Gun test: Air Arms Galahad

Are bullpups more stable on aim? They just might be...

Are bullpups more stable on aim? They just might be... - Credit: Archant

Phill Price gives his opinion on the Galahad - could this bullpup change his mind?

The Galahad balances on your trigger hand, which feels odd to me

The Galahad balances on your trigger hand, which feels odd to me - Credit: Archant

It was around a year ago that the rumour mill began buzzing about Air Arms, one of the most traditional airgun manufacturers, developing a bullpup. Asking the team got little more than a shrug and an immediate denial, but as we all now know, making one was exactly what they were doing.

The main drive for this came from their huge international client base telling them bullpups were the future. Slightly reluctantly, Air Arms began the project and soon fell in love with the idea. To keep their signature feeling, they decided to call theirs a ‘sport pup’ and to have styling that suggested a sporting rifle, rather than a military look. I applaud them for that decision.

To begin to cock the action, press the paddle down - here you feel the spring tension

To begin to cock the action, press the paddle down - here you feel the spring tension - Credit: Archant

A few parts, such as the magazine and trigger sears, could be taken from the wildly successful S410/S510 family, with their proven reliability and performance, but they wanted a complete rethink on the cocking method. Many bullpups take the standard cocking mechanism with the action as it’s moved to the rear of the gun, and often people find it odd pulling a cocking lever under their ear.

The Air Arms’ design team came up with a truly unique and exciting alternative for the Galahad. It’s operated by a long paddle that sits on the side of the action, forward and above the trigger. Placed here, either the leading or trigger hand can reach it. At rest, it faces horizontally to the rear and is activated by pushing it down and forward.

Just a short further push cocks the action

Just a short further push cocks the action - Credit: Archant

The first stage is close to 90 degrees of free movement and then you feel the mechanism take up the pressure of the hammer spring. From there, it moves just a short distance forward and the action is cocked and the magazine indexed to align the next pellet with the barrel. Returning the lever to the rest position drives the loading probe forward to chamber the pellet.

Many people have commented about the gap between the barrel shroud and the air reservoir. The reason this exists is that space was needed for the innovative cocking system, and has no effect whatsoever on performance or trajectory. The relationship between the barrel and the scope is large, as with all bullpups. I measured it to be around 2 3/4” compared to 1 3/4” on your average S410/S510. This has the greatest effect at close range, for jobs like culling rats and feral pigeons, where knowing your hold-over dimensions are most critical.

Returning to the park position loads the pellet and you're ready to go

Returning to the park position loads the pellet and you're ready to go - Credit: Archant

The manual safety is completely independent of the cocking process and consists of a small cross-bolt in the base of the trigger blade. It’s well suited to right-handed shooters because it’s safe when protruding to the right, and disengaged when pushed left.

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The cocking lever pivots on a shaft that runs right through the swoopy, curvaceous action cover, so swapping from right- to left-handed use requires an Allen key and a minute of your life. The stock and its Soft-Touch cheek piece are ambidextrous, so lefties are just as well catered for.

Much has been made of the gap between barrel and reservoir, but it has no effect on performance

Much has been made of the gap between barrel and reservoir, but it has no effect on performance - Credit: Archant

The Galahad uses Air Arms’ 10-shot, rotary magazine – that’s about as simple as a pellet-loading device can be, with all the indexing mechanism living inside the rifle’s action. I’ve used these things for well over a decade and never experienced even one problem, other than wearing out a 5p ‘O’ ring.

In a major break with Air Arms tradition, the Galahad’s reservoir is filled with a probe, rather than their proprietary brass cap system. I think this was chosen to allow the use of a pressure gauge on the front end of the reservoir. A thick, aluminium cover slides forward to expose the filling port and locks back to keep everything clean.

The Mini silencer worked perfectly

The Mini silencer worked perfectly - Credit: Archant

Above this, the barrel hides in a fat shroud that adds to the rifle’s chunky looks and although it offers some sound suppression, I chose to fit a calibre-specific Air Arms Q-Tec silencer. This was the compact ‘Mini’ version measuring just 4 1/2”, making the overall length 31 3/4”, a very compact package.

Another area Air Arms wanted to address was trigger performance. Moving the blade a long way forward of the trigger mechanism has been a source of complaints in other bullpup designs, so the Galahad has the two assemblies very rigidly connected on the rifle’s chassis. My test gun’s trigger had a solid feel and crisp performance that was as good as any S410 I’ve ever tried, so I know that no performance has been lost in the move to the bullpup configuration.

The trigger blade safety is simple but effective

The trigger blade safety is simple but effective - Credit: Archant

The gun is offered in the carbine and classic length, but if you’re going to buy a bullpup, I think the short version is the one. At any rate, at 12 ft.lbs., this is the one for me. The rifle version has its balance slightly further forward, gains some extra shots per fill and is the obvious version for anybody looking to run one at high power.

There are so many other options, including walnut, beech, and black stocks; .177 or .22; and the choice of an 11mm or Weaver standard scope rail. Finally, you can choose a standard action or select to have a regulator fitted. This gives some 30 or 40 more shots per fill and flattens the power curve.

The soft-touch cheek piece is much better than the ones found on most bullpups

The soft-touch cheek piece is much better than the ones found on most bullpups - Credit: Archant

I’ve always been happy with the performance of my non-regulated Air Arms rifles, so I asked for a non-regulated test gun. I understand the engineering and theoretical advantages a regulator offers, but these need to be balanced against cost, mechanical complexity and reliability considerations. In the past, Air Arms has only fitted them to competition rifles.

Perhaps that’s enough about the gun’s technical innovations. What really counts is how it feels – I have to admit, guns that balance behind my trigger hand feel very odd to me. The Galahad is a dumpy, squat thing that doesn’t ‘point’ like a traditional rifle. I find I need to mount it, and then snuggle in to it. Once in, there’s a lot of contact between the rifle and me, but little weight out front to act as a damper to my wobbly movements.

A multi way adjustable butt pad is a nice upgrade

A multi way adjustable butt pad is a nice upgrade - Credit: Archant

Like all bullpups, the Galahad is tall, measuring some 2” higher than my Air Arms S410 combination. This can increase the likelihood of cant – leaning the rifle away from truly vertical, which can cause accuracy problems. Air Arms sought to combat this by fitting a bubble level into the back of the bolt-on scope rail. Great idea, but my knackered old eyes can’t focus that closely.

To allow us to tune the fit of the rifle, a multi-way, adjustable butt pad was chosen. This goes up and down as well as left and right. I set this to suit standing and kneeling shots, but it works reasonably well for sitting too. It’s completely wrong for prone shots, but I take few of those.

This little level helps you avoid the dreaded cant

This little level helps you avoid the dreaded cant - Credit: Archant

The Soft-Touch cheek piece is another area I feel Air Arms has succeeded in improving, compared to many bullpups. It’s broad and smooth, supporting the face well, and is no higher than necessary. Because I have a wide face, I often need to add riser blocks to bullpup scope rails to lift the scope until I can see through it, but that’s not the case with the Galahad. Medium height Sportsmatch mounts placed my Hawke Panorama 4–12 x 40 perfectly, with loads of room on the rail to get the fore and aft position spot on as well.

Bullpup fans often talk about the superior stability their rifles offer compared to conventional guns, but I’ve never felt that in the past. However, there’s something about the Galahad that set me thinking. I could feel a difference, so I spent more time shooting the Galahad against my S410 to see if the difference would crystallize.

To accomodate this gauge, the Galahad uses a probe filler

To accomodate this gauge, the Galahad uses a probe filler - Credit: Archant

The challenge is that the two guns are so dissimilar that I don’t feel I’m comparing apples with apples. I know the feel and balance of the S410 incredibly well, having shot one for over ten years, plus it has similar handling traits to the other guns I use regularly. The sport pup is a new world for me.

Verdict

There really is something in the bullpup stability thing. It’s not going to make a poor shot into a good shot, but given time and practice I could see some benefits. Am I going to change from an S410 to a Galahad? No. I shoot the conventional gun well enough for my needs and feel comfortable with it.

However, if bullpups are your thing I recommend you spend some time behind a Galahad. The innovative design and clever handling will win you over, plus you have the comfort of knowing the rifle is made by one of England’s best. Quality, precision and the best customer service are all included with every Air Arms purchase.

RRP Walnut (rifle or carbine): Non-regulated £1180.00; with regulator £1241.50

SPECIFICATIONS:

Manufacturer: Air Arms

Model: Galahad carbine

Type: Pre-charged pneumatic

Action: Magazine-fed, side lever

Length: 27” (68.5cm)

Weight: 7lbs 14oz (3.6kg)

Calibres: .177 and .22

Fill pressure: 190 bar

Shots per fill (non regulated): .177-75, .22 - 90

Stock options: Walnut, black soft touch and beech

Mini Q-Teq silencer: £47.00

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