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Top End Airguns - Best of the Best

This month’s special covers a sample of some of the very finest airguns currently available, and when you consider the sheer number of makes and models now vying for a slice of the market, it speaks volumes for the healthy state of the industry and scene today. For yes, there is indeed a multitude of top-end guns now available, crammed with sophisticated features, and built to an extremely high standard. Space restrictions mean I’m only covering a selection here, but a word of warning; it’s liable to set the pulse racing. So, if you happen to have several thousand pounds burning a hole in your pocket, then sit back and drool, because it could be time to consider your next move! All prices are ball park.

  • Anschutz 9015

    Anschutz 9015

    RUAG Ammotec UK Ltd, 01579 362319, www.ruag.co.uk £3270
    Anschutz, is well-respected for their indoor 10m target airguns and various models have evolved over the years. A big part of the loyalty shown towards the brand, is down to the fine engineering and build quality, for which they’re renowned. Several specialist outfits have produced full power conversions over the last couple of decades, and with two World FT titles being taken by Airmasters converted model 8002s in this time, popularity in the name remains high. The latest 9015 One model brings incredible adjustment from the stock, and features an aluminium chassis, with separate cheek, pistol grip, and forend components, similar in modular design to the Steyr LG110. It’s highly versatile, and can be set for the individual, with perhaps the central articulation the stand out feature. A top flight match trigger is a given, along with an air of sophistication that’s hard to beat. Jon Harris is an FT shooter who has been customising and offering full power conversions to the latest model, yet with Anschutz now advertising a factory full-power FT specification on the drawing board, and a simplified Hunting version, there are plenty of options to mull over. The simplified Black Anthracite stock option is available for £2185, whilst the Hunting model will be around £2160. FT version RRP and availability to be advised.

  • BSA Goldstar SE

    BSA Goldstar SE

    Contact: bsaguns.co.uk £899
    BSA is a famous British name, and whilst their factory may now be only a fraction of its former size, it still produces a variety of models, including all the pneumatics, on its hallowed ground in Birmingham. A dynamic sales and marketing team have transformed the company in recent years, and a succession of new models have shown intent for sure. They now offer an appealing line-up of models, and a fan base to match, and the Goldstar SE, named after a famous BSA motorbike, has been a success from the off. A fully adjustable stock, including a front stock raiser plate, cheek piece, and butt pad assembly, means the serious competitor can set it to their exact requirements; and it’s well worth taking the time to do so! In addition, an adjustable, 2-stage trigger, regulated action and adjustable, factory-fitted air-stripper all come as standard. It all sounds good on paper, but this model has proved it has what it takes, with several tournament wins on the HFT circuit. Overall, it’s a well thought out, fairly compact format, with a unique feel- available in single or multi-shot.

  • Rapid Air Weapons TM1000

    Rapid Air Weapons TM1000

    Michael Tawn Airguns, 01945 420770 www.tawnadoairguns.com £1679
    Rapid Air Weapons, or RAW as they are known, are a relatively new name on the airgun scene, yet their TM1000 competition rifles have earned a reputation, with several top flight wins at national level. RAW is apparently a British company that produce their rifles in the USA, and their trademark, over-engineered, chunky components are all part of the appeal. What I like is the relative simplicity of the layout, with an ultra robust breech block, supporting a free floating barrel. Absolute direct feed to the barrel is also a feature of the design, whilst the delightfully slick side lever is a match for anything available, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality. The laminate stocks, unusually made in-house at their factory, are particularly impressive, and can be supplied with either a butt hook or rubber alternative. A full-blown specification with laminate woodwork has proved highly popular, and looks fantastic, yet walnut stocked versions come in cheaper, trimming the RRP significantly. As an import from the States, final retail prices are dependent upon the exchange rates and duties applicable at the time.

  • Ripley AR5

    Ripley AR5

    Contact: Ripley Rifles, 01773 748353, www.ripleyriflesgb.co.uk £1250 (action-only)
    Steve Wilkins started his business, engineering custom rifles several decades ago, yet this premium brand is still going strong, and renowned around the globe. Hand made in England, these guns are sold on an ‘action- only’ basis, with the customer either opting for one of the stock models from ‘Custom Stock’, supplied by Steve, or sourcing their own bespoke timber elsewhere. A short lock time, slick muzzle brake, match trigger, and silver finish, are all features synonymous with the brand, whilst a regulated action ensures consistent velocity readings over the full charge. Top shot Andy Calpin did Ripley no harm at all, when he dominated the scene a few years ago, with one of their guns, until Air Arms poached him with an EV2. Yet, with several top shots still successfully competing with these models on the FT circuit, it’s clear that Steve’s AR5 blueprint has stood up well to the test of time.

  • Air Arms FTP900

    Air Arms FTP900

    Air Arms, 01323 845853, www.air-arms.co.uk £1716 /£1820
    As the most successful FT rifle on the circuit, Air Arms’ EV2 had built up quite a reputation; so any replacement needed to be something special. The FTP900 had this unenviable task, yet with a sensational, fully-adjustable laminate target stock, designed by three times World FT Champion, Nick Jenkinson, and a host of on-board features as standard, it certainly looks the part. Superb balance belies its surprising heft of 11lbs, but get past the weight, and there’s plenty to get excited about. The shrouded barrel comes complete with a muzzle brake/air stripper, there’s a fully adjustable, match-grade trigger, and of course that exquisitely designed side lever and breech block. It looks utterly stunning, and is indeed an exercise in fine engineering, and a perfect showcase of just what Air Arms is capable of. Yet, with a string of wins across both HFT and the FT circuit, including a World Championship, this flagship model clearly has what it takes!

  • Steyr LG110 FT

    Steyr LG110 FT

    Harry Preston (Steyr UK), 01904 705401 www.steyr-uk.co.uk £1600-£2000
    Steyr is a brand which has really taken off on the UK FT/HFT competition circuit over the last few years, and is similar to Anschutz with regards to its central aluminium chassis, around which the action is based. Again, top competitors often customise the removable cheek piece, grip, and forend riser plate (hamster), but with a multitude of adjustments to make, the shooter can set the rifle up to suit their build and physique. A neat side cocking lever is part of the design here too, as is a full, Match-grade trigger unit, and whilst looks are again akin to something from Robocop, a growing fan base is testament to their effectiveness. Talk to many FT (and HFT) shooters, and they speak of the relative simplicity of the design, and with several individuals offering a modifications service, Steyr has really established itself within the competition community. Build quality is sometimes criticised, but you simply can’t argue with a raft of tournament wins for this top Austrian brand!

  • Daystate tsar

    Daystate tsar

    Daystate, 01785 859122, www.daystate.com £1949
    Daystate have a proud tradition in outdoor airgun competition, yet were absent from the FT scene for a few years, as they concentrated on other sectors of the market. Hard to believe that their Grand Prix model dates back to 2007, so another FT gun really was long overdue. The Tsar, a joint project with Russian brand, Ataman, represents a welcome comeback to competition for Daystate, and this model is suitably sophisticated, aimed at connoisseurs, eager to fight for silverware. The stock is formed from distinctive slim-line laminate, with an adjustable anatomical pistol grip and cheek-piece, along with a striking multiadjustable butt hook assembly. Look to the forend, and there’s a fully adjustable stock raiser too. A stainless steel, Lothar Walther barrel is another impressive feature, and this is capped off by a sleek, new design muzzle brake. Ataman valving and regulator are fitted, so all in all, a top flight model, designed specifically for outdoor tournament shooting.

  • FX Impact

    FX Impact

    A.S.I. 01728 688555 www.a-s-i.co.uk £1599/ £1645
    FX Airguns of Sweden are a ground-breaking company and their latest Impact model, is radical to say the least, and simply bristling with features! It’s a Bullpup, with the multi-shot action set to the rear. The stock is modular, with a grip section, cheek piece panel, and butt pad- all fixed around a distinctive breech block. There’s the usual super slick side-lever that they do so well and high capacity magazines - 16- 22 shots in .177 and 18 in .22. The buddy bottle combines aluminium with carbon fibre, which keeps weight down, whilst maintaining strength. The end result from the 500cc bottle is an astonishingly high shot count, of between 600-700 dependent upon calibre. But there’s more! The fitted silencer is actually telescopic, so can be adjusted. A new design of regulator is fitted, and this model even comes with a power change dial with five settings! Perhaps the most glamorous feature though, concerns the option of interchangeable calibres, should you decide to invest a further £275 on an additional barrel kit. The Impact uses FX’s Smoothtwist barrels, which are superb and everything comes in its own fitted case. OK; you certainly pay for the privilege of owning this rifle, but there’s a lot to get excited about!

  • Diana 56TH

    Diana 56TH

    Edgar Brothers, 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com £599
    This model happens to be the only springpowered gun in this line-up, yet it serves to illustrate the diversity and innovation of design available in today’s airgun market place. In much the same way as the now sadly discontinued Air Arms TX200 SR, this Diana incorporates a sliding action, which effectively means that the firing cycle is nearly recoilless. As the trigger is pulled, the piston moves forward as normal, but at the same time, the entire action assembly moves backwards on an internal sledge, by approximately half an inch. Whilst this may sound disconcerting, in practise, the experience is very satisfying. As it displays characteristics of a pneumatic, in that unlike a normal spring-powered gun, holding the action in a different place will not result in a change of impact. Specialised Target Hunter trademark thumbhole stocks really elevate them too and the one fitted to the 56 is a chunky, bold affair, offering plenty of detail where it matters. So, if soulless pneumatics leave you cold, and just thinking about the demise of the Whiscombe brand brings an understandable tear to the eye, then the Diana 56TH, with its uniquely selfcontained, semi-recoilless shooting experience, may just be the answer!

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