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The Jackal Woodsman air rifle

The Jackal Woodsman air rifle is accurate, powerful and made by one of the most inspiring gunmakers in Britain. Bruce Potts considers it

air rifle

My mother bought me my first airgun magazine nearly 40 years ago, in October 1977. It had a profound effect on me.

My first airgun was the Weihrauch HW 35, which the magazine reviewed. However on the back cover I noticed a new and remarkable-looking airgun – the Jackal.

Excellent home-grown air rifles

It was a military-style synthetic-stocked air rifle made in England. This model sparked a whole series of excellent home-grown air rifles, one of which was the Jackal Woodsman air rifle model.

This in itself was a first. Up until then, air rifle barrels were long — 18in-plus — but Hailsham-based makers of the Jackal range, Sussex Armoury, dared to chop the barrel to 8in, which certainly raised a few eyebrows. Today this would be considerd standard but at the time it was an inspired move.

Sought-after models

Sadly Sussex Armoury went into liquidation in the mid-1980s. As a result one of the best and most creative airgun makers in the country was lost. It meant that the company’s early models are much sought-after by those in the know.

The Jackal Woodsman air rifle on show here was sourced from Holts in a sealed bid auction. (By the way I’d recommend bidding at auction  – it’s very entertaining.)

This model was unusual as it had a few experimental additions and a longer barrel, and was a cross between a Woodman and the Woodstock model. In 1979, the original Woodsman was a svelte-looking air rifle — compact, with a chunky heft to it.

A radical look

The ultra-short 8in barrel is instantly recognisable. It was originally made for Sussex Armoury by Hämmerli in Switzerland in their Parabellum range. The Jackal Woodsman had a futuristic plastic muzzle brake-cum-muzzle crown protector, giving the rifle an even more radical look.

Bluing to the metal surfaces was great and accuracy was always good with Jackals, and, despite many people’s misgivings, the short barrel gave full power at 12ft/lb and accuracy was superb.

As the fortunes changed for Sussex Armoury, Woodsman models became available in longer barrels (possibly to use up old stock). The action was typical for the Jackal range, with a side-lever cocking motion.

This means the stock is sturdy and feels “right”.  Most of the designs are in beech but I have also seen walnut versions. Regardless, the fit and feel was always excellent, with a classic sporter design but deep full pistol grip and full fore-end so you have good control.

The trigger is passable, but check it cocks and pulls to your requirements. There is no safety catch so take care. The Jackal Woodsman air rifle on test has open sights, not usually present on a Woodsman, which resemble those from the Hi-Power and Target models.

The foresight is of a moulded plastic design that has a post between two protective arms, while the rearsight is mounted at the rear of the action.

The sight is fully adjustable for elevation and windage with a large peephole to centre the foresight element. Check the sight is secure as it can wobble if not attached properly.

These air rifles can achieve accuracy of 0.5in at 25 yards and, with the correct pellet and power, are right up there at 12ft/lb. Check the trigger is fine, the side-lever still has its depressing pommel and all serial numbers match, then you have a nice, home-grown classic.

Jackal Woodsman air rifle specification

Barrel: .22 only. If it has a .177, that’s probably come off of another Jackal model, as barrels are easily removed
Action: Check loading tap is smooth, yet tight, to stop air leakage. Ensure the side-level still has its screw-in pommel, otherwise it won’t open!
Weight: 7lb 4oz (8in barrel)
7lb 9oz (11in barrel)
Length: 34in (8in barrel)
27in (11in barrel)
Features: Short carbine-style hunter, made in Britain, with top power
Importer: Only available second-hand
Prices: Available second-hand from £150 to £200. Getting rarer.