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Gun test: The Daystate Huntsman Regal

PUBLISHED: 16:14 09 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:14 09 November 2017

It's a thoroughbred performer, with perfect style.

It's a thoroughbred performer, with perfect style.

Archant

The editor steps off his soapbox to examine the timeless appeal of the Daystate Huntsman Regal

Regular readers will have long suffered my personal crusade to bully manufacturers into giving us the option of sporters with adjustable stocks, so that hunters can enjoy a similar degree of stock fit mainly restricted to target shooters. I’m all sorts of passionate about it, and I never miss the chance to drone on about butt pads that shift and cheek pieces that rove this way and that to accommodate their users. I’m a totally unrepentant ergonomic evangelist, too, and I’ve even been involved in a few robust debates with traditional types who swear I’m out to undermine the elegance and happy lack of complication with which sporting rifles have been blessed since the days of the musket. I listen patiently to my opponents on this vital matter, then I do my best to convert them, as any proper preacher should.

Yet, I’m the first to concede that an open mind is the best sort to have working for me, so I’ve decided to fling wide the doors of my consideration and re-examine the entire concept of the ‘classic sporter’ in all its uncomplicated, smooth-handling glory. For this reprise I’ve chosen a rifle that has been a market leader, in one guise or another, for over 25 years. Apart from its two-stage trigger, it has nothing adjustable on it at all. Not a thing. You don’t even really need to fit a silencer if you don’t want to. It really is just about the opposite of what I’ve been banging on about for the past five years at least. Let me fully clear my mind of all preconceived notions, then, and take a freshly-considered look at the Daystate Huntsman Regal.

In the eye of the beholder

Please do what I did at the beginning of this test, and take a long look at the Regal. Now ask yourself if you can see where the enduring appeal of this pre-charged pneumatic, 10-shot, bolt-action rifle might lie. I think that’s pretty obvious, mainly because the Huntsman Regal is obviously pretty, and never kid yourself about how important looks are to most shooters, despite what many say. ‘I regard my rifles as tools to do a job, that’s all.’ Yeah, right. Of course you do, but the vast majority of us don’t, and what any rifle looks like really is a big deal.

See how the butt pad sits high in my shoulder on standing shots. My eye is still perfectly aligned with the scope, though, and accuracy doesn't seem to suffer. See how the butt pad sits high in my shoulder on standing shots. My eye is still perfectly aligned with the scope, though, and accuracy doesn't seem to suffer.

Definite theme

The overall design of this rifle leans heavily on a full-bore sporter theme. That walnut stock, crafted for Daystate by Minelli in Italy, has been especially designed to house as much of the Regal’s air reservoir as possible, leaving just a short section of tube protruding from the fore end. Personally, I’d welcome an even longer fore end, but after discussions with Huntsman Regal owners, I’m told they sometimes like to use the fore end tip as a hand hold when adapting their stance for awkward shots. Extending the woodwork would be fine for oversize primates like me, but normal humans would be reaching for support, hence the length of that fore end.

The fore end is also narrower than most, allowing its users more of a relaxed, ‘cupped’ hand support for the front end, or so I’m informed by the Regal fan club I consulted, all of whom took great pains to praise Minelli’s expanses of deeply-cut chequering.

Elevated shots bring down the pad position and it has to be said, this would make an incredible squirell-hunting rifle. Elevated shots bring down the pad position and it has to be said, this would make an incredible squirell-hunting rifle.

The voices of experience

These Daystate aficionados can be extremely effusive about features they like, and every bit as energetic about anything of which they disapprove. As always, I learned a great deal from talking to those who use their rifles regularly, day after day, throughout the years. There really is no substitute for real-world, long-term experience of any rifle, and again, the fact that the Huntsman Regal is still staking its claim on the best-sellers list, speaks volumes.

This Regal is a good-looking rifle and it scores massive points because of it, but beauty is only skin deep, or so they say, and it takes more than a pretty face to turn so many heads for so many years.

Within this action you'll find the fifth evolution of the Daystate Huntsman shooting system. Within this action you'll find the fifth evolution of the Daystate Huntsman shooting system.

Beauty is what beauty does

Another of my tedious sayings is, ‘this rifle became a whole lot prettier once I’d shot well with it.’ That’s another shooting truism, and one which can, quite literally, change my view of any rifle. Even those militaristic, ‘tactical’ – whatever that means – rifles I thought I could never love, become far more attractive when they start grouping pellets in tiny clusters for me.

Looks classy, feels perfectly secure. Looks classy, feels perfectly secure.

The Harper effect

The Daystate Regal is fitted with a fully updated – in its sixth incarnation, I believe - fully-mechanical action, at the heart of which is the Slingshot Hammer system and Titan firing valve. Steve Harper is Daystate’s genius-in-residence, and having known him for many years, I can confirm that he truly deserves his title; not that he would ever make such a boastful claim. Steve Harper is a gentlemanly genius who works wonders in his naturally charming way, and the Slingshot system offers a fitting demonstration of it.

Basically, the Harper system uses a hammer that is thrown forward by its spring, until the cage in which the hammer sits is arrested, leaving the hammer itself to fly on under inertia until it impacts the main valve. This separation of hammer, cage and spring prevents ‘valve bounce’, which can happen when the hammer rebounds into its spring and is repeatedly ‘bounced’ against the face of the valve. This bounce results in lost air from the reservoir and can sometimes be heard as a fast ‘brrrp’ in older PCPs, especially as the compression in the rifle’s air reservoir reduces. Anyway, the Harper Slingshot system doesn’t do that, which makes the Regal’s shooting cycle a far more crisp and economical affair. The rifle I’m currently using is extremely efficient, producing 11.1 ft.lbs. in .177, with a 12 fps average variation over the first 50 shots.

Would an adjustable pad be better? For me, probably, but the purists would disagree. Would an adjustable pad be better? For me, probably, but the purists would disagree.

Tailored output

Typically, from a single charge – Daystates are fitted with a decal which states that particular rifle’s ideal charging pressure and the one I’m using runs best from a 180 bar charge – a .177 Huntsman Regal will produce around 80 ‘perfect’ shots in .177 and 90 in .22. This can vary slightly from rifle to rifle, but anyone who has made the mistake of carrying just 20 rabbits will testify that these returns for a charge are more than any hunter will require. If more shots are required, then pack your tank or pump, but in all my years of hunting, the occasions when I’ve needed more than 50 shots without taking a rest, are sadly few and far between.

Power reserves monitor and more superb chequering on the underside of the fore end. Power reserves monitor and more superb chequering on the underside of the fore end.

Commendable accuracy

Modern pre-charged pneumatics are boringly accurate, unless, like me, you’re still turned on by piling pellet after pellet on top of each other at ranges you remember as being ‘extreme’ once upon a time. This rifle and its compatible pellets make an impressively boring team, as it clicks its way faultlessly through its 10-shot removable magazine, on its way to flattening knockdown targets out to 55 yards every time I correctly computed the windage/elevation input.

The trigger, set at 1.3lbs according to my gauge, is a curved delight that lets me ‘think’ each shot away. In fact the shooting cycle of the whole rifle, from drawing back its generous bolt-handle, through that excellent trigger’s release, to the muted rasp of the pellet leaving the Regal’s optional silencer, is a calming, satisfying experience that made me happy I’d decided to revisit this rifle.

The Regal is pretty at the outset and it can bunch pellets downrange with the best of them, so there’s the clincher I guess. Yet, surrounded as it is by bullpups, electronic rifles from its own factory, adjustable super-sporters and guns with a far more fashionable list of features, can being a looker and a shooter truly explain almost decades of success? There must be something else, surely?

How about the handling?

Look at the side-on photo of me shooting the Regal and notice how high the rifle’s butt pad sits in my shoulder. If that pad were adjustable, I’d slide it down, obviously, and I’d feel the better for it, even if it made no difference to my shooting. The Regal enthusiasts club members, with their more normal bodily make up, centred their pads and looked at me as though I’m a freak.

Truth to tell, freak or not, my eye/scope alignment was as near perfect as makes no difference, and my results with the rifle spoke immodestly for themselves. I can shoot a Daystate Huntsman Regal, and I can do so to a pleasingly high standard. Whether I’m extracting its full performance remains to be seen, but the Regal fanboys – they’ll hate me for that – who watched me shoot and who shot alongside me seemed to be mildly impressed with what I was doing with ‘their’ rifle.

Initial verdict

First, I stand by my every thought about the increased efficiency that comes with using a rifle that fits perfectly. That said, if you’re normally configured and a classic sporter fits you, you’re in a good place and the Huntsman Regal is exactly the kind of rifle to make that place just about as enjoyable as it can be.

This Regal really is a modern classic, and Daystate’s policy of updating its rifles’ technology will keep it current for many years to come. As the members of the Huntsman Regal appreciation society would no doubt say, class never goes out of style.

Specification

Model: Huntsman Regal

Manufacturer: Daystate

Country of origin: UK

Price: £820

Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot, sporter

Calibre: .22, .177

Cocking: Bolt-action

Loading: Via removable, rotary 10-shot magazine or optional single-shot tray

Trigger: 2-stage, adjustable

Stock type: Right hand walnut sporter with rosewood grip cap

Weight: 2.7kg (5.95lbs) Unscoped

Length: 928mm (36.5ins)

Barrel: 430mm (17ins)

Fill pressure: Max 230 bar

Shots per charge: 90 in .22, 80 in .177

Variation over 50 shots: 12 fps for .177 on test

Average energy: 11.1 ft.lbs.

Contact: www.daystate.com

Tel: 01785 859122

RRP: £820.00

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