Archive for November 2010

Anybody who has been observing the airgun scene for a little while will have noticed that an increasing number of companies are coming out with non-lead pellets. A while back, I did some shooting with some of Dynamic’s non-lead pellets, and I found that they were pretty good.

Check out this and this for additional information I think that one of the reasons these pellets work so well is that they are pretty close in weight to traditional lead pellets.

I have experimented with the very light (5.4 grain) Gamo .177 PBA pellets, and I found that they did fine at close range (no more than 15-20 yards — in fact I used a PBA pellet to terminate a squirrel at 7 yards with a P1 pistol), but accuracy went to blazes at longer ranges.

So when a package arrived from Airguns of Arizona the other day with some new pellets from H&N, including some very light non-lead pellets, I figured the non-lead pellets would be good for strictly short-range work. As it turns out, I was wrong.

The package contained a tin each of H&N Sport Barracuda Hunter (10.34 gr.) pellets, H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green (5.56 gr.) pellets, and H&N Sport Barracuda Green (6.48 gr.) pellets. “Green,” in case you haven’t figured it out, is apparently a code word for non-lead pellets.

I started thinking about testing these pellets, and pretty quick I realized I had a problem. Of the .177 guns in house, I had a magnum springer (RWS54), magnum PCP (Marauder), a low-power springer (tuned R7) and a recoilless springer match rifle (FWB150). I eliminated the magnum guns because I didn’t want the ultra-light pellets to go supersonic and have trans-sonic turbulence screw up accuracy. I eliminated the R7 because accuracy in recoiling springers depends a lot on shooter technique, and I wanted to eliminate that variable.

So that left me with the FWB150, an air rifle with trustworthy accuracy that I have successfully shot in field target competition. Twice I have knocked down one-inch targets at 50 yards with that rifle.

Bear in mind, though, this one hard-and-fast rule about airgun accuracy: you let the gun choose the ammo. It doesn’t matter what your buddy shoots, or what the guys on the forum say, or even what the national field target champion shoots, you run tests with different kinds of ammo in your gun and then shoot the one that delivers the best accuracy.

Now, back to our story. I started by shooting the pellets through my Oehler chronograph. I checked the velocity on Daystate 8.44 gr. pellets and found they were zipping through the screens at 653 fps average, about 7.99 foot-pounds of energy that the muzzle. The H&N Sport Barracuda Hunter Pellets averaged 550 fps, for 6.94 foot-pounds.  The H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green pellets blew through the traps at 804 fps average with less than 4 fps variation from high to low, working out to 7.98 fp. Finally, the H&N Sport Barracuda Green registered 695 average, 6.95 fpe. Just for fun, I also shot some Gamo Raptor PBA (5.4 gr.), they clocked 762 average, 6.96 fp.

I started shooting the various pellets in 5-shot groups at 20 yards and took edge-to-edge measurements on the groups. The Gamo PBA and Barracuda Hunter both delivered ¾” groups. The Daystate produced a half-inch group, as did the Field Target Trophy Green pellets. The Barracuda Green pellets printed a 5/8 inch group.  The overall winner was a pellet I had not chronographed, JSB Exact Express pellets, which delivered a 3/8 inch group. The bottom line is that all of these pellets would be suitable for defending the bird feeder at 20 yards.

After that I took the winning non-lead pellet, the H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green, and the winning lead pellet, the JSB Exact Express shot them at 35 yards. The FT Trophy Green produced a group that measured 7/8 inch edge to edge, and the JSB produced a ¾ inch group. While I have shot better groups at that range with pre-charged rifles, that’s still respectable accuracy, and I was amazed that the very light non-lead pellets did so well at that range.

