Believe it or not, airguns weren’t high on my agenda for IWA 2017, but once there I couldn’t ignore them. When two gun writers meet, the first question is always: “Have you seen anything good?” Quite a lot of the answers are set out below!
Look at this Ataman BP17 bullpup PCP air rifle! We don’t see many Atamans in the UK, but they do some great PCPs, and the latest model is a very tidy little ultra-bullpup called the BP17. I really like the positioning of the cocking lever, which is located a thumb-flick ahead of the trigger and can be switched across for L/H use. It’s connected to a conventional receiver at the rear of the rifle, but the linkage is neatly hidden behind a curvaceous soft-touch polymer stock. Other features include a suppressed 15-inch barrel, Picatinny rail, and a 300 bar air cylinder that I’m told will give around 30 shots per charge at .30ft/lbs in .22 calibre. All being well, a sub-12ft/lb version will be available, and there may even be a .25-calibre FAC option.
Diana has recently shown another, more respectful, take on some classic designs, by producing some of their underlever and break-barrel models in stocks inspired by the iconic Mauser K98 military rifle, and by a couple of modern hunting rifles: Mauser’s M03 and Blaser’s R8. The original Diana AR8 had a black polymer stock, but that has been supplemented this year by a nice brown laminate version. All these rifles are powered by their N-Tec gas-ram.
This year, the exotic ebullience of Turkish airgun design was more apparent than ever. We’re already familiar with Hatsan and Kral, but this year also saw new launches from shotgun manufacturers ATA and Huglu. Kral and Huglu in particular have clearly decided that imitation is preferable to innovation yet, for all that, their interpretations of familiar models by Daystate, Evanix, and GunPower still have an unmistakable dash of Turkish bling.
I was blown away by FX’s Impact in 2015 and the Streamline in 2016, but this year proved to be special. I was shown around FX’s new uber-rifle by Matt Dubber from hit YouTube channel Air Arms Hunting SA. Matt described the new FX Crown PCP as a marriage of his two favourite FX rifles: the Royale, and the Impact. You get all the techy tweak-ability of the Impact, in a rifle that looks and handles like a classic. Indeed, the Crown is arguably the first rifle FX have produced with any real attention to aesthetics, and the sleek new shapes in the stock and action block make previous model look positively agricultural. FX has a new barrel system called the Smooth Twist X. For some years, they’ve used barrels whose bores are entirely smooth up to a few inches from the muzzle, where a gentle twist — created by crimping the outside applies the necessary spin to the pellet, without creating the drag-inducing grooves cut by conventional rifling. The X takes it further! They now use a system comprising an outer sleeve and a removable inner liner. The liner is rifled for its entire length, again from the outside, and is userswitchable to offer a range and not just in different calibres, but also in twist rates to suit different combinations of pellet profile, weight and velocity. Now every part of the system can be tuned to perfection. I have never seen a rifled barrel look so perfect. As no tooling has to enter to do the job, the inner surface can be polished smooth beforehand and retains its pristine finish throughout the process. The Crown will be available in .177 .22 .25 and .30 calibre, with additional liners likely to cost under £100.
A new Russian firm is the Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant (KSPZ). The new buddy-bottle variant of their Jäger multi-shot PCP rifle looks fantastic with its long free-floated barrel and sinuously-shaped skeleton stock, the original cylinderbased model doesn’t look too shabby either. Rifles come in .177, .22, .25, .30 and 9mm calibres, with a 300-bar air reservoir and a choked Lothar Walther barrel. Barrel length is appropriate to calibre and power output, and KSPZ can set that at whatever level the customer requires and the law permits; up to a colossal 213ft/lbs in 9mm! There are refinements too: the Jäger is equipped with a combined suppressor and air stripper, a WIKA pressure gauge, a trigger/hammer block manual safety that prevents cycling of the side-lever or magazine. The trigger is fully-adjustable, and there’s an ambidextrous stock with a high comb and spacer-adjustable length-of-pull. The action is operated via a side-lever that is user-switchable for L/H or R/H use, feed is from a detachable rotary magazine that holds 12x .177, 10 x .22 or 8 x .25 pellets (the .30 and 9mm are single shot only). An optional single-shot tray is available to order. Oh, and a bullpup is in the works!
SPA (Snowpeak Airguns)
Snowpeak Air Guns (SPA) is a Chinese company that makes cheap and generally derivative airguns, but this year, I saw an amazingly compact portable compressor. Still in prototype, it is designed to run off a car battery, and intended for topping-off a PCP rifle’s air reservoir rather than filling a standard SCUBA cylinder. Crucially, it also appears to have a module to dry the air before input, thereby removing the risk of internal corrosion. A compressor like this could be a godsend for PCP users! They also had a prototype PCP rifle with a remarkably fat barrel and no air cylinder. “How does that work?” I thought. Then the penny dropped. The air cylinder was actually wrapped around the barrel, merging neatly into a suppressor at the end. Called the Artemis M30, it was a .22 with a working pressure of 250 bar. The power rating was just 7.5J, but that’s just for the Germans: as and when it reaches us I’ve no doubt it’ll be uprated to 12ft/lbs, and hopefully it will also have acquired a nicer stock and a Picatinny optics rail. All the same, it’s great to see a departure from the almost universal over-and-under format.
