Air rifles are anything but toys; they are invaluable tools for pest controllers or landowners to eradicate vermin.

One of the main reasons they are popular is that they don’t require the
owner to have a firearms certificate (so long as they are below the
12ft/lb energy threshold).   

They are also cheap, easy to shoot and enable you to practice at home to hone your skills.

From
a pest controller’s point of view, the best feature of air rifles is
their limited range, which makes them safe to use around the farm
without damaging property or running the risk of ricochets.

The BSA Ultra SE was the shortest on test with a barrel length of just 12in

The Webley Raider 10 is supplied with a QGS moderator as standard

The Hatsan AT44-10′s synthetic stock has a thumbhole, which enhances handling

The most common versions are break-barrel designs with a spring or gas-ram propulsion system, but pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles are popular, as they utilise an external power source – air supplied by a pump or diver’s tank into the rifle’s air reservoir.

This makes them consistent, accurate and recoil-less, and the use of magazine systems is now standard, thus making them attractive for rabbiting.

I tested three popular 10-shot repeater PCP air rifles in .22 calibre that are available for around £500 each, comparing them part by part.

BARRELS
The barrels were of different lengths on all three rifles.

The BSA Ultra SE’s is short – 12in with a 0.61in diameter – and threaded with a half unified fine thread (UNF) for a moderator.

The barrel is of excellent quality, with precision rifling and free-floated along its length.

The Webley Raider 10 has a Walther barrel.

It is 16.5in long with a 0.63in diameter and a single support at the muzzle end.

It is threaded with half UNF for a sound moderator – here, the QGS moderator was supplied as standard.

The Hatsan AT44-10 had the longest barrel, at 19.4in, and a 0.55in diameter, supported by twin polymer pillars halfway along its length.

Again, it has a half UNF thread.

All three barrels have a deep-lustre blued finish that isn’t too shiny.

BSA Ultra SE technical specifications

Overall length: 32in
Barrel length: 12in
Magazine: Rotary 10-shot capacity
Trigger: Adjustable two stage
Safety: Side-lever
Action: Bolt
Weight: 5.7lb
Stock: Synthetic ambidextrous
Calibre: .177, .22 and .25
Extras: N/A
Price: From £519

Webley Raider 10 technical specifications

Overall length: 35in (42.5in with moderator)
Barrel length: 16.5in
Magazine: Rotary 10-shot capacity
Trigger: Adjustable two stage
Safety: Switch type
Action: Bolt
Weight: 7lb
Stock: Ambidextrous walnut wood Sporter
Calibre: .177, .20 and .22
Extras: QGS moderator, spare magazine
Price: From £418.32

Hatsan AT44-10 technical specifications

Overall length: 39.4in
Barrel length: 19.4in
Magazine: Rotary 10-shot capacity
Trigger: Adjustable two stage
Safety: Push action
Action: Lever
Weight: 7.3lb
Stock: Synthetic thumbhole
Calibre: .177, .22
Extras: Spare magazine
Price: From £480

MAGAZINES
A rotary 10-shot magazine is common to all three air rifles, automatically indexing as the bolt or side lever is operated, aligning a new pellet with the barrel each time.

The Hatsan and the Raider have the same magazine, which gives some clues as to the origin of their manufacture.

They are both made of alloy with 10 pellet wells in which the pellets sit and are retained by an “O” ring around the circumference that grips the pellet’s waist.

Both are removed when the bolt probes are moved rearwards (cocked) and the retaining slide is pushed forwards.

Both magazines are loaded and ejected from the right side of the action.

The BSA is different in that it loads and ejects from the left and it is a self-contained steel magazine with an alloy wheel that rotates inside.

Importantly, the BSA magazine is tensioned inside so that you thumb the wheel around as the new pellets are seated in the wells, and when the bolt is operated the magazine tension repositions each new pellet.

ACTIONS
All three of the air rifles on test have an action that sits on top of the air reservoir and is machined from an alloy block.

The BSA has a full-length, 11.5mm dovetail for scope mounting; the Hatsan has a 11.5mm rail intersected by the magazine three-quarters along its length; and the Webley is 11.5mm with the magazine again intersecting it at the front.

However, the bolts are different on each.

The BSA has a rear-mounted bolt like a rimfire rifle, with a rounded knob and a low bolt lift finished in black paint.

The Webley has a short, straight bolt that has two positions – rearwards to cock and lock (to remove the magazine) and forwards to lock a pellet in the barrel ready to fire.

The Hatsan is different from the other two, featuring a side-lever arrangement with a 4in lever on the right that is brought rearwards to cock and index the magazine – an excellent feature.

AIR RESERVOIRS
The Hatsan has a removable reservoir while those on the Webley and the BSA are fixed.

All have quick-fill adapters that use a probe to fill between charges (supplied as standard).

The Hatsan has a fill pressure of 200bar, and for the .22 calibre on test provided 50 to 60 consistent shots per charge.

The BSA is filled to 200bar, giving 45 consistent shots per charge, while the Webley yielded 50 to 60 consistent shots per charge with a fill pressure of 190bar.

(Note: these were consistent shots, not the total number due to power curve.)

To check the status of the air pressure, both the BSA and the Webley have a pressure gauge set into the underside of the fore-end, while on the Hatsan it is sited at the end of the air reservoir – another handy feature.

STOCKS
The Webley has a well-designed walnut Sporter stock with a matt lacquer finish but without chequering for extra grip, though its well-proportioned design negates the need for this anyway.

The stock is ambidextrous, and both sides of the cheekpiece are of a good height to ensure proper scope alignment.

A solid recoil pad finishes off the design nicely, though sling swivel studs are a notable omission.

The fore-end is long and slender so any hold can be comfortably maintained in any firing position, and there is a full-length flute giving the fingers a good grip.

Both the Hatsan and the BSA have synthetic stocks.

The BSA’s stock is compact and solid with a black crinkled finish.

The cheekpiece is moulded on both sides with palm swells to the pistol grip that make it ambidextrous.

The short fluted fore-end has two small stippled grip panels, and the stock is also fitted with QD sling swivel studs and a rubber recoil pad.

The Hatsan has a thumbhole synthetic stock that looks great and handles well.

The polymer is grey/black in colour and solid like the BSA’s, but less dense, though also ambidextrous.

The recoil pad is adjustable for height and the foreend is long to ensure a full grip in any position.

TRIGGERS AND SAFETIES
The Webley has a good trigger, being a two-stage adjustable unit.

The first take-up is smooth and the final let-off is clean and light at 2.75lb.

The safety is non-automatic and is sited at the rear of the action.

It moves vertically to lock the trigger.

The Hatsan’s trigger is called the Quattro and, again, is excellent, allowing adjustment for travel before the sear drops, and it is smooth, breaking cleanly at 2.5lb weight.

The safety is an automatic unit that moves rearwards above the pistol grip to lock the trigger in safe.

The BSA’s trigger is also excellent, being adjustable to the user’s taste.

It is the two-stage type with a predictable let-off at 3lb.

FIELD TEST
To test the three, I set up targets at 30 yards and, off a sandbag rest, I shot over a chronograph to record velocity and energy data.

PCP air rifles have no fast-moving springs to affect firing, so they are potentially accurate.

However, pellet choice is still critical to ensure the highest accuracy.

All three of the PCPs were of .22 calibre, and I shot a variety of pellets.

CONCLUSIONS
The most accurate and consistent air rifle was the BSA Ultra SE, with great handling qualities due to its short construction.

Though its compact nature makes it ideal in a tight spot, the short barrel is noisy, so needs a moderator.

The Webley Raider 10 was the best looking, in addition to being accurate and having a good trigger.

This great all-rounder handles well and comes with a QGS moderator fitted as standard, making it the quietest on test.

Finally, the Hatsan AT44-10 offered the best value for money due to its excellent lever action system and its impressive number of shots per charge.

Being a lot longer than the other two, it is a full-sized gun and its barrel is quiet even without the moderator.


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Best 3 air rifles: PCP review

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