The new FX Impact M3 has been designed to meet rocketing demand for versatile and easily tunable hardware – Mat Manning puts the Swedish supergun through its paces.
The team behind FX Airguns has a remarkable talent for listening to what modern airgun shooters want and then designing and manufacturing guns that exactly meet their requirements. The new Impact M3 does just that, and I will say right now that it comes about as close as you can get to fulfilling every want and need that both pellet-flingers and slug-slingers could possibly ask for.
One of the biggest crazes sweeping the airgun scene is tuning hardware to extract optimum performance with the shooter’s ammo of choice, and that choice is leaning towards slugs. Most of us know that slugs are fussy to say the least, and tuning a gun to perform well with them can be frustrating, laborious and time-consuming.
Until recently, the FX Impact MkII was regarded as the airgun of choice for those who wanted maximum tunability and versatility. This legendary airgun is a tough act to follow, but thanks to its ease and potential for adaptability, the M3 looks set to be a worthy successor.
Despite being one of the finest airguns in the world, prices for the M3 start at around £1,845. Most shooters will regard that as an expensive piece of kit, and rightly so, but when you take into account its level of build quality, refinement and adjustability, I would argue that it is also one of the best value airguns in the world – you certainly get your money’s worth with this Swedish mega-bullpup.
FX Impact M3 – key specs
MAKER: FX Airguns, Sweden (fxairguns.com)
UK DISTRIBUTOR: Sportsman Gun Centre (sportsmanguncentre.co.uk)
MODEL: Impact M3 (black Sniper model tested)
PRICE: From £1,843 (£1,906 for model tested)
TYPE: Tunable, dual-regulated, multi-shot bullpup
CALIBRE: .177, .22 (tested), .25, .30 and .35
OVERALL LENGTH: 970mm (model tested)
LENGTH OF PULL: 360mm
BARREL LENGTH: 500mm, 600mm, 700mm (model tested) and 800mm
WEIGHT: 3.2kg (model tested without scope)
TRIGGER: Two-stage adjustable
POWER: Variable to more than 70 ft-lb on model tested
The review gun sent to me was the high-power Sniper model, but there are also stubby Standard and diminutive Compact versions available, as well as the Cal .35 variant, which fires a massive 9mm projectile. The Sniper has a longer 700mm barrel as opposed to the standard 600m tube, but because of its bullpup design it only measures a very reasonable 970mm overall with the supplied silencer fitted.
This model also has a larger 580cc carbon air bottle, but total weight is still a comparatively light 3.2kg before you fit a scope. The different models all have different barrel lengths and bottle sizes, which obviously affects overall length and weight. This Sniper felt extremely well balanced and was very comfortable in the shoulder.
The stock – what there is of it – remains very functional and tactical in appearance. Despite looking so minimal, it still makes for a surprisingly comfortable fit.
It features the familiar AR-15-style pistol grip, which I really like, and the cheek support has a nice curved edge to ensure a comfortable contact point when you nestle into it. The familiar butt pad arrangement is height-adjustable by means of a knob that enables quick tweaks to be made on the fly. Aesthetically speaking, I’m not the biggest fan of tactically styled bullpups, but I have to concede that FX Airguns do make them kind on the eye with their clean, functional design.
As with the Impact MkII, there are still plenty of Picatinny accessory rails – one on the underside in front of the trigger guard and one on each side above the valve adjuster knob.
The scope rail is also of the Picatinny type and has 20 MOA built into it to give long-range shooters the extra vertical adjustment they usually crave – that’s just one of many special touches on the M3.
Features and function
I really like the trigger on the Impact MkII, but the improved unit on the M3 is even better. It isn’t just good for a bullpup – it is simply an excellent trigger.
The blade can be adjusted for reach, height and angle, and there is plenty of adjustment in the two-stage mechanism so you can fettle it exactly to your liking. It really is a great trigger, and it was super-crisp and predictable straight out of the box with no adjustment.
As with the MkII, the safety catch is a switch type and it’s well-positioned just above and behind the trigger.
It’s very easy to operate, and thumbing it round to the fire position quickly becomes a subconscious action.
Cocking and loading is by means of a very smooth short-throw cocking lever; it sits on the right side of the gun as standard, but can be swapped to the left.
It now has a bigger drop-down handle, which makes it even easier to use – especially for shooters like me who prefer to wear gloves. The sidelever mechanism is fast and slick, making for rapid and reliable reloading – there’s no fumbling around when you need a quick follow-up shot with the M3.
That cocking and loading system runs a high-capacity magazine that will be familiar to MkII shooters. I’ve been using this magazine for a long time on my own FX guns and I really rate it. It holds a hefty payload of 28 pellets or slugs in .22 calibre, so live quarry shooters rarely have to break off for a refill – it’s particularly handy for night-time ratting when you’re getting lots of shots.
FX’s brilliant Smooth Twist X barrel needs no introduction; it works great with pellets and slugs, and of course the heavy version is a proven performer with heavyweight slugs.
This barrel system’s real party piece is its quick-change mechanism so you can switch barrel length, calibre and twist rate to adapt it to your exact requirements depending on what kind of shooting you want to do and what ammo you want to use. The M3 has been built to even tighter tolerances to retain optimum accuracy when swapping out barrel components.
Keeping with the subject of making adjustments, one of the biggest plus-points of the MkII was its tunability, and with the M3 the job is even easier.
Adjusting hammer spring tension is now a completely tool-free job – gone are the days of twiddling around with an Allen key and then applying a blob of blue Loctite to stop the setting from creeping.
The M3 has an adjustable Macro Power Wheel with 16 different levels, which is much easier to comprehend than the MkII’s arrangement with letters and numbers. In front of that is a Micro Fine Adjuster for making more delicate tool-free tweaks.
Both adjusters are very clearly calibrated and each have a ring around the recommended standard value, so it’s easy to reset to FX’s recommended settings if you want to. The tweaking doesn’t end there, and you can also adjust the valve via the knob above the bottle attachment.
All the tuning in the world won’t count for much without consistent power delivery and, like the FX Maverick, the Impact M3 boasts a dual regulator setup.
The first reg’s pressure is shown on the gauge on the left side of the gun and it ensures that the second regulator always receives an absolutely consistent delivery of air rather than from the main bottle which will be gradually falling as you shoot through its charge.
The second regulator is the one you will be adjusting when you make tweaks via the screw behind the trigger blade – something that slug-shooting owners of high-powered MkIIs will be very familiar with. This regulator’s pressure is displayed on a dial on the underside of the butt section and manometer aficionados will be delighted to hear that the M3 has Wikai gauges.
Shooters who opt for the FAC-rated version will also be treated to the even bigger 72cc Power Plenum for improved power delivery.
Maximum fill pressure for the main bottle is 250 bar and filling is via a supplied Foster-type connector. Shot capacity depends on the size of the carbon bottle that your chosen model comes with, along with calibre, barrel length and your chosen power output.
The M3 is very efficient and sub-12 ft-lb models can easily shoot their way through a tin of 500 pellets before needing a top-up. Remaining air in the bottle is shown on the gauge on the right side of the gun.
Aside from all the features I’ve mentioned, FX are also producing a huge range of accessories to make the M3 even more customisable. These include a harmonically tunable barrel, on board chronograph and digital manometers. Keep an eye on the FX Airguns website for full details.
On the range
My airgun tuning skills are average at best, but I decided to give the M3 a quick tune to see how well I could get it to group with 25 grain Wildman flat-base slugs. I didn’t dwell on it for too long, but after about 10 minutes I had them running at around 900fps from the 700mm barrel and producing better groups than I usually manage with slugs.
The mega-tight groups that people like my mate Roger Lait manage at 100m did still elude me, but I don’t doubt that I could have got closer to that standard with more time and effort. As it was, I was satisfied with 50m groups measuring comfortably within 20mm from centre to centre after my quick tune. That’s far better, and much quicker, than my usual experiences with slugs.
Bearing in mind I had set the M3 up to churn out a muzzle energy of around 45 ft-lb, the gun was smooth to shoot. You can really feel some airguns nudging back into your shoulder on that kind of output, but this one still felt very dead – like an accurate PCP should.
It was also very quiet, with the combination of the long, chunky shroud and the supplied silencer doing a great job of muting the muzzle report. Most importantly, the M3 was a lot of fun to shoot.
While slugs always seem to need more power fettling to get the best from them, the M3 made easy work of putting pellets bang on target. The test gun loved 25 grain JSB Exact Jumbo Monster, driving them with a variation within 7fps over a 10-shot string, and printing ragged cloverleaf groups with them at 50m before I tweaked any of its factory settings.
I think the FX Impact M3 is truly awesome, and represents a huge advancement in the tunability of high-powered airguns. Shooters who opt for a sub-12 model won’t get all that adjustability or oversized plenum, but will be buying an accurate and well-made airgun.
It isn’t cheap, but I am still amazed that shooters who want the best can pick up such a phenomenal airgun for such a competitive price. FX have managed to raise the bar yet again.