Nova Vista are a Chinese company based in Macau, offering break-barrel springers and multi-pump pneumatics. They’ve now moved into PCPs, and their latest guns are in an entirely different league. As well as a wellfeatured but generallyconventional multi-shot PCP called the HP-M1000 Alpha (or simply the P1), they now have a multi-pump PCP rifle called the HP-M1000 Beta (or P2) that is the basis of no fewer than 10 patent applications. No mere knockoff of the FX Independence, then? Well, no, actually, and what’s more, if it makes it to the UK it’s likely to be around a third of the price of the FX! Uniquely, the P2 uses two high-pressure air cylinders: a standard-sized reserve that can be filled to 200-bar, and a diminutive 22cc primary cylinder, which I guess works like a regulator. It takes around 50-strokes of the 3-stage pump to charge the reservoir by hand, and a further three to top up after each shot. In the US-spec model I was shown, a 2-position power wheel gives either 1000- and 800fps in .177 for around 14 or 18 shots from a full charge. Other innovative features include a tube filled with desiccant beads to dry the air before it enters the system, a safety valve to prevent over-pumping, and a cross-bolt lock for the pump lever, so that it can be used as a carry handle in the field. At 3.7kg and 110cm, the P2 didn’t feel too cumbersome! Both the P1 and P2 feed from a detachable 10-shot rotary magazine and are equipped with a shrouded barrel, an adjustable 2-stage trigger, a manual safety, and a sturdy polymer stock fitted with a rubber buttpad and sling studs. Aside from the charging system, the only significant differences seem to be that the P1 has a pressure gauge on the end of the cylinder and a nice, biathlon-style lever, whilst the P2 has its pressure gauge on the R/H side of the receiver and cycles by means of a simple side-lever.
Walther’s new Varmint edition of the Rotex RM8 PCP has a black polymer thumbhole stock that combines striking looks with convincing feel and control. As for Umarex, I was disappointed to see that there appear to be no plans to sell the awesomely cheap ($300) Gauntlet and awesomely powerful (700FPE) Hammer PCP rifles that made such a sensation at Shot Show 2017 on this side of the Pond. Instead, what was drawing all the attention was Umarex’s new MP German, a BB-firing replica of the unmistakeable MP40 SMG. They’ve done a lovely job with it, especially in the Legacy version, which shows a distressed (battle-worn) finish. At 3.5kg, it has a convincing heft that, complemented by its fully functioning bolt, folding stock and mag release, plus the option of an historically-correct leather sling, make it feel much more like a respectful recreation than a mere toy. It shoots too! The detachable magazine takes two 12g CO2 capsules in the base, whilst at the front of the mag there’s a spring-loaded follower with a handy thumb-tab, and room for up to 50 BBs in a double-stack configuration. In most countries, the MP German will be sold in full-auto guise, but even our semi-auto-only version will have an authentic blow-back action. Sure, it uses a lot of CO2 but the gains in authenticity and fun are well worth a bit more gas. How about a proper British STEN next year guys? My other pick is a very different sort of replica. They built replicas of the classic Colt SAA ‘Peacemaker’ revolver in BB- and pellet-firing versions a couple of years back. This year, there are 7.5-inches longbarrelled models, which gives a longer sight radius and ups the MV by around 40 FPS. The 12g CO2 sits in the grip, pellets or BBs loaded individually into each of the six nickelplated dummy cartridges supplied with the gun, and a flip-open gate for loading/ unloading. As well as a standard blued version with wood-look plastic grips, there are also two special editions: one to mark the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service and the other to celebrate the longevity of the US National Rifle Association (est. 1871). The former shoots BBs, features a silver Marshal’s star on the left grip scale, wood-look grips and a thoroughly weathered finish, designed to make it look as though it has seen “years of service in a lawman’s holster”. The latter is a pellet gun, with a metal NRA emblem inlaid into the L/H grip scale, walnutlook grips, an antiqued finish, and a back strap inscribed with the 2A mantra: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. The historic theme is continued by another special edition, this time a 5.5-inches BB model called the Ranger, which is similar to the US Marshal model but has black grips with a Ranger badge in the L/H grip scale, and comes with a leather holster. More radical is a Custom Shop limited edition, designed for “quick-draw” shooting and duly equipped with a stubby 3.5-inch barrel with compensator slots where the front sight would normally be and a hammer specially designed for ‘fanning’ with your weak hand.
In essence, the HW44, as Weihrauch have dubbed their new wunderwaffe, is a pistol version of the HW110 PCP rifle they launched last year. It offers side-lever cocking (the action can also be ordered in L/H configuration, i.e. with the lever on the right!), a 10-shot magazine, adjustable, 2-stage trigger, Picatinny rail, ambidextrous grip, on-board pressure gauge, manual safety, and will come in .177 and .22. With its polymer receiver, it weighs 1.3kg; making it surprisingly handy, despite its 33.7cm length. Filled to 200 bar, and set to operate at a UKlegal 5.5ft/lbs (7.5J), it should give as many as 105-shots per charge in .177 and 125 in .22. he HW110, meanwhile, is now being offered in an FAC-rated version in .177, .22 and also .20. Power levels are quoted at 22-, 30- and 23ft/ lbs respectively, each giving around 35-shots per charge. The FAC rifle variant should be here first, with the pistol due to arrive in time for Christmas.
Anschütz: www.anschuetz-sport.com RUAG UK; www.ruag.co.uk
Diana: www.diana-airguns.de. (UK) Edgar Brothers Ltd; shootingsports.edgarbrothers.com
FX Airguns: www.fxairguns.com. (UK) ASI; www.a-s-i.co.uk
Huglu: www.huglu.com.tr. (UK) ASI; www.a-s-i.co.uk
Nova Vista SPA (Shaoxing Snow Peak Air: http://nova-vista.co
Gun Factory): www.china-airrifle.com
Walther/Umarex: www.umarex.de. (UK) Armex. www.armex.co.uk