After successfully operating in the air rifle market for several years, producing and developing the side levers left after 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 Air Arms’s next 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.
Work began and by early 1987 prototypes were ready to be tested in the field by experts such as the successful field target shooters Mick Andrews & Nick Jenkinson.
Shamal Prototype Review - Airgun World - March 1987
Throughout 1987 the rifle stacked up a number of field target competition victories, including Nick's joint first place in The 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 in 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 the first week of December 1987.
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 originally 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.
A 2 piece assembly was introduced on later models, enabling the filler end cap to be unscrewed with he silencer/muzzle end remaining in place.
The barrel is blued, choked and measures 23in. A forward band connects it to the cylinder. On early modlesx 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
Early models have a bolt housing with a matt finish. On later models the housing has a gloss finish.
The bolt itself has a knurled knob to assist cocking that has a red dot embossed on it that is visible when cocked.
On production models, “the shamal” is inlaid in gold script on both sides of the bolt housing - the font style changed across the production run.
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 is a sporter 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 was introduced in March 1987. This has an adjustable cheek piece, full depth fore end, a grip with full finger groove and stippling from the pistol grip to the fore end.
What immediately struck me when i received my first Shamal was it’s fine looks, obvious quality build and how “right” it felt when shouldered, with it’s good balance, reasonable weight, and comb height that I felt was spot on given the smaller objective scopes that were generally used at the time.
The fore-end is quite wide and sits in the hand nicely. The reach of pull suited me well and i found the pistol grip very comfortable.
The cocking bolt is easy to use and although it has a positive feel it is not stiff or difficult to cock.
I expected the trigger on a 30 year old rifle to be poor so was very surprised by how good it was. It’s not as refined as some of the later trigger units developed by Air Arms but still works very well.
My example was not pellet fussy and off the bench the groupings at 25 yards using Air Arms Diablo Field were excellent.
Although the lock time does not compare well with many modern PCP rifles, I was still surprised at how quick it was for a rifle of its age.
I have been very impressed by my Shamal and although it may not be as refined to shoot as many modern day PCP offerings there is no doubting it’s looks, accuracy, impressive engineering and quality build.