by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Air Arms Shamal is an attractive PCP. It was Air Arms’ first precharged rifle.

This report covers:

• The story of my Shamal.
• Description of the rifle.
• Performance.
• Trigger.
• Old versus new.

“Sadly, my Shamal went away. I know the man who owns it and he still treasures it to this day. If I still had it, I probably would not allow it to get away from me a second time. It was proof that you don’t always need a new air rifle to have a good one.”

Those were the last words I wrote about my Air Arms Shamal in the April 8, 2009, report I wrote on the old blog. I wrote that report for blog reader Kevin, who is still a reader and one of the most knowledgeable contributors to this blog. He asked what was the quietest .22 PCP I ever heard, and this rifle was my answer.

I did get rid of the Shamal many years ago, along with many other airguns and firearms that I enjoyed. I never thought I would ever see any of them again, but my Beeman R1 and Whiscombe JW 75 came back years ago — and this year the Shamal has returned. The gentleman who sold it back to me charged just what he had paid for it over a decade ago, so it was a good deal on top of a welcome homecoming.

The Shamal wasn’t the first PCP I ever owned — I think it was probably the second. I remember receiving it and discovering to my utter surprise that the rifle shot very slow with a fresh 3,000 psi fill. So, I recorded the velocity of each of the first 66 shots and learned that the rifle didn’t really come up to its power band until somewhere between shots 29 and 38, depending on how tight I wanted the power curve to be.

That exercise was the first time I used a chronograph as a diagnostic tool. I’d used one to gather data for my book about the Beeman R1, but this time I was evaluating the health and performance of a rifle whose background was entirely unknown to me. Without the chrono, I would have been lost.

The optimum fill pressure of this rifle was 2,600 psi — not the 3,000 psi I’d thought. Years later, I would use that experience when talking with customers who complained that their AirForce Condors were somehow defective because they didn’t get their top-rated velocities at 3,000 psi. “What does it matter,” I would say, “if your Condor starts out with a 2,700 psi fill? All that matters is that it gets the top power and 20 good shots on a fill?” — which they were getting in every case.

“Yes,” they countered, “but I bought a rifle that is supposed to take a 3,000 psi fill. I want to get my money’s worth!”

They were getting the best velocity that Condors ever got, and they were getting the advertised number of shots per fill; but because the number on the pressure gauge wasn’t what they expected it to be, they were dissatisfied. I wonder what they would say if they knew their car’s gas gauge was off…even though they’re getting the promised mpg and advertised speed?

That Shamal experience prepared me for a number of future experiences with PCPs. It was a good start for me. More than that, it was a real beauty that I can now share with you.

The Shamal was Air Arms’ first attempt at a precharged pneumatic air rifle. It’s a sporting design, and the one we are examining today is in .22 caliber. Back in those days, manufacturers used to write the standard working pressure (SWP) on the side of the receiver so you would know what it was even without a manual. Manuals back then were single sheets of paper written on one side, only. This rifle oddly does not have the working pressure marked on it anywhere; so without a chronograph, you’re lost.

Shamal receiver
The aluminum receiver has a high polish and a deep black finish. Nowhere on the rifle is the standard working pressure noted, though that was typical for UK PCPs of this era.

The rifle cocks by turning a knurled bolt knob and pulling it back to cock the hammer spring. The bolt will open a considerable distance before the spring starts to compress, so you have to pull the bolt back quite far to cock the action.

The rifle weighs 8 lbs., 4 oz. without a scope. The stock is thick at every point, so the resulting feeling is that the gun is big and heavy. It measures 40-3/4 inches overall, which is short for a rifle, but the barrel is a full 23 inches, so nothing is lost as far as velocity goes. The airgun falls into the nebulous category of being long for a carbine but short for a rifle.

No doubt you’ve noticed that the stock is figured walnut. It features an oil finish that improves with a light rubdown of Ballistol. The holographic curl grain runs the entire length of the stock, though it’s hard to see in some places. There are 4 checkered panels — 1 on either side of the forearm and 1 on either side of the pistol grip. The pistol grip has a slight palm swell on the right side. When coupled with the high, sculpted cheekpiece, that makes this rifle for right-handed shooters, only. A thick ventilated rubber buttpad adds some length to the overall pull that measures 14-1/2 inches.

[Special note: Pyramyd Air is now stocking Ballistol in 16-oz. and 4-oz. non-aerosol cans. I use these to fill plastic spray bottles that I keep in several places. Buying it in bulk lowers the price. The link I gave takes you to the new cans.]

The metal parts of the rifle are finished commensurate with the wood, but the finish is not even. There are steel parts (barrel, part of the receiver tube, various bands, etc.) that are blued steel with an average bluing, and there are aluminum parts (receiver and reservoir tube) that are highly-polished with a deep black finish. The look is attractive, but not uniform.

The barrel is not free-floated. A forward band connects it tightly to the reservoir. That might cause vertical walking of the pellets as the pressure drops, so that’s something I’ll watch for.

The gun is filled at the front, under the muzzle. In the days when the Shamal was new, there were no quick-disconnects for any precharged airguns. Each gun had its own proprietary hose with whatever connection thread pattern the makers thought was good. When you bought a gun in those days, it was important to also buy a fill device that you knew for certain would fit. I had such a fill device when I owned the rifle the first time, but the gentleman who sold it back to me asked if he could keep it since it fit another precharged airgun he owns.

He gave me an adapter Dennis Quackenbush made that threads into the rifle’s fill port and has a male Foster quick-disconnect coupling on the other end. With this adapter installed, the rifle can easily be filled by a number of fill devices because Foster fittings have become the PCP fittings of choice over the past 10 years. I left the old fill hose and clamp with the previous owner and screwed in the Quackenbush adapter to the fill port. It works perfectly, and I’ll leave it on the rifle all the time.

With the adapter installed, it’s impossible to put the elaborate Air Arms muzzle cap back on the rifle. While it finishes the look of the gun, it had to be completely removed to attach the old-style fill hose coupling anyway, so I’ll just leave it off the gun.

Shamal muzzle cap
The muzzle cap (bottom) had to be removed every time to attach the original fill hose, but now I just leave the Quackenbush adapter permanently installed.

Back in those days, precharged airguns didn’t have pressure gauges built in. You had to keep track of the number of shots fired and know when to fill your gun. I’m used to doing that, and it doesn’t bother me.

Usually, I have the manufacture’s literature to go by or I know nothing about the gun at this point in the testing process, but I’ve owned this rifle before and know what it was doing then. In the 1998 timeframe, this rifle was able to produce about 20 foot-pounds with .22-caliber Crosman Premier pellets. The average velocity it got back then was somewhere in the 790 f.p.s. range, which gives a muzzle energy of 19.82 foot-pounds. A heavier pellet might raise that by a couple foot-pounds, but this is a 20 foot-pound airgun. In those days, that was considered very respectable, but today it seems rather weak. We’ve seen my Disco Double deliver the same pellet about 50 f.p.s. faster, on average, which translates to a muzzle energy of 22.4 foot-pounds.

The trigger is adjustable, though I’ve never experimented with it to discover how it works. I’ll do that for the next report and give you the particulars.

It’s set up very nice as it is, and I saw no reason to change it in the past. But it brings up an interesting observation.

The old against the new
Now that the Shamal is back, I’ll be comparing it to the Disco Double I recently reviewed for you. The power is about the same, and both rifles are single-shot .22s. The Disco Double has the better trigger, but who can say how the rest of the test will compare?