Fast-Firing PCP Air Rifle Developments – Part One
In this two-part series, HAM Publisher Stephen Archer reports on a growing trend – fast-firing PCP air rifle designs.
It’s Not Just Semi Automatic.
There’s a clear move among airgun manufacturers to move towards PCP air rifles which require the shooter to just pull the trigger to fire. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to call them fast-firing PCP air rifle designs.
This is largely because I don’t want to use the “S word”. That’s “Semi Automatic”, just between us. Well, OK, maybe that’s two words, but I don’t even want to whisper it/them for a couple of reasons…
One reason is that the whole “Semi” description runs into a whole raft of legal issues in many countries – in the United Kingdom, for example.
The second reason is that there’s many different means of achieving a fast-firing PCP air rifle. Not all of them correspond to the traditional firearms-based definition of “semi”, where the gun is loaded and brought into battery through the effect of the previous shot. So “fast firing” it’s going to be.
Fast-Firing PCP Background.
Full auto BB guns are huge sellers across the USA. That’s because they are the only legal way for most of us to enjoy the thrill of full-auto fire. And – if you still haven’t tried them – let me tell you, BBs firing from a CO2-powered airgun like this Bushmaster MPW at up to 1,400 rounds per minute are a TON OF FUN!
But that’s not what we’re talking about today. Instead, we’ll be looking at the steady increasing number of fast-firing PCP air rifle models that do not use manual cocking after the first shot. And sometimes not even for the first shot!
Firing a pellet with just one pull of the trigger from a PCP air rifle is not yet common. But it’s definitely becoming more so.
Moreover, many airgun manufacturers around the world clearly see it as the next frontier.
That’s obvious from the 2019 SHOT and IWA Outdoor Classics shows. A close look at both venues revealed fast-firing PCP air rifles from the US, Turkey, Austria, Korea, Russia and China, among others. (The Swedish FX Revolution has been around for years, already, of course).
They’re not center-stage yet, but they’re clearly a coming trend for the future. Evanix already has fast-firing big bore models, as we can see below.
The reason for the multiple design concepts being used for fast-firing PCP air rifles is simple. With the obvious exception of Big Bore air rifles, PCPs have relatively little power to be used – or maybe wasted? – in propelling a pellet downrange, let alone to load and cock the action as well.
Providing a self-acting replacement for manual operation of a bolt or lever action is not so easy, however. Hence the range of different approaches being tried by manufacturers.
Fingers Come First.
One method of providing a fast-firing PCP air rifle is to use the shooter’s finger to do the work. Here we have, essentially, a traditional revolver action in the sense that pulling the trigger advances the pellet into position for firing. Pulling further back releases the shot.
This is the operating method used by the popular SIG SAUER fast-firing, CO2-powered air rifles such as the MCX and MPX. It’s simple and doesn’t use precious air (or gas) that can better be used to propel the pellet forward.
At the 2019 SHOT Show, SIG SAUER first showed a HPA-powered version of the MCX. It’s called the Virtus and it substitutes a regulated high pressure air tank for the CO2 cartridge. It’s simple, straightforward and works very well.
I shot a pre-production Virtus on the range at SIG’s 2019 Media Day. It’s a fun, fast-firing air rifle!
Make no mistake, SIG Air will sell a ton of these fast-firing PCP air rifles. Once the Virtus hits the streets, fast-firing PCP air rifles will become commonplace among US airgunners overnight. However, with a Muzzle Energy of around 11 Ft/Lbs, the Virtus cannot be considered a high power model.
Why Not Connect A Battery?
An alternative method of positioning pellets and cocking the action is to take a leaf out of the airsoft playbook. That is, to use a battery to mechanize the operation.
Again, the benefit is that a fast-firing air rifles can be operated without using air that could be employed pushing a pellet downrange. The obvious downside is the inevitable concern about battery life.
Now, not only will PCP shooters suffer from “air anxiety” (do I have enough pressure?), they’ll also have “battery anxiety” to go along with it. But airsoft shooters seem to manage just fine…
At the 2019 IWA Show, Turkish manufacturer Kral showed a new fast-firing, electrically-operated PCP air rifle design, the Re-Volt. This has a battery located in the butt, together with an on-off switch to stop unnecessary electron drain.
In another hall at the same show, Russian manufacturer Ataman was showing an interesting electrically-operated prototype.
This employed a fairly standard sidelever action that was driven by an electric motor attached to the side of the stock. Pressing a button on the stock cocked the action and loaded the pellet.
It was certainly fast and it obviously worked. So here’s another approach to fast-firing air rifles!
This story will be concluded in part two tomorrow.