CO2 powered air rifles have many distinct advantages over other types of air rifle. They are usually powered by either 12g or 88g CO2 capsules which are easy to fit and install. The capsules provide similar effectiveness and efficiency to a PCP rifle, without the hassle of refilling your air cylinder. Just fit a new capsule when the old one runs out and you’re ready to shoot again.
CO2 rifles, thanks to their relative ease of use, are great fun to shoot and suitable for a variety of roles, including pest control, target shooting or even just hitting tin cans in your garden. They are ideal for those new to air gunning and those looking for a fun alternative to spring or PCP rifles.
The Winchester lever action is priced at £340 whilst the CX-4 comes in at just under £400 but does come with a scope and bipod for this added price. Both of the rifles I tested are only available in .177 calibre.
Which Rifle has the best Looks?
The styles of these two rifles are very different with the lever action featuring a more classic style that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of A Fistful Of Dollars and features a beautifully slim beech wood stock that has been stained for added texture and colour in the finish. The Winchester model I tested was called the “Original” and featured a blued receiver and barrel and whilst these were adequately done, there are couple of models that I think look slightly better, most notably the Stainless Steel and Wells Fargo deluxe models.
Meanwhile, the CX-4 has gone for a more military/police style and is consequently almost entirely black. I think this does detract from the looks of the rifle, especially at a distance where the details and contours of the rifles stock are harder to make out. That’s not to say that this rifle looks generic however, its unique silhouette ensures that it apart from the majority of other rifles in this category and is with its large thumbhole being both stylish and functional.
This is a bit apples and oranges but after asking round the office the Winchester came out on top with 66% of the vote and I have to say I agree with them. The CX-4 storm is a good looking rifle for those of you that prefer a more modern looking gun but my fondness of a wooden stock, coupled with my secret desire to be Clint Eastwood leads me to pick the Winchester as the winner.
Winner : Winchester Lever Action
Shooting The Breeze: Best Operation?
Both of these rifles utilise 88g CO2 capsules which fit into the butt of the stock with relative ease, and provide both rifles with around 220 shots. The rotary 8 shot magazine of the Winchester is incredibly impressive. Simply load the pellets into the mag, slide it into the side of the rifle, cycle the under lever and you’re ready to shoot. The CX-4 Storm’s magazine is somewhat more unusual and consists of a rubber belt that can hold up to 30 pellets. This number of shots is certainly impressive for a CO2 air rifle and although it takes longer to reload, the time between reloads is increased as well. It is worth pointing out that the CX-4 has a reputation of jamming pellets by not firing from the magazine properly but in my time with the gun I encountered no problems. I assume this is from people loading the pellets in by hand instead of using the tool provided which ensures a uniform fit.
From looking at the Winchester I was worried that it would feel more like a glorified toy but thanks to its extensive use of wood and metal, with only the sights, barrel band and muzzle cap being plastic, it has a far more realistic weight than I anticipated. The CX-4 however makes extensive use of plastic in its stock which does improve handling but gives this rifle more of a toy-like feel.
When it comes to the “fun factor”, perhaps the most important consideration between choosing these rifles, I found that both of these rifles put a smile on my face but for very different reasons. With the Winchester it is all about the lever action, it makes reloading this rifle almost as fun as shooting it and gives a real air of authenticity to the gun. The under lever is a bit tough on the knuckles so I would recommend shooting gloves but the mechanism never bit my hand once and is fast enough to empty the entire magazine in seconds. The butt of the rifle does slip somewhat with repeated shots, so a rubber cover might be a useful accessory for some.
The CX-4 is semi-automatic and will fire as fast as you can pull the trigger for exceptional fun shooting tin cans. Coupled with the 30 round magazine, the CX-4 is one of the most enjoyable rifles you can buy and features multiple rails for a variety of attachments. It also comes equipped with a 4×32 scope and a bi-pod. The Winchester comes without any attachments and does not feature any rails although scope mounts could be mounted onto the top. I feel as though on almost any other rifle this would have been somewhat of an oversight but is actually in keeping with rifles old style. You couldn’t imagine Billy the Kid running around with a laser sight and night vision reflex sight could you?
Both of these rifles are extremely fun to shoot and easy to operate so picking a winner is difficult but I’m going to give it to the CX-4 thanks to its larger magazine, accessory rails and semi auto firing.
Winner : CX-4 Storm XT
Gun With Best Performance?
When it comes to shooting I tested both rifles with 8.4 grain, Air Arms Field 4.51 pellets which feature a slightly smaller dome and are more compatible with multi shot magazines. In the Winchester, these pellets averaged around 480 FPS from the 19.25” barrel with CX-4 averaging around 390 FPS from its slightly shorter 17.5” barrel. This difference in power is not that noticeable when shooting targets indoors, as I was doing, but may be something to think about if you’re outside, where wind and other weather conditions have a greater effect on pellet flight.
The trigger of the CX-4 is somewhat heavy at around 11lbs but features a crisp and predictable let off. The trigger of the Winchester is comfortably wide and fits against the finger nicely but has a much lighter trigger pull of around 5 lbs. This is again down to personal preference but lighter, more responsive triggers have always been my cup of tea so the Winchester wins out. To be fair, with the CX-4 you are cocking and releasing the hammer with one trigger pull whilst the Winchester cocks with the under lever, which may explain the reason for such a difference in trigger weights.
When it comes to accuracy, both of these rifles were tested on an indoor range of around 20 yards. The Winchester was capable of around 1 inch groups at around 20 yards which isn’t bad but does require a lot more realignment after each shot thanks to its underlever action. The CX-4 doesn’t suffer from this problem, as it is semi-automatic with very little recoil. The rifle also grouped slightly tighter than the Winchester because of this but would occasionally throw a pellet wide of the mark. This is maybe down to its un-rifled barrel or perhaps due to pellets not sitting uniformly in the magazine. Whatever the cause, it leads me to conclude that The CX-4 has somewhat of an identity crisis. The rifle is fitted with multiple rails for lamps, lasers and high quality scopes, but is simply not accurate enough to be used for pest control or serious target shooting, so why the need for expensive other attachments?
Winner : Winchester Lever Action
Conclusions: Just For Plinking
Both rifles end up being great as plinkers for targets or tin cans and are terrific fun to shoot, but are not accurate enough for serious shooters. This seems to me like what the Winchester was designed for, but the CX-4 could have been so much more with it’s semi-automatic shooting and multiple accessory rails. If accessories are your thing then the CX-4 is obviously going to be the ideal choice but why add anything to the rifle if you are just going to be shooting tin cans with it? That is not to say the rifle isn’t great fun and would make a an extremely enjoyable rifle to have, it is one of the best plinkers on the market, but with better accuracy from a couple of additions, a rifled barrel and a better magazine, it could have been something truly great.
Winner : Winchester Lever Action
Which airgun do you prefer? Got a better alternative airgun that you would like to suggest? Let us know in the comments below!