Yes, I thought, but what kind of penetration are those pellets delivering at that range? Maybe those super-light pellets had bled off all their energy by the time they got to out there. To find the answer, I set up two metal soup cans at 35 yards and shot them. The JSB Exact Express pellets plowed through both sides of the can, tearing ragged holes in the metal. The FT Green pellet also penetrated both sides of the can, punching neat holes on entry and exit. Color me soooo surprised.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Boy, if you want to get airgunners “lit up” on a topic, try discussing springer hold sensitivity. Some professional spring gun tuners will tell you there’s no such thing as hold sensitivity in a spring-piston air rifle, that there are only shooters who don’t know how to shoot springers properly. On the flip side, there are experienced spring gun shooters who will tell you that the aforementioned professional tuners are in desperate need of a physic.

Whether or not it is me or the gun, I can tell you there are times when I can’t shoot a spring-piston air rifle worth a darn and other times when I am pretty good. In other words, sometimes I’m a hero, and sometimes a zero. (By contrast, I shoot well with pre-charged pneumatic or pump-up pneumatic airguns almost all the time.)

Lately, I’ve been working on a theory of how to reduce the apparent hold sensitivity of springers. But before we get into that, a little background.

The thing that can make a spring-piston air rifle difficult to shoot well is the basic powerplant within it. When you cock a springer by pulling the barrel or a side lever or under lever back until it latches, you are compressing a spring. The spring remains under tension, like a sprinter in the blocks, until you pull the trigger. Released from confinement, the spring lunges down the compression tube, pushing the piston in front of it. This causes recoil toward the rear of the gun. As the piston reaches the end of the compression tube, it bounces off a wad of compressed air in front of it (at the same time air squirts through the transfer port, launching the pellet down the barrel), causing recoil in the opposite direction.

Now, here’s the really cool part: all this thrashing around of spring and piston within the rifle, the forward-and-reverse whiplash recoil, all of it happens before the pellet leaves the muzzle. (In a precharged pneumatic, by contrast, when you pull the trigger, a valve opens, air squirts down the barrel, driving the pellet toward the target, and there is a teensy amount of recoil to the rear. It’s all very dull, boring, and generally accurate as the dickens.)

It’s been my observation that if you inadvertently hold a springer with more pressure on one side of the forestock than the other (as many of us do), the gun will tend to jump away from the side with more pressure when the shot is triggered. I saw this graphically demonstrated with a Beeman R1 in .177. I had a 3-12 scope mounted on it, and it would shoot little tiny groups at 20 yards. The following day it would shoot little tiny groups, but half an inch away from the location of the previous day’s groups.

It drove me nuts. So one day, I took off the scope, mounted a peep sight and consistently shot little tiny groups in the same location all the time. I spoke with Steve Woodward about it, and we came up with a theory. First, when a springer jumps away from unequal pressure on the forestock, it tends to rotate around the center of gravity on the rifle’s long axis. Ideally, you would like the gun to rotate around the bore. But when you mount a scope on the rifle, you raise the center of gravity, which tends to exaggerate the movement of the bore and throw your shots off. The bigger, higher, and heavier the scope, the more you tend to throw your shots off (that is if you are not shooting with a perfectly consistent “hold”). The peep sight worked because it was light and low.

So, what to do? Well, here’s my working theory: to reduce apparent hold sensitivity in a springer, mount the lightest scope you can, and mount it as low as you can. This should raise the center of gravity as little as possible, resulting in more consistent shooting. I have tried this with one of my springers and it seems to work

But this is not written in stone; it’s just an idea I have had that seems to make sense. So, if you like, try it with your springers and let me know your thoughts.

Until next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–         Jock Elliott

If you like airguns it doesn’t take long before you realize that the hobby isn’t just about airguns, pellets, and scopes. There are a lot of other goodies that are useful, necessary or just plain cool.

The Wilkins pellet pouch, closed.

Okay, this is an audience participation question: everyone who has spilled a tin of pellets or a substantial portion of a tin, please hold your hand up. Just as I thought, just about everyone. The Wilkins pellet pouch, above, is just what you need for a day afield. The top unsnaps (below) and you can pour in a goodly quantity of pellets. Snap it shut and you can hang it around your neck or clip it to a belt loop.

The Wilkins pellet pouch, open.

Either way, it sure beats removing and replacing the lid on a tin of pellets while you’re out in the woods or participating in a field target match. The Wilkins pouch comes in two sizes and a variety of colors.

The LEDRay light is really, really bright!

The Hawke LEDRay™ Light attaches to your scope and provides a great lamping option without adding too much weight. Illuminated by a super bright LED, the LEDRay lamp provides an impressive amount of brightness in a package that is powered by four small batteries. It comes with a remote switch and rings for attaching to your scope.

This kit is made by Otis for AoA.

The Otis Airgun Cleaning Kit is made by Otis especially for Airguns of Arizona. It includes a pull-through nylon-coated cleaning rod, rod handle, patches, a special cleaner/degreaser that is safe for use on airguns, and a case to hold it all.

Protect your airguns with Napier field patches.

Napier VP90 Cleaning Patches are a simple way to carry an oily rag in the field. Wipe down the metal on your treasured airgun to protect it from rust and fingerprints. A package contains ten field patches, each sealed in it own individual tear-open packet.

Exhibit A -- Female Quick Connect

Finally, every pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airgun enthusiast needs adaptors to get air into his PCP rifle or pistol. Exhibit A (above) is a Female Quick Connect. It screws onto the hose of your SCUBA fill adaptor or your pump. It will allow you to connect directly to Daystate, Benjamin, and some FX airguns or any airgun that has a male quick connect attached to the reservoir. It will also allow you to connect to the connects described below.

Exhibit B -- DIN with male quick connect.

Exhibit B is a DIN with Male Quick Connect and it works on guns with removable cylinders like FWB, Twinmaster, FAS. Steyr, and so forth.

Exhibit C -- FX probe with male QC.

Exhibit C is an FX probe with a Male Quick Connect and works with most FX guns, Webley, and the like.

D -- buddy bottle adaptor with male QC.

Exhibit D is a buddy bottle adaptor with Male Quick connect and works with BSA and Theoben bottles.

Fittings like these are available for most makes and models of airguns and allow you to change between the fill devices for different airguns without using a wrench.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

As part of my recent project involving .25 springers, Gamo sent me a sample of their .25 caliber Hunter Extreme. When I had a question about the rifle, I called GamoUSA, they said, “Wait – don’t test the Hunter Extreme, we’re going to be phasing that out. Instead, test the new model, the Socom Extreme in .25 caliber. We’re going to be introducing it January 1, 2011, but you can post a ‘first look’ on your blog.”

A few days later, a long slim package arrived at El Rancho Elliott, and a long, powerful air rifle emerged.

The Gamo Socom Extreme stretches 45.5 inches from end to end and weighs 9 lb 13 oz with its 3-9 x 50 scope (included) mounted. The Extreme .25 has an ambidextrous all-weather synthetic stock that is covered with a fine ‘pebbly” surface for easier gripping. At the extreme aft end is a soft rubber ventilated butt pad. Moving forward, the butt stock has a cheek piece on either side. The pistol grip is nearly vertical, and the trigger guard, which surrounds a metal trigger and push-pull safety, is formed of the same material as the stock. Above the trigger, on the left side of the receiver, the words “Socom Extreme” are printed on the side of the stock. Just ahead of the trigger there is a large screw that, in concert with two others on either side of the forestock, secures the action in the stock.

The Socom .25 has a bull barrel and comes with the scope pre-mounted on a one-piece mount. The utility of the Socom Extreme .25 is hampered somewhat by the scope having a non-adjustable objective. As a result, in order to get a clear view of the target at 20 yards, I had to reduce the magnification to the lowest level, 3X.

Cocking effort is 58 lbs, the highest of the .25 caliber break barrel rifles I have tested, and, typical of spring-piston actions, you can hear some spring noise while cocking. At 1 lb 14.8 oz, the first stage came out of the trigger on the sample I tested, and at 4 lb 10 oz, the shot goes down range with a bang. While the trigger is stiffer than I would prefer, I don’t think it interferes with accurate shooting, and it may lighten up and smooth out with repeated use. Nevertheless, after the 1-year warranty period is over, if the trigger is still not to your satisfaction, I suggestion installing one of the aftermarket triggers that are currently available. Airguns of Arizona should be able to advise you on which one to select              .

The Socom .25 is the most powerful break barrel .25 rifle I have tested. It launches 21.91 gr Gamo Pro Magnum pellets at 742 fps average. That works out to 26.79 fp of energy at the muzzle. So while the Socom Extreme has the highest cocking effort, the reward for the shooter is that it also delivers the most power. I found I got the best accuracy results – about half-inch edge-to-edge at 20 yards, with JSB Exact King pellets.

If you want a self-contained air rifle that is suitable for dealing with pest wildlife or for hunting at short to medium range, the Gamo Socom Extreme delivers a boatload of power and then some.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Recently, I have been doing a project for Precision Shooting magazine on .25 airguns. As part of the research, I have been fooling around with .25 cal springers.  One .25 springers that I shot is the Weihrauch HW 80 in .25 caliber.

The HW 80/Beeman R1 is one of my favorite air rifles of all time. The chief difference between the HW 80 and the R1, as nearly as I can tell, is that the stock on the R1 extends far enough to cover the cocking linkage, whereas on the HW 80 it does not.

For a couple of years, I campaigned a Beeman R1 in .177 caliber in field target competition, most of the time with a globe front sight and a peep rear sight, and I did quite well with it. One of the things I liked best about it was that it was incredibly smooth shooting right out of the box. Many spring-piston air rifles virtually beg to be tuned by exhibiting fairly harsh firing characteristics as they come from the factory, but not the R1/HW 80.

But I had never shot an HW 80 in .25, so the good folks at Airguns of Arizona loaned me one. The HW 80 stretches 45.3 inches from end to end and weighs 8.8 lbs. At the end of the butt stock is a soft brown rubber recoil pad which is attached to the hardwood stock by a black spacer. The stock has a cheek piece on the left side of the stock and a slightly raised comb, but it seems to me that most lefthanders ought to be able to shoot an HW 80 without problem.

The pistol grip has checkering on either side, and forward of that inside a metal trigger guard is Weihrauch’s well-respectedtwo-stage adjustable Rekord trigger. Moving forward again, the forestock is unadorned except for two screws on either side that secure the action into the receiver.

Beyond the forestock is the barrel, which has a globe sight with interchangeable inserts mounted near the muzzle. Moving back toward the receiver, you’ll find the breech block which has the micrometer rear sight mounted on it. Moving back again, the receiver has a dovetail for mounting a scope and three holes for accepting scope mounts with anti-recoil pins. At the extreme aft end of the receiver is the Weihrauch pusbutton non-resettable safety. That’s all there to the HW 80.

To get the HW 80 ready for shooting, grab the barrel near the front sight and pull it down and back until it latches. It requires around 34 lbs of cocking effort. Stuff a pellet in the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Squeeze the trigger. It takes only 1 lb 2.8 ounces for the first stage, and at 4 lb 2.1 oz (on the sample I tested) the shot goes off.

I got roughly half-inch groups at 20 yards with the .25 caliber HW 80 (which is essentially the same accuracy I got with the other .25 cal springers I tested) with JSB Exact King .25 cal pellets. But the HW 80 shoots these heavy pellets very slowly – at around 500 fps. With lighter pellets, H&N FTT 20 grain pellets, the HW 80 launches them at 640 fps, generating 18.25 fp of energy.

Each of the .25 springers that I tested has its own charms. With the HW 80 in .25, I really liked the smoothness of the shot cycle combined with the crispness of the Rekord trigger.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott