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- Last updated: 16/12/2016
The big news is that Brocock has been bought out by the same company that owns Daystate, the Dianne Group, and former BSA Sales Manager Peter Martineau is at the helm; with Brocock founder Nigel Silcock acting in a consultative capacity during the transition. No undertakings have yet been given as to how the existing product lines will be developed or added to, but Daystate’s Tony Belas made it plain that there was no intention what-so-ever to bring the two brands together in the manner of Air Arms and Falcon.
My first chance to have a proper look at the new Wolverine C-Type. The action and stock are the same as on the buddy-bottle B-Type, but you could be forgiven for thinking it was a whole new rifle, so thoroughly do the new wide-gauge 200cc cylinder and its PA66 ballistic polyester forend piece transform the gun. The forend incorporates a Picatinny rail, so you can now mount a sling stud or bipod without affecting the stock. It seems likely too that the next generation of Wolverine stocks will combine the familiar contours of the Air Wolf style butt, with the mid-section oval of the Wolverine 303. This is certainly the case on the new 303 HiLite, which also comes with a carbon-fibre wrapped buddy bottle that increases the shot capacity by 60%, reduces the all-up weight by around a pound (0.8 kg), and brings the centre of gravity back between the hands, improving balance.
WEIHRAUCH HULL CARTRIDGE
Next another HW100 variant, this time in a dark grey thumbhole stock with lighter-grey tactile inserts in the comb, pistol grip and fore-end. It felt great, and its looks have grown on me too. There’s also a brown laminate version, which is attractive in its own way, though you can only really appreciate the layers on the butt, due to the slab-sided nature of the forend.
A new name to me was Airgun Technology. I’d seen the familiar-looking gun on their banner already. But where, Ataman, Edgun or Kalibrgun? Then I noticed the position of the cocking handle. To my knowledge none of the aforementioned makes of bullpup had placed theirs amidships, except in the case of Kalbrgun’s Colibri, which is a semi- automatic (so no good for us in the UK, however neat it is): but this gun was clearly a bolt action. AT are based in the Czech Republic; their gun is called the Vulcan and it comes in .177, .22, and .25 calibres, with magazines holding 13, 11 and 9-shots respectively; it uses a 250-bar fill and - as yet - they have no UK distributor.
Diana, by contrast, are new to gas-ram propulsion, and their take on it shows no major innovations. Nevertheless, in the new 340 N-Tec series they have come up with a good-looking gun that’s 100% German made (including the ram) and available in 3 main variants. The Luxus and Premium models differ only in the quality of the wood and chequering (walnut vs. beech; cut vs. pressed) and feature a ventilated butt pad. The Classic shows a similarly-styled butt fitted with a solid pad, a plainer, straighter forend, and no chequering. All versions feature the T06 metal trigger unit (gold-plated in the Luxus), and each can be had in standard or Pro format (open sights and a blued finish vs. no sights + muzzle weight + bead-blasted matte finish), with the latter also available in a Compact (carbine) version. As with Umarex, it’s disappointing that Diana use a muzzle weight rather than a silencer, but hopefully that’s something SMK can fix before they bring these in.
The Benjamin Marauder has been with us for a few years now, but Crosman keep refining the design. The 2014 makeover includes improving ergonomics by giving both the hardwood and synthetic stocks a height-adjustable ambidextrous comb and simpler but better-cut chequering, and by tweaking the trigger position and grip dimensions into a more harmonious relationship. Meanwhile left-handers will love the fact that the bolt is now ambidextrous –as per the Marauder pistol. Less obvious are changes to stiffen the breech block, simplify assembly, boost the shot count (by up to 30%), and dampen resonance on firing.
All good, but the Crosman PCP that’s really going to get the feathers flying here is surely the Benjamin Marauder Woods Walker: the carbine version of the Marauder pistol. This is a full-power, ultra-light, ultra-compact repeater, with a detachable 8-shot magazine, a reversible bolt handle situated at the rear of the receiver, an ambidextrous polymer stock, featuring a skeletonised butt and pistol-style grip, and a shrouded barrel with an integrated sound moderator. It’s available with either a camo-dipped barrel shroud and stock, or in plain black furniture. The price tag looks a bit hefty though!
I’ll stay with Crosman to start my roundup of mechanical guns because they’ve brought out a new set of break-barrel gas-ram guns. The result is the Nitro Piston II (NP2) platform which literally turns the original NP system on its head as the tail of the gas strut now points rearwards. Moreover, the whole strut is now housed within an outer piston shroud, whilst the piston seal is mounted on a separate piston head that is connected in turn to the main piston via an elasticated recoil arrest ring.
This has three functions: it prevents piston bounce and allows the piston shroud to keep moving forward after the seal has come to rest against the transfer port, ensuring a complete seal until the cylinder is empty. At full longitudinal compression its lateral expansion locks the piston against the walls of the cylinder, dampening any harmonic vibration. Meanwhile, a set of polymer buttons (a.k.a. “tail guides”) around the rear of the piston keep it perfectly aligned in the cylinder and eliminate metal-to-metal contact, smoothing the cocking stroke and reducing cocking effort – by as much as 10 lb. Other changes include a cylinder with over 30% more swept volume; an enhanced trigger unit called the Clean Break Trigger (CBT); fully-suppressed barrels in all models; and a package completed by a 3-9 x 32 CenterPoint scope and 1” rings. All this may well make sense at 12 ft/lbs, but the real attraction to my mind lies at FAC power-levels, where the 26 ft/lb FPE .22 NP2s could well be the sweetest-shooting and most accurate break-barrel yet produced. The rifles look good too, in sharply-styled thumbhole style-stocks in a choice of Hardwood or synthetic versions, the latter in black or Realtree Xtra camo.
Umarex have followed up last year’s break-barrel Walther LGV with an under-lever version, the LGU. The internals are essentially the same, as are the crisp two-stage XM trigger, and the fast lock time, but the new gun has – to my eyes - a much more attractive stock (a Minelli design): there’s still no walnut, only beech, but it does show a higher comb and long, semi-Schnabel tipped forend. Operation is less instinctive than working the LGV’s barrel latch. However, as the loading port opens to the right, and an anti-bear-trap ‘piston safety’ on the R/H side needs to be depressed before the lever can be closed, plus you have to support the rifle, so at first it feels like you need three hands. You do find ways round this though, and once loaded, it sits steady in the aim and scarcely moves under recoil, making it sweet to shoot. The LGU is fitted with an inert muzzle weight rather than a silencer, but maybe that’s something UK-distributors could sort out for us. The LGV and LGU are remarkably quiet out of the box, and you can fit an extra moddy via an adapter if you want!
Scarcely less interesting were Umarex’s other new 2014 springers, both of which feature the automatic tang-mounted safety, and high-spec spring of the LG-series, though they lack its rotary piston. The Century also shares its barrel latch and XM trigger with the LGV, but its own unique features are a wider (30mm) piston and a longer stroke, that together produce an ME of 17.7 ft/lbs (a tad more than the FAC LGV’s 17 FPE). Then there’s the Terrus, a lighter rifle that’s designed to run under 12 FPE, and is equipped with the simpler XT trigger, a threaded muzzle under a protective cap, and removable fibre-optic open sights. Unlike the Century, which is beech-only at present, the Terrus is also offered in a really well designed ambidextrous synthetic stock with a tactile Hi-Grip finish. As with the LGU, I shot the synthetic Terrus on Umarex’s mini-range and took to it at once. Though that’s at least partly due to designer Jürgen Klöckener letting me win our little biathlon shoot-out! (He has nothing to prove when it comes to putting pellets on target.)
FEINWERKBAU CENTRA UK
Now a genuine “blast from the past”, the new Feinwerkbau Sport. It’s great to see FWB revive this model, and they’ve done a fine job with the styling, retaining angular cues from the 1980s classic whilst still giving us something new. The butt is now properly Germanic, with a Bavarian comb, brown solid rubber recoil pad, and very nicely executed fish-scale chequering. It makes the most out of the break-barrel layout by being fully ambidextrous, with cheek-pieces on both sides of the butt, and a centrally-positioned safety lever. Other nice touches include removable open sights, with a 4-position rotating plate in the rear sight that offers a choice of notch profiles to suit the conditions. One might question the comb height, or the raised ‘ears’ machined into the breach block, or wonder what the trigger and barrel-lock-up are like. But it seems to me that this is a desirable gun rather than a maid-of-all work or a competition winner!