Mat Manning talks cutting-edge air rifle design and innovation with FX Airguns chief technical officer Johan Axelsson.
FX Airguns has been blazing a hot trail at the forefront of airgun innovation over recent years. With an emphasis on clean, functional design combining match-level precision with seemingly infinite degrees of adjustability, the Swedish gunmaker has established a cult-like following.
The team at FX like to think outside of the box, and their unconventional approach to airgun design has resulted in game-changing innovations including the interchangeable Smooth Twist X Barrel System, the instantly famous Power Plenum and, most recently, a new dual-regulator system on their Maverick bullpup.
As shooters strive to push high-power airgun potential to the limit and beyond, FX’s unique combination of adjustability, precision and interchangeable modular design has made the brand a favourite with extreme-range pellet and slug aficionados around the world as well as its loyal sub-12 UK fanbase.
Eager to find more about this remarkable gunmaker, and maybe even get a hint of what we might be seeing in the future, I caught up with chief technical officer Johan Axelsson and put the following questions to him.
Do you shoot airguns and, if so, what is your favourite kind of shooting?
I enjoy all kinds of shooting but hunting with airguns is my favourite, and I try to do this as often as time permits. Unfortunately, this last year has kept me in Sweden and I have not had many opportunities to go out hunting. As soon as we are able to travel again, I will do my best to visit friends in the UK and US and join them on some hunts.
FX Airguns has come up with some remarkable innovations in recent years—including the Smooth Twist X Barrel, the Power Plenum and the Maverick’s dual regulator system. Which ones are you most proud of and why?
It really is impossible for me to decide. I enjoy every single step forward we take, and I would always say that I am proudest of the most recent one. I am always very eager to find out how any new development is perceived by end-users, as their feedback is a real learning experience for us.
Sometimes we do not educate end-users enough about how to get the best from a new feature—this is something we have really learned from and we now do our best to make certain that we make as much information as possible available when new features become available.
There appears to be significant overlap in your product line; the Impact, Wildcat and Maverick all look quite similar at a glance. Can you briefly explain the main differences between these guns and how you would expect shooters to choose between them?
I agree with that to a certain degree. However, although there are a few key elements that are similar, our airguns are all quite different. The best way for shooters to decide which one would suit them best is to think very carefully about what they want to use their airgun for.
If they want a sub-12ft/lb airgun to use for hunting, I would simply recommend that they go to their local gun shop and handle the different rifles to see what feels best to them. If, however, they want to shoot heavy slugs at high power, I would recommend that they choose a rifle with a 700mm barrel.
If they want to shoot really heavy slugs, they should probably consider one of our rifles with a bigger plenum, such as the Impact or Maverick. Most UK gun shops with a good range of airguns will be able to guide you to the correct decision.
Some shooters are afraid to tweak FX air rifles that offer lots of adjustment, such as the Impact and Crown. What are the most important dos and don’ts, and is it easy to return to factory defaults after making adjustments?
I would recommend that, when making adjustments to things like hammer tension and regulator pressure, shooters should make a note of where the settings are when they start—then they can always go back. The shooting community is very helpful, and there are lots of people out there on social media who will be able to help you out in your tuning adventures.
I would also advise everyone out there that simply trying to exactly copy some other tune may not work out exactly how you expect; each gun is a little different so you may get bad results if your tune is just a little way off.
One important piece of advice I would give people who want to tune their airguns is to always remember that when you decrease the hammer spring the power is supposed to go down. If it does not, it means you are hitting your valve too hard.
There seems to be a massive movement towards high-power air rifles at the moment. Are people who shoot UK legal-limit (sub-12ft/lb) rifles being left out?
A lot of the latest developments have been heavily geared towards high-power air rifles but that also brings some big benefits for sub-12 shooters.
I am super-excited about the double regulator that is on the Maverick because it is great for FAC airguns, but it is also excellent in sub-12 airguns and will give shooters a super-consistent shot string—not just for 10 shots but for the whole fill pressure of several hundreds of shots.
Slug ammunition has rocketed in popularity over the last year or so. Do you think the days are numbered for traditional pellets?
No. Slugs are awesome but so are pellets. They each have their own applications so I don’t think that pellets will ever disappear.
Will FX ever develop an electronic air rifle?
Short answer: No.
What do you rate as the most important considerations when designing an airgun?
First of all, it should be fun to use it. For me that means it needs to be lightweight and easy to cock. After that, it should be tuneable. As previously mentioned, there are so many different ways to use airguns now. Without tunability, the gun is simply just one gun but, with the possibility to tune, one rifle is suddenly capable of doing so many things.
FX never stands still when it comes to product development and new technology. Can you give us a hint of what might be coming from you in the near future or some of the new features we might see?
This is always a hard one, so I think I will keep you guessing. As you say, we never stand still and our mentality is that if we find a way to upgrade our guns we want to do it immediately, not slow down the progression by waiting. We simply want the gun we build today to be the very best gun that we can build, and we can’t do that if we wait years to implement changes.
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- Pros and cons of high-powered airguns