Gun test: Air Arms S400F
PUBLISHED: 11:20 20 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:39 20 April 2018
Mark Camoccio tells us why the Air Arms S400 punches well above its weight
Every now and then I sit back and ponder just how absurdly lucky I am, not only for finding such an all-absorbing passion as airguns – many people never find an interest in life – but also for getting to play with all the latest kit, as and when it hits the market! I’ve owned, or shot, most of the top models available, too, so inevitably, I’ve arrived at some favourites along the way.
You might be surprised to learn that my current list-topper, is no top-flight special, with fancy multi-adjustable features, costing several thousand pounds. Instead, it’s an all-time classic that runs to a simple formula, and yet delivers what we all want in a successful airgun design. The Air Arms S400 is a tried and tested pre-charged pneumatic, originally aimed at the discerning hunter, yet good enough to satisfy the competition shooter who demands top-class accuracy and acceptable consistency in a straightforward format.
The S400 is a deliberately uncomplicated PCP, which follows the accepted barrel-over-cylinder layout, and comes unregulated as standard. For my test gun, I specified the rifle length ‘Classic’ action, fitted with the standard beech woodwork, making this the cheapest option for the S400 range. Indeed, if you’re after a pre-charged pneumatic over spring-power, then I reckon this S400 has to be arguably the best gun for the money in this price sector. The current list price is £484, and with some discounting in certain quarters that figure is liable to be squeezed downward in our favour. Of course, you’ll need to factor in the additional cost of charging gear, be that bottle or dedicated airgun pump, and for that expect to shell out around £150 for either route, but that kit would be required for any PCP, so this model still represents solid value for money, whichever way you look at it.
In terms of options, the action can be specified in shorter Carbine length, and for more readies, the more upmarket Walnut Sporter, or factory Walnut Thumbhole stocked variants can also be purchased, so personal choice is well catered for, but here, we are keeping things simple in order to demonstrate that you don’t have to spend fortunes for great performance.
That earlier expression used, ‘for the money’, is an interesting one because this gun actually belies its price tag, and when you consider my obsession for competition shooting – originally field target, and these days, HFT, and that I still regularly compete with an S400 derivative, it’s testament to the performance overall. After all, there is something satisfying in having a gun that costs far less than all the top-flight ‘super-guns’, and yet can still give them a run for their money. That’s not why I use one, but it remains the case.
So, just what stacks up with the S400, making it such a winning combination? Well, the classy Minelli-made stocks were originally designed by multiple World Field Target Champion, Nick Jenkinson, and the sporter configuration is not only graceful and attractive, but also supremely functional in use. The laser-cut chequering is maybe a tad shallow, yet sets off the fore end and pistol-grip panels, and also adds grip. The grip itself is nicely shaped, with a right-hand bias (left-hand stocks are available), and attractively finished with a rosewood cap. The prominent cheek piece does an admirable job overall, and the rubber pad, whilst it could do with being more concave, does its job nonetheless.
Whilst many match rifles, including the HFT500 from Air Arms, feature totally floating barrels, when the barrel sits free and unhindered in any way, the S400 action sees the quality Lothar Walther barrel sitting within a soft ‘O’ ring and the ‘figure of eight’ clamp at the muzzle. We all have our preferences, and whilst I like the idea of a fully-floating barrel, in my experience, the S400 configuration undoubtedly works. Many competition shooters still tasting success on the circuit will testify to that.
Air Arms’ significant investment in recent years of some serious CNC machinery means that they can carry out most operations in the production stage in-house, and they have undoubtedly built up an enviable reputation for fine build-quality and finish. All the metalwork gets treated to rich chemical bluing, which is mirror finished, whilst attention to detail is everywhere. The standard factory barrel finisher has slightly increased in size over the years, and with its smart twisted flute design and a small lipped expansion chamber inside, it undoubtedly takes the edge off the standard muzzle crack, which can be significant from a PCP. Of course, my preference for more front weight to improve balance means the fitting of Air Arms’ own Q-Tec silencer is something of a ‘no-brainer’, and again, that’s another easy option at the twist of an Allen key!
Model: S400F Classic Beech
Country of origin: UK
Type: Single-shot pre-charged pneumatic sporter
Calibre: .177 on test (.22 available)
Overall length: 40.25 inches
Barrel length: 19.5 inches
Stock: Beech right-hand sporter. Left hand stocks are available
Power source: External bottle or pump
Trigger: 2-stage adjustable
Fill pressure: 190bar as per factory / 180bar on test
Shot count: Factory claim 80 shots .177 / 100 .22 (see test figures below)
Velocity: .177 on test from 180bar (high 776fps, low 757 fps, ave 768fps, spread 19fps)
No. of shots on test: Stopped after 80 shots, at residual 130bar
Energy: 11 ft.lbs ave on test
Options: Walnut sporter stock/ walnut thumbhole, Q-Tec silencer (highly recommended)
Contact: Air Arms on 01323 845853