This slightly crude, but almost unbreakable, air rifle boasts nostalgic charm, writes Bruce Potts
Remarks such as “Oh, I had one of those and mine’s still shooting,” are the sort that get made about the Relum Tornado air rifle. It was never going to win any prizes for good looks or power (or accuracy for that matter) but they were produced in huge numbers at a price most people could afford, so they naturally became fairly commonplace.
You either love or hate the Relum. Until recently (when I acquired this one) I had never shot one and so approached this review with an open mind. Yes, it has pros and cons, of course, but I genuinely had fun shooting the Relum, plinking at targets and bits of chalk.
This rifle was originally imported to Britain by Relum Ltd based in Suffolk and was first advertised in the early sixties with a basic model known as the Relum Repetier, and later Relum Sport, LP25 and Taurus. These were all break barrel models, whereas the Tornado model here was the more successful underlever rifle and one that most people would remember when the name Relum comes up in conversation.
A “do anything” rifle
Early Relum air rifles originated from Czechoslovakia for the first break barrel rifles, while the later models, and this Tornado, come from Hungary and are often stamped “Made in Hungary”. There was no manufacturer’s mark, because Relum was the UK importer.
Designed as a “do anything” air rifle, the Tornado is actually quite large for a cheap entry level gun. Overall length is 45in and it weighs in at just under 7lb 6oz, so it’s not a youngster’s first gun, and it’s only available in .22 calibre.
It shoots using the basic underlever principle whereby the barrel is fixed to the receiver so they are both in line and a pellet is loaded via a rotating tap between the two. Propulsion is by your standard piston arrangement, powered by a spring system.
However, the Relum does not have just the one spring, it has two. There is a small inner spring that fits inside the main spring, and it has been a bugbear of the design from the off. In time the springs will become twisted as they rotate on cocking, and often lock together so that the Relum will not engage the trigger at all.
Power-wise it shoots around 8ft/lb so it’s only a medium-range sporter at best, but you can swap the two springs for a single spring out of a BSA Meteor, which works quite well. The piston is fitted with a leather seal and so does need some lubrication in its life to work at its best. Cocking is via a slim underlever that is held captive with a latch under the barrel. It’s very easy to cock, and loading a pellet is through a large loading tap with a lever to the left of the action.
However, another quirk is that in the “closed” position on the tap, the lever is in the upright horizontal position, and the trouble with this is hat as it wears over time, the lever droops and so partially opens the loading tap, restricting the air flow from the air chamber. The stock can be slim
or Super Tornado profile (as in this case), which has a deeper fore-end with characteristic parallel
grooves cut into it instead of chequering.
There is a cheekpiece and slightly chequered pistol grip and the size and weight of the Relum’s stock gives it overall good balance and sturdiness. That is, in essence, why people bought the Relums in the first place — you could forgive the downsides, as the gun was almost unbreakable.
With regard to sights, there was a slim tapered foresight and crude rearsight, but the air chamber did have a scope rail, albeit very short.
Being a bit of an underdog does make it appealing in some sense, but performance was average when I shot this model — but nostalgic for some I am sure.
What to look for in a secondhand Relum Tornado
Barrel: Check it is not bent or damaged at the muzzle, as all Relums had a hard life — I saw one once propping up a feed tray for pigs on a farm!
Action: Check the action cocks and trigger engages and is safe, as replacing springs and piston washers or seals may not be worth the value of the gun.
Weight: 7lb 5.5oz
Features: Not a lot, but it has a nice stock