Richard Saunders takes a look at the AirMaks Krait – a rather exotic rifle that is quickly gaining a cult following
We love to categorise things don’t we? A pigeonhole for everything. When it comes to air rifles, some come from a premium brand, some are mid-priced, others are affordable, but good, and a few are cheap for a reason. But a select few, like the AirMaks Krait, fall into a classification best described as ‘exotic’.
Items like this are not high-volume and often carry a substantial price tag. But the lack of marketing budget behind them adds to the mystique.
It’s an indefinable quality, and has less to do with slick advertising and more to do with word-of-mouth conversations about quality rifles that speak for themselves. Before long, once a few air rifle enthusiasts think they have discovered a little-heard-of gem, an aura starts to surround it.
AirMaks Arms is such a company. Based in the Czech Republic, it only makes air rifles and its line comprises just three models, all of which are distributed in the UK by CDR Guns of Norfolk. However, whilst they are all different, the DNA is based on an emphasis on quality engineering.
Tactical bullpups have been all the rage in recent years, and just about every manufacturer has given us its own interpretation. The offering from AirMaks – the Krait – is in the same mould, but with enough in the way of unique features to make it that little bit more interesting.
Maker: AirMaks, Czech Republic (airmaksarms.com)
UK Distributor: CDR Guns (airmaksarms.co.uk)
Model: AirMaks Krait
Type: Pre-charged pneumatic
Calibre: .177, .22 and .25
Overall length: 600 – 670mm
Barrel length: 400mm
Trigger: Two-stage adjustable post-and-shoe match-style
Power: 11.65 ft-lb to 11.8 ft-lb
AirMaks rifles all have their own distinctive look, and the Krait will stand out from the crowd. There are three models – the Krait on test, and the Krait L and Krait X, with longer barrels and a larger air bottle. Prices range between £1,400 and £1,500.
There’s not much in the way of a stock in the traditional sense, but the symphony of high-quality black alloy adds up to a super-light and compact rifle measuring as little as 600mm and tipping the scales at 2.5kg.
Each component is beautifully engineered and results in a wonderfully pointable rifle that has that hard-to-define quality of sitting naturally in the shoulder as an extension of your body when it comes to the aim.
Of course, the lack of bulk has much to do with that. The other ingredient though is the level of adjustability. Slackening a screw in the shoulder pad will enable you to move it up and down through a range of 95mm, although you will have to remove the screw then reassemble a retaining nut to achieve the extreme high and low settings.
Loosening a thumb wheel under the butt allows the butt pad to move in and out to extend the length of pull to anywhere between 318mm and 381mm. And two more screws give access to 21mm of height adjustment on the cheekpiece.
All that added to a 180mm Picatinny scope rail, which incidentally has a 20 MOA integrated gradient, means that you can easily achieve perfect cheek weld, eye relief and shoulder fit regardless of whether you choose a huge scope, something more compact or a zero eye relief optic that is more in keeping with the Krait’s styling.
Thanks to some all-over stippling, your hand won’t slip on the rubberised pistol grip even in wet weather, and if the styling is not to your liking you can swap it for an aftermarket AR-15-style alternative.
There’s not much in the way of a forestock. A short accessory rail forward of the trigger guard provides a comfortable rest for the palm of your leading hand as your fingers grip the air bottle.
With a bipod attached, you’ll likely find yourself holding on to that instead. Some additional accessory rails either side of the barrel are provided to fit addons such as a torch or IR illuminator.
Features and functions of the AirMaks Krait
Despite its diminutive size, the Krait packs in all the features you’d expect on a high-end rifle, including a regular that was set to just 60 bar on our test rifle which, with the Krait’s maximum 300-bar fill, promises plenty of shots. As you’d expect, the regulator on FAC versions is adjustable. However, unusually for UK legal limit rifles, it is also variable on 12 ft-lb versions, albeit within a reduced range of 50 to 110 bar (or 170-bar on the high-power models).
You’ll need a 6mm Allen key to be able to adjust a screw located inside a large nut next to the neck of the air bottle. There’s no need to drain the air supply to increase the regulator pressure either, but to take it down it’s vital that you either dry-fire the rifle until it’s empty or use the plenum drain – a 3mm grub screw next to the fill gauge.
Further customisation on the Krait is achievable thanks to the neat ability to alter the hammer spring. Extending the stock reveals the adjuster, which becomes accessible once a grub screw to the right is slackened off.
Working together, the hammer spring and regulator adjustments mean you can fine-tune pellet velocity to suit your choice of pellets and maximise accuracy whilst staying within the UK legal limit.
The Krait is supplied with one magazine that takes 18 shots in .177, 16 in .22 and 14 in .25 calibre. Due to the cocking linkage, the magazine can only be inserted from the right. Like the rest of the rifle, it is extremely well-made. There’s no need to pre-rotate the inner drum. Simply drop the pellets in as you rotate the chambers anti-clockwise – just keep your finger behind the hole for the first one.
In keeping with the Krait’s siblings, the Caiman and Katran, the sidelever is set up on the left-hand side of the rifle. However, if you prefer it on the right-hand side, swapping it over will only take a few minutes and a 2mm Allen key to remove the pivot bolt, unhook the front and then reinstall on the other side. You’ll also need to flip the drop-down cocking handle.
Although the AR-15-style safety catch can also be moved from left to right, doing so with the standard pistol grip in place is not possible, as the right-hand bias of the palm swell in the grip gets in the way. Despite this, the Krait’s flexibility is likely to please left-handers, especially as the magazine doesn’t get in the way either.
As has been said before, triggers can be a weak point on bullpups due to their reliance on linkage rods to overcome the fact that the trigger is further away from the release action compared with conventional rifles.
The setup on the Krait is excellent though, and I could not discern even the slightest hint of creep. Much as I like them, the fact that the Krait has ignored a post-and-shoe match-style setup in favour of a more traditional trigger blade is refreshing.
The blade is broad, and the curve nestles comfortably under your finger. The two stages are well-defined, and the second-stage let-off on our test rifle was perfect, requiring only a little more pressure before releasing.
Setting it up to suit your own style is easy enough, and requires a panel located on the underside of the stock below the regulator gauge to be removed using a 2.5mm Allen key. You’ll then need a 2mm Allen key to unlock the sear adjuster.
Like all AirMaks rifles, the Krait’s 300cc carbon-wrapped air bottle takes a 300-bar fill. Incidentally, the L and X models are fitted with a 480cc bottle. If you are fortunate to have a compressor, that’s great.
But if you rely on an air tank, you’ll likely have to get along with a less-than-optimum fill most of the time. Fortunately, the low-pressure regulated action is extremely efficient and shot count is not an issue.
The Krait’s 400mm barrel has a variable-length shroud. The main tube is 150mm long, but has four screw-in baffle extensions, the last of which has a ½in UNF thread, that adds another 100mm to the length. Without a built-in silencer, the shroud and baffles do an admirable job of reducing muzzle crack. However, if you prefer to fit an external silencer, but still want to try and keep the Krait as compact as possible, you can easily remove a couple of the baffles to do so.
Power and performance of the AirMaks Krait
AirMaks doesn’t concern itself with the need to publish a shot count. And you shouldn’t worry about that too much either, because you’ll get plenty. But for the sake of completeness, I filled our .22 calibre rest rifle to 200 bar.
Running it down to the 60-bar regulator threshold was a real test of endurance, as the Krait simply went on and on, finally delivering just over 200 shots, suggesting more than 300 is possible from a 300-bar fill.
The chronograph showed commendable consistency as well. 10-shot strings at the high, mid-point and low points in the fill range showed variations of 11, 9 and 13 ft/sec, indicating the regulator, which fills a 60cc plenum, to be very efficient. In terms of power output, using settings straight out of the box, the chronograph showed a power range of 11.65 to 11.8 ft-lb.
On the range, the left-hand cocking setup makes the Krait extremely comfortable to shoot for long periods of time. As you’d expect, the CZ barrel was not at all pellet-fussy, enabling tight groups at 30 and 40m with Air Arms Diabolo Field, JSB Exact and JSB Hades pellets. The Air Arms and Exacts threw out an occasional flyer and the Hades were slightly more consistent, punching 18mm groups at 30m that opened up to 28mm at 40m on a blustery day.
Pouring a few hundred pellets down the range is all well and good. It’s great fun and is indeed necessary to get a feel for the handling and performance of a new rifle. But for me, the true test of a rifle is out in the field.
With winter well and truly with us, along with the recent wet weather, most of my farm permissions are seeing an influx of rats. Having swapped out the MTC Copperhead scope I used on the range for an even more compact Pard NV008S LRF, the Krait and I visited one of my permissions, which has had more than its fair share of rather unwelcome furry visitors.
Unlike most of my rat permissions, in which I can simply plonk myself down in one spot and wait for the rats to appear, the pests at the location I chose to visit are more spread out, and a roving approach is therefore much more successful. Moving around a busy yard in the dark is not the easiest thing in the world, and the potential to whack a rifle on some machinery is high.
The Krait’s compact dimensions reduced that likelihood significantly, and its light weight made it genuinely pleasant to wander around with. As my hours spent on the range indicated, the Krait proved unerringly accurate, accounting for a couple of dozen rats at ranges from less than 10m out to nearly 30.
The slick, short throw of the left-hand sidelever, combined with the large 16-shot capacity, meant that when the rats appeared I was able to get on aim quickly and exploit several opportunities to take down two or three in quick succession.
Summing up the AirMaks Krait
The level of precision and quality of engineering lends the Krait an almost handmade air to it. All too often we are expected to put up with elements of an air rifle that could simply be done a little better, and in some cases I’m not only talking about the cheap end of the market.
By contrast, the AirMaks Krait has an air of solidity about it, and it’s abundantly clear that every component has been thought through from the perspective of “is this as good as it can be?”
Sometimes manufacturers will give us features that we don’t really need but feel we have to have simply because they are new. Instead, AirMaks has focused on the things that shooters really do need, such as the ability to tweak the stock to fit perfectly and the ability to fine-tune power output to exploit the Krait’s accuracy potential.
The AirMaks Krait might be a little exotic, but it definitely gives you the best of both worlds. Quality is up there with the big brands, as is performance. And you’ll get noticed for sure