Gun test: Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE

Terry Doe shooting the Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE air rifle, free hand standing, in a garden setting

Carefully does it! I can see why someone would pay big money to own a rifle like this. - Credit: Archant

Airgun World editor, Terry Doe, reviews the incredible Red Wolf Heritage air rifle from Daystate – the limited edition special with limitless possibilities!

I’ve tested, examined and fully immersed myself in many special edition rifles from Daystate over the years, but none has matched what’s in front of me now. It’s the Red Wolf Heritage LE, one of just 250 to be produced, and it’s an absolutely breathtaking example of what can be done with an air rifle, these days. 

The Heritage LE is a collectors’ item, of course it is, and all 250 of them are already provisionally sold, and there’s a waiting list in case any of the buyers drop out, plus it costs £2,749 for the sub-12 ft.lbs. model you see here, with other options pushing their price tags beyond the £3,000 mark. This rifle is the airgun equivalent of the hyper-car on the cover of a motoring magazine, but the Heritage LE isn’t just eye candy. There’s a perfectly practical, nuts and bolts reason for the existence of these guns, and it isn’t simply to make money for Daystate. Let’s go deeper into the Heritage LE and see what it’s really all about.

The full package of gun and accessories - in its box - that comes with the Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE

The scope and mounts are not included - but everything else is - and it's an incredible package! - Credit: Archant

Daystate's history of "specials"
Daystate has been making special editions of its production rifles for a long time, now. In fact, I recall a one-off being made around 20 years ago that cost something close to 30 grand. Yes, you read that correctly. Gold was used in its production, and as you can imagine, no expense was spared to produce something truly unique. Many will struggle to believe this, but in monetary terms, Daystate just about broke even on that rifle, and the company learned lessons beyond price about producing special edition rifles. 

Over the years, those foundation level lessons have been built upon, until the Daystate of today can apply those decades of experience, not only to its specials, but also to the production rifles that form the structure of the company. Each special edition project adds to the fund of knowledge, and that knowledge feeds directly back into the Daystate rifles used by airgunners the world over. More of that later, but with the scene set, let’s now study the result of that specials education, as we go up close and personal with the Red Wolf Heritage LE. 

Close up of carbon fibre bolt handle on the Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE

That carbon fibre bold handle and those 'vents' in the barrel shroud are just a couple of this rifle's noteworthy details. - Credit: Archant

First impressions of the Red Wolf
When I finally fought my way through the layers of cardboard and bubble wrap protecting the Heritage, I opened its padded hard case and said ‘wow!’, or possibly something a little more ‘robust’, out loud. I was, and remain, genuinely taken aback at the visual impact this rifle has. From that hi-gloss Minelli laminate stock, with its pearl scale chequering, converging swirls and adjustable cheek piece and butt pad, to the blending of bronze, anodised metalwork and carbon-fibre fittings, this electronically-actioned, pre-charged pneumatic rifle had my eyes darting from feature to feature, all the time shaking my head and repeating my initial exclamation. 

My youngest son was at home at the time, and he’s seen his share of rifles as you’d expect, but when I called him to take a look at the Heritage LE, he too was amazed by the sheer indulgence and quality of the rifle. After staring at the Heritage for a while, my son said something that is, perhaps, the most important fact about a rifle like this. He said, ‘You must be really happy that air rifles have come as far as this, Dad.’ You bet I am, and I think everyone who cares about our sport should be, too. 

Close up of laser cut stock on the Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE

Superb, laser-cut chequering in a unique pearlscale pattern. - Credit: Archant

A very special stock...
Enough of the misty-eyed rambling; on to the details. That stock is a huge part of the Heritage LE, including its cost. Here’s a thing; when the company produces a limited edition rifle, in this case 250 of them, it needs to have at least 20 spare stocks made, in case of damage between sign-off and delivery. These spare stocks will also be kept by Daystate in case their customer damages their precious rifle – some of them are used very regularly – because replacements can’t just be taken from a production batch.

I got to examine a ‘rejected’ stock, and tried to find the blemish that had seen it fail its quality control check. I couldn’t ,  no matter how hard I looked, until a tiny variation in the sheen of the varnish on the underside of the fore end was pointed out. Even then I had to angle the rifle to catch the light before I could make out anything that remotely qualified as a blemish, but such is the expected standard of these rifles. 

In purely practical terms, the combination of the LE’s height-adjustable cheek piece and that 3D butt pad offers perfect head/eye alignment, while the unique chequering solidifies hand contact and the rifle’s sculpted grip provides a secure platform for the trigger hand. Truth to tell, due to my fear of making any sort of mark on it, I didn’t shoot this example anywhere near as much as I would a production rifle, but I’ve tested several Red Wolf models, and this one shoots every bit as well as the very best of its kind. That coldly efficient, electronic action simply blips out pellet after pellet, each one authorised by a trigger set to perfection. 

Close up of scope and stock on the Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE

The decal and bronze anodising work well together. - Credit: Archant

Daystate Red Wolf Heritage accuracy
Apart from the stress of keeping the test rifle spotless – I even wore a hideous Christmas jumper during the session, in case my usual coat’s metal fasteners touched the Heritage – I still achieved that glow of satisfaction as each group was formed on the targets set at 45 yards.

I produced 12 credit-worthy clusters, averaging 14mm, from the .177 test rifle, before an unacceptable cloud crept up on me from the west, and I had to get the rifle under cover. It never did rain that day, but better safe than sorry, I thought. This is someone’s rifle, and he’d given me permission to use it for this feature, so I needed to take extra, extra care.   

Close up of the digital trigger information screen on the Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE

Trigger, info screen and more of that glorious pearlscale chequering. Form and function, working together. - Credit: Archant

Extra special touches
This rifle is a result of the sum of its parts, which should be an obvious statement, but it doesn’t become so until you’ve gone past the first impression. Once you’ve done that, the darting eye begins to take in individual highlights, of which there are many; the little cylinder of carbon-fibre that forms the sidelever handle, the triple vents, with their stainless steel mesh at the rear of the barrel shroud that match those at the base of the 0Db silencer, and the decal carrying the company’s name is a classy touch. 

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Even the recessed screen that displays the rifle’s electronic options looks perfectly at home amid the swoops and swirls of the surrounding woodwork. Everything just fits and presents as it should. 

It’s still the overall effect that scores the highest points, though. This is an incredible example of where we are and the possibilities that lie before us. It’s all very well eulogising over a rifle that costs the best part of three grand, but does it mean anything to those who will never own one?

The certificate of authenticity that comes with the limited edition Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE

That all-important certificate of authenticity. - Credit: Archant

Is the Red Wolf only for the few? 
In simple terms, the answer is yes. The good news is, these guns have a huge effect on their production counterparts. In fact, the information-gathering exercise that rifles like the Heritage represent, is one of the main reasons they’re made. 

The economics of scale dictate that producing 50, 100, or 250 examples of a high-performance rifle is an entirely different prospect when thousands of them need to be made. Those pleasing touches that enhance the Heritage LE and its kind may well be totally non-viable on production models, but on the positive side, the advances made to mechanical function, ergonomics, tooling, component production, metal and stock finishes and design discoveries, can filter down to the guns we all use. Just as 
the cars we drive now carry versions of race car technology, the guns we use every day already benefit from our version of Formula 1. The next question is, who are these purchasers, currently helping to finance the future of our airguns?

Limited edition rifles are bought by investors, collectors and those who simply like to shoot something different and distinctive. Daystate has customers who own an example of every limited edition rifle the company has produced. These purchasers want to keep their collections complete, and as each special is launched, they make it their business to find out about it, and then to put down their names for one. 

Others want to make money from these rifles, and some would like to buy several rifles at a time. A few would buy the entire production run, but Daystate rations the distribution to give as many potential customers as possible a fair chance of owning one. Resale prices vary, but some have changed hands for over double the original purchase price, so it’s not difficult to see why they can be regarded as an investment. 

The Daystate Red Wolf Heritage LE air rifle, propped against a tree in woodland

Is this the natural home of the Heritage LE, or should it be in a collector's gun room? - Credit: Archant

Reflecting on the Red Wolf
Having been around the example shown on these pages for a while, I can definitely see why someone would enjoy owning it and I’ve found myself re-examining it. Fear of damage apart, I’ve had immense pleasure from just showing it to people who use and collect airguns, and the reaction to it has been universally positive, even among my friends who claim that their airguns are ‘tools’ and wouldn’t dream of buying something like a Heritage LE.

It’s that appreciation of the statement made by this rifle that impresses everyone with an interest in the future of our great sport. This is how much we matter, this is how far we’ve come, and it’s so much further than even a dreamer like me could have possibly imagined, not so long ago. 

Long may the specials be special, and may those that produce them always strive to push the boundaries for the benefit of us all.

Daystate Red Wold Heritage LE features round-up

  • Ambidextrous, laminated bi-coloured stock with adjustable cheekpiece and 3D adjustable butt pad 
  • Special chequering grip panels 
  • Bronze and nickel plate-coloured action 
  • GCU 2.0 electronics latched to LiPo rechargeable battery 
  • 3, digitally-set power settings 
  • Models available from 12 to 65ft/lbs 
  • A.R.T barrel compatible with the latest generation of airgun ‘slug’ ammo like Rangemaster Juggernaut 
  • Latest, self-indexing 8/13-shot rotary magazine with flip-open loading gate 
  • Single-shot tray supplied 
  • Two-stage electronic trigger 
  • Resettable safety catch 
  • Full length, integral sound moderator with adaptor for second stage silencer and bronze 0dB silencer 
  • Custom hard case supplied 
  • Certificate of authenticity 

Main specifications 
Overall length: 99.0 cm (39 ins) 
Barrel length: 43 cm (17 in) Hi Power 60 cm (23 in) 
Weight: from 3.5 kg (7.5 lbs) 
Available calibres: .177/4.5mm, .22/5.5mm, .25/6.35mm, .303/7.62mm 
Muzzle energy: from 12 ft.lbs.- 80 (16-108J) (Dependent on model and certification) 
Price: £2,749; HP (high power) £2,999.00