Posts Tagged ‘scope’

Why in the world would an airgun company knowingly create and sell an air rifle/scope combo with a crappy scope – one that is likely to create a customer satisfaction and product return problem for them? The short answer is that you are not the first customer. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Of course I am the first customer. I’m the guy who plunks down his money and takes the air rifle/scope combo home.”

Wrong. The first customer for that air rifle/scope combo is the buyer at a big box chain of retailers. I saw a documentary a few years ago that explained there has been a change in the dynamic between manufacturers and big box retailers that have thousands of stores.

It used to be that a manufacturer’s representative would approach the buyer at a retail chain, put on a dog-and-pony show of what products he had available, and then the buyer would decide which products to order. Now the buyer may well be, in effect, deciding which products the manufacturer should make by saying something like this: “If you can deliver a rifle/scope combination with the following features for $X price, I’ll buy 100,000 of them.”

Now no manufacturer is going to turn down a big sale like that, so they will try to figure out how they can deliver the rifle/scope combo that the big box buyer wants at the specified price and still make a profit. The end result: a really cheesy scope is part of the combo.

At this point, you may well be thinking: “What about me, the airgun enthusiast? Don’t they care about me?” The short answer is: yes, they do care, but probably not as much as you had hoped.

The reason, quite simply, is that the big box retailers are the center of the universe when it comes to corporate profits for the bigger airgun manufacturers. Enthusiasts are important, but not as important as the big box stores.

It’s really a matter of numbers. I did a little research a few years ago to try to get a handle on the size of the airgun enthusiast market. I called each of the bigger online airgun retailers, talked to the boss, and asked – under the provision that I would not share the information with anyone else – how many unique customers they had in their customer database. Then I added up the numbers (ignoring the fact that there were probably duplicate customers from retailer to retailer and that the folks I was talking to might be inflating the numbers just a bit) and came up with an estimate that there were 15,000-20,000 airgun enthusiasts in the United States.

Given that this was a few years ago and that the airgun market has been growing, let’s postulate that the number has more than doubled, and that there are now, say, 50,000 airgun enthusiasts in the U.S.

That’s not a bad number, but compare that to the millions of people who visit the big box retailers every day, and you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out why those big box stores are so important to the larger airgun manufacturers.

So what can you do to help get the airgunning products you want? Two things.

First, if you have a retailer like www.airgunsofarizona.com who spends the time on the phone (or in person) with you to help you make an informed buying decision, support them by buying from them. Sure, you might spend a buck or two more, but isn’t it worth it to get buying advice you can trust from people who actually know and use the product?

Second, reinforce good behavior but letting manufacturers know when they have done something right. Take the time to call the customer service line or email someone when you really like their product: “Hey, thanks for including an adjustable objective on that rifle combo” or “I really love the new such-and-such pistol; well done!”

Ingratitude is darn-near a national disease in the United States. It is very fashionable to bitch, whine, and complain when the least little thing doesn’t suite us. Let’s strike a blow for the good guys. Let people know when they are doing good and how much you appreciate it. You’ll be surprised how much good you can do with a few positive words.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you probably have noticed that I don’t generally do negative reviews. Oh, sure, I may mention that I didn’t like this or that about a particular airgun or that something could be improved, but if I find that an airgun has what I call “a fatal flaw” (for example, the trigger weight might be unacceptably high), I tell the manufacture that the review will have to wait until they fix the problem.

My underlying philosophy is that you, the reader, would prefer to read about products that work reasonably well and that perhaps you might like to buy. My presumption is that you, like me, read reviews of products on-line as a kind of “decision support tool” that you use to figure out whether you are interested in a product.

Lately, though, I have noticed a trend that has gotten me hot enough that I need to blow off some steam. That trend has been the inclusion of really crappy scopes in a package with an inexpensive yet decent air rifle.

What do I mean by “a really crappy scope?” Quite simply, a scope that does not have an adjustable objective. An adjustable objective – usually a rotating bell on the end of the scope that faces the target but sometimes a sidewheel on the scope – allows the shooter to critically focus the scope on the target. Sometimes because the scope cannot be focused, it is just plain difficult to see the target clearly.

But there is another problem: a non-adjustable objective can result in something called parallax error. For a detailed explanation of parallax, go here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2009/07/parallax.html The upshot of parallax error is that if you don’t place your eye in exactly the same spot behind scope for each shot (and it is surprisingly easy to get it wrong), you may think that you are aiming at the same spot on the target, but you may not be.

Now, at this point you would be right to ask: “So what?” Well, it is a very big “so what.” If you can’t be sure that you are aiming at the same spot on the target, your attempts to shoot groups for accuracy and to test different pellets to see which is the most accurate will be in vain . . . that’s what.

The reason that I am writing about this is that in the past month or so, I have been sent three different air rifle/scope combos that included crappy scopes. In one case, I contacted the manufacturer and said, “The previous generation of this rifle had a better scope; this is a step backwards.” I was told: “The decision was made to include this scope with this rifle. I’ll let you know if anything changes.”

In another case, I contacted the parent company, and they said, “Maybe you got a defective scope.” I sent the scope back and in a few days I heard from them: “You should test this rifle with whatever scope you prefer.” In other words, the scope was not defective, just crappy. (And in private conversations, the guy I spoke with, a marketing guy, admitted that this was likely to create a customer satisfaction and product return problem for them.)

Next time, we’ll look at why airgun companies do this.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

SONY DSC

The folks who shoot air rifle field target are pretty serious about their accuracy. In the dozen or so years that I have been fooling around with adult precision air rifles, I have yet to meet a field target competitor who has his (or her) rifle set up to shoot faster than someplace in the low 900 feet per second range. I get the feeling that many of them (if they are not shooting in the slower, less powerful international class) have their rifles set up to shoot around 930 fps.

The reason for that is pretty simple: 1100 fps is the speed of sound at sea level. As your pellet approaches the speed of sound, it gets into a region of turbulence that screws up accuracy. If you ever saw the movie The Right Stuff, you might recall that scene in which Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier, and as his plane approaches it, he gets bounced around by massive turbulence. That turbulence region occurs whether you are approaching the sound barrier from below or are dropping down and through the sound barrier from a higher velocity. That’s why firearms varminters, who pop prairie dogs and woodchucks at long range, make it a point to keep their bullets well above the 1,100 fps from the muzzle of their rifle all the way to the target.

Okay, so what does that mean for you as an airgunner. Answer: you are going to be shooting slower that 1,000 fps and you are going to have to deal with the trajectory of your pellet. So, for example, if your air rifle is zeroed so that the pellet will land exactly where the crosshairs are pointed at 20 yards, at 55 yards, you are going to have to deal with the pellets dropping several inches below where the crosshairs meet.

Some shooters compensate for the pellet drop by spinning the elevation knob a predetermined numbers of clicks to make the shot fall where the crosshairs are pointed. The method that I prefer is to use a mil-dot scope which has multiple aiming points and then map where the shot falls at various ranges on a diagram of the mil-dot reticle. Below is a picture of the reticle map that Hans Apelles prepared for the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship a couple of years ago.

NE Championship and Pistol ft 010

The other factor that air rifle shooters must compensate for is the wind, and that’s where the MTC Mamba scope comes in. It has something called the Small Calibre Ballistic (SCB) reticle that not only has multiple aiming points like a mil-dot reticle, but it also has horizontal extensions on the lower aiming points that allow the shooter to more closely estimate how much to move the point of aim to compensate for the wind.

retSCBcombined

If you use a “windicator” – a feather or a bit of yarn hanging from the barrel of your rifle that indicates the strength of the wind – with some practice, you can correlate the movement of the windicator with how much you have to “stand off” with the SCB reticle. It’s a slick system that works very well.

Even better, scope delivers bright, clear views and is extremely solid built. It is the only scope that I am aware of that has metal flip-up scope covers. It feels like it is built to withstand years of rugged use without a whimper, and I would not hesitate to use one of these on my own field target rig.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The new FX No Limit Mounts. Notice the big Allen screw just above the two main mounting screws.

The new FX No Limit Mounts. Notice the big Allen screw just above the two main mounting screws.

Unless you decide that you are going to shoot exclusively with non-glass sights such as iron sights or peep-and-globe target sights, eventually you are going to have to deal with the issue of scopes, including mounting and adjusting them.

For some basic background information, check this blog on mounting scopes — http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2009/03/mounting-scope.html — and this blog on adjusting them — http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2010/04/how-scopes-really-work-and-what-not-to.html .

At some point, however, whether you encounter a springer that has built-in barrel droop or find yourself with the desire to shoot a pre-charged pneumatic air rifle at really long range, you are likely to run into a problem: lack of sufficient elevation adjustment in your scope.

I have faced that problem several times in my airgunning career, and, to my knowledge, there are only a handful of ways of addressing it. The first is to use a different scope, one that has a greater range of adjustment. This can work fine but is generally the most expensive option.

Another option is to switch to a special “drooper” mount for the scope. Some manufacturers offer special drooper mounts that are designed to work with their airguns that have barrel droop built in. I have used these special mounts successfully but they lack flexibility beyond their built-in droop compensation because they cannot be adjusted.

Alternatively, some airgunners opt to raise the back end of the scope by placing metal or plastic shims between the underside of the scope tube and the top of the rear mount. The danger with shims – especially if you are trying to achieve a large amount of vertical adjustment — is that by raising the scope tube at the rear and providing no compensation at the front mount, you raise the possibility of putting mechanical stress on the scope tube that could bend the tube or damage the scope. I have successfully shimmed scopes in the past, but it is not an optimal solution and doesn’t work well when you need a lot of adjustment.

Another option is to “lap” the scope mount rings to angle the scope downward as it passes through the rings. I have never personally used this method of providing for additional elevation.

Finally, I have in the past seen scope mounts that could be adjusted fore and aft to provide additional elevation adjustment, but most of these (a) looked flimsy to me and (b) required dis-mounting the scope to make adjustments.

But now the good folks from FX airguns have introduced something called “No Limit” mounts. They look like ordinary scope mounts, but there is an extra Allen screw above the foot of the scope mount.

Loosen the big Allen screw and the No Limit Mounts can be raised.

Loosen the big Allen screw and the No Limit Mounts can be raised.

With the scope mounted straight and true, you can loosen those Allen screws and adjust the elevation by lifting the front and rear mounts to different heights.  Because the mounts go up and down while tilting forward or back, the scope can maintain a stress-free and relaxing hold.  This allows you to optically center the scope without having to custom lap or shim the rings, and it also allows the long range shooter to re-position his scope angle for a better range of adjustment at extreme distance.

Best of all, the No Limit Mounts can be tilted to provide stress-free elevation adjust of the scope to compensate for barrel droop or long-range shooting needs.

Best of all, the No Limit Mounts can be tilted to provide stress-free elevation adjust of the scope to compensate for barrel droop or long-range shooting needs.

With springers with droop in their barrels, the No Limit mounts allow you to customize your scope angle to align with barrel angle.  The folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com tell me pcps have different angles too.  They see it when moving one test scope from rifle to rifle.  No Limit mounts allow the shooter to “tune” the scope to the rifle before cranking on the elevation turret.  Even if you don’t have a barrel droop problem or lack of elevation range issue, the No Limit mounts can raise or lower the scope to fine-tune its alignment to your eye.

No Limit mounts do not offer any windage adjustment.  The designers at FX felt that if they allowed left/right movement, it would be difficult to keep the mount stable, so they steered clear of that feature.

In my view, FX has come up with an excellent solution to a problem that is bound to vex every airgunner sooner or later.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The Falcon T50 10-50×60 Field Target is a large, impressive scope.

When I first became interested in adult precision airguns over a decade ago, one of the first things I encountered was the fine sport of field target. I noticed that a lot of the competitors shot with really large high magnification scopes on top of their rifles. I thought it looked cool, and I would later find out that there was a very good reason for those really big high-mag scopes.

We’ll get to that in a little while, but first some background. Field target involves shooting at metallic silhouettes of birds and animals. Each target has a hole in it – a kill zone – behind which is a paddle. Put a pellet cleanly through the kill zone, hit the paddle, and the target falls down. If you miss the kill zone and hit the face plate of the target or clip the edge of the kill zone with the pellet, the target locks in the upright position. It’s simple, neat, and a potload of fun.

What makes field target really challenging is that the range to the target may vary from 10 to 55 yards, and the size of the kill zone may vary from 3/8 inch to 1-7/8 inch. Further, there is no correlation between the range to the target and the size of the kill zone. A one-inch kill zone at 10 yards is pretty much dead easy, but that same one-inch kill zone at 50 yards starts to get, ah, “interesting.” In addition, a really fiendish FT course designer might stick a half-inch kill zone out beyond 30 yards, which will have many of the shooter muttering dark threats under their breath.

If that was not enough trouble for the field target competitor, there is one other factor to consider: compared to powder burning varmint rifles – which send bullets downrange at 2,000, 3,000 or even 4,000 feet per second – the airguns used in field target competition shoot slowly – usually well under 1,000 fps. Consequently, the field target competitor is going to want to know – with as much precision as possible – the exact range to the target. Why? So he (or she) can accurately compensate for the arc-like trajectory of the pellet.

And that’s where big, high-magnification scopes like the Falcon T50 10-50×60 Field Target come in. With a high magnification scope, the shooter focuses precisely on the target and then reads the range to the target off the side wheel (or the objective bell of the scope in the case of a non-side-focus scope). The higher the magnification, the easier it is to focus precisely, particularly at long distance.

The T50 is specifically designed for competitive shooting at less than 100 yards. It is 17.32 inches long, weighs 35.1 oz., features a mil-dot reticle, 1/8” MOA per click, and has been designed to provide range finding that is accurate within 1.5 yards at 50 yards, according to the factory specifications. The turrets are large, well-marked and can be reset to zero.

That hole allows a hex wrench to be inserted for tightening the side wheel on the side focus knob.

The T50 comes with a sheet of stick-on numbers so the shooter can set up the side wheel according to his or her preference.

The T50 comes with a large side wheel that clamps to the side focusing knob and aids in precise focusing and range finding. The side wheel is accompanied by a sheet of self-adhesive numbers that can be placed on the side wheel so that the competitor can do his own setup according to preference. Also included in the package are front and rear flip-up lens covers, a lens cleaning cloth, hex keys for the windage and elevation turrets and side wheel, an objective thread protector, and a threaded sunshade.

The knobs on the T50 are large and well marked.

I mounted the T50 on my Marauder using SportsMatch extra high 30mm scope rings, and found that scope delivers amazing magnification and sharp focusing at distance and also, surprisingly, sharp focus at 50X at just a bit less than 10 yards. Impressive.

Now, to be perfectly candid, the highest magnification scope I had used previously was a 32X. So when I tried the T50 at the highest magnification, I found it a little disconcerting how much movement (of myself) I was observing. But one of the nice things about the T50 is that you can turn the collar near the eyepiece and enjoy crisp clear views at slightly less magnification.

If you are looking for a 50X scope to aid your field target competition, the Falcon T50 10-50×60 Field Target may be just what you need.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

From time to time the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com send me a care package of guns and other goodies that they think I might like to play with and test. Usually the package contains the latest offering from various airguns manufacturers.

Recently, though, the AoA gang surprised me by sending an air rifle that I had been aware of ever since I became interested in adult precision air rifles over a decade ago but had never seen or shot . . . the RWS Model 48.

Now that I have handled and shot an RWS 48, I must admit that I am really astonished that there isn’t more buzz about this air rifle on the online forums. It really is a very nice gun that performs quite well. More about that in a little while. First, let’s take a walk around the RWS Model 48.

The cocking lever is mounted on the right side of the receiver.

The RWS Model 48 is a sidelever single shot spring piston air rifle. Available in .177 or .22, it stretches 42 inches from end to end and weighs 8.5 lbs without a scope. At the extreme aft end of the 48 is a soft rubber recoil pad that is attached to the ambidextrous hardwood stock with a white plastic spacer. The stock is completely unadorned with any checkering, slots, grooves, or other decorations. The fit and finish is very pleasing to my eye, and with the exception of the cocking lever being mounted on the right side of the rifle, it looks like it could be shot equally well by right or left handed shooters.

The pistol grip has a moderate slope to it and forward of that is a black trigger guard that surrounds the black metal T06 trigger. Forward of that, the forestock is smooth and tapered. Underneath, toward the end, a large screw helps to secure the action in the stock. Forward of that is the barrel, at the end of which is a molded plastic muzzle brake that also serves as a mount for the blade-type front sight.

Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the receiver and a notch-type microadjustable rear sight. Behind that is the breech. A silver metal breech block slides back when the cocking lever is pulled back to allow loading of pellets. Further back is a dovetail for mounting a scope, and at the back end of the receiver is a push-pull safety. That’s it – the RWS Model 48 is simplicity itself.

Before you can return the cocking level to its original position, you have to press down this small metal tab on the left hand side of the breech.

To ready the Model 48 for shooting, grab the end of the side cocking lever (I usually prop the gun on my thigh with the muzzle pointed vertically) and pull it down and back until it latches (it takes just under 40 pounds of effort). Insert a pellet in the breech. At this point, the cocking lever is locked in the full back position to prevent the breech from inadvertently snapping forward and injuring your fingers. Before you can return the cocking level to its original position, you have to press down a small metal tab on the left hand side of the breech, otherwise you can’t close the breech.

Take aim at your target, ease the first stage out of the trigger (this takes about 1 lb. 8 oz. of pressure), and begin squeezing the second stage. At about 2 lb. 9 oz., the shot is goes down range.

The RWS Model 48 delivers a serious turn of speed, launching .177 JSB Exact RS 7.33 gr. pellets at 1058 fps average (18.22 foot-pounds of energy) and JSB Exact Heavy 10.34 gr. pellets at 853 fps average (16.7 foot-pounds).  The report is about what you would expect from a springer of this power: a WHACK that sounds a bit like someone hitting a board with a hammer.

The accuracy is also what you might expect from a springer of this power. From a rest, at 25 meters (27 yards), I put five JSB Exact pellets into a group that measured .875 inch edge to edge, or just under .7 inch center to center. That’s certainly good enough for defending the garden.

The Vortex Crossfire II 4-12 x 40 AO scope seems very solidly built and has a terrific warranty.

I tested the RWS Model 48 with the Vortex Crossfire II 4-12 x 40 AO scope aboard, and I’ve got to say that I continue to be impressed with these Vortex scopes. They are bright, clear, and appear to be very solidly built. The model I tested features the Dead-Hold BDC reticle, which provides multiple aiming points. Even more impressive than the construction and the reticle of this Vortex scope is the warranty: an unlimited, unconditional lifetime warranty through Vortex Optics. Clearly, the folks at Vortex believe their scopes can withstand whatever punishment we airgunners can dish out.

I mounted the Vortex using an RWS 1-inch Lock Down Mount that is specifically designed for RWS air rifles. It offers two anti-recoil pins, a very secure grip on the scope rail, and .025 inch elevation to compensate for the barrel deflection in RWS rifles. If you’re going to mount a scope on an RWS rifle, I highly recommend this mount.

In the end, I liked the combination of the RWS Model 48 and the Vortex Crossfire II scope. It’s a flat-shooting no-frills fixed-barrel combo that should provide years of shooting fun.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

I tested the HW98 with the Nikon EFR scope on board. It was an excellent combination.

I tested the HW98 with the Nikon Prostaff 3-9 x 40 on board. The official name, apparently, is PROSTAFF Target EFR (Extended Focus Range) 3-9×40, and I had a “Fool’s Gold” moment when testing it.

Fool’s Gold is one of my favorite movies. It opens with two divers working dredges on the bottom near a Caribbean island. They are sucking up huge quantities of sand in the hopes of finding sunken Spanish treasure. The compressor that powers their dredges is on their dive boat. The compressor is old and rickety. It catches fire, and in short order results in the sinking of the dive boat behind the divers. When the dredges stop working, the divers surface to see why. The boat, of course, is nowhere to be seen. The one diver figures it out immediately. The other is frantically looking around. “Where’s the boat?” he asks. “It will come to you,” the other diver says. That’s what I call a “Fool’s Gold Moment.”

So, having set the scene, here’s what happened to me. Brown Santa (aka the UPS guy) shows up with a long package from www.airgunsofarizona.com. In it, are the HW98, the PROSTAFF Target EFR (Extended Focus Range) 3-9×40, and a set of low one-inch Sportsmatch scope mounts.

The next day is absolutely splendid, a gorgeous day for airgun testing. I whistle up my son to help me dump all the packing peanuts into a big plastic garbage bag, so that I can get at the goodies. I pull out the HW98 and say, “Whoa, nice gun!” I pull out the Nikon EFR scope and say, “Whoa, nice scope!” Before you can whistle Dixie, I have pulled out the Sportsmatch rings and am happily twirling Allen wrenches, mounting the Nikon scope to the HW98.

As soon as that is complete, I trundle outside with the gun/scope combination and pull out the WorkMate, camp stool, boat cushions, and pellet trap to begin the testing process. When I sight in a new gun/scope combo, I use a trick that Tom Gaylord taught me: I shoot first a couple of shots at 10 feet. No, that’s not a typo – 10 feet. I set the scope on the lowest power and the focusing ring on the shortest distance, bang off a couple of shots, and look at the results. If the shots are pretty well centered from side to side and 1-2 inches below the spot I was aiming at, I know that when I back up to 10 yards, I’ll still be on target and not shooting somewhere off in the weeds.

The sample that I tested would focus much closer than 10 yards.

Now here’s a surpise: the Nikon EFR scope is supposed to have a minimum focusing distance of 10 yards, but the sample I tested, set at 3X, showed the target pretty crisply in focus at 10 feet. This scope has what I would call a modified duplex reticle. When you look through it, the crosshairs are thin at the middle and then thicken at the ends. Everything is symmetrical, and there is a small dot at the juncture where the crosshairs meet.

I backed up to ten yards, put the boat cushions on the WorkMate, sat on the camp stool, and began putting pellets down range. I was impressed with how crisp, clear, and bright the image was in the Nikon EFR scope. Most scopes are crisp when properly focused and generally clear, but few have the brightness of this Nikon scope. Looking through it really was a pleasure, and all the mechanical bits – the focusing and the power adjustment – working smoothly as well.

All the mechanical bits, including the turret knobs, worked smoothly and easily.

There were a couple of other things that I like about this scope. It is relatively small, just 12.5 inches, and light, just a tiny bit under a pound. Mounted on the low Sportsmatch rings, it hugs the receiver of the HW98. Now why is that important?

I have written about this elsewhere: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2010/11/uncle-jock%e2%80%99s-screwy-theory-of-reducing-springer-hold-sensitivity.html but here’s the gist of the argument – “to reduce apparent hold sensitivity in a springer, mount the lightest scope you can, and mount it as low as you can. This should raise the center of gravity as little as possible, resulting in more consistent shooting.”

I began to suspect that something was just a tiny bit off when I noticed that this green sticker was not where you see it now but on the lefthand side of the scope. That should have been a clue!

Now here’s my Fool’s Gold Moment: after I completed all the testing, I was looking at the gun/scope combo on my bench and something looked screwy to me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then, in the back of my head, I heard that diver’s voice from the movie: “It will come to you.” I kept looking and finally I realized the problem. I had mounted the scope rotated 90 degrees – the elevation knob was on the left hand side of the scope tube and the windage knob was on the top where the elevation knob should be. Because the reticle is symmetrical and looks the same in all directions, I never noticed the problem while looking through scope, and I didn’t even figure it out when I was adjusting the knobs. Duh!

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a bright, crisp scope for your favorite springer (or for any of your airguns) for general purpose shooting, don’t let my Fool’s Gold moment deter you – I can highly recommend the Nikon 3-9 EFR.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–    Jock Elliott

The Vortex Diamondback mounted on my Diana TH56.

Back in March of 2010, I did a blog on scopes, springers, and recoil http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2010/03/scopes-springers-and-recoil.html.

In it, I suggested that “if you have been shooting a heavily recoiling springer (or gas ram), and you’ve been noticing your shots sometimes fall exactly where the gun is pointed and sometimes they inexplicably go elsewhere, it just might be your scope reacting badly to the recoil. As a result, you might want to consider changing to a fixed power scope . . .”

Since then, a couple of things have happened.

The first is that I have heard from two people who report that they have had fixed power scopes fail while mounted on an RWS54, which is a heavily recoiling springer.

The second is that on May 1, 2011, I attended a field target match at Eastern Field Target Competitors Club http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2011/05/field-target-at-eftcc.html, and there I met Hector Medina. Several things set Medina apart from the crowd in field target competition. The first is that he campaigns a .20 caliber Diana 54 recoilless spring-piston air rifle in the piston class. While the recoilless Diana/RWS springers are rising in popularity in field target, even now you don’t see many of them in competition. It’s also unusual that he shoots .20 caliber when most FT competitors shoot .177.

Medina shooting his RWS54 with the Diamondback scope.

Second, Medina shoots with just a 12 power scope in piston class when most competitors use much higher power scopes.  Third, Medina has done quite well with his rig, taking third at the US Nationals in 2010 and winning the piston class at the Northeastern Regionals in 2011. He says he gets a kick out of the fact that he has done reasonably well using “a squirrel rifle.”

And that brings us, in a roundabout way, to the subject of today’s blog: the Vortex Diamondback 4-12×40 AO scope. Why? Because that’s the scope that Hector Medina uses on top of his RWS 54 for field target competition. Medina has used the Vortex Diamondback 4-12×40 AO for about 14 months now and has put about seven thousand pellets downrange during that period without any problems with the Vortex Diamondback scope. That is high praise indeed, and Medina’s experience speaks well of the quality of the Vortex scope. The plain truth is that you can’t do well in field target competition if you are having problems with your scope.

Based on Medina’s experience, I decided to have a look at the Vortex Diamondback 4-12×40 AO, and the short version of the story is that I am quite impressed. The Diamondback 4-12 stretches just a hair over 13 inches from end to end and weighs just a smidgeon under 15 ounces. It is a variable-power scope with a one-inch tube and a 40mm objective that offers magnifications from 4x to 12x. The eye relief is just a bit over 3 inches, and the focus adjusts from 10 yards to infinity.

The Vortex Diamondback 4-12×40 AO is equipped with the Dead-Hold BDC reticle is a kind of mil-dot lite reticle with just one dot on either side of the crosshairs and three dots below the crosshairs. This works really well for field target, since you can set the reticle up so that the top of your trajectory is at the crosshairs and then work out what ranges the dots below the crosshairs represent. Below is the setup that Medina uses with his gun.

Here is how Medina setup his Dead-Hold BDC reticle. This aimchart is valid ONLY in the gun that originated it: a Diana 54, equipped with an HMO Piston, in 0.20"; cal. firing 13.7 grs. JSB Exacts at 800 fps. Scope is the Vortex Optics DiamondBack 4-12X40 AO DH/BDC on BKL 260-D7 mounts. It is the property and under Copyright of Connecticut Custom Airguns, LLC; no warranties or claims are made to its suitability for other cases.

Besides the BDC reticle, I really like three things about the Vortex Diamondback 4-12×40 AO. First, when I looked through the scope, I thought the optics were really bright and crisp. Second, I found the knurled sections on the objective bell and power adjustment ring were easy to grip. Third, I was impressed with the quality of the elevation and windage adjustment knobs.

Take off the caps on this scope and you find very nice adjustment knobs.

Finally, the Vortex folks must think pretty highly of their scopes: the Diamondback 4-12×40 AO is backed by an unlimited and unconditional lifetime warranty.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

 

This week we’ll take a look at how the Gamo Silent Stalker Whisper (SSW) performs.

To Get the SSW ready for shooting, grab the barrel near the muzzle (the ND52 Noise Damper makes a great handle for doing this) and pull the barrel down and back until it latches. While you’re cocking the SSW, you’ll notice that the cocking stroke is incredibly smooth and that the only noise is a little “sliding” noise made by the cocking linkage. There is absolutely no spring creak whatsoever.

The scope supplied with the Silent Stalker Whisper packages does not have an adjustable objective, and that causes some problems.

Next, stuff a pellet in the breech (I tested the .22 version of the SSW). Take aim at your target. Now here’s where the story gets interesting. Why? Because Gamo did not see fit to supply an adjustable objective (AO) scope with the SSW package. As a result, to get the target anywhere near in focus at close range (say 10-13 yards), you have to turn down the magnification of the scope as far as it will go. The failure to supply an AO scope seems a gross oversight on Gamo’s part since so many airgunners shoot at distances of 30 feet and sometimes less.

The Gamo Silent Stalker Whisper has the longest trigger second stage I've ever shot.

Now, flick off the safety and squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at 1 lb. 10 oz. Now start squeezing the second stage . . . keep squeezing . . . squeeze some more . . . maybe you want to invite a couple of friends over so they can keep squeezing while you go to lunch . . .  squeeze yet some more, and finally, after the longest second stage trigger I’ve ever experienced in an air rifle, the shot goes off at 5 lb. 7 oz. The truly strange part is that the trigger is very, very smooth – but it is incredibly long.

I read in the SSW manual that the second stage can be shortened by turning a screw – accessible through a hole in the trigger guard – clockwise. Peering down the hole, I see that the screw has a weird head, like a star-shaped allen wrench, and Gamo has not seen fit to supply the necessary tool to adjust the trigger. Nevertheless, I find a tool that fits on a multi-bit screwdriver and make the adjustment. It takes about all the strength I can muster to turn the trigger adjustment screw just a little bit. It appears that I have shortened the second stage of the trigger by about 50%, but it’s still an incredibly long second stage, and it feels like I am shooting a double-action revolver, waiting for the cylinder to rotate and the chamber to line up before the hammer drops.

At 13 yards, I could shoot dime-sized groups with Crosman Premier .22 pellets, but at 30 yards, the best I could do was 1.5 inch groups. I tried shooting sitting, sitting in my SteadyAim harness, and shooting off a benchrest. Nothing worked.

In despair, I asked Kip at Airguns of Arizona if he would give it a try. He did, and was able to achieve 5-shot groups where all the pellet holes touched each other from a rest at 18 yards. He used Dynamic SN2 pellets, which were zipping down range at 775 fps, and they were the only pellets that grouped well for him.

When I tried the SN2 pellets, I did better than before, but not great, so I asked Kip the secret of his success. He observed that when you’re shooting with a non-AO scope, you have to be very careful to get your head in exactly the same position behind the scope or you’re going to have parallax and point of impact issues.

He’s right of course, but it just goes to show how much an adjustable objective scope is needed on this rifle.

So here’s the bottom line on the Silent Stalker Whisper: it’s an interesting gun that can be made to shoot well if you’re very, very careful. There are some things to like about it: light weight, smooth cocking stroke, vibration-free shot cycle, smooth trigger. But at the same time, the SSW desperately needs an AO scope and a much shorter trigger second stage.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

For a while now, I’ve using a couple of Hawke scopes that I like really well.

The first is the Eclipse30SF 6-24x50SF (Hawke Part Number HK3273). I’ve had it mounted on my .177 Benjamin Marauder rifle for months now, and I really like the way the combination of rifle and scope work together.

This particular Eclipse30SF scope is a 6-24, which means that the magnification can be adjusted by rotating a collar near the ocular (or eyebell) from 6 to 24X. The objective of this scope is 50mm, which means it transmits a lot of light that allows you to see better in low-light conditions.

At the back end of the scope is a flip-up lens cover that is attached to the eyebell by a soft rubber collar. Under the rubber collar, you’ll find a ring for focusing the sharpness of the reticle. On top of the eyeball is a rotary switch for turning on red or green illumination and adjusting the brightness of the dot in the center of the mil-dot reticle. Just ahead of that is the zoom ring which adjusts the magnification of the scope.

The main tube of this scope is 30mm and is finished in matte black. Moving forward again, you’ll find the elevation and windage turrets, which are covered by screw-off caps. With the caps removed, you can adjust the windage or elevation knobs as needed, ¼ minute of angle at 100 yards.. If you need to reset the turrets, you can do so by undoing the center screw.

On the lefthand side of the central body of the scope is a side focus knob that allows the scope to be focused down to 10 yards. The knob is a bit larger than those found on many sidefocus scopes, but not so large as to be intrusive. At the far end of the scope tube is another flip-up cover which is held to the 50mm objective by a soft rubber collar.

In all, I found this nitrogen-purged, shockproof, fogproof and waterproof scope to be completely trouble-free. It offers clear views, the multiple aiming points of a mil-dot reticle, and the convenience of side focus. I think a lot of airgunners will be pleased with this scope.

The other Hawke scope that I have become enamored of is the Hawke Sidewinder 30 10×42 Tactical (Hawke Part Number HK4034). This scope is built like you might need to take it off the rifle someday and use it as a bludgeon (definitely not recommended!). This scope is a fixed 10 power scope with a 42mm objective. At either end are screw-in lens covers. Included with the scope is a screw-in sunshade. The main tube is 30mm and finished in a matte black. The eyebell is equipped with fast focus rings for making sure the half mil-dot, illuminated, etched-glass reticle is in razor-sharp focus.

I really liked the elevation and windage knobs on this scope. To adjust them, you pull the knob out from the body of the scope, rotate it to where you want it (1/4 inch per click at 100 yards), and push the knob back in to lock it in position. It’s slick, convenient, and efficient. The knobs can also be loosened to reset them.

The 10 x 42 Tactical with the large sidefocus knob in place.

On the left side of the scope is a sidefocus knob, the outer portion of which controls red/green illumination for the reticle. Included with the Sidewinder 30 Tactical scope is a large knob with a range scale that slips over the sidefocus knob for focusing and rangefinding. Also included is a pointer that can be installed on the body tube that can help in reading the scale on the big wheel.

I installed this scope on an RWS 54 recoilless spring piston rifle. This model is known for being rough on scopes, and I have had no problems whatsoever, and I have notice that my groups have tightened up a bit with this rifle. Whether this means the previous scope was being “shaken up” by the recoil or whether I’m becoming a better shot, I don’t know.

I liked the etched glass half mil-dot reticle, shown here with the red illumination turned on.

I do know that one of the things I really like about this scope is the etched-glass reticle. It doesn’t go all the way from right to left or top to bottom in the field of view. As a result, the reticle seems to float, and there is room on either side of it for viewing more details in the surroundings. While I am not a tactical shooter, I would imagine that this would be a tactical advantage in some situations. In any event, I can highly recommend both of these Hawke scopes.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott