ED’S TEST

The editor re­flects on Daystate’s four decades of air­gun de­vel­op­ment

Airgun World - - Contents -

DAYSTATE – 40 YEARS ON.

Iwas just get­ting into ‘se­ri­ous’ air­gun­ning at club level when Daystate be­came part of my world. I’d heard of their strange air­guns, which ran on com­pressed air from a diver’s bot­tle, rather than a main­spring like ‘proper’ guns, and even when I saw my first Daystate in a gun shop, I dis­missed it as ‘too com­pli­cated, when a springer does ev­ery­thing I need’. That shows

what a rub­bish vi­sion­ary I was, but I was lucky enough to have a gen­uine air­gun guru as a good friend, and he had more than enough vi­sion for both of us.

Barry McCraw was the ge­nius-in-res­i­dence at Marky­ate Air­gun Club when I ar­rived as a field tar­get novice in the mid-1980s, and his heav­ily cus­tomised Daystate was the only pre-charged pneu­matic there. Barry was for­ever work­ing on that ri­fle, mak­ing tiny changes to bits of it that were a to­tal mys­tery to me, but what­ever he did to it, it took him right to the top of the FT world in those days. Even then, I still thought that Daystate was too com­pli­cated, and I car­ried on re­gard­less with my beloved Air­mas­ters HW77.

TEST­ING … TEST­ING

Then, in 1987, or very near of­fer, I did my first ri­fle test for Air­gun World. It was the brand-new Daystate FTR – Field Tar­get Ri­fle – and I knew I was shoot­ing the fu­ture. Be­fore I knew it, my club­mates had caught the PCP bug and I was one of the very last con­ver­sions, al­though by then Air Arms and Sports­match had joined the pre-charged pneu­matic arms race, and air­gun tech­nol­ogy has never looked back.

The mod­ern PCP ‘rev­o­lu­tion’ be­gan with Daystate, though, and it’s pleas­ing to see the com­pany still push­ing the tech­ni­cal en­ve­lope with its range of pre-charged ri­fles to­day. Thus the theme for this test is set, as I com­pare and con­trast a Daystate Hunts­man of yes­ter­year, with the com­pany’s very lat­est of­fer­ing, the all-elec­tronic Red Wolf.

THE HUNTS­MAN HH

This was the very model I en­coun­tered in that gun shop all those years ago, al­though that ver­sion of me saw it through com­pletely dif­fer­ent eyes. What seemed then al­most im­pos­si­bly com­pli­cated, is now steeped in a de­gree of sim­plic­ity that makes me smile fondly to my­self. It has no multi-shot mag­a­zine, no sweep­ing curves and cut­aways on the stock, and ab­so­lutely no ad­justa­bil­ity of any kind. The term ‘er­gonomics’ hadn’t been de­fined back then, and that early Hunts­man was ripe for a few ‘user in­ter­face en­hance­ments’ to say the least.

NICE AND SIM­PLE

I find it in­ter­est­ing, pos­si­bly be­cause I’m a bit

of a saddo, that the pull-length of the HH was a mere 13 inches. The grip is fairly skinny, too, with no ac­com­mo­dat­ing palm swells to as­sist hand con­tact at the grip or fore end. The bal­ance of the ri­fle is hugely bi­ased to­ward the front end, caused by the sheer weight of the Hunts­man’s stain­less steel reser­voir and its ¼-inch thick walls. That ri­fle pro­duced 40, full-power shots, though, and high-power ex­am­ples were also avail­able, and these pro­duced en­er­gies no springer, then or now, could re­li­ably match.

Yet, de­spite the early Hunts­man’s sim­plic­ity, it has an un­der­stated el­e­gance about it, which is pleas­ing to the eye, es­pe­cially for the tra­di­tion­al­ists among us. This lack of com­pli­ca­tion has been passed to the lat­est Daystate Hunts­man mod­els, and those ri­fles are all the bet­ter for it. My col­league, Phill Price, uses his Hunts­man as his go-to sport­ing ri­fle, and the HH her­itage is still vis­i­ble.

FUNC­TION OVER FORM

Even with­out the er­gonomic ad­van­tages of its mod­ern coun­ter­parts, the ‘vin­tage’ Hunts­man still puts in a cred­i­ble per­for­mance, with sub-inch groups out to 35 yards, courtesy of its 5.6mm bore. The model Daystate sent us has a straight-bladed trig­ger, which was stan­dard on the FTR, but not on the sporters, as I re­call. More im­por­tantly, that trig­ger still works fairly well, al­beit not blessed by the slick pre­ci­sion of the Red Wolf stand­ing smartly to at­ten­tion in the gun rack be­side me. Let’s be frank, here; the PCP trig­gers we pretty much take for granted these days are worlds apart from what many of us grew up with, and hav­ing tested these Daystates side by side, I can re­port that this ad­vance­ment ap­plies to vir­tu­ally ev­ery fea­ture and ev­ery facet of the lat­est ri­fles … as in­deed it should af­ter so many years of de­vel­op­ment.

THE RED WOLF

Swap­ping the Hunts­man HH for the Red Wolf was like climb­ing out of a 1960s sports car (and yes I’ve done that), straight into a mod­ern, lux­ury sa­loon. I wish I could tell you that shoot­ing the older ri­fle was more re­ward­ing on all sorts of lev­els, but that would be a dirty great fib. It seems the years have in­flicted an ef­fi­ciency ad­dic­tion on me and I’m ir­re­triev­ably lost to it.

The Red Wolf pro­duced sin­gle-hole groups at 35 yards, with lit­tle con­scious ef­fort from me, whereas I was ac­tu­ally re­quired to try with the old Hunts­man. The Wolf’s sidelever was all but ef­fort­less to cy­cle, and its trig­ger let me ‘think off’ each shot, just as Barry McCraw taught me over 30 years ago. I truly didn’t un­der­stand Barry’s in­struc­tion then, but the Red Wolf’s elec­tronic, omni-ad­justable trig­ger is the per­fect medium through which to ex­press that tech­nique. No de­lib­er­ate ac­tion to launch the shot, just the pos­i­tive thought of do­ing so, and away it goes, per­fectly timed and flaw­lessly de­liv­ered.

PURE PER­FOR­MANCE

I’ve tested the Red Wolf sev­eral times, now, and I know ex­actly what it can do at ev­ery cred­i­ble

range, and pos­si­bly be­yond. This ri­fle will group pel­lets well in­side an inch at 50 yards, and I’ve shot plenty of groups around half that size. This ri­fle’s shot count is num­bered in the hun­dreds at the le­gal limit, and its elec­tron­i­cally-reg­u­lated out­put en­sures a de­gree of shot-to-shot

con­sis­tency that the an­cient Hunts­man could match for about 15 shots of its 40-shot ca­pac­ity. The fact is, the more I com­pare these ri­fles, the more ob­vi­ous it be­comes that there re­ally is no com­par­i­son be­tween them, and again, that’s ex­actly how it should be.

LESSONS FROM HIS­TORY

Now, via Daystate’s 40-year pro­gres­sion, I’ve been able to as­sess my own shoot­ing her­itage, and the sim­ple les­son is made stark by such a di­rect com­par­i­son of then and now. The pro­gres­sion of our hard­ware is sim­ply in­cred­i­ble. Ev­ery fea­ture and the way it per­forms for us and with us, has pushed our over­all ef­fi­ciency to truly in­cred­i­ble lev­els, most of which we take for granted. We tend to com­pare the lat­est mod­els with their pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions and this gives the im­pres­sion of tiny, of­ten im­per­cep­ti­ble, changes which aren’t fully ap­pre­ci­ated. Only by di­rectly com­par­ing where we started to where we are now can we truly re­alise how far we’ve come.

Con­grat­u­la­tions on your 40th birth­day, Daystate, and who knows what in­cred­i­ble de­vel­op­ments await the pioneers from Stafford­shire, in the decades to come.

Daystate then ...

... and now.

The han­dling of the Red Wolf is way more than four decades ahead of the orig­i­nal Hunts­man ... as it should be.

Ba­sic PCP tech­nol­ogy, but cut­ting-edge in its day.

Sidelever, plus elec­tronic, multi-shot ac­tion, means ef­fort­less cy­cling.

Open sights and screw-in charg­ing, back in the day.

Er­gonomics? That was in the fu­ture.

Air in­let port pro­tected and tucked out of the way. Just an­other ‘small’ de­vel­op­ment in the Daystate evo­lu­tion.

Fully elec­tronic, fully ad­justable. That’s where de­vel­op­ment takes us.

There’s the er­gonomic ef­fect, writ large.

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