If there is one thing that irritates the dickens out of me, it’s the emphasis on velocity seen so often in mass-market airgun advertising: 1,000 feet per second . . . 1,200 fps . . . 1,500 fps . . . even 1,600 fps. And you can tell it’s getting through to people who don’t know any better.
A couple of years ago, the good folks at Airguns of Arizona very graciously invited me to come out and attend the NRA show being held that year in Phoenix. It was a great time, and I spent a number of hours at the AoA booth. Invariably, someone would come up, eyeball the gorgeous guns in the display, and ask (pointing at a particular gun), “How fast does it shoot?”
After a while I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I began to politely explain how that velocity is really not the primary concern when it comes to air rifles and air pistols, how speeds above 1,000 fps are generally a Bad Idea with airgun pellets because of turbulence in the trans-sonic region, and how air rifles, unlike their powder-burning cousins, can’t drive pellets fast enough to stay supersonic all the way to long-range targets, causing accuracy woes as the pellet drops back into the trans-sonic region. I’m sure you know all that already, but I can tell you it was an eye-opener for some of the folks attending the NRA show.
The plain truth is that I like shooting wimpy-powered air rifles. It all started in my brother-in-laws backyard. He was shooting a humble Beeman R7/HW30, and I was shooting a Venom-tuned HW97. We were trying to hit a small kill zone on a field target 20 yards away, and he was dropping the target more often than I was. This annoyed me, since I had just spent a lot of money on the aforementioned HW97. We switched guns, and I promptly beat him. The truth was evident: his 6 fp breakbarrel air rifle was easier to shoot well than my much higher powered model.
So we decided to do an experiment. At the next field target match, we would each bring a 6 fp gun, on the theory that knowing our guns were easy to shoot well would help us to achieve high scores even though we were giving up power, velocity and flatness of trajectory. It worked. At the end of the day we each shot a personal best.
Lest you think that performance was some sort of freak occurrence, let me share a couple of other tidbits. The first time that I ever won a field target match was with a scoped PCP match rifle shooting just 570 fps. At another match, I saw Ray Apelles shoot a match high score with an FWB 300 match rifle, which was launching pellets at around 600 fps. And on many other occasions, I’ve seen competitors shoot decent scores and have a great time shooting low-powered tack drivers.
If you would like to experiment with turning to “the wimpy side of the force,” the king of the low-power tackdrivers is the HW30. It’s just 38.75” long, weights 5.5lbs, and features a very nice adjustable trigger. It launches Crosman Premier 7.9 grain pellets and delivers them at around 620 fps, producing tiny cloverleaf groups at 10 meters. You can check out my full review here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2010/09/hw30s-de-luxe.html
Two other low-power break barrel air rifles that I have tested in the past are the BSA Meteor and the RWS Model 24.
More than 2,000,000 BSA Meteors have been sold worldwide, making it one of the most popular air rifles of all time. It is just 42 inches long and weighs 5.75 lbs. I tested a used early model that put Daisy Match pellets downrange at 610 fps. The trigger was hard to pull and was not adjustable, but I’m told that the new Mark VI models have an adjustable trigger.
The RWS Model 24, now available used, is a real sleeper. At 42” inches long and 6 lbs, it is a very plain looking gun, but it sure does shoot. JSB Exact 8.4 grain pellets went through the traps at 578 fps and drilled one-hole groups at 10 meters. The trigger had a bit of creep, but is very predictable, making accurate shooting easy. I understand the Model 24 has been replaced by the 240, and I hope to have a look at one of those in the future.
Another possibility for the shooter who wants a low-power tackdriver is the FWB 150/300. Available only used, these are recoilless spring-piston match rifles that are easily scoped and a joy to shoot.
Finally, for the shooter who wants a hyper-accurate low-power air rifle, many of the modern FWB PCP match rifles can be scoped, and, at ten meters, you’ll find nothing on the planet that is more accurate. https://www.airgunsofarizona.com/FWB.htm
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott