Charlie Portlock Tests Two 12 Ft/Lbs Long Range Air Rifle Rivals
Note that Charlie lives in the UK. So this comparison of two long range air rifle rivals relates to air rifles working within the UK legal power limit of 12 Ft/Lbs. But the same principal also applies in the US to airguns of similar power levels.
It’s almost universally accepted that PCPs have greater range and accuracy in the field than their spring powered brethren. But, can a top of the range spring gun, match a PCP as a long range air rifle? I’m on a mission to find out…
PCP in the Red Corner
The Air Arms S410 Classic in .177. Mine was mounted with a Hawke 4-12 x40 scope and arrived with a tin of 8.44 Grain Air Arms Diablo Fields. I avoided using a bi-pod as this would have given the rifle an unfair edge in stability.
Springer in the Blue Corner
Up against this much-admired rifle was possibly the most accurate springer currently available. The HW97KT uses a thumbhole stock and is capable of one hole groups at 25 yards straight out of the box. This gun has been expertly tuned by Tony Wall in the UK and if any springer was going to give a PCP a run for its money it was this one.
What is long range?
Although a pellet may kill at 60 yards, the kill zone is tiny at that range. The vast majority of my own long range air rifle shooting is done at less than 40 yards. But for this test I settled on 30 and 50 yards as good distances.
Please remember that we’re shooting with sub-12 Ft/Lbs power level air rifles here. That means that, for example, 8.44 Grain pellets like the Air Arms Field Diabolos are being fired at a Muzzle Velocity of about 780 FPS to comply with UK laws.
To the test…
For this long range air rifle test, I set up cardboard targets at 30 and 50 yards respectively. Then I shot a control group with each rifle at both ranges. The results were unexpected.
At 30 yards the Air Arms S410 almost shot itself and even with fairly careless technique I was able to punch a one hole group. I managed something very similar with the Weihrauch but it took a lot more concentration.
However, at 50 yards, the results were surprising; the S410 did not in any way outclass the 97KT as expected. From sitting or kneeling I’m sure that the differences in hold sensitivity and weight would have become more apparent. But when shot bench-rested, the rifles were closely matched.
The 97’s pedigree as a target rifle was evident. Both rifles grouped well within an inch at 50 yards and that was down to the marksman, not the rifle.
In the field
From the hunting perspective, there’s a need to find a balance between range and responsibility.
We’re all old enough to decide exactly where to draw that line. But if you’re shooting springers at long ranges with inconsistent results then perhaps it’s time to ask yourself some hard questions!
“Am I really good enough to make clean kills every time? Or should I reduce my effective range?”
The PCP is certainly more forgiving, but does a 12-shot magazine and no recoil make you lazier or more accurate?
It’s simply not possible to hunt effectively with a springer without a diligent approach to technique and I’m not convinced that a PCP demands nearly as much awareness. On the range this isn’t too much of an issue, but it could well have more serious repercussions for our quarry in the field.
And we need to remember, too, that full power, US-specification springers can attain Muzzle Energies of around 25 Ft/Lbs. So they generally have a much more violent action than the 12 Ft/Lb model used in this long range air rifle comparison. That makes the skill level required to shoot them accurately very much higher.
There’s no doubt: the sheer versatility of the PCP is its greatest strength. The light weight and ability to be rested of PCPs should certainly get spring rifle devotees questioning whether the PCP is in fact the more ethical choice for hunting, despite its lack of soul.
I know where I stand. Do you?