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 X-Box or Snap Numpty! 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 this group 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, better still 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 youngsters; and it’s a heartening sight! You will notice the majority of guns come with iron sights, which means good to shoot from the box and something that will instil initial marksmanship principles better than a scope! So here I’ve picked what I feel are ten of the best options.
Air Arms S200 (PCP)
Accuracy ½” @ 25yards Contact: Air Arms 01323 845853 www.air-arms.co.uk £472 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 barrel, so it nicely fills a gap in the market for a high quality, relatively low-priced pre-charged pneumatic (PCP). An extremely accurate recoilless action sits in slim-line woodwork, that offers a single shot, bolt-action mechanism. The result is a rifle that is as popular with ladies as it is juniors. Admittedly, the S200 no longer looks cheap, but it does represent a sound investment in a piece of quality technology, capable of superb accuracy. Expect 45-55 shots from a charge
Browning M-Blade (Spring-powered)
Accuracy 1.3” @25 yds UK Distributor: John Rothery(Wholesale) www.bisley-uk.com £130 The Browning M-Blade is another new spring model, which is deliberately low powered, and aimed specifically at smaller 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 forend, and all importantly, a decent rubber butt pad, 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 springers are concerned, low power equates to less effort and milder shooting characteristics, and that’s exactly what we get here. A good budget option then!
BSA ULTRA jsr junior (pcp)
Accuracy 3/8” @ 25 yards Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd; www.bsaguns.co.uk £369 Up until now, dedicated junior guns have been confined to the traditional spring piston or gas ram variety, but that’s all set to change with BSA’s brand new Ultra JSR! This PCP is aimed fairly and squarely at youngsters. It’s a multi-shot, utilising BSA’s latest 10-shot magazine and the spec is impressive! Bolt action, pressure gauge, beech sporter stock, quality 2-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 that this gun can be used in more confined areas, with less noise generated in the process. Beginners and juniors don’t really 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.
Crosman TR77NP (GAS-RAM)
Accuracy sub-1” @ 125 yards Contact: ASI, 01728 688555 www.a-s-i.co.uk £199 Replacing the mainspring with a contained chamber of gas or air (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 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 a radical looking, all-weather, synthetic stock, and features an intriguing storage area behind the recoil pad. There’s also a 2-stage trigger, but it’s perhaps the power to weight ratio, and good consistency a usual bi-product of gas-rams impresses the most! So what’s not to like as they say. In short, a great budget/ or beginners rifle, well up to the task, and a steal at £199 including a ‘Centerpoint’ 4x32 scope & mounts!
Gamo Junior Hunter (Spring-powered)
Accuracy ½” @ 25 yards Contact: BSA Guns (UK) Ltd www.bsaguns.co.uk £100 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 butt pad would have been nice, with an overall RRP sub £100, it’s difficult to grumble. Power is super low, 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, and 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.
Kral Champion (Spring-powered)
Accuracy ½” @ 25yds Contact Rangeright; www.range-right.co.uk £140 The Kral Champion is another conventional break-barrel design, but with full power output up to the UK limit of 12 ft/lbs. The thumbhole configuration, coupled with that oversized barrel/fore sight 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 sweet in operation, and fibre optic sights come as standard. The trigger is fairly basic, but I still managed great accuracy on test.
Hatsan Striker Junior (Spring powered)
Accuracy 1.5” @ 25 yards Contact: Edgar Brothers, 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com £124 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 gun rates well on that score! A pleasingly angular forend, coupled with a well defined cheek piece, 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 is easier. Hatsan claim 5-6 ft/lbs, and on test, chronograph figures returned around 4 ft/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?
Walther Terrus (Spring-powered)
Accuracy ¼” @ 25 yards Contact: Armex Ltd , 0121 6434900 www.armex-airgun.co.uk £260 The Terrus is a slimmed down, break-barrel, spring-piston gun 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 it tips the scales at a highly manageable 7.25lbs. A slim line 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 high grade 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.
Norica Thor GRS (Gas-ram)
Accuracy 1.2” @ 25yds Contact: Sportsmarketing; www.sportsmk.co.uk £150 The Thor GRS, from Norica, is also a junior model, and this time 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 cheek piece and 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 comfortable, although full-sized, with the main negative perhaps the ragged edges of the inside of the forend. Norica have designed the Thor GRS to produce medium power, in the region of 9 ft/lbs, and whilst not as easy to cock as some rivals here, it still handles well.
Weihrauch HW30S kit (spring powered)
Accuracy ½” @ 25yards Contact: Hull Cartridge Ltd, 01482 342571 www.hullcartridge.co.uk £199 The HW30S Kit from the renowned Weihrauch brand 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 two 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 2-stage trigger, and a smart ambidextrous beech stock. Consider that this model is designed to produce between 7 to 8 ft/lbs, and it should come as no surprise just how easy it is to cock. Their Rekord 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!
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, a PCP will require charging equipment, which will add £150-£200 onto the overall budget, whether you opt for a pump or divers 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 PCP world until a later date!