New SHOT Show Air Rifles 2022
The sport of airgun shooting and airgun hunting has exploded in popularity. This segment has seen some of the greatest innovation and growth in shooting sports, which was reflected in the airguns and related accessories on display at the SHOT Show. These new products consisted of refining existing technology as well as new and innovative designs and technologies.
While most of the new guns on display were based on pre-charged pneumatic platforms (PCP), there were also examples of upgrades to some old favorites. Here’s a list of my picks for the best new air rifles I’ve come across on the show floor.
SKOUT ERA Electro-pneumatic air rifle: new technology in air guns
SKOUT Airguns started out making paintball guns, but their first move into airguns was the talk of SHOT Show. They introduced the EPOCH, a competition air pistol that operates on an electro-pneumatic valve design. It uses no springs, resulting in low cyclic weight and no metallic wear of the firing mechanism. I was told that the mechanism of the weapon had a long life and would require very little maintenance. It uses EPOCH’s MAX-FLOW regulator, which produces consistent and precise air regulation for optimized consistency and reliability.
The electronic system controlling the rifle offers several advantages:
- Customizable shot cycle control
- Customizable pre-shot sequencing
- An OLED data display for presenting information
- The ability to easily update the operating software
Although I’ve never been a big fan of electronics for my hunting devices, the potential advantages they offer will be welcomed by competitive shooters.
Along with the mentioned performance benefits, the gun is TSA compliant, with tool-free removal of its air reservoirs. This might not sound newsworthy, but as someone who’s been banned from checking my gear for a flight once or twice, I can tell you this is a big deal. This gun is still in the pre-production stage, but I have been told that the rifle should be available by the end of the summer.
There are a lot of spring air guns on the market these days, and I get picky about which ones I like. A smooth firing cycle, proper cocking effort, good trigger and intrinsic accuracy are given. But I’m also looking for a comfortable and ergonomic stock, a silent pistol in terms of the muzzle ratio, and the mechanical noise generated by the pistol. And it never hurts when the gun is easy on the eye. So when I first saw the Mod 65 and got a chance to handle it, I knew I had found a keeper.
The Mod 65 is a traditional single-shot spring coil available in .177, .22, and .25 calibers. The barrel is shrouded and uses Hatsan’s SAS shock absorber system, which together with the ergonomic stock design, adjustable comb, laser cut tiles and a rubber pad, makes the gun quiet and smooth to fire. I also appreciate that Hatsan used their Quattro Trigger design in this rifle, making it one of the best triggers on a production spring, even more impressive considering the price of the gun.
As someone always looking for the ultimate compact hunting rig, the Brocock Ranger XR won me over right away. It has a compact semi-bullpup design with a collapsible stock, which can be easily slipped into a backpack for stealth transport to your shooting site, or to be carried long distances in a backpack. The Ranger XR offers adjustable power and exceptional accuracy using an equivalent quality barrel combined with Brocock’s proven HUMA regulator and floating hammer system. I had a chance to use this gun in the field before SHOT and it has range and hits hard, a great small game gun. It can deliver up to 20 lb-ft and generate 30 shots per fill, which is great considering the small air tank dimensions. A three-position power adjuster with a hammer stop adjuster is standard, allowing the hammer spring to be accessed and adjusted when the stock is folded.
The Brocock Ranger XR has an adjustable trigger with a sharp break. You can use its quick-loading 11-round .22 caliber magazine (13 rounds in .177) or use the included single-shot tray for more accuracy. An AR-compatible buffer tube and collapsible stock rest are also part of the Ranger’s feature list. My only wish with this great little micro rifle would be to see it in .25.
JTS Airacuda PCP Air Rifles: Value PCP Air Pistol
JTS is a new airgun company that showed up at the SHOT Show, but they have a long history in the airgun world through their parent company, Xisico. Xisico has been manufacturing airguns and components for the OEM market for many years. Recently, they brought in Travis Whitney, a US-based engineer with years of experience in the airgun shooting industry, and gave him the resources and freedom to develop a product portfolio of air pistol for the American market.
The first pistols shown at the SHOT Show were from the Airacuda line, including the Airacuda and Airacuda Max models. These PCP rifles are available in .22 and .25 and are similar in appearance and dimensions, although the Max is a regulated version with a band missing from the standard Airacuda version. What impressed me about these guns is the build quality. They only use high quality metal and hardwoods, no plastic. Stocks are contoured and elegantly shaped with laser cut tiles on the grip and stock. But what really impressed me was the price. These Airacudas are positioned to compete with guns that don’t even come close to the combined fit, finish, and performance of the Airacuda. I expect to see good things from this company in the future.
The Gauntlet platform has been in the market for a few years now and has done an outstanding job of providing a feature-rich, high-performance platform at a very competitive price. With a high-capacity, high-pressure air storage tank and a regulator set to operate at a load of 2800 PSI, the .30 caliber version of the Gauntlet 2 generates 25 full-power shots with exceptional consistency. The Gauntlet .30 comes with two magazines and a single-shot loading tray, which is an advantage when testing specialty projectiles.
I find the synthetic stock, cocking bolt, air management system and trigger assembly to be all ergonomic, well designed and easy to use. It is an excellent option for small and medium game.
The Dragonfly offers a classic design that will take many of us back to our formative years as shooters, waiting for the day when we could make the leap from a Daisy Red Rider to a Sheridan multi-pump shotgun. The Dragonfly takes the best of those early multi-pump designs and improves on it; the rifle is built on a lightweight frame that is easy to handle for shooters of all ages and sizes. The rifle carries a beech stock that is streamlined but still sits well in the hand, providing a very stable grip. The stock is checkered on the grip and bit and sports a rubber pad.
To fire the rifle, pump it three to eight times, depending on the power desired. Due to the new design of the linkage between the cocking arm and the pump assembly, the cocking effort starts low and stays low until the eighth pump. The gun is available in .177 and .22, and can hit velocities of up to 800 fps and 630 fps, respectively. The pellets are fed via a self-indexing magazine with a capacity of seven cartridges in .22 or 9 in .177. The firing sequence is to cock the bolt, pump, fire and repeat to continue plinking or hunting.
I have been shooting AirForce rifles, both standard caliber and large caliber, for many years. They are solid performers that have proven themselves as tough guns that can withstand harsh conditions. That’s why I wanted to take a closer look when I heard they were releasing a new gun based on their proven design but optimized to fire arrows (actually bolts).
Unlike most arrow guns I’ve used, the AirForce ArrowGun has been optimized to work with lower fill pressures (1500 psi), so it’s especially suited for use with a hand pump for filling . This makes the gun less dependent on heavy and expensive refill equipment in situations where this is a problem. There are two versions, the standard model and the carbine, firing an arrow and broadhead at velocities in line with a modern crossbow. Many states allow the use of Arrow airguns for deer hunting, and this is a new gun with some key features that I like: accuracy, power, and compactness are among them .
If you are considering getting into the airgun, 2022 is a great year to get into the sport. From target shooting to hunting, there are some great air rifles on the market that have great features for the price.