Posts Tagged ‘pcp’

Your Humble Correspondent demonstrating one version of the Creedmoor position which is used in many air pistol silhouette classes.

Your Humble Correspondent demonstrating one version of the Creedmoor position which is used in many air pistol silhouette classes.

If you would like to engage in some spirited competition at a very wallet-friendly price, let me recommend air pistol silhouette. All you need is an accurate air pistol, some pellets, and a place to shoot. You can get started for a total outlay of $100-400.

Air pistol silhouette is one of those classic games that takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. You shoot at metal cutouts of chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rams at various distances. If you knock one down, you get a point. If you miss, you don’t. The person with the most points wins.

Chickens, which measure just 3/4 inch high and 1 inch wide, are shot at 10 yards, pigs at 12.5 yards, turkeys at 15 yards, and rams at 18 yards. A typical match involves shooting at 10 of each animal: 10 chickens, 10 pigs and so forth. In case of ties, additional targets are shot to determine the winner.

IHMSA – the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association —  began sponsoring matches for air pistols in 2001. There are six categories of IHMSA air pistol silhouette competition.

Three are generally shot from the Creedmoor position (although other positions are allowed). Creedmoor looks pretty strange: competitors typically lie on their backs and brace the pistol against their calf or thigh. Some competitors  in these classes shoot from the “flop” position, which involves lying on the ground facing forward and elevating the pistol off the ground with the hands.

Uncle Jock's well loved and well used Daisy 747 match pistol with optional wooden grips.

Uncle Jock’s well loved and well used Daisy 747 match pistol with optional wooden grips.

Creedmoor classes include: Production, for open-sight pistols costing $375 or less suggested retail price; Unlimited (open sights only), for pistols with open sights above $375 SRP; and Unlimited Any Sight, for pistols of any price using any type of optical sighting device such as a scope or red dot sight. There are also three standing classes: Standing, for $375 (or less SRP) open sight guns, Unlimited Standing for any gun with any sighting device, and Unlimited Standing Iron Sight.

Competitors shooting in the Unlimited Any Sight class tend to shoot with long-eye-relief pistol scopes from the Creedmoor position. By contrast, Unlimited Standing competitors often equip their pistols with rifle scopes, shooting the air pistol close to their faces with one hand on the pistol grip and another on top of the scope.

The Crosman 2300S is a CO2-powered production class silhouette pistol.

The Crosman 2300S is a CO2-powered production class silhouette pistol.

IHMSA’s air pistol silhouette competition is unique in that it offers a “production” class  in which the price of the air pistol cannot exceed $375 suggested retail price. (This limit was recently raised to allow the inclusion of Crosman’s 1701P precharged pneumatic silhouette pistol.) This upper price limit levels the playing field so people with less expensive pistols are not competing head-to-head against much more expensive match pistols that might cost a couple of thousand dollars. (An inexpensive pistol such as the Daisy Avanti or the Crosman 2300S is not necessarily a disadvantage. There are documented cases of shooters using these relatively inexpensive pistols to beat the high-buck pistols in the non-production classes.) At many matches, shooters are also classed based on their ability, so beginners aren’t forced to compete against experts.

The Crosman 1701P is a precharged pneumatic production class silhouette pistol.

The Crosman 1701P is a precharged pneumatic production class silhouette pistol.

I have even interviewed a shooter who participated successfully in IHMSA air pistol silhouette competition with a Crosman 1377  . the only serious disadvantage of the 1377 (besides all the pumping) is that the sights are difficult to adjust. With the right pellets, it can be wickedly accurate.

This pellet trap has silhouettes that dangle from a center rod and make a satisfying "ting" when you hit them.

This pellet trap has silhouettes that dangle from a center rod and make a satisfying “ting” when you hit them.

You can print air pistol silhouette targets off the internet, but it is also useful to have a pellet trap with silhouette targets, and I can recommend this one.

Until next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

A typical field target attached to a tree in the woods.

A typical field target attached to a tree in the woods.

Targets that react when hit by an air rifle pellet are just plain more fun than those that don’t. That’s why I enjoy air rifle field target.

This is what it looks like before the shooter puts his eye to the scope.

This is what it looks like before the shooter puts his eye to the scope.

