Some thoughts on airgun testing

Monday, July 19, 2010

In many ways I have one of the best jobs in the world. I am a fulltime freelance writer. Most of my time is spent working with high technology and medical organizations, but a sizeable fraction of my time is spent testing airguns for this blog and also for some other venues.

What’s the greatest thing about testing airguns? The opportunity to experiment with lots of different airguns models from many different manufacturers. When a new gun comes gun, very often I will quickly unpack it, mount a scope (if one is necessary), and go outside and shoot it, just to get a quick first impression of what the gun is all about. These first impressions are often quite useful, but they aren’t always correct. Sometimes I make notes of anything unusual or surprising that I discover.

After the first impression, there is the detailed examination of the gun from buttplate to barrel crown, followed by the gathering of data: chronograph information, trigger pull, weight, length, and so forth. Finally, I shoot the gun for accuracy, sometimes out to distances of 50 yards (which requires going to the range), but sometimes at 13 yards or 35 yards, which are distances I can manage without leaving home.

Over the decade or so that I have been writing about airguns, I’ve developed some rules for testing airguns that might prove useful to you in your own testing:

  1. Ignore the looks of the gun. A gorgeous gun can shoot well, but so can an ugly gun. Of course, it’s doubly nice if you find a great-looking gun that’s a real tack-driver.
  2. Let the gun speak for itself. Don’t pre-judge based on anything. If there is one thing that drives me nuts, it’s people who decide that a particular gun can’t possibly be any good, based on absolutely no first-hand experience. Good manufacturers have occasionally produced less than admirable guns, and manufacturers who have a reputation for producing inexpensive airguns have sometimes fashioned some real winners.
  3. Let the gun chose the ammo. Sometimes you’ll have to try lots of different ammo to get something that works well in a particular gun; sometimes you’ll get it on the first try.
  4. Remember the price/performance curve. All airguns are built to be brought to the market at a particular price. Sometimes you can get really excellent performance for not a lot of money. For more money, you’ll usually get more: superb performance, outstanding fit and finish, and often more or advanced features.
  5. Keep in mind there is no such thing as a “perfect” airgun. Perfection depends on the characteristics that are most important to the shooter and what the intended application is.

What’s the thing I have the most concern about? Accuracy testing. Just because I got a particular accuracy result with a certain gun and pellet combination, that doesn’t necessarily mean that if you buy the same model gun and use the same pellets, you will get the same results. Similarly, I’ve seen guys reporting results that I have been unable to duplicate. It bothers me a little, but I don’t know what to do about it, so I shoot the best I can and report the results.

Finally, what’s the worst thing about testing airguns? Packing and unpacking them. It’s a fussy business, and I swear those Styrofoam peanuts have a mind of their own.

Still, airgun testing is a lot of fun, and I really enjoy hearing from the people who read this blog.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

8 Comments

  1. Bob Todrick says:

    I can attest to the ‘no first hand experience’ issue.
    I can’t affort really high end stuff…but I’ve put together a little stable that includes a Slavia 630, and Avanit 853, a Gamo Compact and a couple of Umarex pistols.
    The one thing I’ve avoided is anything ‘made in China’…just because
    But I have two young sons (age 7 and 9) who wanted something a little more accurate than their Red Ryders. We went to our local dealer and they both immediately wanted the BAM B3’s…the ones with the folding stock that look like an AK (fueled by their favorite movie, BlackHawk Down).
    I was leery…Chinese you know.
    But I learned along time ago to save the fights for the real important stuff. I knew that forcing something else on them could likely kill their interest in shooting.
    So two BAM’s came home with us.
    After a thorough cleaning (the Chinese ship thier airguns in something that resembles wheel bearing grease), lubing, and a 200 shot breakin session in the basement we headed to the range this weekend.
    Well, I’ll be darned, at 20 yards the 9 year old was soon placing his shots within an inch or so of the bull. (the 7 year old was nailing Daisy Shatterblasts at 20 feet).
    It looks a little rough…it may not last forever, but for the price and the joy it is bringing my boys I gotta admit I’m quite pleased.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Bob,

      What a great story!

      I’m glad to hear that first hand experience is serving you well.

      My best to those two young shooters of yours.

  2. Todd says:

    Jock,

    If I am on the fence between a Hammerli Pneuma and a Benjamin Marauder which would you choose? I know the Benjamin is $100 more.

    Also, what part of upstate NY do you call home? I am in Buffalo.

    ~Todd

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Todd,

      I got good accuracy with both guns.

      The Marauder is a repeater and much quieter. Also, if you plan to shoot field target, the Marauder is relatively easy to adjust to the power level you want.

      I suggest you use the search function on the blog and carefully read the blogs on each gun to decide which characteristics are most important to you.

      I’m near Albany, NY.

  3. Todd says:

    Relatively new changes to NY law. Now airguns that can shoot in excess of 600fps are considered firearms. http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/57971.html

    1. Paul Hudson says:

      If you read the change in the NY law it lets airguns producing over 600 FPS to be treated the same as a rimfire for hunting purposes. Nothing else is stated in the bill – no new regulations; it is just legal to use a sufficiently-powerful airgun for small game hunting that used to require a .22 rinfire.

  4. Louis says:

    Hi Jock,
    I am thinking of buying a pcp air rifle.
    Not sure if I should choose Daystate or Airarm?
    Any advice would be much appreciated.
    Thanks!

    Louis

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Louis,

      There are tons of great PCP air rifles out there right now: Daystate, Airarms, BSA, FX, Benjamin, AirForce, Brocock, Weihrauch, and more. The best advice I can give you is to give the good folks at Airguns of Arizona a call at 480-461-1113 and ask their advice. They’ll take the time to discuss your needs, objectives, and budget for a PCP air rifle and then make a recommendation or two. Bear in mind that from Sept. 16 through 19th, Airguns of Arizona will be moving to their new facility, so don’t try to call then.

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