If you were to ask the typical firearm hunter about airguns a decade ago, they would probably think of the low-powered guns most hunters started out with. But in recent years there has been an increased awareness of the effectiveness of air rifles and their potential to provide increased hunting opportunities. The adult airgun market has seen explosive growth, with many states expanding their hunting regulations to allow airguns as a method of legal wildlife capture.
But price has been a barrier to entry for quality airguns. However, in recent years, several companies have addressed this situation by offering cheaper models in their lineups. Quality budget-oriented airguns can be hit or miss, and even the best built guns in this price range are sometimes lacking when it comes to features. Manufacturers often sacrifice features like multi-shot magazines, integrated shrouded barrels, a regulated air management system, or adjustable stocks to cut costs.
Except Umarex. They have released two airguns at this price point without compromising the quality, performance, or features found in higher priced options. The first rifle is the standard Gauntlet, followed by the recently released Gauntlet 2.
|Specification||Gauntlet 1 (.25 cal)||Gauntlet 2 (.25 cal)||Gauntlet 2 (.30 cal)|
|Values||Sports||tactical accuracy||tactical accuracy|
|barrel length||23.5 inches||28.25 inches||28.25 inches|
|Total length||46 inches||47 inches||47 inches|
|Weight||8.5 pounds||8.5 pounds||8.5 pounds|
|calibers||.177, .22, .25||.22, .25, .30||.22, .25, .30|
|Action||Screw||Tent – knurled tent||Tent – knurled tent|
|Trigger||Adjustable Single Action||Adjustable Single Action||Adjustable Single Action|
|tank capacity||13 cubic inches||24 cubic inches||24 cubic inches|
|max. Energy||44 foot-pounds||52 foot-pounds||95 foot-pounds|
|Shroud||plastic baffle||4 baffle design||4 deflector/threaded|
One aspect of the standard Gauntlet and Gauntlet 2 (G-2) rifles that really stands out is the rich feature set that these rifles offer. There are differences between the two versions, so I will speak in general terms that relate to both versions.
Both models of the Gauntlet are regulated, meaning a mechanism has been designed into the rifle to standardize the volume and pressure of air used for each shot. This results in shot-to-shot consistency that is very difficult to achieve in an unregulated weapon. Without a regulator, the pressure drops and the air volume reduces with subsequent shots as the air is used up. A regulated gun will maintain the same point of impact from the first pellet to the last in a fill, so the shooter won’t have to correct for variation while firing.
Both versions of the Gauntlet offer a relatively high number of shots depending on the caliber of the weapon. The standard Gauntlet in .25 will generate around 30 shots per fill, and the Gauntlet 2 will provide around 65 shots per fill. This is because the Gauntlet 2 uses a higher fill pressure with a larger volume tank. The larger volume air tank of 24 cubic inches is a significant improvement to the Gauntlet 2 over its predecessor, which has a volume of 13 cubic inches for the standard weapon. This also allows for higher fill and regulator pressures which provide more shots for a given caliber and also generates more power for larger calibers and heavier shot (and slugs).
The Standard Gauntlet is available in .177, .22, and .25. and uses a lower pressure air system (3000 psi) with the regulator set at a lower operating pressure (1100 for .177 and .22, 1900 psi for .25). The Gauntlet 2 fills to a higher fill pressure (4,500 psi) and runs the regulator at significantly higher operating pressures (1,900 psi to 2,800 psi).
The Gauntlet incorporates a shrouded barrel into the design, which does a good job of dampening the shot for quiet, backyard-friendly shots. The Gauntlet 2 uses more deck baffles, which helps compensate for the higher air volume and speed, but both versions are fairly quiet.
As a general statement, Gauntlet rifles are powerful and accurate. The power depends on the caliber and version you choose. And accuracy depends on finding the best pellet for your rifle, but the potential is there. I shot .22, .25 and .30 calibers and can usually keep my 50 yard groups under an inch while shooting with sticks. In a more controlled situation shooting a break, the .25 and .30 groups tightened significantly.
Testing the Umarex gauntlet
I shot 50-yard groups off the bench with the standard Gauntlet in .25 caliber and the Gauntlet 2 in .30 caliber. I found the palm swell and flattened woods of both versions provided a stable grip on wreckage. The comb on the two versions uses a different design, but both rifles provide a solid cheek weld, good line of sight, and allow for a consistent grip. While both stocks can be fired, I prefer the Gauntlet 2, because it offers better ergonomics and more stability. Both Gauntlet models are equipped with a single-stage adjustable trigger that has a good tactile feel. The trigger pull is set at 2.9 pounds out of the box and offers a clean, predictable rest. It is not a target grade trigger, but it is conducive to accurate shooting and well suited to hunting small game.
With the standard .25 Gauntlet I shot groups of five pellets at 50 yards using the JSB Exacts and a second group of groups with the JSB Hades. The Exacts printed clusters that were only slightly smaller (0.37 inches) than those obtained with the Hades granules (0.42 inches). The speed variation between these five rows of shot was also quite small for both shot. The JSB Exacts are 25.39-grain solid round-point Diabolo pellets, and the JSB Hades are 26.54-grain modified hollow-point Diabolo pellets. The calculated power output for the Exacts was 45 ft-lbs and 47 ft-lbs for the Hades.
I also shot the .30 caliber Gauntlet 2 in the same session with the same conditions (50 yard groups of five pellets using the JSB Exacts and JSB Hades). I found that the Exacts printed clusters were nearly the same (0.58 inches) compared to those obtained with the Hades granules (0.53 inches). I then shot a group of ten pellets to look at shot-to-shot consistency and found that the variance between these ten shots was impressively low. The Exacts differential fell between 1002fps and 1010fps, which produced an 8fps variance. The calculated power output for the Exacts was approximately 99 ft-lbs on this string.
The worst thing the Umarex gauntlet does
If pressed to find fault with the Gauntlet, I would have to say that the stocks on both rifles are somewhat bulky. This is because the bow reservoir is built to cover the air reservoir, but the ergonomics are still good. Although the gun is large, it fits most shooters well. I think the standard Gauntlet Stock feels a bit cheaper, but that’s to be expected at this price.
Although the bolt action works well enough and reliably automatically indexes the magazine, it requires considerable effort to cock. For most shooters, this is not a major problem. However, smaller shooters may have trouble with that. So while I think this is a great entry-level rifle, it might not be the right choice for smaller folks. The Gauntlet 2’s large, knurled cocking handle is much more tactile.
While the Gauntlet is dimmed, which is very impressive at this price, the dimmer is preset with no external adjustment. If you want an airgun that you can pair with some of the best squirrel airguns, this could be the perfect rifle for you. On the other hand, if you want to micro-adjust the rifle for different pellets to achieve optimal consistency, you may feel limited.
What the Umarex gauntlet does best
I’ve spent quality time with Gauntlet and Gauntlet 2 plinking, ranged, and hunting. In fact, one year I took the Gauntlet with me on an airgun hunt in South Africa to serve as my primary small game weapon, and it worked well. Based on my experience, I think the gauntlet is an excellent choice for a small to medium sized hunting team. The power profiles between the Gauntlet and the Gauntlet 2 are different, but both offer more than enough knockdown power for small game. If you’re interested in this rifle, consider how you plan to use it, and then decide which version and caliber best suits your needs. For example, the standard Gauntlet in .22 will provide about 60 shots and generate about 25 ft-lbs. This is excellent for small game such as squirrels or rabbits and will range over 50 yards with excellent field accuracy. The Gauntlet 2 in .30 caliber produces nearly 100 ft-lbs. This borders on being able to anchor a coyote or small hog with a well-placed headbutt at the same distance.
Final thoughts on the Umarex Gauntlet
I think the Umarex Gauntlet is one of those rare birds that offers a feature set and performance that you would expect from a much more expensive rifle. Both versions of the Gauntlet provide options that should suit a variety of buyer needs. Various caliber options, power outputs, shot count, and refinement of operation can be compared to price, for example. The Gauntlet 2 costs about 35 percent more than the standard version. Honestly, that would be my preference because I could use the rifle for larger prey, like groundhogs, or to get further at prairie dogs. However, if your main activity is hunting squirrels or rabbits, the additional price might not make sense. Still, the Gauntlet 2 performs much less well than many weapons that offer the same levels of performance.
I make it a point not to tell people what they should buy. Finding the right weapon is subjective. But if you’re looking for a rifle with excellent performance and plenty of features for a fraction of premium priced airguns, the Gauntlet line should be on your short list.