The new Browning 800 Mag air pistol truly fits the definition of “an air rifle you can hold in one hand.” The 800 Mag is a .177 caliber break barrel spring-piston air pistol that generates velocities with standard weight pellets (i.e., not flyweight pellets) that are faster than a Beeman R7 air rifle and faster than 99% of air pistols that I can think of.
The 800 Mag is a large air pistol. It stretches 18 inches from the muzzle to the end of the receiver and weighs 3.9 lbs. The main receiver tube is made of metal. On top of the receiver is an 11mm dovetail for mounting a scope or red dot sight. To the rear of the dovetail is a green fiber optic rear sight that is adjustable for elevation and windage. At the extreme aft end of the receiver is a matte black plastic cap.
Below the receiver tube is matte black plastic assembly that extends the full length of the receiver. This plastic assembly, in turn, mates to the matte black pistol grip through a sliding rail system (we’ll get back to this rail system in just a little while). The pistol grip is ambidextrous, has indents for fingers, and incorporates a plastic trigger guard. Inside the trigger guard you’ll find a black plastic trigger which is adjustable for first stage travel only and a metal Gamo-style automatic safety (push away from the trigger to fire and pull toward the trigger to safe the action.)
Underneath the 800 Mag, just forward of the trigger guard, is a slot for accommodating the cocking linkage when the barrel is broken for cocking and loading. Forward of that is the barrel and at the end of that, a muzzle weight that incorporates a mount for the red fiber optic front sight. That’s all there is to the Browning 800 Mag . . . almost.
To get the 800 Mag ready to shoot you need an additional part – you have to first slide the “cocking assist handle” over the muzzle. The front sight fits in the slot of the cocking assist handle. I estimate the cocking effort for the 800 Mag to be in the low-thirty-pounds range. It is definitely “stout” for an air pistol. The cocking assist handle does two thing for you: (1) it gives you additional leverage for cocking the break barrel action and (2) it lets you avoid stabbing the palm of your hand with the front sight. With the assist handle in place, cocking the 800 Mag is pretty straight forward: pull the muzzle down and toward the pistol grip until it latches. (When you do this, the safety automatically activates.) Insert a .177 pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position.
Now, at this point you can remove the cocking assist handle, but you don’t have to. Why? Because the cocking assist handle is hollow, and you can shoot right through it. Take aim at your target and squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at about 2.5 lbs. The second stage trips at about 5 pounds (the box says 4 lb trigger pull weight but the sample I tested didn’t deliver that), and the shot goes down range. There is a distinct “thwack” when the shot goes off, and the shooter feels very little recoil because the receiver can slide on the anti-recoil rail system relative to the pistol grip. I suspect the 800 Mag would be a real handful if it didn’t have the anti-recoil system. But it does, so it is surprisingly docile to shoot considering it is a spring-piston air pistol.
It is evident, however, that the Mag 800 transmits a great deal of recoil shock to anything mounted on the upper part of the receiver. During my tests with this pistol, the Mag 800 destroyed an RWS Red Dot sight. After several dozen shots, the brightness control became so loose that it rattled. I had no problems with a Bushnell Trophy red dot, though.
When it comes to accuracy, at 13 yards from a Creedmoor position and using a red dot sight, I put five pellets into a group that measured .57 ctc. I suspect that even better results could be achieved with persistence and practice.
When I chronographed the 800 Mag with CPLs, the very first shot went 730 fps, but subsequent shots settled down to a 658 average with about 30 fps difference between high and low. A couple of minutes later I did a second string, got a high of 651 and a low of 618 (that’s 33 fps variance) with an average of 631. I asked Airguns of Arizona to chronograph a sample they had there in the shop, and they got a high of 494, a low of 463, and an average of 477. I have no idea why there is such variance between samples of the same pistol or why I am seeing such variation in velocity in the sample that I was sent. Neither do I know whether these variations will settle down as the 800 Mag gets several hundred pellets put through it.
One blog reader asked for a head-to-head comparison between the 800 Mag and the RWS LP8. I tried shooting the 800 Mag and the RWS LP8 at a tomato can at 13 yards with the same 8.4 grain pellet, and I found the LP8 pistol will penetrate one side of the can, and the 800 Mag will penetrate both sides of the can. The LP8 launches CPL pellets at an average of 558 fps with less than 10 fps variation from low to high.
The Browning 800 Mag generates more power, cocks harder, is about a half pound heavier, and has significantly more variation in velocity than the LP8. The LP8 shoots slower, has a nicer trigger and fit and finish, is more consistent in velocity and costs significantly more. The LP8 is smoother and more sophisticated, but the Browning delivers a heck of a punch for not a lot of money.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott