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A visit to the SIG SAUER headquarters

PUBLISHED: 11:01 04 October 2018

Dani Navickas and John Bright discuss ... well everything, really.

Dani Navickas and John Bright discuss ... well everything, really.

Archant

The editor returns from SIG SAUER headquarters in a positive frame of mind

Stephen Archer and I were part of a group of airgun journalists invited to SIG SAUER headquarters in New Hampshire, and what a fascinating expedition it was. It was also an extremely positive experience, for several reasons, and despite the jet lag, I returned refreshed.

As you’ll see from Stephen’s feature, SIG Air is totally committed to producing a sporting airgun with top performance as standard. That commitment is backed by genuine passion, within the SIG Air division and all the way to the top of the parent company. I know passion when I see it. It’s a definable, tangible, often inconvenient, quality that drives people to achieve what others can’t, and it can push a person way beyond what most would consider reasonable.

Blessing...or affliction

I’m blessed, some would say afflicted, with an unquenchable passion for this sport of ours, and it’s always incredibly satisfying when I see that same unreasonable desire in those who have an important role in the future of airgunning. Our sport is fortunate, indeed, to harbour these unreasonably passionate people, and I’m pleased to say we have plenty of them, at home and abroad. Seeing so many of them in one place at SIG SAUER headquarters actually put a smile on my face for the duration of that trip. That smile wasn’t generated by simple contentment, though. There was an entirely practical reason for it, and I’m now going to try to pass my smile on to you.

Trigger cassette and anti-bear trap mechanism fitted - now for the gas-ram unit.Trigger cassette and anti-bear trap mechanism fitted - now for the gas-ram unit.

Valuable allies

First, the fact that a company the size and importance of SIG SAUER has invested so heavily in our sport, can only be a good thing. What you care about, you’ll defend, and the UK agent for SIG Air, Highland Outdoors, is in the charge of someone I know to be fully dedicated to protecting and promoting airgun shooting, and all shooting sports. John Bright is the main man at Highland and I’ve known him for years. He’s been a shooting enthusiast all of his life and he always answers the call when action is required. Highland Outdoors also owns Webley & Scott, so its airgun pedigree is well established.

At SIG Air, I met Joe Huston, the General Manager of all things airgun, and his formidable team of Dani Navickas, Ed Shultz and Stephanie Kee, all of whom as afflicted as I am by that strange passion for airguns. These are driven people, and they work under the care and control of SIG SAUER President and CEO, Ron Cohen, who shares and fully supports their passion and enthusiasm. SIG Air represents a huge investment in technology, personnel and production time, and having seen, and shot, the result of that investment, I’m convinced the goals of the SIG Air team will be realised, and surpassed. In short, it’s a great comfort to have this company and its people involved in our sport.

The wonders of CNC technology still amaze me.The wonders of CNC technology still amaze me.

The SIG Air ASP20

Now for a change of tack, and an update on the Sig Air ASP20 rifle. Back on page 30, Stephen Archer supplies the technical background, so to complement that piece, here’s my take on how it handles and shoots.

Remember, the .22 and .177 test rifles we had at our disposal at SIG Air were of US specification, hi-power format, but the sub-12 ft.lbs. version should be ready for testing in around six months, and after what I saw in New Hampshire, I’ll be all over that one. Until then, here are my impressions of what turned out to be a quite remarkable gas-ram air rifle.

The ASP20's ingenious cocking shoe.The ASP20's ingenious cocking shoe.

Zoning in

It’s not often I get to test a 20 ft.lb., .177 that isn’t a PCP, so I gave the 23 ft.lb. .22 a quick, intense run-out, then settled for a longer haul behind the smaller calibre rifle and did my best to zone in to the ASP20. By ‘zone in’, I mean develop a feel for the manner in which it released each shot, how its trigger performed, how best to create and manage an uninterrupted, straight-line recoil, and exactly how much contact to apply to the stock with my hands and face.

To my surprise, this process was all but complete inside ten minutes. Refinement would come in time, and the addition of a shooting jacket and a target glove on my leading hand would have fine-tuned things considerably, but I felt I was ready to produce some credible groups.

Ready for the match drill process.Ready for the match drill process.

When it’s right, it’s right

Perhaps the stars aligned, or maybe I was just in that zone in record time, but with Ed Shultz as my spotter and two types of pellet on the bench beside me, I began to put together some impressive clusters at 50 yards. The two types of pellet created their separate groups, but the potential of the SIG Air ASP20 was there for all to see. My best effort was 19mm centre-to-centre, and this group was photographed, then cut out of the target. I didn’t know it, but I’d be seeing that group again, when it was shown to Ron Cohen at dinner that evening. His excitement, and that of his team, at what the ASP20 could do was another great moment of that uplifting visit.

In the zone with the ASP20. Bring on the sub-12 version!In the zone with the ASP20. Bring on the sub-12 version!

Impressions

Even in its FAC spec’, the SIG Air ASP20 is a fully manageable rifle. It’s comfortable to cock, the recoil is fast, but it doesn’t feel harsh, and I could see each pellet splash as it appeared on the target. Considering the load it has to deal with, the SIG’s patented trigger system is precise, crisp and entirely predictable, and the whole rifle was building confidence with every shot. I could have honestly stayed on that range for hours, and as stated, I can’t wait for the UK specification version to hit these shores.

I’ll be back

Should the opportunity arise, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to SIG Air headquarters and spend some serious time on those test ranges. This is an exciting company to be around, and the people in charge of it can only strengthen our sport. Thanks, SIG Air – you made an unreasonably passionate airgunner an unfairly happy man.

Visit the SIG SAUER website.

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