Britain's biggest-selling airgun magazine
The FX Panthera has been designed to deliver optimum precision at extreme range – Mat Manning gives his verdict on the Swedish supergun.
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After 20 years of reviewing airguns, it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to new hardware. The FX Panthera, though, has genuinely surprised and excited me with just how far it has refined the overall shooting experience and the potential to tweak and modify an airgun. Its price tag is in the ballpark of £1900, depending on which model you go for, but read on and you’ll see just how much you get for your money with this uncompromising PCP.
The Panthera’s styling makes it fairly clear that this airgun has been designed with target shooting at the forefront. The aim was to produce an air rifle specifically for precision rifle shooting, and it is really geared towards competing over long distances using heavy slug ammunition at high speeds. Some of the world’s leading airgun shooters have helped the FX team to achieve that end, although it has to be said that the Panthera is also an impressive performer with pellets and at sub-12 power levels.
Like many of today’s top airguns, this FX has tremendous potential for modification, and that’s apparent through the barricade fore stock which incorporates a bridge running over the shroud and an Arca rail along the full length of its underside. This arrangement facilitates the attachment of M-Lok compatible weights to refine balance as well as other accessories.
Moving back along the stock, the Panthera comes with a vertical pistol grip supplied as standard. Vertical grips are very much in vogue at the moment, and I really like this one; it’s nicely contoured with a decent swell, and its stippled rubberised finish feels terrific in the hand. Most importantly, it sets you up very well for the trigger.
Stock configuration looks simplistic on this FX, but as ever, the Swedish airgun supremos have managed to incorporate a lot of adjustability, and that’s before you start adding accessories. The cheek support, which can be switched over to the opposite side for left-handers, can be adjusted up and down as can the butt pad. There is provision for further accessory attachment on the underside of the butt section and, if you slacken off the screws on the butt pad, you can also adjust it in and out to extend length of pull (from 370mm to 400mm) and adjust its vertical angle for a really refined fit in your shoulder.
The Panthera’s proportions are something of a variable feast – not only because of all that adjustability, but it also comes in 500, 600 and 700mm barrel-lengths. The gun featured here is the shorter, 500mm, model and overall length is between 980mm and 1010mm, depending on how you have the butt length set. It looks like quite a substantial airgun, but surprisingly, this version tips the scales at a fairly modest 3.4kg.
The Panthera is equipped with FX’s famous Superior Smooth Twist X barrel, and you get the heavy version (the one best suited to hefty slugs) with the high-power 600 and 700mm barrel models. Calibre options include .177, .22, .25 and .30. Although the barrel is shrouded, which provides some sound suppression, there is a thread for the attachment of an additional silencer.
One of this airgun’s most innovative features is a plenum housed inside the rear section of its shroud. The 500mm barrel model has a 62cc Macro Plenum (or Micro version on sub-12 ft.lbs. models), the 600mm and 700mm barrel models are fitted with the 156cc Magnum XL plenum. According to FX, there is no risk of this configuration of the plenum hindering accuracy by altering the position of the barrel because it runs at the same pressure for each shot. Performance on the range would certainly confirm that this airgun’s accuracy is in no way compromised.
Scope mounting is via a Picatinny-type scope rail, which sits either side of the magazine. That is worth noting because you need to make sure that your scope is mounted high enough to keep it clear of the magazine – I am told that a smaller magazine will also be available for shooters who want to mount their scope as low of possible. The rail actually has 20 MOA angle built into it, and its slots are numbered to make life easier when returning your scope to the right position after switching between optics.
The Panthera’s magazine will look familiar to a lot of FX owners. The important thing is that it’s kind to ammo and very reliable, although its dimensions have also been tweaked to accommodate longer rounds comfortably.
The review gun is .22 calibre, and the supplied magazine holds 18 pellets or slugs – standard .177, .25 and .30 mags have respective capacities of 21, 16 and 13. To reload it, you simply remove the clear plate, rotate the inner drum anti-clockwise and drop a pellet into the first bay to hold the spring tension. Then it’s simply a matter of loading the remaining chambers and returning the face place, which is locked in place by the rotating inner clip. Snap it back into the gun and you’re ready to start annihilating targets.
FX has been producing fine sidelever actions for a long time, and the one on the Panthera carries the progression along another step. The lever is very well positioned for intuitive operation, and like the cheek support, can be swapped over to the opposite side for left-handed shooters. I really like the large drop-down handle, and the mechanism is excellent – very positive, very smooth and extremely reliable. It really doesn’t miss a beat.
However good an airgun is, its trigger mechanism can make or break it, and the fully-adjustable two-stage unit on the Panthera is simply sublime. The match-type blade feels great and you can adjust it up and down, forward and backward, and also for angle. Whoever set the trigger on the review gun at the factory did a terrific job of it. The first-stage take-up felt just right, the stop was very clear and, although short, the break point was crisp, creep-free and utterly predictable.
The familiar FX safety switch is positioned very conveniently just above the trigger blade. It’s ‘safe’ when it’s in the horizontal position with the pointer facing forward, and you simply thumb it down to flick the pointer up to the ‘fire’ position when you’re ready to take the shot.
The Panthera features FX’s new Dynamic Block which incorporates a one-piece, short impulse valve, which has been designed for very precise air-flow – even at extreme power levels. Apart from that and the special plenum, this gun is equipped with an AMP MkII regulator. Regulator pressure can be externally adjusted on the high-power models, and is displayed on the top of the two gauges, which are angled to make them easier to read when shooting – another really nice detail which enhances the overall experience of shooting this airgun.
Other power adjustments can be made via FX’s quick-tune system, with which M3 owners will be familiar. It features macro and micro power adjusters so you can tweak hammer-spring tension and fettle power output to suit your ammo perfectly without having to use any tools. High-power versions have the potential to hurl 40-grain slugs at 1000 feet per second. This particular gun doesn’t feature the full suite of adjustability as it’s a sub-12 ft.lbs. model.
Power output on the Panthera is remarkably consistent. The review gun stayed within four feet per second over a string of ten shots, and I’m told that it is capable of even better. The 300cc carbon air bottle is, unusually, positioned at the rear of the gun – and its fill pressure is displayed on the lower one of those two neat gauges. All the permutations between power output, barrel length and calibre make it hard to pin down the Panthera’s shot count. It has been designed for precision over huge capacity, but I was running the review gun at 11.1 ft.lbs. for most of the shooting I did with it, and it was good for 200 shots from a full 250 bar fill. When you need to refill, it’s just a matter coupling up to the Foster connector just in front of the neck of the bottle.
As for how this gun shoots – it is amazing and has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. In windless conditions, the test gun was landing pellets one on top of another at 30m. Shot from the support of a bench, it was still single-holing at 40m and was flipping 40mm spinners with unerring regularity at 60m, and of course, it has been designed to tackle targets at 100m and way beyond in its high-power guises. The simple fact is that the Panthera is the sort of gun that makes challenging shots as easy as they can be.
As I have come to expect from FX, the finish and engineering on this gun looks remarkably tidy. Despite being very refined, their new offering certainly doesn’t feel flimsy. Of course, only time will tell how it stands up to the rigours of heavy use, but on early impressions, its build quality appears to be of an exceptionally high standard.
The Panthera is a phenomenal airgun. It has certainly raised the bar by several notches, and I hope to get my hands on a high-power version before too long. That said, the sub-12 model is still a joy to shoot – and the fact that it has been designed to perform well at colossal power levels means the legal limit variant is all the sweeter because it’s barely ticking over.
There is no denying that this is an expensive airgun, but if you get to try one, I think you will agree that it feels even more refined than what is regarded as the standard at this price point. Yes, it has been designed primarily for long-range target shooting with slugs, but the legal limit review gun really cut it with pellets. Despite being given strict orders to take the very best care of this special PCP, I must confess that I couldn’t resist taking it out on a hunting trip. The Panthera may not have been designed for pest control, but it certainly rose to the challenge, and you can see how it fared in a forthcoming episode of Airgun Action on the Shooting and Country TV YouTube Channel where my video review is already live.
Manufacturer: FX Airguns, Sweden
Type: Modular tuneable PCP
Stock type: Customisable tactical
Cocking: Reversible sidelever action
Trigger: Two-stage, fully-adjustable
Safety: Manual switch
Calibres: .177, .22 (tested), .25 and .30
Overall length: 980 to 1010mm (38.6 to 39.8in)
Barrel length: 500mm (20in, tested), 600mm (24in) and 700mm (28in)
Weight: 3.4kg (7.5lbs) without scope
Fill pressure: 250 bar
Shots per fill: Up to 200, depending on power output
Energy of test rifle: Avg 11.1 ft.lbs. over 10 shots
Variation (10 shots): 4fps
RRP: £1,853 for model tested
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