The Red Wolf hit the scene in a storm of publicity, and a blaze of colour, in the shape of the special-edition Serie Rosso variant earlier this year. Cradled in a dazzling red and grey high-gloss laminate stock with natty red embellishments to its action and a flash carbon-fibre barrel shroud, the Rosso is certainly a head-turner, even if it’s not entirely suited to covert hunting.
The walnut-stocked Red Wolf Hi-Lite I was sent for review is far more understated and, in my opinion, is all the more handsome for it. The subtle graining of the natural wood really shows off the elegantly sculpted stock, and its almost-matt finish is much better suited to the field.
Apart from looking very elegant, the walnut handle is also extremely functional. A fluted ridge follows the length of the forend along both sides to create a comfortable contact point for your leading hand, while the neat stippling on the pistol grip gives a good purchase. The grip is sculpted to cradle your hand and makes for good trigger attack, whether you shoot with your thumb around or use the support of the scallop to shoot thumb-up.
The stock is ambidextrous, and there’s plenty of adjustment to ensure a good fit. The cheekpiece can be shifted up and down to achieve correct alignment between eye and scope, and the butt pad is adjustable for height and angle – the ability to adjust the angle makes a huge difference to ambidextrous handles, as it enables you to introduce some all-important cast to the stock.
Being the Hi-Lite version, the review gun is fitted with a weight-saving carbon-fibre bottle. This Wolf weighs in at just under 3.5kg unscoped, and measures a fairly compact 99cm from muzzle to butt without a moderator fitted. Although it looks quite big, it is a very ‘pointable’ airgun, and the design and refinement of the stock fit mean it feels great in the shoulder.
Aesthetically, it’s hard to find fault with the Red Wolf. It looks modern without looking gimmicky, and the screen that relays information from the gun’s electronic engine has been very subtly inletted into the side of the stock. My only slight niggle – and I could well be a minority of one when it comes to disliking this feature – is the carbon barrel shroud.
Although it’s true carbon mesh rather than a tape or coating, and probably looks quite the part on the range, I think it’s a bit too bling for the field. Its tendency to flash in bright sunlight won’t help with stealth, and I would have much preferred the clean lines of the black anodised shroud that Daystate uses on the Wolverine, for example, which would also match the finish of this gun’s action.
Daystate Red Wolf: key specification
SUPPLIED BY: Daystate, www.daystate.com
MODEL: Red Wolf (walnut)
TYPE: Electronic multi-shot PCP
CALIBRE: .177, .22 (tested), .25, .303
OVERALL LENGTH: 990mm
LENGTH OF PULL: 365-380mm
BARREL LENGTH: 430mm
WEIGHT: 3.5kg (without scope)
TRIGGER: Two-stage, adjustable, electronic
SAFETY: Manual, resettable
Build quality and features
This version of the Red Wolf retails for £1,849. When you’re paying the best part of two grand for an air rifle, pristine build quality should be an expectation and Daystate has more than delivered in this department. All the engineering looks immaculate and the gun also feels very solid.
It may be packed with techno wizardry, but there’s nothing fragile about this gun – I’ve been knocking it around in the field for the past few weeks, and it’s stood up to the test with no problems.
The Red Wolf features Daystate’s sidelever cocking mechanism, which I think is a massive improvement on the rear bolt on my old Mk 4. The lever is reversible and, because of the electronic firing action, does no more work than indexing the magazine and probing home the pellet. It does a fantastic job of that, though, and is fast and slick to operate.
A single-shot tray is supplied, which is very useful for the range, but I reckon most hunters will want to stick with the 10-shot magazine. It’s the latest version of Daystate’s proven rotary system, which works like clockwork.
Held in place by a magnet, the magazine slides in and out from the left, but you can switch that to the right by moving the stop pin. This magazine has evolved a lot over the years, and the latest incarnation works brilliantly. You just need to be mindful of the fact that it stands proud of the scope rails, and make sure you use mounts that are high enough to keep the tube clear of it.
Back to those electronics; this gun features Daystate’s MCT (Map Compensated Technology), which adjusts the valve to suit the pressure in the cylinder – it’s effectively an electronic regulator. It certainly works well – the .22 calibre test gun returned just short of 500 shots at close to 11.5ft-lb from a 210 bar fill. And they were very consistent shots – variation was around 10 feet per second over the first 450-shot string, and just 5fps over 50 shots.
There are numerous calibre and power options, including a 70ft-lb .303, a 50ft-lb .25, a 35ft-lb .22 and a 20ft-lb .177. Again, shot capacity is very impressive – 100 shots per fill from the 50ft-lb .25. High-power models are a little longer than the sub-12ft-lb version as the 43cm fully-floating Lothar Walther barrel is uprated to a 60cm tube.
Whatever power level you go for, you can easily keep an eye on air reserves as pressure is shown on the display screen. When it is time to refill, it’s simply a matter of removing the magnetic dust cap from the underside of the stock and connecting the filler attachment, before topping up to the stated working pressure for your specific gun.
The electronics extend far beyond the MCT firing cycle and air pressure display. Open the sidelever and hold in the trigger and you can toggle through modes to select the magazine counter and change the power level between high, medium and low.
When battery levels start to dwindle you get a prompt on the screen, at which point you need to remove it from its housing in the pistol grip and recharge it with the supplied charging gear.
Removing the battery for charging is a bit of a faff for anyone accustomed to the simplicity of plugging in the Mk 3 or Mk 4, but the Red Wolf’s cell should be good for tens of thousands of shots before it needs a top-up. One advantage of the removable battery is that you can charge it while the gun is locked away in its cabinet – useful for FAC shooters.
Of all the Red Wolf’s electronic features, my favourite is the electronic trigger. It felt a bit strange the first time I tried it more than 10 years ago, but I quickly learned to love it and went on to own two electronic Daystates of my own – both of which are still going strong after years of abuse. The mechanism works like a switch; it feels a little bit like clicking a computer mouse, and is precise and predictable.
The two-stage trigger unit on the Red Wolf is one of the best I have ever used. It offers loads of adjustment, and you can easily tweak first-stage travel and weight, and second-stage weight, without removing the action from the stock.
The post can be adjusted backwards and forwards, and the wide blade can be adjusted for height and angle. There really is no excuse for failing to achieve the perfect set-up with this trigger.
The Red Wolf has several clever safety features, and won’t fire if the sidelever is left in the open position. Sensibly positioned at the rear of the action, the safety catch is a discreet switch which makes the gun safe when pushed to the left – nudge it to the right and you’re ready to shoot.
Another safety feature, which I assume also helps to preserve battery life, is something of an irritation in the field: the Red Wolf shuts itself down after a few minutes of inactivity. This caught me out a few times, with nothing happening after I nudged off the safety catch and tried to squeeze off the trigger.
You need to either push the safety catch back on and then thumb it off again (effectively operating it twice) or cycle the sidelever to set the electronics back into action. There’s a mechanism to prevent double-loading by the additional sweep of the sidelever, but the extra movement could cost you shots if you’re targeting skittish quarry.
In short, the Red Wolf makes accurate shooting very easy. Predicting the break-point of that brilliant trigger soon becomes subconscious, and the electronic firing cycle isn’t just remarkably consistent, it also makes for a very fast lock time – meaning the pellet is on its way before all the tiny wobbles from your body have had much time to influence its course.
The result is extremely precise shot placement. The .22 calibre test gun made easy work of landing pellet on pellet at 30m, printed cloverleafs at 40m and consistently churned out half-inch groups at 50m.
The sidelever mechanism makes for very slick reloading, with the tried and tested magazine indexing with precision to ensure that pellets are smoothly probed to the breech with no hint of any drag or misalignment.
As a result, you can quickly blast your way through a heck of a lot of pellets – luckily the Red Wolf’s mega air capacity is sufficient for almost a whole tin. And the sophisticated electronics don’t impinge on the fun factor because you don’t have to do anything other than shoot the gun and leave them to do their job.
Not content with simply punching paper, I have taken the Red Wolf out on several hunting trips during the review period. The features that make it a blistering performer on the range also make it a fantastic tool for tackling live quarry. It handles well for kneeling, standing and sitting shots, and isn’t too heavy to carry across the fields during roving forays. I even learned to pre-empt the auto shutdown.
So, is this airgun worth the best part of £2,000? If you’ve got the money to spend, I genuinely think it is. It looks great, shoots brilliantly and is covered by a three-year warranty.
The couple of small niggles I’ve managed to flag up don’t detract from the fact that it is undeniably one of the finest air rifles money can buy. Nothing has managed to turn my head from my trusty Mk 4 for the last 10 years, but the Red Wolf may just persuade me that it’s time to start saving up for my next Daystate purchase – plus some camo tape.