THE BIG TEST
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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