After successfully operating in the air rifle market for several years, producing and developing the side levers being produced following the demise of the Sussex Armoury, Air Arms owner Bob Nicholls felt the time was right for a new project.
There was a growing interest in pre-charged pneumatic rifles (PCP's) at the time, but the offerings to date had been generally disappointing.
Early in 1986, Bob and his works manager, Bill Sanders, decided that the next Air Arms project should be to design and manufacture an affordable pre-charged pneumatic rifle that was solid, reliable, full powered and able to compete at the top end of the market.
General manager Colin King was tasked with designing the new rifle and by early 1987 prototypes were ready to be tested in the field and tweaked by experts such as the successful field target shooter Mick Andrews.
Shamal Prototype Review - Airgun World - March 1987
Throughout 1987 the rifle stacked up a number of field target competition victories, including Nick Jenkinson's joint first place in the field target Showdown final & Micky's victory in the 1987 British Open and runner up placing in the American National Championships.
In April 1987, Airgun World magazine reported that, “the new Air Arms pneumatic rifle” would be the top prize for the winner of that years field target showdown and that the first chance to see the rifle would be at the airgun fair on the 11th April.
A month later, the magazine revealed the name of the new rifle as “The Shamal”, which carried on the Air Arms tradition of naming rifles after the winds of the world - the Shamal being a wind that blows across the deserts of Iran.
The Shamal was initially expected to be with retailers around August 1987. This was put back to the end of September but with vital suppliers experiencing manufacturing difficulties, the Shamal didn’t actually hit the shops until February 1988.
Shamal Advert - Airgun World - November 1987
The shooting press were full of praise for the new rifle and it was well received by shooters. Field target shooters in particular loved the Shamal and it kick started the shift to PCP rifles in the sport – it soon replaced the Weihrauch HW77 as the rifle of choice and claimed many impressive victories.
Although the initial plan had been to recoup the development costs over a five year period, the success of the Shamal and the growth in PCP interest drove Air Arms to develop a new range of PCP rifles to cover all bases – the result was the launch of the 100 series late in 1989, with production of the Shamal ceasing.
In my opinion the Shamal was Air Arms’s coming of age. With previous offerings in essence being reworks of the inherited Sussex Armoury Jackal range, The Shamal represented the first true Air Arms rifle and inspired Bob Nicholls and his team to even greater achievements.
Shamal Sporter - Walnut Stock
Shamal Sporter - Beech Stock
Calibre: .177 or .22
Weight: Standard stock version - 3.5kg/7.72 lbs
Length: 1054mm/41.5in (with muzzle weight)
1181mm/46.5in (with silencer)
Working pressure: 160 bar
Shot count: 60-70
Price: Beech sporter – £262.50
Walnut sporter - £299
Walnut target stock - £439
During development, Bill Sanders instructed a destruction test of the high tensile aluminium cylinder. A whopping 10000 psi was put in the cylinder and it still repeatedly fired with no ill effects or any signs of damage to the internals.
The cylinder screws into the valve body and is filled via a 1/8 bsp screw thread at the muzzle end where there was a one piece assembly made up of the filler end cap and a muzzle end or silencer. The unit is removed to enable filling of the cylinder.
A steel rod passes through the end of the filler end cap and screws onto the screw thread. The rod has a knurled head to help with screwing/unscrewing it from the screw thread.
The barrel is blued, choked and measures 23in. A forward band connects it to the cylinder. On early models there was also a small plastic collar half way along the barrel to protect against knocks and bending. This was later removed as it was felt unnecessary.
Shamal Article - Airgun World - April 1988
Over the period of production there were no significant changes to the internals of the Shamal, it's barrel, muzzle assembly or stock.
The bolt housing had "Shamal" inlaid in gold script on both sides. A few changes were made to the design of the housing & the loading bolt over the rifles lifetime:
The above housings are from early models. Both have a blacked matt finish. It appears that the bolt with the straight shaft to the knurled knob was initially used & then updated to the one with a scalloped shaft to aid cocking. However, due to having seen a mixture of these housings on very early models, it could be both versions on the housing were used when production commenced.
A few months after launch the housing finish was changed to an anodised gloss finish. Towards the end of the Shamal's production a re-styled bolt housing & handle was introduced featuring a new font style.
The 2 stage trigger was specially developed and offers full adjustability. It was offered with either a curved sporter style or straight target style blade.
3 stock options were offered, all produced by Custom Stock of Sheffield.
The standard stock was a sporter style stock in either beech with chequered panels to the pistol grip or walnut, featuring chequered panels to the fore end, as well as the pistol grip. The rear of the stock has a Wiking ventilated, rubber butt pad.
The walnut target stock features an adjustable cheek piece, full depth fore end, a grip with full finger groove and stippling from the pistol grip to the fore end.
Shamal No. 00001
As soon as the first Air Arms production PCP rifle left the line it became part of the Air Arms Sales Manager, Bill Sanders, personal collection.
In keeping with the famous Air Arms "rolling development programme", when the bolt housing assembly was updated towards the end of the Shamal's lifetime, Air Arms updated the housing on Bill's.
In the early 1990's Bill wanted to reduce his collection & sold a number of rifles, including his Shamal, to a collector friend called Gordon Lee.
The Shamal sat in a cabinet for almost 30 years until Gordon decided to sell it to fund a new rifle.
Whist Bill & Gordon owned the rifle they never mounted a scope on it, shot it or even had it serviced.
It is testament to the outstanding quality of the Shamal that when I became the custodian in 2020 the metal work & stock were still in pristine condition & although it has never been serviced since coming off the production line at the start of 1987 it still holds air & works as it should.