Mike Morton tests the Niksan Archero-S to find out whether this inexpensive sporter can deliver the goods downrange
Niksan Defence isn’t a name many airgun shooters in the UK will be too familiar with, but this company has been going for a very long time in its native Turkey. Niksan began as a small business in the 1970s, producing many types of hunting products, especially shotguns, as well as blank-firing signal pistols and fishing products. But now it makes multi-shot PCPs as well. The current line-up, here in the UK thanks to The Shooting Party, includes the Elf, a bullpup available in either a walnut (Elf-W) or synthetic stock (Elf-S), the Ozark-W, a buddy bottle-fed rifle equipped with a walnut fore stock and a synthetic folding butt stock, and the Niksan Archero-S.
With a name like “Archero” you could be forgiven for thinking this rifle shoots arrows, a type of PCP that’s very popular in the United States, but this PCP definitely fires pellets, and it’s available in .177 and .22. As the suffix suggests, the Niksan Archero-S is clad in a synthetic stock, which has an adjustable cheekpiece. The rifle features an anti-hammer bounce system, has an adjustable trigger, Picatinny rails for mounting a scope and bipod, plus a transfer port power adjuster.
The Archero also comes with two 12-shot magazines, a set of O-rings, hex keys, gun oil, a small cleaning cloth, a manual and a test card showing a tight five-shot group. The package is finished off with the inclusion of a detachable foregrip/bipod and a hard case. Rifle cases are a feature that’s often overlooked, but this one is nice because it’s actually large enough to take the rifle with a scope fitted.
You might think that all hard cases should be able to do this, and you’d be right – they should. But the fact is that some simply don’t, so kudos to Niksan for this. And all this for £559. Not bad.
UK distributor: The Shooting Party (shootingparty.uk)
Type: Multi-shot PCP
Calibre: .177 (tested) and .22
Magazine: Two drum magazines
Capacity: 12 shots
Overall length: 103cm
Barrel: Shrouded, with ½” UNF thread to fit moderator
Stock: Synthetic sporter
Scope rail: Picatinny
Length of pull: 365mm
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Safety: Manual, resettable
Muzzle energy: 11.5ft-lb
Additional features: Hard case and combined foregrip/bipod
Niksan Archero-S – function and form
Despite its semi-tactical looks due to the black synthetic stock, the Archero is a long, slender sporter, measuring 103cm from tip to toe. Length of pull is a little longer than usual at around 365mm. This is a feature I love as I have the arms of a gibbon, but if you’re more slightly built I’d advise you to make sure the ergonomics work for you.
Point of balance is roughly half-way down the forend, making this 3.5kg rifle a tad nose-heavy. I did try shooting it from various stances, but it lends itself best to being shot supported off sticks, or better yet from bags off a bench or a bipod when shooting prone.
Talking of bipods, as mentioned, The Shooting Party is bundling the Archero with a foregrip with a Picatinny attachment that features two snap-out bipod legs. This design is very similar to the type of vertical foregrip that’s fitted to some modern battle rifles, such as the British L85A3.
While a “proper” bipod would be a better option – The Shooting Party’s own Adras being a good example – the supplied bipod is certainly adequate and it’s possible to hold the rifle still in this configuration.
Another thing that’s perfectly still is the synthetic stock, which is made of a nice, rigid polymer. The cheekpiece can be adjusted for height by pressing a button on the right-hand side of the butt. This is another welcome feature, but it does make the Archero suitable for right-handed shooters only, as the button sits inside a raised moulding that would dig into your face if you tried to shoulder the rifle on the opposite side. Having that adjustability is great, although the cheekpiece rides on a single pillar and there is a bit of wobble, although it steadies itself well when resting your face against it in the aim.
The forend has a modest amount of stippling, and the pistol grip is treated to more of the same, neither of which really add very much grip. There are no finger grooves on the pistol grip. This feature can be a mixed blessing: finger grooves that actually fit your fingers can really enhance your hold, but if they don’t fit your hand properly then they can work against you, so Niksan’s decision to leave them off altogether was probably a wise one.
The long shrouded barrel sits above a similarly long inline air cylinder. There’s no lustrous bluing on the metalwork, just a dull black, but I think that’s acceptable for a rifle of this price. I’m not sure what sound-deadening system the shroud has, but I found the Archero to be reasonably quiet during most of my shooting, including shooting indoors, with the noise from the action sounding louder in my ear than the bark from the muzzle.
The shroud is threaded the standard ½in UNF so you can attach a moderator, although that will of course add to the length, and I decided that I didn’t really need one in any case.
In keeping with many air rifles that are destined for a variety of markets, the Archero has a power adjuster, with the minimum setting delivering just under 7ft-lb of muzzle energy.
I shot it at this level in my garden and found it remarkably quiet, and still reasonably accurate out to about 25yds. However, I used the power setting on maximum, which was around 11.5ft-lb, for the bulk of my testing.
Attaching a scope is pretty easy as the Archero has a Picatinny rail, which although interrupted by the magazine, still offers plenty of clamping surface to position your scope for optimum eye relief. Because the Archero is quite a long rifle, I decided to fit a suitably long scope, and paired the gun with a 6-24×56 SSS from Professional Airgun Optics, and found the two worked really well together.
Niksan Archero-S – ammo and air
Filling the rifle up to the recommended 200 bar is achieved using the supplied push-in probe. The port is protected by a large collar which can be twisted to reveal an access hole.
Alternatively, the collar can be pulled off altogether for even easier filling.
The match-style trigger blade can be adjusted using the supplied hex keys, but I found the position to be quite good out of the box. If you ever find a trigger that doesn’t feel right, it’s definitely worth taking the time to tweak it to your liking, as a properly positioned trigger blade is one of the many ingredients that need to be mixed together in order to produce accurate shooting.
Using my Lyman digital gauge, I measured trigger-pull at almost bang on 3lb, a little heavier than I would have liked, but a safe enough weight for field use. There was very little resistance in terms of first-stage travel, and there was a reasonable amount of second-stage creep, although it was at least predictable, and for a rifle of this price it’s unreasonable to expect something like 10M Precision Rifle performance.
The safety catch can be applied whether or not the rifle has been cocked, which always scores a plus point with me. It’s a simple rocker catch that’s located just above the trigger guard. It needs to be nudged forwards for safe and back for fire, which can be done with the thumb of the shooting hand, provided you’re right-handed. I was impressed by the operation of the catch, which was both positive and quiet.
Magazines with increasingly larger ammo capacities are all the rage at the moment, and the Archero’s takes 12 pellets in both .177, as seen here, and in .22.
To load the magazine, the clear faceplate must be rotated clockwise, holding it under tension while the first pellet is inserted from the rear. The mag can then be flipped back and the remaining chambers filled. I tried a variety of pellets and found skirt width, rather than pellet length, to be the deciding factor.
I found some pellets would drop all the way in, notably Webley Mosquito Express, while others, like JSB Exact, needed coaxing with my break-barrel pellet-seating device. Once they were satisfactorily seated in the magazine, however, all types worked well and the magazine, which is inserted from the right using a groove to guide it home, cycled flawlessly.
Niksan Archero-S – ready for the range
The Archero has a sidelever-operated action, which is located on the right and can’t be swapped to the left. Unlike some of its contemporaries, the Archero’s sidelever doesn’t have a drop-down handle, but it probably doesn’t need one as the tip sticks out from the side of the action and is easy enough to grab hold of.
It’s spring-assisted, meaning it will naturally fly back part of the way during the cocking phase, and I found only minimal force was needed to complete the cocking cycle. Like the rest of the rifle, I found the sidelever to be fairly sturdy and reliable.
The test rifle wasn’t brand new, and as always my first order of business was to give the barrel a thorough clean. Having zeroed the rifle and carried out some initial accuracy testing with the Mosquitos, I put a 10-shot string over the chronograph, with a variation of 9ft/sec from a muzzle energy of 11.5ft-lb.
One thing I appreciated was an added test card showing a five-shot group taken by the factory.
Some rifles come with similar test cards showing some impressive groups, but these results are rendered near meaningless if the distance the shots were taken at isn’t listed as well.
Luckily the Niksan test card revealed a pleasing group measuring 7.3mm centre-to-centre having been shot at 25m. While this group could well have been shot with the action out of the stock and clamped in a vice, I’m pleased to say my own rested shots weren’t that far off at 30yds, varying between sub-5p piece-sized groups and sub-10p piece-sized groups, depending on the pellet type (it seemed to really like the Mosquitos) and the fickleness of the wind.
I reckon the Archero lets those pellets fly true as an arrow out to medium distances, making this rifle a suitable hunting and pest control tool, especially if you’re taking advantage of a bipod and laying wait in ambush.