Mid-priced springer airguns – four of the best options
Richard Saunders takes a look at four mid-priced springer airguns to prove you don’t have to pay top dollar to have plenty of fun
Airgunners, when they reach a certain age, will know what I mean. You get to a point in your life when all of a sudden you have a nostalgic urge. It keeps you awake. It occupies your every thought. You simply have to have one. Having been consuming a modern diet of PCPs, we suddenly recall our youth and that trusty old springer we never missed with. The thought plants a seed, and before long we’re thumbing through the classifieds looking for something with which to recapture those far off days. Which is why this time, we’re looking at mid-priced springer airguns
Of course, spring-powered rifles deserve a place in the airgun pantheon in their own right, and a paunch and a bald spot is not a prerequisite for ownership. You might simply want a springer.
As with any stage of our lives, when it comes to pulling the financial trigger, budget is usually the determining factor. At the top of the fiscal scale, Air Arms underlevers and several rifles from Weihrauch dominate. At the other end, there are some great budget springers, but there’s plenty of tat as well. Regardless of your purchasing motive, if your budget simply won’t stretch, that leaves rifles in the mid-price range.
To help you through your mid-price crisis, we’ve assembled four of the best mid-priced springer airguns under £400 for you to consider. You obviously can’t leave Weihrauch out, so we’ve borrowed an HW57 from Hull Cartridge that retails for £375. BSA is never far from the discussion either and we’ve got a Supersport SE for £275 to look at too.
Rounding out the bench is a Cometa Fenix 400 Ultra Short Compact Premier Star at £365, which is distributed in the UK by ASI Ltd, and a Hammerli Hunter Force 750 from John Rothery which retails for £219.95 and includes a scope.
Cometa Fenix 400 USC Premier Star
There are plenty of rifles in the Cometa Fenix 400 range, not to mention the 100, 220 and 300 models as well. And one thing is for certain – there’s good DNA in there because each one is a looker.
The Fenix 400 Ultra Short Compact Premier Star has a handsome walnut sporter stock with an exquisite finish, and our test rifle even had some tiger striping. Although the cheekpiece is biased towards right-handers, it’s very subtle and left-handers will find the rifle fits them as well.
Patches of quality chequering on the pistol grip and forend accentuate the rifle’s looks, as does a solid rubber shoulder pad. The height of the comb can be altered by undoing a couple of screws to perfect eye-to-scope alignment. The metalwork is just as good, with a 140mm long dovetail.
Muzzle to breech is 370mm, though that is taken up with a plastic silencer which cannot easily be removed. Overall, the rifle measures 1,040mm and weighs 3.2kg. Length of pull is 370mm and the point of balance is 100mm forward of the trigger.
All this adds up to a rifle that is light and balanced in the shoulder, and easy to aim.
Cocking requires little effort although there is grumbling from the action. The stroke automatically sets a safety catch located at the rear reminiscent of that on the Feinwerkbau 124/127 Sport. It is resettable and pushing it and holding the barrel allows the rifle to be de-cocked. There is no anti-bear trap mechanism.
Some may turn their nose up at the plastic trigger, but on our test rifle the two stages were well-defined. The second stage was heavy, but the let-off was predictable with a hint of creep. On the range, the Fenix 400 USC showed a preference for 5.52mm Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets, returning 11.26 ft-lb, a 10-shot variance of 28 ft/sec and a group of five shots at 20m of 15mm centre-to-centre (CTC).
Hammerli Hunter Force 750 Combo
To be fair, at a little over £200, the Hammerli Hunter Force 750 could be regarded as a budget rifle, especially as it comes with a 4×32 scope and mounts as well as open sights.
However, its handsome looks and solid performance mean it’s a rifle worth considering even if you have the money for something a little more expensive. At 1,100mm and 3.2kg unscoped, it’s certainly a full-size rifle with a 370mm length of pull and a balance point around 120mm in front of the trigger.
The walnut stain is evenly applied, and the matt finish allows the grain to show. There are patches of chequering on the pistol grip and forend. And although the cheekpiece is set up to favour right-handers, left-handed shooters will find the Hammerli Hunter Force 750 comfortable, especially as the ventilated rubber shoulder pad absorbs what little recoil there is.
The trigger guard is the only plastic component on the rifle. The trigger blade is a fairly basic folded metal item. It has two stages and provision for some adjustment. There is creep, but the let-off is consistent. A second blade forward of the trigger activates the safety catch. It comes on automatically when the rifle is cocked and although it moves with the barrel down, will not disengage until the barrel is returned.
Finish on the metalwork is deep and even. The 460mm barrel locks up solidly although the cocking linkage had a rattle when shaken. The 145mm long dovetail rail is deep and an arrestor plate will prevent scope creep.
The UX ZF 4×32 that comes with the rifle is, as you’d expect, fairly basic but is more than adequate for short-range plinking. On the open sights a thumb wheel adjusts windage, but you’ll need a screwdriver to tweak elevation.
On the range, our .177 example produced 10.35 ft-lb with a 49 ft/sec variance over 10 shots. The group at 20m was 48 mm CTC.
BSA Supersport SE
Between them, Air Arms and Weihrauch may have the top end springer side of things sewn up, but when it comes to mid-price break-barrels, BSA has plenty to offer.
Price-wise, the Supersport SE sits just below the Lightning SE and XL SE, and above the Meteor and Comet entry models. In common with most of its siblings, the Supersport SE is defined by a well-proportioned sporter stock that features laser-cut chequering on the pistol grip and forend as well as a ventilated shoulder pad.
Measuring 1,100mm and weighing just 3.0kg, the Supersport SE has a length of pull of 365mm and a point of balance 140mm forward of the trigger. A subtle cheekpiece favours right-handed shooters, but southpaws will be able to use the Supersport SE without difficulty, especially as the raised comb sets you up perfectly.
You can fit a telescopic sight to the 13mm dovetail and there is provision for an arrestor block or rear scope mount fitted with a stud. However, the rifle comes with open sights that have a pair of green fibre optics at the back and a red fibre optic blade at the front. Thumb wheels make for easy adjustment for windage and elevation.
The trigger guard is metal, but the blade itself is not. That said, it is fully adjustable and the two stages are nicely defined with a let-off that won’t surprise you.
Cocking action is light and smooth with solid lock-up. Located on the right, the Supersport SE’s resettable safety catch does not engage when the rifle is cocked. An anti-bear trap mechanism means the barrel will not fly up should you pull the trigger before it is returned.
Our .22 calibre test rifle showed 10.75 ft-lb and shooting a 10-shot string showed a variation of 14 ft/sec. Like most BSA rifles, the Supersport SE was not pellet-fussy and returned consistent groups at 20m. JSB Hades had a slight edge, with five shots measuring 17 mm CTC.
Tested and refined in the cauldron of early HFT and FT competition shooting, Weihrauch’s HW77 and HW97 models have quite rightly earned a reputation as two of the finest spring-powered air rifles money can buy.
But they are, politely, a bit of a lump. Much of that weight is needed to absorb what little recoil is produced to deliver PCP-rivalling levels of accuracy. But they’re not for everyone. Fortunately, there is another Weihrauch underlever springer. One that doesn’t get as much attention. However, it’s not like the HW57 has done anything wrong or doesn’t live up to familial expectations. Far from it, the HW57 is a cracking rifle. And at 3.2kg it’s almost a kilo lighter than its bigger brothers.
In every regard, the HW57 is a Weihrauch, down to its use of the two-stage adjustable Rekord trigger. It looks good too. The ambidextrous beech sporter stock is made by Minelli. There are patches of chequering on the forend and pistol grip. Our test .22 rifle came to us with a silencer, which is not standard and requires an adapter.
The underlever cocking action is smooth. Pushing a button located under the muzzle releases the lever. Sweeping it back not only cocks the action, but raises a breech loader so you can insert a pellet.
The breech loader will only push back in when the underlever has been returned. Although there’s no anti-bear trap, the cross-bolt safety catch at the rear of the action sets automatically. Pushing it off means the HW57 can be de-cocked.
You’ll want to fit a telescopic sight to the 230mm long dovetail and there are holes to accept an arrestor block or a rear mount fitted with a stud. On the range the HW57 showed a healthy and consistent 10.87 ft-lb over the chrono. Consistency was impressive too at just 23 ft/sec over a 10-shot string, and at 20 metres the five-shot group measured 11mm CTC.