Turkish gunmaker, Kral Arms has entered the PCP market with the Puncher – a multi-shot sidelever that’s both feature-laden and affordable. The editor invites you to take a ringside seat at his unboxing of it…
Kral is a fast-growing Turkish airgun brand that’s sneaking in under the radar. Initially aimed more at the cheap-and-cheerful end of the spring gun market, they’ve slowly been getting their act together; build quality and finish have improved, but prices have remained competitive. Their current range of springers (like the popular Demon break-barrel) moves in ever-growing quantities through gun shops, offering stiff competition for the likes of Crosman, Hatsan, SMK and Stoeger. Now, they’re about to provide formidable opposition to the PCP sector, too.
Kral’s inaugural PCP model, the Puncher, is, in my opinion, a real snip at just £499. Available in .177, .22 and .25 – in sub-12ft/lb and FAC-rated configurations – it’s yet another PCP to lower the entry-level price point for airgunners wishing to graduate into the world of recoilless pneumatics. Except that, while its pricing structure may be entry level, what it offers its owner is anything but – this new sidelever-operated rifle of Kral’s is a very capable piece of kit, if the .22 test sample I’ve been shooting of late is anything to go by.
As you’d expect from a gunmaker from this part of the world, the Puncher is dressed in Turkish walnut. Although the grain pattern was a little bland on my test sample, it’ll suit left- and right-hookers thanks to a twin-sided Monte Carlo cheekpiece and ‘neutral’ pistol grip. Actually, it’s not unlike that of the sporter version of Prestige’s Kub that first appeared in 2009 – even the forend chequer panels are similar!
With sensible dimensions and finished off with a flush-fitting, ventilated recoil pad, the Puncher’s handle looks good, feels extremely comfortable in the shoulder and offers plenty of practical advantages courtesy of the chequering at its hold points and a well-proportioned forend. The latter bears some semblance of a Schnabel which holds the aesthetic lines well.
The action it cradles is also very similar to that of the Prestige Kub, with hints of Hatsan and Evanix throughout, though that’s not to say the Puncher’s not its own gun. The standard of finish – the blueing of the 280cc compression tube and barrel, and black-anodising of the breech, sidelever cocking arm and trigger guard – is quite exemplary at this price point, rivalling that of the equally impressive Gamo Coyote and Walther Rotex RM8 (both sub-£500 PCPs).
Looking closely at the breech, many features jump out. The most prominent is the knurled brass knob on the right which corresponds with a +/- vernier on the opposite side of the block. A power adjuster perhaps? Well… yes and no. On sub-12ft/lb models, it doesn’t do a thing – but it will be operational on the higher-powered versions that UK distributor, Range-Right, supplies gun shops with.
The breech is milled for both 11 and 22mm scope mounts – handy – and the holes on the section forward of the protruding magazine are there for a purpose: you can equip this PCP with an open rearsight! Included in the package as standard, it matches up to a fibre-optic foresight – and I’d say it’s well worth fitting them (see below).
The Kral’s supplied open sighting option offers a tremendously long sight base of 530mm which, coupled with the Puncher’s recoil-free firing cycle, makes accurate shooting without a telly very possible. Although I found the rearsight a little too close to my eye for a decent focus, its green fibre-optic inserts made it pretty simple to align correctly with the foresight’s red bead.
With finger-wheel adjustment for windage and elevation (and a height-adjustable foresight bead), these opens are easy to use. The hardest part is actually fitting them… and that’s not tricky at all! Having unscrewed the muzzle brake, the foresight assembly  simply slides over the muzzle and locks down courtesy of a grubscrew.
The rearsight fits to the forward section of the breech in ready-drilled holes . Unscrew the elevation thumbwheel and open it out, scissor-like, taking care not to lose the small tensioning spring. This exposes a slotted screw at the rear which can be screwed into the breech block . Once you‘ve tightened it down, balance the small spring on top of the screw head, swing back the sight and refit the elevation thumbwheel. The rearsight is then ready to be zeroed .
Yes, most airgunners opt to rig their rifles with a telescopic sight, but because PCPs have largely been supplied as scope-only models, I think it fair to say that no-one has really championed the open sight on a recoilless PCP. But while I couldn’t match the group sizes achieved with a PAO 3-12×44 Mini SWAT, I was surprisingly accurate with the Kral’s opens – especially as they sport contemporary fibre-optic inserts and a height-adjustable foresight bead.
One further point to mention is that you can also choose to swap the aluminium muzzle weight – which has to be removed for the foresight fitment – for a silencer. Simply unscrew it to reveal a lengthy ½in UNF thread. Me? I didn’t think a silencer was absolutely necessary as the Puncher’s 535mm long barrel wasn’t particularly loud in the supplied .22 calibre, though it may be noisy enough to justify one on an FAC version.
