But before I get to my take on the actual air rifles, some words about my selection. I decided to go with American pump-up .22 caliber air rifles for several reasons. The first, quite frankly, is that I have a weak spot for pump-up air guns. I own several, and I enjoy shooting them frequently. In addition, pump-up guns are generally easy to shoot; they don’t jump and buck the way many spring-piston air rifles do. Pump-up rifles are also typically less expensive than their spring-piston counterparts, and they are usually a fraction the cost of pre-charged air rifles which are filled from a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump.
Lastly, I was inspired. Recently I received a copy of an excellent book American Air Rifles by James E. House (Krause Publications). In it, he evaluates more than a dozen American-made air rifles. His words reminded me that you don’t need an expensive European or Asian model to enjoy a great deal of shooting satisfaction – and utility — with an air rifle. Thanks, Mr. House.
One of the first challenges that I faced was generating some sort of performance standard. What kind of performance would be necessary to send Jabba the Chuck to that Big Salad Bar in the Sky? Since I didn’t have three equal National Institute of Standards-certified pest animals lining up to be shot for evaluation purposes, and at that time I did not have a chronograph, I chose the next best thing . . . soup cans. Yup, good oldCampbell’s to the rescue.
My reasoning was thus: a steel soup can is small enough and tough enough that, if you can hit it and cleanly pierce at least one side, you can probably hit and punch through the skull of a varmint. I have killed animals with air guns that wouldn’t pass this test, but I wouldn’t recommend it. If possible, I prefer to drop ‘em where they stand. (I chose .22 caliber for all three guns for the same reason.)
So let’s have a look at our three candidates.
The Daisy 22X is 37.75 inches long and weights 4.5 lbs. It is the lightest of the three guns. It has 20.8 in rifled steel barrel. The manual says it can be pumped up to 10 times and claims 530 fps with 8.6 fp energy but doesn’t specify what weight pellets are involved. The 22X is a handsome gun with a wooden buttstock (with plastic buttplate) and wooden forearm. The receiver is metal.
The 22X is loaded by dropping pellets into the breech on top of the receiver. The bolt is opened by pulling a plastic lever on the right side of the receiver. Opening the bolt also cocks the action. With a scope attached to the rail on top of the receiver, loading requires placing the pellet in the slot on the top of the receiver just to the right of the breech and rolling the pellet into the breech. The 22X is the easiest to pump of the three rifles, but, as we’ll see in a bit, it comes at a price.
In 2002, the suggested retail price of the 22X was $73.95. The Daisy 2-7x scope that I used for testing carried an SRP of $29.95.
The Crosman 2200B measures 39 inches long and weighs 4 lbs. 12 oz., just a few ounces more than the Daisy. The 2200B has a 20.79 inch rifled steel barrel, and the factory manual claims 525-595 fps at 10 pumps with 14.3 gr. pellets. The buttstock and forearm are plastic, and the receiver is metal and is equipped with a scope rail. Overall, the appearance is clean and appealing, and it looks like a “real” rifle. The entire plastic forearm moves to pump up the gun, and the 2200B requires only slightly more pumping effort than the Daisy.
The 2200B loads by dropping pellets into the breech on the right side of the receiver. A plastic lever opens the breech and cocks the action. Loading requires tipping the gun on its side. The slot leading to the breech is somewhat deep, and there is no elegant way to control the descent of a pellet to the breech itself. As a result, sometimes nose-heavy domed pellets arrive at the breech sideways or backwards. Sometimes jiggling the gun or dumping the pellet out and starting over is necessary to set things right.
The suggested retail price of the 2200B was $69.95, and the 4x Crosman scope that was used during testing was $9.95.
Benjamin 392, manufactured by Crosman Corporation, is 36.25 inches long and weighs 5.5 lbs, making it both the shortest and the heaviest of our three candidates. The 392 manual states this gun will produce velocities of 685 fps at 8 pumps but does not reveal the weight of the pellets used in making that determination.
It doesn’t take Holmesian powers of observation to figure out the 392 is solidly built. The only plastic used on this air rifle is the buttplate. The buttstock is solid wood, and so is the forearm which also serves as the pumping lever. (The 392 is also the hardest of the three guns to pump.) The breech and bolt are made of metal, but unlike the Daisy and the Crosman, there is no scope rail on top of the receiver. Holes for attaching a Williams peep sight are tapped into the side of the receiver, and that’s what I used for a sighting system.
The 392 can be scoped using intermounts from Crosman for around $15.00 and attach a scope (or a red dot sighting device) forward of the receiver. In the case of a scope, this requires either a long eye relief scope (a la Colonel Jeff Cooper’s scout rifle concept) or putting both scope rings forward of the turrets and letting the body of the scope hang over the receive.
The suggested retail price of the Benjamin 392 was $149.95, and the Williams peep was $27.95, making this combo by far and away the most expensive of the three guns tested.
Next time, we’ll see how these three rifles perform.
Til then, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott