Gun test: Cometa Advance
- Credit: Archant
The Editor gets first go of the latest prototype bullpup from Cometa
Everyone's on the bullpup bandwagon, now, aren't they? We currently have Air Arms, Daystate, Webley, BSA, GAMO, Crosman, Fral, FX Airguns, Weihrauch, Walther, Brocock and several other companies competing for the bullpup buyers' bullion, and now Cometa has climbed aboard with their Advance.
A quick flick though last month's edition reveals no fewer than nine bullpups, either being used or reviewed, including a springer! It's a big deal, this bullpup thing, and there's more to come, I'm certain of that. Many purists I speak to - I used to be one, but that changed a long time ago - still curl a lip at every bullpup variation I've offered, but they can sneer all they like, this format isn't going away any time soon.
The Cometa Advance
I picked up the test sample prototype after this year's Game Fair, where it was on display and subsequently fondled, handled and mauled by countless interested parties. In my experience, a three-day stint as a demo product is a bit of a baptism of fire for any airgun, but the Advance I have seems to have shrugged off the ordeal with barely a mark. This resilience bodes well for a future in the hunting field, provided the performance is everything it needs to be, of course.
That performance has to be high, too, because the Advance carries a full-on, price tag of £1050 for its walnut-stocked version, and £1150 for the laminate sample you see here. Oh yes, Cometa isn't messing about.
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What we have here, is a fully-regulated, pre-charged pneumatic bullpup, running a 13-shot, removable, rotary magazine, off a matte-black, sidelever action. Inside the half-length shroud is fitted a cold hammer-forged barrel, and above it there's a fairly short, Picatinny scope mounting rail, mounted on a pair of circular pillars, presumably to elevate the rail, and with it the scope. A tiny synthetic 'cheekpiece' wraps itself over a set of dovetails at the rear of the action block, and this feels warmer on the face than the aluminium of the block, which is why Cometa has included it.
A dedicated silencer is supplied and it complements the rifle in both performance and looks. I was pleased to learn that the included bipod also comes as standard with the Cometa Advance, as well as its conveniently-sized, padded hard case.
The action block is relieved by a series of horizontal ports, eight on the left side, three on the right, and the sidelever is sited mid-way along the length of the rifle, directly above the sportingly-curved, silver anodised trigger blade and the 'push-pull' manual safety. The trigger mechanism itself, as with most bullpups, is located at the rear of the action, connected remotely to the blade by an oblong-section rod, rather than a standard round-section one, and trigger adjustment can only be carried out by removing the stock.
That stock is ambidextrous, laminated in this case, although an oil-finished walnut option is £100 cheaper. I was surprised to find the compact, rubberised butt pad was non-adjustable, especially considering the excellent design of the drop-down grip and fore end. All top-end rifles, especially bullpups, need a degree of adjustability in the gun fit department, and if I owned an Advance, a shiftable butt pad would be the first thing I'd fit.
The magazine reminds me of the early FX models, in that after tensioning the internal spring by rotating the mag's clear cover, the first pellet is inserted from the forward-facing side, skirt-first, after which the rest of the pellets are loaded in the conventional, nose-first style. The loaded magazine is inserted from the right-hand side of the action - with the sidelever fully withdrawn - until a cut-out in the magazine body locates a small bar at the base of the slot. The sidelever can now be closed, which loads the first pellet, and after pushing forward the safety, the rifle is ready to shoot.
Easy charging - hard testing
A rotating sleeve at the front of the 340cc air reservoir protects the rifle's air inlet port, where a supplied standard charging probe can be located to inject 220 bar - 3200 psi - to power over 100 shots in the test sample's .22 calibre. That shot count is unintentionally vague for one reason; on the three occasions I took the Advance into the field to test it from fully-charged to empty, it either howled with wind, or the rain was torrential.
Charting a full charge represents a full hour of repetitive tedium, and even with the superb little FX Radar chrono - see Phill's review of that on page 71 - I had to keep ducking out of the rain, and on one occasion, I had to retreat when a branch was torn from a nearby tree. I managed to get the accuracy stats done, or very near offer, and the Advance's regulator seems to be working perfectly, but you'll have to wait until next month for the full shot count figures.
I twice reached the 100-shot mark before the session had to be called off, and those attempts showed that, after a first 'clearing' shot, the Advance I have is producing 11.7 ft.lbs. at the muzzle, with an average variation of 11 f.p.s. over 50 shots, using Air Arms Diabolo Field straight from the tin. JSB Exact matched these numbers but the Diabolo Field shaded the accuracy tests. Brief trials with some ancient RWS Superdome and H&N FT Trophy showed that the Advance isn't pellet-fussy, but it knows what it really likes, and so far it's the entirely unsurprising choice of Diabolo Field.
At the time of writing, the best batch of groups I've recorded at 35 yards, indoors, measure 17 mm in diameter, give or take a millimetre or two. At 45 yards, 21mm is the best I've done, but I did that four times on the trot, until the wind set off my car alarm and I had to go outside and blip it off. After that, I seemed to lose concentration, but the Cometa had passed its audition by then.
During a few precious lulls, and throughout my one indoor range session, the Cometa bullpup produced solid accuracy returns, despite its too-heavy trigger, so I set to and made the required tweaks. This is easier than it sounds, even with the faff of having to remove the stock, mainly because removal involves a single fixing bolt, the hex-wrench for which is supplied.
With the stock off - I'll do a step-by-step next month - I simply inserted another supplied hex-wrench into the sear engagement grub screw at the rear of the action and did a quarter-turn, clockwise to reduce the pull-weight. Another micro-tweak later, I had the trigger 'breaking' as I needed it to, and the replacement of that single stock bolt had everything secure. Adjusting this bullpup's trigger is no bother at all.
Bullpups handle like no other rifle, and I can't emphasise enough how vital it is to get any rifle you're considering into your shoulder. Always try to do this with a scope fitted, to better assess if the rifle suits your shooting style, or if the way you shoot can be adapted to make the most of that inherent bullpup stability. No bullpup I've ever handled feels 'right' when hefted in the hands, at waist height, like so many prospective purchasers seem to do. It's like trying to test drive a car from the passenger seat.
Heft, grip and balance
A scoped-up advance weighs a full 9lbs 4 oz (4.2kg), without its bipod, although it doesn't feel that heavy once it's seated in the shoulder. An adjustable butt pad would help that seating immensely, which is why I'm still queening on about the lack of one, but even without it the Advance is pleasingly stable.
The grip design is a simple, slab-sided triumph, and works really well without palm swell or contouring. I was ready to moan about the grip's lack of anatomical curves and cutaways, but it's how something works that counts, and this grip definitely works. Well done Cometa, or whoever designed that grip. Actually the same goes for the entire stock … apart from the non-adjustable butt pad, obviously.
On aim, the Cometa's balance falls right on the line of the trigger blade, which should be just about perfect for most shooters, although the position and type of scope will affect that, of course. I was initially concerned that the short scope-mounting rail wouldn't allow sufficient flexibility to perfectly align sight and eye, but these fears proved groundless.
Ease of use
Once the Cometa Advance is set to your preference, and this should take hours, rather than minutes, to get spot-on, you'll find the position of the cocking lever to be just about perfect. Everyone who tried the test rifle was shuttling shots through it with no bother at all; in fact the process is so easy, you'll be tempted to cycle shots without taking the rifle off aim. Don't do this, unless you're just having fun, because that bullpup still weighs what it weighs, and you'll soon tire yourself into inaccuracy if you don't treat each shot as an individual event.
Charging is the work of a minute, loading the magazine is a bit fiddly at first but you'll soon have that down and sorted, and as I've already said, adjusting the trigger is no problem at all. As always, just take a ton of time to get everything absolutely right before you get into the serious shooting phase. If you don't make your rifle suit you, you'll find yourself adapting to shortcomings you could have eliminated, and that's no recipe for success.
The Advance is Cometa's statement that it can produce a bullpup to compete with anything out there, and if this prototype is anything to go by, that statement is well on the way to fulfilment. Bonkers weather permitting, I'll push this bullpup's performance envelope over the next few weeks and we'll see how much of a shooting star it really is. Until next time, then.
Country of origin: Spain
Price: £1050 (walnut), £1150 (laminated as shown) including hard case, silencer and bipod
Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot, regulated bullpup sporter
Calibre: .22, .177
Loading: Via removable, rotary 13-shot magazine
Trigger: 2-stage, adjustable (requires stock removal), with manual, resettable safety
Stock type: Ambidextrous laminate
Weight: 4.2kg (9.4oz) with scope shown
Length: 914mm (36ins) including silencer supplied
Barrel: 482mm (19ins)
Fill pressure: Max 220 bar (3,200 p.s.i)
Shots per change: 100-plus in .22
Average energy: 11.7 ft.lbs.
Contact: A.S.I on 01728 688 555
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