Kral must be commended for their generosity, because they also supply a spare magazine with the Puncher. The .177 model’s is a 14-shot; the .22’s a 12-shot and the .25 a 10-shot – and I’ve got to say that this magazine’s design really does highlight the Turkish gunmaker’s airgun engineering prowess.
It’s a spring-driven affair, where the escapement mechanism – the spring-actuated indexing – is activated by the pellet seating probe that cycles back and forth with the operation of the side-cocking lever. I was concerned that it might ‘over-clock’ – spin round too far and miss a round – but I had no problems whatsoever with the .22 test sample. I think the trick is to open the sidelever in one, swift movement – and I did find it necessary to ‘seat’ some of the looser and/or shorter brands right down into the cassette using some form of pusher.
The escapement mechanism can be viewed through a clear-faced panel on the magazine, once it’s been removed from either side of the breech. However, its complex design also brings with it a specific loading procedure. It’s not particularly difficult, but does require you to be a bit more savvy when arming the mag with lead (see below).
Before the Puncher’s magazine can be loaded up, the indexing pawl in the lower aperture  first needs to be ‘tripped’ with a hex key or something similar  to ensure the spring-loaded inner cassette has ‘de-coiled’. You’ll know because the pawl won’t be visible  and the cassette’s notch will align within the crescent of the cutaway loading bay . (You don’t load the pellet in the hole where the pawl is!)
Load a pellet into the first chamber  and rotate the inner cassette anti-clockwise to expose the next empty chamber. Repeat, thumbing home each pellet’s skirt flush to the cassette  until the mag is full. Some pellet types will benefit being ‘seated’ deep into the chamber with a probe of some description.
The cocking system is quiet and foolproof, with the sidelever neatly tucked into the breech to avoid getting snagged in the field. It pops open to 40 degrees with a gentle pull, and then draws back to 90 degrees, cocking the hammer with the minimum of effort and indexing the magazine. Beware, however: there’s no anti-double-load system, so operating the sidelever more than once will stick another round up the spout.
Just below the sidelever sits a pendulum-style safety catch. It’s manual and feels much more positive than some guns I’ve seen this similar design adorn. It’s also finished in a gold anodising which nicely complements the gently curved trigger blade.
Of course, triggers shouldn’t be about bling (though they frequently are) and I’m glad to report that the excellent standard seen elsewhere on this rifle also applies to the trigger let-off. It’s an adjustable (off-gun), two-stage unit that exhibits minimal creep of the sears and a field-sensible pull weight. I certainly never had to look in its direction whenever I planted a wayward pellet on the target.
In terms of power, my gun returned 11.75ft/lb with heavyweight (21-grain) Panther Heavy Metal roundheads, which had a good 0.5ft/lb over the pellets that the rifle shot most accurately – 14.68-grain Rangemaster Sovereign. It’s not a regulated PCP, but obviously enjoys a well-designed main valve judging by both the incredible consistency between shots and the general lack of power ‘curve’ throughout the charge (see graph below).
Within a high/low spread of 0.75ft/lb, my .22 test sample returned 130-odd shots from a 200BAR fill. This was slightly less than the 160 claimed by Range-Right, but it’s still very much a healthy output figure – and I was well impressed by the 90-shot sweet spot my rifle exhibited between 200 and 115BAR. Interestingly, if I eked out the full 160 shots, the needle of the rifle’s on-board manometer perfectly indicated the refill point (80BAR), but I found my test gun was best refilled at 100BAR.
Filling is via a standard push-fit probe – also supplied in the box. Connect its 1/8BSP thread to the hose of your charging gear and it’s then just a simple case of rotating the dust cover to reveal the Puncher’s inlet port, plugging in and charging. A manometer inlet into the belly of the forestock provides some indication as to the rifle’s fill level. It doesn’t have a super-clear face, but on the other hand at least it’s colour-coded. As long as you’re in the green (200-80BAR), the rifle’s ‘on power’ (though I found my gun’s best refill point was 100BAR).
Accuracy-wise, to be honest I was quite impressed, despite my initial reservations about the apparent tightness of the protective collar just behind the muzzle. If it is free-floating (which is the ideal), then you’d be hard-pressed to get so much as a fag paper in the gap! Nonetheless, in spite of this there were no apparent zero shifts as the Puncher cycled through its charge and the choked barrel – a Kral-made bore I’m told – was clearly a good ’un.
In fact, the rifle is an all-round good ’un – I really can’t find anything to fault. As a debutant, the Kral Arms Puncher enters the PCP fray making a clear statement. At the tills, this £499 rifle package will certainly be a formidable adversary against any other PCP that also carries a price tag commencing with a ‘4’. In fact, it’s got enough going for it to worry the makers of those PCPs where the suggested retail prices starts with a ‘5’, even…