Gun test: Cometa Orion BP

PUBLISHED: 16:42 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:42 14 September 2017

It's almost impossible to cock the rifle on aim because the bolt is under your ear

It's almost impossible to cock the rifle on aim because the bolt is under your ear

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Is there really a bullpup the editor likes? On the firing line this month: the Cometa Orion

The bullpup craze seems to show no signs of slowing down, and Spanish airgun makers, Cometa, have joined in the fun. They’ve taken the idea all the way, too, because their new Orion BP is just over 27” long, making it one of the shortest airguns I can remember. Surprisingly, for such a little gun it’s pretty hefty, weighing in at 8.6lbs, so it no floaty lightweight. It’s also got some very distinct styling, so it won’t be mistaken for any other rifle. As the name suggests, Cometa used their full-length, pre-charged pneumatic Orion as the donor rifle, and this can be clearly seen in the action. The receiver, bolt and magazine all look just like the full-length sporter, but apart from that, this presents as an all-new model.

It think it’s fair to say that the looks will be a ‘love it or leave it’ matter. As regular readers will know, bullpups aren’t my cup of tea, so there no point in me commenting on its appeal. The handling is just what you’d expect, but the contact points are not. The butt pad is like nothing I’ve ever seen, being a flat, rectangular shape with quite sharp corners, but once in the shoulder, I can honestly say that I didn’t notice it at all. It’s set sensibly low, which helps the overall handling. As a complete opposite to the butt, the pistol grip is beautifully curved and ergonomic, filling the hand very well. It has the look and feel of an aftermarket M4 fullbore rifle grip and is truly first-class.

The unusual dimensions and vertical fore end grip make for unique handlingThe unusual dimensions and vertical fore end grip make for unique handling

Distinctive

Up front, Cometa has taken another big leap by fitting a vertical, combat-style grip, produced by UTG, a company famous for its huge range of firearm accessories and upgrades. I wonder if they supplied the grip as well. Bullpups are naturally tall, and this grip makes the rifle feel a long way above your hands. In fact, the barrel sits some six inches above the middle of the grip area.

It’s a very different feeling compared to conventional rifles, to put it mildly. I’m not sure if it offers any specific advantage, but I’m sure those who like military looks will love it, and for the rest of us, it’s easily removed. It’s mounted on a short section of Weaver rail bolted into the stubby fore end, which will accept a bipod or perhaps a torch just as well. Behind the pistol grip there’s a pressure gauge, which I appreciated because every PCP needs one.

The trigger blade is also distinctive, machined from thick aluminium plate and displaying a deep curve. I’m not sure if I can describe the flat steel plate below it as a trigger guard, but that’s the job it does. Like the rest of the styling, it’s pretty extreme. Above the trigger assembly there’s an aluminium extrusion with windows machined in it that gives a nicely finished feel and a place to mount the scope rail. This, of course, is Weaver standard and sits high so that you can see along its axis comfortably. What’s not so comfortable is resting your cheek against the metal dovetail on the top of the action. On the Cometa website, I noted a new model that had a small section of wood fitted here, so perhaps that will come along in the future. I have seen people buying the one that Daystate fits to its Pulsar bullpups to clamp onto rifles like this. It’s a neat, synthetic cover that fits directly to the scope rails so that your face is insulated from the cold, sharp metal, without adding unnecessary bulk or width. The rail sits on two cylindrical blocks that look quite slender compared to the very chunky look of the rest of the gun.

The high mounted Weaver rail is attached by two small blocksThe high mounted Weaver rail is attached by two small blocks

Hammer time

Cometa is one of only two manufacturers who cold-hammer forge their barrels – the other is BSA. There are arguments that this manufacturing process is superior to others, but what counts is how accurate they are. Around the barrel is an aluminium shroud, which despite being so short, did a good job of muting the muzzle report. Fitting an additional silencer would seem daft to me because the whole point of this gun is that it’s so short. Below the shroud is a snap-on metal cover that protects the male Forster connector used to fill the air reservoir. The maximum fill pressure is 200bar which is good news because pretty much every dive bottle around will easily fill it.

Loading the magazine is a little different to others of this kind. You load every pellet from the rear of the magazine, skirt first, which seemed a little fiddly, but not difficult. The mags’ are pretty big, offering 13 shots in .22, and 17 in .177, and felt a little flimsy for a gun in this price range, but only time will tell how durable they are. I had no misfeeds or jams during my trial so there are no complaints from me on that account.

Over the chronograph, the Orion averaged 532 fps with the Air Arms Field Diablo pellet that weighs 16 grains in .22, which calculates to just over 10ft.lbs. Shot-to-shot consistency was good at just 7fps over 50 shots. This made me keen to shoot some groups to see if a cold-hammer forged barrel and excellent consistency would translate into fine accuracy. I gathered together my selection of pellets that have served me well for testing work, and readied my bench and support bags. At this point, I had to stop and work out how I could shoot from a rest. I decided to remove the fore end grip completely and experimented with different sizes and heights of supports until I could get comfortable.

The fore end grip changes angle with the press of a buttonThe fore end grip changes angle with the press of a button

Smooth and slick

Cocking the Orion can only be done with the rifle in front of you, not from the shoulder. The bolt handle is so far back that it’s almost under your ear, but held in front of your body, it’s comfortable and natural to press your thumb against the stock as you pull the bolt with your fingers. The action was nice and smooth, plus I like the thick bolt-shaft that Cometa uses. Pulling the bolt fully back allows the spring-loaded magazine to index the next pellet in line with the barrel, and then the probe drives it forward into the waiting barrel.

Unfortunately for my accuracy tests, the trigger was set very heavy, making fine control tricky. It was clean and consistent, but being that heavy works against precision. That being said, I got consistent ½” groups at 25 yards with H&N’s superb Field Target Trophy, a pellet that has proven accurate in many test rifles over the years. If this were my rifle, I’d ask my gunsmith to adjust the trigger to a more comfortable weight, which I’m sure would release the full accuracy potential of the rifle. I believe the trigger is inherently good and worthy of that little extra effort to make the most of it.

The safety is manual and operated by a small tab that sits in front of the trigger blade. This position has a number of advantages, including being able to disengage it from the firing position, and makes it ambidextrous. In fact, the gun is completely ambidextrous with the exception of the bolt. As mentioned earlier, the stubby shroud did a good job of reducing muzzle noise, but the hammer spring is quite loud and continues to resonate for some while after the shot is released.

A robust Forster connector gets top marks from meA robust Forster connector gets top marks from me

Handling

What interested me most about the Orion BP was the handling. I don’t get the claimed advantages of bullpups because they don’t come naturally to the aim in the way a conventional sporter does. However, this rifle did point quite instinctively, so I tried to understand why. I noted that the rifle is quite narrow, whereas many bullpups are wide, so they don’t slide nicely into the aim. The cheek piece, or lack thereof, carries on that theme and means that you can get behind the scope without needing to roll your head to the side to see down the centre of the scope’s bore. Then we come to the drop-to-heel measurement. On most conventional sporters this dimension is around 3½ to 4” and on the Orion BP it’s closer to 4¾”, so not too dissimilar. Many bullpups have only a tiny drop-to-heel dimension that forces you to shrug your shoulder up in a very unnatural way to hold the rifle on aim.

Finally, special mention has to go to the lovely pistol grip. It’s far and away the most comfortable and supportive one I’ve ever tried on a bullpup, and it’s quite superbly designed. The large and distinct palm swell along its back locates your hand positively and gives a good reach to the trigger blade. It even has a storage compartment in its base where you could store spare pellets once you’ve found a small container to fit inside.

Credit where it’s due

Cometa deserves praise for delivering the BP in a neat, hard-shell case that’s deeply padded with foam. Why is that so noteworthy? Well, there are two reasons. One is that it’s a good money saving, because bullpups won’t fit into most conventional rifle cases so you’ll need to budget to buy a bullpup-specific one normally, but not with this gun. Secondly, the case accepts the rifle WITH THE SCOPE FITTED! So many hard cases become useless as soon as you put the scope on, which frustrates the hell out of me.

As mentioned, I’m not a bullpup fan, but I can really see the potential of this distinctive little rifle. The looks are controversial and some will love them while other simply won’t. It has a number of stand-out features and some areas that could be improved, but I have to confess that it’s got my attention. Cometa isn’t a name that’s all that well known to British airgunners, but I think this model could be the one that puts them on the map.

Specification

Manufacturer: Cometa

Importer: John Rothery Wholesale

Web: www.bisley-uk.com

Model: Orion BP

Type: Pre charged pneumatic

Action: Magazine-fed, bolt-action

Length: 27 ¾” (70cm)

Weight: 8.6 lbs (3.9kg)

Trigger: Two-stage

Fill pressure: 200 bar

RRP: £633.95

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