Gun test: Budget busting starter kit

Mat Manning tests the Rabbit Sniper MkII package from Pellpax – an affordable springer combo that boasts an impressive array of extras.

Bargain-priced package deals are a great way to get into airgun shooting, and Pellpax has a reputation for putting some very good ones together. One of their most successful of late is the Rabbit Sniper MkII kit, which I’ve been putting through its paces over the last few weeks.

The combo includes a gun, zoom scope and mounts, silencer, padded gun bag and pellets. It retails for £169.99, which sounds like brilliant value for money.

KEY SPECS

MODEL: Rabbit Sniper MkII kit
PRICE: £169.99
SUPPLIED BY: Pellpax (pellpax.co.uk)
TYPE: Spring-powered break-barrel combo
CALIBRE: .22
OVERALL LENGTH: 1160mm
LENGTH OF PULL: 363mm
BARREL LENGTH: 427mm
WEIGHT: 3.8kg (with scope, mounts and silencer)
TRIGGER: Two-stage
SAFETY: Manual, resettable
POWER: 11.4 ft lb

TAKING STOCK

The kit is based around a .22 calibre SMK XS19 Supergrade; a no-frills break-barrel springer which churns out power levels very close to the UK legal limit.

It’s 1160mm long with the large silencer fitted and the full combo weighs a very manageable 3.8kg with the scope and mounts in situ. It’s a fairly long gun – clearly intended to be used by an adult – and, for such a basic gun, feels surprisingly good in the shoulder.

Trigger performance exceeds the norm for a gun at this price point – the safety catch switch is positioned just in front of the blade

The XS19’s action sits inside a fairly light-coloured stained hardwood stock with a nice low-sheen finish. Although simple, the handle is of a classic-looking sporter design with a long forend and is very kind on the eye.

The wood actually features some reasonable graining, but there is no stippling or chequering anywhere on the stock – it felt fine in the dry, but I imagine that I might miss the extra grip when shooting in wet conditions.

The pistol grip doesn’t have a particularly steep rake, and my big hands would probably have fitted better had there been a larger scallop to accommodate the base of my thumb. That said, it still set me up perfectly well enough for the trigger and the 363mm length of pull made for comfortable shooting.

Although the stock looks and feels like it’s ambidextrous, the cheekpiece is slightly more accentuated for right-handed shooters. Most importantly, it is sufficiently high to give good eye alignment when using the scope.

The Backdraft silencer reduces muzzle report, enhances the gun’s looks and serves as a handy cocking aid

Overall stock design and handling actually seem to be pretty good – the point of balance falls about halfway along the forend when the scope is fitted – and anyone of average build should find this gun very manageable.

The stock’s butt section is capped with a rubber recoil pad, which helps to soak up what little kick there is from this airgun’s firing cycle.

FEATURES AND FUNCTION

The XS19’s build quality feels reassuringly solid. I have a quick (and very unscientific) test for spring-powered guns, which entails giving them a good shake. This springer passed with absolutely no disconcerting rattles.

Metalwork is tidily finished – especially when you take this combo’s price point into account – and all engineering appears to be pretty neat. The rifled steel barrel is finished with a really chunky Backdraft silencer, which Pellpax has added as part of the package deal.

Apart from helping to quieten down muzzle report and serving as something substantial to hold on to when cocking the gun, it also gives a purposeful boost to the little springer’s aesthetics.

The 3-9×40 zoom scope from Richter Optik features a mil-dot reticle and finger-adjustable turrets, and is supplied with a robust set of two-piece mounts

The Rabbit Sniper MkII kit comes supplied with a 3-9×40 scope. The sight that came supplied with the review gun was made by Richter Optik. I have reviewed these scopes in the past and found them to be exceptional for their price point.

A zoom range of 3-9×40 is spot on for this type of airgun, and the scope even has a mil-dot reticle to assist with precise holdover and holdunder when shooting over varying distances.

The windage and elevation turrets are finger-adjustable and turn with very positive clicks to shift point of aim by ¼ MOA increments. Included with the scope are flip-up lens covers and a set of quality two-piece mounts that are just the right height to marry the scope to the XS19.

Pellpax supplies the gun with its original open sights, but the package renders them more or less redundant. The front element has to be removed to fit the silencer and the rear element doesn’t look very tidy sat in front of the scope, so I took that off too and the result was a much neater overall appearance. But the option is there should you ever wish to remove the scope and partake in some old school plinking using the opens instead.

I was very surprised by just how easy this airgun is to cock – especially when you consider that it’s producing a muzzle energy of around 11.4 ft-lb. The addition of that big Backdraft silencer certainly helps, not only by serving as a grip but also by increasing leverage by extending the length of the barrel. Loading is direct to the breech and the simple lock-up mechanism snaps home very securely when you swing the barrel closed.

It’s not really fair to be too picky about triggers on affordable spring guns, but this one is actually surprisingly good. It’s a two-stage unit with a metal blade that has a very nice gently curved profile and flat front edge with vertical grooves.

Cocking is surprisingly smooth, and is assisted by the extra leverage and grip provided by the oversized silencer

The first stage doesn’t have a lot of travel and although there is a small amount of creep in the second stage it still breaks very predictably. Consequently it didn’t take many practice shots before I could confidently predict its let-off point.

There is a resettable manual safety catch positioned right in front of the trigger blade – too close for my liking as I don’t like to be fumbling around near the trigger when trying to make a gun safe. It does what it’s supposed to, though: the gun is safe when it’s in the rearward position and you nudge it forward when you want to shoot.

PRECISION AND PERFORMANCE

The Rabbit Sniper MkII is a very nice little gun to shoot. It’s easy to cock and the firing cycle is much smoother than I would have expected from a gun of this price.

The action of the spring and piston feels positive and there is minimal twang and reverberation when shots are unleashed. Felt recoil is modest enough not to be a distraction.

One small detail that I always flag up in relation to airgun combos that come supplied with pellets is to try a few other brands, too. Pellpax supplied the review gun with a tin of 300 Proshot Precision Heavy Copper pellets. These appeared to be very clean and well-made rounds, but they didn’t get the best from the XS19.

Pellets come supplied with the kit, but experiment with different brands to find the right match for optimum accuracy

While the heavyweight 21gr pellets that came with the kit were accurate enough for tin-toppling, they weren’t particularly consistent on paper. A switch to Air Arms Diabolo Field dramatically improved things, and I was punching out five-shot groups measuring within 30mm at 25m.

Given its performance with a pellet that suits its barrel, and taking its substantial power into account, I reckon this airgun is up to tackling live quarry as long as you are responsible with your ranges. I have also had a lot of fun using this combo for plinking, and it has provided hours of enjoyment on the garden range.

To sum up, the Rabbit Sniper MkII kit is fantastic value for money when you consider that you get a gun, scope, mounts, silencer, bag and ammo for just £169.99. It’s built to withstand heavy-handed use by beginners, but I think it is more than just a starter’s gun.

This kit’s features, looks and performance mean you’ll probably want to hang on to it, even if you do eventually move on to a more expensive air rifle.

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Posted in Features, Tests

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