Airgun test: BP17 Micro Bullpup

Mike Morton’s shot bullpups and semi-bullpups, but this time it’s a different breed in the shape of the tiny BP17 Micro Bullpup from Ataman.

It seems only a few years ago that bullpups arrived on the airgun scene, being quickly dismissed in some circles as a fad that wouldn’t last. Well last they did, and by the number and variety on sale today, bullpups seem to be breeding like crazy.

No wonder then, that most gunmakers have at least one model in their line-up, but Russian firm Ataman has taken the bullpup concept one step further in the BP17, which must be one of the shortest regulated PCPs ever made.

This pup has an overall length of 605mm, or 23.85”, while the Lothar Walther barrel measures 370mm (14.57”). But before we go any further into the nitty gritty of this specific rifle, let’s pause and recap what a bullpup actually is.

This style of rifle sees the action located behind the trigger, creating a gun with a shorter overall length compared with a regular rifle with the same length of barrel.

In terms of a PCP, this configuration delivers the advantages of a longer barrel, such as a higher shot count, while reducing the gun’s overall length and weight.

As already mentioned, Ataman has taken the bullpup concept to the extreme. There may well be shorter PCPs out there, but the BP17 is easily the shortest I’ve ever seen, and at 2.5kg (5.1lb) it’s extremely light as well.

But as we’ll see, the BP17’s ultra-compact dimensions aren’t the result of any design compromises. It’s a very unusual rifle, but it’s been unusually well thought out. This clever design work does come at a cost though, with the standard .177 variant costing £1,049 and the .22 version coming in at £1,099.

KEY SPECS

Gun supplied by: Sure Shot Airguns (www.sureshot-airguns.co.uk)
Manufacturer: Ataman
Price: £1,049 for .177 calibre and £1,099 for .22 calibre
Type: PCP
Calibre: .177 (on test) and .22
Action: Sidelever (right or left)
Magazine: Rotary
Capacity: Seven rounds in .177
Weight: 2.5kg (5.1lb)
Length: 605mm (23.85″)
Barrel Length: 370mm (14.57″)
Stock: Ambidextrous beechwood, with soft-touch overlay in black or olive green
Sights: Picatinny rail
Length of pull: 33.5cm (13.2″)
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Trigger Pull: Adjustable from 1.76lb to 3.3lb
Safety: Manual, resettable
Muzzle energy: 10.8 foot pounds

Stock

The ambidextrous wooden handle on the BP17 is made of beech, with a soft-touch overlay in either black, as seen on the review rifle, or olive green, but I’m told by UK distributor Sure Shot Airguns that a walnut stock may soon be available as well.

The butt pad has been made from a fairly rigid rubber, which features a ribbed pattern and is surprisingly grippy. It looks as if it can be adjusted with a 5mm hex key, but the pad is not meant to be moved. However, both the pad and cheekpiece, which is similarly non-adjustable, do set you up quite well for a scope.

The stock incorporates a drop-down pistol grip with the near-obligatory bracing strut, but this does not get in the way when handling the rifle. The pistol grip itself features three scallops for the pinky, ring and middle fingers of the shooting hand.

Up to four magazines can be neatly stowed under the scope rail – they can be inserted and extracted from either side of the rifle

I’m not normally a fan of finger grooves: get them right and they assist grip, but if they’re in the wrong place for your hand they can be an annoyance. However, the grooves on this particular grip were absolutely perfect for me. My hands are small though, so other shooters may have a different experience.

Another thing the stock gets right is length of pull, which is a healthy 33.5cm (13.2”). While the overall length of a bullpup is shorter than a conventional rifle, our bodies retain exactly the same proportions whatever we’re shooting, so it’s great to see Ataman make a rifle that can be shouldered properly while still keeping its overall length extremely short.

At first glance there’s not much of a forend, but handling hasn’t really suffered here because what little stock material there is provides the shooter with a contoured contact area to maintain a standard hunting-style grip.

And the bottom of the stock has a nice flat surface so you can choose to adopt a target-style hold if you prefer. Anyone hoping for a sling swivel stud will be left disappointed, however, as none can be fitted due to the location of the pressure gauge that sits in a recess right at the tip of the stock.

Finish and function

In keeping with many military-themed assault rifles, the metal parts of the BP17 Micro Bullpup are largely encased within the stock, although what components can be seen appear to have been given a high-quality anodised black finish, including the two supplied magazines and integrated moderator.

A Picatinny rail is used to mount the optic of your choice, and I can see a lot of shooters choosing to fit an uber-compact prismatic scope or red dot to maintain this rifle’s Micro moniker.

