Go to virtually any fast food restaurant, and you can witness people creating and using airguns. No, I’m not kidding. Wait a little while, and you’ll see a kid tear one end off the paper wrapper on a soda straw, blow air through the straw, and launch the paper wrapper at someone. That’s an airgun, plain and simple. All airguns use the same principle – gas (air or CO2) moving down a tube – to launch a projectile.

There are a variety of powerplants that are used in modern airguns to get the air moving and send a pellet or a BB down range. There really is no such thing as a “perfect” airgun powerplant. All of them have advantages, and all of them have disadvantages. The one that will work best for you depends on which performance characteristics are top priorities for you.

In case you think airguns are a modern development, they’re not. Folks were experimenting with pneumatic airguns in the late 1500s, and by the 1700s, gentry were using them regularly for hunting. Lewis and Clark carried an air rifle with them on their historical journey of exploration of 1804-1806.

So let’s take a look at those powerplants.

Multi-stroke pneumatic

 

The 1377c is a classic multi-stroke pneumatic pistol.

The 1377c is a classic multi-stroke pneumatic pistol.

Multi-stroke pneumatic (also known as MSP or pump-up) airguns require multiple strokes (usually 2-8, but sometimes more) of an on-board lever (very often, the forestock) to store compressed air in the powerplant. The more you pump, the more air is stored and at higher pressure, which means the faster the pellet will be driven down range when the shot is triggered.

Advantages: MSPs are virtually recoilless, which means that they are easy to shoot well; you don’t have to worry about how you hold or rest the gun to get the best possible accuracy out of it. In addition, pump-up airguns are completely self-contained, so all you need for a day afield is the gun and a tin of pellets. In addition, the velocity of the pellet (and consequently the power with which it hits the target) can be varied with the number of strokes. Fewer strokes generally result in a quieter shot.

Disadvantages: The main downside of a multi-stroke pneumatic is that once it has been fired, it must be pumped up all over again. While some shooters find all that pumping very tedious, other liken it to shooting a blackpowder muzzle loader. Another consideration: when pumped up to the max, a multi-stroke pneumatic can be loud.

Single-stroke pneumatic

Single-stroke pneumatic airguns also use a lever to compress air in the powerplant, but – as the name implies – require only a single stroke to fully charge the gun. This is the powerplant that was used on many Olympic 10-meter match guns and is still used on some entry-level match rifles as well as some air pistols.

Advantages: Single stroke pneumatics are fully self-contained, easy to cock, highly consistent and often incredibly accurate.

Disadvantages: There is a limit to how much air you can compress in a single stroke. As a result, the power and speed of these guns is usually low, shooting relatively light match-grade .177 pellets at 500-600 fps.

Precharged Pneumatic

The Cricket is a pre-charged pneumatic rifle in a bullpup configuration.

The Cricket is a pre-charged pneumatic rifle in a bullpup configuration.

Precharged pneumatic airguns are similar to similar to single and multi-stroke pneumatics in that the shot is driven by compressed air stored in a reservoir on the rifle or pistol. But precharged pneumatics (also known as PCP guns) are charged not from an on-board pump, but with air from a SCUBA tank or high-pressure pump. This is powerplant of choice for high-energy hunting guns, Olympic 10-meter rifles and pistols, and top-echelon field target rifles.

Advantages: Pre-charged pneumatics are virtually recoil-free, very consistent, and typically superbly accurate. They can also been extremely powerful. (This powerplant has been used to create big bore air rifles used for hunting large game.) In addition, some manufacturers have broken the “high-price barrier” with the introduction of PCP rifles that cost roughly as much as a magnum spring-piston rifle.

Disadvantages: Until recently, precharged airguns have been generally expensive. In addition, they are not self-contained – you need a SCUBA tank or high-pressure hand pump available to recharge the gun – as a result, they are sometimes viewed somewhat complicated to operate.

Spring-Piston/Gas Ram

The Weihrauch HW80 is a fine example of a breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle.

The Weihrauch HW80 is a fine example of a breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle.

Spring-piston airguns – also called “springers” – use a lever (normally the barrel or a lever under or to the side of the barrel) to cock a spring and piston (or a gas cylinder “gas spring” in the case of a gas-ram powerplant). When the trigger is pulled, the spring (or ram) is released, pushing the piston forward (and the gun backward) and compressing a powerful blast of air behind the pellet. As the piston nears the end of its stroke, it slams into the wall of air at the end of the compression cylinder and recoils in the opposite direction. All this happens before the pellet leaves the barrel. (In effect, the springer creates a short blast of compressed air on demand.) The recoil effect is the same for a gas ram.

Advantages: Springers are a favorite of many airgunners because they are self-contained, often relatively quiet and can be very accurate.

Disadvantages: The Dark Side of springers is that, because their unique whiplash recoil, these guns often require considerable practice to shoot them at their highest accuracy. In addition, the unique recoil of springers demands airgun-rated scopes that can withstand the forward-and-back recoil.

CO2

The Walther Lever Action is a CO2 powered repeater rifle.

The Walther Lever Action is a CO2 powered repeater rifle.

CO2 airguns are powered by 12-gram cartridges, 88-gram AirSource cartridges, paintball tanks, or CO2 transferred from a bulk tank into the gun’s on-board reservoir. These cartridges and tanks actually contain CO2 liquid some of which vaporizes in the tank at very low temperatures, producing a high-pressure gas which is then used to propel pellets or BBs down the barrel. The gas pressure produced when the liquid vaporizes depends on the ambient temperature: the lower the temperature, the lower the gas pressure, and therefore the lower the velocity of the pellets.

Advantages: CO2 airguns are recoilless, and (in high quality models) extremely accurate. They are also very convenient; it’s easy to carry a handful of 12-gram cartridges in a jacket pocket. The convenience of the cartridges has also made CO2 a popular propellant for air pistols. Noise levels vary from model to model. Cocking effort is usually very low, making these guns a favorite for family shooting.

Disadvantages: CO2 airguns require periodic refilling and performance will vary with temperature. Velocity will drop considerably in wintry conditions, and CO2 airguns will shoot faster than normal in very warm conditions. In addition, CO2 airguns should not be stored in temperatures above 120 degrees F.

What’s the Best Choice?

So which airgun powerplant is right for you? If you want a gun that is self-contained, choose a spring gun, multi-stroke pneumatic, or single-stroke pneumatic. If you want a neighbor-friendly report, a spring powerplant is most likely to deliver it, and there are quiet pre-charged, multi-stroke, and CO2 models. If you demand the highest accuracy, a single-stroke pneumatic match rifle or a precharged gun is the way to go. Usually the shortest range airguns will be the single-stroke pneumatics, while some of the precharged rifles are suitable for varminting at rimfire distances.

There is no single powerplant type that will satisfy every requirement. This accounts for why so many airgun enthusiasts acquire several airguns and enjoy the unique advantages of each one.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

To the readers of this blog: this marks the beginning of a new series that focuses on the basic stuff that every new shooter wants to know about or should know about. The site administrator at www.airgunsofarizona.com tells me that they will find a way to make this stuff readily available at the top of the blog so it will be readily available for new shooters and old hands who want a refresher. Now, to this week’s posting!

This is the most important thing you will read in this blog – read it carefully!

Make no mistake about it: you can, indeed, shoot your eye out with an airgun. You can also maim and kill people and animals and destroy property. So get this straight, once and for all: Airguns are not toys. Airguns are real air rifles and air pistols and can bring tragedy to your door if not handled with respect. Fortunately, virtually all airgun accidents can be prevented if you follow the Number One Rule of airgun safety.

And here it is: the Number One Rule of Airgun Safety is never, ever point your airgun at anything you don’t want to see a hole in. It’s really that easy. If you always observe Rule One – and always keep the airgun pointed in a safe direction – you should never have cause for regret. After all, with the exception of a ricochet, an airgun can only shoot where it is pointed.

This is the muzzle end of an air pistol. The muzzle of an air pistol or air rifle or BB gun should never be pointed in an unsafe direction.

This is the muzzle end of an air pistol. The muzzle of an air pistol or air rifle or BB gun should never be pointed in an unsafe direction.

Here are some other key things you need to know about handling an airgun (or any gun for that matter) safely:

  • Always treat any airgun as though it is loaded and with the same respect you would a firearm. Never point any airgun in an unsafe direction. Even if you are totally, completely, absolutely, positively certain that the airgun is unloaded, still never point it in an unsafe direction.
  • Read and follow all instructions in the owner’s manual and know how your airgun works before using it.
  • Keep the airgun pointed in a safe direction until you are ready to shoot.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard while loading the airgun.
  • Wear shooting glasses to protect your eyes and make sure others with you are wearing eye protection. (If your reading or prescription glasses are not safety glasses, wear shooting glasses over your regular glasses.)
  • Use only the correct BBs or pellets specified for your airgun. Never reuse ammunition.
  • Do not shoot at hard surfaces or the surface of water. BBs and pellets can bounce or ricochet.
  • Use a pellet trap or other backstop. Place it in a location that will be safe if the pellet or BB goes through. Do not use a hard backstop with BBs.
  • Look beyond your target. What happens if you miss? Where will your pellet or BB go? Be sure of the answer.
  • Check your backstop for wear before and after each use. Replace your backstop if the surface is worn or damaged or if a ricochet occurs.
  • Maintain control of the airgun when it is not being used, including at the beginning and end of each shooting session. Don’t load it and leave it unattended. Store your airgun, unloaded, where it cannot be used by curious youngsters or unauthorized persons. Store the ammunition separately.

A Word about Parental Control

Special Note to Parents: if you have any doubt at all that your children will observe the Number One Rule of Airgun Safety, you need to supervise your children while they are shooting. You know your children and their level of responsibility and maturity. If you are not positive that they will always handle the airgun safely, supervise them, no matter how old they are.

Supervision means being close enough to control or redirect the airgun if it is pointed in an unsafe direction. It only takes a moment for a child to turn while squeezing the trigger. Be close enough to prevent that from happening – no more than an arm’s length away.

Now, that may seem like a lot of stuff to remember, but it really boils down to this: keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; know where your shot is going, even if you miss; protect your eyes; and supervise the kids.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Some years ago the idea crept into my fevered brain that I was a really talented rifle shooter, and I set out to prove it by getting involved in some 10-meter air rifle competition. Both 10-meter air rifle is an Olympic sport.

I found out a couple of things: (1) I am not a really talented rifle shooter and (2) the folks who are shooting high scores in ten meter air rifle wear special shoes, pants, jackets, gloves and even special underwear (no kidding!). I was shooting scores that were so low that it seemed doubtful whether spending hundreds of dollars on all the associated shooting apparel would be a worthwhile investment, so I didn’t bother.

At the same I wondered if there was any Olympic shooting sport that one could get involved in without having to drag around a whole lot of ancillary gear. And there is – 10 meter air pistol. With air pistol all you need is an accurate air pistol, some pellets, and the ability to align the sights, squeeze the trigger, and put some pellets in the 10 ring.

If you want to get started with 10-meter air pistol, the cheapest possible route that I know of is to start with the Daisy Triumph 747 pistol. It’s single-stroke pneumatic pistol that delivers a boatload of accuracy for under two hundred bucks. What you don’t get with the Triumph is a lot of adjustability to meet the needs of your shooting style. In fact, if memory serves, the only thing that is adjustable on the Daisy Triumph is the trigger. For 10-meter air pistol competition, the minimum trigger weight is 500 grams (17.6 oz.).

At the other end of the 10-meter pistol spectrum, you can easily spend two thousand dollars or more for a full-race 10-meter competition air pistol such as a Feinwerkbau. These pistols offer lots of adjustments to meet the ergonomic needs of the shooters.

Hammerli AP20 001_DxO

The Hammerli AP20 falls pretty much in the middle. For under a thousand dollars, it delivers superb accuracy, a crisp trigger, and a number of adjustments to meet the shooter’s needs or preferences.

Hammerli AP20 007

Before we get to what those adjustments are, let’s take a quick tour of the AP20. The main pistol grip is made of molded polymer that is stippled for improved grip. Attached to the grip are a hand rest and a palm rest. Forward of that is a curved, flat-blade metal trigger.

Above the trigger is the main receiver, which is finished is a matte silver finish and to which the cocking lever is attached. Attached to the front end of the receiver is the pressure reducer. As it comes from the factory, the pressure reducer is configured so that the air reservoir (also finished in matte silver) hangs down in front of the trigger assembly.

Hammerli AP20 003

Hammerli AP20 004_DxO

Forward of that is the barrel, which has a lightweight plastic shroud and a ported aluminum compensator at the end that serves as a mount for the front sight. Moving back along the barrel, on top of the receiver is the breech and behind that a microadjustable notch-type rear sight. That’s all there is to the AP20, and the fit and finish are entirely appropriate for a competition air pistol.

Now, let’s take a look at the adjustments that the AP20 offers. Both the palm rest and the hand rest can be adjusted for position to suit the shooter’s hand, and they can be swapped around to configure the pistol for left-hand shooters. The cocking lever can be changed from right- to left-hand configuration. The front sight can be adjusted to one of three different widths, and the rear sight can be adjusted for elevation, windage, and the width of the rear sight opening.

The trigger can be adjusted for weight, travel and stop, and perhaps most surprisingly, the pressure reducer can be configured so that the compressed air reservoir lies parallel to the barrel.

The last adjustment is purely decorative. When I first opened the plastic case for the AP20, I was confronted by five plastic tubes: blue, gray, fluorescent orange, fluorescent pink, and fluorescent green. Frankly, I didn’t know what to make of them. I thought maybe they were 10-meter competition drinking straws. They are, in fact, replacement barrel sleeves. The AP20 comes equipped with a black plastic barrel sleeve, but if you want to distinguish your pistol from others at the range, or if you simply want a different look, it’s easy to change from one barrel sleeve to another.

In the end, the AP20 delivers a lot for a reasonable price in the rarified air of competition air pistols. It launches light hobby pellets at around 510 fps, will put pellet after pellet through nearly the same hole at 10 meters (with the right pellet), delivers around 120 shots per fill, and will put a huge smile on the face of any wannabe 10-meter air pistol shooter.

Now, listen Santa: I’ve been really, really good this year . . .

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Walther LGV Composite stock 001

In this week’s blog, we’ll take a look at another in the Walther LGC line of air rifles, the LGV Challenger.

As I have written elsewhere, the LGV was a project conceived in 2010 at Umarex in Germany (Umarex owns Walther) to create a retro-style spring-piston air rifle for the worldwide market. In doing so, they wanted to pay tribute to the original Walther LGV, which was a high-precision ten-meter target rifle introduced in 1964. A breakbarrel rifle, it had a positive barrel latch that insured that the barrel hinge always returned to the same position and remained there during the firing cycle.

Walther LGV Composite stock 002

As far as I have been able to determine, the line consists of five different rifles, and the LGV Challenger is the least expensive of these. It has a matte black polymer stock, stretches 43.1 inches from end to end, and weighs just 8.38 pounds. At the back end of the stock is a soft black rubber butt pad. The ambidextrous stock has a slight comb. The pistol grip, which slopes at a gentle angle, has molded-in checkering on either side. Forward of that, the stock material forms a trigger guard around a black trigger which is adjustable for first stage pull and trigger weight.

Moving forward, the forestock has molded-in “checkering” on either side and a slot underneath that provides clearance for the cocking linkage. At the end of the forestock is a metal tab for releasing the barrel latch. Above that is the 15.7 inch barrel. The LGV Challenger is available in .177 and .22. I tested the .177 version.

Walther LGV Composite stock 005

At the muzzle end of the barrel is a metal fitting that serves as a mount for the hooded red fiber optic front sight and also has a screw-off knurled knob that allows a silencer to be mounted (where legal). On top of the breech block, you’ll find a micro-adjustable green fiber optic rear sight. Moving aft along the receiver, you’ll find dovetails for mounting a scope and three holes for accepting anti-recoil pins. Finally, at the extreme aft end of the receiver is a push-pull safety.

Walther LGV Composite stock 004

To ready the LGV Challenger for shooting (assuming you are right-handed), grab the barrel near the end of the forestock with your left hand. With your thumb, depress the barrel release latch while pulling down. This will break the breech open. Next, slide your left hand to the muzzle end of the barrel, grab the sight mount, and pull down and back until the barrel latches. This takes about 38 pounds of effort. Slide a pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position.

Take aim, slide the safety off, and squeeze the first stage out of the trigger. This takes about one pound of pressure. Squeeze a bit more, and at about three pounds of pressure, the shot goes down range. The LGV Challenger launches 7 grain RWS Hobby pellets at 985.2 fps, for 15 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. With heavier pellets like Crosman Premier 7.9 grain pellets, I suspect it will shoot around 930 fps.

When the shot goes off, the LGV Challenger exhibits a bit of vibration. My wood stocked LGV Competition Ultra also exhibits some vibration but a bit less than the Challenger. I don’t know if that is because the Challenger is lighter than the other models or because it has a synthetic stock, but there is a definite vibration when the shot goes off.

Accuracy, however, is spot on. At 13 yards, the LGV Challenger was putting pellets through the same hole. At 32 yards, I was battling gusty autumn winds, but I am pretty certain that under optimal conditions, with the right pellet, a good airgunner could shoot dime-sized groups.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The LGV Master is a handsome air rifle.

The LGV Master is a handsome air rifle.

The Walther LGV was created as a kind of modern tribute to the legendary Walther LGV match rifle that was introduced in 1964. The goal in creating the new LGV, according to my contact at Umarex in Germany (Umarex owns Walther) was to develop a break barrel spring-piston air rifle without the disadvantages that a break-barrel normally has, including the twanging spring in the cylinder, the back-and-forth recoil that can kill scopes, the barrel not returning to exactly the same position, and typically an overly heavy trigger. In the examples of the LGV that I have so far, they succeeded.

The LGV line includes several different models of air rifles, and recently Airguns of Arizona sent me a couple samples of models that I have not seen before.

Walther LGV Master wood 002

The LGV Master stretches 43.1 inches from end to end and weighs 8.85 pounds before a scope is mounted. At the extreme aft end of the stock is a soft rubber butt pad, attached to the ambidextrous hardwood stock by a black polymer spacer. Moving forward, the butt stock has a modest comb which I found positioned my eye comfortably behind a scope. The pistol grip is gently slanted, as is typical of sporting air rifles, and is checkered on either side for improved grip.

Forward of that, a black metal trigger guard surrounds a black adjustable trigger. Moving forward again, the forestock is rather flat bottomed and is unadorned with checkering or other decoration. Toward the end of the forestock is a slot that provides clearance for the cocking linkage. At the end of the forestock is a metal tab that the shooter must press to release the barrel for cocking. This latch mechanism also insures that the barrel returns to the same position each time after the gun is cocked.

Walther LGV Master wood 005

Beyond the barrel latch is the barrel itself, which is 15.7 inches long. The LGV Master is available in .177 and .22, and I tested the .22 version. The LGV Master does not have the fancy muzzle brake/sight mount assembly seen on LGV models such as the Master Ultra and Competition Ultra. Instead, at the end of the barrel is a knurled knob that can be unscrewed to allow the mounting of a silencer in those jurisdictions where silencers are legal.

On top of the muzzle end of the barrel is a dovetail that allows the mounting of a globe front sight with black post-type insert. Moving back along the barrel, on top of the breech blot you’ll find a micro-adjustable notch rear sight. Moving back along the receiver, there is a dovetail for scope mounting along with some holes for anti-recoil pins. Finally, at the extreme aft end of the receiver is a forward-and-back slide type safety.

Walther LGV Master wood 004

To ready the LGV Master for shooting, press the barrel release tab and pull the barrel down slightly. This breaks the action open. Slide your hand out to the end of the barrel and pull down and back until it latches. This takes about 38 pounds of effort, according to www.umarexusa.com. Slide a pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position.

Take aim, slide off the safety and squeeze the first stage of the trigger (this takes about a pound of pressure). Squeeze just a bit more, and at about three pounds, the second stage trips, and the shot goes down range. The .22 LGV Master launches 11.9 grain RWS hobby pellets at 689.8 fps for 12.5 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.

What is truly remarkable about the LGV Master is that the shot cycle is very nearly silent. The sample that I tested was by far and away the quietest spring piston air rifle I have ever shot. It makes a kind of pffft noise, and that’s it.

At 13 yards, the LGV Master delivered 5-shot groups where all the pellet holes touched each other. At 32 yards, I was fighting pre-Halloween gusty autumn winds and got quarter-sized groups, but I am convinced that under optimal conditions, this rifle will deliver groups you could cover with a nickel.

The bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed shooting the LGV Master in .22. If you are looking for a spring-piston air rifle that will attract very little attention to itself, look no further. I give it my heartiest personal recommendation.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The Umarex Octane looks a bit unusual but feels great in the hand.

The Umarex Octane looks a bit unusual but feels great in the hand.

Over a decade ago, when I was just starting to write about adult precision airguns, a guru in the field told me a thing: “If you want a really sweet shooting springer, you want to get as close as you can to one pound of gun weight (including scope) for each foot-pound of energy that the gun generates at the muzzle.”

He was offering this as an explanation for why the humble Weihrauch HW30 is so enjoyable to shoot and why it is such a tackdriver for its power. And, over the years, his statement has pretty much proven to be true. Hold that thought, we’ll get back to it in a little while.

Recently, I had the opportunity to shoot the Umarex Octane in .22 caliber.  It stretches just a half inch over four feet long, and tips the scales at 10 pounds, four ounces with the 3-9 x 40 adjustable-objective scope that comes with it mounted. The Octane incorporates both a gas piston – the ReAxis Reverse-Axis Gas Piston – and the SilencAir noise dampener.

The matte black polymer stock is ambidextrous.

The matte black polymer stock is ambidextrous.

At the extreme aft end of the Octane is a soft rubber butt pad. The entire stock, including trigger guard, is molded from a matte black polymer. The ambidextrous all-weather stock is a thumbhole design, but there is also a semi-circular notch at the top of the pistol grip where the shooter can rest his or her thumb if desired. The pistol grip has some molded indentations for improved grip, and forward of that, you’ll find the trigger guard surrounds a black metal trigger that is adjustable for first-stage travel and a lever-type safety.

The SilencAir system reduces the report and provides a mount for the front sight.

The SilencAir system reduces the report and provides a mount for the front sight.

Forward of that, there is molded-in checkering on either side of the forestock and a slot underneath the forestock to accommodate the cocking linkage. Beyond the end of the forestock is the 19.5-inch barrel, at the end of which can be found the SilencAir, a five-chamber noise dampener which also serves as a mount for the red fiber optic front sight. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find a micro-adjustable green fiber optic rear sight mounted on top of breech block.

The Octane comes with a 3-9 x 40 adjustable-objective scope.

The Octane comes with a 3-9 x 40 adjustable-objective scope.

Moving back again, a custom metal Pictatinny mounting rail is fitted to the top of the receiver, where it provides a secure mount for the scope that comes with the Octane.

To ready the Octane for shooting, grab the SilencAir at the end of the barrel and pull it down and back until it latches. This requires about 42 pounds of effort and is very smooth and noiseless, as is typical of gas-piston systems. Slide a pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position.

Now here is where things get interesting. As you take aim and flick off the safety, you immediately notice that the lever-type automatic safety works exactly the opposite way of the lever-type safety in many other airguns. To turn the safety off and ready the Octane for firing, you pull the safety lever toward the trigger. It took me a minute or two to become accustomed to this, but it works fine, and after a while I took no notice of it. Squeeze the trigger, and a 1 lb. 13.3 oz., the first stage comes out of the trigger. On the sample that I tested at six pounds even, the second stage trips, and the shot goes downrange. This is heavier than the factory-specified 3.5 lbs., but I did not find it annoying.

Umarex .22 Octane 006

Even more interesting, the Octane is a hammer. It launched 14.3 grain Crosman Premier pellets at an average velocity of 838 fps for a very healthy 22.3 foot-pounds of energy.  This is due in large part to the ReAxis gas piston. Its design reverses the conventional gas-piston design so that more weight is driving the piston down the compression tube. The result is more power.

