After going back to the drawing board, Brocock has re-released the Contour S6 Elite with a number of improvements. The editor looks at why this compact multi-shot PCP carbine could be one of the best little big guns out there…
Although the Contour was unveiled by Brocock as long ago as 2007, the S6 Elite is actually a comparatively new arrival in the family. Very different from the original Aim-X Contour, the first Elites started rolling off the production line shortly before Brocock was acquired by the Diana Group in March 2013 (not to be confused with the unrelated German gunmaker, Dianawerk).
I say ‘production line’ with some hesitation – the truth is, those early models were pretty much ‘beta guns’, getting tweaked as they were shipped out on a gun-by-gun basis. Few were sold which, as it happens, is probably just as well – Brocock were (dare I say?) rather losing their way at that juncture.
Post-takeover, there was a lot of ironing out to be undertaken by the new owners. Too many of those pre-Diana era of Super Six (aka S6) models were prone to jam-ups, leaks and general inconsistencies owing to poor tolerances – mainly as a result of the numerous manufacturing sources the old management commissioned.
Steering a listing ship back on course is no easy task – and certainly not something that can be achieved overnight – but now, some two years after testing the last S6 Elite, I’ve been enjoying some field time with the very much redesigned Brocock S6 Elite. In a funny kind of way, it’s a rifle that’s probably been ‘forgotten’ as Brocock’s marketing machine has gone quiet in an attempt to get things back on track. Yet, as I’ve found out, the rifle is actually a bit of pleasant surprise waiting to be discovered by some lucky airgunner.
What’s more, with the impending Compatto about to usurp the Contour as the flagship in Brocock’s PCP range, there could very well be the ideal opportunity for shooters to snap up some real bargains as gun shops look to shift Contour stock to make space for the new release.
The Contour S6 Elite I have here is a good example. A commemorative offer from the Airgun Centre, it’s a £799 all-in combo that you can nab for 200 quid less than its true worth! I’m sure there will be plenty of other offers at dealers‘ shops around the country between now and October – the Compatto’s expected arrival date – too. So, let’s look at why the circa 2014/15 Contour S6 Elite is such a worthy buy, initially looking at the changes from its original spec.
Perhaps the most noticeable change is in the stock – now fully ambidextrous and less ‘square’, but still retaining the characteristic skeleton butt which was the hallmark of the Contour. On the downside, I’m sorry to see the skip-chequering panels go. However, the diamonds now lasered into the walnut are far more practical, both in terms of ‘grippiness’ and where they’ve been positioned – namely much lower down on the belly of the newly designed forestock, where it nestles into the palm of your leading hand. Incorporated into one of the forend’s chequer panels is Brocock‘s logo – a nice touch that’s quite in vogue at the moment.
At the rear, the butt’s lost both its ventilated recoil pad and rollover comb, with the latter being replaced by a much more versatile ambi cheek rest that allows the rifle to be shot from either shoulder. Correspondingly, the palm of the original thumbhole has been totally discarded. Perhaps this is a shame for the right-hander, but it’ll appease southpaws and certainly doesn’t jeopardise the compact little rifle’s handling.
As for the omission of the ventilated pad: so what? It’s a totally recoilless rifle, so was never needed! Its soft rubber replacement anchors just as well in your shoulder and looks better by virtue of its more subtle sizing. The length of pull has been slightly reduced – down to 342 from 345mm – as a result, but just as I reported back in the August 2013 issue, this slightly undersized dimension doesn’t feel at all cramped on aim.
Actually, it’s one of the reasons why I think the Contour S6 Elite remains such a versatile PCP – it’ll size down nicely for junior and lady shooters of smaller stature while still being perfectly manageable for the bloke in size 14s. The rifle-only weight of 2.29kg (110 grams lighter than its forebear) will also assist those who find full-size air rifles a handful.
Yet its dinky dimensions and light weight are a bum-steer when it comes to output, for the Contour is still very much the little big gun that it was designed to be – with my sub-12ft/lb test sample spitting out heavier rounds with a very healthy power.
Moreover, while this test sample’s start pressure was clearly below the recommended maximum of 200BAR, once it came ‘in’ to the sweet spot (around shot 18), it displayed a relatively flat power curve with better shot-to-shot consistency than the previous test sample, right down to its 100BAR refill point. In summary, the rifle clocked up 78 shots – or 13 magazines – with a total rise/fall of 0.75ft/lb through the usable charge. That High Flow Valve Technology is clearly now living up to expectations…
For sure, any niggles that some shooters experienced a couple of years back in the wake of Brocock’s faltering standards have, it seems, been addressed. I’ve been to Brocock’s new factory in the past year and seen a much greater emphasis put on assembly – and this, coupled with the tighter engineering tolerances that have been built into the blueprints being followed by the machinists, is certainly evident in the .22 Contour S6 Elite here.
I’m particularly impressed with the six-shot rotary magazine – two of which, incidentally, accompany the rifle in the box. Long the bane of Brocock’s original manufacturing team, it took an age to get right – you either had a good ’un or a bad ’un, more often than not the latter! The mags frequently over-rotated (as the design uses an inertia-stop mechanism) and pellets would fall out of their chambers if you tilted the rifle, subsequently causing a jam-up the next time the bolt was cycled.
Well, I’m glad to say that with very rare exception, the test rifle’s cycled flawlessly. It’s very clear that while the basic design is unaltered, the manufacturing tolerances are far better, with pellets staying in place and the indexing system working slickly. Loading up is simple (see panel below), with the magazine being accessed from the right of the breech.
One minor criticism I had of the pre-Diana Brocock was the short-throw, steel bolt handle – I felt it was a little roughly finished and would benefit from ‘silvering up’ with use. Well, maybe the Diana Group agree with me because this new Contour’s is stainless… and looks all the better for it! It complements the stainless magazine and, as already reported, offers the perfect handle for operating the tiny mag. Just make sure you complete the bolt-cocking operation at first attempt, else you’ll stick two up the spout.
While the finish of the Contour remains as excellent as it always was, with a good match-up between the blued steel of the air cylinder and the matt black-anodised finish of the breech and barrel shroud, it’s the overall feel of the rifle’s workings that I couldn’t help but notice. This is British engineering at its best.
And note the word ‘British’ there, because with the exception of the barrel and woodwork, everything is fabricated in the UK. Yes, Brocock may now be under Italian ownership, but the Diana Group recognises it’s the quintessential Britishness of Brocock that makes the Contour so appealing to airgunners the world over.
The Contour’s handle comes (as you’d probably expect) via Italy’s renowned stockmaker, Minelli, and the barrel (as you’d probably also expect) via the German barrel-making ace, Lothar Walther. Speaking patriotically, it’s a shame that Sheffield’s Custom Stock have lost the stock contract – but you can’t knock Minelli’s skill at producing practical, good-looking timber. They’ve got their feet well and truly in the UK gunmakers’ doors, with the likes of Air Arms, BSA and Daystate all sporting them on various models. The same applies to many foreign gunmakers… kudos Minelli.
And as for Lothar’s barrels, there’s very little you can criticise there, either – they’re on most high-end air rifles these days, and while it would have been nice to have said the tube had rolled out from the UK’s equally as brilliant bore-maker, BSA, I’ve no moans. The Contour’s is choked and wasn’t in the least bit pellet-fussy. That said, as I’m increasingly finding is the case these days, JSB-made pellets were the top performers in terms of power output, consistency and accuracy.
But what, perhaps, is often overlooked on such a ‘baby’ rifle is its long-range potential. Yes, the compact Contour is the ultimate in ratting carbines, but wandering around the farmyard with your sights set at 20 yards isn’t ever going to challenge this Brocock.
Stick a paper target or 25mm spinner out at 45 yards, however, and you’ll be amazed just what this diminutive airgun is capable of achieving – tiny clusters, for one thing! The best group I printed (with Daystate Rangemaster Sovereign) was just 8mm c-to-c, although I usually was able to empty a mag inside a 15mm group with minimal effort on my part. And let’s not forget my test rifle was in .22 – I’d probably shave another 3mm off those sizes with a .177.
The temptation is to stick a small scope on this rifle – it’s what I did last time around, with a 1-5×20 Simmons WTC. That, then, I felt hamstrung me for the longer distances – but as part of The Airgun Centre’s combo package, the test rifle was equipped with Hawke’s 3-12×50 Eclipse. To consider such a high-mag range might not spring immediately to mind on a Contour, but I can assure you it all worked without unbalancing the rifle in any way.
There’s plenty of mounting real estate – 50mm forward of the mag, and 69mm behind – on the one-piece breech block, and the extra size of the target afforded by the scope’s larger power certainly helped me extract maximum accuracy on the more distant targets.
The trigger helped in that respect, mind you. Considering how simple its two-stage design is, the let-off is very conducive to accurate shooting – though anyone with shovel-like hands may find that they have to over-bend their index finger, as the new stock’s trigger reach is better suited to shorter digits.
The blade itself is smooth- and flat-faced, but its curved shape is wide enough to offer up a good launch pad for the shot. There’s minimal adjustment, but it’s one of those sporting triggers that you’ll feel is best left at the perfectly adequate factory setting. Should you want to tweak it, though, undo the single stock-retaining bolt forward of the new-shape trigger guard to split wood and metal. This then allows you to stick a 1.5mm hex into the rear of the trigger block and alter the sear engagement setting to suit.
Filling up the S6 Elite’s 30mm diameter air cylinder is a lot easier than with the standard Contour (and the longer, 25mm diameter air cylinder) I tested back in September 2014’s issue. Rather than a snap-fit connection at the very front, the Elite uses a plug-in probe, the inlet port of which is protected via a rotary dust cover. The pre-Diana Elites incorporated a ribbed grip that was a little stiff to operate; now it’s knurled and a lot easier to turn open and close. There’s also a manometer integral to the barrel collar/filling assembly – not the most colourful, it has to be said, but at least it provides you with an adequate indication of what your air reserves are.
The shrouded barrel still contains a baffled insert that redirects the ‘dirty’ (turbulent) air back down the shroud’s void to dissipate muzzle report, and it certainly does a good job. The muzzle report on my test sample registered a relatively low 116.6dB-A on my sound meter.
Nonetheless, the end of the shroud is ½in UNF-threaded for the addition of a secondary sound suppression system if you so desire it – and this particular combo package was sporting a rather sexy Milbro Huggett silencer. With that in place – even though it’s only a compact 119mm long – the report was hushed down to 107.7dB-A. I’m not normally one for adding extra length to a short rifle, preferring to sacrifice silence for handling, but I would make an exception in this instance, especially for field operations.
So, there you have the ‘revisited’ Contour S6 Elite. An amazingly versatile PCP multi-shot that will suit young and old, small and large – and take on a wide range of challenges, from field to competition, at close and long ranges. After a bit of a blip in its maker’s past, I see this particular Brocock as a bit of a hidden gem. And with a new stablemate about to take centre stage, I’d say there’s a strong likelihood that you may even pick up a Contour for a price that matches its cut-down dimensions over the next few months!
Maker: Brocock, UK www.brocock.co.uk
Model: Contour S6 Elite
Type: multi-shot precharged pneumatic
Magazine: Six-shot, rotary, removable
Calibre: .177 (4.5mm) and .22 (5.5mm) (tested)
Fill pressure: 200BAR (max)
Shots per charge: .177 – 45 (claimed); .22 – 78 (on test)
Overall length: 801mm (excl. Huggett silencer)
Barrel length: 315mm (excl. internal baffled suppressor)
Weight: 2.29kg (unscoped)
Stock: Ambidextrous walnut thumbhole
Length of pull: 342mm
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable for sear engagement
Price: From £599