THE BIG TEST

A beau­ti­ful, clas­sic sporter gets a high-tech up­grade

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Phill Price gives us de­tailed anal­y­sis of the Daystate Hunts­man Regal HR

This month’s big test is an un­usual op­por­tu­nity to re­port on not only a new ver­sion of one of my favourite guns of all time, but also to look at a re­cent trend that’s swept across the air ri­fle man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try. I know that I’m in a mi­nor­ity, but I feel strongly that the Hunts­man Regal is the finest air­gun Daystate ever made. It might be mod­est, and by their stan­dards un­der­stated, but for the skilled and ded­i­cated air­gun hunter it has ev­ery at­tribute you could wish for.

It makes all the power we need, both at le­gal limit and at higher power for those who hold a firearm cer­tifi­cate. It’s as ac­cu­rate as you could ever want, and my own high- power ver­sion is one of the most ac­cu­rate guns I’ve ever tested at long range in my 40 years of shoot­ing air­guns. On top of this, it’s an er­gonomic tour de force, with su­perb han­dling. Its mod­est pro­por­tions and con­ven­tional lay­out means that it slips into your shoul­der and comes on aim as nat­u­rally as point­ing your fin­ger at your quarry. Much of this comes down to the stock that was de­signed by a Bel­gian shot­gun stock de­signer who came up with a bal­ance and fit that sim­ply works with the hu­man form, rather than against it. I own two Hunts­man Re­gals: a .177 at 11 ft.lbs and an­other at 29 ft.lbs. in .22, so it’s fair to say that I know this ri­fle well.

PROPER STOCK FIT

This ri­fle be­longs in an in­creas­ingly rare club of ded­i­cated right- handed guns. To­day, al­most all new ri­fles are am­bidex­trous, which is an­other word for ‘com­pro­mised’. The day we be­gin to wear am­bidex­trous shoes, I’ll ac­cept that there’s no need to make equip­ment to fit us prop­erly. The Hunts­man Regal’s stock fills my trig­ger hand with a de­light­ful shape and a palm swell that en­sures full con­tact and sup­port with­out the need for any pres­sure. It de­liv­ers the pad of my in­dex fin­ger

pre­cisely to the blade for max­i­mum con­trol, which re­wards with ul­ti­mate ac­cu­racy. Proper stock fit makes a huge dif­fer­ence to han­dling, of that I have no doubt.

Among its many fine at­tributes I par­tic­u­larly love the trig­ger unit which can be tuned to de­liver proper sport­ing per­for­mance. I like a crisp and clean 2lbs break that’s as use­able in win­ter wear­ing gloves as it is mid­sum­mer with a bare hand, and my guns are set just that way. The per­for­mance of the trig­ger is a huge in­flu­ence on ac­cu­racy and shot de­liv­ery and one of the most im­por­tant rea­sons to buy a highqual­ity ri­fle.

A match- grade Lothar Walther bar­rel lives in­side an an­odised shroud to ini­ti­ate noise sup­pres­sion, af­ter which my cho­sen car­bon-fi­bre, re­flex si­lencer com­pletes the job. Like most air­gun­ners I’ve asked, I love a noiseless ri­fle and the ri­fle on test was whis­per quiet. The safety mech­a­nism is sim­ple and ro­bust, but its lever is the only part of the ri­fle I feel needs im­prove­ment. Sure, it’s to­tally prac­ti­cal, and can be felt pos­i­tively with a gloved hand, but just doesn’t look right on such a stylish gun. My early mod­els had a translu­cent plas­tic tab, whilst the cur­rent ones dis­play a red an­odised one.

REG­U­LA­TOR COM­PLEX­ITY

I feel con­fi­dent that you’ve un­der­stood by now that I’m a fan, so when I heard that Daystate had a new ver­sion, I was im­me­di­ately in­ter­ested. The ru­mour mill has had it that a re­place­ment for the Hunts­man had been on the draw­ing board for some time, but the fac­tory has been tight lipped about that sub­ject. Pressed hard on that mat­ter, the sales di­rec­tor said, “Don’t hold your breath,” and “Not hap­pen­ing any time soon and you can count that in years, not months!”

