Best value for money air rifles with Andy McLachlan

Andy McLachlan’s got some high-end air rifles in his collection, but this time he takes a look at one from the opposite end of the fiscal scale

The Chinese-made M16D may not be the most elegant of rifles, but the members were unanimous in their praise of its performance

I recently compiled a list of the guns that I currently use and why I chose them. Usually the main reason for purchasing a new gun, in my case anyway, is because we think it will either perform better than what we already own, or that it will in some way make it easier for us to enjoy laser-like accuracy when we take it to the range or into the field.

Often, if the truth be known, we purchase a new gun just because we like the look of it, or that it might hold some type of mystical reputation for consistently being able to drop a pellet on top of a pinhead at sensible ranges, and sometimes further than that.

Usually, at least in my case, these new purchases don’t leave much change out of a couple of thousand pounds. Ouch. I suppose that I fall for the latest all-singing and dancing rifle as much as the next person, and let’s face it, it is nice to buy a new gun and set about zeroing it in and just getting used to it. Basically, it’s all part of the fun of new gun ownership, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Guns costing upwards of £1,500 are obviously at the more serious end of the airgun-buying enthusiasts’ spectrum. They will be well engineered, look good and probably last for decades in most cases due to the high standard of build and the quality of materials used in their manufacture.

The occasional rogue may still slip through the quality control net, but if you spend a lot of money you can usually expect high quality, and in many cases a decent warranty.

This does not mean that guns not costing quite as much will be any less accurate, at least in skilled hands. Often, in the case of target rifles for example, guns lower down a manufacturer’s range will not be equipped with an air regulator to make sure that the velocity of the exiting pellet remains pretty much constant despite the level of air pressure remaining within the air cylinder.

Ian and Dave both own high-end rifles, but sometimes there’s pleasure to be had in shooting a gun that simply gets on with the job

Basically, a properly working regulator will make accuracy easier to achieve, with many if not all top-end guns, either sporter or target-orientated, being thus equipped.

We would also expect to find multi-adjustable stocks fashioned from either top-grade walnut or laminate, most of which will have been manufactured by the likes of Minelli in Italy, although other manufacturers offer very high quality, but usually expensive stocks as aftermarket purchases for the shooter seeking the ultimate in personal adjustability.

In addition, we can also engage the services of a specialist stock maker such as Warren Edwards if we require something more personally fitted to our precise build.

It is rare for a ‘normal’ type of rifled barrel not to be of match-grade quality when we buy an expensive gun, with these usually being manufactured by companies such as Lothar Walther who are well known for the production of outstandingly accurate products as chosen by the majority of gun manufacturers, although other companies still produce barrels able to match known levels of one-hole downrange accuracy.

In addition to standard rifled barrels, we also have companies such as FX producing lightly grooved and choked barrel liners, allowing the shooter the opportunity of trying out different twist rates via the use of an alternate liner made available for purchase by the manufacturer. 

With the recent interest in the shooting of slugs (bullet-shaped projectiles), particularly in the USA, non-choked liners are very much in vogue for those airgunners who wish to retain accuracy at what in the UK we would most definitely consider firearm ranges.

As we can see then, expensive rifles will possess lots of different features designed to maximise our ability to place that pellet just where we want it to go. That does not mean that rifles appearing well below the normal £1,500-plus price range will not be able to compete, just that we have ourselves considered that the investment of large amounts of cash should help us.

Dave Pilkington uses his Artemis at Turton while culling Polo mints – one of the Rivington club’s favourite long-range shooting challenges

In addition to my own personal collection of rifles, I also get the opportunity to shoot lots of my friends’ guns as I am sure most of us do when given the chance.

It’s great when a newly designed gun appears and we all get to check out its performance. Sometimes though, a rifle will appear that impresses us, not because it looks fantastic or shoots beautifully, but because it just does what it is supposed to do and does not cost a month’s wages to buy.

Recently, such a gun has made an appearance amongst my friends at my Rivington Riflemen club. This particular rifle is arguably basic and does not possess all of the fancy componentry of many of its rivals.

The Artemis M16D is a bottle-fed pre-charged pneumatic that reminds me of an early Theoben Rapid. It possesses a regulator, a magazine-fed action and a very plain stock. The trigger action is not up to match standards, but is more than up to accurate shooting. It possesses trigger safeties on the blade itself that I don’t particularly like, just like some UK-made guns.

The “Fartandmiss” as the gun has been affectionately named by our club secretary Mr Ian Jones, is really very good. So good in fact that after its initial outing and a test fire by a few other club members, a bulk order was made and the plain-looking, but clearly accurate guns started to make a regular appearance up at our Turton outdoor range.

The guns excelled at our new club challenge of Polo mint hunting at 50 yards and have on occasion beaten guns costing up to four times more than the £400 the Artemis costs new.

Club secretary Ian Jones was one of several members at Rivington who picked up the Artemis M16D in a group buy

The guns are not pellet fussy, and apart from having to ensure that the barrel assembly has been properly screwed into the action and locked into place, have proceeded to perform, without fault, over many thousands of shots in all cases.

I must admit to enjoying shooting guns that do the job but don’t cost a fortune. This is most definitely the case with the Chinese-made Artemis. Incidentally, Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt and animals, and I am confident that the M16D would be perfect as a reliable, accurate workhorse rifle for those in the pest control business that don’t want or need to spend considerably more for their equipment.

As you can see, I have been very impressed with this particular gun. It’s good to know that a product does not have to cost a fortune to produce smile-inducing fun when down on the range. I think that there is a lesson there for us all. 

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