The editor assesses the Galahad, almost three years into Air Arms’ famed ‘rolling development programme
THE AIR ARMS GALAHAD AND ITS ROLLING DEVELOPMENT.
After a bit of involvement in the Galahad’s development and pre-production process, I tested the finely-finished article in February of 2016. In fact, I tested a couple of versions from the Galahad range, and eventually declared my preference for the Carbine, with the black, soft-touch stock. Then I changed my mind and promoted the walnut-stocked, regulated, Galahad Carbine as my personal favourite. I’ve used the Galahad fairly regularly since that first test and my mind hasn’t changed again, but nothing stays the same in the world of Air Arms and its sworn allegiance to ‘rolling development’, and that includes the Galahad. With this in mind, I thought it was high time I took another look at what the Galahad has to offer.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
A visual once-over of the test rifle as far as my shooter’s eye can tell, whatever’s changed isn’t visible. That means the changes are internal and that’s the province of those best qualified to comment on such things. In this case, the ‘best qualified’ person on the planet is Alan George, Air Arms’ General Manager and top techno guy, so while I got on with the testing, Alan sorted an explanation of the effect of rolling development on the Galahad, which I’m happy to include within this test. Right, let’s crack on and get this party started.
What we’re looking at, here, is a bullpup – or ‘sportpup’ as Air Arms prefer - but whatever you call it, this Galahad is a .22 calibre, ambidextrous, compact, regulated, precharged pneumatic sporter, with a biathlon style cocking and loading system, linked to the standard Air Arms 10-shot removable, rotary magazine. There’s another link, too, an internal one that connects the rifle’s trigger mechanism to its blade, but you can forget about that link because the Galahad’s adjustable trigger unit performs like that of any high-precision sporter, with no creep, drag or disconnect of any kind.
Meanwhile, back at the visuals, there was criticism levelled at the unveiling of this rifle due to the gap between its barrel assembly and its air reservoir. Rough, tough shooters suddenly became obsessed with style points, when actually it has always been this way, and they began wrinkling their delicate noses at the
“it’s not just what a top grade rifle can do, it’s also about how it does it”
Galahad’s design. The fact is, a bullpup, sportpup, or any type of pupmadoodle-type rifle, which is what these guns are, will never be blessed by the flowing lines of a traditional sporter. The Air Arms Galahad can’t own the same aesthetic appeal as the Air Arms Pro-Sport. It’s the law … probably.
BUILT FOR A PURPOSE
The Galahad was created to offer the type of handling we bullpup enthusiasts enjoy, within the performance output of the Air Arms brand. It delivers both, and then some, and as someone who has put thousands of pellets through the Galahad’s various versions, I can confirm its consistent accuracy is right up there with the very best sporting airguns available. These days, it’s not just what a top grade rifle can do, it’s also about how it does it, so let’s move to that subject next.
THAT COCKING/LOADING SYSTEM
The main ‘unique feature’ of the Galahad is its cocking and loading system. This takes the form of a spring-assisted lever positioned slightly forward of the action’s mid point, and it can be swapped from left to right by the user in a very few minutes, using just a hex wrench, which is supplied. I’m by no means technically accomplished, but I can swap that lever over in around three minutes, and that’s taking my time. The real deal, though, is which side to have it on. This is a highly efficient means of cocking and loading a PCP, but as ever, you really need to think about how you set it up, and it’s certainly more complex than if you’re left- or righthanded. The golden rule is, make the rifle adapt to you, not the other way round. In use, this means trying that lever on both sides of the Galahad to see which setting does the best job.
FIND YOUR BEST SIDE
At first, I preferred it on the right-hand side, but removing and ‘remounting’ my trigger hand from the grip each time I cycled a shot turned out not to be the slickest way of doing things, so I switched the lever to the left. Yet, most of us do precisely that with a bolt or a sidelever, and we’re perfectly happy with that, so it shows that the Galahad’s system is significantly different. In my case, keeping my trigger hand in place – finger away from the trigger, obviously – and cycling the action by sliding back my forward hand proved to be the one.
Also, when I’m walking, I can drop the lever to its vertical position, ready for a swift backforth rotation to load a pellet and make the rifle ready to shoot. The mechanism is designed to negate the firing cycle if the Galahad is discharged with the lever down. If this happens,
“The essential blend of function and style is always a tricky mix to get right”
simply re-cock the action by pushing the lever forward and return it fully. Provided the lever hasn’t been fully returned, this action doesn’t double-load the breech, and that’s another major feature of this remarkable rifle.
The combination of oiled walnut, matte-black synthetic and dark areas of laser-cut chequering create a pleasing palette, which becomes more so as the Galahad’s stock ergonomics begin to earn their keep. Multiple FT world champion and impossibly talented fellow, Nick Jenkinson, had an unfairly talented hand in the design of this Minelli-produced woodwork, and it shows. The essential blend of function and style is always a tricky mix to get right, and the difficulty is compounded by the Galahad’s ambidextrous bullpup format, but the blend is spot on for me, and plenty of others, if the rifle’s sales figures are any guide – and of course they are.
That synthetic cheek piece is exactly the right height and the magazine didn’t touch my face at all, which is always handy. Mind you, there’s plenty of room for back-forth adjustment on the test gun’s non-standard Picatinny scope rail. Production rifles will be supplied with standard 11mm dovetails, but I wanted the chunky rail fitting to test some mounts I’m helping to develop, so that’s what I asked Air Arms to send.
A short accessory rail under the fore end tip will find employment as a bipod mount or a sling fitting, and there’s all the timber you’ll require to fix a rear sling swivel stud, which will make carrying the Galahad less of a burden.
CHUNKY IS AS CHUNKY DOES
With an all-up weight of around 8lbs, plus scope, the compact design of the Galahad causes it to feel heavier, at least when held in the hands, rather than placed in the shoulder. On aim, the rifle’s weight offers just about the ideal compromise between solid stability and ease of portage, but as ever, the need to set up the scope to suit your ideal stance is absolutely crucial. Keep shifting that scope until everything lines up perfectly, then check things are still on line as your shooting sessions build up and you relax into the rifle. It’s the mantra of ‘make the rifle fit you, rather than you fitting the rifle’, yet again. I can’t over-stress the importance of this.
ACCURACY AND FIELD PERFORMANCE
For once, the business of choosing the best pellet is a done deal, with Air Arms’ own .22 Diabolo Field ready and waiting to do the business. Over the blessed chrono’ I established an average energy output of 11.7 ft.lbs., with a first sample of 100 shots showing an average overall variation of 9.7 f.p.s., which I rounded up to 10. I’m still healthily sceptical
about the need for regulators, especially in sub-12 sporters, but as long as the Galahad’s maintains this level of control, I’ll be happy.
As far as accuracy goes, I knew there would be no question that the test rifle would group pellets to the highest of standards, but my 35-yard test targets were still a genuine reason to smile. No, I didn’t put the pellets through a single hole this time, but I kept them within an area the size of a rat’s cranium, and there’s more to come from this rifle in next month’s follow-up test, of that I’m sure. For this initial phase of my test, I contented myself with turning spinners into propellers from 10 yards to 55 on a pleasingly regular basis.
I chose to use the test rifle without an additional silencer, just to see if my ancient ears could detect any difference between the latest configuration of baffles inside the Galahad’s barrel shroud, and the previous set-up. I couldn’t, but others could, or at least claimed they could. As I say, I’m healthily sceptical, but if Air Arms’ sound metres show a reduction in muzzle blast, that’s good enough for me. More importantly, the Galahad is definitely nicer, and quieter, to shoot with the optional Mini Q-Tec silencer fitted, so make room for that optional extra.
One look at the Galahad’s price tag tells you it had better be good, and it is. Despite that price, this rifle remains one of Air Arms’ best-selling rifles, in that it sells faster than the company can make it, and that’s a major statement in itself. I was in at the start of project Galahad, and this latest example meets every specification on the original wish list. If you like the look of it, and you can afford one – you absolutely need to shoot it.
Just add a Mini Q-Tec silencer and you’re hunting at the very highest level.
Lever on the left is best for me - others may differ.
The brand-new Galahad soft case is another option that’s well worth consideration.
Air-supply info sits beneath the removable barrel shroud cap.
The trigger blade is connected to the mechanism via an articulated rod - but you’d never know that.
Bullpup, sportpup, call it what you like - it does an incredible job in the field and on the range.
Probe charging is a departure for Air Arms.
A handy feature to keep you on the level.
This is the Galahad’s 35-yard grouping standard and so it should be.