2023 Graduating Class of Airguns

These new-for-2023 air rifles made a strong impression at SHOT Show this year, based on performance, design and innovative feature sets.

2023 Graduating Class of Airguns

The Western Airguns Rattler .357-caliber semi-auto is a fast, accurate, reliable predator gun.

Last September, I started receiving new rifles to test in preparation of their release to market either at the end of 2022, or shortly afterward at the 2023 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Even when limiting the discussion to hunting oriented airguns, there were many interesting rifles, carbines, bullpups and even pistols in the mix. While there isn’t space to cover all these cool new products, I am going to select a few standouts that deserve a closer look if a new airgun is in your 2023 purchase plans. 

The first rifle is in a unique airgun category — the semi-automatic Western Airguns Rattler sent to me by Airguns of Arizona. The .357-caliber semi-auto Rattler uses a proprietary hammerless firing system. This is impressive on paper, but it is the consistent and reliable operation along with outstanding accuracy and power output that has impressed me the most. The ergonomics and responsiveness of the rifle make it a pleasure to shoot and allows its inherent accuracy to come through. Off the bench I was getting sub-inch groups at 75 yards and could keep a magazine inside the nine-ring while shooting rapid fire.

The adjustable regulator allows the gun to be optimized for conventional pellets or heavy slugs and produces very consistent shot-to-shot accuracy. The Rattler is on the expensive side, but if you want a large-bore semi-auto airgun this is to be expected. The trigger is non-adjustable, but was not an issue for me, because it is set fairly light, breaks crisply and predictably, and is set up to optimize the reliability of semi-automatic firing. 

I carried this rifle on a recent hunt in Texas and took a javalina at 70 yards. Using a solid lead 145-grain slug, the result was a complete pass through that anchored the animal on the spot. The ability to produce rapid follow-up shots in conjunction with the outstanding accuracy and power (270 foot-pounds of energy (fpe)) might make this one of the best predator hunting airguns I’ve used. A couple other standout features on the Rattler include a high shot count, removable air bottles, modular design with easy takedown and fully shrouded barrel that makes this one of the quietest mid-bore air rifles I’ve shot.

The Umarex NOTOS is a compact, accurate, 16 fpe small-game getting machine.
The Umarex NOTOS is a compact, accurate, 16 fpe small-game getting machine.

Umarex Double Threat

Umarex Airguns had several interesting rifles at the SHOT Show, and two that caught my eye were the compact NOTOS carbine and the AirJavalin Pro air archery rig. The reasons these two stood out were that they are compact, lightweight, have a feature rich list of capabilities and are quite affordable. 

The NOTOS Compact Rifle Kit (CRK) is a little gun that can be adjusted to fit either adults or young or small-frame shooters. This carbine is loaded with features that include sidelever cocking, integrated regulator and effective sound suppression with a very nice design aesthetic. The cocking lever allows for rapid firing and auto indexes a seven-round magazine. (You get two magazines and a single load tray in the box.) The stock is ergonomic, lightweight (4 pounds) and adjustable. What is impressive about this rig is that with the integrated fixed regulator it produces a very consistent shot string, and with the SilencAir sound suppression system is quiet to shoot. 

On the range, the NOTOS was capable of ragged one-shot groups at 30 yards with a variety of pellets, offered a high shot count and was generating a bit over 16 fpe, making it a great small-game and pest-control gun. I took it out after jackrabbits and bagged a couple at 30 and 40 yards respectively, dropping both cleanly and so quietly that the pellet impacts were almost as loud as the shots. 

The second Umarex gun that impressed me was its AirJavalin Pro, which is a lightweight air archery platform that shoots a 170-grain bolt at 370 fps. Arrow guns can be unwieldy, but the AirJavalin is compact at 31 inches in length, 34.25 inches with the adjustable stock fully extended, and is the lightest arrow gun I’ve used. The fill pressure is up to 4,500 psi, which is regulated at 1,500 psi, generating about 25 consistent shots per fill. At 25 yards, you can drop arrow after arrow into the bull’s-eye. As a matter of fact, my first arrow after sighting-in was a bull’s-eye, and my second arrow split the first. As arrow guns go, this one is at the lower power range. However, I think it’s perfect for small- to medium-size game, and I plan to use it for turkey hunting this spring.

The Hatsan Factor bridges competitive shooting and hunting.
The Hatsan Factor bridges competitive shooting and hunting.

New Offerings from Hatsan

Hatsan recently released several new airguns, but the one that stood out for me was the Factor .35-caliber Bullpup. This is a new design leveraging the technological advances of the Factor platform to provide a highly customizable pre-charged pneumatic airgun. The Factor BP is available in .30- and .35-caliber and can be fine-tuned and tailored for various competition and shooting applications. The Factor RC’s power output is adjustable, featuring an externally adjustable pressure regulator with an output pressure gauge and a hammer preload adjuster to fine-tune power output and cocking effort. As you would expect with a regulated gun, the shot-to-shot consistency is excellent, and the accuracy of the .35-caliber is outstanding when you dial in the regulator settings to your choice of pellet. 

The Factor is one of those rare birds that can be equally at home at a competitive shooting event or lining up on a wild hog in the field. The adjustability of parameters controlling the ballistic characteristics along with the adjustable and ergonomic furniture are ideal for shooting off the bench, but it also fits the role of a field gun. I have used the Factor to take a feral hog at 55 yards, dumping it with a headshot using a conventional round nose Diabolo pellet. 

At the other end of the spectrum, Hatsan also released one of the most fun plinking guns at SHOT, its Jet and Jet II PCP air pistols. They also come with a removeable buttstock that easily converts it into a handy little carbine. The Jet is available in three calibers: .177, .22 and .25 and is perfect for plinking and closer range small-game hunting. The sidelever action Jet is multi-shot PCP equipped with a removable air cylinder and built-in pressure gauge. There is also a variation available designated as the Jet II, which features dual 40cc air cylinders. 

I have the Jet II in .22-caliber and have been using it for both plinking steel spinners in the backyard and small-game hunting in its micro carbine configuration. This gun effectively bags rabbits and squirrels at 35 yards, but with its short barrel length I’ve tended to keep shots inside of that range. Either as an air-powered handgun or an ultracompact carbine, this gun offers more plinking fun for the buck than anything else I’ve shot.


Brocock BRK Ghost

I’ll close this look at my standout guns for 2023 with my all around favorite new small-game gun, the Brocock BRK Ghost, which utilizes innovative technology derived from its Brocock and Daystate lineage to maximize the strength and accuracy of the platform. The modular Ghost platform is offered in three model configurations: the standard calibers of .177, .22 and .25, and it was reported that the company will be offering its first .30-caliber model that will generate up to 95 fpe. Besides the selection of calibers, there are several interchangeable barrels and carbon fiber air bottles (480cc or 300cc) available, depending on the shooter’s needs. The power output is adjustable in more than 20 discreet steps, and the higher-power models have an additional finger-adjustable dial to fine-tune the regulator pressure, which is monitored on a separate gauge. The BRK’s sidelever action is a field proven design and can be set up for either right- or left-handed operation. In general, this is a rugged and reliable compact hunting gun. 

Brocock, which is rebranding as BRK, is perhaps not as well known in the United States as some of the other high-end European manufacturers, such as its sister company Daystate, but has long made some of my favorite PCP hunting rifles. I believe its focus on quality, accuracy and ergonomics, in combination with moves to increase the power output and offer larger calibers, will make this a strong contender in the premium segment populated by the European airgun makers.


Air Venturi's Avenge-X leverages a common technology platform for eight air rifle variations.
Air Venturi's Avenge-X leverages a common technology platform for eight air rifle variations.

Air Venturi Avenge-X

I do want to give a shout out to a line of rifles that I had a chance to look at during the SHOT Show but have not yet been able to shoot. The rifles comprise the Air Venturi Avenge-X line. And even though I haven’t used these guns would suggest you keep an eye out for them for three primary reasons. First, this is a truly modular line of products. Next, the proposed pricing is very competitive. Finally, the preliminary performance testing I’ve seen is quite good. These rifles leverage a common technology platform as the foundation for eight rifle variations that include classic, tactical and bullpup designs with various calibers and air storage options. What is shared across all these PCP air rifles is a regulated powerplant with fully adjustable performance, smooth and ergonomic sidelever cocking and an integrated shrouded barrel. 

I think the term “modular” can be overused in the airgun world, and to be meaningful to the end user it needs to meet some important criteria. A modular airgun needs to be constructed so a typical user can swap components in a technically easy and straightforward way. And the components required to modify or reconfigure the guns must be readily available at a reasonable price. From what I’ve seen, the Avenge-X line is firing on all cylinders. 

So, there you have it, my list of the guns to watch in 2023. My typical disclaimer for this type of article is that what has been presented here is my opinion. If everybody liked the same gun, there would be only one gun. What’s best for each shooter depends on how they will use it, what they want to pay and very importantly, how that gun fits their individual needs and taste. What I will say is that I picked these guns based on performance, quality and fit to a specific application. I will never tell you what to buy, but I will tell you these guns are all worth a look.


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