At first glance, it’s a pretty simple game. It involves shooting metallic silhouettes of birds and small game Each silhouette has a hole – or kill zone – in it, and behind the hole is a paddle. If you put a pellet cleanly through the hole and hit the paddle, the target falls down – with a gratifying clang – and you get a point. If the pellet hits the faceplate of the target or splits on the edge of the hole, the target does not fall down, and you don’t get a point.

As they say in the infomercials, but wait, there’s more: the distance to the target can vary from 10 to 55 yards, and the size of the kill zone, or hole in the target, can vary from 3/8 inch to 1 7/8 inch. Depending on the whim of the match director, you may face any size kill zone at any distance. Trust me: that one-inch kill zone that appears dead easy at 10 yards looks downright microscopic at 50 yards.

Hector Medina shooting a custom tuned RWS 54 springer.

Hector Medina shooting a custom tuned RWS 54 springer.

In addition, air rifles used in field target competition generally shoot at sub-sonic velocities,. As a result, you will need to compensate for the trajectory of the pellet at various ranges. On top of that, the wind will also tend to deflect your pellet as it moves from muzzle to target.

Mix all of these factors together, and you get a sport that requires (1) figuring out the distance to the target, (2) compensating for your gun’s trajectory at that distance, (3) doping the wind, and (4) executing the shot with enough precision to put the pellet cleanly through the hole. What makes it fun, beyond the clang and bang of the targets when they fall, is that field target is never the same twice. Each match is a little different, depending upon the layout of the course and the environmental conditions on any given day.

Hans Apelles of Team Crosman shooting a precharged pneumatic rifle of bullpup configuration.

Hans Apelles of Team Crosman shooting a precharged pneumatic rifle of bullpup configuration.

A typical match may consist of 2 or 3 targets per lane, two shots per target, and 10 shooting lanes, resulting in a 40-60 shot match. Most shots are taken from a sitting position, although some match directors will mix in some standing and kneeling shots as well. Most field target competitions take place outdoors, although some clubs host offhand-only matches in the winter in which shooters stand in a heated building and shoot at outside targets.

At present, there are dozens of field target clubs spread across the United States and more around the world. At most U.S. matches, you’ll find two classes: PCP and Piston. Some clubs also have classes for Junior shooters, Offhand shooters, WFTF (World Field Target Federation, limited to 12 foot-pounds) shooters, and Hunter Class, which limits scopes to 12X and allows the use of shooting sticks and seats. A typical entry fee for a match is $10 or less.

So what do you need to compete in field target? First, an air rifle. You can enter with almost any .177, .20 or .22 air rifle that generates less than 20 foot pounds at the muzzle, but to be competitive, you’ll want a rifle capable of shooting one-hole groups at 10 yards and holding a half-inch 5-shot group at 30-35 yards.

There are two basic classes of gun used in field target. PCP class guns are “pre-charged” pneumatic air rifles. They are powered by compressed air stored in a cylinder usually located below the barrel of the gun and charged using a SCUBA tank or a high-pressure hand pump. PCP field target guns can run from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending the level of sophistication.

Piston Class rifles rely on a spring or a gas ram that is cocked, usually by a lever under the barrel, to supply the energy to drive the pellet. When the trigger is pulled, the spring or ram is released, driving the piston forward and the pellet down the barrel. Because a lot of machinery is moving inside the gun before the pellet leaves the muzzle, piston air rifles are more difficult to shoot accurately. Highly accurate piston air rifles suitable for field target can be purchased for $500-600.

Second, you’ll need high quality optics. Many field target shooters favor very high power scopes – a minimum of 24X – because they use them to range-find on the targets. They use the adjustable objective to get the target clearly in focus, and then read the distance off the front bell or side wheel of the scope. In Hunter Class, however, shooters are limited to 12X optics.

Third, you’ll need some good ammunition. You’ll have to test to see with which pellet your gun groups the best. Group size can shrink dramatically simply by choosing the right pellet.

The final thing you will need is something to sit on, since the majority of field target shooting lanes are designed for the sitting position. I use a field target “bum bag,” but whatever gets your rump off the dirt and is comfortable ought to work just fine.

You’ll also need a place to shoot, the American Airgun Field Target Association website AAFTA has a list of field target clubs in the United States as well as a resource page of suppliers of field target air rifles, scopes, ammunition, etc.

Field target offers fun, great camaraderie, and the challenge of a high-accuracy sport at a reasonable price. I recommend it highly.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Two of my favorite minisniping air rifles. At top, a Beeman R7 (HW30). Bottom: an FWB150 in an FWB300 stock.

Two of my favorite minisniping air rifles. At top, a Beeman R7 (HW30). Bottom: an FWB150 in an FWB300 stock.

In 1984 Peter Capstick, big game hunter and African Correspondent for Guns & Ammo magazine, published an article that changed the lives of a lot of airgunning enthusiasts. Entitled simply “Minisniping,” it enthusiastically related, stretching over 10 pages in the October issue, how Capstick and his fellow big rifle shooters had been seduced by the delights of shooting at spent 9mm brass at 35 yards, from a rest, with Olympic style match air rifles.

They could have been out in the bush hunting big game. But no, Capstick and his chums found themselves answering the siren call of spending eight hours a week trying to knock over tiny targets barely twice the width of their bullets.

The game, as Capstick and his pals played it, is deceptively simple: get some used 9mm casings, stick them primer end down in some modeling clay on a rock, a brick or a piece of wood. Then back off 35 yards and try to knock the casings down with an low-power “match” air rifle. What’s so great about that?

Well, I’ve tried minisniping, and I’ve discovered its allure.

First, minisniping is accessible. You can do it virtually anywhere you have room and it’s legal – and that’s a lot more places than where discharging a firearm is legal.

Second, minisniping is inexpensive on a per-shot basis.  Once you’ve paid for the air rifle (we’ll get to that in a moment), a “sleeve” of 10 tins each containing 500 rounds of .177 match ammo—that’s 5,000 rounds—costs less than $120.  At those prices, it bothers me not one bit that I typically blow through 75-100 rounds per session.

In addition, the Olympic-grade match air rifles used for minisniping are incredibly accurate, capable of 0.04” c-t-c groups at ten meters.  At 20 meters, a 10-shot group from a bench looks identical to a single .22 caliber hole.

Capstick and his fellow minisnipers shot with match quality air rifles of their day:  the Feinwerkbau 300s, FWB Running Boar, and Anschutz LG match.  These were recoilless spring-powered rifles that are now only available used.  Spring powerplants have gone out of favor with today’s world class match shooters.  A few single-stroke pneumatics are still used, but most of the top guns prefer the precharged pneumatic rifles that run off compressed air and are filled either from a pump or a SCUBA tank.

On the neighbor-friendly side of things, today’s match quality air rifles are generally quiet. The precharged guns make a popping sound that is certainly nowhere near as loud as, say, a .22 rimfire.  And the spring-powered guns make a muted “thwock” sound comparable to whacking a tennis ball with a racket.

Regardless of powerplant, what all of these match level guns share, in addition to superb accuracy, is high reliability.  Once in a while, a gun will go off to have the seals replaced, but other than that, repairs are rare, and you never hear of a barrel wearing out.

What makes match air rifles challenging to shoot for minisniping is that, regardless of price, they generate only 5-6 foot pounds of energy.  Most launch 7.9 grain match pellets downrange at about 560-600 fps (measured at the muzzle).  At 35 yards, the velocity is well below 500 fps, and any bit of wind will push the pellet around with impunity.  Learning to read the wind is at the heart of minisniping.

Minisniping is a game that takes just a few minutes to learn and a lifetime to master—and that’s where the true seduction lies.  Capstick, by the way, calculated that shooting at a ¾” high casing at 35 yards was equivalent to targeting an enemy sniper’s torso at over 1,300 yards. Capstick strongly recommends the use of wind flags for doping the breezes, but I generally don’t use them. Of course, many of my would-be snipees go unscathed much of the time.

Finally, many of these guns are “pellet sensitive.”  When you’re trying for ultimate accuracy, part of the quest will be figuring out which pellets give you the tightest groups at 35 yards on a calm day.

So what do you really need to play the game of minisniping?

An air rifle.  Any of these FWB match rifles will do the job. But if you don’t want to spend that much, let me suggest the humble HW30S It’s spring-powered, so you don’t need all the ancillary gear associated with a PCP rifle. It’s wonderfully accurate and launches pellets around 600 fps. Unlike the match rifles that Capstick and his friends shot, the HW30S is not recoilless, but it is still very easy to learn to shoot well. The key thing is not to use a high-powered air rifle. The velocity needs to be in the 500-650 fps range. Otherwise, minisniping will simply be too easy.

A scope.  Spring-powered airguns require an airgun-rated scope that can withstand their unique whiplash recoil.  You can use virtually any firearm scope on top of the precharged guns.  Ask the good folks at for a recommendation for a scope to go with your rifle

35 yards of space…or longer or shorter as the mood and/or necessity strikes you.

Some high quality pellets.  Airguns of Arizona is a great source of match pellets of almost every conceivable diameter.

A backstop or pellet trap.  This bullet box works well.

Wind flags (if you like, it’s definitely harder without them).  Wind flags are available commercially, or you can make ersatz wind flags with some 3-foot dowels, cellophane tape, and a bit of toilet paper or commercial flagging tape.

What if you don’t have all that stuff? No problem.  If your success rate is continually zero at 35 yards, move closer.  If your hit rate is 100%, move back.  Shoot at cheese puffs, animal crackers, little green army men, .22 brass, match sticks, toothpicks or soda straws.  The point is the fun, the challenge, and the ability to test the limits of your sniping ability in your own back yard.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


On the face of it, airgun benchrest sounds like it could be, well, kinda boring. After all, how hard could it possibly be? You take a state-of-the-art air rifle, place it on some really good rests, and bang away at a target at a known distance. It’s easy, right?


Airgun benchrest is a tough, exacting, exasperating, occasionally frustrating sport. There are variables galore: slight variation in velocity at the muzzle, even from the best purpose-built air rifles; variations in the pellets, which are machine made to high standards, but still there are differences from pellet to pellet, usually small but sometimes big, and you also have the shooter’s technique and decisions about when, where, and how to shoot. But above all, you have the wind. In airgun benchrest, the wind is not your friend, buddy, pal, or ally. It is, in fact, Evil Incarnate sent by the Dark Lord Sauron to mess with your accuracy, ruin your life, leave dirty socks on your coffee table, and give you a flat tire. (Well, okay, maybe that’s a tiny bit of an overstatement, but not by much.)

Your Humble Correspondent has tried airgun benchrest at 25 yards, and it is by no means a “gimme.” Even with the best gun, best pellet, and superb rests loaned to me by a world champion bench rest shooter, the wind will still humble you, take you to the woodshed, and make you wish you had taken up a less challenging pastime.

And that’s at 25 yards. At 75 yards, well, forget it. That’s 225 feet, more than twice the distance that at which I normally test airguns.

The good folks at Airguns of Arizona have apparently not gotten the word that attempting airgun benchrest at 75 yards is just plain goofy because, for the third consecutive year, they have sponsored the Extreme Benchrest Competition in Phoenix, Arizona. At the heart of the Extreme event is long-range benchrest: 25 shots in 30 minutes at 75 yards. But that is not the only thing going on. There are also two 25 yard benchrest matches, a timed silhouette match, an indoor pistol match, and a field target match. Prize money was on the line in the Pro class and gift certificates and other goodies in the other classes.

The event this year drew 84 competitors from as far away as Sweden, Venezuela, Canada, and Mexico and airgun writers and World Class shooters from the UK. In short, it is an event that is growing in popularity and is attracting international attention.

Here enters Chris Warwick from Mesa, Arizona. He thought that Extreme Benchrest sounded like fun, so he entered the Sportsman’s Class and ended up winning overall with a high score that was five points ahead of anyone else.

Warwick was shooting a .30 caliber FX Boss. In an interview, I asked him why he had selected that air rifle. He said, “I chose the FX because I thought I should use what they guys were winning with last year.” (FX air rifles took nine out of ten prizes this year, even though they only represented about 30 percent of the entries.)

I asked about his background in shooting and how he prepared for the match.

Warwick said, “Back in the 1980s, I was a high-power silhouette shooter. I did a lot of work from the bench, developing loads. I also did a lot of testing for accuracy for small bore silhouette. It turns out I have far more trigger time from the bench than anything else.”

