The Hilite of my Day
PUBLISHED: 17:03 13 November 2014 | UPDATED: 17:03 13 November 2014
Charlie McFee tries a new variant of Daystate's latest supergun
When Daystate launched the Wolverine .303 I was lucky to spend some time with one and a very impressive rifle it was, but to be honest, I didn’t think that many British shooters would buy it. What I wanted was to try the 12 ft.lbs. version, but because the export demand for the 100 ft.lbs. gun was so high, production of the lower-powered models were delayed. Now, though, not only is the UK version available, but you can also choose from a number of variants. At the Midland Game Fair in Weston Park I was talking to Tony Belas, Daystate’s head honcho, when I noticed a new one.
It’s a Wolverine B (B for bottle) but using a carbon-fibre reservoir. I’d seen this on one of the big-bore, high-power export models in the past but never on a 12 ft.lbs gun, so I asked what the benefits were. What it does for us is to offer a big increase in capacity for no increase in weight. The standard aluminium bottle is 400cc but the carbon one is 480cc, almost a quarter more, yet with no change to the rifle’s balance. Because of this we’ll get over 275 shots from a .22, which is impressive in anybody’s book. If you already own a Wolverine B and like the sound of this you can get the factory to upgrade your rifle for £200.
Although originally designed for ultra-high-power use, the Wolverine action has become the standard chassis for a whole range of rifles. This strong action block is CNC machined from a tough, high-strength aluminium alloy that forms the core of the rifle, accurately aligning every other component of the gun to ensure top accuracy. Even at a glance you can see that it’s a substantial chunk of metal. However, to avoid that slab-sided block look, some very stylish swoops and curves have been machined in to add visual appeal. The 12 ft.lbs. guns have a satin black finish as opposed to the bright white metal of the high-power ones. The graphics are quite understated apart from a laser-etched Wolverine symbol at the rear. This is complemented with the new grey finish on the drum of the magazine giving a slightly ‘stealth’ look.
This action set new standards for innovation and safety, which still lead the class. When the bolt is lifted or withdrawn, the rifle will not fire, even if you pull the trigger deliberately. Many’s the time I’ve accidentally lifted the bolt of other PCP rifles without knowing, such as catching it on a bramble. When the shot was fired, some of the high-pressure air came back through the breech giving me a fright and causing the shot to miss. That cannot happen to the Wolverine owner.
It’s also impossible to double-load the gun. In another innovation, the magazine is indexed by a small, air-driven piston that’s actuated by the air that drives the pellet on firing. As the valve opens a small amount of air is diverted, which then pops the piston up. This trips the magazine’s release arm so that as you withdraw the bolt it automatically indexes round to the next chamber. So if you withdraw the bolt, but the action hadn’t been fired, the magazine won’t rotate. I’ve missed plenty of rabbits in my time because in all the excitement of a lamping session I’ve cycled the bolt twice, chambering two pellets, which of course will land low, missing the target.
The final feature of the action I’d like to mention is the safety. It slides across the rear of the action with a positive motion and can be seen from the firing position. We’ve all forgotten to disengage our safety when under pressure to make a shot, but this one can be seen while on aim, so you’ll never make that mistake again. You can also tell its condition by touch, which is great for lamping trips. Finally, the safety blocks the movement of the first stage of trigger travel, immediately communicating that it’s on as you touch the blade.
These engineering solutions to real-world challenges are at the cutting-edge of design and I applaud Daystate for taking the hunting airgun into the future.
Some people tell me that they can shoot any trigger, but I can’t, and I’ll happily pay what’s needed to get a top class one that’s clean and predictable. Happily for me, all the Wolverines that I’ve shot have had excellent triggers, which for me is a big deal. I like to know precisely when a trigger will break and I want that to be consistent. Struggling with a graunchy, unpredictable trigger drives me nuts. The trigger blade shape and the reach from the pistol grip also matter to me. Being forced to overreach creates tension in your hand which hurts control, but the thumb-up hold on this stock presented the pad of my index finger exactly where I wanted it in a truly comfortable way. I also liked the slim, curved blade which has a nice sporter kind of visual appeal.
Is that a Ranger?
Speaking of looks, many people have observed how much like a Ranger this rifle appears, but I assure you that it’s a very different gun. Apart from the filling connector and the odd nut or bolt, they have nothing in common at all. Despite the Wolverine looking like a big gun, it handles like a true sporter. It has enough weight to be nice and stable, yet comes on to the aim smoothly and easily. I was glad that the rifle wasn’t too heavy because there’s no obvious way of fitting a sling, and on a long hunting trip your arms could get pretty tired.
Accuracy was everything I’ve come to expect from the brand, with shot after shot landing exactly where I was looking and every excuse for missing being taken away. The full-length barrel shroud takes the crack off the muzzle report, but I’d fit one of Daystate’s Airstream reflex silencers if this rifle were mine, to mute the noise to the absolute minimum.
It’s interesting to me just how quickly a rifle of this quality can go from being the new kid on the block to an established classic. In my hands it feels all new, yet somehow familiar and is a gun that I hunted confidently with straight from the box. Like any Daystate it isn’t cheap, but it’s beautifully made and a pleasure to handle, with the carbon-fibre bottle adding yet more shots to its already high number. This is a serious rifle that will fulfil the needs of the most dedicated hunter and would be a true pleasure to own. n