Walking on air
Remington’s Express Hunter is fun on a budget, says Con Kapralos
Air rifles have come a long way since my youth. I can recall the days when sporting goods shops and department stores would sell budget brands that could be bought without any form of licensing, though admittedly these rifles (or ‘slug guns’ as we called them) were only suited to plinking at inanimate objects and certainly wouldn’t be considered for hunting.
Those were the days
Current air rifles are powerful and well suited to plinking as well as taking small game species and pests at ranges up to 50m. While premium makes which embrace pneumatic propulsion systems can cost upwards of $1500, the mainstay of air rifle design is the spring-operated mode of pellet propulsion.
But now Remington Arms has released a new air rifle, the Express Hunter, which is of a break-barrel design but incorporates a new format in pellet propulsion – the Nitro Mag gas piston system. The Express Hunter is a full-size rifle and comes in .177 and .22 calibre models complete with fibre-optic front/rear sights, a 4×32 scope and rings.
Raytrade, Australian distributor of Remington firearms, sent Australian Shooter the Express Hunter Air Rifle in .177 calibre for review. The rifle arrived in a traditional green carton with Big Green’s logo on the front and sides as well as the features of the rifle which is made under licence for Remington by the Crosman Corporation, world-renowned for air rifle design and manufacture.
At a glance.
The rifle on review is of full-sized dimensions, measuring 1130mm and weighing 3.15kg. The circular receiver which houses the Nitro Mag gas piston is quite substantial at 348mm long and mates up to the 475mm barrel in .177 calibre, the one-piece polymer stock with hard rubber recoil pad completing the package.
This consists of the 348mm circular tubed steel receiver mated up to the 475mm steel barrel via a break-open design synonymous with air rifles. The receiver is quite plain, having only a ⅜” dovetail on top which gives a 180mm length for attaching riflescope mounts. A small hole in the receiver top between the two dovetail rails serves as a means to accept a recoil stop for the supplied scope rings, this being mandatory as the recoil and vibrations encountered on an air rifle will easily cause them to move on the dovetail.
The rear of the receiver tube is enclosed by a circular cap which offers an even surface to bear against the head of the stock, the only other adornment on the receiver being the manufacturer’s name and model on the right and a warning statement on the left. The front of the receiver tube is secured in place by two screws either side of the fore-end which are easily accessed, while the rear is held by a single screw which also fastens the triggerguard.
The steel barrel is sufficient in length at 475mm and is dominated by a 150mm polymer cocking shroud at the muzzle end, giving the user a way to grip the end of the barrel when cocking the rifle. The polymer barrel shroud also has a front optical sight incorporated and this is used in conjunction with the rear sight at the back of the barrel. Both front and rear optical sights use fibre-optic inserts to assist in positive alignment with the dominant eye and the rear sight is fully adaptable for windage and elevation simply by turning the adjustment dials on the body.
The Nitro Mag gas piston is cocked by the break-barrel nature of the design. Two cocking arms underneath the receiver act in tandem to compress the gas piston as well as resetting the trigger sear in the process. The trigger is flexible with a small hex-head screw behind the trigger blade allowing any tweaks to be carried out. A blade safety in front of the trigger acts directly to block the trigger sear when pushed to the rear, and when thrust fully forward away from the trigger blade permits the rifle to be fired. Both receiver and barrel have a satin black finish which complements the polymer stock.
This is surprisingly good. Being made of polymer it’s extremely tough, solid and devoid of any ‘hollow’ elements which seem to plague injection-moulded synthetic stocks. The buttstock has an ambidextrous cheekpiece and the grip is open, allowing easy reach of the trigger blade.
The triggerguard is a separate unit fitted to the underside of the stock by two screws, one of which also secures the stock to the receiver. Embossed panels adorn the pistol grip area and either side of the fore-end and give good grip as well as being aesthetic in their look. A solid rubber recoil pad helps stop the stock slipping when the rifle is shouldered, as recoil of the .177 calibre pellet travelling at 1200fps is negligible.
At the range
The rifle is supplied with a Centrepoint 4×32 scope and matching rings as well as the open fibre-optic sights. The rifle was tested at a distance of 25m, shooting paper targets along with inanimate targets such as metallic spinners and empty 12-gauge shotshell hulls, a variety of .177 air rifle pellets all performing well. While the open sights were easy to set up and adjust, the riflescope gave an extra edge when it came to shooting accurately though the supplied scope was a tad inadequate as the image, even at 25m, was hazy and lacked any positive adjustments.
I’d certainly recommend acquiring a quality scope made specifically for high-powered air rifles, something with more magnification than the 4×32 Centrepoint which would allow precise shooting out to 50m with a degree of confidence and would be critical if using the rifle for small game or pest control.
This rifle is available in .177 and .22 calibres and comes with a five-year warranty. It’s thoroughly modern in design and function with the Nitro Mag gas piston being 70 per cent quieter and 25 per cent more accurate than conventional coil-spring air rifles. This is a great way to practise shooting without the huge expense of metallic cartridges, a container of 500 air rifle pellets being fairly cheap. It’s perfect for plinking at the range or the farm and with a decent optic fitted makes for a potent small game or pest control outfit out to 50m. The Remington Express Hunter retails for $450 and is available from your authorised Raytrade dealer.
Manufacturer: Remington Arms (made under licence by Crosman Corporation)
Model: Express Hunter
Action: Break-barrel, Nitro Mag gas piston
Calibres: .177 (up to 1200fps), .22 (up to 900fps)
Sights: Fibre-optic front and rear, adjustable for windage and elevation, ⅜” dovetail on receiver top for scope mounting hardware. 4×32 Centrepoint scope and rings included with rifle
Trigger: Adjustable for pull-weight
Stock: Polymer, ambidextrous Monte Carlo cheekpiece, rubber recoil pad