Mat Manning heads out with Walther’s distinctive new bullpup to see if this eye-catching little PCP can cut it in the performance stakes
There is simply no stopping the current rampage of bullpup airguns. I’m not sure whether it’s down to their looks or compact proportions, but there certainly is a tremendous hunger for super-stubby airguns at present, and most gun shops have a selection on them on their racks.
And now Umarex has thrown its hat into the ring with the diminutive Walther Reign. Distributed in the UK by John Rothery Wholesale, this German-made offering might be small, but it isn’t cheap. It has a recommended retail price of £799.95, which certainly promises good things from this distinctively styled bullpup.
MAKER: Umarex, Germany (www.umarex.com)
UK DISTRIBUTOR: John Rothery Wholesale (www.bisley-uk.com)
MODEL: Walther Reign
TYPE: Sidelever-action multi-shot bullpup PCP
CALIBRE: .177, .22 and .25
OVERALL LENGTH: 685mm
LENGTH OF PULL: 320mm
BARREL LENGTH: 430mm
WEIGHT: 2.5kg (without scope)
TRIGGER: Two-stage adjustable
SAFTEY: Resettable cross-bolt
The ambidextrous Reign is housed inside a black synthetic stock, which manages to look both futuristic and functional. The most distinctive feature of the stock is the fact that it swallows up the air tank within the forend – I think it’s a nice touch, and it certainly gives this airgun a look all of its own.
The forend also features an integral rail for quick and easy attachment of accessories such as laser sights and bipods. Importantly, the Reign’s handle is very robust, and it feels like it should stand up to some pretty rough use out in the field.
The stock is of a thumbhole design, and the cutaway has plenty of room for large hands. The chunky pistol grip has a nice steep rake, which feels comfortable and results in very good trigger attack. Both the pistol grip and forend feature patches of multi-directional stippling which to me looks the same as the pattern used on the Rotex RM8.
Although at first glance it appears to be fairly randomly configured, the grip it provides, even in wet weather, suggests that this stippling is the result of very informed design.
This handle manages to maintain a tactical aesthetic despite being surprisingly curvy. And those curves are all in the right places; the contours of the forend and pistol grip really fill your hands, and the result is a secure and comfortable fit. The cheek support is much better than the simple straight edge found on too many bullpups.
Not only does this one have just about the right rise to ensure good alignment between eye and scope, it’s also nicely rounded, which makes it very comfy to nestle down into. The rear of the stock is finished with a large, grippy rubber butt pad, which is adorned with fine ridges to give a secure mount in the shoulder.
The Reign is a real lightweight, tipping the scales at just 2.5kg unscoped – so carrying it around your shooting permission shouldn’t be any great strain. The review gun came supplied with quite a large Richter Optik scope, which does look a bit out of place on a gun that measures just 68.5cm from end to end.
However, the extra weight of a larger scope does make it easier to hold this little gun steady on aim. Length of pull is just 32cm – that’s pretty short, but I’m over 6’ tall and have long arms and I still found the Reign comfortable enough to shoot.
FEATURES AND FUNCTION
Umarex tends to make pretty tidy airguns, and the build quality of the Reign certainly looks to be up to the usual standard. The metalwork has a neat black anodised finish, which matches very well with the stock.
The barrel sits inside a fairly chunky shroud which is threaded to accept a silencer – and I reckon quite a few shooters will want to, as the shroud alone provides very little sound suppression, which results in quite a loud muzzle report.
The additional length of a moderator would compromise the Reign’s very compact proportions a bit, but I think it would probably be worth it if you plan to use it for stealthy hunting.
Visible engineering that isn’t hidden by the Reign’s synthetic casing looks very cleanly produced, and the long dovetail scope rail provides plenty of clamping space for scope mounts.
Although fairly high, the rail on this bullpup isn’t as lofty as those on some of its counterparts – the top sits about 4cm above the centre of the bore – so it doesn’t feel too slab-sided.
One of my favourite features of the Walther Reign is its simple but very effective magazine, which has 11-shot capacity in .177, 10 in .22 and nine in .25. In the hand, it feels like a quality piece of kit, and the fact that it can slot in and out from either side is a nice touch.
Held securely in place by two sprung ball-bearings in the stock housing, the magazine can be pulled out when the sidelever is cycled all the way back.
This well-designed mag seems to be very kind to pellets, and is also very easy to load; you simply drop each pellet in and then rotate the inner drum (which stands proud at the top and bottom of the rectangular cassette) to align the next chamber. When refilled, it simply pushes back into position – it even has an arrow on the side to help you make sure it’s facing in the right direction.
Cocking and loading are taken care of by a very impressive sidelever mechanism with a great dropdown handle. I think plenty of manufacturers could learn a thing or two by studying the forward positioning of the Reign’s sidelever, which puts it in just about the right place for quick operation.
Not only is the lever sensibly located – it also functions very well, and the positive back and forth motion which cocks the gun, indexes the magazine and nudges the next pellet into the breech manages to feel slick and robust at the same time. It’s a nice piece of engineering that provides fast follow-up shots for the hunter and quick-fire plinking on the range.
Umarex states that the Reign is regulated, although I didn’t have time to take it apart and discover what mechanism it actually runs. Consistency is pretty good though, and variation was around 15fps over the first 40 shots of a full fill – and that was with unsorted pellets straight from the tin.
Muzzle energy was around 11.5 ft-lb and the .177 calibre test gun returned about 130 shots from a full 230bar fill, while the .22 is claimed to return 180 shots. That’s a decent capacity for such a small gun, and should be ample to save most hunters and plinkers from having to reach for the tank mid-session.
It’s easy to see how much air you have left as there is a clear and well-positioned gauge on the side of the stock just in front of the sidelever. When it’s time to refill, it’s simply a matter of plugging into the port next to that gauge. Just pull out the plug that keeps dirt and moisture at bay and snap in the supplied probe.
Bullpup airguns don’t always have great triggers. It’s a quirk that can usually be attributed to the fact that an extended linkage is required to connect the blade to the distant action necessitated by their unorthodox configuration.
However, the two-stage unit on the Reign is actually quite good. The one real snag is that you have to remove the gun from its casing to adjust it – it entails removing quite a few screws and is a bit of a faff to say the least.
Thankfully, the trigger on the test gun was set very well straight from the box. The first stage had a fair amount of travel, but it came to an obvious stop before the second stage broke surprisingly crisply for a mechanical bullpup.
There’s a manual safety catch positioned just above the trigger blade – far enough away to not be of concern to me, yet close enough to be easy to operate. It’s a cross-pin mechanism which is safe when it’s pushed in from the left side.
When you’re ready to shoot, you simply have to nudge it across from the right – this is done using your trigger finger if you’re right-handed. It pushes through with a bit of a click, which might be an issue for hunters, but it is possible to make it near-silent if you keep the thumb of your left hand against it and provide some resistance that will stop it from pinging across too quickly.
PERFORMANCE ON THE RANGE
My initial accuracy tests were hampered by the fact that the test gun was pellet-fussy. I eventually found a good match with Daystate Rangemaster Sovereign in the heavy (10.3 grain) version.
While quality pellets that didn’t suit the Reign’s barrel struggled to group within 25mm at 30m, these produced single-hole five-shot clusters measuring about 10mm from centre to centre. That opened out to around 20mm at 40m, though might have been tighter were it not for a gentle breeze skimming across the range.
As for the overall shooting experience, the Reign can hold its own against other bullpups in its price bracket. The sidelever action is excellent and makes it very easy to blast through magazine after magazine while ragging paper targets and whacking knockdowns.
And being so simple to refill, you’re not out of action for long each time you run empty. The trigger is also exceptional, although I count myself lucky as I didn’t have to mess around with the lengthy adjustment process.
Being so small and light, the Reign is a little tricky to hold on aim when shooting from a standing or kneeling stance. Although that might be down to the fact that it’s too small for my frame; the extra heft provided by that large scope helped to keep it stable.
All in all, the Walther Reign is a neatly styled bullpup which crams a lot of features into a tiny package. It might be small, but it’s also pretty robust, and I can see it appealing to hunters who want a light, compact airgun that’s comfortable to carry around the field and is more than capable of delivering the goods when opportunities arise.