PUBLISHED: 10:17 14 November 2012
You've heard the expression, 'a kid in a sweet shop,' meaning that you're so spoiled for choice that you don't know what to go for; well I was that 'kid' recently.
I’d the choice of all the airguns on the market to use for a hunter field target (HFT) competition and I didn’t know what to go for.
I consulted friends and contributors and they offered me their suggestions. Several names kept cropping up and among them was the Air Arms S400 Super-lite. This confirmed my prejudices and it’s always nice when that happens. I already own an Air Arms S410 and before that I had an S200, so I’ve pretty much always had an Air Arms.
Before you go accusing me of being biased I’ll freely admit it … I am biased. Air Arms are solidly engineered, accurate and reliable rifles. They’re also relatively affordable and even though I could use the most expensive rifle on the planet, I like to keep mindful that many of us have tight budgets.
I acknowledge that there are other affordable PCPs that offer just as much performance as the S400, but something just appeals to me about the Air Arms. The S400 fits me perfectly, it has a great CD trigger unit and the finish of the rifle overall is very impressive.
However, it’s certainly not perfect. For example I would like to see it with an adjustable butt pad, or a higher comb so that my eye was in line with the scope. This not only aids accuracy, but would also make it a bit more comfortable rifle to shoot. It wouldn’t cost much to add an adjustable butt pad and it would improve the ‘shooting experience’ massively. That said, I could say the same of many air rifles and they’re much more expensive than the S400.
Gripe aside, I simply love this airgun. The streamlined classic looks, its lustrous bluing and its excellent shooting qualities are what appeal to me. When you cock the rifle, the slickness of the action just screams quality and each time I use it I come away smiling. What price can you put on happiness?
Many of you may be wondering how such a good quality rifle can be affordable. Have Air Arms skimped on materials? Is part of the manufacturing process sent overseas where labour is cheaper?
The answer is a categorical ‘no’. Air Arms have simply invested in high-tec, computerised machinery that can manufacture high-quality parts in great numbers, and all of the assembly and manufacture is done at their factory near Hastings. Air Arms make rifles in large numbers and sell them in large numbers, so it’s an economy of scale.
Anyway, I haven’t explained why I needed a single shot .177 PCP. A couple of months ago, I went shooting with Gary Chillingworth, who is our (HFT) correspondent and Jean Greatrix, an HFT champion at their home club of Maldon and District airgun club (MAD). At the time Jean said that I’d be hooked after I shot the first round. At the time, like all addicts, I denied it, but I have to admit that something is reeling me back in and making me want to shoot another HFT round.
However, this time I wanted to be fully prepared. If I was going to be shooting against champions, then I wanted to make sure that I would give a good account of myself.
A bad workman may blame his tools, but a good one gets the right tool for the job in the first place. So I had to get a good single-shot pre-charged pneumatic rifle in .177 and start practising and practising.
I didn’t want to opt for a super-blingtastic rifle because I feared I’d look like someone who had all the gear and no idea. I admit I have no idea, but my logic was that if I chose a reliable and comfortably familiar Air Arms I would perform better.
Gary told me the S400 he had on test was great. I remember the short time I spent with one for the ‘Big Test’. It left a lasting impression on me and I wanted to use it more. Sadly that one needed to go back to Air Arms so another journalist could write about it.
However, Air Arms have now sent me another to test over the next couple of months, which should allow me to hone my skills. Hopefully, man and rifle will be in perfect harmony by the end of this test. In the process I will give a realistic report on how I get along with the S400.
Before the more cynical of you think that Air Arms have given me a specially prepared rifle that will perform better than production models, I can say that I bought an S410 years before I worked for Air Gunner and that rifle has performed brilliantly.
You’ll notice that all the pictures show the rifle with a silencer fitted. Many competion shooters have air strippers rather than moderators, but I’m using a silencer at the moment because I will be practising in my back garden and I don’t want to disturb my neighbour more than I have to.
I’ll keep you updated with my progress and fill you in on how my showdown with Gary and Jean went.