ALL CHANGE

Peter Yeats tells us why a PCP has changed his shoot­ing – for the bet­ter

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Peter Yeats goes over to the ‘dark side’ with his first PCP - a Walther RM8 Varmint

Wow! My first PCP; im­pos­ing, black, quiet, ac­cu­rate, new – and mine! Not so much ‘out with old and in with the new’ as semi- re­tire­ment for my much- loved Ben­jamin Trail and its re­place­ment by a Walther RM8 Varmint. Of course, it’s not all change; it’s a sub-12 ft.lbs. air ri­fle and it has sev­eral sim­i­lar­i­ties with the Ben­jamin Trail that it re­places.

The stocks are both syn­thetic, all-weather de­signs, ca­pa­ble of with­stand­ing the worst of weath­ers with­out dam­age. They are am­bidex­trous, matte black, look im­pres­sive and han­dle well. The che­quer­ing pro­vides lots of grip, and the pan­els are per­fectly po­si­tioned. Pis­tol grips are firm favourites of mine, and those of the Ben­jamin and Walther RM8 Varmint are ex­tremely com­fort­able in use and so aid my ac­cu­racy. Other sim­i­lar­i­ties in­clude cal­i­bre – both are .22 for greater re­tained en­ergy when hunt­ing, and weight – both are heavy air­guns, feel­ing durable and sta­ble in the field.

You might well be think­ing that both guns are so sim­i­lar that there must be some rea­son for buy­ing the Walther. Of course, you’re ab­so­lutely right be­cause the qual­i­ties it pro­vides dra­mat­i­cally en­hance the shoot­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The trig­ger is a smooth and light, two- stage af­fair, ad­justable for the length of each stage – a longer first stage means a shorter sec­ond. Even though it’s not fully ad­justable or match grade, it is clearly su­pe­rior to even the mod­i­fied, now sin­gle- stage Ben­jamin unit.

EASY AC­CU­RACY

The re­coil­less ac­tion makes shoot­ing ac­cu­rately much eas­ier and al­though the chal­lenge of con­sis­tently shoot­ing a re­coil­ing pis­ton gun can be fun in it­self, guar­an­teed hu­mane, one- shot kills are what mat­ter in the field. My RM8 Varmint de­liv­ers pre­cisely that. Even off- hand, stand­ing shots, where hold­ing a heavy ri­fle pre­cisely on tar­get can be very dif­fi­cult, are stead­ier and more ac­cu­rate, but it is the re­coil­less per­for­mance when solidly braced that re­ally eclipses the Ben­jamin.

At 40 yards, hit­ting a 20mm tar­get used to be a real chal­lenge, but now, the PCP chal­lenge is to choose which side of the disc to hit, so my group sizes have al­most halved. At my new pre­ferred hunt­ing zero of a met­ric 30 me­tres, groups of 1012mm are pretty stan­dard, whereas, for the Ben­jamin, 20-24mm would be my goal. The Walther will hold its own against most .22 cal­i­bre PCPs and my new chal­lenges at the lo­cal range’s 30 me­tres, are 5mm spin­ners or the 5mm spheres on the han­dles of cock­tail stir­rers – un­think­able for my pis­ton gun skills!

Also, with any pis­ton gun, sig­nif­i­cant move­ment and time are re­quired for a reload, mak­ing a quick sec­ond shot or dis­creet, un­no­tice­able reload some­times very dif­fi­cult. The Walther’s eight- shot mag­a­zine and bolt- ac­tion elim­i­nate

both dif­fi­cul­ties. I find the ro­bust metal mag­a­zine’s ca­pac­ity per­fect, never hav­ing en­coun­tered the need for more than eight con­sec­u­tive, rapid- fire shots. The huge shot count means that, in re­al­ity, there’s no need to keep track of your shots. With the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tions of rat­ting and the shoot­ing range, there is more than enough ca­pac­ity in its buddy bot­tle for any shoot­ing ses­sion.

SMOOTH OP­ER­A­TOR

The bolt ac­tion is pretty slick, too. By fol­low­ing the user guide’s in­struc­tions to lu­bri­cate the mech­a­nism be­fore use, an easy, smooth op­er­a­tion was achieved af­ter a very short run­ning- in pe­riod. The side lo­ca­tion and ac­tion of the bolt it­self re­minds me of my air cadet days, shoot­ing rim­fire .22s half a cen­tury ago. I love the pos­i­tive ac­tion and feel, as well as the nos­tal­gia!

A bi­pod fit­ted to a pis­ton gun changes the point of im­pact ( POI), ne­ces­si­tat­ing scope ad­just­ment or mil- dot al­lowance. Fit­ted to the Walther, there is no change of POI so the built- in Pi­catinny rail, un­der the fore stock, al­lows a huge step for­ward by en­abling the at­tach­ment of a Har­ris- style bi­pod eas­ily and quickly. On my per­mis­sion, even when I set out with the in­ten­tion of stalk­ing, I carry the bi­pod, and Allen key to at­tach it, in my com­bat trousers’ side pocket, so chang­ing to a static, am­bush hunt is achieved in a cou­ple of min­utes. Us­ing the Walther from the prone po­si­tion, with the bi­pod and a laser rangefinder, means a lower, less vis­i­ble front pro­file, an ab­so­lutely sta­ble shoot­ing plat­form and oneshot ac­cu­racy out to my max­i­mum hunt­ing range of 40 me­tres. Even reload­ing with the Walther, from the prone po­si­tion is, as ex­pected, very easy and un­ob­tru­sive, re­quir­ing only slight move­ment of my right arm. Mar­vel­lous!

ANY SUP­PORT

Stalk­ing is also greatly im­proved with the Walther. No longer is there the need to con­cen­trate on ex­actly the same hold, loose grip and con­sis­tent re­coil, no mat­ter what angle the shot taken. With the Walther, I can sta­bilise the ri­fle on the bough or trunk of a tree, gate post or wall – any­thing solid – hold the gun in the most com­fort­able grip and be cer­tain that my point of aim will also be the point of im­pact, mak­ing stalk­ing very much eas­ier.

Of course, the gun wasn’t per­fect. The Ben­jamin Trail came with a sling at­tached; the Walther had nei­ther sling swivels nor easy mount­ing points. I wanted to keep the Pi­catinny rail free for the bi­pod so the first hunt was about car­ry­ing all that weight, and it be­came clear very quickly that the prob­lem had to be solved. For­tu­nately, a tac­ti­cal strap, in black web­bing, pro­vided the per­fect so­lu­tion. A loop goes over the bar­rel and a buckle at­taches to the top bar of the stock, so it is eas­ily and quickly re­moved or at­tached. It even has an ad­justable buckle, en­abling ex­ten­sion to the per­fect length for a braced stand­ing shot.

So, my first PCP re­ally is a very dif­fer­ent beast to the gun that it re­places; it makes shoot­ing from ev­ery po­si­tion eas­ier, more ac­cu­rate, more sat­is­fy­ing and, there­fore, suc­cess­ful. To die- hard springer fans out there, I earnestly rec­om­mend try­ing a PCP, per­haps at your lo­cal air­gun range or club. It might just turn the page to a brand new chap­ter in your air­gun­ning en­joy­ment. I’ve also re­cently added a lamp­ing kit that at­taches to the, now, re­coil­less tube of my scope, but that, as they say, is another story.

BE­LOW: Off the bi­pod the ac­cu­racy is su­perb

TOP RIGHT: The boltac­tion is smooth and a plea­sure to use

BE­LOW: The com­mon fea­tures be­tween my old and new guns are ob­vi­ous

CEN­TRE: The gauge de­liv­ers vi­tal in­fo­ma­tion at a glance

TOP LEFT: I carry the bi­pod any time I’m hunt­ing

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