Air Arms EV 2 Review

by Neil MacKinnon



Long time coming.

 

On a continuing mission to try and shoot every FT rifle there is, Neil MacKinnon has managed to acquire one of the very first production Air Arms EV2s, how does he do it?

 

What a tease

 

It is a little over three years ago that I saw my first EV2. I remember this, as it was the first time I met Nick Jenkinson, at his home in Devon, and the day I shot my second ever FT competition. Nick had taken delivery of what looked like, and was, a re-worked Pro-Target action, with side lever cocking and some new wizzy bits fitted. It was interesting and shot OK, but did not seem to be that much of a step forward from the RN10 I was then using.

 

Some nine months later, my club was host to a SWEFTA shoot, our first, and Vern Hill had managed to get a Steyr LG100, and the loan of the then Ďsoon to be producedí EV2. He and I shot it the day before the public got their hands on it. Still seemed to be a worked up Pro-T to me.

 

Finally, at the NSS Bisley 2003, and then again at The Midland Game Fair 2003 I saw a gun that was significantly different. New barrel, new breech block, in fact pretty much new everything. Despite Bill Sanders assurances that it would go into production within a month, we have still had to hold our breath, until now.

 

The gun you see in these pictures is an actual production rifle, again supplied by Vern, so after the longest teaser campaign in history, let see whatís what.

 

Something familiar

 

It has to be said that there are echoes in the design of the EV, which clearly show its ancestry. The stock looks like what it is, a reprofiled Pro-Target stock. However, that is genuinely about the only thing left over from its predecessor, although the layout of the rifle is very similar.

 

Starting at the back we have a brand new, and very adjustable butt assembly. This unit moves up and down, left and right, the jaws open and close, and it is also capable of having a 6 degree tilt put on it. A cap headed screw in the stock releases the whole assembly, which can be moved in and out, and even tilted up and down. We are talking adjustable here people. The cheek piece is very Pro-T, and moves up and down, plus twists. On the cheek piece, we find in two tone grey, the words Air Arms, with the ĎAA Ď logo, these stand out, without being in your face, as the whole stock is finished in a metallic grey/silver, with the EV2 logo on the fore end. The finish is, I believe, applied by Hydrographics.

 

Back to the gun, and we find at the base of the hand grip, a pretty substantial palm shelf, which is big enough to accommodate pretty much all hand sizes, although extra spacers can be installed under it, if you happen to be of  King Kong build! Above this, the typical FT / Match rifle upright grip, with stippling on the front surface. Another update is the inclusion of a thumb groove. Most owners of the Pro-T / RN10 have carved one into their stocks, on the EV there is no need.

 

One area that sees no apparent update is the trigger and grip area. I have always liked the reach adjustment of the AA FT guns, and the EV2 retains this I am glad to say. The trigger group is surrounded by part of the breech block assembly, and all that is seen of it is a neat flat surface just under the trigger blade.

 

Up above all this is the really new stuff. We have a completely new breech block with a side lever cocking mechanism. As the lever comes back, it reveals the brass breech opening where the pellet is inserted, the lever is then pushed forward, and a probe pushes the pellet into place. One feature here. The pellet probe, which also cocks the action, is a two part device. As the breech is sealed, the rear of the probe continues to move forward, as it is spring loaded. This applies additional pressure to the breech seal. Nice. The barrel is a brand new one, and is swaged, rather than being button drawn. This has allowed AA to dispense with a conventional choke at the end of the barrel, and instead specify a gradual tightening of the bore. This is a much more precise, and predictable method of ensuring correct pellet alignment.

 

The dovetails above this lot are new and unless you have a microscopic eye for detail, you will not notice the tiny difference in height between the back, and the front of the dovetails. This slope ensures that you should not have to pack your back scope mounts to get the correct angle of declination. In this area however there is one thing to be aware of. There are separate dovetails in front, and behind the breech opening and the front dovetail is quite short, and will only just take a reach forward mount. I found, when mounting my Leupold MK4 scope that I actually ended up with no eye relief adjustment. Had I been using normal mounts, it would be less of an issue, but be aware.

 

Underneath all this mechanical stuff, we have a rare feature, a height adjustable platform. Depending whether you shoot over your arm, or off your knee, you will require the stock to be at different heights. Also, those of us with a more robust stature ( Pat) cannot necessarily pull our knees right up under our chins. Given this situation, a single cap headed allen screw allows the area immediately in front of the trigger group to be raised or lowered. Marvellous. Also, a hole in this platform allows you to see the airtube pressure gauge, installed ala the 400 series. Just ahead of the adjustable shelf is an Anschutz pattern accessory rail, right to the front of the stock.

 

The stock has no other stippling, but has substantial finger grooves either side of the fore stock. The area around the air tube has also been relieved a little, which is both stylish, and a weight saver. The same principle has also been applied to the rear of the stock.

 

There are some additional bits and bobs. On the left hand side of the breech block, is a dialling chart, to allow you to list your preferred turret position for a given range. At the very front of the breech block on the left hand side of the barrel, is a fold away bubble gauge. Further forward on the same side, but mounted just under the muzzle brake, is a fold away rod to attach your windicator to. Iím lost for words, almost.

 

The Ev is a conventional barrel over airtube design and the two are tied together with a bracket that is fixed to the underneath of the muzzle brake. The filler valve has the 400 series pattern screw on cover, and above it sits a really neat square muzzle brake, with a row of three backward facing holes on either side.

 

All the metal on the gun is finished in an alloy bead blasted look. It may turn out to be a pig to keep clean, but it certainly looks good. Itís also worth mentioning that all the fixing screws, and adjustable bits are made of stainless steel.

 

Enough with the looking, get to the shooting.

 

Pretty much the first thing I noticed, on pulling back the side lever, is that there is no slack in the mechanism. When it is fully back, it stays there. You need to work your way around the pellet probe to load the EV, this was easily accomplished from either the left, or right hand side, even with my side wheel scope fitted.

 

Pushing the cocking lever forward seats the pellet into the barrel, and seals the breech, and here goes the first shot. The EV2 is fast, up there with the Steyr, and Walther, and just as a comparison, I pulled my trusty Pro-T out, and fired a few shots off, then swapped back to the EV. It is noticeably faster than the Pro-T. A second difference highlighted by this exercise, is how dead the EV2 is to shoot. It compares favourably with all the other Ď supergunsí I have shot, with not the slightest trace of muzzle flip, and try as I might, I could feel nothing by way of hammer spring vibration.

 

I had already adjusted the trigger blade, to my usual ape like reach position, and the whole thing felt very familiar indeed. From the look of the diagrams supplied with the EV, the trigger group has not been changed, and why should it, the Pro-T always had one of the best triggers out there. Release is quick, and crisp. I would like the first stage a little longer, and would look to set the over travel up more to my tastes, but itís all there ready for playtime, so as far as I am concerned, the trigger is top notch.

 

In a direct comparison to other rifles, I did not clean the barrel, prior to accuracy testing. I have found some guns shoot straight from the box, and others need a thorough going over first. The EV seemed to be an out of the box gun. Within a few minutes of starting to shoot, I was laying pellet on pellet past 30 yards. After some further tweaking of the cheek piece and such, this became a matter of course. However, the consequence of my idleness came back to bite me, and on the second day of testing, accuracy went out the window. I gave the barrel a thorough cleaning, and after a dozen or so shots to settle things down again, I was able to get on with the job in hand.

 

A minor gripe here now. In comparison to the adjustability of the European rifles, the EV is pretty good, but. Despite the ability to twist the butt by 6 degrees, you still have to be careful not to cant. This is a problem I have mentioned before, which is inherent with most match rifle stock designs. There is a bubble gauge fitted, so you had better us it.

 

 Here we get to the real test, It may look as pretty as you like, and may also be packed with features, but if its no good at FT (possibly like the writer) then it just donít cut the mustardÖ.whatever that means.

 

Freestyle

This gun is amazing in this position. The point of balance is right below the breech with my Leupold fitted, so it balances well, without taking concentration from your aiming to worry about instability. This means it all but disappears, and allows you to concentrate on holding steady and releasing the shot. Repeated shots at 50 yards, in a stiff crosswind, resulted in a 100% success rate.

 

Standing

 

Again the weight, and balance mean that this is a nice rifle to shoot standing. The speed of the action aids the accuracy, that and the fine trigger. I was able to put strings of shots into a 35mm hit zone, at 30 yards, and thatís pretty good for me. I then tried the 50 yard 40mm target. Not 100%, more like 60% but that was more due to pilot error.

 

Kneeling

 

As above, good balance, and fast action, plus perfect fore stock depth allow you to concentrate more on the shot than the rifle. Same 50 yard target, and again 100%, and before you think I only shoot one pellet! I always shoot strings of five shots on these tests.

 

Ease of accuracy

 

My new measure of how easy it is to hit the target. I have to start this by saying that any target shooter is looking for a very high degree of accuracy. Hitting a 30mm spinner at 40 yards is not nearly a fine enough measure for such shooters, myself included. I am looking to lay pellet on pellet out to 55 yards with a rifle like the EV2, and that takes some concentration. So taking that into account, it is without doubt easier to achieve that sort of performance with the EV2, than with some of the other FT rifles I have shot.

 
Extras

 

As standard this rifle is loaded with extras. It has an adjustable fore stock, a palm shelf, a bubble gauge, a windicator mount, and a chart for your dial up settings. Further to that, it also comes in a hard case, and one that is big enough to take the gun, complete with scope. Plus there is one other very cool item, a 3.5inch floppy disk. This contains not only the EV2 manual, in PDF format, but templates for the click chart. You can either print a sheet of blanks, and fill in the clicks by hand, or use your worked out values to fill in another spreadsheet, this can then be printed out. Now that is a really wizzy touch. There are a full set of drawings of the rifle in the owners manual, which is always welcome, and a dated 50 shot chronograph read out, which makes reassuring reading. Finally, the obligatory filler adaptor and a full set of allen keys.

 

Conclusion

 

I once described the Daystate CRX as the most complete conventionally styled rifle I had shot. The CRX is no more, and the EV2 would now hold that place even if it were still in production. It comes with a serious package of extras, but that would not make a blind bit of difference, if the rifle itself were not up to the job, the EV2 easily passes the tests. The size is good, as it has heft and presence without overwhelming you. The style is pleasant, although it would be nice to have some stock colour options. The standard of fit and finish is just about as good as the European offerings, and easily as good as anything home grown.

 

Like any precision machine with a myriad of adjustment, I would recon on several weeks solid shooting to get everything to the point where it all feels completely right. But when you get this one right, you are going to have a mighty fine rifle to shoot. Better than the competition? Well probably not, in pure performance terms, but certainly able to compete on a level playing field, and then there are all those extras.

 

Would I buy one? Mines the one in the pictures. It wasnít at the beginning of the test, but by the time you read this Iíll have coughed up me cash. Damn itís hard doing this job.

 

Technical Specification.

 

Model:    Air Arms EV2, FT rifle.
   
Action:    Pre- charged Pneumatic single shot
   
Stock:     Coated laminate, target, adjustable.
   
Sights:      None, dovetail fitted for scope.
   
Weight: 9 ľ lbs
   
Overall Length: 41 to 44 inches, adjustable
   
Barrel Length: 18 inches. Approximately
   
Trigger: Match grade, two stage, adjustable.
   
Safety: None fitted.
   
Power 11.55 ft/lbs, using Air Arms Diablo Field 4.52.
   
Calibre:   .177