THE BIG TEST

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Phill Price finds that a so­phis­ti­cated yet sim­ple ri­fle from FX, the Stream­line, is very much to his taste

There’s no ques­tion that FX Air­guns from Swe­den make some of the most ad­vanced and so­phis­ti­cated air­guns ever pro­duced, and their com­pe­ti­tion per­for­mance in events such as the Ex­treme Benchrest event in Ari­zona, speaks vol­umes. How­ever, what about the UK hunter who needs a sporter that de­liv­ers all the ac­cu­racy he needs at a price he can af­ford? The mar­ket­place is pretty busy in the up­per/ mid-range, with BSA, Air Arms, Weihrauch and Daystate all of­fer­ing su­perb ri­fles that are ac­cu­rate and con­sis­tent, so how would FX bring some­thing new to tempt the pounds from your pocket?

My guess is that FX looked down the list of things that re­ally mat­ter to the hunter and left off all the fancy bells and whis­tles we don’t care about. I see this as a very so­phis­ti­cated ri­fle, but by FX’s stan­dards it looks clean and sim­ple, which is great, be­cause that’s ex­actly how I like my guns. Take the stock, for ex­am­ple; the lines are sleek and un­clut­tered, al­low­ing any hold in any po­si­tion. Some stocks ap­proach the shape and di­men­sions of a tar­get gun, which work su­perbly in one po­si­tion and badly in all the others. When a shot presents it­self to the hunter, he must make the best of those fleet­ing mo­ments. There’s no time to ad­just this and that. The ri­fle must come smoothly to the shoul­der and com­fort­ably on aim, in just a sec­ond or two, and the Stream­line does just that for me.

Ad­justa­bil­ity

One con­ces­sion to those who like to fid­dle with ad­justers is a ver­ti­cally mov­able butt pad. If you only shoot stand­ing or kneel­ing, then slid­ing it down to op­ti­mise those po­si­tions will work for you, but if you take any shot that comes, like me, leav­ing it cen­tred is your best choice. The ex­tremes of ad­just­ment work against ver­sa­til­ity. I was im­pressed to see that the heel of the pad is nicely rounded to avoid snag­ging on your cloth­ing as you bring it to your shoul­der. This tells me that a hunter, not a com­pe­ti­tion shooter, spec­i­fied this part, and that mat­ters to me. As much as I love oiled wal­nut, near bul­let-proof syn­thetic stocks are my field choice th­ese days. They can put up with any amount of mud, mois­ture and blood, and a quick wipe over with a damp cloth has them look­ing like new again. I also noted that the syn­thetic stock saves some weight over the wal­nut op­tion and a good chunk more over the lam­i­nate one.

An­other small de­tail that I ap­pre­ci­ate is the safety. De­spite the Stream­line’s stock be­ing am­bidex­trous, the ma­jor­ity of hu­mans are right-handed, as is the sidelever cock­ing sys­tem, and nes­tled in a neat pocket be­low this is the tiny safety lever. I found that I could be on aim and raise my trig­ger fin­ger to dis­en­gage the safety in mo­ments. It’s also silent, which again, tells me that it was de­signed by a hunter. There’s lit­tle worse than hav­ing a rab­bit 15 yards in front of you that runs as the metal­lic click of your safety scares it away! As I shot the ri­fle more, I learned that I could dis­en­gage the safety with my thumb as it came on aim, much like an ex­pen­sive Euro­pean stalk­ing ri­fle, which pleased me no end. Soon enough, it be­came one smooth move­ment, which is ideal and makes the ri­fle feel spe­cial. I was pleased to note that the safety will only en­gage when the ac­tion is cocked, of­fer­ing me a quick and silent means of know­ing if I’d re­mem­bered to cock the ri­fle af­ter the last shot. It’s lit­tle things like this that mark out true hunt­ing guns.

Biathlon side-lever

As men­tioned, FX chose to use their sidelever cock­ing sys­tem, which has links to the Scan­di­na­vian sport of biathlon, in which you ski and shoot through­out a cross­coun­try race. Rapid reloads save time in a race, so long, drop- down sidelever han­dles were in­vented to re­duce the dis­tance your hand needs to travel from the shoot­ing hold to en­gage the lever. I don’t need to shave 1/1000th of a sec­ond from my reload times, but I do find the Stream­line smooth, easy and quick to cy­cle, all of which is a good thing when I have my eyes on the squir­rel rac­ing up a tree within range of a quick sec­ond shot. The lever’s travel is quite short, which helps this as well. I was able to cy­cle

“come smoothly to the shoul­der and com­fort­ably on aim, in just a sec­ond or two, and the Stream­line does just that for me”

the sidelever with the stock still in my shoul­der and that isn’t some­thing you can say about all cock­ing sys­tems and is an area where the old-fash­ioned bolt-ac­tion has a clear ad­van­tage.

My test gun wore a sub­tle grey syn­thetic stock that com­ple­ments the brushed fin­ish on the bar­rel shroud and air reser­voir, made by a spe­cial process that FX in­vented. Fast cars and jew­ellery ben­e­fit from be­ing shiny, but guns don’t. We don’t need the sun to re­flect from our guns and at­tract at­ten­tion and we also don’t need to be for­ever pol­ish­ing to re­move the fin­ger­prints that our oily skin leaves be­hind ev­ery time we han­dle a gun. As with ev­ery­thing they do, FX sought a tech­ni­cal solution to ev­ery­day prob­lems, and the brushed fin­ish is a mas­ter­piece in un­der­state­ment.

Su­perb trig­ger

The trig­ger unit was set just how I like it, with a light first stage, and the sec­ond stage be­ing clearly and eas­ily felt. From there, it broke com­pletely cleanly with no per­cep­ti­ble fur­ther move­ment. In short, it was quite su­perb. Un­usu­ally for a sporter, it wears a ‘trig­ger shoe’, a ma­chined blade that sits on a round shaft. This al­lows for ro­ta­tion and ver­ti­cal ad­just­ment. I set it as low as it would go in­side the trig­ger guard and ro­tated it to the right. With th­ese changes made, I had the per­fect pad con­tact for my fin­ger.

The ac­tion of­fers an­other un­usual fea­ture in the form of a ro­tary power ad­juster. This gives three power set­tings of 11.2, 7.8 and 4ft.lbs. I could see that the mid­dle set­ting would be use­ful if I needed to clear feral pi­geons from in­side a build­ing, where dam­age from a pel­let that missed the bird could be a prob­lem, but I’m not sure what I’d do with 4ft.lbs. How­ever, I know a chap who prac­tises in a loft range at 10 yards and he said it would be ideal for his needs.

Smoothtwist

One of the fea­tures I like most about FX airgun is their use of the in­no­va­tive Smoothtwist bar­rel. Th­ese have no ri­fling in the con­ven­tional sense, and are in fact just a plain bore for most of the length. At the muz­zle, where the choke is, there’s a pat­tern of spi­ral flats that im­part the spin. This has sev­eral ben­e­fits; firstly, the pel­let’s skirt gets the per­fect seal against the smooth bore, which re­duces air wastage and also re­duces fric­tional losses as the pel­let ac­cel­er­ates. Next, be­cause the pel­let isn’t cut

by the ri­fling, it leaves the muz­zle in per­fect shape so suf­fers less drag as it flies through the air. This means a flat­ter tra­jec­tory and more strik­ing en­ergy. The bar­rels are also un­fussy about the pel­lets they fire, free­ing us to choose the one we like the most, whilst achiev­ing the nec­es­sary ac­cu­racy.

The bar­rel is fully shrouded, which adds to the ri­fle’s good looks and also of­fers some noise sup­pres­sion. The muz­zle end is screw­cut to ac­cept a ½” fe­male thread, but I found the Stream­line eas­ily quiet enough as it came. I wouldn’t like to add length and change the han­dling for the sake of shav­ing off a few unim­por­tant deci­bels. The only con­sid­er­a­tion you might want to think through is the per­cep­ti­ble nudge of re­coil on fir­ing, which could be from the ‘ jet­ting’ ef­fect, and a si­lencer might can­cel that out, but it was of no con­cern to me.

FX are big fans of reg­u­la­tors and so the Stream­line has one fit­ted. This, and the long air reser­voir, ex­plains the huge shots-per­fill count. We can ex­pect over 200 from a .22, and 150 in .177, which is su­perb. No hunter will ever need that many shots in one trip, but it’s nice when you’re plink­ing and prac­tis­ing not to need to go back to the tank so of­ten. Fill­ing is done with a brass probe in­serted into a port at the front of the reser­voir, to a max­i­mum of 230bar. This has a ro­tary col­lar to keep this del­i­cate area free from dust and dirt.

On the full-power set­ting, I was read­ing 565fps on my chrono­graph with the .22 Air Arms Field Diablo, for a muz­zle en­ergy of just un­der 11.3ft.lbs, just what I was hop­ing for. Shot-to-shot con­sis­tency over 50 pel­lets was 14fps, which for pel­lets straight from the tin was also good.

The FX mag­a­zine is un­usual; to load it, you ro­tate the clear face plate an­ti­clock­wise against the main body, and then put the first pel­let in from the back, skirt first. Then you fill each re­main­ing cham­ber in the con­ven­tional man­ner. It’s tricky, but you soon get used to it. How­ever, I don’t rel­ish the idea of do­ing it in the dark on a lamp­ing trip, so I’d take a spare mag’, ready-loaded in my pocket. When you run out of pel­lets in the mag’, the bolt comes to a hard stop, and you know very clearly that it’s time to reload. I like this a lot, for the rea­son that on many guns you can keep cy­cling the ac­tion on empty cham­bers and never know why you’ve missed. Be­lieve me, no mat­ter how un­likely or silly that sounds, I’ve done it dozens of times and missed the chance of a kill, and that is un­be­liev­ably frus­trat­ing. I like guns that give you im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion clearly.

Ac­cu­racy

I set­tled down to do ac­cu­racy test­ing and was ex­pect­ing great things – I wasn’t dis­ap­pointed. Just for a change, I had a nice sunny day, and af­ter get­ting the zero spot- on, I was get­ting tiny groups at 35 yards with lit­tle ef­fort at all. I then no­ticed that the sun was re­flect­ing off the flat base in­side the skirt of the pel­let, and I was watch­ing them fly down­range. It was an ab­so­lute plea­sure to wit­ness each one fly straight to the cross hair, time and time

“It was an ab­so­lute plea­sure to wit­ness each one fly straight to the cross hair, time and time again”

again – a wel­come dis­trac­tion from the monotony of test­ing. The su­perb trig­ger, ide­ally ad­justed for my hand, was also a plea­sure. Some peo­ple say trig­gers don’t mat­ter, but I dis­agree. I love a good trig­ger and this one was a joy to use.

I like the sleek shape and fine han­dling of the Stream­line and it’s ex­actly the kind of ri­fle I’d choose for my­self. Lumpy, bumpy, tac­ti­cal jobs are not my cup of tea at all, and the clas­sic sim­plic­ity of this ri­fle cer­tainly showed its worth when out hunt­ing. It has all the per­for­mance I could wish for, and has the bonus that not ev­ery­body at your gun club will have one. I’m truly im­pressed and would hap­pily hunt with it at any time, and that’s the real test of any ri­fle, for me.

A sport­ing ri­fle should be con­fort­ably shot from any po­si­tion, even im­pro­vised ones

Above: The ad­juster wheel can be seen here set to full power

Be­low: As a squir­rel ri­fle I found the Stream­line first- class

Above: You can add a si­lencer but I didn’t feel the need

Above: You can see how many shots you have left through the clear face of the mag’

Above: Note the brushed fin­ish that FX has in­vented

Above: For prone shots the butt pad can be slid all the way up.

Above: The balance and han­dling were just as I like them

Be­low: The first pel­let is loaded skirt first from the back

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.