Nevertheless, I chose to fit a Hawke Compact, a scope I know well and one that was still small enough to be used on the rifle without throwing off its balance. I mentioned earlier that the cheekpiece, and hence the comb, is not adjustable.

The action is well protected inside the soft-touch beech stock, and the model and calibre data can be read through the cutout window behind the breech

Normally that can cause a problem as many shooters benefit from a high comb to get optimum alignment behind their scope. In this case there was no need for a higher comb – my head naturally sat quite upright on the stock, so I ended up needing higher mounts.

Due to the position and length of the rail, combined with my choice of 30mm optic and physical build, I also needed to use reach-back mounts to get the correct eye relief, so fitted set HET068C from Sportsmatch, which shifts eye relief by 25mm.

With the scope fitted, the point of balance fell behind the pistol grip, further back than usual and making the BP17 a tad butt-heavy, but this can be a benefit when taking elevated shots. Some bullpups can also be top-heavy with a tendency to roll to one side, but I had no such problem with this gun and scope combo.

The action on the BP17 is operated by a sidelever that comes fitted with a biathlon handle, making it far easier to locate the end of the lever. This is a really welcome feature and is something we’re beginning to see more and more as a standard component rather than an add-on.

Another nice feature is the location of the lever, which is well forward on the action rather than at the back of the gun underneath the shooter’s ear, which also makes it easy to operate.

Perhaps slightly controversially, the lever is fitted as standard on the left-hand side of the action, something that’s common on military rifles, but rare on airguns. If you hate the idea of this then I’d urge you to at least try it – you might just like it. Most shooters are right-handed, and left-handed cocking means the rifle can be kept fully under control at all times by the shooting hand.

Despite the BP17’s dinky dimensions, the rifle can be held with a standard grip, with your leading hand cradling the forend

If you really can’t get on with this system then the lever can be swapped over to right-hand operation. This task is probably best carried out by a dealer, but Sure Shot told me it can be done at home by shooters who are comfortable working on their guns.

Another feature of the lever is that the action is cocked and the pellet probe retracted on the forward stroke of the lever rather than the reverse. But though it was unusual, everything fitted well, and the movement was precise, as this gun has been made from very high-quality components.

The safety catch is of the through-bolt type and is near-silent in operation, which will really appeal to hunters. Right-handed shooters will be able to push it from right to left – from ‘safe’ to ‘fire’ – with their trigger finger while in the aim. The BP17 can also be decocked when the safety’s disengaged by opening the sidelever and holding in the trigger while the lever is then closed.

One thing I didn’t like about the safety is the fact that you can push it too far to the left, beyond the ‘fire’ position and effectively making the gun safe when it’s very much not. It took me a while to perfect my safety catch technique, something that’s not normally much of an issue, but once muscle memory had kicked in I had no more problems.

The trigger has a nice wide blade and is gently curved, making it a good choice for left-handers as well as right. While Ataman is not that well known in the UK, it has a fairly comprehensive range of both match and hunting PCPs, and it seems some of that match experience has found its way into the trigger. Trigger let-off on a mechanical bullpup can often be a bit of a disappointment, but Ataman has really nailed it with the BP17.

The trigger had a smooth first stage followed by an ultra-light second stage, although the trigger passed the smack test and did not go off when whacked with a rubber mallet. It’s our standard policy not to adjust the triggers on review guns, but if the Micro Bullpup was mine I’d make the trigger a bit heavier.

The fill port is located on the side of the action just in front of the sidelever. It’s a through-and-through hole and looks as if you should be able to fit the probe  from either side, but in fact the fill procedure is very specific – you have to insert the probe from the right and must only start to put air into the rifle when the sidelever is in the open position.

Two probes are supplied: one that screws into a regular hose and one that has a Foster attachment and just snaps into place. The fill port is exposed as no blanking plug is supplied, and although I only shot this gun at the range I was careful to keep the rifle away from any dust and dirt.

Two rotary magazines are supplied with the BP17, each holding seven pellets in .177. The mags are held in place in the action with a spring-loaded ball bearing on each side.

The instruction manual says the magazines should be inserted into the breech from the top, but in fact they can only be inserted from the left as the two ball bearings need to engage with the corresponding cutouts in the breech.

When not in use, Ataman lets you stow up to four magazines in two bays located underneath the Picatinny rail. They’re held in place with the same ball bearing system, but can be inserted and extracted from either side.

Alternatively, the belly of the forend can be rested in the palm of your leading hand if you want to adopt a more target-orientated hold on the Micro Bullpup

The Micro Bullpup is fitted with a 110cc air cylinder which Ataman says can be filled as high as 300 bar. I’m a little leery of operating rifles at such super-high pressures and filled the test gun to 230 bar.

According to Sure Shot, the .177 version of this regulated rifle will deliver 75 shots from a 250 bar fill, 60 from 220 bar and 50 from 200 bar, the shot count increasing to 90, 70 and 60 respectively in the more air-efficient .22 calibre.

During my own testing with my 230 bar fill I managed to reliably shoot eight magazines’ worth of pellets – 56 shots – before point of impact started to wander.

I always shoot my PCPs and CO2 guns extremely conservatively, so if all you’re doing is plinking, you’d probably be able to eke out another mag’s worth of pellets. There’s also an audible cue that you’re getting low on air – the hammer spring makes a more pronounced ‘boing’ sound.

Downrange performance

It’s important when shooting this rifle to not only find a pellet that the barrel likes, but one which the magazine also likes. The rifle and mag were perfectly happy to shoot most JSB-type pellets, but when I tried Exact Express I found they were too narrow to be held securely in place when the magazine was cycled, falling into the back of the breech and preventing the correct operation of the sidelever.

Lesson learned: each pellet type I tried was tested for fit by shaking the mag when it was out of the rifle to see if the ammo stayed put. Longer pellets worked fine, while loose-fitting ones did not.

Having shot a few different types of ammo, I was pleased to see that this rifle was not fussy when it came to pellet choice, with Air Arms Diabolo Field and Rangemaster Sovereign being the best 30-yard choices, delivering impressive five-shot groups ranging between 2.6mm and 6mm when measured centre-to-centre.

At 40 yards, the BP17 did not like regular-weight ammo, preferring heavier pellets such as JSB Exact Heavy. Using these, rested groups of around 16mm were the norm. But while this gun can be shot accurately at longer ranges, the ethos behind the BP17 is a short gun for shorter-range duties, as this is where it really shines.

Part of the challenge – and the fun – of shooting a rifle as short as the Micro Bullpup is working out how to hold it. While length of pull is standard, overall length is very much not.

Being so very short, muzzle awareness must be peerless. When carrying out my standard accuracy and chrono tests, I shot the BP17 off my usual bench bags, but had to be careful not to shoot my front bag as the moderator did not overhang the bag as it normally would!

The rifle must only be charged with air when the sidelever is in the open position – the 110cc cylinder can be filled up to 300 bar

This initially caused me a few problems as I was getting some inconsistent readings over the chrono. After a few shots I realised I was not returning the rifle to exactly the same spot when taking subsequent shots.

With this self-inflicted problem sorted, the BP17 was delivering a very consistent muzzle velocity of 760 feet per second with a variation of five feet per second, with a muzzle energy of 10.8 foot pounds when shooting the Diabolo Fields.

While benchresting for testing is all well and good, I found the most enjoyable way to shoot the BP17 was sitting on a bean bag. I practised a few different types of hold and eventually settled on placing my leading hand on the forend and pulling the gun back into my shoulder, creating a super-stable firing platform.

It’s when you’re adopting a more natural shooting stance that you tend to notice things like the sound the rifle makes. The fat integrated moderator looks cool, but doesn’t do the best job of sound suppression, but then it’s been kept deliberately short for a reason. 

Black rifles aren’t for everyone – that’s why this gun is also available with an optional olive green stock! But joking aside, the Micro Bullpup did draw a few comments from fellow shooters.

Was I carrying RoboCop’s gun, Judge Dredd’s gun or maybe the M41A Pulse Rifle from Aliens? But those mischievous comments do highlight what I think will be for many shooters its main selling point – the way it looks.

A rifle is often sold on its aesthetics as much as its price, features or capabilities. The Ataman BP17 Micro Bullpup is so distinctly different that it will definitely attract plenty of shooters on the way it looks alone. But what about its practical benefits?

Any shooters needing to carry their rifle to their permission, gun club or range without drawing any undue attention from passers-by will find the BP17 a godsend. After all, this non-takedown rifle is shorter than some unassembled takedowns!

And the compact nature of the gun would make this a great choice for shooting around farm buildings, especially ratting at night when it’s all too easy to slap your barrel against a wall, bale or tractor. The Ataman BP17 Micro Bullpup is definitely not for everyone, but if it is what you’re looking for then you should try one for size.

The Airgun Shooter Verdict

Look & Feel: 8
Stock: 8
Build & Quality: 9
Sighting up: 8
Cocking: 8
Loading: 8
Trigger: 9
Handling: 9
Accuracy: 9
Value: 8

Overall score: 84

“Ataman’s BP17 is a gun that will polarise opinion on looks alone, but those shooters who do fall for its militaristic charms will be rewarded with a high-quality and highly accurate miniature marvel”

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