Britain's biggest-selling airgun magazine
Dave Barham reviews the new KalibrGun Cricket II bullpup - with a light weight and compact design it's ideal for both hunting and target shooting!
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Based in the Czech Republic, KalibrGun has gained quite a following here in the UK. The latest incarnation of their hugely popular Cricket rifle, the MkII, now comes in a wide range of specifications. In fact, if you go on the KalibrGun website you’ll see that there are no less than 19 different base models of the Cricket II. They also state that with various add-ons there are over 150 variations of the rifle available! Talk about spoilt for choice. It’s one of the most customisable rifles out there for sure.
The first incarnation of the Cricket hit the shelves back in 2006, but there have been many changes to the rifle over the past 17 years. Their cult-like following in the UK is well deserved, reliability and performance being the two key factors.
KalibrGun actually list the Cricket II as being designed for target shooting, but you only have to look at the compact design and weight to fathom out that it’s also perfect for hunting. So much so that after a couple of days messing about on my garden and club ranges I took it out for an hour’s rabbit hunting.
The Cricket II Tactical’s Laminate stock is just one of many available, and this particular one comes in a choice of four colours, including the Sky (blue) one I have on test here, plus Forest (green), Lynx (Grey) or Lava (orange).
Starting at the rear of the rifle you’ll find a hard rubber butt pad, which is height-adjustable in order to achieve correct alignment between your eye and scope. The wooden cheek support sits above the magazine housing and the rear section of the barrel. It is fairly basic in design, but it does the job it’s supposed to. I like the way they have rounded off the top edge to give a more comfortable contact point with your cheek. Hidden away underneath one of the cut-out holes you’ll find a couple of spring-loaded ball bearings, which allows you to store two loaded magazines in the recess provided.
It’s worth noting that there is no stippling on this rifle, but even out in damp conditions I found the wooden stock gripped well – it’s not slippery at all.
I really like this rifle’s pistol grip, it’s very well sculpted and I found it very comfortable, even with my shovel-like hands. Immediately above the trigger unit you’ll find the manual safety button, which is a push on/off type. Talking about triggers, this one is two-stage adjustable, and here I go again … it’s a gently curved blade made from plastic. I can understand why a lot of manufacturers are heading this way to keep weight and costs down, and it’s highly unlikely that one will ever break.
It’s just one of my pet hates, especially with top-end rifles, I want a metal trigger! Straight from the factory, the first stage is fairly short and there is a tiny bit of creep in the second stage, but the break point is very easy to predict and I got to grips with it very quickly.
As far as cocking the rifle goes, you’ll find the lever on the right-hand side directly above the pistol grip, rather than way back opposite your cheek as with some bullpups. This positioning is spot on, and it allows you to cock the rifle without having to move your hand too far whilst staying mounted on the rifle.
The linkage is nothing short of superb, and it takes minimal effort to cock, with everything being silky smooth in operation. There’s no clunkiness associated with this rifle. When you pull the lever back you’ll also notice a red indicator at the rear of the action, which provides visual confirmation that the gun is cocked.
As with the stock, the cocking lever is ambidextrous and can be moved to the left-hand side if required.
Underneath the main body of the rifle, immediately in front of the trigger guard is a forward-facing Weaver rail, which can be removed via the single screw attaching it if required. However, it is a natural position for your hand to sit when holding the rifle. It’s also where you can mount a bipod, if needed.
Above this on the right-hand-side is the fill gauge, which is quite large and easy to read. On the opposite side of the rifle in the same position is where the fill port is situated. Remove the bung by simply pulling it out, then insert the quick-fill adapter supplied in order to fill. You’ll notice from the photo here that there is a fair amount of grease around the fill port recess. I’m guessing this is intentional to help keep the plug in place, and also help create a seal when the fill probe is inserted.
The Cricket II Tactical is also equipped with a regulator, and I found that the shot consistency was good, coming in with a variation of 8fps over ten shots.
Up on top of the action you’ll find a generous 220mm-long Weaver rail to mount your chosen optics. As you can see from the pics I opted to fit the HikMicro Cheetah to this test rifle, and it sits on top a treat.
There are two barrel-lengths available on the Cricket II. A 450mm version on test here, and a longer 600mm one. If you opt for the 600mm barrel then you’ll also be getting a 500cc carbon bottle as opposed to the 350cc one. Both barrel lengths are threaded for 1/2in UNF in case you want to add a silencer, but I found this particular shrouded barrel to be very quiet indeed, even managing to get two shots off on a brace of rabbits when I took it out into the field. The 450mm-long barrel on test is choked with 12 grooves and 450mm (17.7in) of twist, for those who like to know.
The review gun I have here is a .22 calibre, and the mag’ holds 14 shots, as does the .177 version. As you would expect, a spare mag’ is supplied as standard.
The design of the magazine is simple, and one we’ve all seen before – it’s a metal drum that’s been machined with chambers for pellets and a cog for indexing, with a rubber ‘O’-ring around the outside to help hold the pellets in place. Simply push the pellets into the mag’ nose first and you’re ready to go.
To insert the mag’ you first have to cock the rifle, then pull back the mag’ locking bolt. Then you insert the mag’ and push the locking bolt back into position to hold it in place, before closing the cocking lever – you’re now ready to shoot. This rifle is equipped with a 3D-printed mag’ stop made by JB3D. This prevents you from pushing the magazine all the way through and back out the opposite side of the slot, which is really rather handy.
This rifle performed extremely well both on the range and in the field. On the range, I was comfortably hitting 8mm, 10-shot groups at 30 metres, which gave me more than enough confidence to take it out on a rabbit hunt.
I only managed to spend a couple of hours at one of my tricky permissions, but that resulted in a brace of rabbits in quick succession, one of which was a real brute as you’ll see from the photo of it laid up against the rifle. In fact, both rabbits came within the first 15 minutes and just seconds apart, which is testament to just how quiet this rifle is in both operation and when shooting. I dropped the first rabbit where it stood, and a second popped its head up just a few feet away – I hadn’t even seen it! So a quick pull/push of the lever and I was ready to go again before rabbit number two scarpered.
I know this rifle is billed as a ‘target’ rifle, but it’s absolutely perfect for most hunting scenarios given the compact design and lightness. It’s one of those little gems that I wish I had a little more time with before having to send it back.
Model: Cricket II Laminate
UK Distributor: www.vector-air.co.uk
Type: Multi-shot bullpup PCP
Stock type: Laminate tactical
Cocking: Reversible sidelever action
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Calibres: .177 and .22 (tested)
Overall length: 680mm (26.8in)
Barrel length: 450mm (17.72in) and 600mm (24in)
Weight: 3.4kg (7.5lbs) without scope
Fill pressure: 300 bar (250 recommended)
Cylinder Cpacity: 350cc carbon bottle (500cc on 600mm barrel)
Shots per fill: 200+
Energy of test rifle: Avg 11.6 ft.lbs. over 10 shots
Variation (10 shots): 8fps
RRP: Approx £1,650
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