Monday, 29 December 2008

Shooting the Air Arms S510

Looks cold doesn't it - it was!

I was hugely impressed with the Air Arms S410, which I used during the summer and which features in my airgun hunting DVD. It's a great rifle - simple to use, consistently accurate, with a neat bolt and magazine arrangement so you can reload quickly. After years of shooting spring powered (and Theoben gas-ram) airguns, shooting a precharged pneumatic was a revelation.

The S410, though, suffered some sort of accident that rendered it pretty much useless. Basically, the barrel got bent. My best guess is that either the dog or one of the kids sat on it while it was in the gun-sleeve, laid across the back seat of the car. The S410 has a very thin barrel, and the large can-type moderator fitted on the end only serves to increase the leverage if it falls or gets leaned on. Yes, I know, it's important to look after your gun etc etc - but in the real world things don't always go according to plan, especially when there are youngsters and clumsy labradors around.

So... I've been looking forward to getting my hands on the latest version, the S510. This one is in .177 calibre (the S410 I tried was .22), not my normal choice for hunting. I took it out today, not for any serious hunting but just to zero it and get a feel for how it works.

First impressions were superb. The most obvious difference from the S410 is the barrel, which now has a larger shroud. This is, in effect, a full-length moderator, which makes the whole package much shorter and improves handling beyond belief. I found the S410 rather unwieldy, and certainly awkward to use from a vehicle or in dense woodland. The S510 is totally different, balancing nicely between the hands and coming to the shoulder so well you are almost tempted to shoot it shotgun-style.

The build quality on this gun is superb. I was specially taken with the woodwork - nice crisp chequering, and lovely dark wood inserts at the end of the fore-end and grip-cap. The stock shape is perfect for a right-hander, with a good high comb bringing my head into line with the scope.

The S510's bolt is a huge improvement
- and easy to operate with frozen fingers.

The next major difference is the bolt. The bolt on the S410 reminded me of the old Crosman bolt - rather thin and wiry, and not very positive to close. You'd close it, walk a few paces, then feel you should check to make sure it was still shut properly. Pulling it back to cock and reload was suprisingly hard work, with only a small rounded knob to grab hold of. The S510 bolt is completely different, and a huge improvement. It's not a traditional bolt at all, more like a miniature side-lever with a straight pull-push action. It's easy to operate, and opens and closes very positively - brilliant!

I fired a few shots at paper targets to get the scope zeroed, and was pleased to find that the rifle shoots just as sweetly as the S410. Accuracy is every bit as good, and the .177 pellets certainly hit the backstop hard (I was using Bisley Super Field - the only .177s I had in the cupboard, but they seem to work well in the S510).

I plan to adjust the trigger (which seems straightforward, looking at the manual, and the allen keys came with the gun), shoot a few more targets at different ranges, then get out and do some hunting - I'll let you know how I get on.

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