American Air Arms EVOL Mini Review .22 Caliber
May 5, 2021
Supplied by Airguns of Arizona
Low shot count
Heavy cocking lever
Warranty should be better
VALUE FOR MONEY
At a selling price of $2,595.00, this American Air Arms EVOL Mini review is looking at an air rifle at the absolute top end of the price range. It’s also an unusual airgun at this price point.
This is a small, light, simple-to-use yet powerful airgun. It will be of interest to the discerning hunter looking for strong power and great accuracy from a compact air rifle.
Let’s put numbers to that. The subject of this EVOL Mini review weighs-in at just 7 Lbs 4 Oz. And that includes the scope, rings and a full magazine of pellets. The overall length is just 31 Inches with the Magpul stock fully extended. When the stock’s retracted, it’s less than 28 Inches.
And this is not a bullpup!
The EVOL Mini will also appeal to anyone who just wants to shoot. Unlike many other PCP air rifles of this price, there’s not a seemingly-endless list of controls to adjust power and shot count. In fact, there’s no externally-adjustable controls at all. Just trigger, cocking lever and safety.
If Apple made an air rifle, it would be like this!
So the EVOL Mini appeals to the discerning shooter who wants a “vanilla” approach to their sport. It’s not for the person who wants to spend a lot of time setting-up and tuning their airgun for ultimate performance. It’s ready to go straight out of the box.
Let’s be clear. For this price, we expect everything to be perfect.
And it is – well, almost…
There’s no doubt the EVOL Mini offers outstanding design and manufacturing quality. This is an airgun that’s obviously the product of a huge amount of experience, technical expertise and – yes – love. The performance is outstanding, yet there’s one glaring omission. There’s no user manual!
At least, not at the time of writing this review.
American Air Arms tells HAM that a manual is being developed for the gun. However, this EVOL Mini review is based on the gun as received, sans manual.
BUY FROM AIRGUNS OF ARIZONA
SPEED AND ACCURACY
The EVOL Mini fills to a maximum of 4,000 PSI. This is coupled with a regulator set pressure of 1,950/2,000 PSI to give strong performance for such a compact airgun. Unusually, there’s a 5,000 PSI burst disk built-in to the design. This is a rarely-encountered feature in airguns but one that’s welcome in the EVOL Mini.
|Pellet||Average Muzzle Velocity||Average Muzzle Energy||Accuracy|
|H&N Field Target Trophy Green 10.03 Grain||1,090.58 FPS||26.49 Ft/Lbs||Poor.|
|Predator GTO 11.75 Grain||1,025.65 FPS||27.45 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|RWS Hobby 11.9 Grain||994.49 FPS||26.13 Ft/Lbs||Poor.|
|Crosman Premier HP 14.3 Grain||947.81 FPS||28.53 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|JSB Jumbo Exact 14.35 Grain||955.19 FPS||29.07 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|H&N Field Target Trophy 14.66 Grain||941.17 FPS||28.84 Ft/Lbs||Poor.|
|H&N Baracuda Match 21.14 Grain||821.12 FPS||31.65 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|JSB Jumbo Monster 25.39 Grain||772.46 FPS||33.64 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
Yes, the 1,000 FPS maxima recorded in the HAM standard tests are meaningless to anyone sufficiently experienced to want an EVOL. However, they’ll definitely be interested in the 33.64 Ft/Lbs maximum Muzzle Energy that was achieved with the 25.39 Grain JSB Jumbo Monsters.
It’s also interesting to see that the EVOL Mini tested by HAM shot well with a wide range of pellets – from light to heavy. But the pellets it didn’t like, it really didn’t like. That makes it easy for an owner to find a favored pellet, although most will immediately choose to start with heavy pellets like the Baracudas or Monsters.
Surprisingly – well, at least it surprised us – this EVOL Mini review found that Crosman Premier Hollowpoint pellets performed extremely well in the test gun. These gave – just – the best accuracy, at least out to 25 Yards. We’d expect the superior consistency of Baracudas and Monsters to win out at longer ranges, however.
TRIGGER AND COCKING EFFORT
HAM specialist PCP tester Doug Rogers has shot just about every high end PCP there is. He’s also very picky about triggers. To Doug, the trigger is the heart of the gun and critical to accurate shooting.
So it was interesting to read just one word in his test notes for this EVOL Mini review about the trigger. That word was “beautiful”. Later in his notes, Doug did elaborate a little about this trigger. “I don’t think we’ve tested a better one”, he wrote. That’s about as good a recommendation as you can get!
In fact, the trigger in this American Air Arms EVOL Mini review was set to an average pull weight of just 12.9 Ounces. First, there’s an incredibly light, smooth first stage. That’s followed by a genuine “glass break” sear release that’s instantaneous, yet completely predictable.
In harmony with all physical aspects of the EVOL Mini, the side lever cocking arm is compact. However this short length has a downside…
Although the action is smooth and the knob perfectly-designed, the second half of the stroke becomes quite heavy. This is due a – presumably – rather stout hammer spring being compressed as the stroke is completed. This was a polarizing aspect of the review. Doug really didn’t like this. However Stephen Archer found it quite tolerable and not a cause for concern.
That’s why HAM reviews are almost always undertaken by more than one person. Mostly we agree, but sometimes not…
The manual safety is located above and behind the trigger. It’s ambidextrous and operates in a precise, smooth, yet decisive fashion. Very good!
Incidentally, the Aluminum magazine is robust and easy-to-load. It snaps down very positively into its position in the magazine well – probably more precisely than any other PCP magazine HAM has tested. Then it’s retained in position by a sprung ball bearing. This has to be good for the consistent, precise pellet feeding that’s a significant contributor to accuracy.
You’ll never be wondering if the mag really is perfectly located with the EVOL Mini!
All of this is very good – in fact excellent. However, you’ll have to keep track of the number of shots taken as there’s no way to see how many shots have been taken – or how many pellets remain in the magazine.
COMPARISON TO MAKERS CLAIMS
American Air Arms specifications call for the EVOL Mini to achieve a Muzzle Energy of “up to” 30 Ft/Lbs, combined with a consistent shot count of “up to” 30 shots.
In fact the subject of this American Air Arms EVOL Mini review gave somewhat hotter performance than the spec. We achieved a maximum Muzzle Energy of 33.64 Ft/Lbs with JSB Jumbo Monster pellets – well in excess of the manufacturer’s claims. Most owners will be happy with this, however it was bought at a price.
Being such a compact, light PCP, the HPA tube capacity of the EVOL Mini is just 135 cc. So the consistent shot count was heavily hit by this power increase. HAM achieved just 18 really consistent shots from a full fill.
You could argue that this could be extended to 20 “consistent” shots if we use HAM’s normal definition of consistent taking a difference of 40 FPS between the fastest and slowest shot in the string. But it’s still less than the claim, even if the reason is readily understandable.
Undoubtedly it would be possible to lower the FPS and increase the shot count to match the specs by adjusting the hammer spring tension. Hopefully such information will be contained in the forthcoming user’s manual…
And, thinking further, it would be expected that such an adjustment would reduce the cocking effort. That would make HAM tester Doug Rogers happy.
The consistency of the EVOL Mini tested by HAM was stellar!
Standard Deviation – the mathematical expression of shot-to-shot consistency in a string – was just 3.4 FPS over the 18 “consistent” shots in the HAM shootdown test with H&N Baracuda 18 pellets. That’s incredibly consistent.
That number is further supported by the average Standard Deviation across all of the standard HAM test pellets being a best-ever 2.56 FPS. Wow!
Trigger pull weight was similarly consistent. In HAM testing, it varied between a maximum of 14.9 Oz and a minimum of 12.2 Oz. The average was 12.9 Oz. That’s perfect consistency for all practical purposes!
For any air rifle of this power level, the EVOL Mini tested by HAM was considered to be very quiet. Yes, there’s no capability for attaching an aftermarket suppressor, but it’s not needed – at least in the HAM Team’s opinion.
SIGHTS AND SCOPE
As expected, the EVOL is fitted with a Picatinny top rail for scope mounting. For HAM’s EVOL Mini review we chose a relatively short, yet high quality, scope to match the design philosophy of the the gun.
