In this gun test, Mat Manning checks out ultimate refinement – the Air Arms Ultimate Sporter R, a regulated variant of Air Arms’ award-winning PCP.
The Air Arms S510 Ultimate Sporter is widely regarded as one of the best airguns out there and, as someone who shoots one regularly, I wouldn’t argue with that. Setting out to improve on this already excellent airgun is, therefore, a brave move, but the British gunmaker has certainly managed to hit the brief with this proven rifle’s newest incarnation – the Air Arms Ultimate Sporter R.
Air Arms Ultimate Sporter R: specification
MAKER: Air Arms, England
SUPPLIED BY: Air Arms (www.air-arms.co.uk)
MODEL: Ultimate Sporter R
PRICE: £1,149 (walnut and laminate stock), £1,099 (black soft-touch stock)
TYPE: Regulated multi-shot PCP
CALIBRE: .177 (tested) and .22
OVERALL LENGTH: 1010mm including silencer
LENGTH OF PULL: 370mm
BARREL LENGTH: 395mm
WEIGHT: 3.4kg (without scope)
TRIGGER: Two-stage, adjustable
SAFETY: Manual, resettable
POWER: 11.5 ft-lb (high-power options available)
The new variant is the Air Arms Ultimate Sporter R, and that ‘R’ stands for regulator. It’s worth pointing out that the original model is extremely consistent, but there is a distinct trend at present for regulated guns that maintain super-consistent power right through their charge.
The regulator on the Ultimate Sporter R has not simply been added for fashion’s sake, though, and the power curve-free shooting it delivers really does nudge this awesome airgun’s performance up to another level.
Air Arms Ultimate Sporter R: taking stock
The latest variant of the Ultimate Sporter features the same excellent stock as the original. I’ve been testing the walnut version, which retails at £1,149.
It features a neat black soft-touch coating on the cheekpiece, and while I expect this finish has been applied to do away with the hassle of ensuring a match with the grain pattern of the stock, I actually think that it’s a great addition.
It makes for a very comfortable point of contact and feels warmer than wood. Other stock options include a laminate version, and a less expensive full black soft-touch handle.
Although the stock is ambidextrous, there is a lot of potential to tweak it in order to achieve the perfect fit. The cheekpiece is height-adjustable; simply slacken off its locking bolt, and it can be slid up and down.
Better still, if you loosen the two screws accessed through the side cut-outs, you can roll the cheekpiece on a ball joint, enabling you to completely adjust its orientation and angle before you secure it in place. The butt pad is also height-adjustable, so there’s no excuse for not having this stock set up to give you exactly the right alignment between eye and scope.
The role that gun fit and eye alignment play in accurate shooting cannot be overstressed, and this stock makes it very simple for you to get your set-up dead right.
The fixed elements of the stock are also very good. The rake of the pistol grip is excellent, with the result that your trigger finger instinctively finds its way to the blade, and the forend is adorned with fluted grooves which help to improve hold along the front section.
The flat underside of the forend has the look and feel of a target gun, but I think it also works brilliantly in the field. There’s some very tidy stippling on either side of the forend and pistol grip – it feels nice and grippy, and also enhances the appearance of the stock.
Sunk into the underside of the forend is a sliding accessory rail with a quick release stud; a really handy feature for hunters who, like me, will want to fit a bipod. The fact that the stud slides along the rail is a really nice touch, because it means you can position it to create exactly the right point of balance for your bipod.
There’s also a rear quick-release stud pre-fitted, which means you can go ahead and fit a sling without having to use a drill, which would mar this lovely piece of walnut.
The Ultimate Sporter R weighs about 3.4kg unscoped and measures up at 101cm with the silencer fitted. Considering that this is a carbine model, it’s still quite a substantial gun, but I think it’s all the better for it.
It’s easily compact enough for hide shooting and its balance is excellent – set it up right, and it’s a gun that feels very good in the shoulder.
Air Arms Ultimate Sporter R: finish and features
Typical of Air Arms, the engineering and finish of the metalwork on this air rifle are flawless. A black anodised shroud runs the full length of the 395mm Lothar Walther barrel, and the calibre-specific Q-Tec silencer doesn’t just look fantastic, it also does a brilliant job of hushing down muzzle report to little more than a whisper – it really is one of the best airgun moderators out there.
The Ultimate Sporter runs the tried and tested Air Arms 10-shot rotary magazine, and there are two supplied. It’s a system that I have a lot of faith in, and it’s certainly a very pellet-friendly magazine.
The rear plate is clear so you can see through it and keep an eye on how many shots you have left. When the mag is empty, draw the sidelever right back, and it pulls straight out from the left-hand side.
It’s very easy to load – you just drop the pellets in from the back, and there’s no spring tension to work against. Push the full magazine back in from the left and return the sidelever, and you’re ready to shoot.
The sidelever action which drives the magazine is well positioned, and is absolutely brilliant in operation. It’s very fast and efficient; the rearward stroke cocks the gun and indexes the magazine, while the forward stroke smoothly probes the pellet home.
I have run thousands and thousands of pellets through my Ultimate Sporter, and it has never missed a beat. Equally slick is the fully-adjustable two-stage trigger.
There is loads of adjustment for first and second stages, and you don’t have to remove the gun from the stock to access the adjuster screws. However, Air Arms guns tend to leave the factory with very well set triggers, and that’s certainly the case with this one.
The fairly long first stage comes to an obvious stop before the second stage breaks very crisply without feeling precariously light – with such a great set-up straight from the box, I didn’t feel inclined to tinker with it.
There’s a manual push-through safety catch located on the trigger blade. Personally, I don’t like to be fumbling around the trigger when I’m trying to operate a safety catch, but I will say that this one is positive and near-silent in operation. You push the button in from the left to make it safe, and push it back from the right to fire.
Air filling is by means of the Air Arms quick-fill system, which features a neat integral dust filter to reduce the risk of crud getting in through the inlet valve.
Maximum fill pressure is 250 bar, though I must admit that I didn’t take it that high, and you can keep an eye on air reserves via the very clear colour-coded dial that’s sunk into the underside of the stock.
Air Arms Ultimate Sporter R: performance on the range
The R in Ultimate Sporter R stands for regulator, and that is certainly the standout feature on this model. The test gun was churning out 11.5 ft-lb with a shot-to-shot variation of less than 4fps over a 10-shot string using Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets taken straight from the tin.
Thanks to the regulator, you can expect this level of consistency all the way through the charge. It also gives you more shots per fill, taking the tally to over 90 in .177, and to more than 120 in .22.
There is no denying that the absence of a power curve has enhanced the Ultimate Sporter R’s performance. My original model was blisteringly accurate, but the regulator on this model really has taken it to another level.
Most of my testing was done in relatively windless conditions, and when shooting rested from a bench, sub-10mm centre-to-centre groups were the norm at 30m and consistently achievable at 40m.
The Ultimate Sporter picked up the gong for best airgun in this year’s Great British Shooting Awards, and it’s easy to see why. This airgun is a solid performer, and oozes quality without having to rely on gimmicks.
It’s a struggle to find fault with the original model, but the a regulator brings another degree of refinement to an already brilliant quality airgun.
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Air Arms Ultimate Sporter R: The Airgun Shooter Verdict
Look and feel: 9
Build quality: 10
Sighting up: 9