Gun test: Daystate Wolverine R Hilite
- Credit: Archant
An evolutionary development of an already innovative rifle gets the editor’s attention
When the Daystate Wolverine arrived on the market, at first glance I thought it was just a variation of the ultra-popular Ranger that we’d all known for so long, but I was glad to hear it was an all-new model. Better yet, Daystate had grasped the nettle of some of the problems that most other pre-charged pneumatic rifles suffer from, and found clever engineering solutions to prevent them. In my hands today is an evolution of that rifle ‘bang on trend’, as fashionable people say, that’s moved with the times and with customer demand. In most respects, it’s the same as the first version, but with two significant upgrades; a side-lever action and a regulator inside.
The design is quite conventional in that a large ‘buddy bottle’ reservoir lives under the barrel and the action is a fully mechanical device, with none of Daystate’s proprietary electronic firing systems employed. I’ve used their electronic guns extensively without any problems, but I’m aware that some shooters are wary of them, so perhaps it makes sense that this is a mechanical example. The older model used a typical bolt action to cock the hammer spring and load pellets, but it seems today that Joe Public demanded a side lever and Daystate was happy to oblige. The factory, or an approved dealer, can swap the lever to a left-hand set-up and the magazine can be set to load from the opposite side just by moving a small pin. The adjustable elements, namely the trigger blade and butt pad, can also be set to the left or right and tailored to the individual’s frame and reach. With an ambidextrous stock and the safety mounted centrally, this really is a gun for everybody at no extra expense. The one thing missing for me is an adjustable-height cheek piece, but I guess you can’t have everything.
She’s a big’un
Like many of Daystate’s guns, the Wolverine R feels big in the hands. The fore end in front of the trigger guard is wide as well as deep, giving the rifle a very tall feeling. I like the way it extends forward below the buddy bottle, giving a nice clean line, so that you don’t hold the bottle with your leading hand when on aim. There are some deep grooves along the sides, which I think are more for good looks than any practical purpose. The pistol grip is complex and interesting; in an effort to be all things to all people, it packs a lot into a small area. There’s the obvious thumb-hole position and also a shelf for a thumb-up position on each side of the bridge that forms the upper part of the thumb hole. At the front there are finger grooves above a small palm shelf, all backed up by deeply stippled grip panels on the sides.
The butt section is no less complex with the unusually shaped ambidextrous cheek pieces tapering radically towards the bridge where you expect them to be thick. The cheek piece also slopes radically down toward the action, where you’d expect it to be horizontal. All these features are neatly carved from a huge chunk of grey laminated wood, not only for its striking good looks, but also its stability, and ability to shrug off bad weather.
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At the back, we find another complex design in the butt pad. The concave face is made from sticky rubber to grip your shoulder and it sits on a mechanism that can be adjusted up and down and left to right, the latter feature being the one I value most. By bringing the rifle across your chest, you can create ‘cast’ that more naturally aligns the scope with your eye.
To customise the fit further, the match-style trigger shoe can move backwards and forwards to adjust reach, up and down, and left to right on the post. You will get the fit you’re looking for with this set-up. The trigger mechanism is also adjustable for length of travel and weight of pull, and all the adjustments can be made with the stock still on.
Up front, I noted that the Wolverine barrel shroud is considerably fatter than my old Daystate’s, so the older silencers won’t fit, but there will be dedicated silencers available to fit soon. The shroud, like all the exterior surfaces, is anodised and I know from experience that this makes them very tough and corrosion resistant. Mine have been out in all weathers, had blood and mud over them, and yet look as good as new.
For me, it’s what’s inside the Wolverine that makes it so interesting. Yes, we can all see the side lever and a smooth-acting version it is, but the star of the show, the regulator, cannot be seen. For those who don’t know, a regulator is a mechanism that sits downstream of the air reservoir to accept and hold a precise volume of air at a very specific pressure. This ensures that each shot is fired at the same velocity as the last, which naturally improves accuracy. In my own test, I saw a velocity variation of just 8fps over 50 shots with pellets straight from the tin, which proves the point. The second benefit is that it’s very frugal with the air, meaning more shots per fill and the Wolverine is quite remarkable in that respect. Yes, it uses a large, 480cc bottle, and yes, that’s filled to 230bar, but get your head around this – one fill will deliver 540 shots! You could shoot a whole tin of pellets and never go back to your dive bottle. Quite incredible. The only clue that the regulator lives inside is the second gauge on the left of the action, with a grey face that reads Huma. This is the name of the Dutch company who make it, now a full-time regular supplier to Daystate.
On the subject of the buddy bottle, the ‘Hilite’ part of the rifle’s name refers to this. The lightness comes from its carbon-fibre construction, which accounts for the unusual appearance. Not everybody likes it, saying that it looks unfinished, but that’s the way the construction appears. Simply put, it’s built for performance not to look pretty. The rifle is filled through a male Foster-fitting in the belly of the stock, covered with a very smart cap held in place with magnets, which is a nice touch.
Going back to the action, I mentioned earlier that Daystate had tackled some common PCP problems, the first of which is that many rifles will fire with the bolt open. This accident is more common than you might think, and I know it’s happened to me several times. The bolt can be caught on a bramble or twig which lifts it, and you might not notice as you come on aim. When you pull the trigger, some air goes down the barrel as normal, but some blows back through the magazine and scares your pants off. Of course, you miss your target too. With the Wolverine R, if you lift the side lever the action will not fire, full stop. The second area the Wolverine addresses is the problem with double-loading. Again, you might imagine this to be a rare problem, but in the excitement of a hectic hunting trip, I’ve double-loaded and either shot the two pellets low and missed, or realised my mistake and needed to shoot the pellets into the earth before reloading properly.
The Wolverine’s magazine is the well-proven, 10-shot unit I know so well. It has a neat cut-out where you load the pellets, so that you can seat them fully with your thumb, ensuring that each one is in the proper place. The mag’ is indexed by a tiny piston driven up by the air pressure of the shot’s release, so if the rifle hasn’t fired and you cycle the lever, the magazine won’t rotate and it will not double-load. For me, these are excellent, engineered solutions to real-world problems that mean less frustration and more rabbits in the bag.
Despite the fashionable trajectory this rifle is on, I was relieved and delighted to see a traditional 11mm scope rail rather than the more trendy Weaver/Picatinny pattern that’s in vogue. The latter design might well suit military equipment, but looks like a row of Lego bricks on top of a classical sporting rifle, in my eyes.
My test gun came fitted with a 3-18 x 50 Viper Tactical Pro scope from Daystate’s sister company, MTC. This is a big scope that added to the already heavy rifle, giving the combination a ‘target rifle’ kind of feel. I don’t think I’d like to walk around the farm for four hours with this set-up, but from a static position the extra weight would make for a very stable rig.
Over the chronograph, the Air Arms Diablo Field .22 gave an average of 573fps for a muzzle energy of 11.6 ft.lbs. Each Wolverine R is set up by hand by a skilled technician so that we can be assured that every one is spot on. That it delivered sensible and consistent power was no surprise to me, but what I wanted to see was just how accurate the rifle would be. I kept my fingers crossed for a windless day, but with our deadline looming I had no choice but to go to our club and take my chances. The day was very mixed, with periods of very little wind interspersed with blustery moments. I’d need to use my judgement for when it was worth shooting.
I settled down at a proper shooting bench and began to work my way down the range. The trigger had been set up by somebody who must know what I like because it was splendid. I was able to release shots with not much more than a thought. As the range increased, the tricky wind became more and more frustrating, but when I timed the release well, I was hitting everything I wanted. Getting beyond 40 yards I began to struggle until I woke up and remembered that the test rifle was a .22 and the drop-off gets increasingly steep at those distances. The difference between 40 and 50 yards was over 3” and because I’ve shot .177s for the last 20 years, I was making silly mistakes by not allowing enough hold over. The multi-aim-point reticle soon had me back on target, and the 55-yard knock-down targets were falling at will, reassuring me that this rifle was every bit as accurate as I’d hoped.
One and half thousand pounds is a lot of money to pay for an airgun, but the Wolverine R is quite a special rifle. It’s dripping with clever features and has dramatic looks that many will love. The lightweight, carbon-fibre buddy bottle also looks pretty special if you like high-tech materials. It’s not a gun for everybody, but for those who get it, there’s nothing else like it in the airgun business.
Tel: 01785 859122
Model: Wolverine R Hilite
Type: Pre-charged pneumatic
Action: Side-lever, magazine-fed
Fill pressure: 230 bar
Shots per fill: 540 in .22
Length: 38” (96.5cm)
Weight: 7.5lbs (3.5kg)
Trigger: Two-stage adjustable, adjustable shoe
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