Umarex Octane Nitro Piston Review

VALUE PICK1The Umarex Octane nitro-piston air rifle easily makes it onto our Editor’s Best Value List with a combo that exemplifies the amazing level of quality and performance that today’s air rifles can deliver – all at a price point that would be unheard of just five years ago. OK, so it is obvious that we are big fans of the Octane, but so are many other commentators. The real question is what do prospective buyers need to know before “pulling” the trigger on a potential purchase?  This beast is not perfect, much less for everyone, regardless whether it falls within your budget. Please follow along as we, in typical unbiased fashion, tick through the features and issues that matter to arm you with the facts.

Umarex Octane Nitro Piston review

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What we love about the Umarex Octane

HUGE power and pellet velocities

The Umarex Octane may have its critics – but none of these could in good conscience deny that this is an insanely powerful break barrel that is pushing the boundaries of gas-strut technology. Yes, you are going to hear inflated velocity ratings by Umarex; this unfortunately is the norm with air rifle marketing. Umarex reports that the .22 caliber will reach 1250 FPS with alloy and 1050 FPS with lead; the .177 caliber supposedly hits 1450 and 1250 with alloy and lead pellets, respectively.  Field reports, however, suggest that the .22 for example is generally capable of more like 920-950 FPS with a 14.3 grain pellet. This is by no means disappointing though, since these figures plugged into our FPE calculator confirm that the Octane .22 produces roughly 27-29 FPE at the muzzle!

That is pretty ridiculous power for a break barrel, much less for an affordably priced nitro piston. To give you some idea, the Octane has more than two times the 12 FPE minimum we recommend for a small game hunting air rifle. This means that you can hunt just about any air-rifle-suitable small game and pests, such as starlings to squirrel, rats and woodchuck. Even larger pests species like raccoon are no match for this kind of power, at least in the .22 bore. In addition, this muzzle energy means that you are able to engage targets at ranges exceeding 50 yards fairly easily.

Umarex Octane

Unusually quiet shooting for any air rifle

We are frankly numb to manufacturer hype about how great their noise suppression technologies are reputed to be. So we were beyond impressed when we realized that the Umarex Octane may just be one of the quietest high-powered break barrel air rifles on the market – particularly for a break barrel that delivers so much punch at a reasonable price point. The ReAxis gas-piston and SilencAIR integral silencer are a winning combination in our book that makes the Octane a backyard-ready cannon. Indeed, some reports have this rig producing the report a single shot Red Ryder!  The biggest sound produced by a well maintained Octane is more often going to be the sound of a pellet doing violence on a hard target!  Assuming you are complying with all applicable laws and regulations, this makes it absolutely ideal for knocking anything from pigeons to coons into last week without drawing undesired attention from the neighbor or community busybodies in the process.

Octane silencer view

Having said that, please be fair: don’t send us nasty comments that this rifle sounds like a rimfire just because you are using lightweight alloys. We said it before and will keep saying it: if you crack the sound barrier (around 1100 FPS) you are going to make a lot of noise. Period. I don’t care what rifle you are using. And this rig is going to easily deliver a loud report if you are using alloys, especially in the .177 which needs a heavy lead pellet to avoid going supersonic. Folks, if you are using alloy with this rifle in the .177, you deserve to be slapped like a rented mule!  Oh, we should also add that the first few dozen shots are going to be loud; this is part of the initial break in and the rifle will continue to settle down. Cleaning the dirty barrel that you are likely to encounter (more about that later) will also reduce break in noise and a lot of dieseling that would otherwise occur.

Decent combo scope and fantastic out-of-the-box accuracy

Umarex Octane scope

The bundled 3-9×40 AO scope (with parallax adjustment and duplex reticle) and mount that comes with the Octane is not going to compete with a solid upgrade; however, it is a very good scope for a combo that is fairly easy to sight in out of the box and can give you outstanding accuracy after a short-break in, so long as you are properly using an artillery hold.

Reports from the field are extremely positive, with users achieving dime sized groups at 25 yards and quarter to nickel groups at 50 yards. We are not surprised and feel that this rifle’s accuracy is limited mainly by the quality of the scope and technique of the user. As we will get to later, one must also to some degree make peace with this rifle’s lackluster trigger before getting the most out of it.  The Octane seems to perform well on a steady diet of H&N Barracudas, among other pellet choices.

Incredibly sturdy construction and good finish

octane fit and finish

You know how some air rifles can feel cheap – light and inexpensive parts that just scream mass produced? This isn’t one of them. The Umarex Octane is a veritable Sherman Tank of the nitro piston world and is built to possibly withstand a direct RPG hit! In all seriousness, there is a real comfort to this rifle’s very solid build and clear favoring of all steel parts. As we discuss later though; this means that it may be a real POS if you plan on covering a lot of ground on a hunt, for example.

On the sex appeal factor, there are plenty who would disagree but we feel that the Octane is a pretty sharp-looking gas ram that, while a bit angular in some respects (especially the stock), is put together nicely enough and look a hundred bucks better than its modest price tag would suggest.

silenceair baffling for noise reductionSmooth firing with modest recoil

With this kind of Magnum power, one would expect a bone-jarring recoil and a generally rougher ride than that delivered by the Octane. A springer with equivalent power would be even worse. However, these new-generation gas struts are making real progress in this area and we are pleased to see that in this case, you can have your cake and eat most of it too!

Better than average warranty

With a three-year limited manufacturer’s warranty, this air rifle is a good bet that you can afford to properly test-drive.

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Things we don’t love…so much

octane parts and features diagramBig and heavy

With an overall length of nearly 49 inches and weight of 10 pounds, this is not the kind of air rifle you want to be hiking around with all day. With a proper sling (wish it came with one), most adults will have no trouble carrying it around but is something to consider if you value covering a lot of ground when hunting, for example.

Hard to cock

Although the gas-piston cocks smoothly, it is hard to cock (42 pounds) by most standards. No, you don’t need to be over six feet tall or more than 200 pounds to do so, but you probably need to be an adult male in good shape. Again, this is not so big a deal really, especially if you are hunting and being judicious with your shots. Conversely, if you are interested in this rifle for plinking, you are going to cursing the Octane for making you work for your kicks!

Stiff two-stage trigger

Yes you can try and do a home trigger mod on this, but if you aren’t comfortable with either that or an upgrade, be ready for a somewhat challenging trigger. Although rated at 3.5 pounds of pull, the trigger feels noticeably stiffer than that and is sadly not terribly smooth either. If you haven’t fired many air rifles, this is likely to contribute greatly to some inaccuracy when getting used to the Octane. Nevertheless, the trigger is not quite as bad as some people make it out to be; overall, the trigger is at least well-constructed and can be managed with some patients and practice.

Struggle to hold zero

While the combo scope is pretty decent, many complain that it’s easily rattled off zero. This is unfortunately to be expected, especially with the inevitable recoil this rifle generates. We recommend keeping a jar of loc-tite handy and using it liberally on all main scope/mount screws to help with this.

Hold sensitive

The Octane is definitely as hold sensitive as a Magnum spring-piston rifle; still, if you cannot properly use the artillery hold (a very “light” hold technique) you are going to get some ugly groups.

Filthy barrel

This is another not-so-big-problem. Yes, your Octane is likely to arrive with a downright messy barrel and your first rounds through this rifle are going to diesel like crazy with terrible accuracy – that is if you don’t clean it will first before firing.

Do I get the .177 or .22 caliber?

octane break barrel assemblyBoth the .177 and .22 caliber options are screamers. The .22 bore is by far the better choice if you want to hunt furred animals at any distance for reasons we’ve already discussed and the Octane in this caliber is a very serious small game air rifle in our book. The .177 is also capable of hunting of course, although this caliber is best suited to feathered game such as starling, pigeons and the like. As we mentioned earlier, the key is to keep pellets from going supersonic – for the .177 in particular this means that you are going to want a heavier, not lighter pellet. We will say it again:  if you are using alloy .177 caliber pellets in this rifle, you are badly misguided.

Price and value

So this could have been put into the things we “love” about this air rifle but it deserved its own section. Make no mistake, this is probably the best value new combo we’ve seen lately and is an unbelievable deal. It is difficult to find anything in its current price class that provides more power, accuracy and ultra-quiet shooting than the Umarex Octane. In addition, the gas-strut does in fact make this a relatively newbie-friendly air rifle for a model approaching 30 FPE at the muzzle. In fact, the Octane is a very good alternative to the Benjamin Trails. Benjamin, are you listening!?

Concluding thoughts on the Umarex Octane

If you are an adult male who doesn’t mind a heavy, hard-to-cock air rifle, the Umarex Octane is almost too good to be true. This model delivers Magnum-level knock down power and shockingly stealthy shooting, in addition to excellent out-of-the-box-accuracy, all for a price tag that blows away the competition in the bang for the buck department. Yes, you will have a word or two with the mediocre trigger and you will need to keep a close eye on your stock scope adjustment, but who the hell cares!?

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More information and resources:
Octane user manual
Forum discussion
Octane v. Ben Marauder thread
Octane Yahoo user group

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One Comment

  1. Jerry says:

    I returned a trail np2 a couple days ago and ordered the octane .22 it will be here Friday hope I get one of the good ones that shoots in the 900 fps range with the 14 grain pellets. I’ve read a lot of reviews on this gun and they seem to have a lot of different velocity results they say the factory breech seals need replacing so we’ll just have to see how it goes fingers crossed…

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