Britain's biggest-selling airgun magazine
Mat Manning reviews the Niksan Escalade C and is pleasantly surprised by this double-bottled tactical PCP air rifle, which comes with four magazines, a hard case and an integral bipod.
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Airgun design tends to fall into fairly standard target, sporter or bullpup categories these days, but there are plenty of shooters out there who want something a little different. For those who feel less inclined to follow the herd, the Niksan Escalade C from Just Airguns offers an alternative that although slightly off the beaten track in terms of its styling, is built around a robust and accurate PCP.
There is no missing this Turkish airgun’s unapologetically tactical appearance, but it has another very distinctive trait; it is equipped with two air tanks – one at the front and one at the back. I expected that tandem bottle system to come at a serious cost, but with this particular model retailing at £669.99 for a kit that includes no less than four magazines, a foam-lined hard case and a removeable dropdown fore end handle that incorporates an integral bipod, I think the Escalade C is very competitively priced.
Overall length is 1050mm, length of pull is 390mm, and the gun tips the scales at around 4.1kg before you fit a scope. With those proportions, I would certainly regard the Escalade as an adult-sized airgun. It has a nice, chunky feel to it and quite a tactical look, which I think is enhanced by the camo finish of the synthetic stock. The handle is more than tough enough to stand up to a few bumps in the field, and after taking it into the woods a few times, I certainly think the break-up pattern helps it to blend in with the natural environment.
The stock is ambidextrous and I found it to be a very good fit for my 6-foot frame. Mounted up with a 4-16 x 50 MTC King Cobra scope, the point of balance fell about 8cm in front of the trigger blade, which felt right to me. I really appreciated the steep rake of the pistol grip, which gives excellent trigger attack. The butt section, which incorporates a recess to carry a spare magazine, is sleeved over the rear air bottle, and I found it to be just the right height for decent eye/scope alignment. The Escalade’s design may be based on tactical simplicity, but that certainly doesn’t result in any obvious compromises when it comes to handing.
Keeping with the tactical theme, the Escalade has a Picatinny accessory rail on the underside of the fore end. Of course, you can fit any accessories you want to it, but it also serves as an attachment point for the supplied dropdown grip, which in turn has its own Picatinny rail. Apart from being a useful extra for shooters who like the hold-style provided by this type of handle, this one incorporates a very useful bipod which stows inside and pops out at the press of a button. The narrow splay of the bipod means it is somewhat unstable when used as a gun stand, but it provides extremely handy support when shooting prone or from the bench, as long as you have the gun held in your shoulder.
Scope mounting is by way of a Picatinny-type rail. The rail is interrupted by the magazine, but the mag’ sits nice and low so is very unlikely to get in the way. This model has a 550mm barrel which is fully shrouded, and that shroud features a half-inch UNF thread for attachment of a silencer should you wish. The shroud does provide some sound suppression, although I would expect most hunters to fit a moderator and accept the reduced bark from the muzzle as fair compensation for the gain in overall length.
The Escalade runs a 14-shot magazine in .177 calibre and a 12-shot version in .22. As I have already stated, there are four supplied, which is very generous. The magazines caused no damage to ammo during my testing and their substantial depth meant there was plenty of space to accommodate longer pellets and slugs.
To remove the Escalade’s magazine, you simply draw the sidelever all the way back and pull it out from the right. You then make it ready for loading by rotating the clear plate clockwise, as the arrow indicates, until it stops and then drop a pellet in, skirt first, from the opposite side. That first pellet holds the inner drum under spring tension so you can then drop the remainder of the pellets in, nose-first, from the side of the clear plate until it is full. The fully-loaded magazine then pushes back in from the right and is held in position by a magnet. Push the sidelever forward and the gun is cocked, loaded and ready to go.
Sidelever actions have become very popular on pre-charged airguns over the past few years, and this one is very good. It is well-positioned just above the trigger and has a nice long drop-down handle, which is textured for an improved grip. In use, the sidelever mechanism is very positive and makes for fast and reliable reloading – fun for plinking and very useful in the field. It doesn’t appear to be reversible, though, and that could prove frustrating for left-handers.
The Escalade is equipped with a two-stage trigger. The first stage on the review gun was short and light, but it was definitely there, and came to a very clear stop before breaking very crisply and with no obvious creep. Niksan has informed me that the Escalade’s trigger can be adjusted for length and weight of pull, but they were unable to explain how, and the process is not covered in the instruction manual. With the gun out of its stock, I could see no obvious means of trigger adjustment, so decided not to tinker with it. Thankfully, the trigger release was set up very well at the factory.
The design of the trigger blade is excellent; it is nicely curved to fit the finger and its wide face transmits plenty of feel. Best of all, the height and angle of the blade can be adjusted, and I had no problem doing that – it’s simply a matter of loosening off a small grub screw and setting it exactly how you like before re-tightening the screw to keep it secure. Above the trigger blade sits a rocker switch, manual safety catch. Almost silent in operation, it is positioned nicely away from the trigger, but is still easy enough to access. It’s safe in the forward position and you pull it back when you’re ready to take the shot.
Just Airguns sent me a .177 model to test, and it was churning out a muzzle energy of 11.3 ft.lbs., with a variation of 8fps over a string of ten shots. The Escalade does not come fitted with a regulator as standard, and this does result in a noticeable power curve as you work through the charge. There is a power adjuster switch positioned in front of the sidelever, and that enabled me to knock down the output by about a third, which could be useful for plinking on smaller garden ranges.
Air filling is via an inlet on the left side of the gun. There is no cap supplied to cover the inlet and I would certainly suggest putting something on there to prevent it from getting plugged with dirt or taking in dust and grit. The kit does include the Foster connector you need to couple up to your air tank or pump for charging. Maximum fill pressure is 250 bar, and the two 425cc tanks that make up the Escalade’s tandem bottle system ensure that you can expect a good 300 shots from a full charge. There is a clearly marked pressure gauge on the right-hand side of the fore-stock, so you can easily see when it’s time to top up.
The Escalade C give an impressive account of itself in the accuracy stakes. This Niksan’s well-balanced handling and good fit makes it comfortable to shoot from a variety of positions, but it will come as no surprise that I had my best results from the bench. In windless conditions, I managed five-shot groups at 30m that could be covered by a 5p coin. Those groups opened up into what I would describe as ‘ragged cloverleafs’ at 40m, which is still perfectly respectable. The Escalade did seem to be somewhat pellet-fussy, which is nothing unusual, but the test gun showed a distinct liking for 8.46-grain QYS Streamlined pellets. Fed the right ammo, this airgun is certainly accurate enough to tackle live quarry if you shoot within the usual sensible parameters.
Despite its competitive pricing, the Escalade C comes with some useful extras, including that hard case. I have already mentioned the four magazines, the filling attachment and the drop-down handle that doubles as a bipod, but you also get a basic set of tools, a cloth, a keyring and an accuracy card confirming the gun’s performance.
I have been very pleasantly surprised by the Niksan Escalade C. Too many people are unfairly dismissive of Turkish airguns, but I think a lot of shooters are going to really like this offering from Just Airguns. This sensibly priced PCP manages to stand out from the crowd while still feeling reassuringly familiar in the shoulder. It certainly delivers a lot of bang for your buck, and appears to have been built to withstand the rigours of heavy use. I really enjoyed my range time with it – putting its fast, positive action to good use ragging targets and flipping spinners – but it felt even more at home when I took it into the woods and pitted it against pests.
Manufacturer: Niksan, Turkey
Model: Escalade C
Type: Multi-shot PCP
Stock type: Tactical
Cocking: Sidelever action
Safety: Manual switch
Calibres: .177 (tested) and .22
Overall length: 1050mm (41in)
Barrel length: 550mm (22in)
Weight: 4.1kg (9lbs) without scope
Fill pressure: 250 bar
Shots per fill: Circa 300
Energy of test rifle: Avg 11.3 ft.lbs. over 10 shots
Variation (10 shots): 8fps
RRP: £669.99 (for model tested)
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