Andy McLachlan runs through three of his top choices of target rifles more than capable of picking up some silverware
Having explained in my previous article just what it is that makes an air rifle a genuine contender for target shooting, I thought I should back this up with a list of my own current and personal favourites.
As I said earlier, there is absolutely no reason why the keen shot cannot use their own non-target-specific rifle for any of the outdoor field target shooting competitions, including of course HFT or FT.
A remarkably high percentage of pre-charged pneumatic rifles will be capable of hitting the spot due to their recoil-free shot release and the ability of the shooter to hold their gun in whichever position feels most comfortable for them. Not the case with a spring-powered action!
The difference between a ‘proper’ PCP target rifle and one that has been designed as an all-rounder, or more usually a sporter for field use, is that the gun will have a set of features that allow perfect repeatability in between each individual shot.
Basically, having perfect cheek position, a high-grade trigger and a high-quality barrel will assist to provide a gun that is basically just easier to shoot more accurately once set up for the individual shooter.
The guns I have listed are models that I have owned personally over the years, and the ones that I feel are easiest to shoot accurately to a high standard, every shot.
The list does not comprise a set of recommendations, as each individual shooter really needs to try all the guns within their own budget for themselves prior to purchasing what in all cases are expensive items. But I will try to highlight the standout abilities of each, and remember, this is not a review, just my own current considerations.
Steyr Sport LG110
Anybody who has ever taken part in a form of airgun competition during the past 10 years, either indoors or out, will be familiar with the Steyr LG110. The gun is a beautifully engineered piece of Austrian wizardry that allows the shooter to make the most of any talent they may have.
In addition to being very modern in design, for those that appreciate the visible side of things, the gun’s chassis provides a platform for a variety of stock and forend support options that make for an extremely comfortable shooting position.
The gun is also available out of the factory set for either indoor (6 ft-lb of muzzle energy) or outdoor (sub-12 ft-lb) and does therefore not require any form of modification. The regulated and pneumatically stabilised action is operated via a nice, positive sidelever, allowing the shooter to seat the pellet directly into the high-grade genuine match barrel.
The trigger unit is also genuinely match-grade and allows the shooter to adjust the position of the blade and the release weight to their heart’s content.
If the gun comes supplied with some of the more adjustable stock options, it is very easy to find the head position that will allow the shooter to move their body into the optimum shooting position, with the forend rail allowing the fitment of numerous hamster-type units that will allow the correct height support usually required for those competing in HFT.
I have owned four of these guns over the past decade and would describe them as being the standard issue of those wishing to compete at the highest level.
There is a reason for this. Basically, they are reliably accurate, well-built and are thoroughly supported by various airgun specialists, including the official UK importer, Harry Preston. The manufacturer even provides a series of videos for those with the confidence to strip and maintain their own guns. Not cheap, but a quality product.
The 9015 is the latest in a long line of pre-charged pneumatic target rifles that have appeared over the decades from this famous German manufacturer.
Anything made by the Anschutz brand will be of the highest quality and represent the absolute pinnacle of engineering standards, which becomes obvious when you look at the unsurpassed build quality of the action and trigger units.
I have owned an example of this model over the past couple of years prior to selling mine to a fellow club member who is now using the gun successfully for serious benchrest competition.
Until very recently, the 9015 was only available in its 6 ft-lb German 10 Metre target shooting configuration. Purchasing the gun from Germany via the official UK importer when I bought mine a few years ago meant that the action had to be modified to produce a power level above its original set level and more suited to the UK’s sub-12 ft-lb limit.
There are many individuals who are able to carry out the quite significant internal modifications, with my son James and I both choosing our friend Simon (Tench) Howarth to carry out the required engineering.
This is a gun that tends to have a custom stock fitted when you see them on the firing line, as certainly the original Club models featuring at the cheaper end of this model’s range did not have stocks that felt comfortable in use.
Basically, they were noticeably short when it came to length of pull as they had been designed for use as a club gun, including young people with smaller physical dimensions.
Apart from the far more expensive Anthracite aluminium stock options, which allow more adjustability for more normally sized outdoor shooters, custom-built stocks are extremely popular for the 9015.
Shooting-wise, the gun features what could be described as the absolute best mechanical trigger unit fitted to an air rifle. It really is sublime and along with the superb and genuine match barrel, recoilless action and pneumatic stabiliser, accuracy comes easy to the 9015 shooter.
I am advised that Anschutz are now producing sub-12 ft-lb 9015 guns for the British market, but would still strongly recommend looking at Ratworks modified models as well.
Daystate Red Wolf
My own experience with the joys of electronic shot release commenced with a few models of the famous Air Wolf that gave a great account of themselves in the field as a silent and deadly hunting rifle. But my most recent relationship with the company’s wares was with an example of the Red Wolf.
Unlike the two other rifles I have mentioned, this particular gun spent none of its time outdoors in HFT competition, as I bought it to try to maximise the minimal levels of skills I have when shooting indoor benchrest competition at ranges of 50 yards plus.
This popular rifle, certainly in the red laminated stock option that I purchased, is not a gun that would blend into the surrounding terrain if on a hunting trip.
However, when used for indoor benchrest competitions, the colour doesn’t really matter and it certainly looks nice with the gloss lacquer finish in my own opinion, although my friend Dave’s walnut example certainly looks gorgeous as well.
The stock itself possesses an adjustable cheekpiece, allowing for some positioning of the head for both height and cant, which certainly helps the target shooter.
The action itself is beautifully finished and displays the genuinely superb electronic trigger unit that puts a whole new light on the term ‘swift shot release’. Usually described as lock time, the length of time between pulling the second stage trigger release and the pellet exiting the barrel is noticeably faster with the Red Wolf.
In combination with the high-grade target barrel, this means that astounding levels of accuracy are possible with the correct pellet, which in my case was Webley Mosquito Express. With this combination, I was able to shoot a five-shot grouping of 6.5mm at 53 yards, and although that was after a lot of trying, most groups were very impressive.
Unlike the two other mechanically triggered actions described on the Steyr and Anschutz rifles, the Red Wolf does display slight movement on firing, but the firing cycle is so swift that it does not affect the fall of shot. This gun is definitely a serious contender for those wanting superb bench accuracy.
I have highlighted three guns that in my opinion are worthy of the term ‘target rifle’, two for outdoor use and one for indoor, although long-range benchrest shooters seem to favour the Red Wolf in its higher-powered export format in the USA.
One thing is for sure, any of these three guns are capable of amazing levels of accuracy if the time is taken to properly adjust the stock, the position of the trigger blade and the pull weight. Just find the preferred ammunition and away you go!
I will mention another few guns that are worthy of the ‘target’ description that I have used or am currently using in my next article. Don’t blame me if you start spending too much money!