FAC rated Daystate MK4iS
PUBLISHED: 16:17 28 October 2011 | UPDATED: 16:21 28 October 2011
Charlie McFee experiments with an FAC rated Daystate MK4iS
Over the years I've often been tempted to apply for a Firearm Certificate (FAC) and buy a powerful air gun, but I just never really felt ready to make the jump. I always hoped that extra power would make my hunting more successful, but I wasn't sure that it was really the answer.
Then last year I had a rush of blood to the head and stepped up to the big boys' club and bought a 30 ft.lbs .22 Daystate MK4 iS. One of the things that had deterred me was the fact that most FAC rifles use very long barrels to help them make the extra power, but the Daystate's clever electronic action doesn't need one and this allows the gun to be quite compact. Out in the field, I really like small, easily handled rifles.
Another real bonus of the Daystate is that the recoil and noise are both very low compared to some other FAC rifles I've tried. It's also an easy gun to shoot well and that adds to my confidence.
THE NEED FOR POWER
The most important reason for me to own a high-power airgun is accuracy. You might think I'm talking rubbish as FT guns are sub 12ft.lbs. and are amazingly accurate, so what do I mean? Perhaps I should explain. My chosen combination of gun and pellet is the MK4 with the JSB 16 grain .22. Set at 30ft.lbs. that pellet will fly at 925 fps with superb accuracy which then offers me a really worthwhile improvement in trajectory over my normal 11 ft.lbs .177.
In simple numbers, when set to their optimum zero, the .177 will drop 1 '' by 45 yards while the FAC .22 is only '' low. By 50 yards the .177 is 2 '' low while the FAC .22 is only ''. This is what I call accessible accuracy; accuracy that shows its worth out in the hunting field. I don't think that long range shots have become easy and I certainly won't be telling you I've killed rabbits 75 yards.
Even with such a powerful and flat shooting gun as this, the drop at 75 yards is about six inches, which I would find impossible to judge consistently. Don't get me wrong, target shooting at that distance has suddenly become interesting and fun, but not live quarry shooting. Also, look at the wind drift. At 75 yards a 5 mph breeze will blow the pellet off by nearly 2''. And remember, you can barely feel a 5 mph wind against your cheek.
So my comment about being more accurate means that at my usual hunting ranges, the trajectory is so flat that I hardly need to think about it and the effects of the wind are drastically reduced. I will concede that the extra power does give me an increase in effective range but it's not nearly as far as you might imagine. Some people think if you've got more than twice the power you must have twice the range. Well that's just not the case, at least not in my world.
When you are hunting, far and away the most important thing is accuracy. If you can't place your pellet where it's needed then you have no business pulling the trigger. You need to be able to hit a target the size of a one pound coin every time to be humane. So long range shots, regardless of what you are shooting with are difficult and extra power is a help but only to a limited degree. Just because the FAC gun's pellet will arrive with a tonne of whack, if you whack the wrong bit you still won't kill cleanly.
During my early tests with the new gun, I was doing some long range testing to find out which pellet would work best. My friend was also testing that day and he had a really trick Walther Dominator FT gun wearing a 42x scope. Out to 45 yards we were neck and neck in terms of group size, but as the distances increased the advantage moved towards the more powerful gun. The extra weight and stability of the .22 pellet began to show while the light .177 was being more affected by the wind. Now both guns showed superb accuracy but it's clear the heavy pellet travelling fast had an advantage. Wind deflection is a function of flight time and not only does the FAC .22 start out 150 fps faster, it also has better efficiency through the air, so maintains it's velocity better. This goes some way to explaining the smaller groups at long range.
In case you're interested, on a rare windless evening, my rifle was producing five shot groups that could be covered with a 10p coin at 75 yards. Where I come from that's great accuracy from a sporter wearing a hunting scope. Adding a target scope would surely reduce that group still further.
Also those pellets were straight from the tin, not washed or lubed. Preparing the pellets carefully before testing will be the next phase of development I'll be trying when we get some decent weather.
The other top pellet option for most FAC .22s is the Bisley Magnum which weighs around 21 grains and is almost always the first pellet anyone will recommend. They are strong and well able to withstand the pressure of high power guns but the extra weight means that the muzzle velocity is 100 fps lower than the 16 grain JSB meaning 1'' more drop at 60 yards. People have suggested to me that the heavy pellet hits harder but I'm sure that the JSB hits more than hard enough.
Another pellet I am keen to try is a new model from AirArms which is called Field Plus. This is pretty much the same as the 16 grain Field, but is two grains heavier. This could be a useful in between step and perhaps could be an improvement. I've also just received a tin of the new JSB Monster at 25.4g which must be one of the heaviest .22 pellets around and I'm keen to see what my Daystate will make of them.
Once I had confidence that the gun was fully sorted and zeroed I took it for it first hunting trip. It was in a small wood where the pigeons like to roost and with a bit of stealth and cammo I hid myself down in the shadows. One last quick check over showed the silencer to be loose so I pinched it up tight. As I did, something felt
a little bit wrong, but with the pigeons starting to land, I put the worry to the back of my mind.
My first shot was at a pigeon that landed on a branch about 25 yards away, presenting quite an easy shot. With plenty of power and penetration available, I was confident taking heart shots that I couldn't have tried with a 12ft.lbs. gun. The bird fell at the shot but needed dispatching. The next three fell dead but the last one again needed a knock on the head. That worry was now becoming too much, so I stopped shooting and went about checking the zero. It was well off; one inch right and an inch high. How could that be? I zeroed it so carefully.
Back in the workshop I could easily see the problem. As I twisted the silencer to ensure it was tight, the whole barrel shroud had rotated and caused the loss of zero. The tiny grub screws that hold it in place were done up but clearly they don't grip the barrel that tightly so a lighter hand is needed for future reference. Repositioning the shroud and rezeroing only took a few minutes and everything was back as it should be. The second hunting trip was lamping for rabbits on a new permission I have just gained. The land is a huge private garden owned by a millionaire where the rabbits and squirrels do great damage and need regular control. I had previously visited during daylight and had made mental notes of not only where the rabbits were doing the most damage but also of the boundaries and buildings on the land. That's always important for both safety and confidence as I was about to find out.
There was certainly an increased level of awareness in my mind that the gun I was holding was a powerful tool and every rabbit I saw got a second chance while I considered the angles and trajectories. Shots I would have been quite relaxed taking with a 12ft.lbs. gun just required a further check. As the night wore on, I relaxed a bit more but I remained aware that more power could mean more danger.
For example, there is an area where the ground has been excavated to make a huge ornamental valley. As I approached, I slowed my pace as I had seen a lot of signs of rabbit activity. Several bunnies fled as I turned on the lamp so I switched off and moved a bit closer while always heading into the wind. Turning the lamp on again, a rabbit froze between me and the valley and I weighed the options. A successful shot would have the pellet buried in the ground behind the rabbit's head but what would happen if the pellet hit hard ground and bounced. In truth I wasn't sure, so that bunny lived to see another day.
Five other shots were clean and successful with one in particular being right at the limit of my range. I noted that each of the rabbits went down very cleanly without the usual back-flip I get with 12 ft.lbs. guns. This might be because I have adjusted my aim point slightly to try to hit the brain stem rather than the centre of the brain. But that's a subject for another article.
I also noted two further things. FAC guns are loud! Even though the Daystate is very quiet by FAC standards, it seems loud in a quiet wood at midnight. Also the pellet hitting anything is also very loud compared to a 12 ft.lbs .177 or even my friends 20 ft.lbs .177. Perhaps that noise on impact tells us something about the greater effect the FAC .22 has over an FAC .177.
An advantage any airgun has over a .22 rimfire is that you can safely hunt pigeons and squirrels from the branches of trees but it's important to consider the backdrop and be careful with an FAC .22. It will travel over 600 yards and even though it would have less than one foot pound of energy at that range, you should still be careful. That's over 150 yards more than a 12ft.lb .177 and double the retained energy on arrival.
So these are my rambling thoughts about my first few weeks as the proud owner of an FAC rated gun. I'll keep you updated on how it's going.