Mark Camoccio checks out 10 different junior rifles
Any newcomer to our sport, and youngsters in particular, can easily be put off right at the start, by over sophistication of the equipment on offer. Hand any youngster a large heavy and ungainly adult sporting rifle for example, and the length and weight will be a real handful. Just reaching for the trigger can force tiny hands to be overstretched and strained, whilst full-size stocks are impossible to shoulder properly if you are a slightly built 9 or 10-year-old for example. The good news is that an increasing number of manufacturers are taking the problem seriously, and introducing their own dedicated junior models.
And for the best of these, read ‘no frills’ uncomplicated design. For this reason, little can compete in the simplicity stakes with the humble break barrel, spring-powered sporter. Little wonder then, that eight out of the ten rifles featured here, are break barrel designs, although two of these carry gas-ram internals, where a contained chamber of air in a gas-strut replaces the conventional mainspring. Two others are pneumatic, and whilst three aren’t strictly junior rifles, they have all been selected for their ease of handling, slick design and relative lack of weight.
KRAL DEVIL (SPRING POWERED)
The Kral Devil is a conventional break-barrel spring-piston design air rifl e, and despite the fact that it generates full power, it’s still reasonably light and user-friendly, making it easy to handle by younger shooters. The model shown here sports the black composite stock and comes complete with an arrestor block, fi bre optic open sights and muzzle sight/cocking aid assembly. The fi nish to the synthetics is a bit 'plasticky', but Wood or cammo versions of the stock are available too, so there's plenty of choice. The stock moulding is actually very comfortable in the aim, and the breech lockup is very sweet in operation. Cocking the action requires only moderate eff ort, and whilst the trigger is fairly basic, overall, the Devil has a lot to off er the beginner and junior. Defi nitely one to grow into.
Contact: Range Right - www.range-right.co.uk
Price: £150- £190
HATSAN ALPHA (SPRING POWERED)
The latest dedicated junior spring-powered model from popular Turkish brand, Hatsan is ideal for stress free shooting sessions. The barrel is a steel liner within a rather trendy full-length moulding, which includes a synthetic shroud, cocking aid/ foresight assembly and even a synthetic breech block. The adjustable rear sight is synthetic, as is the stock, trigger and guard. The trigger is 2-stage, there’s an automatic safety catch and synthetic scope rail, including arrestor. The Tru-glo fi bre optic sights are a great feature, but the dual rail system means fi tting a compact scope is also on the cards, if and when deemed necessary. A short cocking stroke and deliberately scaled-down internals means easy cocking and handling are assured, and whilst power is therefore fairly low, this model is a perfect intro to our sport.
Contact: The SportsmaN Gun Centre - www.sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
BROWNING M-BLADE (SPRING POWERED)
The Browning M-Blade is another deliberately low-powered springpiston airgun aimed at junior shooters. Scaled-down dimensions overall include plenty of design fl air. It comes with a stylish forend and a rubber butt pad, whilst the pistol grip is properly formed to accommodate small hands, so the trigger fi nger won’t be straining to get comfortable. The barrel and breech block are coated in a plastic compound, and whilst this could feel cheap, it’s actually really well done. Power is around 6 ft/ lbs, meaning less eff ort and milder shooting characteristics all around.
Contact: John Rothery (wholesale) - www.bisley-uk.com
AIR ARMS S400 (PCP)
The Air Arms S400 still stands as one of the best straightforward pneumatic designs on the market. OK, admittedly this model isn’t a dedicated junior specifi cation, and as with any PCP, the cost of charging gear (normally £100- £150) needs to be factored in, but plump for the carbine model and weight is trimmed to a highly manageable level. The most pricey model here by some margin, but you would be introducing any youngster to serious performance in a slickly produced package. Again, with more adult dimensions, maybe a gun to grow into, but one to aspire to, once it can be coped with.