In addition, because of the SilencAir, the downrange report is reduced. This is a powerful gun, so it is not dead quiet by any means, but it is quieter than it would be otherwise.

And now we get back to that business about one pound of gun weight per foot pound of energy. The Octane obviously violates that rule with more than two foot-pounds of energy for every pound of gun weight. In addition, I am admittedly not the world’s greatest spring-piston air rifle shooter. I found that I could occasionally achieve dime-sized groups with the Octane at 20 yards with Crosman .22 Premiers but it was far more typical for my groups to spread out to the diameter of a quarter at 20 yards. Perhaps a more gifted springer shooter could do better, but I couldn’t.

The Octane is not the gun that I would pick for doing head shots on squirrels at 50 yards, but for an air rifle to deal with the woodchuck in the garden at 50 feet or the raccoon that has been molesting the garbage cans, it would be among my top choices. (And with the gas piston, you can leave cocked all day without fear of damaging the spring, because there isn’t any!)

I genuinely enjoyed shooting the Octane, and I think any airgunner who wants to hunt or control pests at short to medium range will enjoy it too.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Ruger .177 Talon 007I mentioned a while back that I had been shooting some inexpensive – sub-$200, Tier One – air rifles, and today I’d like to share some of my experience with another one of these highly affordable air rifles, the Ruger Talon.

The Ruger Talon came to me through the good folks at Umarex USA. It stretches just under 45 inches from end to end and weighs 8 lbs. 6 oz. with the included scope mounted. The Talon is interesting to look at. The entire rifle is black, with four very small exceptions: the front and rear fiber optic sights and two red circles with the Ruger emblem on either side of the buttstock.

The butt pad slants into the butt stock at an angle.

The butt pad slants into the butt stock at an angle.

At the extreme aft end of the buttstock is a soft rubber butt pad. This soft rubber section extends into the buttstock on a diagonal which is unusual but pleasing to the eye. The rest of the ambidextrous stock is made of matte black finished polymer. Underneath the comb of the stock are three horizontal slots. I suppose it might be possible to store some survival supplies in those slots – firestarter perhaps – and then cover the slots to contain the supplies.

Ruger .177 Talon 006

Forward of that, the pistol grip slants at a modest angle and has checkering for improved grip. Moving forward again, the stock material forms a trigger guard that surrounds a black metal trigger. Just forward of that, there is checking on either side of the forestock. Ahead of that, you’ll find some decorative slots on either side of the forestock and a long slot underneath the forestock that provides clearance for the cocking linkage.

The five-chamber SilencAir helps to reduce the down-range report.

The five-chamber SilencAir helps to reduce the down-range report.

Beyond the forestock is the .177 caliber barrel, which is nearly 19 inches long. At the end of the barrel is the SilencAir noise dampening system that reduces down-range muzzle report. The five-chamber SilencAir also serves as a mount for the front red fiber optic sight. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find a micro-adjustable green fiber optic rear sight mounted on top of breech block.

Moving back again along the receiver, a custom metal Picatinny mounting rail is fitted to the top of the receiver and provides secure mounting for the scope. (An aside: I am pretty much a fan of Picatinny scope mounting systems. It provides a very straightforward way of mounting a scope and heavy duty protection against the scope moving under the whiplash recoil of a spring-piston or gas-piston powerplant.) At the aft end of the receiver is a push-pull safety as found on many RWS airguns. The scope that comes with the Ruger Talon is a 4 x 32 with a non-adjustable objective.

To ready the Talon for shooting, grab the muzzle end of the barrel and pull it down and back until it latches. This requires about 30 lbs. of effort. Slide a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Now, here’s where the surprise comes in: when I was cocking the Talon, I could hear no spring noise whatsoever. In my experience, it is highly unusual for sub-$200 spring-piston air rifles to be this quiet during the cocking stroke.

Take aim, ease the first stage out of the trigger (this required 1 lb. 13.3 oz. of effort on the sample I tested), and squeeze a bit more. At 4 lbs. 1 oz., the shot goes down range, again with no noticeable twang or spring vibration.

Ruger .177 Talon 007

I was so surprised at this that I called Umarex USA and asked if maybe they were building the Ruger Talon as a gas-ram and hadn’t told anyone. No, they assured me; it really is a spring-piston powerplant, but they have been taking a bit of extra care in their quality control and manufacturing tolerances.

The Ruger Talon sample that I tested launched 7.9 grain Crosman Premier pellets at a sizzling 928 fps average for 15.11 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

I suspect that the four-power non-adjustable objective scope was the limiting factor in my accuracy testing.

I suspect that the four-power non-adjustable objective scope was the limiting factor in my accuracy testing.

I was able to achieve quarter-sized 5-shot groups at 20 yards with Barracuda Green .177 pellets, and I did nearly as well with JSBs. I suspect – but can’t prove – that the limiting factor here was the four-power non-adjustable objective scope. With a non-AO scope, if you don’t put your head in exactly the same spot behind the scope for every single shot, you can get point of impact deviations. This is an air rifle that I think would be improved with the addition of a higher power adjustable objective scope. Note well: the view through the 4x scope was crisp and clear and light years ahead of the terrible scope that was included with the Hatsan 95.

In the end, I liked the Ruger Talon. It’s pleasant to shoot and delivers good value for the price.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

hW80 .22 caliber 001

The HW80 is a true classic. I just love the way it looks, feels, handles, and shoots. It stretches 45.3 inches from muzzle to butt pad and weighs 8.8 pounds.

hW80 .22 caliber 002

At the extreme aft end is a brown rubber butt pad that connects to the hardwood stock with a black space. Forward of that, the stock is righthanded with a cheek piece on the left side of the butt stock, but I believe that it can be shot comfortably by lefthanders. The cheek piece is also low enough that the HW80 can be shot comfortably with iron sights. The pistol grips slopes gently and has checkering on either side.

hW80 .22 caliber 007

Forward of the pistol grip is a black metal trigger guard that surrounds a silver colored metal trigger and a silver colored metal post that can be screwed in and out (through a hole in the trigger guard) to adjust the weight of the Rekord trigger. Forward of the trigger guard, the forestock is smooth and unadorned except for a slot for the cocking mechanism on the underside and a couple of black metal screws on either side.

hW80 .22 caliber 004

Forward of the forestock, the front half of the breech block and cocking mechanism are visible. Beyond that is the 20 inch barrel. At the muzzle end of the barrel, on top, is a small dovetail that is used to mount a globe front sight with interchangeable inserts. Moving back along the barrel, a notch micro-adjustable rear sight is mounted on top of the breech block.

hW80 .22 caliber 003

Moving back along the receiver, there are dovetails for mounting a scope and three holes for accepting anti-recoil pins. At the extreme aft end of the receiver, there is push-button safety that is automatically activated whenever the gun is cocked.

To ready the HW80 for shooting, grab the barrel near the muzzle and pull it down and back toward the pistol grip until the mechanism latches. Cocking effort is around 34 pounds. Slide a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim, snap off the automatic safety, and ease the first stage out of the trigger. Squeeze a bit harder, and the shot goes down range. The Rekord trigger is crisp and clean and can be adjusted from over four pounds to less than a pound.

The shot cycle of the HW80 is very relaxed. The gun goes ka-chunggg and that’s it. There is a slight bit of spring twang that is heard but not felt, and the report is audible – what you would expect from a spring gun of this power – but certainly not raucous. In all, the HW80 is a very pleasant air rifle to shoot.

The sample that I tested was launching 11.9 grain .22 RWS Hobby pellets at 850 fps, generating just a hair over 19 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. With Crosman Premier pellets, I found I could shoot 5-shot groups at 32 yards that you could cover with a quarter.

The .22 HW80 can be used for hunting, pest control, or just general shooting. Mount a peep sight instead of a scope (and be sure to remove the notch sight mounted on the breech block), and you can make like Matthew Quigley.

I liked the HW80 a whole lot, and I think it would put a grin on the face of any adult airgunner. With proper care and the occasional rebuild, it will last a lifetime and you can leave it in your will. What’s not to like?

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

hW80 .22 caliber 006Recently I had the opportunity to shoot classic air rifle that I had never shot before, the Weihrauch HW80 in .22 caliber. We’ll get to a description of this rifle and how it shoots in Part II of this blog, but first let’s consider the somewhat unusual history of the Weihrauch HW80.

To start, we have to go back, all the way back to 1978.  Robert Beeman and his wife – the owners of Beeman Precision Arms and pioneers in bringing adult precision airguns to Americans – were puzzled. Why was it that the 8-pound Beeman/Weihrauch 35 would shoot at only 755 fps in .177 caliber while 7.2 pound Feinwerkbau 124 could crank out 800-830 fps? It appeared that the HW 35 should be more powerful; it had a larger diameter compression chamber and a more massive mainspring, but it couldn’t match the easier to cock FWB 124.

The Beemans had a very practical motive for their curiosity. Their dream was to create the first true “magnum” airgun with a spring-piston powerplant for the U.S. market. English and German airgun manufacturers weren’t generally interested in answering the question because of power limitations on airguns in their countries. So the Beemans enlisted the help of university engineer E.H. Epperson, an airgun enthusiast, to simulate on a computer the interrelationship of some of the variables in airgun powerplants.

Early in 1979, the Beemans presented the results to Hans Weihrauch and his wife (who was also his business partner; they were owners of the Hermann Weihrauch Company). Together, the Beemans and Weihrauchs agreed to collaborate – with Robert Beeman as the prime mover behind the big concept as well as the final details – on a new rifle for the American market. The new rifle was the first air rifle to be based on computer simulations. Previously, airgun prototype development and experimentation had been done on the “try it and see what happens” basis. Beeman also worked with custom stock maker Gary Goudy to produce several prototype stocks for the new rifle.

In an article on his website, Robert Beeman says, “As the primary development grew to a close, Hans Sr. gave us a choice: we could pay for the execution and tooling and have the exclusive worldwide rights to our model or the Weihrauchs would pay these costs on the agreement that the Beemans would have exclusive rights to the gun in the United States, and anywhere else that it was marketed as the Beeman Rl, and that the Weihrauchs could market other versions, with specifications appropriate to other markets, under the HW 80 label, outside the United States. In the interest of cost and cooperation, we chose the latter.”

In his book The Beeman R1 – Supermagnum Air Rifle, Tom Gaylord said, “the Beeman R1 is the rifle that brought America fully into the world of adult airguns.” The plainer Weihrauch HW80, designed for the European market where power and style were not so important, would be an offspring from the development of the R1.

Eventually the new rifle, called the Beeman R1 for Rifle Number One, made its debut in the United States in late 1981. In Robert Beeman’s words, “The resulting rifle was handsome, beautifully balanced at 8.5 pounds, and easy to fire accurately. It was engineered with an understressed, straight-forward powerplant, and the most solid, well-machined mechanism on the market. Muzzle velocities were in an astonishing new range: 900 to almost 1,000 fps in the then-most-popular caliber, .177.”

Beeman adds, “Ironically, delays in the production of the R1 stock, which required larger stock blanks than the shorter, rather Germanic HW 80 stock design of that time, resulted in the HW 80 being introduced a little before the U.S. debut of the Beeman R1 in late 1981. In any case, just as the Beeman P1 pistol was not developed from the HW45, the Beeman R1 rifle definitely was not developed from the HW 80. Both rifles were developed from our concept of the R1.”

Next time, we’ll take a tour of the HW80 in .22 and see how it shoots.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

I love it when somebody comes up with a list of rules or laws that somehow explain the operation of the universe.

Probably the best known of these is Murphy’s Law, which states: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.

There are a couple of interesting corollaries to Murphy’s Law. (1) “Even if anything can’t go wrong, it still will.” (2) “It will go wrong at the worst possible time and in the worst possible place.”

My favorite corollary to Murphy’s Law is the most dire: “Murphy was an optimist.”

Along this line, I have come up with Uncle Jock’s Laws of Airgunning.

1. Safety is job one, so keep your gun pointed in a safe direction. I am dead serious about this. Do not – ever – point your airgun (loaded or unloaded) at any person, place, thing, object, direction, or animal where you don’t want to see a pellet hitting. Guns can only shoot where they are pointed, so keep them pointed in a safe direction always.

I was once approached by a lawyer to be an expert witness in a case where, off the paintball field, a gentleman had shot a friend in the eye with his paintball gun. “Then gun went off accidentally and was therefore defective,” was the claim. I pointed out that the shooter had violated rule one by pointing his paintball gun at his friend when the firiend’s protective gear had been removed. I declined to participate in the lawsuit.

The corollary: keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot. This is doubly true when you are shooting a strange gun, a gun with a newly tuned trigger or a newly installed aftermarket trigger.

2. Even champions can blow easy shots. On several occasions, I have heard nationally ranked field target shooters relate how they missed a really big kill zone at 10 yards. Figuring the shot was a “gimme,” they hadn’t put all the care they should into executing the shot. The lesson: when you’re shooting, pay full attention and concentrate.

3. The Principle of Pellet Preference Perversion. I bet I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I tested an airgun and shot the most accurately with ammunition offered by the manufacturer of the airgun. It’s just weird. Crosman guns will “prefer” anything but Crosman pellets. Gamo guns won’t like Gamo pellets, and so on. The bottom line, though, is let the airgun choose the ammunition. It doesn’t matter what somebody said on the forum or that your brother-in-law has the same gun and it likes a particular pellet – you have to do the testing and let your gun choose the pellet that works best. There is one semi-exception. If you order your gun from www.airgunsofarizona.com, ask them what pellet they would recommend. They shoot the guns they stock a lot and can probably recommend two or three pellets that are likely to work well. I once borrowed a gun from AoA for a field target match. It arrived the day before the match. There was barely time to get a scope mounted, let alone test pellets. I called them, asked what pellet they recommended. I used their recommendation and won my class.

4. Make nice with the neighbors. It’s generally a good policy at any time to maintain good – or at least neutral – relationships with the neighbors. If you are planning to start shooting airguns in your yard for the first time, it’s a good idea to (A) make sure that it is legal to do so. Check with your local law enforcement and make certain that you are on firm legal footing. (B) Approach your neighbor at some convenient time (don’t bring your gun), tell them that they may see you shooting your airgun, that you will be shooting in a safe direction, and that you are as concerned about safety as they are. Tell them that you just wanted to let them know so they would not be concerned. (C) Shoot at a time when it will not disturb the neighbor. In short, treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott