by B.B. Pelletier
The Air Arms S200 Sporter is a rifle readers have been after me to test for years! The sales volume is never very large because of the higher price and also because the S200 is a precharged pneumatic. Until the advent of the Benjamin Discovery in 2008, most shooters were reluctant to try a PCP. But that time has passed, and there’s renewed interest in the precharged powerplant. The S200 fits into that by being a sporting rifle based on a former 10-meter CO2 design. This rifle has a trigger that’s adjustable for the first and second stages, as well as the position of the trigger blade. I’ll adjust it in a later report and tell you how it works.
This .177 rifle is set not to exceed 12 foot-pounds, which is the legal limit for air rifles in the UK. Above that energy they come under legislative controls and must be registered with Firearm Certificates (FAC). Until 2009, most Americans scoffed at 12 foot-pounds, but I see a change in the making. Since the rules for international competition for field target now limit rifles to 12 foot-pounds, as well, there’s the beginning of an awakening of interest in this country for airguns with less power. I’m not saying the velocity race is over, and I doubt that it ever will end; but as airgunners get deeper into the sport, they’ll start to appreciate guns of limited power. So, the future for 12 foot-pound guns may be brighter.
Before the Discovery came out, the S200 was in the enviable position of being the lowest-priced credible PCP on the market. Many shooters were able to test the waters because this affordable sporter opened the door.
What does 12 foot-pounds mean in .177 caliber? Well, it means a 7.9-grain pellet moving about 825 f.p.s., which isn’t too shabby. You could certainly hunt with that, but you can also shoot it out to long range. While filming a field target episode of American Airgunner, we had Ray Apelles and his father, Hans, shoot at a field target that was 102 yards away. The kill zone was 1.5 inches in diameter. Hans was shooting his rifle at 16 foot-pounds, but Ray was shooting at 12. Both men managed to hit the kill zone twice in succession for us. So, don’t think that 12 foot-pounds is limiting. Think of it as the power level used by champion shooters.
A short history
The S200 is descended from the Tau 200 CO2 target rifle. I watched the development, and here’s how it happened. During the 1990s, some American field target shooters wondered if the Tau 200 could be converted to air to compete with the FWB P70s and other 10-meter rifles that were doing so well. A couple of them converted their rifles with good results. They communicated this over the internet and soon there were UK shooters doing the same. Air Arms, a forward-thinking airgun maker, decided to go straight to the source and have the factory convert the guns to air for them. A new product was born.
The S200 has the lines of a target rifle but the heart of a sporter. Expect accuracy and the best characteristics in a rifle designed for offhand shooting at small targets. However, there are a couple things missing. There’s no manometer, for instance. You’ll be counting your shots until you learn to discern the hollow sound that indicates the rifle has fallen below its performance curve. The scope base on the receiver is both very short and also divided into three separate sections, making two-piece scope rings an absolute necessity. Some scopes may be very challenging to mount because their tubes do not coincide with where the rings must be positioned. Just a word to the wise to plan ahead.
The rifle is carbine-length, at just 35.25 inches overall. The beech stock is blocky and thick, making the gun feel larger than its length seems to indicate. The rifle weighs about 6 lbs., 3 oz., depending on the density and weight of the wood parts.
The barrel is a whisker longer than 19 inches. It’s rifled by hammer-forging with a 12-groove right-hand twist at the rate of one turn in 17.71 inches (450 mm). Hammer-forging is beneficial for two reasons. The manufacturing process is inexpensive once the huge capital investment for the machine is paid, and it turns out a superior product. Only a handmade, hand-lapped barrel will be more uniform. These technical specifications appear in the five-language (Czech, English, German, Spanish and French) owner’s manual, along with a complete, illustrated parts list.
Filling the tank requires the odd Air Arms fill adapter we’ve seen before. The tank also removes from the gun, though that serves no purpose on the sporter model unless you invest in a spare tank. The tank on the target model has a manometer on the end and removal from the gun is required for filling. The fill is 190 bar, or 2,750 psi. During the velocity, test I’ll determine how many shots are in a fill.
The rifle has no open sights, nor will it be easy to install a set. Plan on scoping yours out of the box.
One observation I must make right away is how easy this rifle is to cock. The hammer stroke is long with a light spring, so it’s very easy to cock. That’s fortunate, because the S200 has a short bolt that’s a little hard to grasp. Once you have it, though, everything is easy.
I also have to comment that the blocky stock is inviting me to attack it with a rasp. It seems to beg for some owner adjustment in the same way that a wooden block begs to be turned into a Pinewood Derby racer. I won’t succumb to the temptation, but you might want to factor it into your plans, should an S200 be in your future.8KAABSC48DEE