Filling an AirForce Condor
by Tom Gaylord
B.B. Pelletier turned the blog over to me today to answer a question that has arisen in Mexico concerning the AirForce Condor. Some owners have noticed that when they fill their guns to 3000 psi, they don't shoot with much power. They have to shoot many shots before the guns start performing as they should.
This is normal for the Condor. B.B. already addressed it back on September 27, 2006, in the post What is valve lock in a pneumatic gun? Allow me to explain again what's happening.
The Condor has a huge air valve to pass all the air that generates its incredible power (65+ foot-pounds!). When the air tank is filled, the air inside presses against the valve, holding it closed. The Condor had to have a special firing hammer with additional weight to open the valve against all that pressure.
But the Condor is right on the ragged edge of performance as it comes from the factory. Some guns will work fine with a 3,000 psi fill and some won't. When I was the Technical Director at AirForce Airguns, I got phone calls when we first started shipping Condors. Nobody knew this situation existed, but when the calls came in and some early guns were even returned, I had to do some quick testing. Sure enough, SOME of the Condors we shipped did not operate properly on a 3000 psi fill. I experimented with these guns and discovered that each one worked fine, but required a lower fill pressure. They still achieved the same high velocity they were supposed to and they got the same number of high-power shots per fill, but their fill range was lower than the standard 3000 psi.
Other Condors worked fine when filled to 3000. But even these rifles would start losing power if we overfilled them by as little as 100 more pounds of air, so 3000 was the absolute max they could take.
Armed with that information, I stated asking the callers all sorts of pointed questions, and this is what I discovered. Some were filling to 3200 psi because somebody on some forum talked about filling their Talon SS to that pressure. When it didn't work, I would get a call. Others were using the gauge on their refill clamp, even though they knew it was off by 300 psi (that can happen with small pressure gauges). They were filling to "3000 psi," but they admitted that it was an overfill in all likelihood, because they knew their gauge was off.
If you own a Condor, here is how to proceed
Here is what I used to tell Condor owners when they called AirForce with the low power complaint. First, fill your air tank to just 2,600 psi and start shooting. If you have a chronograph, measure the speed of the pellet with the power setting as high as it will go. A .22-caliber 14.3-grain Crosman Premier domed pellet should go around 1,200 f.p.s. Some rifles are a little slower, others are a little faster. Of course, lighter pellets will go a lot faster than that, but the Premier is what we always used to test the rifle.
If you don't own a chronograph, shoot into a soft pine 2x4. The pellet should go all the way through, provided it doesn't hit a knot. I got so used to the gun that I could tell by the sound and recoil if it was shooting okay. The production manager could also tell; and when we chronographed the rifle to be sure, we were always right. There is something distinctive about the bellow and crack of a Condor that imprints on your mind.
If the rifle shoots fast at 2,600 psi, fill to 2,700 psi the next time and test again. If it's still shooting strong, go up to 2,800 psi the next time. I never saw a Condor that topped out at less than 2,600 psi; and, if the gun was not shooting right at 3,000, it was always topping out below 2,800 psi.
Condors are very individual guns and this procedure is how to determine their maximum fill. B.B. has been kind enough to allow me to write a second posting about Condors, which I will have for you soon. It's all about those who ruin their guns and want to ruin yours, too. I call it "Abusing your Condor."