Tac­ti­cal Ap­peal

Our least ‘tac­ti­cal’ shooter has a good look at the very tac­ti­cal Ben­jamin Ar­mada

Air Gunner - - BIG TEST - BEN­JAMIN AR­MADA

Ever since guns were first in­vented, the or­di­nary man has dreamed of own­ing the ones the elite mil­i­tary and po­lice units chose to carry. The very sug­ges­tion that the SAS ever used a weapon guar­an­tees its im­mor­tal place in his­tory and to­day many of the West’s elite forces use ver­sions of the AR15/M4, 5.56/.223 mak­ing it the dream ri­fle to own. It seems to me that ev­ery ri­fle of this kind is adopt­ing the Weaver/Pi­catinny rail stan­dard and that ev­ery ac­ces­sory man­u­fac­turer is of­fer­ing their prod­ucts to fit, so I won­dered why Ben­jamin would go for some­thing at odds with this. In an­swer to my thoughts, Ben­jamin in­cludes sec­tions of Weaver/ Pi­catinny rail that you can at­tach to the M-Lok sys­tem to ac­cept the more com­monly avail­able ac­ces­sories.

On the sub­ject of ac­ces­sories, the Ar­mada is de­liv­ered with a 4-16 x 56 Cen­tre­Point scope with mounts and a Har­ris-style bi­pod as stan­dard. This has tall, sniper-style tur­rets with lock­ing rings at their bases to en­sure that your hard-won zero can­not be ac­ci­den­tally lost. Of course, the ret­i­cle is a mil- dot as be­fits the set-up. I was pleased to see that the scope of­fers side-wheel par­al­lax ad­just­ment down to 10 yards as any good air­gun scope should. This ad­juster was very stiff on my test gun, but I’ve tried oth­ers that moved freely. Flip-up lens cov­ers that stay at­tached to the scope at all times are supplied, max­imis­ing pro­tec­tion.

Free float­ing

The ri­fled and choked bar­rel lives in­side a full-length shroud which, in turn, free-floats in­side an alu­minium ex­tru­sion that has four ac­ces­sory rail in­ter­faces. As de­liv­ered, the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock faces have bolt- on hand guards, whilst the 12 o’clock po­si­tion dis­plays an in­te­gral Weaver/Pi­catinny rail. Like the hand guards, the bi­pod is at­tached with the M-Lok sys­tem, for which spare parts are in­cluded.

I was so wrapped up with the ex­te­rior I for­got about what makes this pre- charged pneu­matic ri­fle tick. The long, slim air reser­voir lives in­side the fore end ex­tru­sion and is filled to 3000psi, rather than the Euro­pean 207 bar ex­pres­sion. This is good

news be­cause al­most ev­ery dive tank we own will fill this ri­fle com­fort­ably. For those who don’t own a firearms cer­tifi­cate ( FAC), own­ing a replica has usu­ally meant buy­ing a low­pow­ered, 6mm air­soft ver­sion, but now Ben­jamin is of­fer­ing us this sub 12 ft.lbs. pellet fir­ing ri­fle with all the long-range ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial that brings.

Straight from the box, the ri­fle’s lin­eage is clear to see and the brochure tells us that this ri­fle is AR15 com­pat­i­ble, in other words M4/AR15 grips and butt stocks are in­ter­change­able. This opens up an im­mense world of ac­ces­sory parts, all de­signed and en­gi­neered to a com­mon stan­dard. There was no C-tool in­cluded with which to re­move butt sec­tion, but my sam­ple’s lock ring was only hand tight, so it was easy to un­screw.

Amer­i­can stan­dard

In Amer­ica, this ri­fle stan­dard is epi­cally pop­u­lar, and just about ev­ery gun com­pany that wants to sell any­thing meets these di­men­sions. What sur­prised me much more than this was that Ben­jamin has bought into the Mag­pul, M-Lok mo­du­lar rail sys­tem. This is much less well known, but with the Weaver/ Pi­catinny rail ac­ces­sories in­cluded, ac­cepts all the lasers, flash­lights and wid­gets any would be SAS man could ever want. In a change to the mil­i­tary trend of ever shorter car­bines, the Ar­mada is a long ri­fle at 42½” mak­ing plenty of space for all the ac­ces­sories you could ever want. The trade­off is that it’s a long and un­wieldy ri­fle. Un­der a solidly ma­chined dust cover, I was happy to find a stan­dard male Forster fit­ting con­nec­tor that I know from ex­pe­ri­ence is one of the tough­est and most re­li­able of its kind. This makes air fill­ing easy and quick, ac­cept­ing that all the usual PCP hy­giene stan­dards are up­held by the owner. I much pre­fer screw- on caps to less se­cure fit­tings when in the field, sim­ply be­cause I know they’ll still be there when I get home from a day’s hunt­ing and I know the ri­fle’s del­i­cate fill­ing port will be as clean as it de­serves to be.

PSI not BAR

3000psi de­liv­ers 60-plus full-power shots that I chrono­graphed at 539fps with my stan­dard test pellet, the Air Arms Field Di­ablo, which weighs a nom­i­nal 15.9 grains which equates to 10.3 ft.lbs. Shot-to- shot ve­loc­ity vari­a­tion was also good at just 12fps over 50 shots. Dur­ing the chrono’ test­ing, I noted how well the bar­rel shroud worked as a si­lencer, de­liv­er­ing a sur­pris­ingly muted muz­zle noise. In­side the shroud is a se­ries of spring- loaded syn­thetic cones that trap and de­cel­rate the high pres­sure air and ap­pear to do that job very well.

Load­ing the mag­a­zine is a lit­tle un­usual be­cause you ro­tate the clear face­plate, as the ar­row shows, and then insert the first pellet from be­hind, skirt first, or from the front, nose first. Ei­ther way, you need to keep a fin­ger on the other side to stop it drop­ping right through. From there, you load the other nine pel­lets through the front. It sounds tricky, but it’s ac­tu­ally per­fectly easy and my test gun was com­pletely re­li­able, suf­fer­ing no jams or mis­feeds at all. I par­tic­u­larly like this style of mag­a­zine be­cause when it’s empty, it tells you. There’s no doubt, be­cause the load­ing probe con­nects with a solid lug in­side the mag’ that stops it cold. There’s sim­ply no way to fire the gun on an empty cham­ber.

Cy­cling the bolt-ac­tion was a lit­tle stiff, but I of­ten find that guns like this will im­prove their smooth­ness af­ter a few tins of pel­lets have run them in and I’d ex­pect the Ar­mada to be just the same.

Great trig­ger

The trig­ger was prob­a­bly the best I’ve ever tried from an Amer­i­can gun­maker. The de­sign is so­phis­ti­cated and ad­justable enough to keep any­body happy, and the way it was set from the box was very much to my taste. It was sen­si­bly heavy, but dis­play­ing a clean break with no creep at all that I could de­tect.

The blade and safety feel as though they come from a mil­i­tary build. The blade is

long and quite straight in­side an over­sized trig­ger guard, as if it was built for cold weather op­er­a­tions when the shooter would al­ways be wear­ing gloves. In front of the blade, we find the safety lever which, im­por­tantly, moves for­ward for ‘fire’. Some peo­ple sug­gest that you should sep­a­rate the safety from the trig­ger blade to pre­vent ac­ci­dents, but I’ve never had any dif­fi­cul­ties with this lo­ca­tion. Just in front of the trig­ger is the pres­sure gauge marked in PSI rather that the more usual BAR in­cre­ments.

Col­lapsi­ble stock

Any M4 worth its salt wears a col­lapsi­ble butt stock and the Ar­mada does just that. It’s made from a hard, syn­thetic ma­te­rial mean­ing that the che­quered butt pad is flat and slip­pery. You need to be care­ful if you rest the ri­fle against a wall so that it doesn’t slip down and get dam­aged. Be­cause the ‘ buf­fer tube’ runs straight back from the ac­tion, the cheek piece is nat­u­rally high in re­la­tion to the scope, which is a good thing in my book. The Ar­mada’s stock has a raised cheek piece to make this even bet­ter, and I found that I could ‘get onto’ the scope in­stantly and con­sis­tently, which is ab­so­lutely vi­tal in a com­bat ri­fle, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. Be­cause there’s so lit­tle drop to the butt pad, I found that I of­ten had the toe of the pad perched against my chest rather than the whole sur­face, but that’s the na­ture of this kind of ri­fle. How­ever, be­cause this is a pre- charged pneu­matic, there’s no re­coil to worry about.

Up front, there’s a bi­pod in­cluded and it’s one of many that copy the clas­sic Har­ris de­sign which has been the top choice of se­ri­ous ri­fle­men for decades. The legs ad­just for height with a press of a but­ton. In use it felt just like the real thing, of­fer­ing good solid sup­port at all times. Of course, it adds to the al­ready muz­zle-heavy bal­ance but can be re­moved with­out tools for off-hand shots when nec­es­sary. The bal­ance point with it fit­ted was some 9” for­ward of the trig­ger, which makes for some pretty un­usual han­dling, but I imag­ine that this ri­fle was de­signed more for prone shoot­ing in the first place.

Bi­pod sta­bil­ity

As I shot off the bi­pod, on a bench, I be­gan to see the ac­cu­racy that I could ex­pect from this sniper-style be­he­moth. I was sur­prised to find that it didn’t like the Air Arms Field Di­ablo, so I ran through my list of top per­form­ing .22s and stopped when I saw the groups that the H& N Field Tar­get Tro­phy pellet was pro­duc­ing. This is one of the great­est air­gun pel­lets of all time, and the Ar­mada showed its re­spect by pro­duc­ing one-hole groups at 30 yards with only the odd flyer to spoil the fun. Per­haps, when it’s run in, those will go away too.

This is clearly not a ri­fle for ev­ery air­gun shooter be­cause it’s about as niche as a prod­uct could be, but those who love mod­ern mil­i­tary ri­fles will love ev­ery­thing about this gun. At its heart, it’s a thor­oughly mod­ern PCP with all the ad­van­tages they bring, whilst out­side, it’s a front-line com­bat ri­fle ready to ac­cept ev­ery sin­gle ‘flash­light’ laser and ac­ces­sory you could ever dream of.

Some­body asked me if this ri­fle is a ‘ tac­ti­cal hunter’ and I had to an­swer that I didn’t know be­cause I’ve never heard that ex­pres­sion. It cer­tainly ticks ev­ery tac­ti­cal box and has huge ap­peal to those who like mil­i­tary looks. Added to this, you get all the per­for­mance of a mod­ern PCP with a high­qual­ity trig­ger and a quiet, re­coil­less ac­tion. This is no tra­di­tional sporter, but more of a prone snip­ing op­tion that would do well against the rab­bits in open pad­docks. A Mar­mite choice is what I see, and those who like the taste are in for some­thing very special to en­joy.

“It cer­tainly ticks ev­ery tac­ti­cal box and has huge ap­peal to those who like mil­i­tary looks”

The clear face of the mag­a­zine al­lows you to see how many shots you have left

A Har­ris- style bi­pod is fit­ting on the M- Lok sys­tem

The trig­ger was a rev­e­la­tion

The han­dling is quite un­like any other air­gun I’ve tried

The pres­sure gauge is marked in PSI, not BAR

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