THE SIDE-LEVERS (1982-1985)
After the demise of Sussex Armoury, which went into voluntary liquidation on 2nd February 1982, NSP Development & Manufacturing Engineers Limited (NSP) were left with a significant number of the Jackal range of rifles and parts on their hands and they decided to market the rifles direct to the public.
The first advert in Airgun World magazine was in the March 1982 issue and offered “The Firepowers”, “The Hi-Powers” & “The Sporters” in .22 calibre.
The Hi-Powers were single shot rifles and The Firepowers were “Auto-load” versions. Both models came with sights. The Sporters were the budget rifles, being single shot and having no sights.
NSP Advert - Airgun World March 1982
Each model was offered in either a military style ABS stock or the chequered “Monte Carlo” wood stock, which had a lined butt pad and sling swivels as standard. There was the option for a simulated wood finish to the butt and grip surfaces of the ABS stock for an extra £3.50.
A dummy magazine was also an optional extra for the ABS stock versions. Not many buyers opted for the dummy magazine and many of the magazines that are seen on ABS stock rifles nowadays are in fact aftermarket versions.
The March 1982 advert is the only reference I have found to The Sporters and my guess is that as other single shot models were offered without sights there was no need for the specific model.
The wood stocked version of The Firepower was soon given the name The Rapide and the wood stocked Hi-Power given the name The Supra.
Although not offered in the first advertisement, the early range of rifles also included The Combat and The Woodsman. The Combat was a short barrelled version of the Hi-Power and The Woodsman was the wood stocked option.
Air Arms Advert From 1983
Whilst producing parts for Sussex Armoury, NSP had identified potential improvements to the rifles but Sussex Armoury had decided against implementing them. Now that NSP were producing and distributing the rifles they started to introduce the improvements and over the next couple of years many improvements and refinements were made.
In 1985, due to the number of improvements that had been carried out, the addition of “Mk2” was attached to the name of the ABS stocked rifles. Although the sales of the military style stocked rifles had dropped considerably due to changing trends, their production continued for some time.
Around the same time the wood stocked rifles were replaced with new, more refined models. These, and the models that followed, will be covered separately as I believe they represent the next generation of both Air Arms rifles and the companies development as a serious air rifle manufacturer.
Firepower: Adjustable sights with a self-feeding 30 shot magazine (“Auto-load”)
Weight: 7lb 8oz
Hi-Power: Same specifications as the Firepower but in single shot form.
Weight: 7lb 4oz
The Combat: Short barrelled version of the Hi-Power
Weight: 7lb 4oz
The Rapide: Beech wood stocked version of The Firepower
Weight: 8lb 4oz
The Supra: Beech wood stocked version of The Hi-Power
The Woodsman: Beech wood stocked version of The Combat
Weight: 7lb 8oz
The side-lever, tap loading, blued action was the same on all models. “Air Arms” was engraved along the sleeved cylinder, which also had dovetails grooves to accommodate a scope. It is believed some very early cylinders had “Jackal” engraved on them which would seem likely given the amount of parts NSP inherited from Sussex Armoury..
The “Auto-load” system - often referred to as “AL” - is a magazine in the form of a tube fitted to the barrel by a single clamp. 30-35 pellets can be loaded into the tube and are gravity fed. The tube can be swivelled out of the way to allow single loading.
Operation of the AL system can take quite a bit of getting use to and even then it could prove to be inconsistent. It was good practice to check the seating of the pellet before closing the loading tap. The system was also pellet fussy and had a strong preference for round headed pellets.
Rifled steel barrels were used with the long barrels being 15” in length and the short ones being 8” in length.
Air Arms Advert From 1984
Air Arms were quick to implement the improvements that they had identified whilst producing the rifles for Sussex Armoury, including:
The sights being redesigned so they no longer moved from side to side between shots!
New style cocking lever release button
Quietened cocking by adding another pin to the safety catch ratchet and an O ring to the trigger block
“Twang” reduced with the introduction of a nylon sleeve and pad to the spring assembly
The military style ABS rifles used the same all black stock made of tough ABS plastic. The stock has a low rear end more suited for open sights and if scopes were mounted then low mounts were needed. It had 2 metal wire hangers that a sling can be attached to and a plastic butt pad. The pistol grip had finger grooves and was semi-ventilated.
All the wood stock rifles had the same stock. The stock was quite plain in appearance but chequering to the pistol grip and the raised comb and cheek-piece improve its look and i’ts deep fore-end tapered nicely to further enhance its appearance whilst providing good hold and balance. The stock is finished off with a solid rubber butt pad with a white spacer.
Stripdown Guide - Airgun World - September 2005