Andy McLachlan sings the praises of an iconic Air Arms rifle that’s still being shot in competition three decades after it was introduced.
The manufacture of pre-charged pneumatic target-specific rifles is now widespread, with many models being manufactured in other areas of Europe and the United States.
Let us not forget, however, our own British manufacturers such as Air Arms who have also played a large part in helping to develop mega-accurate rifles that provide us, the buying public, with such a vast choice for the shooter wishing to purchase a genuine ‘target’ rifle.
The target rifle will usually, if purchased from Europe, be set up to deliver sufficient energy to cope with the reduced power levels required by 10 Metre target shooters.
Some manufacturers, such as Steyr Sport, do offer their target rifles with power levels just below our own legal limit, with these guns being used by shooters globally to compete in international Field Target and Hunter Field Target competitions.
We are fortunate in the UK that we have manufacturers producing guns that are also up to serious outdoor competition. Air Arms has had a long and successful partnership with many shooters over the past few decades and has produced some outstanding guns that have been used and developed with the assistance of some of the top shooters of the time.
One of these guns was the Air Arms Pro-Target, developed from an earlier design known as the RN-10. This gun was designed to compete with the mainstream continental 10 Metre guns, hence the ‘10’ in the name. The gun was released in 1991 at the International Trade Fair and attracted the attention of many buyers at the time.
This is a large gun, measuring about forty inches long and weighing near enough eleven pounds, ideal for a steady Field Target platform. Barrels were commissioned from Lothar Walther, and sat in either a shroud or had an air stripping device fitted as per model variant.
A programme of ongoing development resulted in a series of modifications being made to component parts, such as air regulators, and over the years three different versions (Mk1, 2 and 3) were manufactured.
Although the original gun did not enjoy a great deal of success as a 10 Metre target rifle, when powered up to our own levels for outdoor Field Target competition, the gun excelled and was the chosen gun of champions for many years.
Top Field Target shooter Nick Jenkinson had successfully customised an RN-10 to perform at the required sub-12 foot pound power level, and with assistance helped to successfully develop the gun prior to it becoming commercially available from Air Arms directly in late 1994.
Serious target shooters will only use equipment that inspires them with confidence. Clearly, the RN-10/Pro-Target was doing precisely that due to the thousands of shooters who purchased these models over the years.
It is good to know that a British manufacturer can produce an outstanding gun that can still be seen on the target circuit doing sterling service for nearly 30 years following its introduction. My friend and fellow Rivington member Dave Ramshead still uses his own Pro-Target as his frontline Field Target rifle to this day.
Dave has access to many recently designed guns, but prefers to use this gun due to his confidence in the rifle’s ability to continually deliver downrange at the target.
Dave is not the only target shooter I know that is partial to a bit of Pro-Target action, however. My close friend Dave Pilkington finally managed to track down a good example of one for himself, and enjoys the gun’s inherent accuracy downrange.
They are a quality item and feel great to shoot. The fact that they are now getting on a bit somehow increases the positive feeling as the pellets continue to strike bang on target.
Some of my friends at the Leigh indoor range have really been bitten by the Pro-Target bug. One of the benchrest shooters, Tommy Frith, currently owns four examples. Tommy also owns one of today’s top benchrest guns, a Rapid Air Weapons TM1000, but he still enjoys using one of his Pro-Targets on a weekly basis.
As I have said, the accuracy of the classic Air Arms design is still capable of producing a match-winning score. According to Tommy, the RAW is just a little bit easier to shoot accurately, as I suppose it should be considering its more modern pneumatic design.
One thing is not in doubt – if you are a shooter who enjoys handling a well-made gun that looks the part, you won’t go wrong with one of the classic British-manufactured target rifles that appears to have been ever-present for decades.
Over the course of its long model run, the RN-10/Pro-Target appeared in many different guises with stock design being of a particularly high standard and level of finish.
I can remember the shorter air cylinder and barrel of the Target Hunter version in its matt black finish, which was also available in the larger .22 calibre.
The stock finish I always preferred was the laminated wood version, although the marbled green did look classy, but not too flashy, if you know what I mean.
Experts in the art of Air Arms target rifle recognition apparently look at the body of the regulator assembly for identification purposes. According to the various body designs, this is how the version of the gun can be identified, unless of course a previous owner has retrofitted some upgraded components.
If we consider the way our sport has progressed over the past few decades, in my own opinion, manufacturers such as Air Arms have strived to develop products that we as shooters will look to as a benchmark of innovation and quality.
Like many of you reading this, I have owned a great number of their products over the years, with my own personal favourite to date being the fantastic and current HFT500 model.
This particular rifle, without a regulator, still manages to impress countless numbers of shooters wishing to purchase their first serious HFT target rifle (or benchrest rifle for that matter) with its inherent accuracy and good looks.
In saying that, I know many shooters who have used other European brands, but prefer to shoot the relatively straightforward HFT500. It is just an accurate gun, hence its large following.
At the recent Midland Game Fair, when shooting the HFT World Championships, a few friends and I spoke to Air Arms managing director Claire West regarding future product development.
It swiftly became clear that Claire is genuinely committed to the company producing additional products for keen airgunners well into the future.
The company’s continued sponsorship of many competition events also confirms the level of support that they provide continues to be unsurpassed within the industry.
Classic target guns such as the Air Arms Pro-Target, EV2 and FTP900 have provided countless numbers of shooters with high-quality British-manufactured products for very many years. I suspect that future releases of target-specific rifles will maintain that ethos.