About Gordon Smith

By day I’m a mild-mannered manager of Critical Accounts at a large Enterprise Resource Planning company. By night I use my cat-like reflexes and Ninja skills to fight crime. No – wait, I’m exercising poetic license here. I don’t actually fight crime. Truth-be-told, I never had cat-like reflexes and no Ninja skills either. What I do have is a passion for all things airgun related. Over the past several years I have been dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming, but now it is time to expand my comfort zone and jump into this whole blogging/social media business. My plan is to inform in an entertaining and enlightening way while adding to the general body of knowledge involving airgunning. A little background: My older brother had a Daisy model 25 that was well broken-in and he was an excellent shot. He taught me the basics and I coveted that rifle of his. My folks finally thought that I was mature enough to have my own air rifle by my 13th Christmas and so I became the proud owner of a Daisy model 1894 “Spittin Image”. Those were the beginnings of my life-long love affair with contraptions that sling projectiles downrange. I’ve now logged over 60 years on the planet and still have that Daisy. Actually, I believe it is in better shape than me, although it is 13 years younger… I enjoy the technical aspects of the airgunning game and tend to write from that prospective. I’ve competed in organized events a few times; however, the chance to attend formal matches is limited in my neck of the woods so competition will never become a forte of mine. Long ago and far away I taught Industrial Arts – yep, a shop teacher. I left the education game with all 10 digits intact and with my mechanical aptitude/curiosity alive-and-well and that is where my penchant for the technically oriented writing comes from. It has served me well as it led to a position as the Field Editor for Airgun Hobbyist magazine, currently the only hard copy and color format airgun magazine of U.S. origin. My articles have also appeared in a few other national publications in recent years. I appreciate the opportunity that Airguns of Arizona is entrusting me with and hope that you enjoy my humble contributions. Until next time, get out there and exercise that 2nd Amendment right! Regards, -Gordon

Posts by Gordon Smith

So how did the Cricket fare in my informal shooting tests?  Pretty well — as you would expect from an airgun in this price range.  Because it does not come with any optics, the bigger variable magnification scopes can quickly add some weight.  By itself, the Cricket at over 7 pounds feels heavy to me for its size, but it is a solid little rifle that balances well in the hands.

The Cricket trigger was – in a word – smoooottthhh.  One of those triggers that surprises you when it breaks, which is desirable so you can concentrate on the myriad of other items you are checking off in your brain when taking a shot.  The wide blade metal trigger is adjustable, but requires the shooter to remove the action from the stock, which I don’t do with the guns loaned to me, so the trigger I shot was strictly as it came out of the box.  The trigger pull broke at a little over a pound.  As mentioned in Part One, there is no manual safety on the Cricket so extra care is in order whenever handling this rifle.

The Sun Optics scope paired with the Cricket was the 5-30x56mm Ultra Variable model with illuminated reticle and parallax adjustment down to 10 yards.  This scope was right at home atop the Cricket and offers phenomenal magnification and a clear field of view in part because a larger 30mm tube.  The glass etched reticle is described as a Micro mil-dot and it provides multiple aiming points for holdover and windage corrections.   I did not shoot in low light conditions so didn’t make use of the illuminated reticle, however it offers both red and green options with 5 different brightness settings.  It also came with flip-up lens covers and is covered by a limited lifetime warranty.  It added 30 ounces to the overall weight of the package.

The 300 bar reservoir provided plenty of full power shots, in the range of 3 full magazines before topping off.  The Cricket could digest anything that fit in its rotary magazine, including Predator International’s long Polymags.  This one liked the Rifle Brand Super Mags at 18.36 grains giving an average speed of 928.2fps for 35 foot pounds of energy.  The best grouping was with RWS Super H-Points in 14.2 grains.

A unique feature with the Cricket is the ability to have the magazine advance either manually or automatically.  For automatic indexing upon cocking, the magazine bolt is retracted to insert the magazine and then pushed straight forward.  If you see the indexing pin engaging with the recess of the magazine cog, you’ve done it correctly.  If you wish to advance the magazine manually, simply push forward and down when returning the magazine bolt home.  The purpose?  Mainly for giving the shooter the option to dial to an empty chamber when de-cocking or avoiding double loading pellets.  A hunter using the Cricket could also load multiple weights and styles of pellets for different game in the same magazine and dial up whatever the situation called for.

There always seems to be a tradeoff — you can’t please all of the people all of the time — and the drawback to bullpups is the cocking handle having to be at the rear of the stock.  So if you prefer the compactness of bullpups, you most likely have to break cheek weld and/or your grip in order to cock the rifle.

KalibrGun Cricket .22

The Cricket is an elegant European designed bullpup made with precision craftsmanship and this little gun would fit nicely into any collection.  To make that happen, contact the fine folks at Airguns of Arizona: www.airgunsofarizona.com.  For questions on the Sun Optics scope, you can reach them at: www.sunopticsusa.com.

CORRECTION:  In the first installment I discovered that I mentioned the Cricket “should be capable of 900+ foot pounds with lead pellets”.  Obviously, my proof-reading skills left me completely when I was doing a final read through.  Of course, what I meant to say was that the Cricket is capable of 900+ feet per second with lead pellets.  My apologies for any confusion.

If you’re not familiar with KalibrGun products, let me introduce you to their popular Cricket bullpup Pre-Charged Pneumatics.  Available in .177, .22, .25 and .35 calibers, this European designed and manufactured airgun utilizes a CZ hammer forged barrel coupled with an ambidextrous thumbhole straight-line stock to make a compact, accurate and elegant shooter.  KalibrGun Valdy EU s.r.o. is located in Prague, Czech Republic and has been making quality airguns for around 7 years now.  Offering only PCP bullpup and pistol designs, they have carved out their niche in the airgunning world.  Combining a very efficient valve system in their compact and light weight package with their 17.5 inch CZ made 12-groove barrel, you can expect superb accuracy from the Cricket.  Two stock materials are offered: a beautiful oil-finished wood and a synthetic model.  My sample was stocked in wood, and the clean ergonomic lines

Magazine stored in clever built in holder

were inviting as well as utilitarian by incorporating 4-fold out magazine holders held closed by magnets to prevent accidental opening.

The pistol grip is hand-filling with roll-marked or pressed checkering for added purchase.   The forearm is wide, but because of the shape which allows the fingertips to wrap around, it is very comfortable.   A thin, slightly contoured and ribbed black rubber buttpad separated by a tasteful white spacer caps off the butt of this bullpup.  Mated to this attractive stock is a black anodized aluminum receiver and 280cc non-removable air reservoir with a built in manometer that reaches up to 350 bar.  A rotating collar on the air reservoir exposes the fill port where a brass male probe, included with the gun, is inserted.  Also included with the Cricket are two rotary magazines.  In .177 and .22 the mags hold a generous 14 rounds and are deep enough to accommodate Predator Polymags or other hunting tipped pellets.  In .25 they hold 12 rounds and in .35 they hold 9 shots.

Rounds move from the magazine into the breech via a very smooth slide lever, and they are sent on their way by squeezing the wide smooth-faced, non-adjustable aluminum trigger blade.  There is no manual safety of any kind on the Cricket I tested, but I understand a rotary type safety has been incorporated in the newest models.  The Cricket can be de-cocked easily whenever the need arises.

The front 10.75 inches of the barrel are shrouded, and do an excellent job of moderating the sound.  When shooting silhouettes or other metal targets, the sound of the pellet hitting will generally be more noticeable than the sound of the discharge.

The Cricket is sold without optics, but provides 8.75 inches of picatinny rail for mounting your own optic.  I mounted a Sun Optics USA 5-30x56mm Illuminated Reticle (green and red) to my sample Cricket using Burris 30 mm aluminum rings and will let you know how it performs in the next installment.

Weight of the Cricket in walnut is 7.75 pounds and the optic I chose added almost 32 ounces.   Overall length is 27.375 inches.  In .22 this Cricket should be capable of 900+ foot pounds with lead pellets, equating to approximate 30 foot pounds of energy.  The Cricket comes with a one year warranty and can be serviced by my friends at www.airgunsofarizona.com.  The Wood stocked version runs approximately $1540.00 without optics and the Synthetic model comes in approximately $1365.00 without optics.  Stay tuned to this blog for further review.

Upon crossing the bridge into Arkansas from Oklahoma on U.S. Highway 64, you’ll find yourself in Fort Smith, an historic city with roots going back to a Wild West town on the edge of the Indian Territory.  This is the home of Umarex USA, Inc. and Walther Arms, Inc.  They are subsidiaries of the German firm of Umarex, a conglomerate involved in the airgun and firearms industries since 1972.

Umarex USA/Walther Arms U.S. Headquarters

If you are unfamiliar with the Umarex name, my bet is you are familiar with some of the airguns in their extensive lineup — airguns such as the faithful CO2 BB firing copies of historic firearms in their Legends line, or the awesome replica of the famous Colt “Peacemaker” in both BB and pellet firing models.  The lineup goes on to include break barrels, CO2 and PCP offerings with names like Hammerli, Ruger, Beretta, HK, UZI and, of course, Walther as well as a few other major names in the industry.  Umarex has licensing agreements in place with each of them in order to use the name branding of those companies and/or produce practically exact duplicates of their famous firearms.  Of course, Umarex also produces airguns under their own name that cover all levels of airgunning from entry level to high-end in price ranges that fit just about any pocketbook.

I had the great pleasure of visiting with Umarex USA’s Director of Marketing, “JB” Biddle at their plant when I was in Fort Smith recently.  JB graciously spent the entire afternoon providing me with an in-depth tour of their expansive facility.  Currently the plant is a distribution center, Consumer Services call center and repair depot that opened in Fort Smith in 2010.  The original 117,000 square foot plant was expanded in 2013 to accommodate the opening of the U.S. headquarters of their sister company; German firearm manufacturer Carl Walther Waffenfabrik, in this location.  The expansion was necessary to comply with strict U.S. firearms regulations on storage and tracking of all components considered firearms by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Some assembly of firearms is taking place at this facility in relation to the repair/recall service.  Plans are in the works to bring more manufacturing in-house from overseas and existing floor space already exists for this expansion.  Offices on upper floors house Sales and Marketing for U.S. operations of Umarex and Walther as well as the Elite Force airsoft subsidiary.  Currently, 90+ full-time employees keep this operation humming.  Some part-time staffing helps during rush periods as well.  Included in that figure for full-time employees are four gunsmiths, one being a master gunsmith.  The repair center was quite impressive with rows and rows of drawers containing tens of thousands of inventoried parts.  An interesting tidbit I learned was that they have provided service on guns made in the late 1800s that passed through the repair center.  Their R&D/Engineering department was equally impressive boasting a large 3D printer capable of producing a full size stock for evaluation as well as an optics center where scopes could be tested/evaluated for quality control.  Of course, all the other necessary measuring and testing equipment was present along with a small airgun test firing range.  The Call Center folks were busy as I passed through and JB commented how each member of the team “lived and breathed” airguns.

Optics testing table in R&D lab

The culmination of the tour was a visit to their 2 lane, 50 yard indoor firing range.  Multiple airguns and firearms were made available to me for test firing and the afternoon flew by too quickly.  One of the guns fired was the new Gauntlet PCP, considered an “entry level” PCP because at $299.00 w/o optics, it provides a welcome addition in that it will be a great help in getting more folks into PCPs that might have held back due to the high costs of PCPs plus the needed accessories for filling them.  Don’t let the price point fool you, this new PCP is an accurate shooter with many bells and whistles on it that you could expect to pay a lot more for.  I really enjoyed shooting the Gauntlet and then they handed me the MP40, a faithful BB firing copy of the WW2 German “machinenpistole” submachine gun.  Running off of two CO2 cartridges loaded along with 90 BBs into the stick magazine, the MP40 allows for full-auto firing.  I had a ball quickly empting the magazine in short order.  Other items fired during our session included the Octane Elite and the Forge air rifles along with the Strike Point single-shot pellet pistol.  All worked flawlessly and, like a kid in a candy store, I wanted to take all of them home!  Look for more in-depth reviews in future blogs.  A couple of the Walther handguns in 9mm were also provided and while I was setting up for the next airgun I was to shoot, some police officers from a nearby town were trying out the pistols before my turn came.

Parts galore

I feel very privileged that being involved in the media opens doors like this so that I can be invited to visit operations like Umarex USA/Walther, Inc. and describe them to readers.  Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest in Umarex products and you’ll check them out on the Airguns of Arizona website: www.airgunsofarizona.com.

Umarex USA indoor range

From part I you now know about the FX Wildcat in .22 caliber.  Since that post I’ve had a chance to run some pellets through it and as fully expected it doesn’t disappoint.  With a bullpup design, the balance will generally always feel good due to the grip and trigger being in the middle of the stock.  Sporting a solid laminate wood stock and no polymer parts, it feels heavier and more substantial than its 6+ pounds would indicate, but the shooter will appreciate that when putting shot after shot into very small target areas.

The supplied FX optic, a 6-18x44mm unit paired well with this air rifle although I did not prefer it at the higher magnifications as I had more difficulty with getting my cheek weld situated due to the small exit pupil at the higher magnifications.  However, at 6 to 8 times magnification it worked well and, as I alluded to with tongue-in-cheek in the previous blog, the Wildcat did the rest.

It digested everything I fed it with equal aplomb and I it seemed that accuracy appeared to be excellent with both lighter and heavier pellets as can be seen in the accompanying photo where 14.4 grain Crosman Copper Mags pointed pellets landed in a touching group along with 18.21 grain H&N Baracuda Hunter hollowpoints at 25 yards.  Even with my less-than-stellar shooting skills, this was remarkable accuracy.  I also had an opportunity to try out the new Rifle brand Super Mag 18.36 grain pellets.  Rifle is a brand coming out of Brazil and a supplier to the Brazilian Olympic shooting team.  They are a Field Point shape and gave the same level of performance as the others with only one slight outlier, which I’m sure can be chalked up to the shooter and not the pellet.

Light or heavy, the Wildcat liked them both!

As others have said of Fredrik Axelsson, the man is a genius when it comes to designing and building airguns.  The valves he constructs allow for maximum power out of his airguns while providing plenty of shots on one reservoir of air.  By the way, only HPA is to be used in this FX Wildcat, no nitrogen or other gases per the manual.  For example, during one shooting session where 5 strings of full magazines (8 pellets) were fired, less than one quarter of the volume of air in the reservoir was used.  This particular model does not come with a power adjustment like some of the other FX models.

Trigger pull was great, as could be expected.  The average was 14.7 ounces on a very clean break out of the box.  The take up was a little long for my tastes and could have been adjusted with the supplied hex wrenches, but requires separating the action from the stock which I won’t usually do with loaner airguns.

It really is a beautiful airgun and a real pleasure to shoot.  You just can’t go wrong with any FX product and if you want to find out for yourself, or just need to add another to your collection, contact the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com.

By my own admission I am not a great shot, and I believe Fredrik Axelsson has discovered a secret he builds into his air rifles.  I’ve shot a number of the FX models and they are so easy to shoot accurately it seems like they have the built in ability to correct the shooter’s shortcomings.  That is conjecture on my part, but the facts of the Wildcat are it is a sleek bullpup, side-lever cocking design weighing in at slightly over 6 pounds and sporting a 19.7 inch match winning Smoothtwist barrel, all mounted in a very handsome thumbhole stock.  My particular sample came in the gray laminate wood variation and it is impeccably executed, right down to the logo that is laser cut into the forearm.  A walnut version or synthetic “soft touch” coating version are also available.

Another classic from FX

Atop the black anodized receiver sits an 11mm rail for mounting optics.  FX sells their own brand of scopes and my sample was the 6-18x44mm unit with illuminated duplex reticle.  The scope is also adjustable for parallax via a side turret which can be fitted with a large sidewheel.  30mm FX No-Limits adjustable scope mounts provide independent vertical adjustments for the most precise bore alignment when mounting the scope.

A number of companies produce bullpup designs and the biggest obstacle was coming up with a trigger that wasn’t’ really heavy or gritty because of the extra linkages, etc. necessary to place the action so far behind the trigger.  The trigger on the Wildcat was a thing of beauty – crisp, smooth and light.  The curved, smooth-faced match trigger is adjustable for length of pull, pull weight and cant.  The trigger trips the valve driven by a precision air regulator designed to give consistent shots and deliver a large number of high power shots per fill.

The Wildcat uses an 8-round rotary magazine redesigned for easier loading.  The magazine will not accommodate the longer hunting pellets such as Predator Polymags.  Its barrel is fully shrouded, reducing the sound signature to a mild “pop”, which still might be a touch too loud for backyard plinking/hunting in a suburban environment.  The solid rubber buttpad is fixed, and for a gun in this price range my thinking is an adjustable buttpad should be standard equipment. The non-removable air reservoir is mounted below the barrel with a manometer gauge mounted in the end.  A fill port is covered by the rotating collar on the end of the air reservoir.  A male fill probe inserted into the port will give a fill to 3300psi (230 bar).

Business end of the Wildcat

The side lever is directly above the trigger making for easy cocking without having to fully remove the shooting hand from the pistol grip or raising the head from the cheek weld.   Because there is no double-feed prevention on the Wildcat, the owner’s manual recommends leaving the bolt open and only closing it when ready to fire.  A minor detriment from my point-of-view is the manual safety being situated at the rear of the rifle.  I prefer to snap the safety off once the gun is mounted which is awkward to do with the FX.

The Wildcat retails for $1599 without optics.  The FX scope retails for $379 and the No-Limit rings for $80.  It comes with a one year warranty and well done owner’s manual illustrated with multiple quality photographs.  For more information please contact www.airgunsofarizona.com.  Otherwise, stay tuned for part two where I will put the Wildcat through a few paces.

See Part One: https://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2017/02/introduction-to-the-ruger-yukon-air-rifle.html

Ruger Yukon by Umarex

Testing took place on a 75+ degree day with a slight crossing breeze and at 20 yards from a bench.   No ear protection was required because the SilencAir system did as advertised and really made noise in an outdoor shooting session a non-issue (eye protection, however, is always a must!).  Regarding the SilencAir muzzle device/front sight, the shooter must avoid grabbing it when cocking the Yukon.  The red fiber optic rod could be damaged, but more importantly, you could wind up damaging the suppressor unit.  If that happened you would have to send the rifle back to Umarex for repairs.

Not having the chance to put enough pellets through it to really break it in because of a recent spate of  bad weather, the Yukon shot adequately out-of-the-box to take pests at this range.  Being a 9 pound rifle and equipped with the Umarex ReAxis gas ram the recoil is not much of a factor for an adult shooter.   The trigger had a crisp break at a consistent 5 pounds, 13 ounces, although company data indicates triggers are set at the factory to 3 pounds, 3 ounces.  The scope provided with the Yukon is a 3×9 variable with a 32mm objective bell having a duplex reticle.  The reticle was sharp and the image was bright, but the higher magnifications did not provide all that clear of a sight picture.  I tried adjusting the eyepiece and it helped, so it might just be these old eyes.

Velocities out of the Yukon 18.7 inch barrel with pointed HN Excite Spikes (15.8 grs.) averaged 753fps while RWS Superdomes at 14.5 grs. averaged 665fps which is not what I was expecting.  My chronograph registered two errors during the shot string with the Superdomes so there may have been something going on with my chronograph.  RWS HyperMax pointed alloy pellets averaged 859fps, which is only slightly higher than what Umarex rates this rifle at for lead pellets.  I think it may be time for a new chronograph…  More testing with a variety of ammo is definitely in order as none of the ammo in this initial testing appeared to be favored by the Yukon, although it did lean toward the lighter pellets and the RWS HyperMax alloy pellets made a respectable showing.  Excess factory lubrication left in this particular gun caused some dieseling for a number of shots.  I swabbed the barrel prior to the start of my shooting session and multiple times thereafter to try and eliminate the dieseling as quickly as possible.  Because of this I also checked the stock screws and scope mounts regularly to keep everything tight.  Even so, none of the groups were what would be expected from an Umarex gun.  Keeping in mind that springers can be unforgiving, and factoring out the mistakes of the shooter behind the trigger I’m sure the Yukon is capable of excellent groups.  I have it for a while longer and will do a brief follow up soon.

This is definitely an adult air rifle and having to choke up on the barrel to avoid grasping the SilencAir does slightly increase the amount of cocking force applied.  Umarex rates it at 30 pounds of cocking force and as this rifle breaks in more, I’m sure it will get smoother and easier to cock.  The thickness of the wrist of the Yukon is a possible negative for those with small hands.  I have decent sized hands and found that I was just covering the trigger face with the first pad of my index finger without reaching.

The Yukon is a classic looking powerful rifle for an adult looking to hunt varmints or pests or just general shooting.  To obtain one, or any of the other Umarex offerings, navigate over to www.airgunsofarizona.com.

Ruger Yukon

The first thing you notice about the Ruger Yukon is the elegant lines of the wooden stock combined with the blued steel receiver.  It reminds you of a fine firearm prior to the proliferation of synthetic stocks.  The wood is a stained straight-grained beech with pressed checkering and a unique black rubber buttpad that has a triangular section wrapping around the toe of the stock.  Incorporated into each side of this triangular area is a medallion with the familiar red Ruger rising phoenix logo.

The Yukon comes with a 5 inch long picatinny rail mounted  for scope attachment and a 3-9x32mm variable scope, rings and lens covers come with the rifle.  A hex wrench is included with the scope rings which also fits the stock screws so you can keep those snugged up for the best accuracy potential of the rifle.  For those who prefer standard sights, the Yukon is equipped with a fixed ramp front sight with a 1 ½ inch long red fiber optic rod as part of the SilencAir suppressor permanently attached to the muzzle.  The rear micrometer adjustable square notch sight is equipped with green fiber optic rods which offer a nice contrast when lining up a shot.  If you want the option to use both, you will have to obtain some see-through rings as the provided rings are the low mount variety.

The unique buttpad on the Yukon

Available in .177 and .22, the Yukon has an 18.7 inch barrel, weighs 9.0 pounds and is slightly over 44 ½ inches long.   It is touted as providing 850fps velocities with lead pellets based on the use of the Reaxis Gas Piston Power System developed by Umarex.  The Reaxis is said to give higher, more consistent velocities with less vibration and less recoil.  This translates to more power and higher accuracy.  In order to realize that higher accuracy potential, the shooter needs to use the “Artillery Hold”.  For those unfamiliar with springers and the Artillery Hold it basically means you cannot have a death grip on the forearm when shooting.  Just the opposite is true and it is recommended to use an open palm or resting on knuckles under the forearm.  This is because springers have a dual recoil impulse – the piston slamming forward to compress the air behind the pellet and the rearward movement as the pellet leaves the barrel.  Cocking effort is rated at 30 pounds and the shooter should refrain from grabbing the SilencAir /front sight when cocking the rifle to avoid damaging the unit.  Also, there is no anti “bear trap” mechanism so it is recommended to keep a firm grip on the barrel while loading a pellet into the breech.

The Yukon comes with a black metal two-stage trigger adjustable for length of first stage travel and has a ribbed face.  Trigger pull is factory set at 3.3 pounds.  The safety sets automatically upon cocking the barrel.  A black metal safety lever with serrated edges resides directly in front of the trigger making it easy to place the rifle in safe or fire mode.  It does take a bit of getting used to because it works backward from most in that the safety lever must be pulled toward the trigger to disengage the safety.  The only real disappointment, and it is minor, is that the trigger guard is made from polymer.  On this quality of a gun I would like to have seen a blued metal trigger guard, but I also understand the realities of keeping costs under control so that they can be passed to the consumer.  The trigger guard did have some sharp flashing along several edges, but that is easily taken care of with a sharp blade or fine jeweler’s file.

Umarex recommends the use of RWS pellets in the Yukon, which Airguns of Arizona carries in stock.  The Owner’s Manual cautions against using felt cleaning pellets or loose patches when cleaning the barrel as they could become lodged inside one of the five chambers making up the SilencAir suppressor and cause damage.  This package is available from www.airgunsofarizona.com for $179.95 and a one year limited warranty is provided with the Yukon.

So, OK, it’s all elegant and nice to look at and all that, but how does it shoot?  I tend to be a rather wordy individual and am sorry to say I’ve used up my allotted space and will save that discussion until next time.  If you have questions in the meantime, please reach out to the knowledgeable folks at Airguns of Arizona or post a reply.  (Follow this link to be taken to the second installment:  http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2017/03/umarexs-ruger-yukon-part-deux.html)

The 39th Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades show is now in the record books.  Almost 65,000 of my closest friends attended, plus more than a few canines sporting the latest in working dog accessories!  SHOT is the largest trade show of its type and is only open to members of the trade or media.  It is held in Las Vegas each January and is the showcase for new products.

A couple of years ago most of the major airgun manufacturers came out with a big bore of some type (.35 caliber or larger).  This year seems to be the year of the compressor to accompany the increasing number of PCPs available on the market.  Our friends at www.arigunsofarizona.com carry the new Omega Turbo Charger compressor which has some nice features including a dual piston design for faster charging and larger grease reservoir with a timer for indication of when to dispense the grease.  Other companies introducing compressors were Air Venturi and Sun Optics with Airforce Airguns to follow later this year.  Some new, less expensive hand pumps are also available this year which should help to bring new PCP shooters into the fold even if their budget is modest.

Big bore airguns continue to be a draw for a segment of the airgun shooting public and some new ones were being introduced at the show as well.  Airforce airguns introduced a TexanSS, their single shot .45 caliber big bore now features suppression.  Umarex showed off their new Hammer, a .50 caliber pump action 3-shot arm estimated to develop 700 foot pounds of energy.  It should be available later this summer.  This new air rifle uses a patented sabot round that has the sabot permanently attached to the base of the PolyCase copper/polymer matrix bullet.  However, it can also fire .50 caliber lead slugs.  Being a “nifty-fifty” it should also be able to handle the new AirBolt from Air Venturi.  The AirBolt turns an airgun into a very accurate arrow launcher. Several companies have invested in airgun/arrow launcher technology in the past couple of years and lobbying continues to make airgun hunting seasons more commonplace in this country.  Hatsan showed the Hercules QE dual tank pellet launcher in several different calibers all the way up to .45.  In .45 the Hercules can generate up to 250 fpe.

Other news on the PCP front includes several “entry level” rifles designed to allow those new to pre-charged pneumatics to put their toes into the water without a huge capital layout.  Umarex offers the Gauntlet, a bolt action repeater using a rotary magazine; it is available in .22 or .177 and uses a removable cylinder able to handle 3000psi.  It will be available later this spring for an MSRP of $299.00.  Crosman released their Wildfire model PCP, a bolt action using a 2000 psi reservoir and retailing for approximately $150.00.  Gamo introduced their Urban PCP multi-shot in .22 caliber which retails for $399.00.  Toward the other end of the price spectrum were the Hatsan Bullboss QE bullpup configuration PCP, a synthetic stocked side lever cocking multi-shot in .177, .22 and .25 calibers and you can check out the latest offerings from Daystate and FX airguns by switching over to the newly designed Airguns of Arizona website: www.airgunsofarizona.com.  Daystate has the new Tsar in .177 for precision shooting disciplines and FX introduced the Wildcat bullpup in .177, .22 and .25.  Both are beautiful and both are of the highest quality you are going to find.

Other cool things seen: a faithful BB gun copy of the German MP40 submachine gun from Umarex that fires in both semi/full auto.  SIGArms airgun division showed a copy of professional shooter Max Michel’s .45  and the Spartan 1911 in BB CO2 repeaters.  Also new, the P320 blowback pellet pistol which utilizes the 30-round RPM belt-feed system like the one used on its larger, pellet firing copy of the MCX.  Crosman has a copy of the Remington 1875 single action revolver that will fire pellets or BBs and it was a good looking replica!

Of course, there were many other new airguns and related accessories introduced at the show; too many to cover here.  Also, many of the items mentioned here will not be available for months, but I hope I whetted your appetite for more and we’ll have some reviews in future editions of this blog.

I recently spent some time with Jake Hindman, the driving force behind this new concept in bringing airgun competition to our youth in the place where they spend a big portion of their time – school.  With all of the anti-gun rhetoric usually appearing in mainstream media, those of us in the pro-gun camp might have been feeling that there wasn’t much hope of turning things around.  However, even before the recent resounding political defeat of the anti-gunners, there was a ray of hope appearing in the form of programs starting up at a number of high schools and colleges that were bringing back shotgun and rifle shooting sports to the school campus.  That was good news, but only worked at the higher grade levels due to costs and requirement that students go to a shooting range.  Enter the Student Air Rifle Program, designed from the ground up to be a teacher/school friendly activity with a solid curriculum aimed at younger students as part of their physical education classes and not requiring range facilities.

SAR sprang from an already successful model that had been created to expand archery as part of the physical education curriculum in elementary and junior high schools known as NASP – the National Archery in the Schools Program.  I found out about SAR through my good friend Dick at Predator International.  Predator supplies the lead-free SAR Journey pellets that allow these programs to shoot indoors in gyms and cafeterias where lead pellets would definitely not be welcome.

The SAR Mission Statement reads:  The mission of the Student Air Rifle Program is to facilitate an introduction to the lifetime sport of target shooting to school-aged youth in grades 4 through 12.  Its curriculum is designed for a one or two week teaching unit that teachers can adapt to meet their needs.  Of course, safety of everyone involved during shooting sessions is paramount and the first lesson covers the 4 main safety rules regarding handling guns and tests the students’ knowledge before moving on.  Next, students are introduced to the air rifle: what it is, how it works and how to operate and maintain one.  The air rifles used in SAR were a collaborative effort between the folks behind the program and UmarexUSA out of Fort Smith, Arkansas.  The concept rifle they came up with, the Embark, is a break barrel springer in .177 caliber sporting a unique green color that makes it a standout from anything else out there on the market.  Best of all, these new guns are available from UmarexUSA to the general public!  That means if a student wanted to pursue the shooting sports outside of the school setting, he or she would be able to purchase the same rifle shot in school competition.  It is a cool little single shot that will also appeal to many airgunners.

AofA (www.airgunsofarizona.com) is supportive of programs such as this and encouraged me to introduce SAR to the viewership of this blog.  They know promoting youth shooting sports is good for all shooting sports and helps introduce safe firearms handling.  It also instills a positive political view in future voters.  It is the hope of this new Student Air Rifle program that it will grow to reach all 50 states just as its sister archery program is close to doing (47 and counting).  If you want to help promote this curriculum in your state or just want additional information, reply to me or head over to the website: www.studentairrifleprogram.org.