Archive for October 2010

The Gladiator Tactical shoots as good as it looks.

To get the FX Gladiator Tactical ready for shooting, charge both reservoirs up to 200 bar. You can do this by inserting the charging adapter into the port on the front reservoir. Be sure to fill slowly and that it will take a lot longer than usual because there is a lot more volume to fill than on most PCP airguns. If you try to fill too quickly, you may get an indication from the gauge on the GT that the reservoir is full, but then the charge in the front reservoir will slowly bleed to the rear reservoir until the pressures in the two reservoirs equalize.

Put the safety in the non-fire position (full back). Pull the cocking lever full back, now pull the magazine release lever back. When the magazine release lever is fully back, the magazine will slide out the breech. Load it with the nose of the pellets facing toward the flat side of the magazine. Slide the magazine back in place and push the cocking lever forward. This slides the first pellet into the barrel. Now return the magazine release lever back to its original position, and the magazine locked firmly in place.

Now you’re ready to shoot. Take aim, flick the safety off, ease the first stage out of the trigger (13.2 oz) and squeeze gently on the second stage (1 lb 10 oz), and the shot goes down range. In stock trim, the high, medium, and lower power settings are for 32 footpounds, 24 fp, and 14 fp in the .22 cal version.

Pull the cocking lever back. You can push it forward again or you can simply let go of it and it will return to its original position on its own. Now you’re ready for the next shot.

Five shots went through those three holes. I love it when air rifles shoot like this!

Shooting JSB Exact Jumbo Express .22 pellets at high power, I put five shots into a group at 35 yards that I could cover with a dime. Then I decided to flip the power switch all the way down to low power. I put 5 pellets into a group that measures barely .5 inch edge to edge. That works out to just a bit over a quarter inch center to center.

Even better, the report was extremely muted, making a kind of “ching!” sound every time a shot goes off. The GT isn’t dead quiet, but it doesn’t sound like anything shooting either.

In the end, I liked the GT a whole lot. It gets a ton of shots per fill, has an excellent trigger, is a bona fide tack driver, and has a neighbor-friendly report. It puts all the good stuff together in one package, and I give it my hearty recommendation.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Anyone who has read this blog for a while, or any of my other airgun writings, has probably figured out that I love – absolutely love – the way pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles shoot, but I’m not so keen on the ancillary gear needed to charged them up.

I guess it’s a holdover from my summers in Vermont at my grandparents place. A buddy and I spent endless days roaming the woods and fields of the “Northeast Kingdom.” All we needed when we went out the door in the morning was our trusty BB guns and a tube or two BBs. It was freedom and glorious adventure.

So that’s why, even though my PCPs will shoot teensy groups at impressive range, you’ll most often find me packing for a day of airgunning with a self-contained air rifle and a tin of pellets.

But a rifle I tested the other day might change all that. The gun in question is an FX Gladiator Tactical (GT). It is an FX Gladiator fitted with the barrel, including permanently affixed sound moderator, from an FX Royale.

There are a bunch of things that I like about the Gladiator Tactical, but there are two things that really set it apart from all other air rifles that I have tested so far. The first is that the GT has two – count ‘em – air reservoirs that provide some 648 CC (500 cc rear, 148 cc front) of air storage.

That means that the number of shots you get between fills is absolutely staggering. For example, one of the guys at Airguns of Arizona (who supplied this gun for review), has a .22 cal GT set up for 28 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle (on high power), and he gets – are you ready for this? – 180 shots from a fill, with a 40 fps spread between high and low.

The power adjustment lever is just below "FX 25059."

The second thing that sets the GT apart is a little lever on the side of the receiver just forward of the breech. That lever allows the shooter to choose among high, medium and low power settings simply by sliding the lever to one of three settings. There are no springs to adjust, no internal fiddling to be done, just throw the lever to the power setting you want. Well, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that if you get 180 shoots on high power, if you slide the lever to medium power, you’re going to get a lot more shots, and if you drop the power to the lowest setting, you’re going to get even more shots before you have to refill.
I don’t actually know how many shots per fill you get from a .22 on low power, but 200-300 seems perfectly plausible to me. And that, dear reader, would send me out the door with the Gladiator Tactical in one hand and a tin of pellets in the other!

The aft end of the GT is the rear air reservoir that is wrapped in an matte black engineering plastic cover that provides a cheek piece and an attachment for the adjustable butt pad. Loosen an allen screw, and you can move the cheek piece/cover back and forth and angle it from side to side to suit your preference.

Moving forward, the main receiver of the GT is also wrapped matte black engineering plastic. The pistol grip is nearly vertical and has finger indentations. The plastic wraps around to form a trigger guard that surrounds an adjustable trigger. Forward of the trigger guard is an air guage. Moving forward again, you’ll find the forward air reservoir.

The left side of the receiver, showing the magazine, cocking lever, and safety lever.

Above that is the barrel with moderator. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the receiver, which is handsomely finished in gloss black and has scope dovetails along its full length except for the breech opening. At the mid point of the receiver is the breech, where a removable 8-shot magazine slides into place (it only goes in one way, so you can’t get it in backwards). On the right side of the receiver is the cocking arm. Pull it straight back, and it cocks the GT and rotates the magazine so that the next pellet is in position.  Also on the right side of the receiver near the back end is the lever for activating the safety.

At the back of the receiver is a lever that must be pulled back to remove the magazine from the breech. On the left side of the receiver is the previously mentioned power adjustment lever.

Next time, we’ll take a lot at how the Gladiator Tactical performs.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–         Jock Elliott

For years, I have heard things like “spring-pistons don’t like heavy pellets” and “CO2, pre-charged pneumatics and pump guns are more efficient with heavy pellets.” I guess I just accepted these truths as an article of faith and never really thought much more about them.

But recently I have been testing several .25 caliber – quarterbore – air rifles, and the tale that the chronograph tells is interesting. Put simply, when it comes to power generation – that is, foot-pounds measured at the muzzle – springers tend to like light pellets and pneumatics prefer heavier pellets. Of course, it isn’t always a straight linear function, because there are other variables, such as how tightly the pellet fits in the bore.

It all started when I was chronographing a trio of break barrel .25 cal. springers. I was using Gamo Pro Magnum 21.91 gr. pellets to chronograph them, because I had a plentiful supply of those pellets. One of the rifles was slinging the Gamo pellets at 565 fps average, which works out to 15.53 foot-pounds average. I mentioned this to the importer, and he suggested trying JSB Kings (25.4 gr.). Somewhat counter to the “law” about springers, the heavier pellet did better in terms of power but slightly worse in velocity: the JSB Kings averaged 555 fps for 17.37 foot-pounds at the muzzle. But the real surprise came with the lightest pellet. 19 gr. Milbro Rhino pellets rocketed through the traps at 667 fps for a sparkling 18.7 foot-pounds. In this case, the law about springers proved right: the lightest pellet did generate the most power in this .25 cal. spring-piston powerplant.

Okay, I thought, but what about the pneumatic airguns, do they obey the “rules” or not? It was raining when I thought about answering this question, and I usually need to do my chronographing outdoors, so I turned to the respected varminter Cliff Tharpe. Cliff, whose online handle is VarmintAir, is producer of the Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel DVD. He has deep experience in hunting and clobbering vermin with air rifles.

Cliff has a factory stock .25 Benjamin Marauder that he routinely uses to pop prairie dogs at 50-100 yards. He sent me some data on his experience chronographing different weight pellets through the Marauder, with the following note: “These were all shot at the factory settings, whatever those may be.  All velocities were taken with the start screen 12 inches from the muzzle.  I use a CED M2 Chronograph set up indoors, with the infrared screens.  Two mags, for sixteen shots with each pellet.  All pellets were weight sorted.  This is with a 3000 psi fill. “

And here’s the data:

  • JSB .25 Quarter Bore, 25.4 grain – avg. vel. – 881 fps – fpe 43.8
  • Benjamin .25 dome head, 27.8 grain – avg. vel. – 845 fps – fpe 44
  • Beeman Kodiak .25, 30.8 grain – avg. vel. – 821 fps – fpe 46.1

Here we have a straight linear relationship – the heavier the pellet, the lower the velocity, and the greater the power that is generated.

Now, having said all that, what’s the most important thing?

Accuracy, of course. A firearms expert once said, “A hit with a .22 beats a clean miss with a .45.” And he was right. If you can’t reliably hit what you’re aiming at, it doesn’t matter how much power you are generating. The first thing you need is sufficient accuracy to hit your intended target at the range at which you plan to shoot. If you are planning to hunt, once you have the accuracy, then you need sufficient power to humanely take whatever game you are after.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The potent Benjamin Trail NP .25 caliber.

Until this year, I had never shot a .25 caliber air rifle. To be honest, I felt .25 was at the fringes of the airgun world, a caliber that was enthusiastically embraced by a small group of shooters, but wasn’t really “mainstream.”

Perhaps I was wrong in that assessment, but when Crosman Corporation announced early in the year that they would be introducing two .25 caliber rifles as well as .25 ammunition, I decided I better start paying attention to “quarterbore.”

So I tested the .25 caliber Benjamin Marauder and found it to be an entirely worthy air rifle capable of dispatching game at long range and a potload of fun to shoot.

For me, that experience was a game-changer. Suddenly I was a .25 cal enthusiast! Naturally I decided I better have a look at the other .25 cal air rifle that Crosman was introducing, the Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston .25 caliber (it’s official product designation is the Benjamin Trail NP XL 725, but I’ll refer to it as the Trail .25).

What sets the Trail .25 apart from other break break barrels that Crosman is currently offering is that it is (a) .25 caliber and (b) powered by Crosman’s Nitro Piston powerplant. The powerplant operates on the same principle as the gas struts that lift the back hatch on an SUV. This powerplant type is sometimes referred to as a “gas ram” or “gas spring.”

Inside the powerplant, instead of a spring, there is a cylinder that holds gas. When the barrel is pulled down and back to cock the gun, a piston inside the cylinder is driven backwards, compressing the gas. The gas is held under compression until the shooter pulls the trigger. The gas drives the piston forward, which compresses air ahead of it, squirting a blast of air through the transfer port and causing the pellet to shoot down the barrel and down range. What’s neat about the Nitro Piston powerplant is that you can leave cocked for as long as you like, and there is no torque or vibration when the shot goes off.

The Trail .25 is one of the biggest air rifles I have ever tested – fully 48.15 inches long and 8.8 lbs. It comes with a CenterPoint 3-9 x40 scope and a sling, so the whole package weighs 10 lbs. 9 oz.

At the aft end of the Trail .25 is a soft rubber butt pad, attached to the ambidextrous hardwood thumbhole stock by a white spacer. The rear sling stud is located on the bottom of the butt stock between the pistol grip and the butt pad. The pistol grip has checkering on either side, with a black cap and white spacer on the bottom. Ahead of that is the plastic trigger guard which surrounds and metal trigger and push-pull style safety.

The forestock has checkering on either side and the word “Benjamin” incised underneath. Ahead of that is a long slot to accommodate the cocking mechanism, and the forward sling mount is attached to one of the cocking pivots. Ahead of that is the bull barrel.

At the aft end of the barrel is the breech block. Moving back again, you’ll find the main receiver which has a weaver rail mounting system for the scope. That’s all there is to the Trail .25.

To ready the Trail .25 for shooting, grab the muzzle end of the barrel and pull it down and back until it latches. (It eases the process if you break the breech open by slapping the end of the barrel down). Cocking requires about 40 lbs of effort and is incredibly smooth and quiet. Next, stuff a .25 pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position.

Take aim and squeeeeeze the trigger. Now, here’s where things get a little weird. The Trail .25 has basically the same trigger system as the Benjamin Trail NP All Weather which I reviewed previously. At 1 lb 5.6 oz, the first stage appears to come out of the Trail .25’s trigger. Then there is a long creepy pull and a kind of “bump.” When the trigger goes over the bump, the shot goes off quite consistently at around 3 lbs. 3.4 oz.

So while you have this somewhat strange trigger that feels like it has three stages, it doesn’t interfere at all with accurate shooting. The Trail .25 launches Benjamin 27.8 grain .25 dome pellets at 633 fps average, which works out to 24.74 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Further, the shot cycle is extremely smooth, almost supple. Currently I am testing three different breakbarrel .25 cal air rifles, and I can tell you without doubt that the Trail .25 is the smoothest and quietest of the bunch.

A wise man once said there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So it is with the Trail .25. All that power means that you really have to do everything right, to bring all of your spring-gun shooting skills to bear, in order to shoot with high accuracy with the Trail .25 (or any .25 cal springer, for that matter).  I found that, off a soft front rest, the Trail .25 would put 5 Benjamin pellets into a group that measured a half inch ctc at 20 yards. I’m pretty sure that better springers shooters could easily best that at longer ranges, but I couldn’t.

In the end, I think (for me, anyway), the Trail .25 makes a fine hunting and pest control air rifle for short to medium ranges. It’s the kind of gun you could keep behind the kitchen door to deal with that raccoon that been molesting your garbage cans out by the garage, and, with all that power, it’s highly likely you won’t have to worry about a second shot.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott