A while back I was considering the vast array of airguns that are available for purchase today, and it came to me that there was a hole in the marketplace. What was needed, I thought, was a “transitional” gun – one that filled the place between BB guns, like my beloved Daisy Model 25, and the more serious small guns like the HW25L or HW30.
The gun would have to be small, reasonably light, easy to cock with one stroke, affordably priced, and usable by the whole family. It wasn’t long thereafter that a package arrived from UmarexUSA with a Ruger Explorer in it, and it seems to be just what I had in mind.
The Ruger Explorer is a “youth” airgun with a spring-piston powerplant. It’s only an inch over a yard long; the length of pull is just 12 inches, and it tips the scales at just 4.5 lbs. When I pulled it from the box, my first thought was: “Wow, this is really light and easy to handle.”
The most striking feature of the Explorer is the ambidextrous black composite all-weather thumbhole stock that is just loaded with swoopy styling. Starting at the rear, the butt pad is made of a polymer that is softer than the rest of the stock. Moving forward, the buttstock itself is so radically abbreviated as to almost not be there. The checkpiece is ventilated; the pistol grip is nearly vertical, and underneath it you’ll find the Ruger logo.
Moving forward, the trigger guard is molded into the stock, and it encloses a metal trigger fashioned from sheet metal. Ahead of that is an indent (where I place the crook of my arm when shooting from a sitting position), following by a contoured had grip on the forestock.
Ahead of that is the barrel, which is clad in polymer and has a molded-in muzzle break that incorporates a mount for the front red fiber optic sight. Moving backwards, you’ll find the breech block which mounts an adjustable rear sight with green optical fiber. To the rear of that is the rest of the receiver which has dovetails for mounting a scope, followed by a screw-and-tab gizmo that functions as a recoil stop for a scope. At the very tail end of the receiver is a black polymer receiver cap and a black polymer push-pull safety.
The specs on the Ruger Explorer claim 495 fps, and I got 483 average, launching 7.9 gr Crosman Premier pellets through my Oehler chronograph, which works out to about 4 foot-pound of energy.
To get the Explorer ready to shoot, grab the muzzle break and pull the barrel down and back until it latches. This take about 16 or 17 lbs of effort and open the breech for loading. Stuff a .177 pellet in the aft end of the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim, push the safety off with your thumb, and squeeze the trigger. At about 1 lb 7 oz, the first stage comes out of the trigger. At 4 lbs, 13 oz, the shot goes down range. The report is a muted “doink,” and recoil is almost non-existant.
I tried shooting the Explorer with Crosman Premier light pellets at 13 yards from a sitting position using the fiber optics sights and got 1.25” edge to edge groups. So I ran to the workshop, grabbed a 3-12x44mm scope and mounted it on the Explorer. (Now, I know what you’re thinking: why in the world would anyone mount a $190 scope on a $60 air rifle? I have three really good reasons: (1) it was already sitting out on my work bench, (2) the mounts were already on it, and (3) it looks really cool.) I went back outside and tried again from a sitting position at 13 yards, but this time using Daystate FT pellets. This time, the five-shot groups shrank to just a hair over .5 inch CTC.
Would the Explorer do better with different pellets from a steadier rest? Maybe. Certainly it’s plenty good enough for assassinating a bagful dollar store dinosaurs at 10-20 yards and nailing soup cans at much longer range.
I predict that if you slap a cheap scope on a Ruger Explorer, sight it in, and hand it to any kid who has even the slightest interest in shooting, you’ll have them grinning in no time. I found this gun so much fun to shoot that I predict the kid will have a hard time getting the Explorer out of Dad’s hands.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott