Okay, so it’s not the Fourth of July, but it is Independence Day at El Rancho Elliott. That’s because, thanks to Brown Santa and the good graces of the folks at Airguns of Arizona, I’m one of the first airgunners in the United States to actually get his hands on the new FX Independence air rifle.
FX Airguns, based in Sweden, already enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a maker of excellent, accurate pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles and pistols. What sets the Independence apart — what gives it almost “Holy Grail” status among airgunners – is that you can recharge it with an on-board pump while you are out shooting it in the field. As with any PCP, you have the multi-shooting capacity provided by an on-board reservoir, yet you are free from having to carry an additional pump or SCUBA tank. You have independence of any external charging device, hence the name.
The Independence is a big gun. It stretches 43.75 inches from the tip of the barrel shroud to the end of the butt plate. With a Hawke Air Max 4-12.scope mounted, it weighs 10 lbs 5 ounces. Available only in .22 caliber, it has a right-handed black synthetic stock.
At the extreme back end of the Independence, you’ll find a soft rubber butt pad that can be adjusted vertically; just loosen a screw and slide it up or down. Ahead of that is the buttstock which has vertical grooves on the pistol grip. The stock is molded to form a trigger guard, inside of which you’ll find a black metal trigger.
Forward of the trigger guard is a male foster fitting which can be used to charge the Independence up to 200 bar. About an inch forward of that is an Allen bolt which secures the action in the stock. Moving forward another 3 or 4 inches, you’ll discover a very large – a bit over 1.5 inches in diameter – pressure gauge that makes it really easy to know what the status of the charge is in the Independence. Forward of that is the rest of the forestock, which has vertical grooves for gripping on either side.
Beyond the end of the forestock is the air reservoir/onboard pump assembly, and above that is the match barrel which is encased in a full shroud that is about an inch in diameter. The entire shroud/barrel assembly is free floated from the reservoir/pump assembly below it, so you don’t have to worry about various levels of charge flexing the barrel and messing with accuracy.
On the right side of the reservoir is a roughly 19.25 inch handle which is used to charge the Independence through the onboard pump. At the rear of the barrel is the receiver, which has scope dovetails fore and aft of the breech. The breech is deep enough to load pellets one at a time (with some difficulty) but it is designed to hold a 12-shot rotary magazine. The Independence is cocked and loaded using a lever on the right side of the receiver, and on the right side, near the back end of the receiver, you’ll find a lever action safety.
Overall, I liked the fit and finish of the Independence, although I found the stock to be a little bigger and blockier than other synthetic-stocked FX rifles I have shot in the past. Still, considering that this rifle has an onboard sidelever pump, I want the stock to be plenty rigid.
To get the Independence ready for shooting, you can charge it from a SCUBA tank, or you can pump it up using the onboard pump. This will take about 65 strokes. To use the onboard pump, grab the forestock between the trigger guard and the gauge with your left hand. Grasp the end of the pump handle with your right hand. Pull the pump handle away from the receiver and toward the muzzle as far as it will go (at this point, the total distance between your hands will be about 34 inches). Now, return the pump handle back to its original position. I don’t have any good way of measuring the pumping effort, but it feels roughly the same as putting the fourth or fifth stroke into a Sheridan or Benjamin multi-stroke pneumatic rifle. What’s interesting about the Independence’s onboard pump is that every stroke seems to require the same effort, and that there is no pressure “hump” in the middle of the stroke. In short, I found the Independence easy to pump.
Next, load the 12-shot magazine. To do that, first, rotate the clear plastic face plate counter-clockwise as far as possible. Now, while holding the face plate in position, flip the magazine over so you’re looking at the back side. You’ll see that a port has opened in the back of the magazine. Load a pellet backwards (tail first) into the port. This will lock the spring and keep the inner wheel from turning. Now, flip the magazine over and load the rest of the pellets by dropping them nose-first into the magazine while rotating the transparent cover so that the hole in it opens each of the pellet “bays.” Once you have filled the magazine, rotate the transparent cover back to its original position. Pull the breech lever to the rear of the receiver to move the bolt back. Now slide the magazine into the breech.
Push the breech lever forward to move the first pellet out the magazine and into the barrel. Take aim, slide the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. On the sample I tested, it required only 9.3 ounces to take up the first stage, and at l lb .5 ounces, the shot goes down range. Sweet!
Over the course of 9 shots, the Independence launched the 18.2 grain JSB Jumbo Heavy pellets at an average of 849 fps (high 867, low 833), generating about 29.1 (average) footpounds of energy at the muzzle. Thanks to the shroud, the report is very neighbor-friendly, roughly as loud as someone tapping their fingernail on a plastic countertop.
The accuracy is what I have come to expect from FX. Shooting JSB Jumbo Express pellets, at 35 yards from a rest, I put five shots into a group you could easily hide under a dime. I bet that shooters will soon be reporting similar groups at 50 yards.
I found that if, between shots, you give the Independence about 3 strokes with the onboard pump, that puts the pressure gauge approximately back where it was before you took the shot. So, as a rough guide, you’ll need about three pump strokes to recharge the Independence for each shot you take, but they are easy strokes.
At the end of the day, I find the Independence embodies everything I prize most in an air rifle: accuracy, quiet, fully self-contained, and powerful enough to dispatch any small game or pests you might want to take with a pneumatic rifle. It should have a lot of airgunners grinning for a long time.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
- Jock Elliott