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Dave Barham reviews the new CO2 850 M2 Empire Combo from Umarex, which comes complete with scope, silencer, bipod, pellets and targets!
Costing under £450, this full-power, complete CO2 rifle kit from Umarex is going to prove extremely popular. It’s one of those rifles that I’m struggling to put away, and I think it’s going to be a while before I can move on from the Umarex 850 M2 Empire as my ‘everyday’ back garden plinker. Don’t let that sentence put you off before we start, though, this rifle is a whole lot more than just a back garden plinker – it ticks a lot of boxes for me.
REMEMBER THE CO2!
You might have read last month that I actually intended to review this rifle in the Summer issue, but I made a schoolboy error in thinking that, like many others, it would take a couple of 12g CO2 cylinders. Well, after a quick phone call to those lovely folk at John Rothery Wholesale (the UK distributors for Umarex) I soon had a couple of 88g CO2 cylinders on my desk. Note to self: Pay More Attention To The Instruction Manuals! I’ve since learned that this rifle can take the Walther 12g CO2 adapter as well, which could be a good option for those who shoot a lot of air.
Loading the CO2 couldn’t be easier. You simply depress the button on the underside of the stock and slide the front part of the stock off. This exposes the screw port and housing inside the remainder of the stock. It’s then a simple case of screwing the 88g cylinder into place and replacing the piece of stock that you removed. This snaps back into place with a solid ‘click’.
TRIGGER AND SAFETY
This rifle features an adjustable two-stage trigger, which took a bit of getting used to. The factory setting as it comes straight out of the box is quite spongey and it almost feels like a single-stage trigger, but with a little adjustment I managed to set it just how I like it, with around 2.5lb of pull weight.
The safety button is housed at the back of the action, and it’s a push-off, pull-on type that can be operated with your thumb. It resets each time you cock the rifle, which while being super-safe, could be a hindrance to some hunters. I must admit that I was a little puzzled by the safety button at first, and it took me a good 60 seconds to discover the tiny linear catch housed in the middle of it, which needs to be depressed before the safety button is pushed forward into the ‘fire’ position.
SCOPE AND CHEEKPIECE
This rifle comes fitted with front and rear fibre-optic open sights, with an adjustable rear goalpost and shrouded post at the front, which are more than adequate. It also comes supplied with a Walther 3-9x40 scope and mounts, which I must say is a joy to use. It has a basic ‘hunting’ crosshair, which you would expect from a budget scope, but it’s suitable for both short-range target and hunting situations. You won’t be able to use holdover or under with this, but then this kit is not designed to be an out-and-out hunter or target rifle – it’s all things to all men (and women).
The 3-9 magnification zoom ring is particularly smooth, which makes it very easy to dial in and out.
Next up is the cheekpiece, and it’s nice to see that Umarex has included an additional raised cheekpiece that simply clips on and off. This is for those who want to use the rifle with the supplied scope. In essence, leave it off when using the open sights, and clip it on when you attach the scope.
SILENCER AND BIPOD
There are yet more goodies inside the box in the form of an Umarex K3 Neo silencer, which screws down on the 1/2”-20 UNF muzzle thread beautifully. It really does make a difference to the sound output from this rifle, and I’m glad that Umarex has included it in the kit – if you’re going to take this rifle out on the rabbits, the silencer will definitely give you an edge.
Then there’s also a spring-loaded, extendable leg bipod, designed to fit onto the Weaver rail fitted underneath the fore end of the stock. Whilst I’m on the subject of Weaver/Picatinny rails, this rifle has no less than five of them! There’s the one you attach the bipod to, then there is one either side of the stock at the fore end, plus a further one each side of the bipod itself. If you like your add-ons, you can mount five of them on this rifle, and that’s a lot of red dots, lasers and lamps! All of the Weaver rails fitted can be removed if desired – a real plus point for those who want to trim the rifle down and just use the open sights.
MAG’ AND ACCURACY
The 850M2 comes supplied with one 8-shot rotary magazine, which you might think a bit stingy because most other manufactures supply two mag’s. However, the mag’ supplied is manufactured from aluminium, and is one of the best I have seen to date. It’s extremely easy to load and can be done with one hand if required. There’s a raised section on one side that is machined into the mag’, and this is used to locate the magazine into the breech – so it can only be loaded into the rifle from one direction and from one side – the left. Once in position, there is a metal slide underneath the bolt which you must slide forward to lock the mag’ into position.
With the mag’ in place, it’s simply a case of pulling back the bolt to cock the rifle, then sliding it home and down to load, as with all bolt-action rifles. Again, I tip my hat to Umarex, because this bolt-action is extremely smooth, positive and requires very little effort. I was expecting a clunky, crunchy, ‘give it a couple of pushes to ram it home’ kind of affair, but I’m pleasantly surprised.
I got to spend a lot of quality time with this rifle over the past four weeks. It’s been out on my bench in the garden range at least half a dozen times, and I’ve also taken it with me on a couple of rabbit hunts at two different perms.
Before I even entertained the idea of taking it out hunting, I made sure it was up to the job, smashing five mag’s of four different pellets down the range at 20 metres to find out how accurate it is and which pellets it prefers. It was a close call between the JSB Exact and Air Arms Diabolo Field, but the JSB just pipped it with some very good ½-inch groupings. There was only the odd flyer, after fine-tuning with another five mag’s of Exacts, and even those were minimal, so I was more than confident enough to take it out into the field on the rabbits.
Power-wise, I was getting an average of 10.5lbs with the .177 JSB Exacts, which is more than enough to knock over a rabbit at 20 metres – another huge consideration when taking a CO2 rifle, or any rifle for that matter, out into the hunting field.
As predicted, the rifle performed very well out in the field, taking three rabbits during one evening session. There were no misses, and all three kills were clean and instant. More than enough proof that the 850 M2 is up to the job.
I’m impressed, very impressed with this kit. Yes, there are PCP rifles out there for similar money, but for CO2 lovers this Umarex 850 M2 is a massive step up in terms of quality, accuracy and performance. Not only that, it’s really easy to shoot and extremely good fun, to boot. It’s the ideal gift for our younger shooters and for those just getting into the sport, as well as seasoned shooters who fancy a play with something a little different to the norm. When you open that box and see all the goodies inside, it’s like opening a birthday present – there’s just so much to go at.
My only criticism if I had to make one? It needs a spare mag’ – that’s it. I really can’t fault it, especially for less than £450.
Make/Model: Umarex 850 M2 Empire
Type: CO2, 8-shot rotary mag’
Stock Material: Ambidextrous, synthetic
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Calibres: .177 and .22
Overall Length: 1186mm inc moderator
Barrel Length: 550mm
Weight: 3.6kg (8lbs) with silencer and scope
Fill Pressure: N/A
Shots Per Fill: Around 400 with the 88g CO2
Energy of Test Rifle: Avg 10.5 ft.lbs. over 20 shots
Variation (20 shots): 18 fps
Distributor: John Rothery Wholesale
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