The ed­i­tor tests the Bro­cock Ban­tam Com­man­der - a semi- bullpup, along mil­i­tary lines

A mil­i­tary-look­ing ver­sion of a semi-bullpup gets the ed­i­tor’s at­ten­tion

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Just af­ter the Bri­tish Shoot­ing Show, one of my col­leagues who works for a full- bore ti­tle, was telling me that his pal was go­ing nuts about a new air­gun. He’d said that it was the best- look­ing air­gun he’d ever seen, and he wanted to know where he could buy one – now! This had me quite in­trigued, so I tried to find out which gun it was he lusted af­ter, in the hope that I could an­swer his ques­tions. The gun in ques­tion was the Bro­cock Ban­tam Com­man­der you see on test here, and the good news is that they’re in the shops now.

Un­der the skin, it’s the same Ban­tam ac­tion we’ve come to know, but is a sharp, new set of clothes, de­signed es­pe­cially for those who like the mil­i­tary look. The ex­tra- fat bar­rel shroud and ac­tion have been fin­ished with Cer­a­cote, a mas­sively tough, per­ma­nent coat­ing used to pro­tect metal parts against cor­ro­sion and scratch­ing. It’s not cheap, as a £175 op­tion, but it al­lows cus­tom colours such as the desert tan you see here. Whilst this was be­ing ap­plied, Bro­cock thought it would look cool to have an MTC scope coated, too, so that they match each other per­fectly.


The CL- Core butt sec­tion and pis­tol grip are bolt- on AR15 parts sup­plied by FAB De­fence from Is­rael, which are also avail­able in desert tan, and I have to say the colour match is per­fect. The pis­tol grip is the most com­fort­able of its kind that I’ve tried, and it placed my finger nicely onto the trig­ger blade. All too of­ten, this type of grip is much too small, but this one felt good. At 15½” fully ex­tended, the butt sec­tion should ac­com­mo­date tall air­gun­ners, and at the touch of a but­ton it can be short­ened to 13¼” if you’re wear­ing body ar­mour as you de­ploy from your ar­moured per­son­nel car­rier – or per­haps, in a very tight hide. Luck­ily, there’s a 14½” set­ting for ev­ery­body else.

Com­plet­ing the mil­i­tary weapon

look is a cross- drilled muz­zle brake that wouldn’t look out of place on a .338 La­pua mag­num sniper ri­fle. It’s huge and has mas­sive ports. Of course, it has no ef­fect at all on air­gun per­for­mance, but it looks great. For my needs, I swapped it with a Hugget si­lencer which, paired with the noise- re­duc­ing shroud, made the Com­man­der lovely and quiet.

No mil­i­tary ri­fle would be seen dead with­out lots of Weaver/ Pi­catinny rail sec­tions bolted on, and the Com­man­der is no ex­cep­tion. On top of the ac­tion is a reach­for­ward rail as we saw on ear­lier Ban­tams, de­signed to po­si­tion scopes cor­rectly for its semi- bullpup lay­out. Be­hind the mag­a­zine is an­other short sec­tion, al­though I’m not quite sure what it would be used for. The main rail can be swapped for a Tri- Rail op­tion (£ 39.00 ex­tra) that al­lows torches and lasers to be fit­ted along­side the ac­tion. It looks very well made and strong, which makes the price seem very rea­son­able.

The fi­nal rail sec­tion is bolted to the base of the fore end and ex­tends un­der the air reser­voir, ap­pear­ing ideal for fit­ting a bi­pod. At­tached here, you do get a slight see- saw feel­ing that isn’t present on bipods fit­ted fur­ther for­ward, but that’s not pos­si­ble with buddy- bot­tle guns. You can buy bi­pod mounts that at­tach to bot­tles but no man­u­fac­turer I’ve spo­ken to will en­dorse them on safety grounds.


My test gun ar­rived with al­most the very top spec’, in­clud­ing the 480cc car­bon- fi­bre, Hi- Lite buddy bot­tle that saves sig­nif­i­cant weight. Its looks di­vided the opin­ions of those I showed it to, with some lov­ing the raw car­bon- fi­bre ap­peal, whilst other felt it looked un­fin­ished. For me, it’s just a prac­ti­cal and strong up­grade for those with deep pock­ets.

The ac­tion, as men­tioned, is the Com­patto Ban­tam we all know, with its side- bolt cock­ing and well- proven,

10-shot mag­a­zine. I like these mag’s and have al­ways found them durable, re­li­able and easy to load. An­other thing in their favour is that they’re not overly ex­pen­sive, which mat­ters to me be­cause I like to carry one in the gun and two full ones in a clean pouch, ready to go any time I’m out hunt­ing.

In­side the ac­tion we find the patented Harper Sling Shot ham­mer sys­tem that elim­i­nates ham­mer bounce and dra­mat­i­cally in­creases ef­fi­ciency. It’s well proven, and I’ve used them for years with com­plete re­li­a­bil­ity.

To take ef­fi­ciency fur­ther still, Bro­cock has used its re­la­tion­ship with Huma reg­u­la­tors from Hol­land and fit­ted one of their prod­ucts to the Com­man­der. You can tell this at a glance, be­cause there are two pres­sure gauges on the right side of the ac­tion. The up­per one is the grey-faced Huma one, that dis­plays reg­u­la­tor pres­sure, whilst the brightly coloured lower one tells us reser­voir pres­sure; two very dif­fer­ent mea­sure­ments. It’s a shame that they can’t be ad­justed to be the right way up when viewed from the side, but seal­ing the pres­sure cor­rectly mat­ters more than looks.


Fill­ing the reser­voir to the 230 bar max­i­mum pres­sure is done though a male Fos­ter fit­ting in the belly of the stock. There’s no need to re­move the buddy bot­tle for fill­ing, which for me is a pos­i­tive thing. Keep­ing any pre- charged pneu­matic ri­fle’s in­ter­nals clean is a mat­ter of life and death for the del­i­cate in­ter­nal ‘O’ rings, so min­imis­ing ex­po­sure to dirt has to be a good plan. The Fos­ter fit­ting has a neat cover that’s held on with mag­nets, which I liked a lot. Be­ing in­set, it won’t get bumped and dis­lodged, yet it’s ac­ces­si­ble for your fin­gers to re­move ready for fill­ing. The aper­ture that the con­nec­tor sits in­side is oval to make space for your fin­gers to grip the fe­male con­nec­tor’s lock­ing col­lar dur­ing re­moval, which is im­por­tant. To make this eas­ier still, the fe­male con­nec­tor is elon­gated so that the knurled sec­tion you grip stands well proud of the stock.

The com­bined tal­ents of the Harper Sling Shot sys­tem and the Huma reg­u­la­tor give some al­most un­be­liev­able shots- per- fill num­bers. A .22 will de­liver over 520 full- power shots from one 230bar fill, which is a whole tin of pel­lets. I still find that hard to grasp. You could go to your lo­cal gun shop, fill the ri­fle from their com­pres­sor and buy a tin of pel­lets, only need­ing to visit again when the tin was empty! That’s quite mind­blow­ing. I can­not imag­ine any­body ever need­ing more shots per fill.


I’m a great cham­pion of high- qual­ity trig­gers and the one fit­ted to my test gun was with­out ques­tion the best Bro­cock trig­ger I’ve ever used. It broke cleanly at 1½ lbs and was as pre­dictable and con­sis­tent as you could wish for from a sport­ing ri­fle. I have no doubt that it was a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in the ac­cu­racy I achieved dur­ing the test. Just in front of the trig­ger blade is a small pad­dle that con­trols the safety mech­a­nism. This is a con­tro­ver­sial po­si­tion for a safety con­trol, the worry be­ing that you might ac­ci­den­tally fire the ri­fle as you dis­en­gage the safety, but I have no such con­cern. I like the po­si­tion be­cause you can leave the safety en­gaged un­til the very last mo­ment when you’re ready to fire, and then

flick it off WHILST the ri­fle is pointed in a safe di­rec­tion. It’s just as eas­ily reen­gaged if the chance of a shot passes.


Check­ing the muz­zle ve­loc­ity of guns in this class is al­most point­less, but it’s my job and my SKAN chrono’ read an av­er­age of 780 fps with the Air Arms Di­ablo Field .177 which cal­cu­lates to 11.4 ft.lbs. just as I’d ex­pect. In­ter­est­ingly, over 200 shots it var­ied just 8fps and I wasn’t pre­pared to stand there any longer than that! That’s world- class con­sis­tency just as you’d hope from a reg­u­lated ri­fle.

There’s a cer­tain qual­ity to ri­fles that I’ve never sat­is­fac­to­rily un­der­stood when it comes to get­ting good groups. There are plenty of high­qual­ity PCP ri­fles that are ca­pable of fine ac­cu­racy, and then there are ac­cu­rate guns that are easy to shoot well. These are not nec­es­sar­ily the same thing. The Com­man­der falls into the lat­ter group and de­spite the in­evitable windy con­di­tions, I found plac­ing shots very easy in­deed. Per­haps it’s the in­ter­nal mech­a­nism pro­duc­ing lit­tle vi­bra­tion, or an ef­fi­cient power plant us­ing only the small­est amount of air needed to get full power. What­ever it is, the Com­man­der is an easy gun to use and to from which to ex­tract the full po­ten­tial. Even in the wind, I was able to get ¾” groups at 35 yards from the bench, all day long. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the best ac­cu­racy came from my stan­dard test pel­let, the Air Arms Di­ablo Field 8.44 grain .177. It also shot very well with the lighter 7.9 grain vari­ant, but the heav­ier ver­sion pipped it for ul­ti­mate ac­cu­racy.


It’s no sur­prise that this stock con­fig­u­ra­tion feels com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the sporter lay­out, but I no­ticed that the ‘straight pull’ style stock seemed very well suited to prone shoot­ing. Hav­ing min­i­mal drop to heel is the clas­sic prone de­sign, and the Com­man­der felt com­fort­able and sta­ble shot this way. I was in­trigued by the shape of the butt pad, which is rounded at the toe, un­til I re­alised its role. When the ri­fle is mounted quickly, it will sit high in your shoul­der/chest area be­cause of its straight- pull lay­out. This means that it’s the toe, more than the whole butt pad that touches you, and the rounded sec­tion makes this more com­fort­able. Strangely, I found that ex­tend­ing the stock ½” made it feel more nat­u­ral as well.

There’s no doubt that the Com­man­der con­fig­u­ra­tion has trans­formed the Ban­tam into a com­pletely dif­fer­ent-feel­ing ri­fle and added an in­ter­est­ing op­tion for those who like the mil­i­tary look. It feels well in­te­grated, rather than an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of bolt- on bits as I’d feared it might. The price takes it into the world of top- end PCPs, so it needed the per­for­mance to back up the looks, and I’m happy to say that it did. Brave new times in­deed, for one of Eng­land’s fa­mous old brands.

BE­LOW: I ap­pre­ci­ated the han­dling more than ex­pected

BE­LOW: A mil­i­tary­look­ing ri­fle on a mil­i­tary truck

ABOVE RIGHT: You can choose to add a Tri- rail if you’d like to mount ac­ces­sories

ABOVE LEFT: Twin gauges tell you a reg­u­la­tor lives in­side

ABOVE RIGHT: This huge muz­zle brake looks the part

RIGHT: The chunky bolt fits the look well

ABOVE LEFT: A short rail sec­tion be­low the cylin­der ac­cepts a bi­pod very well

ABOVE RIGHT: The ex­cel­lent Hugget si­lencer was more to my tastes

BE­LOW: Off a bi­pod, I found the Com­man­der very sta­ble

ABOVE LEFT: This butt sec­tion will bolt straight onto a ser­vice Colt M4

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