Editor’s gun test: Daystate Pulsar
- Credit: Archant
The Bullpup thing... is here to stay, says the editor as he tests the latest Daystate Pulsar
Let’s get something nailed right away; this ‘fashion’ for bullpup rifles isn’t some passing fad, it’s the real deal. Bullpups are here and they’re staying, and there’s a very simple reason for that – thousands of airgun shooters love them. I’m one of those shooters and I’ve been testing, and enjoying, bullpups for over 30 years. They’re not a recent phenomenon, but now that the major airgun companies have leaped upon the bullpup bandwagon, they’ve become a serious player in the market.
I’ve just completed a month’s worth of testing alongside the latest version of the Daystate Pulsar, and while I needed no converting to the bullpup side, I’m more convinced than ever that these rifles will be with us for the long term. Here’s why.
Meet the Pulsar
Two years ago – yes, really - when the Pulsar was launched, it represented a massive leap of faith for Daystate. It also represented a huge investment in time, money and resources, as well as being the most complicated airgun Daystate has ever produced. The good news for the pioneering precharged-pneumatic airgun company from Staffordshire is that the Pulsar exceeded its sales projections by over 100%, and the 2000th rifle was about to be completed as this article went to print. The good news for potential Pulsar owners is, the version I’m testing is the synthetic option, the price of which has been set at £1649, rather than the £2075 of the walnut/laminate versions. That’s still a fine chunk of change, but the Pulsar punter gets a lot of bang for those bucks, which is where we’ll go next.
This rifle is built around an electronic action, powered by six standard AA batteries, which provide sufficient energy to fuel more than 14000 shots, through three phases of programming.. I recall testing a prototype of Daystate’s first all-electronic rifle, the Mk3, which had 16 stages of optional user-preferences programmed into it, including such essentials as ‘safety-catch illumination on or off’. The scary fact is, the MCT – Map Compensated Technology – at the heart of the Pulsar is capable of running a splendid 400 programs, but as a simple soul, I’ll confirm that three is plenty. Activated by opening the rifle’s sidelever and holding back the trigger, these give the user the option of preventing the rifle firing once the magazine is empty – Magazine On/Off’, and the ‘Laser On/Off’ does what it says on the little screen set into the left-hand side of the butt, while ‘Power Level’ offers 9 ft.lbs. or 11-plus in the sub-12 Pulsar, and a variety of muzzle energies up to 40 ft.lbs. in the FAC and export versions.
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In refreshingly basic terms, that MCT unit is an electronic power regulator that ‘maps’ the state of the compressed air reserves contained by the Pulsar’s 300cc reservoir. As internal air-pressure changes, the Pulsar’s electronic action changes with it, to maintain consistent output. Steve Harper, the genial genius behind this technology, has been involved in airguns for as long as I can remember, and he’s a shooter as well as a boffin, so he knows what we want out of our airguns.
Output and accuracy
We want plenty of shots and dependable consistency, of course, and this .22 calibre Pulsar provides both, with over 250 shots at 11.1 ft.lbs. from each 200 bar charge, with an average variation of 12 f.p.s. over the first 50 shots, after three ‘clearing’ shots. I’m not entirely sure why I do the ‘clearing shots’ thing, possibly a hangover from warming up my springers back in the day, but even those shots were rubbing shoulders with each other on my 35-yard test card.
I tested the very first Pulsar back in our April 2015 issue and that .177 example was staggeringly accurate, using Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets straight from the tin. This time around I went for a .22 and that’s been equally impressive with Daystate’s own branded Kaisers. I’m still so .177 biased that it’s verging on patronising, which sees me all sorts of surprised when .22 pellets match the downrange groups of their smaller counterparts. I should know better by now, but that ‘blimey’ moment still unfolded when the test rifle produced groups of under an inch at 45 yards. As I said, this is a staggeringly accurate rifle.
Off a bench, the main impression imparted by the Pulsar is one of effortless performance. The removable, rotary, 10-shot magazine just shuffles about the business of delivering pellets to the breech of the Pulsar’s 17-inch, match-grade barrel. There’s no discernable ‘load’ on the sidelever, because there’s no hammer spring to compress, and a discreet flick is the action of choice, here.
There’s an on-board laser fitted, which can assist rangefinding, and a recessed spirit level just below the shooter’s eye-line which assists with keeping everything perfectly horizontal. These are practical rather than fanciful features, although the red laser dot has been known to spook a rabbit or two when deployed in a hunting situation. Overall, this rifle is incredibly easy to shoot, and just as straightforward to run. Don’t fear the Pulsar – there’s nothing to be scared of here.
The test rifle came with some tasty optional extras, including the sexiest silencer on the planet, the Huggett Belita. I tested the Pulsar with, and without, this screw-on, £72 mini marvel and I’m going to declare it the accessory I’d most want to go for if I owned a Pulsar. I think it does the job sonically and visually and it looks like it has evolved right alongside this rifle. And now a warning; don’t chimp the Belita to the muzzle as tightly as your stupid grip allows, or you could end up unscrewing the barrel shroud’s end cap. If you should be this daft, you could see the Pulsar’s spring-loaded baffles pinging downrange ... I’d imagine. A mere ‘nip up’ with a considered finger and thumb is all the tightening the silencer requires.
It’s got legs
I’m not normally a bipod type of guy but the new Alpha model that clamps to the the rifle’s moulded Picatinny rail seemed to get left on throughout my bench tests and didn’t actually have to come off when I shot the Pulsar from a freestanding stance. The legs of the £80 Alpha extend and swing forward and back, so you prone types will be perfectly served. Sling swivels were the final optional add-on, and at £29, they, like the rifle they’re clamped to, are the real deal.
Thus we arrive at the whole bullpup thing; the nub, the main attraction – how it handles. Critics will cite the lack of bullpups in Olympic target shooting, and I’ll cite right back that deliberate precision to the nth degree is not what bullpups, or most sporting airguns, are about. As hunters, we need portable, pointable, practical rifles, and the Pulsar is all of these and a ton of stuff more. It can be re-cocked while still on aim, it does more shots per charge, from its batteries and its air-supply, than we can possibly need in the normal world, and its accuracy is incredible.
The stock is ambidextrous and the Pulsar’s cocking lever and cheek rest can be switched around to accommodate southpaws and ordinary folk alike, in a couple of minutes. That electronic trigger can be adjusted to suit everyone on earth, and the butt pad slides up and down to assist with fit.
The point of perfect balance, for me, ran right through the drop-down pistol grip, which is further back than with a standard rifle. At the shoulder, stability is genuinely remarkable, and people actually do remark on it. This is a sporter that lends itself to smooth, unhurried marksmanship from all sporting positions, but the real benefit of this bullpup characteristic will only be truly appreciated when you get out there and put in some range time with one. Yes, it’s ‘different’; it looks different and it feels different but for the ever-growing ranks of bullpup enthusiasts, that difference is a positive one.
Daystate’s massive investment, and faith, in the Pulsar has paid off handsomely. The company can barely keep up with demand for it and having spoken to many owners in the last two years, I’m pleased that their leaps of faith have also been rewarded. Bullpups are special air rifles, the Daystate Pulsar is especially so, and I’m glad we’ve got something different to use and enjoy.
Tune in next month, when I’ll take the test rifle into the wet, muddy hunting fields and I’ll introduce you to Adriano Nodari, the unsung hero of Project Pulsar.
Country of origin: UK/Italy
Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot bullpup
Loading: Via removable rotary, 10-shot magazine, or single-shot adaptor
Trigger: Electronic 2-stage, adjustable unit
Stock type: Synthetic, ambidextrous sporter
Length: 780mm (30ins)
Barrel: 430mm (17ins)
Fill pressure: Varies. 200-bar for test rifle
Shots per charge: 250-plus in .22, 220-plus in.177
Average energy: 11.1ft.lbs.
Best group at 45 yards: 19mm diameter
Favoured pellet of test rifle: Daystate Kaiser
Options: Huggett Belita silencer £72, Alpha bipod £80, sling swivels £29. FAC-rated actions, plus various upgrades. Call for details
Contact: Daystate 01785 859122