The super-successful Bantam from British gunmaker Brocock has been revamped and fitted with a regulator from Dutch masters Huma – Mat Manning puts the Sniper HR to the test
Maker: Brocock, England
Test gun supplier Brocock
Model: Bantum Sniper HR
Price: £899 (400cc metal bottle), £999 (Hi-Lite carbon bottle)
Calibre: .177, .22 (tested) and .25
Type: Multi-shot semi-bullpup PCP
Overall length: 88cm
Length of Pull: 37.5cm
Barrel length: 46cm
Weight: 3.5kg (without scope)
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Safety: Manual, resettable
Brocock set a new benchmark for semi-bullpup airgun design when it added the Compatto to its line-up, and the range soon grew to include the Bantam – a high-capacity buddy-bottle variant which has had a regular place in my ratting line-up for the last couple of winters.
Earlier this year, Brocock took the Bantam to another level with the launch of the Sniper HR. The biggest change is the HR part, which stands for Huma Regulator. I’ll tell you more about the difference that makes later on, but all you really need to know is that Huma regulators are regarded as being among the best in the world for extracting optimum air efficiency and shot-to-shot consistency from pre-charged air rifles.
The Bantam still looks very tactical, thanks to its tough ambidextrous synthetic stock. It’s a functional handle that will stand up to the grime and knocks of field work, but it has also been carefully designed to create a very comfortable connection between gun and shooter. The lower part of the forend sweeps forward, so you don’t find yourself holding onto the bottle with your leading hand. The forend also has a stippled groove running along either side to improve grip, and there’s a Picatinny-type accessory rail on the underside for attaching a sling or bipod.
Maintaining the tactical theme, the Sniper HR has a steep pistol grip which sets you up very well for the trigger, and also features some grippy stippling. Behind the grip is a thumbhole cutaway, and I’m pleased to say that it’s more than big enough to accommodate large hands.
Bullpup and semi-bullpup airguns are sometimes let down by sharply angled cheek supports, but that’s not the case with the Bantam Sniper HR. This one is curved to create a very comfortable contact point. It’s also height-adjustable – all you need to do is slacken off a couple of screws to slide it up and down – as is the butt pad, so there’s plenty of adjustment in the stock to achieve perfect alignment between your eye and the scope.
Compact handling has been maintained in the new Bantam package, which measures 88cm from end to end. The test gun is the 400cc metal bottle version which weighs about 3.5kg, and the Hi-Lite version, which has a carbon bottle and costs a bit more, is even lighter. Although the standard model is not quite a featherweight, it still feels good in the shoulder and is light enough to easily carry around in the field.
FEATURES AND FUNCTION
Brocock airguns are very well engineered, and this gun is no exception. I really like the flash-free black finish of the metalwork, and the chunky shroud that houses the choked Lothar Walther barrel certainly looks purposeful enough.
Although the test gun features an 11.5mm dovetail scope mounting rail, a Picatinny version is available as an extra. The rail is swept forward over the rear part of the barrel shroud so there’s no risk of eye relief being compromised by the gun’s stubby semi-bullpup configuration.
Behind the scope rail sits the 10-shot magazine at the heart of the Bantam’s action, and a single-shot tray is also supplied. The magazine looks a lot like the one on my old Bantam, and that one cycled thousands of shots without missing a single beat. Easy to load and slick in operation, the tried and tested magazine is indexed by the stroke of the side-bolt, which also cocks the gun and probes home the pellet. The Sniper HR has a bigger, grooved bolt handle which feels great in the hand and enhances what is already a very reliable mechanism. The result is fast and very smooth reloading, which makes for great fun on the plinking range and also proves to be very handy in the hunting field.
As on the previous model, there’s a power adjuster dial located in front of the bolt handle. On the test gun, the three power levels amount to around seven, nine and 11.5ft-lb. Although I can’t see a desperate need for turning down the power on a sub-12ft-lb airgun, it’s a feature that will certainly prove useful on high-power models. One thing I really appreciate is that the stops on this dial are far more positive than on the previous model.
The trigger was one of my favourite features on my old Bantam, and this one is equally good. It’s an adjustable two-stage unit with a brilliant blade that’s profiled with a gentle curve and a flat face. Out of the box, the one on the test gun has a positive first-stage stop and a very crisp and predictable second-stage break.
There’s a neat little paddle-type safety catch positioned in front of the trigger blade. I don’t particularly like safety catches so close to the trigger, but I suppose there is an advantage in that you don’t have to adjust your hold to use it. The gun is safe when the catch is across to the right, and you flick it over to the left when you’re ready to shoot.
PERFORMANCE AND PRECISION
Filling the Bantam Sniper HR with air is an absolute doddle. Pull off the magnetic dust cap on the underside of the stock, couple-up the supplied connector and you’re good to go. The .22 calibre test gun has a recommended fill pressure of 200 bar, and from that it returned more than 400 shots at 11.5ft-lb. The Hi-Lite does even more, churning out in excess of 500 shots per fill.
With a shot count like that you could feasibly get away without buying a diving bottle, as long as you live close to a shop or range where you can get the gun topped up every time you drop in to buy a tin of pellets.
The high shot count is partly down to the capacity of the buddy bottle, but it also gets a boost from the Huma regulator, which also achieves fantastic shot-to-shot consistency. This one showed a variation of just four feet per second over a string of 30 shots – that’s an enormous improvement on my old Bantam, which did have a distinct power curve. High-power versions can produce muzzle energy of up to 46ft-lb. Shot capacity is of course reduced at higher power, but you should still be able to expect awesome consistency from this model.
On the outside of the gun, the only real evidence of that Huma regulator – apart from the HR moniker – is the presence of the twin manometers sunk into the right-hand side of the stock. The bottom dial displays the remaining air pressure in the bottle, while the top one shows the regulator’s working pressure.
Whether you’re on the range or in the field, this airgun’s super-consistent power delivery combines with the crisp trigger, cleverly sculpted ambidextrous handle and match-accurate Lothar Walther barrel to create a very precise shooting machine that’s capable of putting pellet on pellet at 30m. It’s simple to use and makes easy work of toppling targets, but it does have quite a muzzle report despite that chunky oversized shroud. Fortunately, it’s threaded so you can screw on a dedicated moderator, and I expect a
lot of hunters will want to do just that.
This version of the Brocock Bantam Sniper HR costs £899. That’s serious money in anyone’s book, but I think it amounts to pretty good value for a very well-made British air rifle with so many great features. If you want a compact air rifle that delivers a high shot count and impressive consistency, this is certainly one for your shortlist.
Look & Feel: 8
Build Quality: 9
“A compact and slick-shooting multi-shot PCP with excellent shot-to-shot consistency, the Brocock Bantam Sniper HR is a serious option for shooters looking for a functional and accurate air rifle which has semi-bullpup proportions”