Posts Tagged ‘air rifle’

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

Total weight: 3 pounds, 14.9 ounces.

Total weight: 3 pounds, 14.9 ounces.

For me, one of the best ways of spending an afternoon – besides shooting airguns with a friend – is reading, or watching, a man-on-the-run thriller. I have a particular fondness for some of the older ones, like The 39 Steps by John Buchan which first appeared as a magazine serial in 1915. In it, an ordinary guy – Richard Hannay – finds himself thrust into international intrigue and on the run from sinister forces. Buchan was both the 15th Governor General of Canada and the author of dozens of books, both novels and non-fiction. Talk about an overachiever! The 39 Steps is available as a book and has been turned into a film several times. I recommend it.

RogueMaleNovel

Recently I had the opportunity to watch another man-on-the-run thriller that I had not seen in several years: Rogue Male. Based on the 1939 novel by Geoffrey Household, the 1976 film stars Peter O’Toole as Sir Robert Hunter, a British sportsman who stalks and takes aim at Adolph Hitler with a high-powered rifle. He misses and is captured and tortured by the Gestapo, who make up a fanciful story about why he is missing, throw him off a cliff, and leave him for dead. But Hunter doesn’t die, and he makes his way back to England only to find that the Gestapo is still after him. To escape his pursuers, he literally “takes to ground,” burrowing into a hillside in far out in the countryside.

As I watched Rogue Male, I couldn’t help but think, “Sir Robert really would have benefitted from having a small, light air rifle for collecting small game. And that’s where the trouble began.

I got to thinking about what would be the smallest, lightest air rifle that could be reasonably counted on for taking small game, at say, 20 yards. I’m not aware of any really featherweight springers. The venerable Benjamin 392 tips the scales at 5.5 pounds. The Crosman 2100 weighs 4.8 pounds. The Crosman 760 weighs only 2.75 pounds, but I would want something that breaks down easily to a smaller size for easy transport. The 1377 pistol with a steel breech and red dot weighs 3 lbs. 6 oz., and as I have written before — http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2013/08/various-and-sundry.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=various-and-sundry — can be challenging to shoot accurately to harvest small game (even though it is a lot of fun to shoot).

The Kip Karbine in its original configuration.

The Kip Karbine in its original configuration.

Then it came to me: what about the Kip Karbine? Some years ago, Kip at www.airgunsofarizona.com built for me a tiny air rifle based on the 1377 multi-stroke pneumatic pistol. It featured a pumping forearm from the backbacker rifle, a plastic detachable shoulder stock, a steel breech and a .22 barrel. When it arrived at El Rancho Elliott, I mounted a muzzle brake from a Daisy target rifle (mainly because I liked the look of it, and it protected the muzzle) and a diminutive Bug Buster scope. The whole rig weighed about five-and-a-half pounds, and I used it that way for some time.

 

I mounted a globe front sight.

I mounted a globe front sight.

But as I looked at the Kip Karbine and thought about Rogue Male, I wondered what I could do to reduce the weight even more. I took off the Bug Buster scope and mounts. They were surprisingly heavy – 1 lb. 5.8 ounces. The Daisy muzzle brake already had dovetails for mounting a front globe sight, so I clamped one to the rail with a post-and-bead insert mounted inside.

The rear peep sight clamps to the scope rail.

The rear peep sight clamps to the scope rail.

The rear sight was more of a problem. I couldn’t use any sort of peep sight that hung over the rear of the breech because a screw got in the way. A Williams peep sight looked like it would interfere with the operation of the bolt. But while rummaging through my parts drawers, I came upon a peep sight – I believe it is from Mendoza airguns – that looked like it would clamp to the dovetail on the breech. It worked! Even better, when I went outside, I found that it had sufficient vertical travel that it would sight in.

Here's what the finished Kip Karbine Ultralight looks like compared to a Sheridan (the same size as a Benjamin 392).

Here’s what the finished Kip Karbine Ultralight looks like compared to a Sheridan (the same size as a Benjamin 392).

