Spring has sprung!
by B.B. Pelletier
Pyramyd Air just sent out a "Spring has Sprung" email promotion that has a special discount coupon attached. The slant of the email seems to be airsoft, but I'll capitalize on their title and talk about spring air rifles today. A reader who calls himself "twe" says I should address the questions posted to the February 7 blog, HW97 & HW77. Many of those comments asked for comparisons between airguns, probably because that day I broke my rule of NOT comparing one airgun to another. I would now like to explain why I don't compare airguns.
This is the problem
People say, "I wish you would compare the TF99 with the HW97. And, could you also please list the good and bad points of the Gamo Hunter 1250?" That's like saying, "Please compare a Corvette to a Toro 5010 riding mower, and could you also list the good and bad points of a shrimp boat powered by a marine Detroit Diesel Series 60? I'm especially interested in the possibilities of interstellar travel using matter/anti-matter propulsion."
Folks, these comparisons are real hard to do! What do you mean by "good and bad points"? I find the Gamo 1250 too powerful for .177 caliber, but someone else may like it for exactly the same reason. I think the CF-X is very light for an underlever spring rifle, but several of you think it's quite heavy! Light and heavy, good and bad are all subjective terms for which we will never find complete agreement. So, instead of comparing one spring gun to another, I would like to tell you how the one gun I'm testing performs in several areas I consider important.
What is important in a spring air rifle?
Accuracy, for starters. If you don't have accuracy there's no reason to continue. A beautiful air rifle that isn't accurate is just another inanimate object - a paperweight, if you please. The purpose of an air rifle is to shoot a pellet that hits the intended target. What happens AFTER it hits is in the next tier of comparison criteria, but we don't waste time on those that miss. There are levels of accuracy that have to be acknowledged or we get stuck real quick. Rather than expound upon them, let me illustrate with a quick little story.
Many years ago, someone had this bright idea: "Ten-meter target rifles are the most accurate air rifles in the world. If I were to increase the power of a 10-meter rifle, it would make a great field target rifle that would dominate the sport." So they began modifying 10-meter rifles, only to discover that it isn't easy to raise the power from 5 foot-pounds to 20. Nor is your basic 10-meter gun ready for field target in any other way. Making one over is like modifying a Ferrari to haul manure. It can be done, but what will you have when you finish? And, 10-meter rifles ARE NOT the most accurate air rifles in the world, as it turns out. They are the most accurate 10-meter air rifles. When you try to push them out to 50 meters (for field target), you have to change them so much that they become completely different. They may still be no more accurate than a top-quality sporting rifle that was designed for that purpose to begin with. Before some of you start lecturing me on all the converted 10-meter rifles that are winning field target matches: (1) I am aware of it, and (2) They are no longer ten-meter rifles. And, that's my point!
Back to springers
Several years ago, I read an article about a guy who poured a lot of money and effort into building what he hoped would be the most powerful spring air rifle in the world. He took the design of a Beeman R1 and made nearly everything larger. The mainspring was HUGE - with the result that the rifle, a breakbarrel, was very hard to cock - about 75 lbs., as I recall. The finished gun weighed almost 12 lbs. What did he get for his efforts? A spring air rifle with about the same power as a Beeman R1! Yes, even when he made everything 25 percent larger, the gun had no more power than a stock R1. So, after accuracy, what's really important?
That's MY list. Is yours different? I would hope so. My list comprises the things I think are important, and style comes in very low, while smoothness is quite high. On my list, a Webley Patriot falls below an HW77; and a TX200, which isn't much to look at, occupies the top rung. It's the most accurate, it's ultra-smooth right out of the box, it's easy to cock for its power and it comes with a great trigger. Is the trigger on a Tau 200 Senior better? Yes, but the TX beats it in all other criteria. Besides, the Tau is a PT boat and the TX is a golf cart. Are you getting my sledgehammer wit?
Before choosing a spring air rifle, consider what you want to do with that rifle. Hunt? Shoot varmints? Plink? Do you want it to be your constant companion or are you looking for something to rest behind the chicken coop door so you can get those rats when they appear?
Specific answers to specific questions
Best springers for field target:
Everything else is like pulling a plow with a Ferarri.
Best springers for a hunter:
All in .22 caliber. Other guns are also useful, but this is MY list of favorites.
Best general-purpose springers:
Notice that power is very low on the list for a general-purpose air rifle.
Best value springer:
Those are my picks. I like all spring airguns, but these have the best combinations of what I look for in a springer.