Daystate Red Wolf HiLite - test & review
- Credit: Archant
Dave Barham lays his hands on a magnificent Daystate Red Wolf with the rather splendid ‘Midnight Blue’ laminated stock
I can remember seeing the ‘Serie Rosso’ stock version of this rifle when it was revealed at a Daystate corporate bash almost two years ago, and at the time thinking ‘I’d love to get my hands on that’. However, at the time it was an FAC model only, although I was assured that sub-12 versions would soon be available. Fast forward a year and the new ‘Midnight Blue’ stock was unveiled at the NEC, and again I was itching to lay my hands on one. Well, a recent visit to Daystate HQ for a ‘business’ lunch with the UK main man, Tony Belas, saw me leaving the factory with this very rifle in the boot of my car, all tucked up in a load of shooting clobber to keep it safe during the journey home!
If you go to the Daystate website to look this rifle up, it can be a little bewildering. There are three different models of the Red Wolf available, including the ‘B-Type’, ‘HiLite HP’ (which has a longer barrel) and the one I have here, the ‘HiLite’. There are a number of different stock options available too, including Turkish Walnut, Black Laminate and the custom versions including ‘Safari’, Rosso’ and of course the best of them all, ‘Midnight Blue’.
The range is available in calibres including .177, .22, .25 and .303, the latter two being designated for FAC only. I won’t dwell on the FAC models, but if you have an FAC then head over to their website for more info.
Okay, with that kind of explained I’ll get down to the nitty gritty.
The Red Wolf is a fully electronic, computer-driven feat of engineering. Everything you need to know or want to do is controlled by a GCU 2.0 processor inside the rifle.
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This computer-driven firing system monitors and controls the hammer force in line with the changes in reservoir pressure. It’s all very clever, very technical stuff.
Basically, the hammer is operated via an electromagnet, rather than the traditional spring system, which helps to eliminate vibration and all the other things that affect spring-loaded hammers. Coupled with the electronic ‘switch’ trigger, this firing system is one that Daystate are hugely proud of, and rightly so!
As far as the onboard computer display goes, it’s really easy to use, and you can access the menu by simply cocking the rifle (without a mag’ inserted) and using the trigger as a button. Hold it for five seconds to access the menu, then scroll through with each subsequent pull of the trigger.
Once you have the rifle in ‘Program’ mode, you can tell it what size magazine you’re using, choose from Hi, Med and Low power levels (more useful for the FAC models), set the display backlight time, reset the shot counter and even set the computer sleep time so it turns itself off after 15 mins, 30 mins or 4 hours.
The unit is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery, cleverly housed in the pistol grip of the stock. A little hatch opens up to expose the battery, which can be removed and replaced if necessary, but you don’t have to remove it to recharge it with the power leads provided.
The beauty of setting the magazine size on the computer is that the rifle counts down for you. So, if you’re out hunting, taking shots here and there, or you’re having some fun on the range, you always know how many shots you have left in the mag’, regardless of how good your memory is. What’s more, once you fire the final shot in the mag’ the rifle generates four short vibrations to let you know you’re empty, and as such the rifle will not fire again until a fresh mag’ is loaded.
The HiLite model that I have on test features a lightweight, 480cc carbon bottle, which gives around 420 shots per fill. Access to the fill port, which is a standard push-fit type, is under the main body of the stock, covered by a magnetic ‘pull-off’ cover.
Once connected, you fill the reservoir as you would do with any PCP, using the gauge on your fill bottle as reference, whilst cross-referencing it with the digital display on the rifle. I would always suggest going with the gauge on your bottle as your main reference point.
LOADING THE MAG’
With the rifle filled it’s time to load the mag’, which is one of the best I have ever seen, if I’m honest. The self-indexing mag’ is loaded by flipping open the metal cover, then winding the mag’ one full rotation clockwise until it stops. You then insert the first pellet, nose first and this traps the mechanism in place so you can load the rest of your pellets in any order that you wish – basically, just filling all the available holes.
Once loaded, flip up the lid of the mag’ until it snaps into place (thanks to yet more magnets) and you’re ready to insert it into the rifle.
The Red Wolf’s trigger isn’t really a trigger at all, it’s a switch. It looks and feels like a trigger, but this is an all-electronic set-up. It can be fully adjusted to suit each individual, with it being able to move up, down, left, right, forwards and backwards until the perfect position is found.
Because it is a switch, it’s not connected to the hammer, so there’s no ‘poundage of pull’ associated with traditional triggers, but you can set the amount of pressure required to make the connection, which is set featherlight from the factory.
This rifle is packed full of safety features, including an ambidextrous safety slide situated immediately above the thumb rest of the stock. This slides left to right, so is perfect for both left- and right-handed shooters. The cocking lever also has a safety feature, in that the rifle will not fire if the lever is open – very handy for hunters like me who are always pushing through thick hedges and dense copses.
Whilst I’m on the subject of the sidelever, this too can be positioned by the owner on either the left or right-hand-side of the rifle, and there are ample, easy-to-follow instructions on how to do this in the booklet provided. It’s amazingly light to cock, with literally no effort needed because it’s not connected to a hammer spring. It simply pulls back and then pushes back forward with no effort, then snaps into place thanks to yet another magnet.
The self-indexing magazine operates by the pressure from the previous shot, so in effect, it’s impossible to double-load this rifle, the magazine simply will not rotate until a shot is fired. So, if you happen to cycle the sidelever, then cycle it again, only one pellet will be in the breech.
IT LOOKS THE PART
The Red Wolf is one of the most aesthetically pleasing rifles to look at that I have ever seen, especially in this Midnight Blue laminate version. I love how the pistol and fore grips have been etched out of the laminate to reveal the textured wood underneath – it feels really nice to the touch and provides excellent grip. Daystate has also etched their name into the stock, which looks equally as good. The check piece is fully adjustable too, along with the butt pad, which again makes this rifle fully customisable to the shooter.
Last but not least is the carbon-wrapped, shrouded barrel, which is one of Lothar Walther’s finest - specially selected, match grade, no less, and, for those who desire, it is threaded at the end to accept a silencer.
It took me about half an hour to set this rifle up to exactly how I wanted it. By that, I mean the twiddly computer bits, but more importantly, the fit. With the cheek piece height lifted by a few millimetres and the butt pad pulled in slightly to the right and dropped a couple of mill’ I had the perfect fit. It’s like having a rifle specifically built for you, to fit you like a glove – which ultimately allows for a much more enjoyable shooting experience.
On my garden range at 25 metres, I was consistently hitting groups of pellet-on-pellet, using the .177, 8.44gr Rangemaster Sovereign pellets provided – this rifle is insanely accurate, exactly as you would expect it to be.
I haven’t managed to take it out into the field yet, but I do have a couple of hunting trips planned in the near future before I have to return this feat of modern engineering – reluctantly. Keep an eye out in our sister title, Airgun World, for more on that front.
I’m still in awe of this rifle because of its looks and performance. My wife even commented on how nice it looks normally, she doesn’t bat an eyelid when I bring new rifles home to test. If I had the money, then yes I would dearly love to own one, but I think I’m going to have to earn a few more brownie points before I reach that point on my editor’s wage!
If you’ve never shot a Red Wolf, I suggest you to try to – you’ll want to own one yourself, just like I do!
Model: Red Wolf
Type: PCP, multi-shot rotary mag’
Stock Material: Ambidextrous, wood/laminate
Cocking: Sidelever, reversible
Trigger: Adjustable, electronic
Safety: Manual, push slide
Calibres: .177, .22, .25 and .303
Magazine: 13-shot (.177) or single tray (supplied)
Overall Length: 990mm
Barrel Length: 430mm
Weight: 3.5kg (7.5lbs) without scope
Fill Pressure: 250Bar
Shots Per Fill: 420 (.177), 475 (.22)
Energy of Test Rifle: Avg 11.5 ft.lbs. over 20 shots
Variation (20 shots): 6fps