Are you looking for function or form when you buy a rifle? With the Stoeger XM1 multi-shot PCP, Mike Morton believes you can have both.
Just a few years ago it seemed that anyone wanting to get into recoilless shooting would have to shell out a considerable sum for a rifle they’d want to hang onto, or buy an entry-level offering with the expectation of having to upgrade it.
But with the Stoeger XM1 – the American firm’s first PCP – it seems you can have your cake and eat it too, as this regulated, bolt-action, multi-shot gives you everything you need to get started. And chances are you won’t want to part with it any time soon.
The Stoeger XM1 comes as package called the Synth Combo, which includes the rifle itself along with optional pistol grip inserts, optional cheekpieces, optional butt pad spacers, Picatinny rails for attaching bipod legs and storing spare magazines, one magazine, one single-shot tray, a fill probe, and a selection of O-rings and hex keys.
Then there’s the 3-9×40 scope, two-piece mounts and sound moderator. All for £395. I wondered whether so much for so relatively little would turn out to be too good to be true, but my scepticism was misplaced, as I was about to find out.
As extensive as this checklist may be, the first thing that will grab your attention is the way the gun looks. Stoeger may be a US company, but its airguns are designed in Italy, and that Mediterranean flair is very much carried over into the appearance of its airguns.
One Stoeger rifle I’d previously reviewed, the RX20 S3 Suppressor break-barrel, is probably the most unconventional looking airgun I’ve ever seen. The XM1 isn’t as radical as the RX20, but does chalk up some distinctive style points all of its own.
It wears a black, semi-skeletonised, synthetic, but rigid ambidextrous stock, and features a pistol grip with black or blue inserts. The two spacers on the butt pad are coloured, one blue and the other yellow.
This emphasis on style may be off-putting for some, but there is a way to go back to black if you want something more conservative as we’ll see. It’s a very light rifle, coming in at just under 2.4kg, but both the synthetic materials and the metalwork are of good quality.
Stoeger XM1 Multi-Shot PCP – key specs
Model: XM1 Synth Combo
Distributor: GMK (gmk.co.uk)
Price: £395 including scope, mounts and moderator
Type: Multi-shot PCP with integrated regulator
Calibre: .177 and .22 (tested)
Magazine: Two drum magazines
Capacity: Nine in .177, seven in .22
Overall length: 888mm
Barrel length: 468mm
Stock: Ambidextrous synthetic
Sights: Scope only, dovetail rail
Length of pull: 380mm
Trigger-pull: 1lb 13oz
Muzzle energy: 11.04 ft-lb
Optional extras: Bipod £39.95 and PCP Pump Kit £119.95
Options and adjustability
It may be radical, but the way this rifle looks is only part of the story as plenty of thought has gone into its design.
The bottom of the butt, for example, is hooked at the end, making it easier to pull it into your shoulder when you’re shooting off bags or a bipod, and the area is even textured to help you maintain a grip with your non-shooting hand.
The Meccano-like strut that connects the bottom of the pistol grip to the butt, a feature that’s usually associated with bullpups, may primarily be there to add some structural integrity, but it also has a perfectly flat bottom, allowing it to ride over a rear bench bag.
No sling swivel studs have been included, which precludes the use of a conventional Harris-type bipod, but holes are present at the end of the butt and underneath the tip of the forend, so a sling with a standard swivel can easily be fitted.
Two Picatinny accessory rails are supplied, mounted either side of the forend. And while the XM1 can’t take a regular bipod, the rails can be used to attach individual bipod legs, available from Stoeger. The left-hand rail also offers shooters the ability to slot in and store up to three magazines.
The XM1 has a steeply raked pistol grip for maximum control and more comfort in exchange for a slight loss in speed when bringing the rifle into aim. The blue and black pistol grip inserts can be swapped over as they are secured with a single screw.
At first glance I thought these were an aesthetic option, but the choice of coloured insert affects the palm swell, with the smaller blue insert being the best choice for my compact hands, while other shooters may find the larger black insert more comfortable.
Stoeger has done a similar thing with the ambidextrous cheekpiece, providing a lower one, which would be best suited for use with open sights, and a higher one, which is what most UK shooters will probably want to use to accompany the supplied telescopic sight. The two hex keys that are included are used to fit the supplied scope, change the pistol grip insert and fit your choice of cheekpiece.
Regardless of how well a rifle is made, its accuracy potential can only ever be truly unlocked if the gun fits the shooter. The cheekpiece with the higher comb is a big help in this regard, and length of pull can be adjusted too.
The first way is by unscrewing the butt pad and then adding or removing the blue and yellow spacers. The second way is by moving the position of the trigger blade itself. If you loosen the little retention screw, you can then slide the blade backwards by 4mm and forwards by 8mm along a rail. These systems combine to offer a significant degree of adjustment.
Features and function
The 3-9×40 Stoeger scope and mounts that come with the rifle are perfectly adequate, and while the reticle is a basic, slightly thick crosshair design with no holdover aim points, the sight does offer variable magnification as well as adjustable parallax. With the scope fitted, the rifle’s point of balance is neutral, just in front of the trigger guard.
The standard working pressure of the XM1 is 200 bar, and filling is carried out via a plug-in probe. The port is kept clean when it’s not being used by a Delrin-type dust plug. The probe itself is designed to snap directly into a Foster coupling, and I initially had trouble finding one that would fit as the diameter of the probe is slightly wider than normal.
Nevertheless, I eventually found a suitable connector in my spares box, and Stoeger offers a version of the same probe with a regular threaded fitting. The company also makes its own PCP stirrup pump, and the supplied probe slotted into the Foster connector on the pump’s air hose without a hitch.
Two drum magazines are supplied, and they’re smaller than usual, offering a capacity of nine pellets in .177 calibre, or seven in .22, as on the test gun. While this does represent less ammo capacity, it means the magazine doesn’t sit so high above the action, giving you more choice for scope placement.
To load the magazine you need to rotate the clear faceplate anti-clockwise against spring tension then load the first pellet tail-first from the back of the magazine.
With that first pellet inserted, spring tension will have been taken up and the remaining pellets can then be inserted nose-first from the front of the mag, rotating the faceplate one chamber clockwise as you go.
Once the magazine’s been loaded, it can be inserted into the action from the left, sliding into place smoothly and being held by a little tab and a small magnet. The bolt is positive in operation, and you’ll know when you’re out of ammo as the bolt will be blocked by the inner rotor and can’t be closed on an empty chamber.
Some magazines can be incredibly stiff to insert and remove from the action, but the Stoeger’s worked like a charm. This rifle also comes with a single-shot tray, and it’s also been well designed, again sliding in from the left and being held in place by a little locator tab as well as a magnet.
Like some types of magazine, single-shot trays can be tricky to remove, but again this clicked in and out very easily.
While the XM1 is a conventional bolt-action rifle, the bolt handle is anything but, being a chequered plastic wedge shape that angles upwards. This sounds odd, but after shooting with it for a while the design grew on me, being easy to operate when pinched between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand.
The manual safety catch is a cross-bolt type, being located just in front of the trigger guard. The gun is on safe when the catch is all the way over to the right, blocking movement of the trigger blade, and is pushed to the left when you’re ready to fire. It does make a fair bit of noise as it snaps cleanly to “fire”, but can be made silent if you guide it slowly with your fingers.
I initially thought the trigger was a single-stage unit, but it is a two-stage affair, it’s just that on the test rifle there was quite a lot of first-stage spring tension to be overcome before moving subconsciously into the second stage and a somewhat indistinct pellet release. Nevertheless, the trigger broke at a repeatable 1lb 13oz.
Ready for the range
This rifle was designed for shooting with open sights in other markets, as a base for a rear sight is present, but the package we have here from GMK is for UK shooters who will definitely enjoy taking advantage of the ½” UNF threaded barrel and accompanying moderator.
While this is a full-power rifle, with the model on test here delivering just over 11 foot pounds, it’s not excessively loud even with no moderator fitted, but with the suppressor screwed on, the bark was muted even further, with the dominant note now being the sound of the hammer strike.
Chrono testing was carried out using Rangemaster Sovereign pellets, all weighing in at 15.4 grains. A 10-shot string yielded an average muzzle velocity of 568 feet per second, a muzzle energy of 11.04 foot pounds and, best of all, a variation in velocity of just five feet per second – a very impressive result for even a high-end PCP, let alone one of this price.
I tested the XM1 with a variety of .22 pellets, and while it seemed fairly happy to shoot most things it was fed, Air Arms Diabolo Field and RWS Super Field ended up being its preferred diet, delivering average group sizes of between 13mm and 20mm at 30 yards, with a best-of-test group of just 10mm.
It’s definitely a bit of an air hog though, delivering only five magazines’ worth of pellets – 35 shots – from each 200 bar fill.
I tried squeezing out a few more, and one time managed to get 40 shots, but for anything other than back garden plinking I’d always suggest shooting conservatively.
This airgun handles very nicely, and is a good compromise between size and weight. The long forend lets you adopt pretty much any type of grip that you like, but it’s particularly good for a wraparound hold, as the fingers of your leading hand will naturally curl into the scalloped cut-outs that run most of the length of the forend.
Its looks are what make this rifle stand out at first glance, and that can be a curse and a blessing, as I suspect plenty of shooters will be turned off by the ultra-modern blue and yellow accents. But they’d be missing out, as this rifle is not only priced competitively, but is great fun to shoot.
And if you really want an all-black rifle, you can have one just by swapping the pistol grip insert and removing the butt pad spacers. Just be aware that depending on your build, you may be sacrificing function for form!
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