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Follow-up gun test: The Priest, RTI Arms

PUBLISHED: 09:47 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:20 26 January 2018

HERO SHOT. CROP FROM RIGHT IS REQ.

If you're a bullpup fan - this is in the 'best of breed' class.

HERO SHOT. CROP FROM RIGHT IS REQ. If you're a bullpup fan - this is in the 'best of breed' class.

Archant

The editor carries out a barrel-swap. What could possibly go wrong?

Click here to see Terry’s first test of RTI Arms’ The Priest.

Those who know and tolerate me are fully aware of my technical shortcomings. I’m that precious breed of human who attracts techno-disaster and generally, if it can possibly go wrong, it most certainly will. Throughout my varied and interesting life, I’ve heard technical types, from plumbers, through car mechanics, I.T. bods and even medical specialists, say, ‘well, I’ve never known THAT happen before!’

I consider this more blessing than curse and there’s no doubt it makes me the very chap when it comes to testing anything where stuff could go wrong. Spool forward to this month’s follow-up test, when City Airweapons’ Bob Phelps, the importer of The remarkable Priest I tested last month, asks me to carry out the rifle’s barrel-swap option...in the field. I’d already done a few swaps on the test rifle, although these were done safely inside a workshop where even I could keep everything under control. Doing the same whilst resting on a tree stump or whatever, now that was a different prospect entirely.

Chickening out

I’d been using The Priest to zap some rats around a friend’s chicken pens, and a fine job it had done, too. My friend is left-handed and The Priest’s ambidextrous design meant I could leave the rifle with him so he could carry on where I left off. He was especially impressed at the way the rifle’s magazine can be flipped so it sticks out of whatever side your face isn’t on.

The Priest’s 450-plus shot capacity impressed him too, and the pair of us have been either hammering any rats stupid enough to poke a whiffly nose out when we’re patrolling, or shooting targets as part of the overall evaluation. Or because shooting cans, acorns and bits of thistle at 40-odd yards is still as enjoyable as it ever was, even with a hi-tech, £889 bullpup.

On the day of the intended barrel-swap, I had a mooch around the chicken pens as usual, but saw nothing. Then it started to rain, or more correctly, ‘mizzle’, but either way, I knew I needed to get under cover to attempt the barrel-swap or everything would get soaked. My friend’s back porch and a patio table proved the perfect indoor-outdoor compromise, and the procedure began.

Add just a couple of hex wrenches and you're ready to swap barrels.Add just a couple of hex wrenches and you're ready to swap barrels.

Just follow the instructions

The Priest comes with full instructions, plus a neat, threaded removal tool for the barrel. I was assured by Bob that I’d need only this tool plus a couple of hex wrenches, and it would be job done. Here’s the shock – he was right.

The barrel is held by the shroud end-cap and a grub screw at the breech end, and with these out of the way (and carefully set aside in an empty pellet tin), it was simply a matter of screwing in the removal tool and drawing out the barrel proper.

Replacing one barrel with another is the reverse of this procedure, leaving just the calibre-specific pellet probe to be swapped over. This is the most fiddly phase of the operation, but again, even I could handle it, and exactly eight minutes after starting, I was ready to drop in the matching magazine and start shooting. I didn’t even take off the scope, although The Priest needed to be re-zeroed, of course. Even the zero was within a couple of inches and I was ready to go in no time.

Back to the start

Having just swapped the .22 barrel for my generally preferred .177, my friend demanded I swap it back, because that’s his preferred calibre for short-range quarry, like rats. I couldn’t argue with that, but with a .25 option on the spare barrel front, I was sorely tempted. Then it started belting down with rain and we bundled everything inside and decided against the .25 experiment. Perhaps that’s one for the future.

Verdict

First, if you like ‘extreme’ bullpups, you’ll like The Priest, and very much vice-versa. It’s commendably efficient, in both shot-production and consistency, with the .22 option all but matching the .177’s 11 f.p.s. average variation over 50 shots, albeit with prepared pellets. The Priest didn’t know those pellets were prepped, though; it just kept on blipping them out, and would have spat its way through well over 400 if I’d left the .22 barrel on throughout a charge.

I’d prefer something warmer to rest my face against, and I’d absolutely demand a cover for the rifle’s air inlet valve, to insure against debilitating particles of grit. The ‘bottle off’ option could find favour with some, but I preferred to leave that air tank up front as counter-balance and fore end, rather than attach it via the umbilical and slip it into a handy pocket.

Finally, the compact silencer I was so keen on last month hasn’t been needed, and the 18 rats we’ve shot definitely didn’t notice its omission, but I’m certain new owners of this rifle will want ultimate moderation, because that’s what we’re used to with PCPs.

The magazine system works flawlessly, the trigger is excellent, and the rifle’s overall build quality merits the price tag. I’d strongly advise you do everything you can to get The Priest on a test range as soon as you can. If you’re a bullpup fan, it really could turn out to be a blessing.

Specification

Model: The Priest

Manufacturer: RTI Arms

Country of origin: Slovakia

Price: £889

Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot, bullpup sporter

Calibre: .22, .177, .25, with .30 on approach. Each barrel comes with a magazine and pellet probe, plus the removal tool. £320 per barrel kit

Cocking: Bolt-action

Loading: Via removable, rotary multi-shot magazine

Trigger: 2-stage, adjustable

Stock type: Skeletonised, ambidextrous

Weight: 3kg (6.6lbs) Unscoped

Length: 510mm (28ins)

Barrel: 430mm (20ins) CZ made

Fill pressure: Max 300 bar

Shots per charge: 450-plus in .22, 350 in .177, 110 at FAC

Variation over 50 shots: 11fps for .177 on test, 14 fps for .22

Average energy: 11.6 ft.lbs.

Contact: City Air Weapons

Tel: 0121 742 1329

RRP: £889

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