c-t-c over 35-yards.
Weihrauch HW100 KT Synthetic (PCP)
Best described as ‘typically Weihrauch’, the HW100 family are well designed, super solidly engineered rifles, from one of the most famous names in airguns. The new Olive synthetic thumbhole stock is a clever addition to the range, and with soft grey inserts around the grip and forend, it feels great in the aim. Pick up an HW100 and it soon becomes obvious that you’re holding a properly engineered rifle, built to do a job. Yes, it's true that Weihrauch have made little changes to the original specification of the action since the outset, yet the success of this model is proof that they got it pretty well right from the outset. Their rotary mag, with its multi tooth, retention and indexing system, is one of the very best on the market, and whilst I’m no fan of guns that need their cylinder to be removed for charging, here, Weihrauch have arrived at an ideal spec where the cylinder can be charged in situ, yet still be removed for safety inspection at some point further down the line. All very reassuring. Weight 7.5lbs
Accuracy: quarter inch c-t-c @ 35-yards on test.
Walther rotex RM8 varmint (PCP)
The Walther brand, built by Umarex in Germany, has earned a reputation for quality over many years, but their foray into the buddy bottle sector, was a while coming. The Rotex RM8 offers an unregulated compressed air design, with a 200cc bottle at its heart, and an 8-shot rotary magazine, neatly installed in the breech block, and it all works well. The new Varmint version of the Rotex RM8 is a clever addition to the range and brings further versatility to this popular buddy bottle fed model. The new thumb-hole configuration feels distinctly different from the original spec, with that attractive swell of the forend creating a hand shelf, with much the same sweep as the latest BSAs for example. In other words, the Varmint stands as a clear option from the original model, which is as it should be. We still get the huge shot count (in the region of 180 on test) from the buddy bottle fed action, and all the same features are here; just sitting in a great handling synthetic stock. Factor in the sweetly weighted twostage trigger, and this model has to be seen as great value for the current asking price. Weight 8.5lbs.
Accuracy: sub half inch c-t-c at 35-yards.
Gunpower stealth MKIII (PCP)
Unorthodox, and fairly unique in its utilitarian styling and construction, the British made Gunpower Stealth is aimed at a certain sector of an increasingly demanding market, that has a desire for semi military styled airguns. Whilst this type of rifle will most definitely not be to everyone’s taste, (features such as a rather crude trigger and safety do it no favours) having shot one extensively on test, I can certainly vouch for its large shot count (derived from the sizeable buddy bottle that effectively forms the cheekpiece and butt), and serious performance on offer. Styling is admittedly a little bit Star Trek, yet the pop open breech and direct feed action, is not only efficient, but has a unique and endearing charm about it. Enormous shot counts of 450 plus from a 500cc buddy bottle, may account for much of the brands popularity, but genuine ragged holes over 25-yards on test, that could support a .22 pellet, may also be part of the reason, why these rifles continue to go down a storm Stateside.
Accuracy: quarter inch c-t-c at 25-yards.
Air arms ultimate sporter (PCP)
One of the new breed of high-end Air Arms models, the Ultimate Sporter is aimed at the serious hunter, who demands refinement and versatility from their chosen kit. This model comes complete with a fully adjustable ambidextrous laminate stock, which is superbly finished, and allows for the cheek piece to be raised and lowered as well as the butt-pad to be adjusted. The result is a sporting gun that can be made to fit the shooter, relieving stress and muscle fatigue in the aim. The action is based on the company's highly successful S510 action, which incorporates that super slick side lever, and of course the Air Arms 10-shot rotary magazine system (same as fitted to the TDR). With just a simple rotary centre, free from any wind-up mechanism, the magazine cassette has proven to be one of the most reliable on the market too. Other features include two-stage trigger, sling mounts, an accessory rail, shrouded barrel, and the latest Q-Tec style silencer. All in all, a seriously refined piece of machinery. Weight 7.1lbs
Accuracy: 3/8-inches @ 35-yards on test.
BSA R10 SE CCS (PCP)
BSA's R10 has proved a popular model in their line-up over the last few years. It's a multi-shot bolt action, regulated pneumatic, with a 10-shot magazine, 200cc on-board buddy bottle, two-stage, semi-match trigger, and that deliciously stylish walnut stock. The latest version is even more versatile, and the clever bit is that the R10 SE CCS can be easily altered to allow the shroud to be added or removed - that's the CCS bit, denoting 'Customer Configurable Shroud'. BSA supply all the necessary parts in the box, along with the rifle, and there's no doubt it adds a new dimension and a bit of fun for those of us that like to tinker. Shroud and silencer, or just the silencer, the choice is yours, giving the R10 SE CCS a distinctively different look. Noise suppression and accuracy are pretty well identical, in either guise; so, it's a cosmetic exercise at the end of the day, but clever marketing from BSA nonetheless. For what it does, is allow us enthusiasts to alter the look of our gun, without actually seriously changing it at all; so, effectively two guns in one!
Accuracy: 3/8-inch c-t-c over 35-yards
Webley VMX OS quantum (Spring)
This no-nonsense, traditional, spring-powered model is the latest incarnation of the company's Valuemax specification, and they really do punch way above their weight in terms of performance.
The synthetic stock is the obvious eye catcher, but it also comes fitted with that snazzy, full-length barrel shroud, that incorporates sound suppressing features within the body tube. Synthetic stocks are comparatively cheap to make, so help keep production costs down, but their ultra-robust, knock-about qualities also make them highly practical for many shooters. The VMX OS Quantum is a full-sized adult airgun, yet given its inherent light weight, it can be equally suited to younger shooters and novices alike. The moulded pistol grip is quite thick, but a well-proportioned forend and defined cheekpiece lends this model a purposeful profile. The rear section is hollow in places, which can slightly increase noise resonance, but the finish of the stock feels good.
Performance wise, the Venom inspired Powr-Lok mainspring and guide, ensure very smooth power delivery, yet the trigger is fairly basic, despite a wide nicely curved blade. That aside, these rifles handle and shoot really well, and are something of a bargain at the asking price.
Accuracy: 3/8-inch c-t-c over 25-yards
Diana 280 classic (Spring)
The super compact 280 has been one of my all-time favourite break barrel springers, ever since I first tested one several years back. It's the combination of Diana's pedigree, great build quality, and a super neat, highly practical design. For the 280 Classic, weighing in at 7lbs, offers full-power performance, in a delightfully slim-line package. Previous Dianas have slightly irritated with the inclusion of plastic trigger blades; spoiling otherwise well-engineered rifles. No such problem here though, since the latest models to leave the Mayer and Grammelspacher factory all sport the highly regarded T06 metal spec trigger unit. This features a broad, neatly ridged surface on the blade, and a clean breaking, relatively light release, this 2-stage unit really aids performance, and must go some way to explaining the impressive down-range performance. In short, what we have here in the Diana Model 280, is a hard hitting, ultrasleek, super accurate sporter, that can definitely multi-task. Ladies and juniors will appreciate the dimensions, though effort around the cocking/breech area may be a little challenging. As a lightweight hunting tool, though, the scaled-down elegance of the 280 excels.
Accuracy on test: quarter inch c-t-c over 30-yards.
Contact: shootingsports. edgarbrothers.com
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