On Test: Daystate Wolverine .303 – hot air or hot stuff?

The Daystate Wolverine .303 has got people talking – Some say ‘it’s awesome’. Others point out that, in order to own this work of Dr Frankenstein the UK you need to have a firearm certificate – and if you have an FAC why on earth would you bother about air when you can have powder?

Well today we want to find out if this beast is worth howling about. Instead of putting it in the hands of an air gunner, we’re giving it to a rifle reviewer who hasn’t been air gunning since he was in shorts.

“The last time I shot an air rifle, I was 15 years old and then as soon as I got my hands on a .22 rimfire I saw the light and that was it,” says rifle expert Tim Pilbeam. “That was the very last time and that was 35 years ago and now I am faced with a 30 calibre air rifle which is brilliant. So I am looking forward to this.”

Tim certainly likes the look of the Daystate, but before we see if it does the job, what about applications. To put it bluntly – what’s the point of it?

“Quite a few plus points for the .303,” says Tim. “Beyond 150 yards these are very, very safe. The pellets just fizzle out and very, very low ricochet so very inherently safe, soft, malleable pellets. Secondly the ammunition is a bit cheaper than the .22 Rimfire. Apparently there are some police forces who are steering people towards an FAC air rifle, because they feel it is safer than a .22 or a .17 HMR.”

The biggest worry for Tim is animal welfare. Not the fuzzy kind peddled by the antis. Tim wants to see his animals drop to the shot and he knows his rifles will do exactly that.

“If you are going to kill an animal, make sure you kill it with plenty of power,” says Tim. “But air rifles have moved on an awful lot over the last 35 years. So we need to look at these types of air rifles again and see what they are capable of.”

So Tim is willing to give the Wolverine benefit of the doubt… However – he wants to do a quick couple of comparison tests between his .22, a .17HMR and this .303. First up penetration.

“We have got five bits of wood here,” says Tim. “They are about 15mm wide. Let’s see how deep the bullets travel into the wood.”

The .17 has gone through 60mm+ of wood. The .22 goes through 50mm. And the .303 Wolverine goes  through nearly 30mm of wood. “What that tells me is that the Wolverine .303 has a lot better knock-down power than the actual .22,” says Tim. “The .22 with a rabbit tends to go straight through a rabbit whereas a Wolverine I suspect will actually stop in the rabbit itself which is very safe and I suspect it will knock the rabbit over a lot better than the .22 rimfire.”

Tim’s targets

 Next, let’s look at accuracy. Here are some targets he prepared earlier. “Comparing the Rimfires to the .22 Wolverine. This is a .17HMR 17 grain bullet at 50 yards we achieved about .6 of an inch grouping. There were very windy conditions today so not the best conditions to check the grouping. The .22 Rimfire 40 grain bullet, we achieved about 1inch grouping at 50 yards which is quite respectable. The .303 Wolverine in fact we have actually got 10 shots here – very, very windy and whilst we got 2 slight fliers, most of the shot went into the middle there. So I think as the day went on the actual Wolverine improved quite a bit. So I am very happy with the accuracy of the .303.

So far, the Wolverine seems to pack a punch and it is pretty accurate – delivering all that energy where it counts – but what about the real thing? Well, Tim has a couple of myxamotosis sufferers that we can use for the last test.

First up it’s the .22 – then the .303. With the rabbit shot with the .22 rimfire, there is an entrance wound and an exit wound. The bullet has gone straight through, which is standard for a .22 at about 50 yards. “With the impact the rabbit moved quite a bit so I was quite surprised on that,” says Tim. “But that is fairly normal penetration exit wound for a rabbit.”

On the Daystate .303, once again there is an entrance wound and an exit wound. “What is interesting is that the rabbit didn’t actually move,” says Tim. “The pellet went straight through. I would have thought with the knock down power of the .303, this rabbit might perhaps fall straight over the bag. But it stayed still and the bullet went straight through it.

“Interesting observation, nothing scientific about this, just interesting to see how a rabbit reacts to a heavier bullet.”

The next thing Tim wants to do is go out into the field at night time and knock a few bunnies over and see actually what happens with the .303. He does this with his now infamous V8 rabbiting vehicle. A land Rover he can drive from the roof, it does twice as many miles to the gallon as the Daystate does to an air fill. All eyes are on the Wolverine tonight and, to start with, Tim’s friend Matt will be shooting with Tim driving and lamping.

Rabbit number one is hit hard and drops – a good start but how is that pellet behaving?

“Just shot a rabbit about 35 yards away with the .303,” says Tim. “The entry wound here has gone straight through the front shoulder. At the moment we can’t find any exit wound what so ever. So what we do is get the knife out and have a quick look inside the chest cavity and see if there is actually anything in there.”

Tim discovers that the pellet has  gone through the rabbit. The shot was about 35 yards. Tim says: “That is slightly surprising, because it has taken the shoulder out and I would have thought the pellet would have perhaps mushroomed a bit more than that, but it has gone straight through the shoulder, straight through the chest cavity and out the other side. But it was an instant kill. A job well done.”

Tim likes the power of the rifle on rabbits

As we move across the farm Tim spots a fox – not an animal he would chose to shoot with the .303 but, thankfully, Matt has also packed his .243, just in case. The animal is on the move but has one last glance back in our direction. The vixen drops. For an animal this size, bullet is a 75 grain VMax at about 3,500 feet per second. “We like the VMaxes as they do expand very, very quickly, fragment causing huge, huge trauma to the body and that stops the animal straight away,” says Tim. “It is instant death and that is what we are trying to achieve.”

Fial rabbit of the night is 20 metres away. Tim examines it/ “Once again we have got quite a large entrance wound, on the other side of the animal on this occasion the pellet went straight through the neck,” says Tim. “The pellet has passed through the neck and out through the lower part of the jaw, which is slightly surprising because you have got some hard neck bone tissue there and also at the bottom of the jaw here. I would have though an air rifle pellet would have mushroomed out and stopped and just cause quite a big exit wound, but there is nothing there. So it has actually gone straight through.”

Wood targets

We haven’t had the volume of rabbits we had hoped for this evening but Tim’s certainly got a feel for this rifle. So, the big question is would he consider the Wolverine a serious pest controlling contender?

“I suppose I have got to look at it from a person who likes the smell of gunpowder,” he says. “It performed. We shot three or four rabbits and every single time the pellet went straight through the animal. On two occasions, we didn’t actually get a complete kill straight away, which is slightly concerning.

“If it had  been a .22 Rimfire I think on both those occasions I would expect the rabbit to be dead. With a .17 HMR it would definitely be dead because of the explosive nature of the round.”

Tim looks at the Wolverine again. “It is a beautifully built air rifle,” he says. “It’s a beautiful bit of wood here but, after a night out shooting, I think I will stick with my .22 rimfire and my .17 HMR. But it has been a very, very interesting night out with the .303 Wolverine.”

It’s not for Tim, but it is an exciting addition to the world of fieldsports, it’s a calibre feared by enemies of the British army right up to when NATO introduced the limper-wristed .556, and thank goodness there are British companies out there who are working to revolutionise the sometimes staid old world of airguns. For more information about the Wolverine and the Daystate range go to Daystate.com.

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