Brocock airguns are now equipped with an all-new sidelever action, this week’s Gun of the Week – the Sniper XR Laminate. A small change, but Mat Manning reckons it makes a big difference.
Rolling development is a popular word in the marketing of modern air rifles, but is actually a very wise approach to design. After all, why should manufacturers replace a successful model with something else just because there’s pressure on them to unveil a new piece of hardware every time a shooting show opens its gates? Surely it makes more sense to tweak and improve something that works.
And rolling development has just given a huge boost to Brocock’s already brilliant British air rifles. The range has recently been treated to the XR treatment, which means their cocking and loading mechanisms have been updated with a slick sidelever system and they’ve had their firing cycle enhanced. It may only sound like a small change, but in this case it has made a very big difference.
The XR range starts with the comparatively affordable Compatto, which retails for around £770. Admittedly that still isn’t cheap, but it is undeniably good value when you see and feel the quality and performance of the gun it buys you.
The Commander, Concept and Sniper models have also been given the XR overhaul, and for this test I was sent the Sniper dressed in a beautiful grey laminate stock and equipped with a high-capacity carbon-fibre buddy bottle.
Those high-end extras come at a cost, and this model retails for £1,295. Any airgun that costs over a grand has to be pretty exceptional to justify such a significant outlay, and after spending several weeks shooting it, I believe this airgun’s attributes more than live up to its price. In fact, I would say that it can hold its own against airguns costing almost twice as much.
Brocock Sniper XR Laminate: specification
MAKER: Brocock, England (www.brocock.co.uk)
MODEL: Sniper XR Laminate with carbon bottle
TYPE: Sidelever-action, multi-shot PCP
CALIBRE: .177, .22 (tested) and .25
OVERALL LENGTH: 880mm
LENGTH OF PULL: 365mm
BARREL LENGTH: 470mm
WEIGHT: 3.5kg (without scope)
TRIGGER: Two-stage adjustable
POWER: 11.4 ft-lb
Stock options include a robust and lightweight synthetic handle, but being something of a traditionalist, I much prefer this laminate option. The dense resins used in the laminate means it weighs a tiny bit more, but the gun still only tips that scales at around 3.5kg without a scope fitted. It measures a very compact 88cm, is nicely balanced and comes on to the aim incredibly naturally when shouldered.
Apart from looking good, the ambidextrous laminate handle is also very functional. The forward sweep of the forend means you don’t have to hold the bottle with your leading hand and there are panels of really crisp stippling on both sides of the forend and pistol grip.
This stock’s thumbhole cutaway is a very nice touch; it looks stylish, makes for a secure and comfortable hold, and has plenty of room for larger hands.
Too many guns are being made with unnecessary embellishments, but the extras on this stock are genuinely useful. There’s a Picatinny-type rail on the underside of the forend for accessory attachment and if you don’t want it, it’s easily removed by unscrewing a couple of discreet screws.
This handle also offers plenty of adjustment to ensure a good fit as both the butt pad and rounded polymer cheekpiece are height-adjustable. These adjustments are simple to make, and entail nothing more complicated than slackening and tightening bolts. There really is no excuse for failing to achieve correct eye/scope alignment with this airgun.
Features and function
There has been a real turnaround at Brocock since the company started working closely with Daystate a few years ago. These are now some of the best-made airguns on the market; they are well engineered, solidly constructed and look great.
Features on this model include a full-length barrel shroud which is baffled and actually does a pretty good job of reducing muzzle report. It’s also threaded so you can fit an additional silencer if you want to – that would somewhat compromise its stubby proportions, but the result would be super-quiet shooting.
Brocock offers several scope-mounting options for the Sniper, including standard dovetail. The test gun was fitted with the remarkably secure Picatinny inter-mount system, which makes for fast and precise switching between optics.
The forward section of the mount is swept forward to provide adequate clamping space for larger scopes and this one even features additional accessory rails, which could come in handy for mounting lasers, lamps or infrared illuminators.
The Sniper’s inter-mounts are very easy to remove, and there are dovetail rails beneath them which can be used for scope attachment as long as you use mounts that can straddle the magazine which sits between the two sections.
Brocock’s 10-shot magazine is a tried and tested piece of kit. I’ve used it to cycle thousands and thousands of shots through my own guns and have always found it to be very reliable. I believe that shop-bought Snipers also come supplied with a single-shot tray, although there wasn’t one included with the review gun.
Cocking and loading Brocock airguns with the previous bolt mechanism was never a problem, but the new XR sidelever system transforms it into something really special. The backward stroke cocks the gun and indexes the magazine and the forward stroke probes a pellet into the breech.
The process is silky smooth and almost effortless, thanks to the mechanical advantage provided by the sidelever. That extra leverage felt very slick on the sub-12 ft-lb test gun and I am reliably informed that it also makes for really smooth operation on high-power models. Sidelever cocking might be fashionable but there is no denying that it also enhances function.
Apart from working really well, the sidelever is nicely positioned and its operation is further assisted by a large, grippy dropdown handle. You won’t struggle to get a good hold on this sidelever, even when you’re wearing gloves. In front of the handle sits a power adjustment dial.
It has three clear stops and, although I don’t see the need to wind down the power from sub-12 ft-lb, it should be very handy on the more powerful versions, which can churn out muzzle energy in excess of 55 ft-lb.
The new breed of Brocock airguns have always had good trigger mechanisms, and the one on this model lived up to my expectations. The shape of the blade is near-perfect for general airgun shooting: a gentle curve from top to bottom and a wide, flat face which transmits plenty of feel to the pad of your finger.
The release was excellent; from the box, it was heavier than I like but I think that was because this gun had been used as a demonstrator model. It’s an adjustable two-stage setup; the first stage was a little bit short but it came to an obvious stop before the second stage broke with no creep whatsoever.
While I’m not usually a fan of safety catches that are positioned close to the trigger, I actually rather like the setup on the Sniper. The paddle type switch is located just in front of the trigger blade, so you don’t have to adjust your hold to use it, and at no point do you need to pull towards the trigger blade to flick it on and off. The gun is safe when the switch is across to the right, and you nudge it over to the left when you’re ready to shoot.
Performance and precision
Filling up with air is simple. Pull off the magnetic dust cap to expose the inlet in the underside of the stock and you’re good to couple up your bottle or pump via the supplied connector. Thanks to the large capacity 480cc carbon bottle on the .22 calibre test gun, it returned more than 400 shots at 11.4 ft-lb from a full charge.
This airgun is equipped with a regulator made by Dutch supremos Huma Air. It’s a neat bit of engineering which helps to boost shot count by optimising air efficiency and makes for impressive shot-to-shot consistency.
The review gun showed a variation of six feet per second over a string of 30 shots with pellets taken straight from the tin. Regulator pressure is displayed on the top gauge on the right-hand side of the stock and the one beneath it shows your remaining air reserve.
A recoilless air rifle with a super-consistent power output, a high-quality choked barrel and a very predictable trigger setup should print some impressive groups on the range, and the Brocock Sniper XR did just that.
I had relatively windless conditions for one of my range sessions and, running on Daystate Rangemaster Sovereign pellets, it printed groups measuring less than 10mm from centre to centre at 30m and still within 15mm at 40m.
Those groups were achieved loading pellets via the magazine, which gave me a chance to savour the new sidelever action, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you could squeeze out more precision with the single-shot tray.
Incidentally, the hammer and valve assembly has been updated on the XR models and it did feel different from my Sniper HR. It’s hard to put into words but I would say that it felt faster and smoother, which may well have helped me to achieve a string of impressive groups on the range.
And this gun isn’t just designed to perform from the support of a bench; its easy handling makes it comfortable to shoot from stances you’re likely to find yourself adopting in the field, while its compact proportions make it a great choice for hide shooting.
This flagship version of the Brocock Sniper XR may not be cheap, but I would still argue that it represents really good value for money. It has a very consistent regulated firing cycle, it’s housed in a beautiful laminate stock, it has huge shot capacity and now it also boasts a very slick sidelever action.
If you want a compact airgun that’s not only accurate but also a real joy to shoot, do have a go with one of these.
This review originally featured in our sister publication, Airgun Shooter Magazine.