This is where I be­come con­flicted be­cause the old adage of ‘if it ain’t bro­ken, don’t fix it’ comes to mind, even though I’m a great be­liever in the progress of de­vel­op­ment. Could Daystate re­ally im­prove my beloved Hunts­man? What they chose to do was to add a Huma reg­u­la­tor to the pre- charged pneu­matic ( PCP) en­gine that drives the ri­fle. The short ex­pla­na­tion – a reg­u­la­tor is a cham­ber that ac­cepts and holds a pre­cise vol­ume and pres­sure of air from the main reser­voir ready for the shot. This clever mech­a­nism stays con­stant right across the con­sump­tion of the reser­voir’s fill, from max­i­mum to min­i­mum, and elim­i­nates the no­to­ri­ous ‘power curve’ that af­fects muz­zle ve­loc­ity. A reg­u­la­tor can also in­crease the num­ber of shots per fill, which makes some peo­ple very happy. The down­sides are that they add com­plex­ity to a sim­ple ri­fle de­sign and that adds cost, and the fear of a fail­ure. I’ve never felt the need for one, but it seems that the air­gun press glob­ally is clam­our­ing for them and that might be a clue to their pop­u­lar­ity.

In many coun­tries around the world there are no power re­stric­tions on air­guns and in high- power ap­pli­ca­tions, a reg­u­la­tor makes good sense. High- power guns are greedy for air, so any ben­e­fit to ef­fi­ciency has to be wel­comed. Fur­ther, the power curve can be­come very ex­ag­ger­ated when you’re launch­ing a 53 grain .303 pel­let at 850 fps. The ques­tion is, does that mat­ter to the av­er­age Brit shoot­ing a sub 12 ft.lbs. ri­fle? I wasn’t sure, so some se­ri­ous range time was re­quired.

“it slips into your shoul­der and comes on aim as nat­u­rally as point­ing your fin­ger at your quarry”

HARPER SLING­SHOT

For those who don’t know the Hunts­man Regal, it’s a very con­ven­tional bar­rel over reser­voir, pre- charged pneu­matic, that in most senses is about as sim­ple as it gets. How­ever, in­side it con­tains the Harper Sling­shot ham­mer de­sign which is a stun­ningly el­e­gant an­swer to a tricky prob­lem. When the ham­mer strikes the valve on a con­ven­tional PCP, it opens the valve and lets the com­pressed air through to power your pel­let. In the mil­lisec­onds af­ter, it also bounces back and forth, worth­lessly open­ing the valve tint in­cre­ments and wast­ing air. The Harper sys­tem elim­i­nates this bounce, de­liv­er­ing far greater ef­fi­ciency from a sim­ple and ro­bust mech­a­nism. I can’t stand un­re­li­able kit, so the Harper sys­tem ap­peals to me. Get­ting to a shoot­ing ground only to be let down by my ri­fle is not some­thing I’ll ever en­dure again.

A reg­u­lated ri­fle has two pres­sure gauges; one tells you the re­main­ing pres­sure in your reser­voir, whilst the other re­ports on the reg­u­la­tor pres­sure. As the ri­fle is be­ing built, the tech­ni­cian tunes the reg’ pres­sure to de­liver the per­for­mance re­quired, namely the sub 12 ft.lbs. we need to stay on the right of UK law. It’s in the na­ture of pro­duc­tion tol­er­ances that each gun needs to be tweaked, just so, to de­liver what we need. Reg­u­la­tors are com­plex and made to very pre­cise di­men­sions, which means that they’re ex­pen­sive, of course. You won’t buy a Rolex for Ca­sio money, right? I’m not a fan of look­ing at gauges on the side of a ri­fle, let alone look­ing at two, so I ap­plaud Daystate for their clever solution with the reg­u­lated Hunts­man. The reser­voir pres­sure gauge has been moved to the front of the reser­voir to­wards the muz­zle. Now, not ev­ery­body is com­fort­able with this be­cause you need to point the muz­zle to­ward your face to read the gauge, but let’s be

se­ri­ous. If you can’t read it with­out point­ing the gun at your face you need to have a good long chat with your­self about grow­ing up. The sec­ond gauge which reads the reg­u­la­tor pres­sure is in the belly of the stock and is in­vis­i­ble from the side.

PER­SPEC­TIVE

An­other change needed to ac­cept this new sys­tem was a method of fill­ing the reser­voir. I’ve al­ways en­joyed the tough, in­dus­trial Foster con­nec­tors the Hunts­man fed from. To al­low the re­lo­ca­tion of the reser­voir pres­sure gauge to the front, Daystate had to adopt the ‘probe and port’ type of filler be­hind the gauge. Even though it’s not my favourite, I have a num­ber of ri­fles that use that sys­tem, and with some ba­sic com­mon sense, it need be no draw­back at all. Keep it clean, is all I’ll say on the mat­ter. Around the fe­male part of the sys­tem is an alu­minium col­lar that’s held in place with ‘O’ rings that on my test gun didn’t have the strong­est of holds.

So, with an un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ences be­tween reg­u­lated and non- reg­u­lated guns, what does the ex­tra £100 and com­plex­ity get you? With my .177 test gun, I was able to get 140 pre­cise shots from the reg­u­lated ac­tion as com­pared to 82 shots from my own, non- reg­u­lated model. Im­pressed, eh? If you like to sit and shoot all day, 140 shots be­tween fills looks great. If you’re a hunter, please tell me how many times 82 shots weren’t enough. It’s a mat­ter of per­spec­tive. What do YOU want from your ri­fle?

The new model utilises the stan­dard 10- shot mag­a­zine that I know well. With some ba­sic main­te­nance, they’ve served me for much of my hunt­ing needs for close to 10 years, and as long as you keep them clean and ap­ply some suit­able lu­bri­ca­tion now and then, they work well. The ri­fle is sup­plied with a sin­gle- shot tray for those who pre­fer to load pel­lets man­u­ally, and there’s some anec­do­tal ev­i­dence that you might squeeze a small amount of ac­cu­racy im­prove­ment by us­ing it. My guns are equally ac­cu­rate with the mag’ or tray, but oth­ers have told me of dif­fer­ent re­sults.

CLOVER-LEAF GROUPS

At the test range I topped up the reser­voir to the pre­scribed 230bar, loaded the mag­a­zine with Daystate Sov­er­eign .177 pel­lets and watched tiny, clover- leaf groups ap­pear at 35 yards just as I’d ex­pected. It was an easy gun to shoot, with only the small­est nudge of re­coil and a lit­tle spring res­o­nance to ad­vise you that the shot had de­parted. At 50 yards the groups had opened to around ¾”, which is more a demon­stra­tion of what the wind does to a pel­let’s flight than a re­flec­tion on the ri­fle’s per­for­mance.

The chrono­graph showed that the 8.44 grain pel­let was av­er­ag­ing 782 fps for a muz­zle en­ergy of 11.42 ft.lbs. with a shot- to- shot ve­loc­ity vari­a­tion of 12fps over 80 shots. You might won­der why I chose 80 shots as my test sam­ple, so I’ll tell you why. I was so bored with stand­ing in front of the chrono’ I gave up. The per­for­mance was there to see, and that was all I needed to know.

My con­clu­sion about the ben­e­fits of a reg­u­lated Hunts­man Regal over the older model is that I’d hap­pily shoot ei­ther. If you have an ex­tra £100 in your bud­get and value more shots per fill, then by all means buy the Huma reg­u­lated ver­sion. How­ever, don’t think you’ll be dis­ap­pointed by the non- reg­u­lated ver­sion if you’d like to save the money. Both guns are su­perb hunters and cling to the val­ues of fine fit and han­dling in a big, bulky, am­bidex­trous world. Long may this fine ri­fle and its kind sur­vive to sat­isfy the skilled air­gun hunter who val­ues real- world per­for­mance over fash­ion.

“the Harper Sling­shot ham­mer de­sign which is a stun­ningly el­e­gant an­swer to a tricky prob­lem”

This is surely one of the best-look­ing air ri­fles ever made

BE­LOW: The fit and bal­ance of the Hunts­man is sec­ond to none

RIGHT: A sen­si­ble weight ri­fle needs a mod­est scope like the Mamba Lite from MTC

BE­LOW: This is a hunt­ing gun for the con­nois­seur of the well- crafted ri­fle

RIGHT: The trig­ger is truly ex­cel­lent, but I feel the safety could stand some im­prove­ment in its looks

ABOVE: Bench test­ing showed the ac­cu­racy was first class

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