Getting on to target

It takes a small fortune to purchase an Olympic-grade airgun for use in indoor target shooting. Competitors often pay up to £3,000 just on a ‘starter’ top-end rig from the likes of Anschutz, Feinwerkbau, Steyr or Walther – enough money to frighten away many potential enthusiasts who might otherwise want to take up the sport.

251_BSA Scorpion Cadet 152_AA S200-T

It’s not all bad news, though. There are alternatives for those just wishing to try their hand at indoor target shooting – whether on an informal basis, or with a view to perhaps progressing in time. So, with that in mind, I’ve pulled together two entry-level target rifles: the Scorpion Cadet from BSA and the S200 Target from Air Arms. Both rifles have similar specifications and fall into roughly the same price bracket – so it will be interesting to see how they fare in a head-to-head comparison.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Side by side, it’s clear that these rifles are well matched. Both offer perfectly scaled down dimensions in a semi-target format – and they even feature identical diopter sighting systems. However, they differ pretty radically in the stock department.

BSA fits the Scorpion Cadet with the tactical-style synthetic stock that features on several of its models – and it certainly looks the part. The Air Arms, by contrast, sports traditional beech woodwork and looks every bit as appealing. With a host of features on offer from both manufacturers, these rifles look equally well equipped.

Air Arms S200 Target – 8/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 8/10

TAKING STOCK

502_AA S200-TThe Scorpion Cadet’s synthetic stock is a triumph – with a compact, yet highly-functional configuration that reflects its development for use by the British Army Cadet Force. The synthetic handle is available in both green and camo – and the deliberately rough finish is supremely comfortable to the touch, offering a sure hold. Strangely, the design is not fully ambidextrous, but the right-hand finger grooves and thumb channel are so subtle that they don’t hinder left-handed use. Twin cheekpieces redress the balance, along with a height-adjustable, beautifully-concave butt pad.

The modern, single-piece stock on the S200 is also a neat piece of work, with a full drop-down grip that guides the hand into a supportive hold. My only reservation, which also applies to the BSA, is that the forend is rather shallow. Of course, deep stock sections would add extra weight, which, given the remit for an entry-level rifle (suitable for juniors, in the BSA’s case) is not desirable. Nonetheless, a deep section just forward of the trigger would allow for a more relaxed, head-up stance. Both rifles feature grips with near-vertical grips – what you’d expect on a ‘match’ rifle.

Air Arms S200 Target – 8/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 8/10

BUILD QUALITY

Though the BSA’s blueing and finish are slightly dull, with a fair few scuff marks around the butt pad, overall the Scorpion is well machined and constructed, exuding a great deal of rugged quality. The synthetic stock is precisely moulded, with a dense feel that adds to the rifle’s overall appeal.

The Air Arms S200 Target is, unsurprisingly, derivative of the standard S200 – and its action is made by CZ in the Czech Republic, a gunmaker with a reputation as good as Air Arms’ on the engineering front. That said, cost-reducing measures have been taken on the S200 – evident in the plastic loading-channel insert, the plastic trigger, and the barrel- support bracket.

Air Arms S200 Target – 6/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 6/10

508_AA S200-T

SIGHTING IN

Both guns feature identical sights from Gamo, which feel a little rough and ready. The foresight unit must be unscrewed before clamping it onto the front dovetail, which can be a fiddly job. Once installed, though, you probably won’t need to touch it again.

But while the aesthetic quality of the sights is questionable, their function is pretty well beyond reproach. The foresight features four interchangeable elements that are easily replaced by unscrewing the threaded hood. The rear diopter unit clamps to the rails, and must be adjusted so the eye can sit lightly in the rubber cup.

Correct use of diopter (or aperture) sights, involves viewing the target in the centre of the foresight element – which, in turn, is viewed centrally through the rear aperture. Keeping these three elements perfectly aligned is the key to accurate shooting. The fine adjustments afforded by the Gamo diopter unit means that patience at the zeroing stage should pay off.

Air Arms S200 Target – 8/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 8/10

CHARGING PROCEDURE

604_BSA Scorpion CadetAs precharged pneumatics, getting air into these rifles is rather important – and both manufacturers go about the task slightly differently.

Air Arms takes the initial plaudits for the safety and peace of mind afforded by its T-bar valve/adapter configuration. With the special brass half-cup adapter installed on the air line (either a dedicated pump or diver’s bottle), the adapter is simply pushed over the valve and twisted to lock it in place. The S200 Target’s action can then be charged to the recommended 190BAR, before bleeding the air line and removing the brass cup fitting. It’s a superb method – and effectively foolproof.

BSA opts for the push-in probe design on the Scorpion Cadet, and there’s no doubting the speed and simplicity of this charging method. With this style of fitting, always remember to give the probe a gentle nudge into its socket a short while into the charge – just to ensure that the probe itself is correctly and fully seated.

Air Arms S200 Target – 10/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 9/10

TRIGGER

Indoor target shooting is a precision sport, and target rifles must include subtle features if the shooter is to stand any realistic chance of hitting the bullseye – after all, it’s only half a millimetre on an official Shooting Union target! Super sensitive triggers help – and I’m pleased to report that both test candidates come well equipped in this area.

Air Arms has plenty of experience here, which should come as no surprise given its competition pedigree. The S200 Target comes with a fairly light two-stage design that breaks cleanly and predictably, going about its business in an efficient manner.

507_AA S200-T

However, the BSA’s trigger just edges this category. It feels that bit more comfortable and natural in use – and where the S200 Target has an irritatingly short plastic blade, the BSA sports a solid metal alternative. While unnecessarily curved, this feels very acceptable in use. The silky action of the unit helps enormously, and the test model was perfectly set by the factory.

Air Arms S200 Target – 8/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 9/10

HANDLING AND FEEL

Both of these rifles feel totally different to handle courtesy of their respective furniture. The S200 Target feels a little more refined and petite – and also a little more delicate. Its thin plastic trigger and metal bolt look flimsy compared with the BSA’s bold components. However, the S200’s configuration suits ladies and juniors particularly well.

The BSA is supplied with either a 10-shot magazine or a swing-out, single-shot adapter. I had the multishot version on test, and witnessed a couple of misfires when only air was discharged, meaning the next shot had to be double loaded. This really hindered an otherwise superb handling experience – and I would recommend a positive cocking action to ensure that the trigger is engaged and the magazine indexed.

Air Arms S200 Target – 8/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 7/10

603_BSA Scorpion CadetSHOT COUNT AND CONSISTENCY

As both of these products are marketed as entry-level target rifles, their velocities are set deliberately low; indoor target shooting at 10 metres simply doesn’t require maximum power. So as these guns only have to meter out enough air for achieving 5 or 6ft/lb of power, instead of the 12 a sporting gun needs, the air goes further and you get a far greater shot-count.

Both rifles can comfortably generate in excess of 100 shots before refilling – enabling continuous, stress-free shooting. BSA actually quotes a shot- count of 170 for the Cadet from a 232BAR fill – and my test rig gave around 120 from a 190BAR fill. The Air Arms managed 126. Consistency-wise, the BSA had a shot-to-shot variation of 38fps over the first 110 shots, while the S200’s was 24fps – textbook for a non-regulated PCP action.

 

Air Arms S200 Target – 9/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 8/10

ACCURACY

Over 10 metres, the intended distance for these rifles, both were capable of posting enlarged single-hole groups, recorded from a rest to prove the point. From a free-standing position, despite my technique being less than Olympic standard, I still managed some impressive groupings on and off.

The S200 Target just edged the results, with marginally smaller clusters, and a few that left me open mouthed; you could actually wedge a pellet in one group’s hole! I felt more at home with the BSA’s great-feeling stock and slick trigger, but the highly creditable results just didn’t quite match those ofits rival. When I really tried, groups from both rifles could be covered by a five-pence piece, however – more than adequate for any entry-level target rifle.

Air Arms S200 Target – 9/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 8/10

VALUE FOR MONEY

Coming in well below the £500 mark, both rifles start to look like a bargain – especially considering the asking price of the top-end alternatives. They may be quite different in their intended market, but both models offer an awful lot of features for the money.

Where the Air Arms is concerned, the price differential between the 200 series and the highly-acclaimed 400 series has narrowed significantly – with the S200 no longer representing the great deal it once did. That said, this dedicated Target model does offer a neat little package for a specific task. The same goes for the Cadet, although its SRP is around £50 greater.

Air Arms S200 Target – 9/10

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 8/10

FINAL VERDICT

These guns proved to be well-appointed target rifles, serious options for any beginner to indoor target shooting – hence the high scores throughout. They’re not without their faults – but that’s to be expected at their mid-range specifications, designed to cater for the budding target enthusiast on a relatively modest budget.

512_AA S200-T

When picking between the two, Air Arms just wins by four points over the 10 categories – and the company’s pedigree just about makes the S200 Target the more reliable choice. However, the BSA’s stock alone demands a closer look – and its handling is superb. My advice, then, is to check both out at your local dealer, because the most important aspect of any target rifle is how well it ‘fits’. Neither will hinder a budding target shooter’s career path…

Air Arms S200 Target – 84/100

BSA Scorpion Cadet – 80/100

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Posted in Air Rifles, PCP, Tests
3 comments on “Getting on to target
  1. Robert Back says:

    Great review, on that Ive just brought my daughter the S200 Target, what a fantastic piece of hardware, my only grumble is no safety, I think is something that should be standard on all air rifles. My daughter although only 10 has a very respectful attitude to shooting and safety is in the forefront of her mind when we are at home cleaning, plinking in the garden or down the club however as all children can do they get distracted its an accident waiting to happen.
    I ask for Air Arms to consider this, I would rather pay another £50 for the peace of mind.

    • Ten metre peter says:

      The range safety rules in 10 metre shooting mean a safety catch is not part of the routine. Guns are unloaded with a length of strimmer line through the barrel until getting to the shooting position and then nobody is allowed forward of the shooting position while the detail commences. At end of shooting the strimmer line is reinserted.
      Safety catches can be off when you think they are on. They are designed to carry a loaded gun in a hunting field, not relevant here. None of our club 10m guns have safeties.
      For peace of mind see ISSF rules and join a club.

  2. Peter Jackson says:

    As is correctly stated the BSA is now in use by the British Army Cadet Force. It was designed primarily for this purpose. This is likely why the stock is not truly ambidextrous. The manner is which cadets are trained to use weapons is progressive, starting with the air rifle, honing their marksmanship skills, then moving on to the .22 rimfire No 8 rifle, 5.56mm Cadet GP rifle, the Light Support Weapon and the 7.62mm Cadet. The cadet GP rifle is identical to the British Army L85A2 (with the exception of fully automatic fire). It is used both on the ranges and on exercise in the field. This weapon can only be fired from the right shoulder. Therefore cadets are taught to shoot initially from that shoulder both with the BSA and the .22 rimfire. They are then well prepared to shoot the cadet GP from the right shoulder. This is likely why the BSA stock has been designed in the manner it has.

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