Mat Manning puts the Ruger Targis Hunter to the test and discovers there’s more to this break-barrel combo than its very appealing price tag
When it comes to affordable starter combos, airgun shooters have never had it so good – we really are spoilt for choice. The Ruger Targis Hunter from Umarex is a great example of the sort of airgun setup you can pick up for sensible money.
It certainly is the complete package, and apart from a full-power gas-ram airgun, you also get a zoom scope, two-piece mounts and a basic sling. Distributed in the UK by John Rothery Wholesale, it has a recommended retail price of just £299.95.
Umarex Ruger Targis Hunter: key specifications
MAKER: Umarex, Germany (www.umarex.com)
UK DISTRIBUTOR: John Rothery Wholesale (www.bisley-uk.com)
MODEL: Ruger Targis Hunter
TYPE: Break-barrel gas-ram
OVERALL LENGTH: 1130mm
LENGTH OF PULL: 360mm
BARREL LENGTH: 400mm
WEIGHT: 3.4kg (without scope)
POWER: 11.1 ft-lb
Although the Targis Hunter combo is affordable, my feeling is that it is geared towards adults rather than young shots. It measures 113cm from muzzle to butt, tips the scales at 3.4kg unscoped and has a 36cm length of pull.
It’s certainly not a heavyweight, but those vital statistics are going to make it a bit of a handful for smaller teenagers. Adults should find this airgun’s proportions very pleasing, though. The point of balance falls about 10cm in front of the trigger guard, it feels very comfortable to shoot and is extremely pointable.
The stock is a hard-wearing black synthetic that feels extremely robust – perfect for this sort of airgun, which isn’t really suited to the sort of woodwork you’d worry about scratching or denting during hunting and plinking sessions.
The butt section is finished with a really grippy rubberised recoil pad, and just in front of it is a QD stud to attach the supplied sling. The other attachment point is at the front of the cocking linkage beneath the breech, and it feels very secure.
Adorning synthetic stocks with rubber inlays to improve grip along the forend seems to be a popular design feature these days and it works a treat on the Targis Hunter.
The long forend provides plenty of holding options and those soft stippled panels feel great and literally stick to your hand. The same textured inserts are present on the pistol grip, which is nicely contoured to set you up for the trigger, although I would have liked a slightly deeper cutaway for the base of my thumb.
Eye alignment is a very important part of stock design, and Umarex has got it right with this ambidextrous handle. The cheekpiece, which has a neat-looking cut-out section, is not particularly high, but still affords sufficient elevation to ensure correct alignment when using either the open sights or the scope with the supplied low mounts.
A larger scope necessitating higher mounts may make the cheekpiece feel a little low, but the supplied optic is well matched to the gun so I can’t really see anyone being desperate to replace it.
Apart from being well-proportioned, this airgun also appears to be well-made. It feels pretty sturdy and the engineering looks clean with none of the burrs, snags or dubious-looking edges or joints that are sometimes encountered on less expensive rifles. The finish of the metalwork is equally tidy, exceeding the quality I would usually expect on an affordable airgun.
Features and function
I usually prefer the increased clamping capacity of a one-piece mount when pairing a scope with a recoiling airgun, but the Targis Hunter’s Picatinny-type rail, which is integral to the stock rather than the cylinder, provided a very secure attachment during my testing period.
The scope has a 32mm objective lens and a zoom range from 3 to 9x, which should be plenty of magnification for this kind of airgun. Most significantly, it has adjustable parallax, which is very useful when shooting over typical airgun ranges. The reticle is of the duplex style and you don’t need any tools to dial-in zero on the finger-adjustable windage and elevation turrets.
Fibre-optic open sights come fitted and facilitate very fast target acquisition, which is great fun for backyard plinking. The rear element is adjustable for windage and elevation, and is easily removable if you don’t want it in front of the scope.
The front element sits within the chunky silencer section, which is also easily removed by slacking off a grub screw. I initially thought it was there to serve as a cocking aid and muzzle guard, but there are baffles in there and it does seem to provide a bit of sound suppression.
The break-barrel Targis Hunter runs a gas-ram powerplant and given this airgun’s price point I have to say that I’m very impressed with it. The .177 calibre test gun was churning out just over 11 ft-lb and doing it pretty consistently.
The cocking stroke is smooth, doesn’t require an excessive amount of effort and is free from any concerning grating sounds. After popping a pellet into the breech, the barrel closes back up with a very reassuring clunk.
The reliability of the lock-up mechanism plays a huge part in extracting optimum accuracy from a break-barrel airgun and the sprung-ball system employed on this model appears to do the job well – there was no hint of any play on the barrel during my testing.
Apart from cocking the action, the downward stroke of the barrel also engages the automatic safety catch, which is resettable. It is a bit close to the trigger for my liking, but there’s no denying that it is easy to access. It is safe when in the rearward position and you simply thumb it forward when you’re ready to take the shot.
Affordable airguns are often let down by their trigger mechanisms, but I was surprised by just how well this one performed. The blade has a gentle curve and a wide, flat face with shallow ridges running from top to bottom – a pretty conventional design which does its job very well.
As for the action, the first stage was a bit short, but there was no mistaking its stop point, and the second-stage break was very clean. It didn’t take many shots before I was able to predict second-stage let-off.
On the range
The greatest pleasure of shooting break-barrel airguns is their sheer simplicity, especially for those of us who are too often guilty of over-complicating our shooting. I had a wonderful time on the range with the Targis Hunter, mostly toppling tin cans and rattling spinners.
However, with the scope mounted, this airgun is capable of a bit more than backyard plinking, as I discovered when carrying out some serious paper punching.
Tackling targets at 25m with the support of a bench, I was able to consistently notch up five-shot groups measuring within 20mm from centre to centre and even a few at sub-15mm, which is decent for any break-barrel airgun let alone an affordable one. Grouping became more erratic at 30m and beyond, so I would suggest 25m as a sensible ceiling for targeting live quarry with the review gun.
The Targis Hunter’s fairly solid performance on the range can be attributed in part to its modest recoil. It is difficult to perceive any significant kick and what little there is comes straight back into the shoulder – it’s quick and positive with very little reverberation.
Combine that with consistent power output, a well-designed stock, a solid barrel lockup and a predictable trigger and you should expect reasonably precise shot placement.
Affordability is likely to be the first thing to attract people to this air rifle, but it has many more strings to its bow. Robust, accurate out to mid-range and churning out power close to the UK legal limit, the Ruger Targis Hunter is fun to shoot, requires minimal maintenance and is also up to the task of targeting small pests at responsible ranges.
The Airgun Shooter verdict:
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