The final question was: would it generate enough power for reliably taking small game at 20 yards? I began banging away at a tin can at 20 yards, increasing the number of pumps until it penetrated both sides of the can. At twelve pumps, the Crosman Premier pellets punched through with authority. I chronographed the gun – which I have no dubbed the “Kip Karbine Ultralight” – and found that it was launching 14.3 grain .22 caliber Crosman Premier pellets at 484 feet per second. That works out to 7.4 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle, and ought to be enough to get the job done. I really like shooting it, and since there are no custom parts, it ought to be possible for readers of this blog to put together their own version of the Kip Karbine Ultralight if they so desire.

Kip Karbine Ultralight 007-001

For those who would like a much higher quality way of traveling light, I understand that FX airguns makes a sight attachment accessory which allows most FX’s (or anything with a standard threaded muzzle) to have a front sight rail: http://www.fxairguns.com/2011/09/foresight-mount/

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

The Hatsan Model 95 is a handsome air rifle.

The Hatsan Model 95 is a handsome air rifle.

Lately I have been testing some inexpensive air rifle/scope combos. The Hatsan 95 Combo is one of those. But before we get into that, let’s back up for a moment and take the 30,000-foot view.

In the online forums, it would appear that some airgunners simply don’t “get” the idea of the price/performance curve. It can be thought of as a graph in which you plot the price of a product on one axis and the performance of the product along the other axis. For almost every single product I can think of, the price/performance curve shows that, in general, you get what you pay for; that is, the more you pay, the more performance you get.  (There are, of course, occasional exceptions, products that provide exceptional performance at a modest price, but these are rarities.)

Another way to look at this concept is in terms of tiers (this is quoted from a recent issue of SHOT Business magazine, if you want to read the whole article, you can see it here: http://shotbusiness.org/the-new-world-of-airguns/ ):

  • Tier 1, $20-$200 – These are the pump-up, spring-piston, and CO2 air rifles and pistols you are likely to find in big-box discount retailers and the airguns the public is most likely to know about. Familiar brand names in this category include Crosman, Daisy, Sheridan, and Gamo.
  • Tier 2, $200-$500 – These are the better made pump-up and spring-piston air rifles as well as less expensive PCP airguns that are sometimes carried by independent sporting goods shops. These are, by and large, “legacy” airguns that get passed from generation to generation.  Familiar brands in this tier include Benjamin, BSA, Gamo, RWS, and Weihrauch.
  • Tier 3, $500-$3000 – These are the top echelon, elite performers of the airgun world. Comprised mainly of PCP rifles and pistols, this category also includes very high end spring-piston rifles. These airguns that will have the guys at the gun club drooling with envy, especially when your airgun customers outshoot them. Familiar brands in this tier include Air Arms, Air Force, Anschutz, Benjamin, Brocock, BSA, Daystate, FWB, FX, RWS, and Weihrauch.

Bear in mind that these tiers are generalities, designed to help independent gun dealers get their heads around why they should carry airguns, but typically in Tiers 2 and 3, you can expect very good to outstanding quality, and you can expect to pay commensurately for the privilege.

The Hatsan 95 features a Turkish walnut stock and a gold colored metal trigger.

The Hatsan 95 features a Turkish walnut stock and a gold colored metal trigger.

Tier 1, however, is much more of a mixed bag, and it’s in Tier 1 that we find the Hatsan Model 95. Available in three calibers (.177, .22, and .25), this is a single-shot spring piston air rifle that stretches 44.3 inches from end to end and weighs 9 lbs. 1 oz. with the scope that comes as part of the combo attached.  I tested the .177 version. Two things struck my eye when I pulled the Model 95 out of the box: the Turkish walnut stock and the gold-colored metal trigger. The result is a very nice looking air rifle.

The butt pad is a soft rubber-like material.

The butt pad is a soft rubber-like material.

At the back end of the Model 95 is a soft rubber butt pad which is attached to an ambidextrous walnut stock. The modestly-slanted pistol grip has checkering on either side. Forward of that, a black trigger guard surrounds the trigger. Moving forward again, the forestock is checkered on either side, and underneath you’ll find a slot to provide clearance for the break barrel cocking linkage.

The polymer muzzle brake serves as a mount for the fiber optic front sight.

The polymer muzzle brake serves as a mount for the fiber optic front sight.

At the muzzle end of the barrel is a molded polymer muzzle brake which also serves as a mount for the red fiber optic front sight. Moving aft, you’ll find a green fiber optic micro adjustable rear sight on top of the breech block. Moving back again, the receiver has dovetails to allow mounting a scope, and near the aft end of the dovetails is a metallic scope stop that prevents the scope from moving backward along the scope rail when the shot goes off. Finally, at the extreme aft end of the receiver is a push-pull type safety. Other than the 3-9 x 32 non-adjustable-objective scope, that’s all there is to the Model 95.

To get the Model 95 ready to for shooting, grab the muzzle break and pull it down and back until the cocking mechanism latches. I estimate this takes a bit over 30 lbs of effort. Next, insert a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim, click off the safety, and squeeze the trigger. At 1 lb. 3.3 oz. the first stage comes out of the trigger, at 4 lb. 14.2 oz., the shot goes down range. The Model 95 launches 7 grain hobby pellets at 995 fps for 15.4 fp of energy at the muzzle.

The report is typical for a springer of this power, and the powerplant generates some vibration, but it is more heard than felt by the shooter. Hatsan says that the Model 95 is equipped with something called the Shock Absorber System, but I was unable to find out more about this system from the factory website. While it does not make the Model 95 recoilless, it certainly is not an unpleasant springer to shoot.

The Model 95 Combo, though, it not without problems. The scope and its mounts are basically junk. I had two scope mounts fail while testing the Model 95 (www.airgunsofarizona.com sent me replacements), but that is not the crucial problem. The scope, being non-adjustable-objective, cannot be focused. At 3 power, I could not see clearly at 13 yards, at 9 power, I could not see clearly at 20 yards. This made accuracy testing extremely problematic. I might have been the victim of unit-to-unit variation, but the scope that came with this sample was – flatly – useless. I would recommend either mounting a better scope or going the simple route and use the fiber optic open sights that come with the Model 95. (For the record, the good folks at Airguns of Arizona recommended to Hatsan that they either include a decent scope in the combo or don’t include a scope at all.)

I mounted a good scope – a Vortex – and tested the Model 95 for accuracy. Eventually, I was able to achieve at 5-shot group, shot with JSB Express pellets, at 32 yards that measured 1.1875 inch from edge to edge. That’s just a hair over 1 inch CTC. Now while that is hardly superb accuracy for a springer at that range, it is certainly sufficient for clearing the garden of pests at 100 feet.

In the end, the Hatsan 95 is a decidedly mixed bag. The scope and mounts are dreadful. The rifle itself, however, is nice looking and pleasant to shoot. The accuracy is not stellar but sufficient for plinking and pest control in the back yard at modest ranges. I’ve heard rumors that the .22 version is more accurate than the .177. Perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to test one in the future.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

Okay, Butch, here’s the practical stuff you can do to extract the most accuracy out of your springer.

  1. Make sure the stock screws are snug. They don’t have to be as tight as humanly possible, but if they are not snug, they can produce very erratic accuracy. Recheck them from time to time.
  2. Make sure that your scope mounts are snug to the dovetail on top of the receiver and around the scope tube. Recheck these also from time to time.
  3. Let your springer choose the ammunition. Test for accuracy off a rest at close range with several different round-nose pellets – 10 to 15 yards to start – and when you find some pellets that group well, move to longer range and test again.
  4. Use a soft rest like a rolled up jacket, towel, or even a pillow. I often use my field target bum bag on top of a couple of old boat cushions. Try to place the rest just in front of the trigger guard. Use the same rest all the time. Springers generally do not like hard rests and can display dramatic changes in point of impact if you change the type of rest that you use. I had a nicely tuned springer that was dialed in perfectly for shooting from a sitting position with the gun resting in the crook of my arms. When I tried shooting the same gun with my elbows resting on a bench, the point of impact jumped up by an inch and a half at just ten yards. In another dramatic example, a fellow beat me by a couple of points with his springer. I asked him if I could try his gun. Sure, he said. I could not drop a large target at ten yards with half a dozen attempts. He thought there was something wrong with the gun. He tried it and dropped the target immediately. Obviously, the way you hold a springer makes a big difference in the point of impact.
  5. Don’t pull the gun hard into your shoulder. Let it rest easy.
  6. Try to make sure that the gun in its rest is naturally pointed at the target. If you have to force the gun to get on target, adjust your rest until, as much as possible, your air rifle is aimed at the target without you having to “muscle” it into position.
  7. Stay focused on the target. If possible, rest the thumb of your trigger hand on the top of the buttstock and pull your trigger finger straight back toward it. The object is to make your trigger pull as straight back as possible and not to either side. Suck in a breath, let half of it out, and pull steadily, keeping the crosshairs exactly where you want them on the target until the shot breaks. Don’t yank the trigger.
  8. If, as you are aiming, you find yourself running out of breath and getting desperate to release the shot, stop, reset yourself, take a couple of breaths, and start over again.
  9. Follow through. Don’t move anything until you see the pellet hit the target. Maintain laser focus of yourself on the target throughout the entire shot cycle.
  10.  Finally, if possible, move closer to the target. Nothing improves accuracy like getting closer! If you can reduce the distance to your pest birds by 15 yards, I think you’ll find it easier to hit the mark. (Butch, this is no reflection on your shooting skill, but a practical observation.)

Well, I hope this helps.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

Recently, I heard from blog reader Butch who said:

“I am new to adult air guns and have a few questions.  At my work we use air guns to rid birds off equipment.  I am having trouble with accuracy off a bench rest.  I have been trying to site in off a bench.  I have tried several pellets and can’t seem to get better than a 3 inch group at 50 yards.  I might get 3 shots less than a inch and always flyers that stretch the group out.  Could you give a little insight into shooting a spring gun.  I am aware of the artillery hold.  Maybe suggest a good gun rest.  Thanks.”

Well, Butch, you raise a really good question, and it’s one that I face frequently since many times a year I test spring-piston air rifles (springers), and I always want to wring the best accuracy out of them.

The Basics

At the risk of telling you stuff you already know, Butch, let’s start at the beginning. Springers are based on a unique airgun powerplant. All airgun powerplants use compressed gas – usually air, but sometimes CO2 or another gas – to drive the pellet down the barrel. Springers are, however, the only airgun powerplant that generates the compressed gas at the moment you pull the trigger. If you want to check out the other airgun powerplants have a look at this: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/Review%20-%20Airgun%20Powerplants%20-%20Jock%20Elliott.html

Here’s how it works: when you cock a springer using the barrel or side lever or under lever, you are pushing a spring and piston backward inside the receiver until it latches. It sits there, inside the air rifle, bunched up like sprinter ready to launch when the gun goes off. When you pull the trigger, you release the spring and piston. They rocket forward inside the receiver, causing (remember Newton?) recoil toward the rear of the air rifle. As the spring and piston drive forward, they compress air in front of them. As the spring and piston rear the end of their stroke, two things happen. First, the piston bounces off the wad of compressed air in front of it and begins to move backwards. This causes recoil in the opposite direction. Second, a small amount of air squirts through the transfer port, driving the pellet down the barrel.

But notice the key thing here: the unique springer powerplant causes both forward and reverse recoil before the pellet leaves the muzzle of the gun. This whiplash recoil – which can involve several ounces thrashing around inside the receiver – can raise havoc with accuracy.

The other airgun powerplants – precharged pneumatic, CO2, multi-stroke pneumatic, single-stroke pneumatic – don’t have the problem of the whiplash recoil. The thing about springers that makes them so seductive is that they are so convenient – one cocking stroke and they are good to go, and no auxiliary equipment is required, like a pump or SCUBA tank or CO2 cartridges. Lee Wilcox, who used to run Airgun Express, once told me: “Shooters go through three stages with springers: first they love ‘em, then they hate ‘em because they’re hard to shoot well, then they love ‘em again.”

Expectations

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of extracting the most accuracy out of a springer (in Part II next week), we probably ought to talk just a bit about what you might reasonably expect from a springer at 50 yards. And it is a mixed bag. I have seen a five-shot 50-yard group that you could cover with a dime shot from a sitting position by a field target shooter. No kidding. But that’s not typical. Further, I have shot close to 1-inch groups at 50 yards with springers, but that required a lot of work and a lot of care that might not be feasible when you’re trying to clean birds off of equipment.

Robert Beeman, who founded Beeman Airguns, reported in the Beeman Airgun Guide/Catalog Edition 18, “Approximate Potential Accuracy at Field Distances” ranging from 1.3 inches to 2.5 inches center to center at 40 yards, with springers. At 50 yards, those groups are going to spread out even more. A 1.5 inch group at 40 yards might become 2.3 inches at 50 yards. Bottom line: groups of 2-3 inches at 50 yards might well be typical with average springers and average shooters. (By contrast, it is rare for me to test a precharged pneumatic air rifle that will not deliver groups of 1 inch or less – sometimes much less – at 50 yards.)

Remain patient, Butch, next time I’ll offer some practical suggestions for improving your shooting.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

FX Indy 007-001

To get the Indy ready for shooting, first charge the air reservoir to 200 bar (not quite 3,000 psi) using a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump. Be sure to use the fitting that comes with the Indy because the male Foster fitting mounted on the Indy sits deeply in the hole in the stock and it can be difficult to get a grip on a normal (shorter) fill fitting. Alternatively, you can, of course, pump up the Indy using the on-board pump. I did this, and if I counted correctly, it took roughly 50 strokes on the on-board pump to get from empty to full charge. I don’t have any good way of measuring the amount of effort that the pumping requires, but I would estimate it to be around 30 lbs.

The rotary magazine slides into the breech from the right hand side.

The rotary magazine slides into the breech from the right hand side.

Next, load the12-shot rotary magazine. To do that, first, rotate the clear plastic face plate counter-clockwise as far as possible. Now, while holding the face plate in position, flip the magazine over so you’re looking at the back side. You’ll see that a port has opened in the back of the magazine. Load a pellet backwards (tail first) into the port. This will lock the spring and keep the inner wheel from turning. Now, flip the magazine over and load the rest of the pellets by dropping them nose-first into the magazine while rotating the transparent cover so that the hole in it opens each of the pellet “bays.” Once you have filled the magazine, rotate the transparent cover back to its original position. Pull the breech lever to the rear of the receiver to move the bolt back. Now slide the magazine into the breech.

Push the breech lever forward to move the first pellet out the magazine and into the barrel. Take aim, slide the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. On the sample I tested, it required only 13.9 ounces to take up the first stage, and at l lb 4.1 ounces, the shot goes down range.

Over the course of 10 shots on high power, the Independence launched the 18.2 grain JSB Jumbo Heavy pellets at an average of 864 fps (high 888, low 832), generating about 30.2 (average) footpounds of energy at the muzzle. The report is a loud pop. With the shroud extension in place, the report is quieter but is still distinctly audible. Perhaps some additional baffling could be placed in the barrel shroud extension to knock the report down even more.

Accuracy was what I have come to expect from FX airguns: excellent. At 32 yards, off a casual rest, five JSB pellets fell into a group that measured just 5/8 inch edge to edge. That works out to .4 inches center to center.

This receptacle in the butt stock will hold a couple of spare magazines.

This receptacle in the butt stock will hold a couple of spare magazines.

While doing research for another blog, I called Airguns of Arizona and found myself talking to Kip. He is an avid hunter, and he offered the opinion that the FX Indy could be the ultimate answer in the quest for an airgun survival rifle.

The case he made was this: “If you are in a survival situation, and you have a springer, you need to carry an extra spring and seal. When it comes time to fix it, you need a spring compressor or another person to help you safely disassemble and reassemble the gun. With the Indy, all you need is a small packet of o-rings and a couple of hand tools, and you can take care of it yourself.”

And that leads me to another thought: maybe someone (Airguns of Arizona perhaps?) could offer a seminar for FX Indy owners on how to maintain and rebuilt your airgun. It would have to be real hands-on stuff. Seminar participants would actually tear down and rebuild their own airguns so that if they ever needed to make survival-type repairs, they would know what to do.

The bottom line is that the FX Indy may well be the ultimate air survival rifle. Of one thing I am certain: it was a lot of fun to shoot!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

FX Indy 001-001

I never expected the good folks at Airguns of Arizona to try to pull a fast one on me, but apparently they have.

Here’s what happened: Brown Santa (the UPS guy) shows up the other day with a long slim package. This is a fairly normal occurrence at El Rancho Elliott. I lug it down to the basement, decant the packing peanuts, and pull out a black box. It says “FX Airguns. Made in Sweden.” It’s a bit shorter than the normal FX boxes, but I am unconcerned.

I am unconcerned, that is, until I open the black box and see what’s inside. It doesn’t look like any airgun I have ever seen. The only thing that my scrambling mind can come up with is that it must be a Photon Pulse Rifle straight from the weapons shops on Tatooine. Or, if by some outside chance the object in my hands is, indeed, an airgun, it just simply has to be the air rifle of a Jedi Knight. And the guys at www.airgunsofarizona.com are trying to pass this off as an air rifle from Sweden . . . Hah! They can’t fool me.

Well it turns out that Uncle Jock was wrong on all counts. This new rifle is indeed from Sweden; it’s the brand-new FX Indy, a bullpup air rifle with an on-board pump. It stretches just 29.5 inches from end to end, weighs just 8.7 pounds before a scope is mounted, and is available in .22 caliber, .25 caliber, or .30 caliber. Factory specs say the .22 version will generate 30 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle; the .25, 46 fp, and the .30, 75 fp. I tested the .22 version.\

This view shows the adjustable butt pad, the slot where extra magazines can be stored, the air gauge, the cheek rest on the top of the receiver, the breech, and the power adjustment wheel, just slightly ahead of and below the breech.

This view shows the adjustable butt pad, the slot where extra magazines can be stored, the air gauge, the cheek rest on the top of the receiver, the breech, and the power adjustment wheel, just slightly ahead of and below the breech.

At the extreme aft end of the Indy is a soft rubber butt pad that can be adjusted vertically. It is attached to a one-piece matte black stock that is molded from engineering polymer. Just forward of the butt pad, there is a hole in the stock. It can be accessed from the righthand side and used to store extra magazines. Forward of that on the left side of the stock is another hole which contains a clearly marked air gauge. Forward of that on the bottom of the stock is a male Foster fitting for filling the on-board air reservoir with a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump.

Forward of that is the nearly vertical pistol grip and the trigger guard which surrounds a black metal trigger. Forward of that, the forestock is unadorned except for the extreme forward end, underneath which is a Picatinny rail for mounting accessories. Above the forestock is the air reservoir, and above that, the shrouded smooth twist barrel.

At the end of the barrel is a fitting that can be unscrewed, allowing the attachment of a barrel shroud extension. Moving back on top of the barrel, you’ll find a long dovetail assembly for mounting a scope.

On the left side of the receiver forward of the breech, there is a wheel that allows the power to be set at one of three levels. Just to the rear of that is the breech, into which a rotary magazine is inserted. Aft of that, on the left side, the rear of the receiver is covered with a smooth metal cheek rest.

The right side, showing the on-board pump arm and shroud extension fitting.

The right side, showing the on-board pump arm and shroud extension fitting.

On the right side of the receiver, stretching back from the front end of the air reservoir, there is a long side lever that can be used for pumping up the air reservoir. That’s right: with this rifle, you are independent of the need for an external pump or SCUBA tank if you don’t want to use one. Hence the name: Indy.

Just aft of the breech on the right side of the receiver, you’ll find the breech lever and a lever type safety. That’s it.

The Indy is clearly one of the most unusual airguns I have ever seen, but it seems to be a case where form is driven by function. The Indy appears to be extremely solidly built and ready to face whatever challenges may present themselves.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how the Indy shoots.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott