As advantageous as recoil-free PCPs are, for many shooters the satisfaction of self- contained spring power is hard to beat – especially when it comes to that most traditional of airgun activities, rabbiting. As hunters, we cherish those early morning outings in spring – with the rising sun glistening off the dew, and the rabbits creeping back to their warrens. In these situations, generations of air rifle hunters have relied on the humble spring gun to fetch some coneys for the pot – though you can hardly call our choice of hardware ‘humble’.
The newly-released Walther LGV is by far the most sophisticated production break-barrel on the market – with internals that rival even a custom-tuned springer. We’ve selected the Competition Ultra version for our foray – but the less expensive Challenger and Master models also boast the same, ultra-quiet firing cycle that’s ideal for the close-quarter rabbit control offered at this time of the season.
When you’re shooting ‘into’ a warren – or stalking along the perimeter of a field – stealth is very much the name of the game, and the LGV’s lack of action noise (not to mention its incredibly-muted report) is exactly what the hunter is after when pitching his wits against even the least wary of young rabbits.
The Super Silent Technology that gunmaker, Umarex, is so proud of extends far beyond the firing cycle – the barrel lock-up is so masterfully engineered that this gun cocks without any hint of metal-on-metal noise. And while there’s no denying that it’s a recoiler, the fact that Walther has incorporated additional air transfer holes into the cylinder, to control piston bounce more gently during the firing cycle, means you can shoot the LGV far more accurately than many other break-barrels.
Accuracy is further assisted by the LGV’s pièce de résistance – its sublime breech lock, the lever of which holds the barrel in alignment in the same fashion that elevated Walther to such dizzy heights in the ultra-precision world of target shooting over five decades ago.
Aside of the height-adjustable cheekpiece on the Competition model – which is far more sporter-like than its moniker suggests – we’ve also opted for the .22 model. Even at sub-12ft/lb power, this gives the extra stopping power that works best on the half-to-three-quarter-grown rabbits that will be emerging into the fields with nothing but crop damage on their minds at this current time of year.
BSA Essencial EMD 3-9×40 WR
Your general hunting distance for spring coneys will usually fall between 15 and 25 yards – possibly slightly further when stalking. So most of the time, you’ll be up close and personal with your quarry, and it’s therefore very important your scope isn’t too powerful for the job. Typically, you’ll want a low- to mid-powered scope that can parallax down to 10 yards, with a multi-dot reticle for more accurate aiming at these ‘between’ distances.
The BSA Essencial 3-9×40 riflescope is a solid and affordable choice for rabbiting – and a favourite for many airgun hunters, not least because of its Essencial mil-dot reticle. This provides a number of airgun- friendly aim-points down the vertical crosswire and – just as importantly when close-range pest control is the order of the day – above it.
It has a fast-focus eyepiece and an easily adjustable zoom ring, while the gold, finger-adjustable turrets, which come with protective caps, allow for high- precision, 1/4 MOA adjustments to windage and elevation.
The tube design is pleasingly slender, with a high-grade aluminium construction and one-inch diameter – and the modestly-sized 40mm objective completes the dawn/dusk sight picture. Thanks to BSA Optics’ crystal clear, coated lenses, you can comfortably ‘glass’ bunnies at short distances – and the Essencial even comes with BSA double-screw mounts… ideal for the Walther LGV’s dovetails.
H&N Sport Field Target Pellets
While the rabbits that need controlling right now are at their most tender in the pan or pot, their sub-adult size also means ammo choice is particularly important at this time of year when considering humane despatch. We’ve gone .22 for the extra stopping power it provides, but even at 12ft/lb, the responsible hunter can experience ‘overkill’ – the phenomenon whereby your pellet travels straight through the quarry without dissipating its entire energy load.
A conventional roundhead – there’s little point in choosing a pointed pellet on such ‘soft’ quarry – tests have shown that the Field Target is very velocity efficient in springers (usually, it’s the lighter pellets that perform best in a spring-and-piston rifle). Indeed, from the LGV, our chrono check returned not only legal-limit velocity levels (in the region of 570fps), but also incredible shot-to-shot consistency – a mark of H&N’s quality of manufacturer.
As with the rifle, don’t be put off by the target-bias in the name – the H&N FT is a very viable hunting pellet. Out to 30 yards – the maximum distance we like to promote when hunting with a springer – the FTs group tightly and don’t suffer from an overly lobbed trajectory when zeroed anywhere from 22 to 26 yards. On impact, they’re hard enough to penetrate well, yet still possess enough expansion quality to ensure a telling shot, even if you’re inclined to pinpoint the heart/lung area rather than a head shot.
Jack Pyke Tundra Boots
Rabbits are notoriously alert and though their eyesight isn’t the greatest, their sense of smell and ability to detect vibrations through the ground make it very difficult to get within range – even when you’re dealing with the younger crop of spring bunnies. While they might not have experience of being hunted by humans yet, their survival gene will detect all but the lightest footfall – so it’s essential that your stalking boots are suitable for the task at hand.
General hunting boots offer great protection from muck and moisture, but their size and weight can be a big drawback when it comes to stealthy movement in a hunting scenario like stalking rabbits on open ground. Lightweight, nimble footwear is key – and the new Tundra boots from Jack Pyke come well appointed in this regard.
They weigh just 1.25kg – a rather impressive figure considering their size and the protection they offer. Made from 900D Cordura fabric, the boots have a Hydroguard membrane to make them waterproof and breathable – and this will also stop your socks from getting damp from dew-soaked grass and sodden ground.
A padded tongue and heel make for a comfortable fit, while the English Oak camouflage pattern will keep you concealed from the very base. Yes, hunting rabbits doesn’t necessarily need full camo – but if other wild animals spot you and screech a warning signal, you won’t be filling your Apex Predator any time soon.
Rocky Grizzly Outfit
Coneys will panic if they see a human outline, so it’s important to make sure your profile doesn’t stand out, either when stalking or static-hunting. Photorealistic camouflage will help you blend into the natural fauna – ensuring that your shooting won’t be compromised by, say, a blackbird screeching a warning alarm and putting the local rabbit population on high alert.
For spring rabbiting, you’ll want something lightweight and breathable, that can withstand its fair share of April showers. In this respect, the Grizzly jacket and trousers from US brand, Rocky, come well-equipped. The camouflage pattern is Realtree APG – or All-Purpose Green – a high-definition design that incorporates lifelike, overlapping foliage over a hazy, 3D-effect background. The blend of greens, browns and greys is well suited to a woodland environment – particularly on spring mornings, when the vegetation is lush and vibrant.
The Grizzly outfit is made from a hardwearing, brushed Tricot microfibre outer layer, with a bulk-free mesh lining and elasticated cuffs and hems. It’s ideal as a primary outer layer in spring, offering the necessary protection and warmth for long stints lying in wait – but it shouldn’t make you overheat when stalking or moving to and from hunting locales.
Deben Whisper Silencer
Our Walther LGV is one of the most well-mannered spring guns available, and its Super Silent Technology is no misnomer. However, no amount of engineering can completely eliminate the muzzle report – so adding a silencer is highly recommended when heading out to shoot live quarry, especially rabbits whose radar-like ears are susceptible to the quietest of unnatural sounds.
Deben’s Whisper range consists of two silencers – the 130 and 180, so-called to denote the difference in the lengths of the internal sound absorption chambers (which measure 150mm and 200mm respectively). Both the 130 and 180 come supplied with 1/2-inch UNF adaptors and slide-on adaptors should you want to fit them to some older Air Arms PCPs.
A set of conical baffles – two in the 130, and three in the 180 – suppress the muzzle report of a springer extremely well, and with the LGV’s action sound being one of the quietest on the market, this transforms the Walther combo into a near silent sporter.
The larger 180 certainly suits the LGV’s larger profile – but we also trialled the 130 and found it equally as effective, and probably the better choice for the already bulky muzzle of the Competition Ultra.
Buck Bantam Knife
Knives are an important part of any airgun hunter’s kitbag – and essential when rabbits are on the hit-list as you’ll need to prep your shot quarry in the field. This may include cutting through the leg tendons to hock them and, of course, slitting open the stomach to remove the ‘paunch’ – a messy job that’s made a lot easier if you have the correct, super-sharp blade.
When it comes to steel, you generally get what you pay for – the more money, the better the edge – but many hunters still see the kitbag knife as a utility item which needn’t be ornate and, as such, don’t like to splash out too much of their readies on one.
Luckily, the Buck Bantam offers a sharp, rugged blade and a firm handle – and it won’t set you back an arm and a leg. It’s a lockable, fold-out knife with a 420HC steel blade that’s available in three lengths, from 2.75 to 3.5 inches. The synthetic handle, meanwhile, is comfortable in the grip, with a curved lower profile allowing for comfortable resting of the forefinger. It’s the camo version shown here, but black is also available for those shooters who find they can easily mislay camouflaged peripherals in the field
Apex Predator Bag
There’s nothing quite like the Apex Predator – a unique combination of kitbag and game sack that’s ideal when you’re likely to bag such a haul of bunnies that tends to be the case at this time of year. Indeed, the roomy proportions of the Apex Predator do away with the need to hock and hang your shot rabbits – which, in turn, reduces the risk of old Charlie getting a free meal at your expense.
Its Tardis-like interior – with PVC liner for improved hygiene – will easily take 20 rabbits, while the front section features several pockets and storage space for all your field accessories. It can be comfortably worn around your waist (unfilled), and it’s made from a lightweight, Hushtex fabric that’s waterproof and printed in a woodland pattern for supplementary camouflage.