After five months of heavy use, Dave Barham gives his verdict on this phenomenal rifle from Air Arms - enter, the S510 R Ultimate Sporter Carbine

I’ve long been a fan of Air Arms rifles. A proud heritage of being ‘Made In The UK’ combined with consistent performance and quality – what’s not to like?

You may or may not know that Terry Doe and I have been filming a series dedicated to hunting with air rifles for our ‘Shooting & Country TV’ YouTube channel (there's a taster episode above!). Well, Air Arms are sponsoring the series and the proviso was that we both choose and use an Air Arms rifle for each episode. Would you believe it?

Terry and I chose exactly the same rifle – the S510R Ultimate Sporter Carbine in .177. There’s a very good reason for this choice on my part, because Terry has been using this particular gun for many years as his hunting rifle of choice, but I’ve really wanted to spend some quality time with this model after reviewing the S510R tactical stock .22 version a couple of years ago. I was blown away by that rifle’s performance and I really didn’t want to return it!

Before I crack on, you may be wondering why we both choose to hunt with .177 rather than .22. It’s a simple matter of flatter trajectory, which gives us a wider range of distances to hunt over without too much hold over or hold under, and as you will see from the many videos we have already put up on the channel, we’ve been shooting from 8 yards to 40+ yards with no problems at all!

credit: Archant

As you’ve probably grasped by now, the R in the name stands for ‘Regulated’. The original Ultimate Sporter was and still is extremely accurate and consistent, but Air Arms’ new Series 7 regulator and valve system takes this rifle to another dimension! I put two series of 20-shot strings through my chronograph and came out with just a 4fps variation! Testament to what this rifle is all about.

credit: Archant

Whilst there are many stock options available, I do love a walnut stock, and this one gives the best of both worlds with a fully adjustable, soft-touch cheekpiece. What’s more, it is completely customisable. You can adjust the height of the cheekpiece by slackening off the locking bolt, but you can also loosen the two screws to allow the cheekpiece to roll from side to side on a ball joint, giving the ultimate fit before tightening everything back down again. The butt pad is also adjustable for height.

It’s so important to have a rifle that fits you well, and for a lanky so and so like me with gibbon-like arms, being able to set the rifle just right is a massive plus point.

Everything about this rifle screams quality, including the design of the main stock body itself. The pistol grip features a stippled effect, which provides excellent grip, and the angle of the grip puts your trigger finger in just the right place as soon as you pick it up. I also like the grooves cut into the end of the fore grip, which make holding this rifle extremely natural and comfortable in the standing position.

Whilst I’m at the fore end, there is a sliding accessory rail sunk into the base of the stock here, which allows you to add accessories such as a Picatinny rail for a bipod. There’s already a quick-release stud fitted here for a stap, too.
When you pick this rifle up to shoot, it’s extremely well balanced, even with a multitude of shooting stances and hand positions.

credit: Archant

The 395mm-long Lothar Walther barrel is shrouded, and a very sturdy barrel band secures the front end just a couple of millimetres above the air cylinder. Air Arms fit their Q-Tec silencer as standard to all the models in the range, and it does a superb job of moderating the sound to little more than a ‘pffft’ – yes, it really is that quiet, just another reason why this rifle is perfectly suited to hunting.

When it comes to filling, you simply unscrew the metal cap on the end of the cylinder, then using Air Arms’ quick-fill adapter you can fill the rifle very quickly and effectively. 

There’s a very clear pressure gauge that features a graduating green to red indicator that shows you the air level, separated by a thin black dividing line. It’s a doddle to use and gives you a really good indication of where you’re at with a simple glance.

credit: Archant

Both the .177 and .22 models use Air Arms’ rotary mag’s. They’re extremely easy to load – just turn and drop each pellet in, but it’s here that I have discovered a couple of small niggles. For one, because it’s not spring-loaded, there’s a tendency for one of the pellets to drop out (the last one you drop into the mag’).

There’s no tension to hold it in place, but I soon worked out a little trick to prevent this from happening – I simply drop the last pellet in, then rotate the mag ever so slightly – a MUST when keeping spare, loaded mag’s in your pocket when hunting.

The other niggle is that this mag’ system allows you to shoot air. There’s no means of knowing that you’ve taken the tenth shot unless you count them in your head, which during a frantic session shooting rats at night is easier said than done.

Other than that it’s a superb mag’ and it locks into place in the breech port with a satisfying little ‘click’. The loading procedure is superb and the silky-smooth sidelever action is both effortless and quiet in operation. 

credit: Archant

I love this trigger unit. The gently curved blade sits perfectly on the pad of your trigger finger, and the two-stage operation is just so easy to navigate. A gentle, short first stage comes to an abrupt halt, followed by minimal pressure for the super-crisp release. It really is a joy to use and sets this rifle off perfectly.

One thing I’m not too sure about is the ‘in trigger’ safety button. It’s a manual push button, and works a treat, but I’m still in two minds as to whether having to touch the trigger to apply the safety is a good thing or not. I haven’t had any problems, in fact I’ve found it very useful when filming to be able to keep the rifle in safe mode and quickly push the button, immediately before taking a shot, especially with a film crew wandering about. I’ll keep an open mind on that one. For me, it works well, but something in the back of my brain tells me that touching the trigger to apply the safety is wrong.

credit: Archant

I’ve lost count of how many pellets I’ve chucked down the barrel of this rifle. It must be approaching 5,000 or so, and it hasn’t faltered in any way, shape of form. I have taken rabbits, rats and feral pigeons with ease during filming, sometimes hitting treble shots one after the other in a matter of seconds. It really is a fantastic hunting rifle, allowing for extremely quick follow-up shots. I have also spent a lot of time on the range with it, and paired with the Pulsar Thermion 2 thermal scope that I have also been using to film the hunting series, this combo has given a new dimension to my hunting exploits.

One thing that has amazed me, and also Terry Doe, is the combination of this rifle and thermal scope allowing us to take shots from 20-40+ yards with no need for holdover! Don’t ask me how it works, the pair of us are baffled by it, but trust me it just works like that! 

We first discovered this at the range when zeroing the combos. We were aiming at and hitting spinners and knock-downs at all ranges without having to adjust our aim points. 

In fact, the only time I’ve had to use any adjustment was on our first rat shoot where I had a rat come and sit five yards in front of my tripod! I had to use some hold over on that occasion, but every shot since has been a case of aim and shoot – magic!

I’ve used this rifle in pretty much every condition you can think of, apart from baking hot sunshine. Rain, mist, gale force winds ... you name it, this rifle’s been through it and it hasn’t skipped a beat. I’ll be using this rifle for many years to come, both when filming and whilst out on my local perms, that’s for certain! 

credit: Archant

S510 R Ultimate Sporter Carbine
Manufacturer: Air Arms
Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot
Max Fill Pressure: 250 bar
Stock Material: Walnut
Stock Type: Ambidextrous
Cocking: Lever Action
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Calibres: .177 and .22
Safety: Manual
Overall Length: 1010mm (40in)
Barrel Length: 395mm (15.5in)
Magazine Capacity: 10 (.22) 10 (.177)
Weight: 7.5lbs (3.4kg) (bare rifle)
Shot Capacity: 120 (.22), 90 (.177)
Variation (10 shots): 4fps
Average Energy: 11.4 ft.lbs.

PRICE: From £1,199

credit: Archant