Posts Tagged ‘spring piston’

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 www.airgunsofarizona.com 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

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.

CO2

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

Walther LGV Composite stock 001

In this week’s blog, we’ll take a look at another in the Walther LGC line of air rifles, the LGV Challenger.

As I have written elsewhere, the LGV was a project conceived in 2010 at Umarex in Germany (Umarex owns Walther) to create a retro-style spring-piston air rifle for the worldwide market. In doing so, they wanted to pay tribute to the original Walther LGV, which was a high-precision ten-meter target rifle introduced in 1964. A breakbarrel rifle, it had a positive barrel latch that insured that the barrel hinge always returned to the same position and remained there during the firing cycle.

Walther LGV Composite stock 002

As far as I have been able to determine, the line consists of five different rifles, and the LGV Challenger is the least expensive of these. It has a matte black polymer stock, stretches 43.1 inches from end to end, and weighs just 8.38 pounds. At the back end of the stock is a soft black rubber butt pad. The ambidextrous stock has a slight comb. The pistol grip, which slopes at a gentle angle, has molded-in checkering on either side. Forward of that, the stock material forms a trigger guard around a black trigger which is adjustable for first stage pull and trigger weight.

Moving forward, the forestock has molded-in “checkering” on either side and a slot underneath that provides clearance for the cocking linkage. At the end of the forestock is a metal tab for releasing the barrel latch. Above that is the 15.7 inch barrel. The LGV Challenger is available in .177 and .22. I tested the .177 version.

Walther LGV Composite stock 005

At the muzzle end of the barrel is a metal fitting that serves as a mount for the hooded red fiber optic front sight and also has a screw-off knurled knob that allows a silencer to be mounted (where legal). On top of the breech block, you’ll find a micro-adjustable green fiber optic rear sight. Moving aft along the receiver, you’ll find dovetails for mounting a scope and three holes for accepting anti-recoil pins. Finally, at the extreme aft end of the receiver is a push-pull safety.

Walther LGV Composite stock 004

To ready the LGV Challenger for shooting (assuming you are right-handed), grab the barrel near the end of the forestock with your left hand. With your thumb, depress the barrel release latch while pulling down. This will break the breech open. Next, slide your left hand to the muzzle end of the barrel, grab the sight mount, and pull down and back until the barrel latches. This takes about 38 pounds of effort. Slide a pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position.

Take aim, slide the safety off, and squeeze the first stage out of the trigger. This takes about one pound of pressure. Squeeze a bit more, and at about three pounds of pressure, the shot goes down range. The LGV Challenger launches 7 grain RWS Hobby pellets at 985.2 fps, for 15 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. With heavier pellets like Crosman Premier 7.9 grain pellets, I suspect it will shoot around 930 fps.

When the shot goes off, the LGV Challenger exhibits a bit of vibration. My wood stocked LGV Competition Ultra also exhibits some vibration but a bit less than the Challenger. I don’t know if that is because the Challenger is lighter than the other models or because it has a synthetic stock, but there is a definite vibration when the shot goes off.

Accuracy, however, is spot on. At 13 yards, the LGV Challenger was putting pellets through the same hole. At 32 yards, I was battling gusty autumn winds, but I am pretty certain that under optimal conditions, with the right pellet, a good airgunner could shoot dime-sized groups.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The LGV Master is a handsome air rifle.

The LGV Master is a handsome air rifle.

The Walther LGV was created as a kind of modern tribute to the legendary Walther LGV match rifle that was introduced in 1964. The goal in creating the new LGV, according to my contact at Umarex in Germany (Umarex owns Walther) was to develop a break barrel spring-piston air rifle without the disadvantages that a break-barrel normally has, including the twanging spring in the cylinder, the back-and-forth recoil that can kill scopes, the barrel not returning to exactly the same position, and typically an overly heavy trigger. In the examples of the LGV that I have so far, they succeeded.

The LGV line includes several different models of air rifles, and recently Airguns of Arizona sent me a couple samples of models that I have not seen before.

Walther LGV Master wood 002

The LGV Master stretches 43.1 inches from end to end and weighs 8.85 pounds before a scope is mounted. At the extreme aft end of the stock is a soft rubber butt pad, attached to the ambidextrous hardwood stock by a black polymer spacer. Moving forward, the butt stock has a modest comb which I found positioned my eye comfortably behind a scope. The pistol grip is gently slanted, as is typical of sporting air rifles, and is checkered on either side for improved grip.

Forward of that, a black metal trigger guard surrounds a black adjustable trigger. Moving forward again, the forestock is rather flat bottomed and is unadorned with checkering or other decoration. Toward the end of the forestock is a slot that provides clearance for the cocking linkage. At the end of the forestock is a metal tab that the shooter must press to release the barrel for cocking. This latch mechanism also insures that the barrel returns to the same position each time after the gun is cocked.

Walther LGV Master wood 005

Beyond the barrel latch is the barrel itself, which is 15.7 inches long. The LGV Master is available in .177 and .22, and I tested the .22 version. The LGV Master does not have the fancy muzzle brake/sight mount assembly seen on LGV models such as the Master Ultra and Competition Ultra. Instead, at the end of the barrel is a knurled knob that can be unscrewed to allow the mounting of a silencer in those jurisdictions where silencers are legal.

On top of the muzzle end of the barrel is a dovetail that allows the mounting of a globe front sight with black post-type insert. Moving back along the barrel, on top of the breech blot you’ll find a micro-adjustable notch rear sight. Moving back along the receiver, there is a dovetail for scope mounting along with some holes for anti-recoil pins. Finally, at the extreme aft end of the receiver is a forward-and-back slide type safety.

Walther LGV Master wood 004

To ready the LGV Master for shooting, press the barrel release tab and pull the barrel down slightly. This breaks the action open. Slide your hand out to the end of the barrel and pull down and back until it latches. This takes about 38 pounds of effort, according to www.umarexusa.com. Slide a pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position.

Take aim, slide off the safety and squeeze the first stage of the trigger (this takes about a pound of pressure). Squeeze just a bit more, and at about three pounds, the second stage trips, and the shot goes down range. The .22 LGV Master launches 11.9 grain RWS hobby pellets at 689.8 fps for 12.5 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.

What is truly remarkable about the LGV Master is that the shot cycle is very nearly silent. The sample that I tested was by far and away the quietest spring piston air rifle I have ever shot. It makes a kind of pffft noise, and that’s it.

At 13 yards, the LGV Master delivered 5-shot groups where all the pellet holes touched each other. At 32 yards, I was fighting pre-Halloween gusty autumn winds and got quarter-sized groups, but I am convinced that under optimal conditions, this rifle will deliver groups you could cover with a nickel.

The bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed shooting the LGV Master in .22. If you are looking for a spring-piston air rifle that will attract very little attention to itself, look no further. I give it my heartiest personal recommendation.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The Umarex Octane looks a bit unusual but feels great in the hand.

The Umarex Octane looks a bit unusual but feels great in the hand.

Over a decade ago, when I was just starting to write about adult precision airguns, a guru in the field told me a thing: “If you want a really sweet shooting springer, you want to get as close as you can to one pound of gun weight (including scope) for each foot-pound of energy that the gun generates at the muzzle.”

He was offering this as an explanation for why the humble Weihrauch HW30 is so enjoyable to shoot and why it is such a tackdriver for its power. And, over the years, his statement has pretty much proven to be true. Hold that thought, we’ll get back to it in a little while.

Recently, I had the opportunity to shoot the Umarex Octane in .22 caliber.  It stretches just a half inch over four feet long, and tips the scales at 10 pounds, four ounces with the 3-9 x 40 adjustable-objective scope that comes with it mounted. The Octane incorporates both a gas piston – the ReAxis Reverse-Axis Gas Piston – and the SilencAir noise dampener.

The matte black polymer stock is ambidextrous.

The matte black polymer stock is ambidextrous.

At the extreme aft end of the Octane is a soft rubber butt pad. The entire stock, including trigger guard, is molded from a matte black polymer. The ambidextrous all-weather stock is a thumbhole design, but there is also a semi-circular notch at the top of the pistol grip where the shooter can rest his or her thumb if desired. The pistol grip has some molded indentations for improved grip, and forward of that, you’ll find the trigger guard surrounds a black metal trigger that is adjustable for first-stage travel and a lever-type safety.

The SilencAir system reduces the report and provides a mount for the front sight.

The SilencAir system reduces the report and provides a mount for the front sight.

Forward of that, there is molded-in checkering on either side of the forestock and a slot underneath the forestock to accommodate the cocking linkage. Beyond the end of the forestock is the 19.5-inch barrel, at the end of which can be found the SilencAir, a five-chamber noise dampener which also serves as a mount for the red fiber optic front sight. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find a micro-adjustable green fiber optic rear sight mounted on top of breech block.

