In these times of Brexit and Trump it seems everyone is looking for a good deal, so I’m here to shed some light on some of the best that cheap air rifles have to offer. Now, just 60 years ago, £200 would buy you a brand new car, but cars are not necessarily the most efficient tool for pest control so lets wee what high powered airguns we can get for the same price. And you should always factor in the importance of choosing the correct air gun pellet too.
Hunting For Value
If you are looking for value, there is not much worth having priced below the Remington Express XP, not just one of the cheapest spring rifles, but one of the cheapest airguns period. The express is only available in .177 but will shoot 11.5ft/lbs+ making it just as effective several more expensive guns on the market.
The finish on the rifle is also surprisingly refined considering the price and the hardwood stock, read : not beech, is suitably shaped and well stained. The rifle also weighs under 3kg making it lighter than some other similarly priced spring rifles. The trigger of the Remington in particular is nice and wide, and whilst there is a little creep, the pull weight seems perfectly set to achieve a predictable let off. The Remington is also accurate with 1/2” groups at 30 yards using air arms diabolo pellets and the muzzle report is greatly reduced by the addition of a silencer.
The rifle is not as silent as a CO2 or PCP rifle however as the main noise of a spring rifle comes from inside the rifle itself. Also the silencer is moulded to the front of the rifle eliminating the possibility of front sights. Now the rifle does come with a 3-9×32 scope, but is its always nice to have the option.
All in all a great rifle that is limited by its lack of options such as calibre choice and sight options.
Remington Express XP
+ Great finish
+ Brilliant Trigger
+ Comes with Scope
– Silencer is Fixed
– .177 Only
– Still Quite Loud
Next up is rifle that has had a couple of re-brands over the years, the Webley ValueMax, now known as the VMX has been a popular choice amongst airgunners looking to get more bang for their buck.
Slightly less powerful than the Express XP, the VMX none the less shoots at around 11.3ft/lbs which is more than enough to deal with either feathers or fur. The VMX features a Powr Lok mainspring that delivers consistent power and smooth delivery although the two stage trigger could be of higher quality.
The VMX also features fibre optic sights and can be fitted with a scope because of the rifles top mounted rail. The VMX also features an automatic safety, but is not possible to de-cock the rifle without firing so always ensure you have a target first, something that is good practice anyway.
The synthetic stock is OK I guess, but I’ve never liked the feel of most of them, they remind me of the texture of a cheap car dashboard, but they are light and I guess for £120 I cant exactly expect walnut can I? The shape is good however and the rifle is comfortable to shoulder for both left and right handed shooters.
The rifle is maybe not the nicest to look at or shoulder, but it shoots like a dream and for under £120 you can’t really have many complaints can you?
+ Smooth Action
+ Fibre Optic Sights
+ Under £120!!!
+ Auto Safety
– Ugly Synthetic Stock
– Moderate Trigger Creep
– No Way to Decock
The Chinese have in recent years, shaken off their reputation for the cheap and the nasty, and instead are now famous for making some of the most reliable air rifles that money can buy. Continuing in that tradition, the XS38 is a fully sized, full power airgun that, instead of a break barrel system, utilises an under lever to cock. This reduces wear and increases accuracy by ensuring the barrel never moves throughout the firing process. The rifle is fitted with a scope rail as well as fibre optic sights which aid hunting in low light.
The rifle itself is somewhat heavy weighing in at nearly 4 kilos and under leavers are notorious for having all their weight at the front something that will take a bit of getting used to. The rifle does have a fair bit of kick though this is counteracted with a generously sized recoil pad.
The trigger of the XS is somewhat unrefined and is a single stage, leading to a little unpredictability and the break barrel action is a little stiff, so you’re in for a workout if you are going to be doing a lot of shooting with it. It was the most powerful of all the rifles I tested, clocking in at 11.8ft/lbs, ideal for pests.
The XS38 is definitely excellent value but it is very front heavy and a bit cumbersome to aim. The gun does however pack a real punch and is accurate enough for targets or pests.
+ Under lever
+ Fibre Optic Sights
+ Great Finish
+ High Power
– Unpredictable Trigger
– Tough to Cock
The BSA Meteor Silentium was originally introduced in 1955, over half a century ago, and we are now on our 7th iteration of this famous gun. BSA, and now Gamo who took over in 1986, have always adopted a “if it aint broke” approach to the Meteor and consequently ended up with a rifle that was very old fashioned, not to mention underpowered, and really only suited for purists of the brand looking to reclaim a bit of the past.
Now However, they introduce the Meteor EVO, a version of their classic rifle that has been given a firm boot into the 21st century. First thing to note is the power, upped from the originals 8ft/lb, the EVO features a brand new spring and valves system that will produces around 11ft/lbs of muzzle energy, just under the legal limit.
The EVO, much like its predecessor is a rifle that is built to last, something that continues to impress me about the brand. The Finish of the EVO is also really good with chequering on the stock and a thick rubber recoil pad. Testing the gun out 4.52 Air Arms field pellets gave tight groupings at 30 yards and I’m sure with a bit of experimentation with pellets this could be improved further.
Also unlike some previous BSA models like the Lightning and Supersport, the Meteor features a barrel fulcrum that consists of a threaded screw instead of a pin which eliminates the lateral barrel movement that has given this brand a bit of a bad rep in recent years. The only real complaint I have is the gun is still pretty loud, and yes I know all spring rifles have a similar problem, but don’t call your gun a Silentium if it gives away my position to everyone in a mile radius. Also this silencer can’t be removed and replaced with a more effective one or one that doesn’t look like a giant piece of plastic. Oh well…
The BSA carries a lot of heritage. It also shoots well if being a little loud and cumbersome to aim.
BSA Meteor EVO Silentium
+ Great Build Quality
+ Well Designed Stock
+ High Power
– Quite Loud
– Can’t Remove Silencer
– Front Heavy
The Gamo Whisper X has been billed as “the best Gamo ever” and while that doesn’t mean much to some people, the Whisper X does shake off some of
the baggage that has been attached to the Gamo name. Normally known for having a heavy trigger, the Whisper is surprisingly light and responsive and I found myself growing to like it more with each shot. The accuracy was again pretty good, inside a penny at 30 yards, nothing to complain about here.
Another thing Gamo rifles were famous for was the “twang” noise the spring made when fired, now I don’t know if they use a different manufacturer for their springs now, but that noise was absent, instead being replaced with a more pleasant thud sound. The recoil level of this rifle was also way below what I expected in the shoulder, with the skeleton stock absorbing a large part of it. However, the kick is still larger than most air rifles and I wonder if this may cause damage to the gun in the long run.
About that stock, its not exactly my cup of tea. I have to say I prefer a classic sporter shaped wood stock as opposed to the whisper X’s unusual styling. At least it doesn’t look like not a Kral Breaker… Having said that looks are subjective, one mans trash is another mans treasure, blah blah blah. Really, if you are hitting groups as tight as the X does, how it looks pales into insignificance.
The X was perhaps the gun I was most sceptical about before shooting and yet, it was the one that grew on me the most.
+ High Accuracy
+ Improved noise…
– … but not exactly Whisper Quiet
– Fixed Silencer
– Polarising looks
In conclusion, i must say that I was pleasantly surprised by this range of rifles. The build quality is about what you would expect, but the performance far exceeded my expectations. All but one were over 11.5ft/lbs and all were accurate enough to be used for either pest control or target shooting at ranges up to and including 30 metres. If I had to pick a winner I’d probably go for the Remington, yes it is a bit rough around the edges, but that trigger is great and makes the gun a joy to shoot. I would have liked the option of front sights such as on the non XP model, but this gun is a great choice for target shooters and hunters alike.
The overall standard of the guns was actually very good and manufacturers have been competing with each other for decades now to try and get their rifles to be the most affordable and there is now more choice than ever. Whereas 30 years ago buying a cheap airgun was really scraping the bottom of the barrel, nowadays the bar has been raised so high that you can find a great airgun no matter your budget so long as you are prepared to compromise.