He adds, “I stopped shooting high power in the mid 90s, and I picked up air rifle shooting for something to do when I am not playing golf. I really enjoy benchrest, and I can practice five days a week in my yard at 25 yards, so that’s how I prepared for the 25-yard matches.”

But then came a surprise. “I had no prep time whatsoever for 75 yards,” Warwick says. “I used the Hawke Chairgun Ballistics program for estimating drops and holdovers, but there are no good data for ballistic coefficients for .30 caliber, so it was sophisticated guessing.”

He adds, “I was very nervous Sunday because that was the first time that I had actually shot at 75 yards. The sighters are at the bottom of the target. If you shoot high, it will fall into the scoring portion of the target, and it will count toward your score. That’s not the way you want to start a match.”

Fortunately, Warwick’s first sighter at 75 yards was 2.5 inches low. He fired a confirming shot, got dialed in, and the match was on. “The neat thing was,” he says, “I was holding so well that I could actually see the pellet at 880 fps as it was streaking toward the target. I could see the pellet get affected by the wind.”

“I made the mistake of keeping track of my score. I was getting a little excited, so I tried breathing, just settling down and watching the wind flags, trying to collect myself.”

He reports that he did experience some unexpected things during the match. “My first shot after refilling was a sighter. It clipped the 10 ring at 9 o’clock, so I held at 3 o’clock to compensate and shot my first 8 of the match.”

In the end, Warwick is ecstatic about the win. “I believe the Extreme Benchrest match is exactly what the name implies: a wonderful event to test your ability as a shooter and wind reader as well as your choice of equipment and familiarity with it. I can’t wait ‘til next November.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

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.


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

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


The Cricket is a classic bullpup and measures just 27 inches from end to end.

The Cricket is a classic bullpup and measures just 27 inches from end to end.

Wikipedia defines a bullpup as “a modern firearm configuration in which the action is located behind the trigger group and alongside the shooter’s face, so there is no wasted space for the buttstock as in conventional designs.”

I had heard about bullpup airgun designs for some years and had seen some on various forums – including a “bullpump” Sheridan – but had never handled or shot one until the Kalibrgun Cricket Standard Tactical .22 showed up at my doorstep, sent to me by . The Cricket that I tested was fitted with a Hawke 4-12 x 50 AO scope on Sports Match mounts.

To be honest, I had some doubts about the whole bullpup concept. Yeah, sure, it produces a shorter rifle, but the idea of laying my face on part of the action while shooting didn’t seem like the world’s greatest idea to me.

My first impression of the Cricket was that, unlike some of the homebuilt designs I had seen online, it looked professionally designed and executed. The stock is molded from a single piece of engineering polymer, and all the metal bits, with the exception of the trigger and the bolt lever, are finished in black. The Cricket .22 Standard Tactical weighs 7.75 pounds before a scope is mounted and measures 27 inches from end to end.

Those round things in the buttstock below the receiver are holders for extra magazines.

Those round things in the buttstock below the receiver are holders for extra magazines.

At the aft end of the stock is a soft black rubber butt pad, which is separated from the main stock by a white plastic spacer. Immediately on top of the stock at the rear is the receiver, which has a slot for a 14-shot rotary magazine. On the right side of the receiver is the bolt lever and the silver colored magazine control lever or MCL. Below the receiver, in the stock are four holders for additional magazines. Moving forward, there is a large opening that allows the shooter’s thumb to wrap around the pistol grip, which is nearly vertical.

The metal cover surrounding the gauge slides forward to allow access for the fill port.

The metal cover surrounding the gauge slides forward to allow access for the fill port.

Beyond the pistol grip, stock material forms a guard around the silver metal trigger. Forward of that is the forestock which has indentations for gripping on either side. Above the forestock is the air reservoir, which has a large gauge on the end. The metal surrounding the gauge slides forward to allow access for the fill port.

The air gauge is unmarked but green is good.

The air gauge is unmarked but green is good.

Above the air reservoir is the barrel, which is shrouded. Moving rearward, you’ll find two metal supports that serve as mounts for the barrel and a scope rail. To the rear of that is another section of barrel that is bare, and behind that, another barrel mount and the receiver.

The magazine and the MCL, which is the silver lever at left.

The magazine and the MCL, which is the silver lever at left.

To ready the Cricket for shooting, charge the air reservoir with a hand pump or SCUBA tank until the gauge is at the top of the green zone. Slide 14 pellets into the magazine, pull the breech lever back until it locks and slide the MCL back until the probe from the MCL can slide into the hole at the center of the magazine.

The breech lever pulled fully back.

The breech lever pulled fully back.

Next, return the breech lever to the fully closed position and slide the MCL forward all the way and then down. There are two forward positions for the MCL. One allows the magazine to function, and the other does not. And this brings me to basically my only complaint about the Cricket: the manual is terrible. It is poorly written and reproduced. In my view, when you spend 1.5 kilobucks for an air rifle, you should get a decent manual. End of rant; back to our regularly scheduled review. (End of rant; now back to our regularly scheduled review).

Now you are good to go. Take aim and start the trigger squeeze. The first stage requires only 7.8 ounces, according to my Lyman digital trigger gauge and at 13 ounces, the shot goes down range. The trigger is very crisp, and there is a very positive “stop” between the first and second stages.

The shot goes off with a distinct POP which is about as loud as a loud springer. It is not raucous by any means, but you can definitely hear it. This gun would not be your first choice for maintaining stealth while shooting.

The Cricket launches 18.2 grain JSB Exact Heavy pellets at 887 fps (average), and delivering 29.2 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Accuracy is top notch, and the Cricket seems to be un-fussy about ammunition. With Crosman Premiers, at 32 yards, it delivered a 5-shot group that measured just .675 inch from edge to edge, which works out to .455 inch ctc. With JSB pellets, I got a 5-shot group at the same distance that measured just .75 inches, or .53 ctc.

In addition, I found the shooting position very comfortable, with my cheek resting not on the receiver, but on the bare section of barrel just forward of the receiver.

If you’re looking for a short air rifle that is suitable for hunting, the Cricket Standard Tactical delivers the goods.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


The Brocock Contour Super 6 is smaller and lighter than the Brocock Specialist.

The Brocock Contour Super 6 is smaller and lighter than the Brocock Specialist.

Those of you who regularly follow this blog might recall that recently I was pretty pleased with the Brocock Specialist. I applauded the Specialist because, at 6 lbs. 7 oz. with a scope mounted and only 34.5 inches from stem to stern, the Specialist seemed to embody the idea of a lightweight, easy-to-handle hunting rig. As I boxed up the Specialist to send it back to, I thought the subject of lightweight hunting rigs was pretty well closed.

Well, I was wrong. Recently I unzipped another long, slim package from the good folks at Airguns of Arizona to discover the Brocock Concept Super 6, and it – amazingly – is even smaller and lighter than the Specialist. It measures just 32.25 inches from end to end and weighs just 5 lbs. 9 oz. with a Hawke 4 x 32 scope mounted. At the aft end of the Super 6, you’ll find a soft black rubber butt pad that can be adjusted vertically. Forward of that is a hardwood skeleton thumbhole stock that is decidedly right-handed.

Brocock Contour Super 6 002

The forward edge of the pistol grip is nearly vertical and is checkered on both sides. Above the thumbhole is a vertical thumb rest. The wood of the stock forms a trigger guard that encircles a black metal trigger. Forward of that, the forestock tapers gracefully and features checkering on either side. Underneath the forestock is a single Allen bolt that secures the receiver to the stock.

Brocock Contour Super 6 003

Above the forestock is the air reservoir that has a black metal cap on the end that unscrews to reveal a male Foster fitting for filling the reservoir from a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump. Above that is the barrel which is shrouded. At the muzzle end of the barrel is a silver metal space which has a black metal fitting that can be removed for fitting a sound moderator (where legal).

Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the receiver with has a slot on the right hand side for inserting the six-shot rotary magazine and a silver metal molt.  The bolt has two positions: locked back and locked forward.  On top of the receiver, forward and aft of the breech, are dovetails for mounting a scope. As with the Specialist, the Contour Super 6 has no air gauge and no safety.

To ready the Contour Super 6 for shooting, charge the air cylinder to 200 bar with a SCUBA tank or pump, pull the bolt back and lock it in the back position. You can now remove the rotary magazine and fill it with six .22 caliber pellets by inserting them nose-first into the back of the magazine. Move the bolt up and forward and down again into the forward-lock position to push a pellet out of the magazine and into the barrel. Take aim and squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at 1 lb. 12.3 oz; at 5 lb. 6 oz., the shot goes down range.

Brocock Contour Super 6 005

On the Contour Super 6 sample that I tested, I found that the trigger was noticeably stiffer than the Brocock Specialist. Since the rifle arrived without a manual, I do not know if the trigger weight can be adjusted. I also noticed that the report was quieter on the Contour Super 6 than the Specialist. To my ear, it sounds significantly more muted, which would make it more acceptable for shooting in close proximity to neighbors. It is, however, still clearly audible, and if you are looking for an air rifle that will be essentially unnoticeable, the Contour Super 6 would not be the best choice. The more neighbor-friendly report makes sense, because the Contour Super 6 makes about 15.5 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, compared for almost 20 foot-pounds for the Specialist.

The Contour Super 6 arrived with a target, shot by Kip at Airguns of Arizona at 18 yards, that measured just .5 inches from edge to edge for a 5-shot group. I tried shooting at 32 yards with Crosman .22 Premiers and got groups that measure 1 inch edge to edge, but I think I know why I didn’t get results that were as good as those delivered by the Brocock Specialist. Quite simply, I couldn’t see as well with the 4-power scope as I could with a 10-power scope.

Still, for the airgunner who wants to spend some time afield with a lightweight air rifle that has enough power and accuracy for hunting small game, the Brocock Contour Super 6 offers a delightful choice.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

First things first: my heartfelt thanks to the folks who read this blog. If you didn’t read it, then the good folks at would have no reason to sponsor it. In addition, although you probably don’t realize it, the readers have frequently come to my rescue with interesting questions that would be fun and informative to write about in this blog. For example, recently, I received this email:

Dear Mr. Elliott:

I am new to airguns and think they would be a great asset to have for putting food on the table for my family in case the electricity ever went out for any period of time.

  1. In your experience, what would you recommend as the best gun (top 3 in order) and caliber to purchase in order to maintain a regular food supply? I live in Georgia in a suburban area with woods all around. (squirrels, turkey & smaller deer) I don’t plan on being a collector of numerous airguns however, price      is not a limiting factor.
  2. What are your preferred scopes and range finders?
  3. Since, in theory, the electricity may be out, I will need to hand pump the rifle. What is the best (most      efficient, easiest to use and reliable) pump available?

Thanks for your time.


Well, Blair, the questions that you pose are interesting and ones that I have thought about from time to time over the years. In addition, my answer to the question of an airgun for reliable game getting has changed recently.

We’ll get to that in a little while, but since you said you are new to airguns, first let’s take a brief survey of airgun powerplants to see which types are available.

Multi-stroke pneumatic (MSP) airguns –require multiple strokes (usually 2-10) of a lever to store compressed air in an on-board cylinder. These guns are virtually recoilless, are relatively easy to shoot well, are completely self-contained, and are suitable to taking small game. In addition, the velocity and power of the shot can be varied with the number of pumping strokes (from, say, 300 fps to 800 fps, depending upon the gun). Once it is fired, a multi-stroke pneumatic must be pumped up again.

Single-stroke pneumatic (SSP) airguns require just a single stroke to charge the gun. Single stroke pneumatics are self-contained, easy to cock, and highly consistent. They are often very accurate over distances up to 20 meters. The power of SSP rifles is usually low, shooting relatively light match-grade .177 pellets at 500-600 fps. SSP pistols are even less powerful.

Pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airguns use air from a SCUBA tank or a high-pressure hand pump that is stored a high-pressure reservoir on the gun. Many long-range varmint air rifles use this powerplant. These guns are powerful, virtually recoil-free, very consistent, highly accurate and, in some cases, offer on-the-fly adjustable power. They are not, however, self-contained. When the compressed air in the on-board reservoir runs out, you need a SCUBA tank or high-pressure hand pump to charge the gun again.

Spring-piston airguns use a lever (sometimes the barrel, sometimes a lever under the barrel or on the side of the receiver) to cock a spring. When the trigger is pulled, the spring is released, propelling a piston forward and pushing a powerful blast of air behind the pellet. This is the same operating principle behind the beloved Red Ryder. Spring-piston guns are self-contained, often powerful, and can be very accurate as well as relatively quiet. The cocking effort – sometimes as high as 60 lbs — can be challenging in more powerful guns. In addition, the movement of the action when released can make these guns difficult to shoot with consistent accuracy. There are also gas spring guns which use a gas strut instead of a spring to store energy. In my experience, the more powerful a spring-piston air rifle, the more difficult it will be to shoot it with high accuracy.

CO2 airguns use either 12-gram cartridges or transferred from a bulk tank into the gun’s on-board reservoir. They are recoilless, convenient, and (in high quality models) very accurate, and CO2 cartridges are easy to carry in a pocket. But these guns are not self-contained and velocities can sag at lower temperatures.

Okay, Blair, that’s the background information you need to make a sensible choice of an airgun to meet your needs. Next time, we’ll get to the specific answers to your questions.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The FX Royale 400 Field Target with benchrest plate shown below.

My experience to date with FX air rifles is that they are wickedly accurate. I cannot remember shooting one that was of merely average accuracy. As a general rule of thumb, you can figure that virtually any FX rifle with the right pellet under decent condition will put 5 shots in a one-inch group at 50 yards. In my mind, it has gotten to the point where I sometimes wonder if I really need to test an FX rifle for accuracy because they are so darn consistent.

Yet, despite FX’s richly deserved reputation for producing accurate air rifles, there have been those of you in the airgunning community who have requested that FX produce a full-out competition air rifle.

The flip side of the FX FT.

The FX Royale Field Target series of rifles is the answer to that request. The FX FT series is designed for bench rest and field target competition and is available in three variations: the Royale 200, available in .177 and .22; the Royale 400, also available in .177 and .22; and the Royale 500, available only in .25. The number after “Royale” tells you the capacity, in CCs, of the air reservoir. All models weigh right around 10 lbs. (some a bit heavier, some a bit less) before a scope and mounts are added. The overall length of an FX FT ranges from a bit over 41 inches to around 48 inches, depending upon the model, the caliber, and how the stock has been adjusted.

The butt stock and cheek piece of the FX FT are readily adjustable.

All of the FX FT models have a number of common features. Chief among these is a fully adjustable alloy stock with adjustable grip, cheek piece, length of pull, and butt pad. Basically, these guns are designed so that you can tweak the ergonomics so that you can feel completely comfortable, whether you are shooting field target or bench rest. In addition, each of these air rifles includes a precision air regulator that keeps the velocity of the pellets extremely consistent from shot to shot. Each Royale FT also features a multi-shot magazine that is self-indexing, a three-position power wheel, a pressure gauge and highly effective sound moderator. Finally, each FX FT includes a match trigger that can be highly adjusted to the shooter’s preference, all the way down to a few ounces.

The model that I tested was the FX Royale 400 Field Target in .22 caliber and was fresh from the Extreme Benchrest competition. It was fitted with a Hawke 8.5-25 sidewheel scope, and the entire rig was impressive. I don’t think the fit and finish could be improved upon, and the whole thing felt incredibly solid, as if it had been machined out of a solid block of metal.

The moderator is highly effective.

It launched 15.9 gr. JSB pellets at an average of 928.5 fps, and the report was remarkably subdued for an air rifle that was making slightly over 30 foot-pounds of energy. It makes a kind of “fap” noise that doesn’t sound at all like a shot and should not annoy the neighbors.

Included with the rifle was a machine rectangle of metal that could be attached to the front rail for benchrest shooting, but I didn’t mess with that. Instead, I laid the forestock in the crease of my Caldwell Tackdriver bag and started launching some pellets. At 13 yards, the results were predicable: a tiny group, but what really surprised me was that, at 33 yards, the FX FT would usually put three out of five 18-grain JSB pellets through the same hole! I tried a couple of times to pull off a 33-yard, 5-shot, one-hole group, but I couldn’t quite manage it. Either I would yank a shot ever so slightly or the wind would kick up (I was shooting in early December), and the group was “ruined.”

I really enjoyed shooting the FX FT. I think it would be a lot of fun to shoot in competition, and I also think it would be a delight to shoot as a long-range varminter.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott