AirMaks Katran B
Mike Morton picks up a super tricked-out AirMaks Katran B, a high-end, multi-shot and multi-adaptable PCP, that even features a folding stock
AirMaks Katran B
No matter how accurate an air rifle may be, a shooter will only be able to unlock its full potential if it fits them properly. Target shooters – and target rifle manufacturers – realised this a long time ago, with match rifles offering seemingly limitless amounts of adjustability to maximise gun fit. Hunting rifles, on the other hand, have been slower to catch on, with most rifles of this type offering only minimal adjustment and some none at all. The AirMaks Katran B, however, bucks this trend in a massive way.
AirMaks hails from the Czech Republic, and while the range may be new to the UK, I suspect the brand will prove popular. The Katran, named after a small variety of shark found in the Black Sea, is an ultra-modern, regulated, multi-shot PCP that comes with a skeletonised folding stock that offers adjustment to length of pull, the height of the butt pad and the height of the cheekpiece. It has a drop-down pistol grip and is equipped with a Picatinny rail for mounting a scope.
It also has a round aluminium handguard which uses the unusual-for-airgun KeyMod accessory attachment system. This was designed to negate the “cheese grater” feel of the Picatinny system, and is more comfortable in the hand. The Katran is available in .177, .22 and .25 calibres, and the shrouded barrel is made by CZ.
The Katran is sidelever-operated, and while the lever is set up on the right it can be swapped to the left-hand side by the user.
When it’s time to buy a new rifle, I think many people will base their purchasing decision on two factors in addition to its inherent accuracy, these being price and aesthetic appeal. I know several people who, while appreciating the increased shot count a buddy bottle will bring, will refuse to buy a gun like this simply because they don’t like the way it looks.
AirMaks has a solution to this, as the Katran is offered with either a buddy bottle or an inline air cylinder. There’s a choice of five different barrel lengths ranging from 280mm all the way up to 700mm, with smaller or larger sizes of air supply of both types.
The model seen here is the Katran B, which has a 400mm barrel, a 480cc buddy bottle and an overall length of 910mm. I think these dimensions will make it the most popular model here in the UK, especially for legal-limit use.
In addition to choosing the barrel length and type of air supply, the prospective Katran owner also has the chance to choose between no fewer than six options regarding the type of grip and cheekpiece. There’s Red Laminate, Blue Laminate, Light Wood Laminate, Forest Laminate, Walnut and Black.
The laminate wood options are all ambidextrous, while the black is right-handed. The base AirMaks Katran B rifle with black rubber grip and plastic cheekpiece is £1,400, while the laminate wood options are an additional £55, the one seen here being Forest.
The .177 review rifle was sent to me by CDR Guns, who included a host of optional extras.
While a rifle of this pedigree should provide the owner with everything required to get shooting straight out of the box, which it does, these components can make shooting the Katran an even more enjoyable experience, depending on how you intend to use the rifle.
These included a single-shot loader, a monopod/bag rider, a modular moderator and an extended rail for forward-mounting a bipod, and I’ll explain each of these as I get to them.
AirMaks Katran B – key specs
Rifle supplied by: CDR Guns (facebook.com/CDRGuns)
Manufacturer: AirMaks Arms
Model tested: Katran B
Price: £1,400 (extra £55 for laminate)
Type: Multi-shot PCP
Calibre: .177 (tested), .22 and .25
Overall length: 910mm
Folded length: 684mm
Barrel: Made by CZ, twist rate of 1:17.7
Barrel length: 400mm
Stock: Skeletonised with laminate cheekpiece
Scope rail: Picatinny
Length of pull: 330mm to 380mm
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Muzzle energy: 10.1 ft-lb
Supplied with rifle: Hard case, fill probe, one magazine, O-rings, manual, KeyMod to Picatinny adaptor
Optional extras: Single-shot loader, monopod/bag rider, modular L, M or S moderators, extended Arca Rail
In addition to the high level of adjustability of the stock, the ace up the AirMaks Katran B’s sleeve is the fact that the stock can be folded.
It’s released at the press of a button, and is held in place in the closed position by a magnet. The rifle will fit inside the supplied hard case with a scope on top and the stock folded, making the case genuinely useful once the rifle’s in use rather than just a pre-purchase airgun delivery system.
In keeping with the rest of the rifle, the standard of fit, finish and overall engineering is very high, and the stock unfolds and clicks into place very positively. It also comes with two snap-in magazine wells, which work exactly as intended and mean a follow-up magazine is always close to hand.
The butt pad can be adjusted for height by loosening the retaining screw with a 4mm hex key and moving it into place.
However, while the pad can be slid down, raising the butt and potentially achieving a better head and eye position for taking kneeling, sitting or standing shots, I found I couldn’t slide it upwards, thereby lowering the butt in the shoulder, which can be helpful when going prone.
What is very useful, however, is the ability to loosen two more screws, again using a 4mm hex key, and extending the butt to get perfect length of pull.
This is a great feature for either larger shooters or medium-sized ones like me who have long arms, as having correct length of pull is not only more comfortable, but enhances gun control and therefore accuracy.
Another brilliant feature that really boosts gun fit is the ability to raise the cheekpiece, this time by slackening off two screws with a 3mm hex key.
While we’re on the subject of cheekpieces, it’s worth pointing out that if you fancy a change, this can easily be swapped for another type by removing two screws with a 2.5mm hex key. You’ll want to switch the matching grip at the same time if you go down this route, and that’s achieved by removing a single 5mm hex screw.
The review rifle came with an optional monopod fitted. This device is great for prone and bench use as it offers more stability at the rear end than merely shouldering the rifle, and can really boost accuracy in the field.
The height is adjusted by turning a wheel and sliding it up and down to suit your position. While a monopod isn’t strictly necessary, this item is a true quality of life enhancement.
AirMaks’ monopod also acts as a handle for the non-shooting hand, helping you load the bipod and keep the right pressure on the butt to stabilise the rifle in your shoulder.
If you shoot off a bench and have a rear bag, the monopod is still useful as it includes a small rail that “rides” over the top of the rear bag when the monopod has been retracted. I shot the AirMaks Katran B from the prone position and the bench to test the monopod, and wouldn’t be without it.
The entire stock has been well thought out and provides contact points exactly where they’re needed, but because of its minimalist nature there’s naturally a little bit more flex than would be found on a solid stock, which of course would be far heavier. Nevertheless it’s still easy to hold the rifle steady in the aim.
AirMaks Katran B – mounting up
The magazine has been designed so it sticks out to the side of the action rather than above it. This means the Picatinny scope rail is uninterrupted, so you can position your optic as far forward or back as you need, and as high or low to the rail as you require.
I fitted a Hawke Airmax 30 Compact 3-12×40 to the AirMaks Katran B, and although this little scope is capable of being mounted very low to the action, I ended up using high mounts from Sportsmatch to optimise my head position.
While a much larger telescopic sight could easily be fitted to this rifle, I felt a smaller scope was more in keeping with the lightweight, highly portable nature of the gun.
With this scope attached and no bipod fitted, the rifle’s point of balance was roughly half-way between the round handguard and the trigger blade – near enough the perfect position.
Despite being made of metal, the handguard is comfortable to hold and was in just the right place for my leading hand when shooting the rifle from the standing and kneeling stances.
AirMaks Katran B- rails and probes
I suspect most shooters in the UK aren’t too familiar with the KeyMod system, so CDR Guns supplies a KeyMod-to-Picatinny adapter with every Katran.
This will position your bipod under the handguard, and while this will work well enough, a better place for any rifle is further forward. CDR Guns can supply a £140 device called the Arca Rail, which extends the mounting point half-way underneath the buddy bottle, increasing support and stability.
The AirMaks Katran B can be filled to 300 bar, and the fill probe is inserted into the rifle via a cut-out in the bottom of the handguard. The Arca Rail also includes a fill port cut-out, so it can be left in place when the rifle’s being filled.
The pressure gauge is located at the top of the handguard on the left-hand side, making it very easy to read, and being a rifle of European manufacture, the gauge is thankfully graduated in bar rather than psi.
One question to ask is how many shots you get from a 300 bar fill, to which my rather poor reply is simply: “I don’t know.” My dive cylinder can only fill to 240 bar at the moment, and I lost count of the number of pellets I shot over my sessions, topping up whenever I felt I should rather than when the rifle needed more air. But the AirMaks Katran B, with its 480cc buddy bottle, will deliver hundreds of shots per fill.
Cocking and loading
The magazine is beautifully made, and slots into the magazine well cleanly and securely, being held in place by a spring-loaded ball bearing.
It’s a drum type with an internal rotor, but while most mags have some sort of faceplate, AirMaks has created this as an open design. This means the magazine is easier to load and clear in the case of any stoppages – and if you’ve finished shooting and don’t want to use up the whole magazine’s worth of pellets, you can more easily push out the remaining pellets with no faceplate in the way.
The mag is loaded by inserting the first pellet nose-first into the rotor, while using a finger to block the hole behind to stop it falling straight through.
Subsequent pellets are inserted using the same technique, just requiring you to rotate the inner drum anti-clockwise for each one, and those pellets that have already been loaded are held in place by a lip in the magazine and so won’t fall out.
The .177 magazine can hold up to 18 pellets, but you don’t have to insert any more than you actually need as the last round loaded is the first one that will be fired.
The loaded magazine must be inserted into the action from the right-hand-side, after which the sidelever can be pushed forwards, chambering the first pellet. This was very slick in operation, and the action also includes a very useful anti-double feed system.
I did have a bit of trouble with a magazine loaded with the maximum 18 pellets, however, as it didn’t seem to present any of the first four pellets cleanly to the bore.
I suspect the spring tension might have been a bit too strong, because with only 14 pellets loaded, the magazine cycled perfectly smoothly. Luckily, the tension on the spring can easily be adjusted by the user, and CDR Guns has made a brief instructional video that can be found at bit.ly/katranmag
Another optional extra that was sent with the rifle was a single-shot loader. This is really simple to operate, the loading gate just needing to be flicked out with a finger, the pellet inserted and then the gate pressed closed. The sidelever was equally delightful to use here, sliding each pellet into the chamber slickly and smoothly.
For me, the safety catch on a rifle will always come second to the most important safety of all – good gun-handling practices – but the one on the Katran offers a welcome bonus as it can be applied whether or not the rifle has been cocked.
It somewhat resembles a fire selector switch, and I really liked its location and operation. Even though it’s just a simple lever, I was nevertheless impressed by how precise it was to operate, clicking positively from Safe to Fire and back again, while requiring minimal effort.
I soon got in the habit of operating the safety with my left hand while controlling the rifle with my right when in the aim.
AirMaks Katran B – trigger time
The two-stage trigger is adjustable, but for testing and target-shooting purposes it was near-perfect out of the box, with an extremely short amount of first-stage travel coming to a distinctive stop and the second-stage releasing the shot with a near-match trigger degree of crispness.
Trigger-pull on the review gun was 9.7oz, which is too light for hunting, but perfect for testing and target work. The trigger offers external adjustment, so it would have been simple to make it heavier, but I left it alone for my review purposes.
CZ makes excellent rimfire barrels and its air rifle barrels are of equal quality. With a clean bore, I did an initial zero with JSB Exact pellets, reasoning that a Czech-made rifle fitted with a Czech-made barrel would probably shoot optimally with Czech-made pellets. Over the chrono, the Katran did extremely well, with my 10-shot string having a variation in velocity of a mere 4.6 feet per second from a muzzle energy of 10.1 foot pounds.
As expected, the Exacts fared very well on target, and I went on to experiment with several other types, including Rangemaster Sovereign, H&N Baracuda FT, Bisley Magnum, RWS Super Field and BSA Gold Star.
At 30 yards the AirMaks Katran B delivered sub-five pence piece-sized groups with all pellet types, although its favourites were Rangemaster Sovereign. Back at 40 yards, 10 pence piece-sized groups were the norm, even in a gentle breeze.
Final Thoughts on the AirMaks Katran B
The AirMaks Katran B won’t appeal to purists who’ll be offended by its semi-tactical looks and layout, but those shooters who appreciate that “tactical” means “practical” should definitely put this versatile rifle on their shortlist.
The AirMaks Katran B is a high-end, accurate airgun that combines near-target rifle levels of adjustability with the practicality of a folding stock, making it a multi-role rifle for the field, the range or the bench