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Company information (Wikipedia) 

Sterling Armament Co was a Dagenham based small arms manufacturer famous for their Sub Machine Guns. The company entered the air rifle market in 1982 with their revolutionary HR81 air rifle. Designed by Roy Hutchinson, Peter Hart and Peter Moon, It had been designed with an underlever action and unusual bolt action breach. It was produced and finished to a very high standard using traditional production methods and it shunned the use of plastic's or synthetic parts. It was available only in .22 calibre and cost approx £120 on introduction. This made it one of the more expensive air rifles in the market at the time and it enjoyed some initial success.

A deluxe version, the HR83 was introduced at the end of 1983, this differed from the standard model in having a fine oil finished walnut stock with hand cut chequering, sling swivels, a more secure underlever catch and a removable foresight. Early samples had a more complicated trigger mechanism, but this proved troublesome and few if any were released for sale. The level of finish was especially high and this was reflected in the list price that was approx £195. It is thought that as few as 200 of this model were made (198 right hand and 2 left hand samples). Sales were very limited and promised .177 and .20 versions were never introduced.

Production ended during 1984 and the Sterling company was sold on the 1st Jan 1985. The new owners had no interest in air rifle production and production never resumed. The company was again sold in 1989 to British Aerospace and after the assets were stripped, it was closed for good.

The HR81 and HR83 then enjoyed limited production in the USA, as the rights to the design (and presumably the tooling) appear to have been purchased by Benjamin-Sheridan in 1988. The American model differed from the UK model in that the rear sight was moved rearwards to become a removable part, mounted on the scope rail, and the stock had a noticeably different shape. It was available in .177, .22 and .20 calibres. There appear to have been problems with quality of the Benjamin produced rifles, especially the trigger unit. Production of this version ceased in 1994 when Benjamin-Sheridan was bought out by Crossman.

In a forum conversation about whether the Benjamin Sterling rifles were made in the US, Steve said:

 It does seem a great departure for Benjamin to spend a lot of time machining parts for these rifles.  But there are no question that parts on these rifles are unique to the Benjamin Sheridan model?  Especially the barrel joining block which in the English model included a machined rear sight.  See the English HR83 pic from a Holt auction.  The other pic is from my rifle which shows nice machining to a platform for the serial number.  I have another thought given we see that Benjamin in 1984 was ready to introduce this model in the price sheet above.  This was years before Benjamin actually introduced this model after Sterling’s demise.  Looks like Benjamin in 1984 was just going to offer the Sterling rifle in the US which was made in England?  Could they have already worked on the US model and Sterling had started to make some of these parts?  Their demise gave Benjamin the ability to buy these parts cheaply and they mainly just assembled and finished the rifles in Racine with little real machining, like you said?  This model though on the cover of their 1992 catalog but was not featured in the catalog at all, rather odd?  (That catalog is in the DT Fletcher‘s Benjamin book)


Another thought to show that Sterling machined the US Benjamin version of the this rifle.  Look at the difference in the lettering on each side of my rifle.  Can this show that Sterling made the part?  I think so.

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