An Orion Belter!

Is there re­ally a bullpup the edi­tor likes?

Air Gunner - - Con­tents -

The bullpup craze seems to show no signs of slow­ing down, and Span­ish air­gun mak­ers, Cometa, have joined in the fun. They’ve taken the idea all the way, too, be­cause their new Orion BP is just over 27” long, mak­ing it one of the short­est air­guns I can re­mem­ber. Sur­pris­ingly, for such a lit­tle gun it’s pretty hefty, weigh­ing in at 8.6lbs, so it no floaty light­weight. It’s also got some very dis­tinct styling, so it won’t be mis­taken for any other ri­fle. As the name sug­gests, Cometa used their ful­l­length, pre- charged pneu­matic Orion as the donor ri­fle, and this can be clearly seen in the ac­tion. The re­ceiver, bolt and mag­a­zine all look just like the full-length sporter, but apart from that, this presents as an all-new model.

It think it’s fair to say that the looks will be a ‘ love it or leave it’ mat­ter. As reg­u­lar read­ers will know, bullpups aren’t my cup of tea, so there no point in me com­ment­ing on its ap­peal. The han­dling is just what you’d ex­pect, but the con­tact points are not. The butt pad is like noth­ing I’ve ever seen, be­ing a flat, rec­tan­gu­lar shape with quite sharp cor­ners, but once in the shoul­der, I can hon­estly say that I didn’t no­tice it at all. It’s set sen­si­bly low, which helps the over­all han­dling. As a com­plete op­po­site to the butt, the pis­tol grip is beau­ti­fully curved and er­gonomic, fill­ing the hand very well. It has the look and feel of an aftermarket M4 full­bore ri­fle grip and is truly first- class.

DISTINC­TIVE

Up front, Cometa has taken an­other big leap by fit­ting a ver­ti­cal, com­bat-style grip, pro­duced by UTG, a com­pany fa­mous for its huge range of firearm ac­ces­sories and up­grades. I won­der if they sup­plied the grip as well. Bullpups are nat­u­rally tall, and this grip makes the ri­fle feel a long way above your hands. In fact, the bar­rel sits some six inches above the mid­dle of the grip area.

It’s a very dif­fer­ent feel­ing com­pared to con­ven­tional ri­fles, to put it mildly. I’m not sure if it of­fers any spe­cific ad­van­tage, but I’m sure those who like mil­i­tary looks will love it, and for the rest of us, it’s eas­ily re­moved. It’s mounted on a short sec­tion of Weaver rail bolted into the stubby fore end, which will ac­cept a bi­pod or per­haps a torch just as well. Be­hind the pis­tol grip there’s a pres­sure gauge, which I ap­pre­ci­ated be­cause ev­ery PCP needs one.

The trig­ger blade is also distinc­tive, ma­chined from thick alu­minium plate and dis­play­ing a deep curve. I’m not sure if I can de­scribe the flat steel plate below it as a trig­ger guard, but that’s the job it does. Like the rest of the styling, it’s pretty ex­treme. Above the trig­ger assem­bly there’s an alu­minium ex­tru­sion with win­dows ma­chined in it that gives a nicely fin­ished feel and a place to mount the scope rail. This, of course, is Weaver stan­dard and sits high so that you can see along its axis com­fort­ably. What’s not so com­fort­able is rest­ing your cheek against the me­tal dove­tail on the top of the ac­tion. On the Cometa web­site, I noted a new model that had a small sec­tion of wood fit­ted here, so per­haps that will come along in the fu­ture. I have seen peo­ple buy­ing the one that Daystate fits to its Pul­sar bullpups to clamp onto ri­fles like this. It’s a neat, syn­thetic cover that fits di­rectly to the scope rails so that your face is in­su­lated from the cold, sharp me­tal, with­out adding un­nec­es­sary bulk or width. The rail sits on two cylin­dri­cal blocks that look quite slen­der com­pared to the very chunky look of the rest of the gun.

HAM­MER TIME

Cometa is one of only two man­u­fac­tur­ers who cold-ham­mer forge their bar­rels – the other is BSA. There are ar­gu­ments that this man­u­fac­tur­ing process is su­pe­rior to oth­ers, but what counts is how ac­cu­rate they are. Around the bar­rel is an alu­minium shroud, which de­spite be­ing so short, did a good job of mut­ing the muz­zle re­port. Fit­ting an ad­di­tional si­lencer would seem daft to me be­cause the whole point of this gun is that it’s so short. Below the shroud is a snap- on me­tal cover that pro­tects the male Forster con­nec­tor used to fill the air reser­voir. The max­i­mum fill pres­sure is 200bar which is good news be­cause pretty much ev­ery dive bot­tle around will eas­ily fill it.

Load­ing the mag­a­zine is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent to oth­ers of this kind. You load ev­ery pel­let from the rear of the mag­a­zine, skirt first, which seemed a lit­tle fid­dly, but not dif­fi­cult. The mags’ are pretty big, of­fer­ing 13 shots in .22, and 17 in .177, and felt a lit­tle flimsy for a gun in this price range, but only time will tell how durable they are. I had no mis­feeds or jams dur­ing my trial so there are no com­plaints from me on that ac­count.

Over the chrono­graph, the Orion av­er­aged 532 fps with the Air Arms Field Di­ablo pel­let that weighs 16 grains in .22, which cal­cu­lates to just over 10ft.lbs. Shot-to-shot con­sis­tency was good at just 7fps over 50 shots. This made me keen to shoot some groups to see if a cold-ham­mer forged bar­rel and ex­cel­lent con­sis­tency would trans­late into fine ac­cu­racy. I gath­ered to­gether my se­lec­tion of pel­lets that have served me well for test­ing work, and read­ied my bench and sup­port bags. At this point, I had to stop and work out how I could shoot from a rest. I de­cided to re­move the fore end grip com­pletely and ex­per­i­mented with dif­fer­ent sizes and heights of sup­ports un­til I could get com­fort­able.

SMOOTH AND SLICK

Cock­ing the Orion can only be done with the ri­fle in front of you, not from the shoul­der. The bolt han­dle is so far back that it’s al­most un­der your ear, but held in front of your body, it’s com­fort­able and nat­u­ral to press your thumb against the stock as you pull the bolt with your fin­gers. The ac­tion was nice and smooth, plus I like the thick bolt-shaft that Cometa uses. Pulling the bolt fully back al­lows the spring-loaded mag­a­zine to in­dex the next pel­let in line with the bar­rel, and then the probe drives it for­ward into the wait­ing bar­rel.

Un­for­tu­nately for my ac­cu­racy tests, the trig­ger was set very heavy, mak­ing fine con­trol tricky. It was clean and con­sis­tent, but be­ing that heavy works against pre­ci­sion. That be­ing said, I got con­sis­tent ½” groups at 25 yards with H& N’s su­perb Field Tar­get Tro­phy, a pel­let that has proven ac­cu­rate in many test ri­fles over the years. If this were my ri­fle, I’d ask my gun­smith to ad­just the trig­ger to a more com­fort­able weight, which I’m sure would re­lease the full ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial of the ri­fle. I be­lieve the trig­ger is in­her­ently good and wor­thy of that lit­tle ex­tra ef­fort to make the most of it.

The safety is man­ual and op­er­ated by a small tab that sits in front of the trig­ger blade. This po­si­tion has a num­ber of ad­van­tages, in­clud­ing be­ing able to dis­en­gage it from the fir­ing po­si­tion, and makes it am­bidex­trous. In fact, the gun is com­pletely am­bidex­trous with the ex­cep­tion of the bolt. As men­tioned ear­lier, the stubby shroud did a good job of re­duc­ing muz­zle noise, but the ham­mer spring is quite loud and con­tin­ues to res­onate for some while after the shot is re­leased.

HAN­DLING

What in­ter­ested me most about the Orion BP was the han­dling. I don’t get the claimed

“the pis­tol grip is beau­ti­fully curved and er­gonomic, fill­ing the hand very well”

ad­van­tages of bullpups be­cause they don’t come nat­u­rally to the aim in the way a con­ven­tional sporter does. How­ever, this ri­fle did point quite in­stinc­tively, so I tried to un­der­stand why. I noted that the ri­fle is quite nar­row, whereas many bullpups are wide, so they don’t slide nicely into the aim. The cheek piece, or lack thereof, car­ries on that theme and means that you can get be­hind the scope with­out need­ing to roll your head to the side to see down the cen­tre of the scope’s bore. Then we come to the dropto-heel mea­sure­ment. On most con­ven­tional sporters this di­men­sion is around 3½ to 4” and on the Orion BP it’s closer to 4¾”, so not too dis­sim­i­lar. Many bullpups have only a tiny drop-to-heel di­men­sion that forces you to shrug your shoul­der up in a very un­nat­u­ral way to hold the ri­fle on aim.

Fi­nally, spe­cial men­tion has to go to the lovely pis­tol grip. It’s far and away the most com­fort­able and sup­port­ive one I’ve ever tried on a bullpup, and it’s quite su­perbly de­signed. The large and dis­tinct palm swell along its back lo­cates your hand pos­i­tively and gives a good reach to the trig­ger blade.

“So many hard cases be­come use­less as soon as you put the scope on, which frus­trates the hell out of me”

It even has a stor­age com­part­ment in its base where you could store spare pel­lets once you’ve found a small con­tainer to fit in­side.

CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE

Cometa de­serves praise for de­liv­er­ing the BP in a neat, hard-shell case that’s deeply padded with foam. Why is that so note­wor­thy? Well, there are two rea­sons. One is that it’s a good money sav­ing, be­cause bullpups won’t fit into most con­ven­tional ri­fle cases so you’ll need to bud­get to buy a bullpup-spe­cific one nor­mally, but not with this gun. Se­condly, the case ac­cepts the ri­fle WITH THE SCOPE FIT­TED! So many hard cases be­come use­less as soon as you put the scope on, which frus­trates the hell out of me.

As men­tioned, I’m not a bullpup fan, but I can re­ally see the po­ten­tial of this distinc­tive lit­tle ri­fle. The looks are con­tro­ver­sial and some will love them while other sim­ply won’t. It has a num­ber of stand- out fea­tures and some ar­eas that could be im­proved, but I have to con­fess that it’s got my at­ten­tion. Cometa isn’t a name that’s all that well known to Bri­tish air­gun­ners, but I think this model could be the one that puts them on the map.

It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to cock the ri­fle on aim be­cause the bolt is un­der your ear

The un­usual di­men­sions and ver­ti­cal fore end grip make for unique han­dling

The fore end grip changes an­gle with the press of a but­ton

The high- mounted Weaver rail is at­tached by two small blocks

I found brac­ing my thumb against the stock made cock­ing eas­ier

A ro­bust Forster con­nec­tor gets top marks from me

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