I’ll tell you what my first thought was when www.airgunsofarizona.com sent me the Hammerli AR-20 to test: “What in the world do they expect to do with this thing?”
My days of attempting to shoot 10-meter match competition are some years behind me, and I wasn’t very good at it even then. (The experience did serve me well for the standing shots in field target, however.) Did the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com really expect “Uncle Wobbles” to give this rifle a serious test as a 10-meter machine? I sincerely hoped not.
Sure, the AR-20 has a lot of the goodies that you would expect in a 10-meter competition rifle and it comes with match diopter sights for 10-meter competition. But then I noticed something: it has a scope dovetail that goes from here to Cleveland. Well, actually it extends from fore and aft of the breech and all the way down the length of the barrel shroud. And that gave me an idea. We’ll get back to that notion in just a little while, but first, let’s take a guided tour of the AR-20.
The AR-20 stretches nearly 40 inches from end to end and weighs 9 pouncs. Most of the receiver and barrel assemblies on the AR-20 are made of metal. Most of accoutrements – forestock handpiece, pistol grip, buttstock, and so forth – are made of plastic. At the extreme aft end of the AR-20 is a soft rubber butt pad that is adjustable for height and for length of pull. Forward of that, under the buttstock, are a couple of metal weights that can be removed if the shooter sees fit. Forward of that is a cheekpiece that is adjustable for height and that can be reversed for left-handed shooters. Moving forward again, you’ll find a plastic pistol grip that can be rotated to suit the shooter’s preference.
Ahead of the pistol grip is the trigger which doesn’t have a trigger shoe but is a ridged rod. It is, however, very comfortable to use. The trigger can be adjusted in a variety of ways – including weight, pressure point, stop and slack – to the shooter’s preference. Ahead of the trigger is a partial metal trigger guard and beyond that is the forestock handpiece which can be slid back and forth along a rail to the shooter’s preference.
The forestock enclosed the compressed air reservoir and above that is the shrouded metal barrel which has a dovetail on the muzzle end to accommodate a globe diopter front sight. Moving back along the barrel, we come to the black metal receiver, which features a generous breech and dovetails aft of the breech for mounting the competition peep sight. At the very end of the receiver is a t-shaped assembly which is the bolt.
To ready the AR-20 for shooting, you must unscrew the air reservoir, connect it to a special adaptor (included with the gun), charge it up to 300 bar from a hand pump or SCUBA tank, and then re-attach the reservoir to the gun. Hammerli claims 200 shots per fill when charged to 300 bar.
To load the AR-20, press the bolt release button in the center of the bolt handle, pull the bolt back, drop a .177 pellet into the groove in the center of the breech, and return the bolt to its original position. The trigger is extremely light and crisp. I measured the trigger pull: first stage, 3.8 oz; second stage 5.5 oz. No, that is not a typo – trigger weight was well under half a pound. If that is not light enough for you, I suggest trying a “psychic” trigger.
The AR-20 launches 7 grain match pellets at 577 feet per second. And the accuracy? Well, it’s just plain boring: at 10 meters from a rest, the AR20 will put pellet after pellet through the same hole. The presumption is that a properly trained 10-meter shooter could do pretty well with the AR-20.
And now we get back to my idea: what else is it good for? In 1984 Peter Capstick, big game hunter and African Correspondent for Guns & Ammo magazine, published an article that changed the outlook of many shooters. Entitled simply “Minisniping,” it related how Capstick and his fellow big rifle shooters were enjoying the delights of shooting at spent 9mm brass at 35 yards, from a rest, with Olympic style match air rifles.
Capstick and his fellow minisnipers shot with scoped match quality air rifles of their day: the Feinwerkbau 300s and others. These were recoilless spring-powered rifles that launched match pellets downrange at about 560-600 fps. At 35 yards, the velocity is well below 500 fps, and any bit of wind will push the pellet around with impunity. Using a low-powered, scoped, match air rifle at that range made minisniping both challenging and fun.
Capstick 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. It’s a game that takes just a few minutes to learn and a lifetime to master—and that’s where the true seduction lies. I would like to humbly suggest that the AR-20, which costs slightly less than $1,000 and is very easy to scope, would make a superb air rifle for practicing the fine art of minisniping.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott