GALAHAD IN THE FIELD
WE FIND OUT WHAT THIS REMARKABLE ‘ SPORTPUP’ CAN DO
About a year ago, the rumour mill was buzzing that Air Arms, one of the most traditional airgun manufacturers, was developing a bullpup. Asking the question of the Air Arms’ team got me little more than a shrug of the shoulders and an immediate denial. I thought it unlikely that they’d make one because they like to stay with their tried and trusted style, and a bullpup just didn’t seem like them at all, but as we all now know, making one was exactly what they were doing all along.
The main drive to do this came from their huge international client base telling them that bullpups were the future, and that they could sell them well. Slightly reluctantly, Air Arms began the project and then soon fell in love with the idea. To keep their signature feeling, they decided to call theirs a ‘sport pup’ and to have styling that suggested a sporting rifle, rather than a military look. I applaud them for that decision.
Quite logically, they took a look at the competition and set about thinking how they could do things better. A few parts, such as the magazine and trigger sears, could be taken from the wildly successful S410/S510 family, with their proven
“Quite logically they took a look at the competition and set about thinking how they could do things better”
reliability and performance, but they wanted a complete rethink on the cocking method. Many bullpups take the standard cocking mechanism with the action as it’s moved to the rear of the gun, and often people find it odd pulling a cocking lever under their ear.
Let’s do this
The Air Arms’ design team put on their ‘clean sheet of paper’ hats, fired up the CAD (computer-aided design) systems and came up with a truly unique and exciting alternative. It’s operated by a long paddle that sits on the side of the action, forward and above the trigger. Placed here, either the leading hand or the trigger hand can reach it. At rest, it faces horizontally to the rear and is activated by pushing it down and forward. The first stage is close to 90 degrees of free movement and then you feel the mechanism take up the pressure of the hammer spring. From ther it moves just a short distance forward and the action is cocked and the magazine is indexed to align the next pellet with the barrel. Returning the lever to the rest position drives the loading probe forward to chamber the pellet.
Many people have commented about the gap between the barrel shroud and the air reservoir. The reason this exists is that space was needed for the innovative cocking system. It has no effect whatsoever on performance or trajectory. The relationship between the barrel and the scope is large, as it is on all bullpups. I measured it to be around 2¾” compared to 1¾” on your average S410/S510. This has the greatest effect at close range, for jobs like culling rats and feral pigeons, where knowing your hold- over dimensions are most critical.
The manual safety is completely independent of the cocking process and consists of a small cross-bolt in the base of the trigger blade. It’s well suited to right-handed shooters because it’s safe when protruding to the right, and disengaged when pushed left.
The cocking lever pivots on a shaft that runs right through the swoopy, curvaceous action cover, so swapping from right- to left-handed use requires an Allen key and a minute of your life. The stock and its Soft-Touch cheek piece are ambidextrous, so lefties are just as well catered for as the rest of us, for once. The Galahad uses Air Arms’ 10-shot, rotary magazine; that’s about as simple as a pellet-loading device can be, with all the indexing mechanism living inside the rifle’s action. I’ve used these things for well over a decade and never experienced even one problem, other than wearing out a 5p ‘O’ ring.
In a major break with the Air Arms’ tradition, the Galahad’s reservoir is filled with a probe, rather than their proprietary brass cap system. I think this was chosen to allow the use of a pressure gauge on the front end of the reservoir. A thick, aluminium cover slides forward to expose the filling port and locks back to keep everything clean.
Above this, the barrel hides in a fat shroud that adds to the rifle’s chunky looks and although it offers some sound suppression, I chose to fit a calibre-specific Air Arms Q-Tec silencer. This was the compact ‘ Mini’ version measuring just 4½”, making the overall length 31¾” - a very compact package.
Another area Air Arms wanted to address with a solid engineering answer was trigger performance. Moving the blade a long way forward of the trigger mechanism has been a
“My test gun’s trigger had a solid feel and crisp performance that was as good as any S410 I’ve ever tried”
source of complaints in other bullpup designs, so the Galahad has the two assemblies very rigidly connected on the rifle’s chassis. My test gun’s trigger had a solid feel and crisp performance that was as good as any S410 I’ve ever tried, so I know that no performance has been lost in the move to the bullpup configuration.
Long and short of it
The Galahad is offered in the carbine length on test, and a classic length as well, but if you’re going to buy a bullpup, I think the short version is the one, so that’s what I requested. The rifle version has its balance slightly further forward, gains some extra shots per fill, and is the obvious version for anybody looking to run one at high power, but at 12 ft.lbs. this is the one for me. By the way, the S after Galahad on the side of the action denotes ‘standard power’.
There are so many option permutations that I won’t even try to list them; suffice to say, they include walnut, beech, and black stocks, rifle and carbine lengths, .177 or .22 and the choice of an 11mm or Weaver standard scope rail. Finally, you can choose a standard action or select to have a regulator fitted. This gives some 30 or 40 more shots per fill and flattens the power curve.
I’ve always been happy with the performance of my non-regulated Air Arms rifles, so I asked for a nonregulated test gun. I understand the engineering and theoretical advantages that a regulator offers, but these need to be balanced against additional cost, mechanical complexity and reliability considerations. In the past, Air Arms has only fitted them to competition rifles, but now offers them on sporters because of public demand.
How it feels
Perhaps that’s enough about what makes this gun so innovative in a
“There are so many option permutations that I won’t even try to list them”
technical sense. What really counts is how it feels and I have to admit, guns that balance behind my trigger hand feel very odd to me. The Galahad is a dumpy, squat thing that doesn’t ‘point’ like a traditional rifle. I find I need to mount it, and then snuggle in to it, like pulling on a tight-fitting glove. Once I’m in, there’s a lot of contact between me and the rifle, but little weight out front to act as a damper to my wobbly movements.
Like all bullpups, the Galahad is a tall gun, measuring some 2” higher than my Air Arms S410 combination that I’ve used for years. This can increase the likelihood of cant, a problem where we lean the rifle to the side, away from truly vertical, that can cause accuracy problems. Air Arms sought to combat this by fitting a bubble level into the back of the bolt- on scope rail. Great idea, but my knackered old eyes can’t focus that closely. Perhaps younger, better eyes will see the benefit.
To allow us to tune the fit of the rifle, a multi-way, adjustable butt pad was chosen. This goes up and down as well as left and right. I set this to suit standing and kneeling shots, a setting that works reasonably well for sitting too. It’s completely wrong for prone shots, but I take very few of those.
The Soft-Touch cheek piece is another area that I feel Air Arms has succeeded in improving, compared to many bullpups. It’s broad and smooth, supporting the face well. It’s also no higher than necessary, something that matters a lot to me. Because I have a wide face I often need to add riser blocks to bullpup scope rails to lift the scope until I can see through it, but that’s not the case with the Galahad. Medium height Sportsmatch mounts placed my Hawke Panorama 4–12 x 40 perfectly and there was loads of room on the rail to get the fore and aft position spot on as well.
Stability on aim
Bullpup fans often talk about the superior stability their chosen rifles offer compared to conventional guns, but I’ve never felt that in the past. However, there’s something about the Galahad that set me thinking they might be right. I could feel a difference, so I spent more time shooting the Galahad against my S410 to see if the difference would crystallize in my mind.
The challenge for me is that the two guns are so dissimilar that I don’t feel I’m comparing apples with apples. I know the feel and balance of the S410 incredibly well because I’ve shot
“My conclusion is that there really is something in the bullpup stability thing”
one for over ten years, plus it has similar handling traits to the other guns I use regularly. The sport pup is a new world for me.
My conclusion is that there really is something in the bullpup stability thing. It’s not going to make a poor shot into a good shot, but given time and practice I could see some benefits. Am I going to change from an S410 to a Galahad? No. I shoot the conventional gun well enough for my needs and feel at home and comfortable with it. However, if bullpups are your thing I recommend that you spend some time behind a Galahad. The innovative design and clever handling will win you over, plus you have the comfort of knowing that the rifle is made by one of England’s best. Quality, precision and the best customer service are all included with every Air Arms purchase.
Main: Are bullpups more stable on aim? They just might be
1: To begin to cock the action, press the paddle down ... 2: ... here you feel the spring tension ... 3: ... and just a short further push cocks the action 4: Returning to the park position loads the pellet and you’re ready to go
Left: The soft- touch cheek piece is much better than the ones found on most bullpups
Inset left: To accomodate this gauge, the Galahad uses a probe filler Main: The Galahad balances on your trigger hand, which feels odd to me
Inset right: This little level helps you avoid the dreaded cant
Above: Much has been made of the gap between barrel and reservoir, but it has no effect on performance