So, we mounted a Sightron 3-16 x 42 scope using UTG Pro rings from Leapers. The result was very comfortable balance and a harmonious blending of surface finishes.
Like other Sightron scopes, this 3-16 x 42 model has a very fine graduated reticle. It displays a sharp, high contrast image and is easily focused by the side-mounted parallax control knob. The covered elevation and windage turrets have 1/4 MOA clicks.
Overall, this scope complemented the EVOL Mini well, although hunters might want the capability of an illuminated reticle for shots in deep cover.
As you can see from the photograph above, there was plenty of rail length to achieve the right eye relief. The Picatinny rail itself is angled down. This built-in “droop” is by design. It aids accurate shooting at longer ranges by reducing the need to apply so much elevation to the scope reticle, thus keeping the scope in its optimum operating range.
In fact, the angle is no less than 50 MOA – that’s equivalent to a 50-Inch drop at 50 Yards. That aggressive drop is a clear indication of the designer’s intent that the EVOL can be used effectively at long ranges!
The EVOL Mini is designed for shooting, pure and simple. It’s amazingly compact and balances beautifully. That trigger is just sublime!
Yes – the cocking lever is heavy to operate. But that’s not an overwhelming disadvantage. Overall, this American Air Arms EVOL Mini review found the gun to be a pleasure to use.
Among the great usability features is the positioning of the front (main) pressure gauge. Although the male quick disconnect fill nipple is positioned at the side of the tube…
… the pressure gauge is placed on the opposite side.
This brilliant design means that it’s not necessary for the shooter to look down the barrel in order to check the fill pressure. At a stroke, this overcomes one of the HAM Team’s main safety issues when using many PCP air rifles. Particularly short ones, like this. Other PCP manufacturers need to take notice!
APPEARANCE AND FINISH
Machining, fit and finish of all metal exterior parts on the EVOL Mini were simply outstanding! The HAM team has no doubt that the same quality will be found internally as well.
The pistol grip and collapsible buttstock are – of course – primarily synthetic. These are Magpul parts and are of the expected high quality. The only issue is that the collapsible stock is somewhat loose and “rattly” but that’s down to Magpul rather than American Air Arms.
That Picatinny rail underneath the barrel is about the longest I’ve ever seen in that location on an air rifle. It called-out for a bipod. So we attached an ultra-light Spartan Javelin bipod. That’s another small, light, ultra simple yet quality product that matches the EVOL’s design philosophy.
Overall, the HAM reviewers liked the EVOL’s design a lot. We’re not so sure about the logo. But hey, that’s just our subjective opinion and it in no way effects performance!
BUYING AND OWNING
The EVOL Mini is an extremely limited production, top-end airgun. As such, it’s unsurprising that it’s available from a very limited number of dealers. That would be Airguns of Arizona and the network of Precision Airgun Distribution dealers. AoA also supplies the warranty support with parts stocks and factory-trained technicians.
And – apart from the missing manual (did we mention this before?) – here’s a second opportunity for American Air Arms to improve the EVOL. This concerns warranty duration. The warranty is for three years, but just 12 months for air leaks. Given that an air leak is the most common issue with PCPs overall, that’s not very re-assuring.
It also compares badly – for example – to the five-year warranty offered by Velocity Outdoor on the $249 Benjamin Maximus. And that warranty includes air leak coverage. On a PCP costing 10x less than the EVOL…
Yes, a top-end product like the EVOL is not expected to go wrong, but that shouldn’t that be reflected in the warranty coverage?
Moving to more positive topics, the pressure gauge is wonderfully protected by being recessed deep into the “lower receiver” of the EVOL Mini. Here’s yet another aspect of the serious thinking that’s taken place on practical usability at the design stage by American Air Arms.
Overall, this is an air rifle that grows on you with use. The more we shot it, the more we liked it! It undoubtedly will be loved by the hunter who wants an airgun that’s simple, unbreakable, accurate and oozes quality.
This entire article including scoring, test targets etc is Copyright Hard Air Magazine and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the publisher.