Weight 6lbs (5.5lbs Carbine)
Contact: AIR ARMS - WWW.AIR-ARMS.CO.UK
BSA JUNIOR ULTRA JSR (PCP)
The Junior Ultra JSR was a bold move by BSA, as the fi rst PCP aimed specifi cally at youngsters. It utilises BSA’s 10-shot magazine system and shows a bolt action, pressure gauge, beech stock, quality 2-stage trigger and a fl oating barrel. The major feature is the properly scaled-down stock that juniors can handle with ease. Beginners and juniors just don’t need full power. The lower power means this gun can be used in more confi ned areas with less noise generated and equates to far more shots per charge - 80 super consistent shots and 120+ in the tank! Overall then, the JSR is another excellent PCP option that shoots as well as it looks.
Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd - www.bsaguns.co.uk
NORICA THOR GRS (GAS-RAM POWERED)
The Thor GRS, from Norica, is another junior model, and this one is fi tted with a gas-ram, which is smooth to cock and slick to fi re. The eye-catching synthetic stock is maybe a little garish, but various colours are available, which will probably appeal to younger shooters. The overall feel is spot on, with the ambidextrous confi guration pleasingly supportive. A well-defi ned 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 forend. Norica has designed the Thor GRS to produce medium power, in the region of 9 ft/lbs
Contact: Edgar Brothers - www.edgarbrothers.com
SMK XS36-1 (SPRING-POWERED)
Sportsmarketing produces a huge range of airguns, and whilst the XS36-1 isn’t marketed as a junior model, the under-lever design is relatively easy to cock, despite producing double-fi gure energy levels. Unusually available in .22 calibre only, this rifl e sports a very attractive angular hardwood stock, which is quite short, yet provides plenty of support. Excellent fully adjustable open sights even allow for interchangeable elements up front. Opt to fi t a scope, then there’s an arrestor block built-in, but the rails are short. There’s an automatic safety, which is important given the open breech design, but the robustness that comes with the fi xed barrel is part of the draw. It’s the heaviest gun in my line-up here, so take that into consideration, but this popular model does serve to illustrate the choice of options available to any newcomer to our sport
Contact: Sportsmarketing - www.sportsmk.co.uk
WEBLEY VMX CUB (SPRING POWERED)
The VMX Cub is one of the latest models from Webley and is a good-looking traditional springer aimed at youngsters. All the same attributes are here as its larger stable mate - the Classic, but in a scaled-down format, and with its break-barrel confi guration and attractive chequered hardwood stock, it really looks the part. Fibre Optic open sights come as standard, as well as a 2-stage trigger, rubber butt pad and Powr-Lok mainspring. Webley has designed the Cub to produce between 5-6 ft/lbs. It has a shorter cocking stroke and a weaker mainspring so is signifi cantly easier to cock than a fullsize airgun. A weaker spring in kinetic terms translates to a milder trigger which can be set lighter, and reduced energy means less recoil.
Contact: Highland Outdoors - www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk
WEIHRAUCH HW30S KIT (SPRING POWERED)
Weihrauch’s HW30S kit comes with a cocking aid fi tted at the muzzle, a 4x32 scope and some mounts as standard. Two inches have been trimmed off the original barrel length and a diet overall means a reduced weight. The result is a highly compact break-barrel airgun that has a specially reduced power plant and quality 2-stage trigger. This time, power output is in the region of 7 - 8 ft/lbs, so unsurprisingly, cocking the action is very easy. Weihrauch, of course, means German quality, and their renowned Rekord 2-stage trigger has plenty of potential sensitivity available after some judicious adjustment - perfect for engendering good trigger technique at an early age.
Contact: Hull Cartridge Ltd - www.weihrauch.co.uk
GAMO JUNIOR HUNTER (SPRING POWERED)
Gamo’s Junior Hunter is eff ectively scaled down. The result is a brilliant little rifl e, perfect for encouraging little people to take up shooting. There’s a super small pistol grip complete with chequering, and whilst a simple rubber butt pad would have been nice, with an overall RRP sub £100, and everything else so well thought through, this model still makes a lot of sense. Power is super low at around 3.5 ft/ 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 just not capable of lifting or safely handling full-sized kit. Despite that low power, great accuracy is still possible, so this gun is quite an eye-opener, and given its diminutive stature and specifi cation, it’s surely one of the very best junior guns currently available today.
Contact: BSA guns (UK) - Ltd www.bsaguns.co.uk