In 1994 Air Arms launched the Field Target version of their 10m rifle the RN10. The rifle immediately started amassing trophies at all levels and carried on to do so through its name change to the Pro-Target & continuing development which resulted in 3 distinctive versions.
The success of the RN10/Pro-Target cemented the Air Arms name as a serious player in Field Target & the company set out on a “no compromise” mission to create the ultimate Field Target rifle.
After consultation with leading Field Target shooters, including a number of world champions, Air Arms set about producing the new rifle & in 2001 prototypes were passed to the aforementioned shooters for testing in the field.
Taking on board the field testers’ feedback there was further development, testing & prototypes with Nick Jenkinson reviewing one such prototype in the March 2002 issue of Airgun World.
From the article it was easy to see that the new rifles design, initially to be named the Evolution but now called the EV2, had taken a lot from the Pro-Target with features being added to benefit Field Target shooting.
A couple of months later Airgun World was at the IWA show in Nuremburg and reported that the “finished article” was on show. This was followed up with a review of the rifle in the August issue of the magazine.
Although this latest version was expected in shops soon an extended programme of final tweaks and testing meant that the EV2 finally reached the eagerly waiting public in January 2004.
The Air Arms mission to create a complete Field Target package ready to compete at the highest level immediately gained praise with shooters and the press alike.
The Pro-Target’s influence on the EV2’s was evident. The stock retained the 10m target rifle look with some restyling, including a shortened front end and a thumb groove, as well as benefitting from the addition of a fully adjustable butt hook, a hamster & a palm shelf below the pistol grip. Beneath the stock was an accessory rail.
As well as the grey/black laminate stock resembling the one used on the Pro-Target, the Mk1 EV2 was also offered in the more commonly seen Hydrographics finished silver/grey stock with “EV2” wording on the fore-end and the Air Arms logo on the cheek-piece.
EV2 Mk1 Review - Airgun World - February 2004
The addition of features requested by field target shooters also extended to the action which had a swing out windicator arm attached to the muzzle end of the cylinder, a swing out spirit level at the other end & a click/dialing-in chart on the left hand side.
A pressure gauge as used on the 400 series rifle was beneath the cylinder and could be viewed via a hole in the hamster.
Internally, a new regulator based on the Pro-Target item and a newly designed firing valve ensured improved efficiency over the Pro-Target & a quicker lock time.
With the 2-stage, multi-adjustable match trigger on the Pro-Target being so good it would be hard to improve so there was no change to the trigger unit on the EV2. Above the unit there was a completely new silver finished breech block with a side-lever cocking mechanism. A brass breech opening was revealed when the lever comes back and when pushed forward after loading a spring-loaded pellet probe would ensure a good seal.
There were 2 separate sets of dovetail grooves on top of the block – one in front of the breech opening & one behind. There was a tiny difference in height between the front and back of these dovetails to help obtain the correct angle declination when using large objective scopes – especially when mounted high.
The 15mm blued CZ barrel was swaged, rather than being button drawn, and was choked. An air stripper at the end of the barrel was attached to the blued cylinder via a band that housed the windicator arm.
Beneath the silver finished muzzle brake there was a screw on cover – also finished in silver. The cover housed a filler valve that was taken from the 400 series.
Production of the Mk1 EV2 ceased in June 2006 ahead of the launch of the Mk2 version. The July 2006 issue of Airgun World featured a review of this reportedly close to release new offering but the Mk2 was not released until March 2007. The delay is believed to have been due to Air arms waiting on an order of new stocks.
There were no changes to the stock design apart from the silver Hydrographics finished version no longer being offered. On the other hand, the action had received a major redesign with many changes both internally and externally.
Internally, there had been a change weight and diameter of the firing valve, giving improved air efficiency. There was also a change to the transfer port design due to the new barrel configuration.
The Mk1 barrel had been turned down at the breech end and had a brass sleeve fitted that had a groove for the breech O ring. The new 14mm Lothar Walther 19” barrel was machined to house a breech O ring, further improving air efficiency.
Air Arms had used the sleeve configuration on the Mk1 as if they had machined the barrels and made a mistake they would have to stand the cost of the rejected barrel. Lothar Walther were now supplying the barrels pre-machined and would bear the cost of any rejects.
EV2 Mk2 Review - Airgun World - July 2007
The most obvious & striking difference to the Mk1 was the external appearance of the action. The breech block now had more angles and straight edges and had the rifles name engraved on the side. The housing was offered in 3 coloured anodising options – black, red or blue – with matching new design air stripper, filler cover a& trigger housing. The filler itself was the newly introduced T-bar design.
The cylinder & barrel now had a bead blasted nickel finish with the barrel support having scalloping to either side.
Early 2009 saw the introduction of the Mk3 EV2 with the only changes being to the stock.
After feedback from Field Target shooters the palm shelf/hamster had been extended to reach a bit further forward. Single pillars with ball joints had replaced the 2 post assembly on the cheekpiece & butt pad to offer far more adjustability.
The Mk3 EV2 wasn't around for long as another slight change to the stock design resulted in the Mk4 EV2 being launched in 2010 - the only change was that a single post and ball joint had added to the palm shelf/hamster. To accommodate this there was a slight change to the action block.
2010 saw the introduction of the “Black & Blonde” EV2. This version had a Poplar stock. The main part of the stock was left in the white with a lacquer finish whilst the palm shelf/hamster & cheekpiece were stained black. The Polar stock reduced the overall weight significantly & moved the weight forward a little which some shooters preferred.
I have only seen the Blonde & Black EV2 with the black action & it seems this was the only colour scheme Air Arms promoted although I am quite sure that if for some reason a different colour action was requested Air Arms would have obliged.
Towards the end of the EV2’s life there were some internal tweaks. I am unsure of what these were but am reliably informed they improved the rifles performance. These late Mk4’s can be identified by a change to the script on the breech block. The “EV2” script font is larger than the earlier ones and graduated rather than solid.
Production of the EV2 ceased in 2012 ahead of the release of the FTP900.
I had started writing a paragraph to conclude this article about one of my all-time favourite rifles but I then came across the paragraph below on the wholesaler John Rothery’s site which I feel says it all:
“The Air Arms EV2 is by far the most successful field target rifle in the world. This status was the only objective when the rifle was conceived and it's the only result Air Arms were prepared to accept. Winning consistently at the highest level of field target shooting isn't easy for a competitor, or the rifle upon which all hopes depend, and every component must perform perfectly, no matter how extreme the conditions. That's why Air Arms adopted a no-compromise policy from the outset, and that's why the EV2 became the benchmark against which all field target rifles were judged.”