Double gun test: Norica Hawk and Thor

Dave Barham shooting the Norica Thor air rifle standing

For £140 the Thor is a great starter rifle - Credit: Archant

Dave Barham tests two gas-ram air rifles from Norica to suit all budgets in this review of the Norica Hawk and Norica Thor...

Dave Barham shooting the Norica Hawk

The Hawk is a bit more 'grown up' - Credit: Archant

After a recent telephone call with Chloe at Edgar Brothers, I was pleased to learn that they have started importing a new range of rifles and pellets from Spanish gunmaker, Norica. With over 100 years of expertise to their name, I was keen to see what Norica had to offer in terms of their ‘budget and junior break-barrels. Meet the Hawk GRS and Thor GRS gas-rams.

The underside workings of a Norica Thor

Simple workings make for easy use - Credit: Archant

Both of these rifles are powered by Norica’s Gas-Ram System (GRS), and I must say I rather like it. Rather than the traditional spring-piston, GRS features a pneumatic cylinder which provides less vibration than a spring, along with more consistent power output and easier cocking. 

It has to be said that the Thor Junior rifle is exceptionally easy to cock, due in part to the GRS system and the fact that it is only 12 joules, or around 8 ft.lbs. That said, the Hawk is very easy to cock, as well.

I’ve always loved gas-ram rifles; in fact, my pride and joy that I still use to this very day is my trusty Theoben Evolution. There’s just something about the short, sharp ‘thud’ combined with a little recoil that feels and sounds so right. 

It’s quite clear from the Norica website that they’re trying to move away from traditional spring-powered rifles in favour of their GRS gas-ram alternative, and I think it’s a great move.

Close up of trigger on a Norica Thor air rifle

Note the automatic safety button - Credit: Archant

Close up of trigger on a Norica Hawk air rifle

This rifle features a push lever-style automatic safety - Credit: Archant

Both of the rifles on test feature automatic safety systems, which are housed inside the trigger guards immediately in front of the triggers. In the case of the Thor, that is a small button that pops down once you cock the rifle. In order to take your shot, you simply push said button upwards with your trigger finger. When it comes to the Hawk, this has a slightly different mechanism in the form of a small lever, again situated in front of the trigger.

Once cocked, the lever is pushed back toward the trigger, and in order to shoot, you must push the lever forward to disengage the safety – it’s a doddle to use and a system that I really like, especially when hunting.

Right then, on to the triggers. Well, I have to kick off by saying that both trigger guards are made from synthetic material, like plastic, so I’m not sure how many knocks and bumps they can take out in the field, but they help shave a few grams off the overall weight, I suppose.

As far as the triggers themselves are concerned, the Thor Junior features a run of the mill trigger unit – it’s more than adequate for the job and the break point is easily found. A little over one pound of pull weight means it’s perfect for our younger shooters.

The trigger on the Hawk is a different deal and is in fact Norica’s NATS (Norica Adjustable Trigger System). It’s a two-stage unit with adjustability for both first- and second-stage travel, as well as pull weight. Straight out of the factory, this trigger was also set at a tad over 1lb pull weight.

Close up of fibreoptic sight on the Novica Hawk

The rear fibreoptic sight is adjustable - Credit: Archant

Close up of ventilated butt bad on the Norica Hawk

The ventilated butt pad on the Hawk is a bit more serious - Credit: Archant

The Hawk is a little longer than the Thor, measuring in at 1170mm overall. It comes supplied with Norica’s fibre-optic open sights, which are really quite good. They’re easy to adjust and very easy to use. The fore sight is housed within a metal shield for added protection, and there is an 11mm dovetail rail on top, so you can easily add a scope if you wish.

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This rifle also features a ventilated rubber butt pad to help absorb recoil, and I was pleasantly surprised at how little of that there is thanks to the Gas-Ram System, and of course the RAS (Recoil Absorption System) butt pad, which has an integrated elastomer dampener that Norica claims soaks up 40% of recoil impact.

It’s available in two different ambidextrous stock formats, either traditional brown beech or the new laminated green – either way the rifle still costs the same £299.

Firbreoptic sights on the Norica Thor

Firbreoptic sights on the Thor - Credit: Archant

Ventilated butt pad on the Norica Thor

There's a ventilated butt pad too - Credit: Archant

Costing just £140 this little ‘Junior’ rifle is the perfect starting point for young wannabe air rifle enthusiasts. It’s very well made, despite the rather ‘plasticky’ look. The blue stock is made from a synthetic material – Norica calls it ‘fibre’ – and like its older brother, the Thor features the same quality fibre-optic open sights, 11mm dovetail rail and ventilated butt pad.

The big difference is that it is slightly shorter at 1045mm, much lighter at just 5.9lbs and lower power than the Hawk. Norica claim the power output to be 12 joules or 8 ft.lbs. and I would say that’s spot on because I was averaging 7.8 to 7.9 ft.lbs. during testing. It’s surprisingly easy to cock, and reasonably quiet, too.

Dave Barham demonstrating the cocking motion on the Norica Thor

It's very easy to cock the Thor, making it ideal for youngsters - Credit: Archant

Dave Barham demonstrating the cocking motion on the Norica Hawk

That quite an angle to cock, but it's surprisingly easy - Credit: Archant

For this test I spent a couple of rather enjoyable sessions in my back garden, shooting from 15 metres out to 25 metres with both rifles. I also got my daughters Mia and Holly involved to shoot the Thor Junior rifle, and as that particular shooting session progressed, I actually decided not to put scopes on either rifle – there was no need. The fibre-optic sights are really quite good and it wasn’t hard to achieve decent accuracy with either rifle, even when shooting at paper targets rather than the spinners. Both girls found the Thor really easy to cock, load and shoot.

Unfortunately, I had to send the rifles back to Edgar Brothers before I had a chance to slap a scope on top of the Hawk and take it out in the field hunting, but from the testing that I did do out to 25 metres I’m more than confident that the addition of a scope will make this a lovely little lightweight hunting rifle.

For the money, you really can’t go wrong with this duo, and to think that for less than £450 you can get yourself a great father/son, mother/daughter set of rifles plus some pellets, they both offer extremely good value for money. 

I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the more advanced rifles from the Norica stable in the future, the quality and performance of the pair I’ve just tested bodes well for their more expensive models. 

Manufacturer: Norica
Type: Gas-ram
Stock Material: Beech wood and green laminate
Stock Type: Ambidextrous
Cocking: Break-barrel
Trigger: NATS Adjustable
Calibres: .177 and .22
Safety: Automatic
Overall Length: 1170mm (46.1in)
Barrel Length: 484mm (19.1in)
Weight: 7.1lbs (3.2kg)
Variation (20 shots): 19fps
Average Energy: 10.7 ft.lbs.
Price: £299

THOR Junior
Manufacturer: Norica
Type: Gas-ram
Stock Material: Ambidextrous ‘fibre’ 
Cocking: Break-barrel
Trigger: Single stage
Calibres: .177 and .22
Safety: Automatic
Overall Length: 1045mm (41.1in)
Barrel Length: 454mm (17.8in)
Weight: 5.9lbs (2.7kg)
Variation (20 shots): 23fps
Average Energy: 7.8 ft.lbs.
Price: £140