Big isn’t always best, as Mat Manning discovers when he gets to grips with the Brocock Ranger XR – a tiny airgun with some massive tricks up its sleeve.
There are times when all of us have thought we could do with a smaller airgun. Most often that is when we have grown tired of hauling a long, heavy rifle miles and miles across the fields or through the woods, especially when there is other essential gear to carry.
Switch to a diminutive airgun like the Brocock Ranger XR and you’ve got a rifle that’s light to carry and can be stowed in a backpack, leaving your hands free to lug the rest of your kit. It can even be stashed under the seat of a truck by those who use a 4×4 to travel across the fields and through the woods.
Compact airguns seem to be getting smaller and smaller, and the Ranger XR certainly is tiny. But this cool carbine takes the concept much further by folding in half to greatly reduce its proportions in transit. Its name was inspired by red squirrel ranger Jerry Moss, and I can certainly imagine this little PCP proving very handy on his extensive pest control rounds.
Brocock have made a name for themselves over recent years by doing a very good job of designing and producing practical, functional and accurate airguns that lend themselves really well to serious pest control.
The Ranger XR certainly follows in that tradition. Retail prices start at £1,244 – that’s not cheap for a tiddler, but this little airgun is big on features and performance.
Brocock Ranger XR – Key Specs
MAKER: Brocock, England (www.brocock.co.uk)
MODEL: Ranger XR
PRICE: From £1,244
TYPE: Folding, super-compact, multi-shot PCP
CALIBRE: .177 and .22 (tested)
OVERALL LENGTH: 600mm to 680mm
LENGTH OF PULL: 350mm to 430mm
BARREL LENGTH: 255mm
WEIGHT: 2.2kg (model tested without scope)
TRIGGER: Two-stage adjustable
POWER: 11.4 ft-lb on model tested (FAC versions available)
Apart from being small, the Ranger XR is also light, and weighs about 2.2kg before you fit a scope. It has an adjustable butt section which enables you to adjust the gun’s overall length from a tiny 60cm to a still pretty tiny 68cm.
If that isn’t tiny enough for you, you can fold down the handle to reduce overall carry length to about 39cm.
To adjust the butt section length, you simply press down a button to unlock the mechanism. It then slides in and out with clear stop points that ensure a solid lock-up when you find the fit that suits you best. The system allows length of pull to be adjusted from 35cm to 43cm, which should cover just about everyone from smaller shooters to long-armed apes like me.
Folding down the butt section is an equally simple task. All you do is push up the rear section to unlock the fastening notch and it’s free to fold. The same notch arrangement locks it into the folded position so there’s no risk of it flipping back out in transit. When you’re ready to put the Ranger into action, push the butt section back up to unlock the catch then swing the butt back out until the notch locks it securely in position.
The butt stock is also interchangeable, so you can swap it out for other designs.
I thought the standard AR-15-type one was very good; there is hardly any play in the folding mechanism and, despite being so small, it is still a very comfortable gun to shoot. The pistol grip is also interchangeable, although the supplied AK-type grip really suits the Ranger. Cleverly contoured to cradle your hand, it has a steep rake which makes for great trigger attack and is adorned with grippy patches of stippling at the front and rear.
The Ranger XR’s styling may not be to everyone’s taste, but even though I am a big fan of traditional-looking rifles I have to concede that the tactical aesthetic certainly suits a gun of this kind. This airgun has been designed for functionality and it feels very robust despite being so compact.
Features and function
Although very minimalistic, the ambidextrous synthetic stock has some really useful features including a Picatinny-type front accessory rail beneath the cylinder for bipod attachment – there are also options to add double side rails as an extra. The standard scope rail is of the dovetail variety but you can upgrade to Picatinny. You need to be a little bit careful with scope mounting in order to avoid fouling the magazine which stands proud between the front and rear clamping sections.
You might think that such a small rifle would need to be paired with an equally tiny scope. I set it up with my 4-16×42 MTC Mamba Lite scope, which although not massive is far from compact and still sat very comfortably on the Ranger without looking or feeling too big for such a diminutive gun.
That said, shooters who are looking for a really compact combo will probably find one of the new breed of short eye relief scopes to be a brilliant match.
Like the rest of the XR family, the Ranger has a sidelever action for cocking and loading, and it works very well. The lever is well-positioned and the chunky dropdown handle makes for a very good purchase whether wet or dry and even when wearing gloves. It is a very reliable mechanism and means that quick follow-up shots are always on hand for hunters – you’re also in for a lot of fun if you enjoy rapid-fire target practice.
A single-shot tray is supplied but you also get Brocock’s new self-indexing gate-type magazine, which holds 13 shots in .177 calibre and 11 in .22. It’s very easy to load; just open the gate, turn the inner rotor all the way round until it stops, drop a pellet into the bottom chamber to hold the spring tension and then fill the rest of the chambers.
Snap the gate closed again and it’s ready to slot back into the gun. I have used this magazine in several other guns and all variants have been very pellet-friendly with good alignment.
The new breed of Brocock airguns have excellent triggers, and that is certainly the case with the two-stage adjustable unit on the Ranger XR. The blade design is to my liking, with a gentle curve and a flat face.
As for out-of-the-box performance, first stage travel and weight felt spot on, terminating at a clear stop before a light, crisp break with absolutely no creep. There really is nothing to be gained by tinkering with a trigger that leaves the factory as good as this.
Just in front of the trigger blade is a switch-type safety catch. It’s actually a bit too close to the trigger for my liking but its positioning does mean that it is very easy to operate, and because it swings from side to side, you never have to pull back towards the trigger when using it.
It’s safe when the switch is over to the right and you simply nudge it across to the left when you’re ready to take the shot. Operation is near-silent, which will go down very well with hunters.
Performance and precision
Like its XR brethren, the Ranger is equipped with a Huma regulator which means it’s very consistent. The .22 calibre test gun was running at around 11.4 ft-lb with a variation of about 5fps over a string of 10 shots. Despite having a very compact cylinder, this little carbine still returns about 40 shots per fill at sub-12 ft-lb power levels. High-power models are also available, producing 16 ft-lb in .177 and 20 ft-lb in .22 – both of which should still return 30 or so shots at full output.
On-board air pressure is displayed on a gauge at the front of the cylinder. That’s not always an ideal place to put a gauge but this one is clearly marked and it is possible to read it without putting your face right in front of the muzzle. Recommended fill pressure is 230 bar and refilling is very straightforward – simply turn the collar at the front of the cylinder to expose the inlet and plug in the supplied probe.
Like a lot of Brocock airguns, the Ranger XR has adjustable power. Sub-12 shooters will probably want to stay with maximum output, although it can be useful to wind down for practice sessions in small gardens.
I reckon owners of FAC versions are more likely to appreciate being able to tweak power to suit different applications, especially if their permissions include indoor farmyard ratting. If you do want to wind the oomph up or down, it’s simply a matter of turning the power dial, which is positioned just above the trigger and had three stops on the review gun.
Even at sub-12 power levels, the Ranger does have a bit of a bark to it. The shrouded barrel is threaded for a silencer, which I think anyone planning on carrying out discreet pest control will want to use. Even with a silencer fitted, this airgun still feels very stubby so it’s not as though a moderator will spoil its compact proportions.
I don’t think Brocock will mind me saying that the Ranger XR is an airgun that has been designed for the roving hunter and not for precision shooting off a bench. Nonetheless, it is a quality piece of kit capable of delivering admirable accuracy – no great surprise when you take its pedigree into account. Remember this is a regulated airgun with a great trigger and top-end magazine and barrel, plus it’s designed and manufactured by one of Britain’s most respected gunmakers.
The result is impressive downrange performance, both from the bench and in the field. Shooting rested, fingernail-sized one-hole groups are standard at 30m and you can expect much the same at 40m. That level of accuracy was achievable with a variety of quality ammo, so pellet-fussiness doesn’t appear to be a problem.
One brand did give me slightly better results during my testing and that was the trusty Rangemaster Sovereign which, unsurprisingly, hails from the same stable as Brocock.
Away from the range and the comfort of the bench, I have used the Ranger XR while roving the woods in pursuit of grey squirrels, and also on a couple of mobile rabbiting forays. One of those outings even saw me heading out on my mountain bike with the Ranger stashed in a backpack.
It has performed brilliantly on all occasions (even after the rather bumpy bike ride), proving that this is not a gimmick gun but a very good sporting air rifle that also happens to be tricked out with some neat features to make it easier to stow away.
If you’re in the market for a reliable and accurate PCP that can cut it in the field but also need something light and very easy to transport, do have a go with the Brocock Ranger XR – it crams a lot of gun into a really tiny package.