I get a lot of questions about my favorite rifles for small game, predators, big game, long range shooting, etc. This is a very hard topic to answer, because quite frankly I like many airguns. But also because in the situation I am in as a writer, I have to try to move the answer away from my personal bias and get to the root of what I think the person asking the question it trying to figure out. If my answer is a high end $2000.oo rifle that would melt the shooting heart of any hardcore airgunner, is this the right answer to a 15 year old who is working on his parents to get him (or her) their first air rifle? Should I point to a .45 power house that’s generating 600 fpe, to a guy that wants a squirrel gun he’s going to fill with a hand pump? Of course not. But for this reason I almost always qualify my response by talking about 2-3 different guns that might fit the bill. I receive many guns to shoot, hunt, and write about. All the companies know that if I don’t like a gun I won’t write about it publicly, though I will fill their ears about what I think the deficiencies are. And while I obviously have guns I prefer, quite honestly I try hard not to show a bias.
But for this article I’m going to talk about one of my all time favorite small game rifles, the Daystate Huntsman Classic. It achieves this distinction by meeting several criteria; it is very accurate, moderately powerful, ergonomic, compact, quiet, fast to cycle … though there are quite a few rifles that can meet these same criteria. The reason this particular rifle resonates with me I that it is to my eye, the most well designed, shootable, and well….. prettiest production air rifle ever built. The stock is manufactured from a nicely figured walnut blank, the cheek piece provides solid contact and great sight alignment, the checkering on the grip and forestock is sharply cut and in just the right location, the forestock is shaped to fit the hand perfectly.
Is the Huntsman really perfect? Well you could argue some points depending on your preference and what’s important to you. If most of your shooting is doves at a dairy farm or out for prairie dogs where you’ll get hundreds of shots in a day, a bottle forward design like the FX Royale might make more sense. This gun has most of the functional attributes plus a better shot count, and while it is also a very ergonomic hunting rifle that is high on my list, It doesn’t make my heart skip a beat in the looks department like the Huntsman does. If another airgunner argued this was their choice for their favorite gun, I could completely understand their reasoning. Another place that I’ll forgive the Huntsman, because I love the overall package so much, is the bolt action. It actually looks “right” on this rifle and functions well enough, but to be honest I prefer side lever actions these days; they are smoother, quieter, and faster to cycle than a bolt. And yet, as I carried this gun through the woods, the compactness, balance, and shootability let me overlook this little failure to meet my ideal.
The fact is that the squirrels in the photos would be just as dead if I’d shot it with a Marauder or an AT 44, both much less expensive but perfectly legitimate hunting PCP’s that I’ve used a lot and like a lot, instead of my Huntsman Classic. But man, I loved being out on that day with that rifle, feeling as close to a custom gun built specifically for me as any production gun I’d ever held.
But that the point isn’t it? Each of us has their own ideal of the perfect (or as close as reality gets to the ideal) hunting rifle. I think that once you meet some key points; accuracy, appropriate power, reliability, solid trigger, high level of craftsmanship, the rest becomes quite subjective. I always get a laugh when I come across an argument between two guys debating which of their preferred rifles are the best; often both are right, sometimes both are wrong (to my way of thinking), but in the end it doesn’t really matter to anybody but themselves. Remember, in the end the only perfect rifle that is important is the one that is perfect for you. Make sure all of the key elements I’ve mentioned are found in the gun you like, then you decide if its the best for you.
Not a lot going on, have a couple new guns I’ve been shooting, been working on my basement range and shooting studio so that when winter roles back around I’ll be set for months of indoor shooting. Got my scope mounted camera sorted out, and will be taking that with me to Arizona on a bird shoot and then to South Dakota on a multiday prairie dog and predator shoot.
I’ve added a couple more magazines that I’ll be writing for, and will fill you in on those later. I had my first article in the UK publication Airgunner, on a turkey hunt in California during the spring season. Next month is an iguana shoot in Puerto Rico I did a few weeks back. Also have an article in Fur-Fish-Game on a deer cull with big bore airguns, then in Game&Fish/Sportsman have a gear review on several ny guns to come to market recently. Check them out if you have a chance!
Finally, want to remind you all about the Extreme Bench Rest (EBR) this year. Check out the link on the AoA website, and sign up! This is one of the coolest airgunning events in the world, the competition is outstanding, the people are great, you really need to be there if you’re serious about airguns!
That’s all for now, I’m going to look at some pellets that have been impressing me next week…… and we’ll have more hunts coming!