New Air Rifles from SHOT Show 2022
The 2022 SHOT Show featured everything from high-tech competition air rifles to pump pellet guns. Jim Chapman shares his picks for new air rifles across several categories
The sport of airgunning and airgun hunting has exploded in popularity. This segment has experienced some of the greatest innovation and growth in the shooting sports, which was reflected in the airguns and related accessories on display at the SHOT Show. These new products consisted of refining existing technology alongside some new and innovative designs and technologies.
While most of the newer guns on display were based on precharged pneumatic (PCP) platforms, there were examples of improvements to some old favorites, as well. Following is a shortlist of my picks for the best new air rifles that I came across on the floor of the exhibition.
SKOUT EPOCH Electro-Pneumatic Air Rifle: New Tech in Airguns
SKOUT Airguns got their start making paintball guns, but their first entry into airguns was the talk of SHOT Show. They introduced the EPOCH, a competition airgun that operates on an electro-pneumatic valve design. It doesn’t use springs, which results in a low cyclical weight and no metallic wear on the firing mechanism. I was told that the gun’s mechanism had a long life expectancy and would require very little maintenance. It uses EPOCH’s MAX-FLOW regulator, which produces consistent and precise air regulation for optimized consistency and reliability.
The electronic system controlling the rifle offers several advantages:
- Customizable shot-cycle control
- Customizable pre-shot sequencing
- An OLED data display for information presentation
- The ability to easily upgrade operating software
While I’ve never been a big fan of electronics for my hunting rigs, the potential advantages they offer will be welcomed by competitive shooters.
Besides the performance advantages mentioned, the gun is TSA compliant, with toolless removal of its air tanks. This might not sound newsworthy, but as someone that’s been prohibited from checking my gear for a flight a time or two, I can tell you it is a big deal. This gun is still in the pre-production stage, but I was told the rifle should be available in late summer.
The Hatsan Mod 65: Spring Piston Air Rifle
There are a lot of spring-piston airguns on the market these days, and I am getting picky about the ones I like. A smooth shooting cycle, appropriate cocking effort, good trigger, and intrinsic accuracy are givens. But I also look for a comfortable and ergonomic stock—a quiet gun in terms of the muzzle report, and the mechanical noise generated by the gun. And it never hurts when the gun is easy on the eye. So, when I first saw the Mod 65 and had the opportunity to handle it, I knew I’d found a keeper.
The Mod 65 is a traditional single shot break barrel springer available in .177, .22, and .25 caliber. The barrel is shrouded and uses Hatsan’s SAS shock absorber system, which—along with the ergonomic stock design, adjustable comb, laser-cut checkering, and a rubber buttpad—make the gun quiet and smooth to shoot. I also appreciate that Hatsan used their Quattro Trigger design in this rifle, making it one of the better triggers on a production springer, even more impressive in view of the gun’s price point.
The Brocock Ranger XR: A Compact Urban Hunting Airgun
As someone always on the search for the ultimate compact hunting rig, the Brocock Ranger XR appealed to me right away. It has a compact semi-bullpup design with a folding stock, that can be easily slipped into a backpack for a stealthy transport to your shooting site, or for hauling over long distances when backpacking. The Ranger XR offers adjustable power and outstanding accuracy utilizing a match-grade barrel paired with Brocock’s proven HUMA regulator and floating hammer system. I had a chance to use this gun in the field before SHOT and it has range and hits hard, an excellent small game gun. It can deliver up to 20 ft-lbs and generate 30 shots per fill, very good considering the small dimensions of the air reservoir. A three-position power adjuster with a hammer dwell adjuster is standard, allowing the hammer spring to be accessed and adjusted when the stock is folded.
The Brocock Ranger XR has an adjustable trigger with a crisp break. You can plink with its .22 caliber 11 shot quick-load magazine (13 shots in .177), or use the included single-shot tray for precision. An AR-compatible buffer tube and folding stock mount are also part of the Ranger’s list of features. My only wish with this great little micro-carbine would be to see it in .25.
JTS Airacuda PCP Air Rifles: Value PCP Airgun
JTS is a new airgun company that introduced themselves at SHOT Show, but they have a long history in the airgunning world through their parent company, Xisico. Xisico has been manufacturing airguns and components for the OEM market for many years. Recently, they brought on Travis Whitney, an American-based engineer with years of experience in the airgunning industry, and gave him the resources and freedom to develop a portfolio of airgun products for the U.S. market.
The first guns presented at the SHOT Show were in the Airacuda line, including the Airacuda and the Airacuda Max models. These PCP rifles are available in .22 and .25 and are similar in appearance and dimensions, though the Max is a regulated version with a group absent in the standard Airacuda version. What impressed me about these guns is the build quality. They only use high-quality metal and hardwoods—no plastic. The stocks are streamlined and elegantly shaped with laser-cut checkering on the grip and stock. But what really impressed me was the pricing. These Airacudas are being positioned to compete with guns that don’t even approximate the combined fit, finish, and performance of the Airacuda. I expect to see good things from this company in the future.
The Gauntlet platform has been on the market for a few years now, and has done an outstanding job of providing a feature-rich, high-performance platform at a very competitive price point. With a high-pressure high-capacity air storage reservoir and a regulator set to operate at a 2800 PSI charge, the .30 caliber version of the Gauntlet 2 generates 25 full-power shots with outstanding consistency. The Gauntlet .30 ships with two magazines and a single shot loading tray, which is an advantage when trying out specialty projectiles.
I find that the synthetic stock, cocking bolt, air management system, and trigger assembly are all ergonomic, well designed, and easy to work with. This is an excellent option for small to medium game.
The Dragonfly offers a classic design that will bring many of us back to our formative years as a shooter, waiting for the day we could make the jump from a Daisy Red Rider to a Sheridan multi-pump rifle. The Dragonfly takes the best of those early multi-pump designs and improves on it; the rifle is built on a lightweight frame that is easy to handle for shooters of all ages and sizes. The rifle wears a beech stock that is streamlined though still fits well in the hand, offering a very stable hold. The stock is checkered on the grip and forestock and sports a rubberized butt pad.
To shoot the rifle, pump it three to eight times, depending on how much power you want. Due to the new design of the linkage between the cocking arm and the pump assembly, the cocking effort starts off low and stays low up to the eighth pump. The gun is available in .177 and .22, and can reach velocities up to 800 fps and 630 fps, respectively. Pellets are fed via a self-indexing magazine with a capacity of seven rounds in .22 or 9 in .177. The firing sequence is to cock the bolt-action, pump up, shoot, and repeat to keep on plinking or hunting.
Air Force ArrowGun
I’ve been shooting AirForce rifles—both standard caliber and big bores—for many years. They are solid performers that have proven themselves as rugged guns capable of standing up to harsh conditions. That’s why I wanted a closer look when I heard they were releasing a new gun based on their proven design but optimized to fire arrows (actually bolts).
Unlike most arrow guns I’ve used, the AirForce ArrowGun has been optimized to run off lower fill pressures (1500 psi), so it is uniquely suited for use with a hand pump for filling. This makes the gun less dependent on heavy and expensive filling equipment in situations where this is an issue. There are two versions, the standard model, and the carbine, sending an arrow and broadhead downrange at speeds in line with a modern crossbow. Many states are allowing the use of Arrow launching airguns for deer hunting, and this is a new gun offering some key features that appeal to me: accuracy, power, and compact being high amongst those.
If you’ve been considering getting into airgunning, 2022 is a great year to get into the sport. From target shooting to hunting, there are great air rifles on the market that feature excellent features for the price.