Kalibrgun Argus 60 - test & review
- Credit: Archant
Terry Doe reviews the Kalibrgun Argus 60 - a pre-charged, multi-shot air rifle available in .22, .25 and 30
The ‘Argus 60’; a distinctive name for a distinctive rifle. The ‘60’ refers to this pre-charged multi-shot bullpup’s barrel length in centimetres, and the ‘Argus’ is either a hundred-eyed monster from Greek mythology, or a watchful guardian. That’s cleared that up, then. Let’s crack on with the nuts, bolts and performance features of this substantial .22 sidelever.
According to the address on the rifle’s comprehensive instruction manual, it’s made in Prague in the Czech Republic, and the Argus joins the Cricket in its many and various guises, plus the impressive-looking Capybara rifle and the Ocelot pistol in the Kalibrgun line-up. There is also a more compact Argus 45 in the line-up, and that looks tasty, too. I was going to do the fairly obvious ‘Argus catalogue’ joke at this point, but thought better of it.
Anyway, first impressions count, and having shown the test rifle to my usual gaggle of critics, cynics and innocent enthusiasts, the early verdict is one of a ‘solid bit of kit’, with more praise coming from those who put it to their shoulders and remarked upon its on-aim stability. That will be largely down to good design, and the Argus presenting at just shy of 10lbs, when scoped as shown. The square-sectioned barrel shroud, full-length air reservoir and huge breech block impart a ‘chunky’ impression, which is backed by its profiled slab of ambidextrous varnished hardwood stock and substantial Picatinny sight and accessory rails. Even the rifle’s trigger guard is a bit of a lump, as are the brackets that stabilise the barrel shroud. Nothing about this rifle looks flimsy, delicate, or even subtle. This is no featherweight sporter, then, but if you value ease of carry over that on-aim stability, to the extent that you’d knock the Argus off your shortlist, I’ll tell you right now that you’d be wrong to do so. Give this rifle a chance to impress you with what really matters, and it will do just that. Here’s why.
I’ll begin with the rifle’s unusual multi-shot magazine system, which bucks the trend of having a knurled wheel as its outer perimeter, and instead offers a scalloped inner wheel to be thumbed round in order to load each of 14 pellet chambers. Oddly, there’s no .177 calibre option listed in the manual, but it’s there on the Kalibrgun website - www.kalibrgun.com - just .22, .25 and .30, which announces the Argus as a rifle intended for high power use. I’m sure the lack of a .177 is just a listing error, and BAR will have them available.
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Rotate the inner wheel, fill the mag’ with pellets – two magazines are supplied with each rifle – then, after drawing back the sidelever and applying the manual safety catch, insert the mag’ from the right-hand side of the action. The magazine can only be loaded the right way round, thanks to a channel in it that accommodates the barrel’s breech section, and a cutaway in the mag’ locates a bar that runs across the magazine loading slot. Full magazine engagement is certified by a suitably substantial ‘click’, and closing the sidelever sees you a safety catch flick from being ready to shoot. There’s even a little lever on the side of the magazine casing that locks the inner wheel and turns the mag’ into a single-shot system. I can’t see that being used much, but it’s there if you want it. Overall, this is a truly excellent magazine system, with everything about it solid and built to last for years. Full marks.
First, I think the stained and matte varnished finish of the rifle’s butt section cheapens the overall impression of the Argus, which is not what a rifle of this quality deserves. I’d much prefer to see that stock section protected with a walnut-tinted stain and an oil finish. The chequering could be sharper, too, although the inherent stability of the Argus does more for handling security than any chequering ever could. Shoulder contact is better than the abbreviated butt plate promises, and its curves and horizontal ridges produce a workable weld between man and machine.
Far be it from me to tell the Kalibrgun boffins how to do their job, but here goes, anyway. First, what would truly improve handling, is a fore end section that could ‘wrap partially around the rifle’s air reservoir, as the Kalibrgun Capybara’s does, and fix to the rifle’s accessory rail. Not only would such an item provide a more comfortable hand hold, it could be a sliding fit, thereby offering adjustability. If I owned an Argus, I’d commission a custom fore end, no doubt about it.
Second, the Argus has a gesture toward a cheekpiece, in the form of a wooden strip on top of the action block. This can only exist to provide visual balance, but a sculpted version of it could do a far more practical job between the shooter’s cheek and its current resting place on the anodised metalwork. Just saying.
THE TRIGGER SYSTEM
Another oddity in the Kalibrgun instruction manual is the lack of instruction on how to adjust the rifle’s trigger. It’s listed as adjustable, and I know that its stablemates have adjustable triggers, so it’s a perfectly tweakable mechanism. The absence of visible hex key access ports declares the trigger adjustment process as a ‘stock off’ job, and I’d strongly advise contacting Blackpool Air Rifles for advice on how to do it safely and efficiently.
As supplied, the test rifle’s trigger was set with a very short first stage and a let-off pressure of 2.3lbs, according to my gauge. I normally prefer more of a run-up, in the form of a ‘feelable’ first stage, but the factory setting proved fine on the test range, as you’ll see later. Once set to your preference, I think you’ll get on really well with this trigger and its manual safety locking switch. Another high score for Kalibrgun, then.
The mechanical advantage built into the design of the rifle’s sidelever is designed to cope with far higher loads than demanded by this 11.3 ft.lbs. Argus. This means cocking and loading effort is negligable and the back-forth sweep is as close to effortless as makes no difference. That lever can be swapped to the left-hand side of the action, too, and the ambi’ woodwork lends itself to the southpaw persuasion, leaving only the magazine as the technical fly in the ointment. That mag’ has to remain a right-hand only option, plus the little tab that turns it into a single-shot option could prove less than comfortable against a lefty’s face, although it should be noted that the two sinister chums who handled the Argus didn’t mention this.
Again, swapping the sidelever should involve a call to BAR, where I’m sure all will be revealed, but mechanically, ergonomically, and even aesthetically, this is another high-quality action feature.
I’ll now describe what I sincerely believe to be the cleverest air-charging system ever fitted to a PCP. It’s not the actual charging system that’s so clever - that’s a standard probe, sealed by twin ‘O’ rings on each side of the inlet port - but for the way it protects the Argus from catastrophic failure. Instead of a removable cap to protect the charging port, the Argus has a spring-loaded, fixed one, which is pulled up to expose the inlet, then held open by the probe during charging. Once the Argus is charged, the probe is withdrawn and the cap snaps closed, totally sealing the system and keeping it clean of invasive crud. No misplacing the cap, or leaving the inlet valve exposed for a split-second longer than necessary. How very, very clever. It’s often said that the best ideas are also the most simple, and the Argus is blessed by simple genius.
CHARGING FACTS AND FIGURES
The 350cc capacity air reservoir of the Argus can be filled to a maximum of 300 bar, although Kalibrgun recommends 250 bar, from which this .22 will extract at least 200 EDNO shots at 11-plus ft.lbs. There’s no mention of a regulator in the Kalibrgun website description, or in the printed manual, but the manual states that the Argus has a working pressure of between 300 and 110 bar, so there’s some sort of regulator in place, and I’ll have full details in next month’s follow-up test.
This system certainly performs extremely well, with an average shot variation of just 17fps over the first 50 shots from a 250 bar charge, using Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets, straight from the tin. These pellets also proved to be the best from the usual line-up of candidates, just pipping Daystate Sovereign in the final accuracy tests.
ARGUS ON TARGET
As is too often the case, my initial testing session was hit front and centre by a storm with a name, in this case Alex, apparently. I’d booked a full weekend of pure accuracy testing, combined with a fishing trip where I had permission to shoot, and the plan was to record my range data while totally relaxed and doing what makes me happy. Well, storm Alex had me diving for cover far too often to maintain full relaxation but I did manage some impressive groups during an early lull.
Best of the bunch was a clutch of 20 to 24mm diameter groups shot off a bench at a measured 40 metres. One freakily-tiny group measured just 16mm, but the 20-mil ones were typical of the performance that day, and during two subsequent sessions. Interestingly, my fishing companion all but matched my groups when he had ‘a quick go’ – turned into an hour – with the test rifle. He’s a fair shot but it’s been a while since he got behind a rifle, so it shows there’s no real ‘knack’ to shooting well with a Kalibrgun Argus.
The most important conclusion I’ve so far drawn from my first encounter with the Argus, is that it’s obviously expertly designed and produced, and that its power source, pellet feed, trigger and barrel, are working consistently together to achieve a commendable downrange performance. This rifle has an absolutely ‘bomb-proof’ build quality about it, and its faultless function has so far backed that impression all the way.
That squared-off shroud must contain either a significant void, a series of baffles, or both, because, whilst the Argus doesn’t have the whisper-quiet report of a truly suppressed PCP, it’s not in any way noisy.
The Argus imparts confidence that, as long as you do what you’re supposed to, it will never let you down. So far, so really good, but let’s see what next month brings, as I drag it around the fields a few times. Kalibrgun definitely goes for some bonkers names, but this company also makes some seriously good hardware.
RIFLE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION
Model: Argus 60
Country of origin: Czech Republic
Type: Pre-charged, multi- and single-shot, sporter
Calibre: .22, .25, 30
Trigger: 2-stage, adjustable, with manual, resettable safety
Stock type: Ambidextrous, hardwood thumbhole
Weight: 3.8 kg (8.9 lbs) Rifle only
Length: 800 mm (31.4 ins)
Barrel: 600 mm (23.6 ins)
Fill pressure: 300 bar (250 bar recommended)
Shots per charge: 200-plus in .22 at sub-12 ft.lbs.
Average energy: 11.3 ft.lbs.
Contact: Blackpool Air Rifles: Tel 01253 622863