Until 2015, budget gun specialists SMK have never had a PCP in their line-up – but we take a look back at the first offering: the SMK PR900W
Sportsmarketing, distributor of the SMK PR900W, built their reputation on importing cheap air rifles from China – and while they may have lacked the finesse and longevity of more typically priced British, European and American hardware, there’s no doubt that SMK’s airguns have always offered a good entry point into the sport. As a result, their spring-powered, pump-up and CO2 airguns have sold well.
However, due to the complexity of the precharged pneumatic, this configuration has been off SMK’s remit – until now, that is. The introduction of the £219.95 SMK PR900W marks the first of a series of cheap PCPs to carry the SMK moniker – and we were lucky enough to get some range time with one at a local gun dealer’s to bring you our first thoughts while we wait for Sportsmarketing to send us a test sample for a fuller review.
Emanating from the Snow Peak factory in China, the SMK PR900W appears to be an adaption of a CO2-powered airgun. While its finish reflects its cheap asking price, with typically ‘thick’ Chinese lacquering of the hardwood stock and thinly anodised cast components which may easily mark with usage, the overall impression on opening the box is good.
The rifle is very light – just 2.4kg – and feels extremely slim in the hand. It comes with screwdriver-adjustable open sights, a baffled silencer, a no-tools-required, single-shot tray adaptor to replace the plastic magazine, a plug-in charging probe and spare seals.
The mag is a 7-shot for the .22 (the calibre we tested); the .177’s a 9-shot. It automatically indexes around with a throw of the side-bolt. The spring-loaded magazine is filled very like that of the award-winning AirForceOne Trophy MS pistol we reviewed, with the first pellet being inserted backwards.
Given our view that the rifle has originally been designed for CO2 gas which runs at around 850psi, we were interested to see what modifications had been made to cater for the much higher (3,000psi) working pressures of the compressed air version. However, we were unable to check the gun’s internals as its action and woodwork cannot be split without undoing the underbelly gauge with a special tool that the gun shop didn’t have!
We assume this is a deliberate design feature on SMK’s part to ensure the PR900W passes the AMTA’s anti-tamper protocol – a voluntary test that the UK’s PCP gunmakers and distributors have agreed to be bound by to ensure retailers and, ultimately gun owners, don’t fall foul of the law.
While the system may prevent tampering with the action, its concept does concern us; the fact that wood and metal can’t be split could cause rain water or moisture to be trapped under the cylinder, ultimately harbouring rust and potentially compromising its strength integrity.
The on-board air gauge has a colour-coded face – keep the needle in the green – which is a good move as it’s confusingly marked in units of Megapascals, rather than the usual psi or BAR.
Filling is via the well-known quick-fill push probe (supplied), although rather than the usual 1/8in BSP male thread, the probe is connected to charging gear using another quick-fill connector – namely the Foster-type snap-fit adaptor which will have to be purchased separately. One thing we didn’t like was that the probe pushed straight through the inlet housing and snagged on the barrel behind.
Obviously, there’s still the added expense of buying charging gear if you’re new to the world of precharged shooting – another £150 to £200 – but given SMK’s proven track record when it comes to budget airguns, we wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not already working on some price-busting air tank or stirrup pump to go with their new PCP range.
Shot-count and consistency from the recommended 200BAR fill is shown above – the sample rifle’s output rose steadily before dropping off quite dramatically. In all, we’d say the .22’s charge is good for around four magazines – 28 shots – so we’d expect a .177 model to be good for a maximum of 25 shots per charge.
We were only able to chrono-test the rifle with SMK’s 14.4-grain BS55 Black Flat ‘target‘ pellets which climbed close to the UK’s 12ft/lb legal limit at their peak. Given that most PCPs are more efficient with heavier pellets, we’d be a little concerned with this particular sample straying over the limit using 16- or 21-grain pellets and potentially landing its owner with a serious legal headache. No doubt any potential problems on this front will be addressed at the AMTA proof-testing stage.
Accuracy-wise, the only test range available to us was 13 metres long so we can’t yet vouch for its accuracy over normal ranges. Suffice to say, however, the PR900W’s action is recoilless (and quiet), and we were able to print 18mm groups with the BS55s from a rest. Usefully, there was a significant shift of the pellets’ POI when the rifle was out of puff.
Although the pellet’s tail was very noticeably ‘lifted’ by the probe when the single-shot tray was deployed, and the all-important muzzle crown was very roughly cut on our sample, we didn’t detect any accuracy differences between the single-shot and magazine modes.
The breech is dovetailed to take a scope, though as the front block is very short, you may have difficulty fitting the longer models – and you will probably need to remove the rearsight to accommodate the objective bell. If you do top the PR900W with a telly, we’d recommend you place the mounts’ clamping bolts on the left rather than right as we ‘skinned’ our knuckles on them during the cocking process. Ouch!
The pseudo two-stage trigger could have done with some adjustment as its let-off pressure, while relatively light, exuded a fair amount of creep and we struggled to get any consistency of its ‘breaking’ point. No obvious adjustment was available ‘on gun’ (and we couldn’t split action and woodwork to see if it was adjustable off gun). However, its cast blade was wide and comfortable to the finger – and the manual, resettable cross-bolt safety catch built into the cast trigger guard worked absolutely flawlessly.
Even mounted up, the rifle felt very good in the shoulder. Its stock is right-hand dedicated, with the butt sporting a hard rubber recoil pad, a shapely Monte Carlo cheekpiece and raised comb. Thanks to thumb muscle cutaways on both sides, we’d say the rifle could be shot from either shoulder. The downsides are that we felt the grip’s rake a little stretched out for all but the longest of fingers, and the chequering panels were so thinly cut (and then filled with thick lacquer!) that they served more an aesthetic than practical purpose.
Nonetheless, while SMK’s PR900W precharged pneumatic has clearly been manufactured down to a price, there’s no denying that it adds a new option to airgunners who don’t have deep pockets, and who are prepared to accept a low shot-count and a few missing finishing touches in order to get an entry-level PCP. In that respect, SMK is continuing its tradition of supplying the market’s cheaper end admirably…
PR900W review: specification
Maker: Snow Peak, China
UK Distributor: SMK
Shots-per-charge: Approx .28 (.22 tested)
Barrel length: 482mm
Weight: 2.4kg (unscoped)
Sights: Fully adjustable opens
Trigger: Pseudo two-stage
Safety: Manual, cross-bolt, resettable
Pull length: 363mm
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