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Air Arms history

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The following abridged information is supplied with the kind permission of Mike from, a website dedicated to the Jackal series of air rifles.

The Sussex Armoury The Sussex Armoury was founded in 1968, primarily as a dealer of antique arms, over time the company began selling reproduction Japanese replica guns. The first move into airguns continued the replica theme with western six-guns being amongst the first sold. The company initially bought a large shipment of Baikal air rifles and then did a deal with Crosman to be their UK agency as well as deals to import Italian pistols. The drive behind the team was to produce a low price, accurate, high power .22 rifle to fill a gap that they perceived in the market. As they couldn’t buy in what they wanted, they decided to design and build it themselves. Throughout the history of the company the majority of engineered parts were produced in the UK by NSP Engineering. Sussex Armoury went from strength to strength, opening retail shops in London and Manchester but with the wonder of hindsight, it looks like the additional financial strain of running what would have been two expensive locations was too much of a stretch for the finances. On the 2nd February 1982 Sussex Armoury went into receivership and the operation was closed down. There was a liquidation sale of stock and plant held in April 1982. NSP Engineering went on to re-engineer some elements of the original rifles and sell them in their own right. In due course, NSP Engineering went on to become Air Arms, the giant of the airgun industry today. The Managing Director of the Sussex Armoury was Richard Marriot-Smith, who after the demise of the Sussex Armoury bought a large quantity of the stock during the liquidation sale and went on to create The Pheonix Arms Company.   The Jackal Range from Sussex Armoury All of the Jackal range was based around the same basic sidelever action, usually housed in a black ABS stock. Identification can be tricky as none of the rifles carried any model designation. Basically long barrels are Parabellums, medium barrels are Hi-Powers and short barrels are AR7s. If there is a pellet tube fitted on top of the barrel, it is a Firepower. If it has 'Jackal' on top of the cylinder it is a Sussex Armoury, if it has 'Air Arms', it is a later Air Arms version. The barrels were excellent and were manufactured by SIG-Hammerli and secured via a simple grub screw. The majority of surviving rifles seem to be in the .22 calibre although .177 and in the case of the Hi-Power .20 were also available. Loading taps were available as spares, so in theory, by changing the loading tap and the barrel you could change the calibre of the rifle. This feature has allowed some strange hybrids to be produced, and the ability to change the sound moderator further complicates the picture. On this site I have tried to stick to the production models. Another optional extra was the magazine. It came standard with the Parabellum and AR7 but not with the Hi-Power or Firepower. These were simple ABS structures secured to the main ABS stock with two screws. The addition of the pellet tube on top of the barrel that created the Firepower has also found its way onto other models both as a production option and as a homemade modification. It also made an appearance on some of the later Air Arms models. The last two optional extras were the sound moderator and the muzzle weight, the muzzle weight was designed to rebalance the rifle if a scope was fitted. The AR7 departed from the black ABS norm with a short run in both Arctic and Jungle camo, these are very rare. The ABS was incredibly strong, with one tested in Airgun World by having pellets fired at it which it survived without significant damage.   Air Arms Models inspired by the Jackal range In 1982, with the Sussex Armoury gone, NSP Engineering went on to build and sell Jackal style rifles, initially from the parts that they had left and later after some re-engineering under their own name Air Arms. Sussex Armoury models had the word 'Jackal' engraved on the top of the cylinder housing, Air Arms models had 'Air Arms' in the same place. Other obvious changes included the cocking arm release latch which changed from a button to a sliding latch, the addition of a small gold sticker on the right hand side of the rifle with the model name on it and the addition of a plastic cover at the top of the cocking arm which made the arm easier to handle. There is some speculation that the earliest of the Air Arms versions were shipped using 'Jackal' engraved cylinders and were actually hybrids. I can't confirm this but would not be in the least surprised if NSP did not use up any stock that they had. I have certainly handled rifles that are today made up of parts from both, but these could easily been after market mods by enthusiasts. Initially, Air Arms produced the AR7 which they renamed as The Combat and the Hi-Power whose name they kept. These later models became smoother and more refined and I guess to reflect the worlds changing attitudes to military styled weapons, all models became wood stocked.   The Pheonix Arms Company I have it on good authority, that Richard Marriot-Smith attended the Sussex Armoury liquidation sale and bought up all of the actions, barrels etc that were available as well as all of the remaining autoload mechanisms. Richard went on to create the Pheonix Arms Company (pheonix rising from the ashes of the Sussex Armoury I presume). The most famous of their creations was the JK47, basically this was a modified Firepower with some decorative additions.