The Octane comes with a 3-9 x 40 adjustable-objective scope.

The Octane comes with a 3-9 x 40 adjustable-objective scope.

Moving back again, a custom metal Pictatinny mounting rail is fitted to the top of the receiver, where it provides a secure mount for the scope that comes with the Octane.

To ready the Octane for shooting, grab the SilencAir at the end of the barrel and pull it down and back until it latches. This requires about 42 pounds of effort and is very smooth and noiseless, as is typical of gas-piston systems. Slide a pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position.

Now here is where things get interesting. As you take aim and flick off the safety, you immediately notice that the lever-type automatic safety works exactly the opposite way of the lever-type safety in many other airguns. To turn the safety off and ready the Octane for firing, you pull the safety lever toward the trigger. It took me a minute or two to become accustomed to this, but it works fine, and after a while I took no notice of it. Squeeze the trigger, and a 1 lb. 13.3 oz., the first stage comes out of the trigger. On the sample that I tested at six pounds even, the second stage trips, and the shot goes downrange. This is heavier than the factory-specified 3.5 lbs., but I did not find it annoying.

Umarex .22 Octane 006

Even more interesting, the Octane is a hammer. It launched 14.3 grain Crosman Premier pellets at an average velocity of 838 fps for a very healthy 22.3 foot-pounds of energy.  This is due in large part to the ReAxis gas piston. Its design reverses the conventional gas-piston design so that more weight is driving the piston down the compression tube. The result is more power.

In addition, because of the SilencAir, the downrange report is reduced. This is a powerful gun, so it is not dead quiet by any means, but it is quieter than it would be otherwise.

And now we get back to that business about one pound of gun weight per foot pound of energy. The Octane obviously violates that rule with more than two foot-pounds of energy for every pound of gun weight. In addition, I am admittedly not the world’s greatest spring-piston air rifle shooter. I found that I could occasionally achieve dime-sized groups with the Octane at 20 yards with Crosman .22 Premiers but it was far more typical for my groups to spread out to the diameter of a quarter at 20 yards. Perhaps a more gifted springer shooter could do better, but I couldn’t.

The Octane is not the gun that I would pick for doing head shots on squirrels at 50 yards, but for an air rifle to deal with the woodchuck in the garden at 50 feet or the raccoon that has been molesting the garbage cans, it would be among my top choices. (And with the gas piston, you can leave cocked all day without fear of damaging the spring, because there isn’t any!)

I genuinely enjoyed shooting the Octane, and I think any airgunner who wants to hunt or control pests at short to medium range will enjoy it too.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Ruger .177 Talon 007I mentioned a while back that I had been shooting some inexpensive – sub-$200, Tier One – air rifles, and today I’d like to share some of my experience with another one of these highly affordable air rifles, the Ruger Talon.

The Ruger Talon came to me through the good folks at Umarex USA. It stretches just under 45 inches from end to end and weighs 8 lbs. 6 oz. with the included scope mounted. The Talon is interesting to look at. The entire rifle is black, with four very small exceptions: the front and rear fiber optic sights and two red circles with the Ruger emblem on either side of the buttstock.

The butt pad slants into the butt stock at an angle.

The butt pad slants into the butt stock at an angle.

At the extreme aft end of the buttstock is a soft rubber butt pad. This soft rubber section extends into the buttstock on a diagonal which is unusual but pleasing to the eye. The rest of the ambidextrous stock is made of matte black finished polymer. Underneath the comb of the stock are three horizontal slots. I suppose it might be possible to store some survival supplies in those slots – firestarter perhaps – and then cover the slots to contain the supplies.

Ruger .177 Talon 006

Forward of that, the pistol grip slants at a modest angle and has checkering for improved grip. Moving forward again, the stock material forms a trigger guard that surrounds a black metal trigger. Just forward of that, there is checking on either side of the forestock. Ahead of that, you’ll find some decorative slots on either side of the forestock and a long slot underneath the forestock that provides clearance for the cocking linkage.

The five-chamber SilencAir helps to reduce the down-range report.

The five-chamber SilencAir helps to reduce the down-range report.

Beyond the forestock is the .177 caliber barrel, which is nearly 19 inches long. At the end of the barrel is the SilencAir noise dampening system that reduces down-range muzzle report. The five-chamber SilencAir also serves as a mount for the front red fiber optic sight. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find a micro-adjustable green fiber optic rear sight mounted on top of breech block.

Moving back again along the receiver, a custom metal Picatinny mounting rail is fitted to the top of the receiver and provides secure mounting for the scope. (An aside: I am pretty much a fan of Picatinny scope mounting systems. It provides a very straightforward way of mounting a scope and heavy duty protection against the scope moving under the whiplash recoil of a spring-piston or gas-piston powerplant.) At the aft end of the receiver is a push-pull safety as found on many RWS airguns. The scope that comes with the Ruger Talon is a 4 x 32 with a non-adjustable objective.

To ready the Talon for shooting, grab the muzzle end of the barrel and pull it down and back until it latches. This requires about 30 lbs. of effort. Slide a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Now, here’s where the surprise comes in: when I was cocking the Talon, I could hear no spring noise whatsoever. In my experience, it is highly unusual for sub-$200 spring-piston air rifles to be this quiet during the cocking stroke.

Take aim, ease the first stage out of the trigger (this required 1 lb. 13.3 oz. of effort on the sample I tested), and squeeze a bit more. At 4 lbs. 1 oz., the shot goes down range, again with no noticeable twang or spring vibration.

Ruger .177 Talon 007

I was so surprised at this that I called Umarex USA and asked if maybe they were building the Ruger Talon as a gas-ram and hadn’t told anyone. No, they assured me; it really is a spring-piston powerplant, but they have been taking a bit of extra care in their quality control and manufacturing tolerances.

The Ruger Talon sample that I tested launched 7.9 grain Crosman Premier pellets at a sizzling 928 fps average for 15.11 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

I suspect that the four-power non-adjustable objective scope was the limiting factor in my accuracy testing.

I suspect that the four-power non-adjustable objective scope was the limiting factor in my accuracy testing.

I was able to achieve quarter-sized 5-shot groups at 20 yards with Barracuda Green .177 pellets, and I did nearly as well with JSBs. I suspect – but can’t prove – that the limiting factor here was the four-power non-adjustable objective scope. With a non-AO scope, if you don’t put your head in exactly the same spot behind the scope for every single shot, you can get point of impact deviations. This is an air rifle that I think would be improved with the addition of a higher power adjustable objective scope. Note well: the view through the 4x scope was crisp and clear and light years ahead of the terrible scope that was included with the Hatsan 95.

In the end, I liked the Ruger Talon. It’s pleasant to shoot and delivers good value for the price.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The Hatsan Model 95 is a handsome air rifle.

The Hatsan Model 95 is a handsome air rifle.

Lately I have been testing some inexpensive air rifle/scope combos. The Hatsan 95 Combo is one of those. But before we get into that, let’s back up for a moment and take the 30,000-foot view.

In the online forums, it would appear that some airgunners simply don’t “get” the idea of the price/performance curve. It can be thought of as a graph in which you plot the price of a product on one axis and the performance of the product along the other axis. For almost every single product I can think of, the price/performance curve shows that, in general, you get what you pay for; that is, the more you pay, the more performance you get.  (There are, of course, occasional exceptions, products that provide exceptional performance at a modest price, but these are rarities.)

Another way to look at this concept is in terms of tiers (this is quoted from a recent issue of SHOT Business magazine, if you want to read the whole article, you can see it here: http://shotbusiness.org/the-new-world-of-airguns/ ):

  • Tier 1, $20-$200 – These are the pump-up, spring-piston, and CO2 air rifles and pistols you are likely to find in big-box discount retailers and the airguns the public is most likely to know about. Familiar brand names in this category include Crosman, Daisy, Sheridan, and Gamo.
  • Tier 2, $200-$500 – These are the better made pump-up and spring-piston air rifles as well as less expensive PCP airguns that are sometimes carried by independent sporting goods shops. These are, by and large, “legacy” airguns that get passed from generation to generation.  Familiar brands in this tier include Benjamin, BSA, Gamo, RWS, and Weihrauch.
  • Tier 3, $500-$3000 – These are the top echelon, elite performers of the airgun world. Comprised mainly of PCP rifles and pistols, this category also includes very high end spring-piston rifles. These airguns that will have the guys at the gun club drooling with envy, especially when your airgun customers outshoot them. Familiar brands in this tier include Air Arms, Air Force, Anschutz, Benjamin, Brocock, BSA, Daystate, FWB, FX, RWS, and Weihrauch.

Bear in mind that these tiers are generalities, designed to help independent gun dealers get their heads around why they should carry airguns, but typically in Tiers 2 and 3, you can expect very good to outstanding quality, and you can expect to pay commensurately for the privilege.

The Hatsan 95 features a Turkish walnut stock and a gold colored metal trigger.

The Hatsan 95 features a Turkish walnut stock and a gold colored metal trigger.

Tier 1, however, is much more of a mixed bag, and it’s in Tier 1 that we find the Hatsan Model 95. Available in three calibers (.177, .22, and .25), this is a single-shot spring piston air rifle that stretches 44.3 inches from end to end and weighs 9 lbs. 1 oz. with the scope that comes as part of the combo attached.  I tested the .177 version. Two things struck my eye when I pulled the Model 95 out of the box: the Turkish walnut stock and the gold-colored metal trigger. The result is a very nice looking air rifle.

The butt pad is a soft rubber-like material.

The butt pad is a soft rubber-like material.

At the back end of the Model 95 is a soft rubber butt pad which is attached to an ambidextrous walnut stock. The modestly-slanted pistol grip has checkering on either side. Forward of that, a black trigger guard surrounds the trigger. Moving forward again, the forestock is checkered on either side, and underneath you’ll find a slot to provide clearance for the break barrel cocking linkage.

The polymer muzzle brake serves as a mount for the fiber optic front sight.

The polymer muzzle brake serves as a mount for the fiber optic front sight.

At the muzzle end of the barrel is a molded polymer muzzle brake which also serves as a mount for the red fiber optic front sight. Moving aft, you’ll find a green fiber optic micro adjustable rear sight on top of the breech block. Moving back again, the receiver has dovetails to allow mounting a scope, and near the aft end of the dovetails is a metallic scope stop that prevents the scope from moving backward along the scope rail when the shot goes off. Finally, at the extreme aft end of the receiver is a push-pull type safety. Other than the 3-9 x 32 non-adjustable-objective scope, that’s all there is to the Model 95.

To get the Model 95 ready to for shooting, grab the muzzle break and pull it down and back until the cocking mechanism latches. I estimate this takes a bit over 30 lbs of effort. Next, insert a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim, click off the safety, and squeeze the trigger. At 1 lb. 3.3 oz. the first stage comes out of the trigger, at 4 lb. 14.2 oz., the shot goes down range. The Model 95 launches 7 grain hobby pellets at 995 fps for 15.4 fp of energy at the muzzle.

The report is typical for a springer of this power, and the powerplant generates some vibration, but it is more heard than felt by the shooter. Hatsan says that the Model 95 is equipped with something called the Shock Absorber System, but I was unable to find out more about this system from the factory website. While it does not make the Model 95 recoilless, it certainly is not an unpleasant springer to shoot.

The Model 95 Combo, though, it not without problems. The scope and its mounts are basically junk. I had two scope mounts fail while testing the Model 95 (www.airgunsofarizona.com sent me replacements), but that is not the crucial problem. The scope, being non-adjustable-objective, cannot be focused. At 3 power, I could not see clearly at 13 yards, at 9 power, I could not see clearly at 20 yards. This made accuracy testing extremely problematic. I might have been the victim of unit-to-unit variation, but the scope that came with this sample was – flatly – useless. I would recommend either mounting a better scope or going the simple route and use the fiber optic open sights that come with the Model 95. (For the record, the good folks at Airguns of Arizona recommended to Hatsan that they either include a decent scope in the combo or don’t include a scope at all.)

I mounted a good scope – a Vortex – and tested the Model 95 for accuracy. Eventually, I was able to achieve at 5-shot group, shot with JSB Express pellets, at 32 yards that measured 1.1875 inch from edge to edge. That’s just a hair over 1 inch CTC. Now while that is hardly superb accuracy for a springer at that range, it is certainly sufficient for clearing the garden of pests at 100 feet.

In the end, the Hatsan 95 is a decidedly mixed bag. The scope and mounts are dreadful. The rifle itself, however, is nice looking and pleasant to shoot. The accuracy is not stellar but sufficient for plinking and pest control in the back yard at modest ranges. I’ve heard rumors that the .22 version is more accurate than the .177. Perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to test one in the future.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Okay, Butch, here’s the practical stuff you can do to extract the most accuracy out of your springer.

  1. Make sure the stock screws are snug. They don’t have to be as tight as humanly possible, but if they are not snug, they can produce very erratic accuracy. Recheck them from time to time.
  2. Make sure that your scope mounts are snug to the dovetail on top of the receiver and around the scope tube. Recheck these also from time to time.
  3. Let your springer choose the ammunition. Test for accuracy off a rest at close range with several different round-nose pellets – 10 to 15 yards to start – and when you find some pellets that group well, move to longer range and test again.
  4. Use a soft rest like a rolled up jacket, towel, or even a pillow. I often use my field target bum bag on top of a couple of old boat cushions. Try to place the rest just in front of the trigger guard. Use the same rest all the time. Springers generally do not like hard rests and can display dramatic changes in point of impact if you change the type of rest that you use. I had a nicely tuned springer that was dialed in perfectly for shooting from a sitting position with the gun resting in the crook of my arms. When I tried shooting the same gun with my elbows resting on a bench, the point of impact jumped up by an inch and a half at just ten yards. In another dramatic example, a fellow beat me by a couple of points with his springer. I asked him if I could try his gun. Sure, he said. I could not drop a large target at ten yards with half a dozen attempts. He thought there was something wrong with the gun. He tried it and dropped the target immediately. Obviously, the way you hold a springer makes a big difference in the point of impact.
  5. Don’t pull the gun hard into your shoulder. Let it rest easy.
  6. Try to make sure that the gun in its rest is naturally pointed at the target. If you have to force the gun to get on target, adjust your rest until, as much as possible, your air rifle is aimed at the target without you having to “muscle” it into position.
  7. Stay focused on the target. If possible, rest the thumb of your trigger hand on the top of the buttstock and pull your trigger finger straight back toward it. The object is to make your trigger pull as straight back as possible and not to either side. Suck in a breath, let half of it out, and pull steadily, keeping the crosshairs exactly where you want them on the target until the shot breaks. Don’t yank the trigger.
  8. If, as you are aiming, you find yourself running out of breath and getting desperate to release the shot, stop, reset yourself, take a couple of breaths, and start over again.
  9. Follow through. Don’t move anything until you see the pellet hit the target. Maintain laser focus of yourself on the target throughout the entire shot cycle.
  10.  Finally, if possible, move closer to the target. Nothing improves accuracy like getting closer! If you can reduce the distance to your pest birds by 15 yards, I think you’ll find it easier to hit the mark. (Butch, this is no reflection on your shooting skill, but a practical observation.)

Well, I hope this helps.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Recently, I heard from blog reader Butch who said:

“I am new to adult air guns and have a few questions.  At my work we use air guns to rid birds off equipment.  I am having trouble with accuracy off a bench rest.  I have been trying to site in off a bench.  I have tried several pellets and can’t seem to get better than a 3 inch group at 50 yards.  I might get 3 shots less than a inch and always flyers that stretch the group out.  Could you give a little insight into shooting a spring gun.  I am aware of the artillery hold.  Maybe suggest a good gun rest.  Thanks.”

Well, Butch, you raise a really good question, and it’s one that I face frequently since many times a year I test spring-piston air rifles (springers), and I always want to wring the best accuracy out of them.

The Basics

At the risk of telling you stuff you already know, Butch, let’s start at the beginning. Springers are based on a unique airgun powerplant. All airgun powerplants use compressed gas – usually air, but sometimes CO2 or another gas – to drive the pellet down the barrel. Springers are, however, the only airgun powerplant that generates the compressed gas at the moment you pull the trigger. If you want to check out the other airgun powerplants have a look at this: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/Review%20-%20Airgun%20Powerplants%20-%20Jock%20Elliott.html

Here’s how it works: when you cock a springer using the barrel or side lever or under lever, you are pushing a spring and piston backward inside the receiver until it latches. It sits there, inside the air rifle, bunched up like sprinter ready to launch when the gun goes off. When you pull the trigger, you release the spring and piston. They rocket forward inside the receiver, causing (remember Newton?) recoil toward the rear of the air rifle. As the spring and piston drive forward, they compress air in front of them. As the spring and piston rear the end of their stroke, two things happen. First, the piston bounces off the wad of compressed air in front of it and begins to move backwards. This causes recoil in the opposite direction. Second, a small amount of air squirts through the transfer port, driving the pellet down the barrel.

But notice the key thing here: the unique springer powerplant causes both forward and reverse recoil before the pellet leaves the muzzle of the gun. This whiplash recoil – which can involve several ounces thrashing around inside the receiver – can raise havoc with accuracy.

The other airgun powerplants – precharged pneumatic, CO2, multi-stroke pneumatic, single-stroke pneumatic – don’t have the problem of the whiplash recoil. The thing about springers that makes them so seductive is that they are so convenient – one cocking stroke and they are good to go, and no auxiliary equipment is required, like a pump or SCUBA tank or CO2 cartridges. Lee Wilcox, who used to run Airgun Express, once told me: “Shooters go through three stages with springers: first they love ‘em, then they hate ‘em because they’re hard to shoot well, then they love ‘em again.”

Expectations

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of extracting the most accuracy out of a springer (in Part II next week), we probably ought to talk just a bit about what you might reasonably expect from a springer at 50 yards. And it is a mixed bag. I have seen a five-shot 50-yard group that you could cover with a dime shot from a sitting position by a field target shooter. No kidding. But that’s not typical. Further, I have shot close to 1-inch groups at 50 yards with springers, but that required a lot of work and a lot of care that might not be feasible when you’re trying to clean birds off of equipment.

Robert Beeman, who founded Beeman Airguns, reported in the Beeman Airgun Guide/Catalog Edition 18, “Approximate Potential Accuracy at Field Distances” ranging from 1.3 inches to 2.5 inches center to center at 40 yards, with springers. At 50 yards, those groups are going to spread out even more. A 1.5 inch group at 40 yards might become 2.3 inches at 50 yards. Bottom line: groups of 2-3 inches at 50 yards might well be typical with average springers and average shooters. (By contrast, it is rare for me to test a precharged pneumatic air rifle that will not deliver groups of 1 inch or less – sometimes much less – at 50 yards.)

Remain patient, Butch, next time I’ll offer some practical suggestions for improving your shooting.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Sometimes the most important part of this business of writing a weekly airgun blog is waiting . . . waiting for the weather to clear . . . waiting for equipment to arrive, and so forth.

Right now I am waiting for both the weather to clear and some equipment to show up, and my wife suggested that it might be useful to answer some questions. I thought about this for a moment and decided it was an excellent suggestion. So here goes . . .

This is a question I get fairly often in the comments section of the blog: Where can I buy a (insert name of product here)?

Answer: The first thing you need to know is that I am not an employee of www.airgunsofarizona.com I work under a handshake arrangement with them to write a blog about airguns once a week. As such, I do not have an intimate knowledge of AoA’s inventory, order plans, and such like. However, in the past I have been a customer of AoA, and I have first-hand knowledge that they pride themselves on providing excellent customer service. Basically, they try to treat their customers in the way that they themselves would like to be treated. They have long ago realized that if they do a good job of matching an airgun to a customer’s needs and wants, they will have more repeat business and fewer customer satisfaction issues. In addition, Airguns of Arizona does not “spiff” its staff. Spiffing is the common practice of offering a monetary bonus to sales people if they sell a particular product. Spiffing, where practiced, leads sales people to recommend products to customers solely on the basis that they will make more money, not on the basis that it is the best choice for the customer. I was a victim of spiffing once when I purchased a ham radio, and I think that spiffing is vile. Bottom line: if you need an airgun or airgun accessory, reach out to the good folks at AoA. They will do their best to steer you right.

Question: Recently Kelton, a reader of the blog, wrote in with the follow question: “How long do you think the discovery will last if I shoot about 2000 pellets through it every month? I have had many spring guns and none have lasted more than six months. I think because I shoot so much I wear out the spring and seals.”

Answer: Well, Kelton, there are really two answers to your question. The first is that I have no idea how long a Discovery, with its precharged pneumatic powerplant, will last if you shoot about 2000 pellets through it a month. The second regards your troubles with springers. Springers are among the most durable and reliable airgun powerplants. I once asked Robert Buchanan, president of Airguns of Arizona, which was the most reliable airgun powerplant. He didn’t hesitate for even an instant: “Springers,” he said. “We never get them back.” Check out this blog “Just how durable are those springers anyway?” http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2009/10/just-how-durable-are-those-springers.html My best suggestion to you is that you purchase a high-quality springer such as an RWS, Weihrauch, or Walther that is backed by a good warranty. Sure, occasionally you may need to have the spring or seals replaced, but with high-quality springers, it is worth doing; you’ll have a rifle that, with proper care and infrequent rebuilds, will provide a lifetime of shooting service.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott