Western Airguns Sidewinder Air Rifle Test Review .22 Caliber
Testers: Stephen Archer
Test Date: Feb 9, 2023
Serial Numbers: WS0000004
Source of Supply: Supplied by Western Airguns
We Don't Like
Mag locking lever a little small
Only 12 months warranty
- Value for Money 100%
- Speed and Accuracy 100%
- Trigger and Cocking Effort 100%
- Comparison to Makers Claims:100%
- Consistency 100%
- Noise Level 80%
- Sights 90%
- Shootability 100%
- Appearance and Finish 90%
- Buying and Owning 90%
HARD AIR MAGAZINE TEST CONCLUSIONS
With a HAM score of 97%, it’s pretty clear that the Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle is something special!
It’s powerful, accurate and fast-shooting. The consistent, regulated shot count of the test gun was outstanding, too. Interchangeable magazine allow for flexibility and an easy way to prove “clear”. Together with selective fire functionality and slug-shooting ability, that’s a combination of benefits that will be hugely attractive to many airgunners.
In spite of the selective fire capability, you’ll notice that there’s no mention in this review of jams. That’s because there were none. The action proved to function faultlessly with every pellet and slug that we tested for this review.
This all makes the Sidewinder an easy HAM Gold Award winner! Get in line to buy one…
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle is the latest model from this company. Priced at $1,999.99, it definitely falls within the high end of the PCP market, but the selective-fire capability with interchangeable magazines is a feature found on few other airguns.
Although there are several other semi-automatic models on the market today, they would be hard-pressed to match the accuracy that the factory-installed TJ barrel delivered in this review.
There’s no doubt either about the “bomb proof” full/semi-automatic feed of the Sidewinder tested by HAM. During the testing for this review, I fired many hundreds of pellets and slugs without the slightest hint of a jam.
That selective fire capability compared with the quality, reliability, power and accuracy you’ll read about below means that there’s nothing in the market that can really compare with the Sidewinder at the present time.
BUY FROM AIRGUNS OF ARIZONA
Western Airguns Sidewinder
SPEED AND ACCURACY
For this HAM review, I shot a .22 caliber Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle. The Sidewinder proved to be an extremely fast shooting PCP rifle. In testing the velocity easily surpassed the speed of sound hitting 1,205 FPS with the 10.3 Grain H&N Field Target Trophy Green pellets.
Accuracy at 20 yards was excellent with all but three pellet groups. The least of which were the 9.56 Grain H&N Field Target Green, the 11.9 Grain RWS Hobby and 14.66 Grain H&N Field Target Trophy (lead) pellets.
|Pellet||Average Muzzle Velocity||Average Muzzle Energy||Accuracy|
|H&N Field Target Trophy Green 10.03 Grain||1,205 FPS||32.35 Ft/Lbs||Poor.|
|Predator GTO 11.75 Grain||1,136 FPS||33.68 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|RWS Hobby 11.9 Grain||1,114 FPS||32.8 Ft/Lbs||Poor.|
|Crosman Premier HP 14.3 Grain||1,071 FPS||36.43 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|JSB Jumbo Exact 14.35 Grain||1,053 FPS||35.34 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|H&N Field Target Trophy 14.66 Grain||1,059 FPS||36.52 Ft/Lbs||Poor.|
|Datstate Howler Slugs 20.3 Grain||939 FPS||39.75 Ft/Lbs||Excellent|
|H&N Baracuda Match 21.14 Grain||952 FPS||45.22 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|JSB Jumbo Monster 25.39 Grain||899 FPS||45.58 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
Speed dropped to an average of 899 FPS with the 25.39 Grain JSB Jumbo Monster Redesigned pellets. At this speed, the Sidewinder tested by HAM was producing 45.22 Ft/Lbs of Muzzle Energy. In HAM testing this was also where it was most accurate at distance, as is shown by the target below.
Given the current level of interest in slug shooting, I also undertook a test using 20.3 Grain Daystate Howler slugs. (These slugs are manufactured by NSA, as many HAM readers will know).
The results were outstanding! The USA‐made, TJ hammer forged barrel clearly can deal with slugs too. The next target shows how the Howlers group was only very slightly larger than that for the Redesigned Monsters…
Of course, the Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle has that tempting, full auto “fun switch”. So I loaded a magazine full of Howler slugs, grabbed a tight hold on the gun and let go with a full 15-round magazine. That was about three seconds of fun!
The result is shown in the target below. It’s a 15-shot group with a CTC size of around 0.5 Inches at 20 Yards. In my opinion, that’s outstanding accuracy and shows that the Sidewinder tested by HAM is capable of delivering the goods in full auto as well as semi-automatic operation.
TRIGGER AND COCKING EFFORT
With the selective-fire action, there is zero cocking effort – the Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle does it all for you. This gives the real possibility of an instantly-available second shot if required by the hunter.
The trigger itself has a very light, with a longer – somewhat creepy – second stage. If that sounds bad, it really isn’t. True, it’s not quite up there with the best bolt action triggers on top-end airguns. However we need to remember that this is a selective-fire airgun and judge the trigger accordingly.
I found the trigger to be very usable and it clearly did not effect the accuracy achieved in testing. In fact, the pull weight of the gun tested by HAM is surprisingly light – around 1 Lb 8 Oz.
In full auto mode, a quick “dab” of the trigger provides a “2-shot burst” capability. This is easy to do and is quite predictable. The main requirement is to completely release the trigger between “dabs” so that the action will re-set before firing again.
Holding the trigger back in full-automatic mode empties the magazine in about 3 seconds. It also continues firing blanks unless you let go immediately afterward. However the change in sound is a clear giveaway to the change of firing mode, making this “overrun” easy enough to control.
COMPARISON TO MAKERS CLAIMS
Given the potential variations of regulator pressure and power adjuster, Western Airguns provides the following specifications in the Sidewinder’s instruction manual for the .22 caliber model.
|Configuration||Regulator Pressure||Muzzle Energy||Consistent Shots|
|Minimum Power||120 Bar||Up to 15 Ft/Lbs||Up to 300|
|As Shipped||125 Bar||Up to 47 Ft/Lbs||Up to 130|
|Max Power||190 Bar||Up to 72 Ft/Lbs||Up to 30|
The Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle reviewed by HAM was a very early production model – serial number 4! It was tested in “as shipped” condition.
There’s no doubt that the performance achieved in this test review – 160 consistent shots and up to 45.6 Ft/Lbs – falls well within the range of performance claimed by Western Airguns.
In this test review I recorded a maximum Muzzle Energy of 45.6 Ft/Lbs using 25.39 Grain Jumbo Monsters. As PCPs almost always deliver increased Muzzle Energy with increasing ammo weight, it’s pretty clear that a heavier slug would deliver the “up to 47 Ft/Lbs” claimed by the manufacturer.
The consistent shot count attained by the test gun – 160 shots – was, however, well above Western Airguns claim of “up to 130 shots”.
The .22 caliber Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle tested by HAM produced no less than 160 consistent, regulated shots from a full – 4,350/300 Bar – fill of the standard 580 cc carbon fiber HPA bottle.
After that, the velocity drops away extremely rapidly, as is to be expected.
(HAM’s definition of consistent shots is an Extreme Spread of 40 FPS)
The chart below was produced using unsorted Daystate Howler slugs. As you can see, the average was Muzzle Velocity was 938 FPS.
Should you want more shots per fill – albeit at a lower velocity – the Sidewinder has a power adjuster knob on the underside of the breech. This is the “factory approved” method of making power adjustments, rather than adjusting the regulator.
As for trigger pull weight, this varied in the Sidewinder under test from a maximum of 1 Lb 11.3 Oz to a minimum of 1 Lb 5.5 Oz. That is very consistent, particularly for a bullpup with its extended linkage between the separate operating parts of the trigger!
In addition, the majority of the standard HAM test pellets – and now slug – demonstrated acceptable accuracy. So, although the Sidewinder tested by HAM delivered best accuracy with the JSB Redesigned Jumbo Monsters, group sizes were not that much larger with several other pellets and the Howler slugs. This is not a pellet-picky air rifle…
Although the Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle is fitted with a shroud and factory moderator we would not consider this to be a “backyard friendly” plinker.
When using lighter pellets that will easily exceed the sound barrier a sharp crack can be heard. On the other hand that sound is calmed when using the Sidewinder with heavier – and generally more accurate – pellets.
It is possible to mount a 0dB – for example – silencer on the Sidewinder, however you’ll need an adapter to do this and the overall length will be increased accordingly.
SIGHTS AND SCOPE
With the Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle, the scope is – of course – an additional cost item. So you can choose any optic you like. For this test review I used a Kahles K1050 scope as this was already fitted to the review gun.
Scope mounting is achieved using the Picatinny rail that’s built-in to the gun. This provides sufficient length to mount most any type of scope, even if it’s long and your requirements are for long eye relief.
That rail also has a built-in 20 MOA compensation angle to prevent the scope from running out of elevation adjustment. Western Airguns clearly expects that the Sidewinder will be used for long range shooting!
I found the Sidewinder comfortable to shoot. However, I would definitely like to see an adjustable cheekpiece made available in future. The buttpad works well enough. However I’d also investigate fitting a more ergonomic, aftermarket buttpad if this were my gun.
At a “bare” weight of around 7 Lbs 11 Oz and a length of 35.5 Inches, the Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle is not too large or heavy.
Because of this, the gun shoulders well and can be shot successfully offhand. The balance is good too.
However bipod support and firing prone or from a bench will be necessary to bring out the full accuracy that it is clearly capable of delivering. In this case, the extra-long lower Picatinny rail will be appreciated, together with the support band that bears up against the shroud, relieving issues of pressure on the 580 cc HPA tank that can occur from rail flexing when bipods are used with some PCPs.
But the real news in the shootability department is that the Sidewinder uses interchangeable magazines. The breech incorporates a horizontal magazine well with a small, knurled locking lever ahead of it.
A larger lever would be a valuable improvement for the fat-fingered among us, but it works…
The magazine is a two-part affair, that’s machined from steel. The cover plate is removed, pellets pushed into the magazine chambers and the cover replaced. So loading is very simple. (A .30 cal magazine is shown in the photograph below – I shot one of these, too).
Then the mag snaps into the magazine well and is held in battery using the knurled knob. There’s a small learning curve, but once the “knack” is developed, it’s fast and easy to install and remove the magazine.
APPEARANCE AND FINISH
The Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle has the unashamed, tactical, “black gun” appearance that is loved by many buyers in today’s market.
Although a bullpup, the Sidewinder does not have the “dumpy” looks of many other bullpups. It looks – and feels – a long, spacious air rifle.
Fit, machining and finish of the externally-visible parts are uniformly excellent – as is expected for a gun of this price. This is clear from the many close-up photographs you can see in this review.
BUYING AND OWNING
The Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle is available through Airguns of Arizona and Precision Airgun Distribution dealers across the USA. Demand is understandably high but the guns are shipping from the manufacturing facility although there’s a backlog of orders.
The best way to order is to place a deposit (just $50) with AoA. This reserves your place in the production schedule and they’ll contact you as soon as your gun is available to ship.
The Sidewinder is supplied with a comprehensive user manual. This among the most extensive manuals that’s available with any airgun, however it’s in English only.
One surprise is that the warranty to the retail consumer is just one year from date of purchase. This is below the average expected for an airgun in this price range. This warranty applies to the original retail customer.
Warranty coverage includes faulty workmanship and defective materials. Proof of purchase is required in the unlikely event that warranty support is required.
The only other downside is that additional magazines are expensive. Like $149.99 each expensive! Looking at the precision machining that’s obviously required to manufacture the magazines, it becomes more understandable. However, it’s still expensive…
Finally, the Western Airguns Sidewinder air rifle is supplied with a high quality padded case – it’s more like a “soft box” than a traditional soft case. This provides good protection for the gun in transit and has two external pockets for storing ammo. It also accommodates the gun with a large scope mounted. Very good!
20 YARD TEST TARGETS
BUY FROM AIRGUNS OF ARIZONA
Western Airguns Sidewinder
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.