Gun test: FX Airguns Crown
- Credit: Archant
The editor is granted an audience with airgun royalty – and an exclusive first test of the unique FX Airguns Crown
The Crown from FX Airguns of Sweden isn’t a rifle, so much as a configurable shooting system, where, in addition to the height and horizontal alignment adjustments available from the stock’s cheek piece, and more of the same in the vertical plane from the butt pad, there’s a perfectly tuneable, match-style trigger. These features are important, especially when you take gun fit as seriously as you should, but I’m obliged to concede that, for once, they take a back seat compared to what else the FX Crown has up its sleeve.
That sleeve not only shrouds the rifle’s fully-floating – fixed at the breech only - barrel it also covers an entire interchangeable bore and pellet probe system that can accommodate .177, .22, .25 and .30 calibres within the same action. Swapping barrels is a matter of loosening the twin fixing screws, as shown in the instructions, then sliding out the entire barrel assembly, sleeve and all, before replacing it with a different calibre barrel. The pellet probe is then swapped over and the rifle is a magazine change away from being ready to dial into its new calibre.
Welcome to the Smooth-twist X barrel, which is the very latest progression of the Smooth-twist concept and while its unique ‘rifling’ is applied from outside the bore in a similar manner to the original method, the ‘X’ process is different and the rifling is present throughout the entire length of the bore.
That’s about all I can tell you about the generation X version of Smooth-Twist, other than FX Airguns’ owner and genius-in-residence, Fredrik Axelsson, has also developed various twist rates for it and these are matched to a selection of the best-performing pellets available. The result of all this barrel technology is an ability not only to change calibres to suit the situation and preference, the Crown owner can also mix and match the rifle’s bore to suit a particular pellet. Oh, but there’s so much more on offer, here.
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Once you’ve decided on the calibre you prefer, a further hat-trick of hi-tech options offer more control over this rifle’s performance than I’ve ever encountered on any sporter. Please turn your attention to the twin dials on the left-hand side of the Crown’s breech block. The forward dial provides calibre-specific settings for optimum airflow, plus a universal ‘LOW’ setting for training purposes. With those essentials established, the rear dial controls the tension of the internal hammer spring, and thereby governs how hard the Crown’s striker impacts the regulator’s air-release mechanism, and in turn, how much air is delivered for each shot. This governs the muzzle energy and by now it should be pretty obvious that this rifle’s main market will be UK airgunners with firearms certificates, and the overseas market, although there’s definitely a place for the Crown in the wide world of 11-plus performance. Before we explore the potential application of this technology in a sub-12 ft.lbs. format, there’s another major adjustment to be considered.
Regulating the regulator
The FX Crown is a fully-regulated rifle, in that each shot is powered by a precisely metered ‘pulse’ of air, drawn from the main supply. Thus, if you’re going to change the energy output of this rifle, you’ll need to change the setting on its regulator. This is a simple process but the instructions provided must be followed to the letter. I cannot stress too strongly – this is NOT a rifle for those who prefer to tinker first and read the manual when they get in trouble. If you tweak the Crown’s reg’ the wrong way, you could seriously damage it, and I promise you the technicians at FX will know exactly what you’ve done and your warranty will be in dire peril. Do not, not even once, attempt to do anything with this rifle before you study its manual. You have been warned.
Once you’ve absorbed the correct procedure, adjusting the Crown’s regulator pressure takes less than two minutes, and even I can do it with no bother at all. This particular reg’ can be set to operate at pressures from 55 bar to 150, according to your needs and at which energy setting your chosen pellets prefer.
The long and short of it
Now all you have to do is decide if you want the adjustable-volume barrel shroud moderator extended, or not. Yes, really. The test rifle was a .177 calibre, sub-12 model and I honestly couldn’t detect that much difference in muzzle noise wherever I set the shroud, but I’m sure that difference would be more marked in the Crown’s high-power modes. Besides, once I’d explored all of the features you’ve just read about, I was yearning for the simple life and just wanted to load up the rifle’s 21-shot magazine and get some shooting done.
Those main features
As is usual these days, the Crown’s laminated, ambidextrous, thumbhole stock is supplied by Italian specialists, Minelli to the specifications provided by FX Airguns. In addition to the adjustable options already mentioned, this stock offers a ‘thumb up’ position for the trigger hand, and that’s something I believe greatly assists trigger control. This trigger is simply superb, with micro-tweaks available for weight of pull and length of first stage. The grubscrews that transmit these adjustments are a bit awkward to access and you might wish to remove the stock before doing so, but however you do it, please take the time to get this trigger absolutely as you want it, and that very much includes the position of the trigger shoe. At this level of performance, and let’s face it, cost, shot-release should be almost a subliminal process, rather than a deliberate muscular action, and if you think that sounds poncy, then you’re not yet cruising at the right mental altitude. This FX Crown demands your full attention, from initial set-up of stock and action, through optimum pellet selection, to your duty to get yourself into the best shooting form of your life to make the most of what’s on offer here.
A detachable, 480cc, carbon-fibre buddy bottle houses the Crown’s air supply and each 250 bar (3,600 p.s.i.) charge will power over 400 shots at the .177 test rifle’s 11.6 ft.lbs., or over 450 shots at similar power in .22. With the Crown’s action cranked to the max, suitably ticketed airgunners can confidently expect muzzle energies of 30 ft.lbs. in .22, rising to 45 in .25, and a robust 82 in .30 calibre. I’ll get the full output spec’, plus the answers to any questions arising from this initial test, directly from Fredrik Axelsson when I catch up with him at this year’s IWA show in Nuremberg, and these will be reported in my follow-up test.
Meanwhile, I’ll just mention the easy-action sidelever cocking and that high-capacity, removable rotary magazine, along with a nod toward the Crown’s snap-fit charging connector and the twin gauges that display the working pressure of the regulator and the static pressure inside the buddy bottle. Right, let’s get the Crown to the shoulder, where we’ll discover what I believe is its finest feature by far.
Everyone, but everyone, who picks up this rifle for the first time is startled by how light and manageable it is. With quite a large scope on board, the FX Crown weighs 8.4lbs., and never was that weight more efficiently distributed. Somehow, this sporter contrives to feel almost unbelievably light, yet every bit as stable on aim as many ‘targetised’ hunting rifles. So, how has FX pulled this off? I’ve been working overtime on this one and I believe it’s about three main facets of this rifle’s design.
First, the Crown really is light; just under 7lbs without a scope, and that’s down to a combination of that carbon-fibre wrapped buddy bottle, the comparatively lightweight Smooth-twist X barrel, the use of aluminium in the Crown’s action, and that Minelli stock. The stock, or specifically its adjustability, supplies the second key to the Crown’s incredible handling, in that a correctly fitting rifle will allow the shooter to relax more and significantly reduce the strain involved in holding the rifle on aim long enough for an accurate shot. Finally, Fredrik Axelsson is an experienced and accomplished shooter, and he knows how a sporting rifle should feel when it’s in a shooter’s hands, or more importantly, the shoulder. Quite simply, the Crown has been expertly designed to exploit every feature, including its handling potential. All I can say to sum up how an FX Crown handles where it matters most, is please get yourself behind one, and be prepared to be shocked.
On the range
The weather for my first range test of the Crown was awful - temperatures below freezing despite the bright sun, which became periodically obscured behind squally showers of fat snowflakes. Even the Bisley stalwarts retreated bravely to the shelter of the clubhouse, apart from Nigel, who is obviously made of sterner stuff. While I got the camera gear sorted, Nigel went for some 25-yard groups off a bench rest, but even at such a comparatively short range, the wind was a serious nuisance. “It’s doing what a rifle of this quality should do, and the pellets would all be hitting the same hole if it wasn’t for this wind. As it is, I’ve just shot a 20mm horizontal line, instead of a single hole. That wind’s a nightmare.”
It was, too, so I decamped on my sad own to our sheltered 50-metre range, but even here, what would have been truly impressive groups were made less so by the buffeting breeze. I’d get three out of five within 20mm or so at 50 yards, then one would duck out of the group, usually to the left or right, but sometimes a little low. It was all extremely frustrating, but as the snowflakes became ever fatter and more numerous, I knew I’d need to arrange some indoor testing.
As soon as I got home, I put 50 pellets over the chrono, and noted an average of 9 f.p.s. variation, which is impressive in itself. I’d much rather be making small holes on distant squares of paper, though, and that’s literally my aim for the follow-up test of this incredible rifle.
The potential of the FX Crown is obviously vast, and it would take me weeks to explore and exploit it thoroughly, but I intend to have a real go at doing just that. I’ve also discovered a couple of negatives, in that the safety switch works the wrong way round and can occasionally be felt with my trigger finger when the rifle is ready to shoot. This turns a potential asset into an annoyance, because having a slightly longer safety switch would mean it’s always felt by the trigger finger, and thus reminded of the rifle’s status, having the switch move to the horizontal to shoot takes it perfectly out of the way.
I’d also like to see a smaller, and therefore lower, magazine option, so correspondingly lower mounts can be used. As it is, only high and extra-high mounts will lift any scope clear of the magazine body, despite FX cleverly angling the housing slot to keep that mag’ as low as possible. Minor gripes, perhaps, but such things flag themselves up on rifles as accomplished as this one.
My overall verdict is one of admiration and genuine excitement. The Crown is a statement on how far our sport has developed, and I know I’ll need to be at the very top of my game to push this rifle to anywhere near its limits. What an incredible piece of shooting equipment this is.
Manufacturer: FX Airguns
Country of origin: Sweden
Type: Pre-charged, regulated, multi-shot, sporter, with removable buddy bottle reservoir
Calibre: .22, .177, .25, .30
Loading: Via removable, rotary multi-shot magazine (21-shot for .177, 18-shot for .22, 16-shot in .25 and 14-shot in .30)
Trigger: 2-stage, adjustable, match type
Stock type: Ambidextrous, thumbhole laminate, with adjustable cheek piece and butt pad
Length: 975mm (38.3ins)
Barrel: 500mm (19.7ins)
Fill pressure: Max 250 bar
Shots per charge: 400-plus in .177, 450-plus in .22
Variation over 50 shots: Average 9 f.p.s.
Average energy: 11.6 ft.lbs.
Contact: A.S.I. on 01728 688555