Archive for July 2007
by B.B. Pelletier
Gamo’s Hunter Extreme is a big air rifle.
It’s big and it’s “EXTREME” – that over-used adjective that seems to have replaced “radical” as the flavor of the day. But is it any good? And how about Gamo’s claim that the rifle shoots lightweight pellets made of a compound they call performance ballistic alloy (PBA) to velocities of 1,600 f.p.s.? Is that true, and do we airgunners even want it?
Lots of questions, so a big blog series. We begin with the gun.
The .177 caliber Gamo Hunter Extreme I am testing is a big breakbarrel air rifle in all ways. I went to the Gamo USA website to look at the specifications, but they lacked even the most fundamental specs like overall length and weight. The site is incomplete and appears to have been that way for several months. They also say the barrel is a bull barrel, which I would not agree with. It is a new barrel profile that looks like a long muzzle brake, reaching back almost to the base block, then tapering down to a smaller profile. The outer barrel jacket seems to be aluminum and the inner barrel is steel.
The metal finish of the long muzzle brake sleeve is highly polished and contrasts beautifully with the synthetic tapering part at the rear. The actual barrel is shorter than the muzzle brake and the true muzzle is recessed about 0.5 inches. That makes the true barrel length about 18.25 inches. The rest of the major external metal parts of the rifle have a satin finish covered with an even black oxide.
The wood stock is overly large in all dimensions and has a very blocky forearm. It will be easy to use the artillery hold because the bottom of the forearm is absolutely flat. There is impressed checkering on both sides of the forearm and pistol grip, but the diamonds are flat and give no purchase when grasped. The wood is medium brown with a semi-gloss finish that looks like genuine oil. The cheek rest is not well formed and has the “melted” look that’s been characteristic of Gamo rifles for many years. The butt is shaped like a western-style stock, rather than a European style and there is a Monte Carlo profile.
This big rifle weighs a whisker over 10 pounds, with a whisker being two ounces or less. The weight of the wood on a rifle this large will probably make the weight vary by four ounces, heaviest to lightest. It stands just a whisker taller than 45.5 inches. A whisker is, well, not very much.
Articulated cocking linkage
Back in the 1970s when all spring guns vibrated a lot, some manufactures went to a cocking link that was two parts, articulated by a joint near the breech or forward end. This allowed the cocking slot in the stock to be shorter, which helped dampen vibration. But it also adds friction that a single-piece link does not have. When the link runs under the necessary bridge welded to the underside of the spring tube, it pops up against the bridge and scrapes the top of the link. There used to be a whole series of things one could to to reduce this friction, back in the days when the HW 35 was still being made, but most guns don’t use articulated linkages today, so we have forgotten how to deal with them.
That’s what an articulated cocking link looks like. Two link sections are joined by a flexible joint.
But Gamo has designed this rifle to need no bridge! The geometry of the linkage keeps the long rear link snug against the spring cylinder, so most of the extra friction isn’t there. Gamo advertises a cocking effort of 58 pounds, but the test rifle is cocking at 52 lbs., after about 25 flexes. I don’t think it will become any lighter with time, but 52 isn’t that bad. However, this is not a plinking air rifle. It’s for hunting, only.
This rifle comes out of the box with a nice 3-9X50 scope already mounted! Bully for Gamo! They are one of the first manufacturers of adult air rifles to recognize the importance of this feature. Crosman and Daisy have been doing it for years, but most other makers just don’t seem to have figured it out yet. Unfortunately the scope on my sample rifle was not mounted with the crosshairs level, but I took care of that in less than ten minutes. The scope has the Gamo name and logo and it’s not a model I am familiar with.
A Gamo scope.
The scope seems to be of good quality, and it has one feature I can’t wait to try. The dot in the center of the reticle is all that lights up when the illumination is turned on. I think that’s a high-quality feature because it preserves the hunter’s night vision. And that dot is rather unique. I’ll have to use it a little to see how I like it.
On the negative side, the scope has fixed parallax that seems to be set at about 35 yards on the sample I am testing. That will work fine, because I can always reduce the power if I want to shoot closer and want to image to appear to be in focus, but it seems a shame for a nice scope like this not to have adjustable parallax.
The scope mount is one-piece and the correct size for the scope. It has a steel vertical pin at the rear which is mated with a receiver hole in the right location, so all that has been thought out well. Good thing, too, because open sights are not an option with the Hunter Extreme. Unfortunately, neither is .22 caliber, yet. I hope that changes soon because this rifle has far more potential for the larger calibers. Even .25 caliber would be a nice option for an air rifle this husky.
One final comment before I go. This rifle is made in England, so it is actually made by BSA – not Gamo. Gamo owns BSA and BSA Optics, and the association helps both companies in many different ways.
That’s it for today. Next time we’ll look a little deeper.
by B.B. Pelletier
There is a new podcast up on the website.
It’s the first of August, and I’m back to the CX-4. Let’s take a look at performance downrange. Before we do that, I tried to mount an optical sight. I say “tried,” because at that point I discovered a problem with this design.
Pretty obvious why this scope doesn’t work. This is the UTG Tactedge 4x long eye-relief scope that I believe is perfect for this airgun, but taller mounts are needed.
The tall front and rear tactical sight housings are so high that they limit the scopes that can be installed. You will need ultra-high Weaver rings to fit a long scope like the UTG Tactedge 4×40 long eye-relief scope I tried to mount. I have such mounts in 11mm, but not in Weaver because it isn’t a traditional airgun scope base.
Next, I tried to mount a lower red dot sight with a Weaver base. It fit between the sights okay, but it was so low that the red dot could only be seen through the rear sight aperture. That wouldn’t work, either! And before someone beats me up for not remembering that the Crosman NightStalker kit that I tested back in February of 2006 also has a red dot sight – I tried that, too. Not high enough!
Nope! This one fits, but it’s so low that the red dot appears through the rear aperture!
However, legend tells us of an earlier time when primitive marksmen used those front and rear sight appendages that still come on many airguns to actually align their guns for shooting. It’s called the BS era, for “before scopes.” I reckoned that anything my ancestors could do I could also do, so I shot all my groups without the aid of an optical sight. I did wear my bifocals, though.
Comedy of errors!
Starting with the sight adjustments – the front sight adjusts rapidly on a cam, which the manual fails to explain. I broke a screwdriver tip finding that out. I’ve broken other Taiwanese screwdriver tips before, but never while adjusting a sight! The manual said the gun was sighted-in at 10 meters by the factory, but this one wasn’t.
Moving to the rear sight, my front sight experience sensitized me to make small adjustments – this time with a tiny Allen wrench – and nothing happened. So here’s what to do in the back. Treat the rear sight like a windlass and pretend you are raising a ship’s anchor. I wound it around completely three or four times before the pellet moved the required two inches at 20 yards.
Then, it was time to shoot.
The open sights didn’t do their job
All that joking about open sights, and these turned out to be the worst I’ve used in ages. At 20 yards and shooting from a benchrest, I never got a group smaller than one inch. I may not be a crack shot, but I can keep them inside a dime with good open sights at that range. I don’t think this was the rifle’s fault – I blame the open sights.
Pellets that performed…or didn’t!
I tried RWS Hobbys, RWS Superdomes, RWS Supermags, Crosman 7.9-grain Premiers and Gamo Match pellets. The Hobbys seemed to perform the best. In this case, “best” is a very relative term.
This is the best I could do at 20 yards. This was with RWS Hobbys.
In every target, there was a cluster of three or four shots that told me the rifle wants to shoot better than this. I think with optical sights I can do better.
Well, not too good, thus far. I don’t like the sights, how they adjust and the fact that you need tools to adjust them. Also, who makes front and rear sights that adjust with two DIFFERENT tools? That’s just crazy. But, I’m not finished with the CX-4 yet. I’ll get some kind of high scope mount, and we’ll see how well it can shoot with proper sights.
I do expect Umarex USA to come out with some kind of optical sight and mount for the CX-4. With that Picatinny rail sitting on top, they’d be fools not to.
One last comment. Where is that reader who said I never criticize airguns that Pyramyd Air sells, because all I’m doing is selling things through these blogs? Without the use of profanity, this report was about as critical as I get. I don’t load it with frownie faces to let you know how I’m feeling, but I don’t think there are any lines that you need to read between.
by B.B. Pelletier
Before we begin, Dr. Mirfee Ungier has answered a question about scope parallax and and the wearing of corrective eyewear. Here is her report.
Contacts always have you looking through the optical center of the lens. However, depending upon the glasses prescription, turning your head to view the target off the optical center of glasses will induce a variable amount of prism. The stronger the glasses, the more prism might be induced. Typically, someone with a correction under about 2.5 diopters will not have too much to worry about until they get into advanced competition. People with higher degrees of refractive error would be better off in contact lenses. It should be noted that protective eyewear, i.e. safety glasses, are not an issue and should still be worn.
I thank Dr. Ungier for her explanation. I hope this clarifies the corrective eyewear situation for scope users.
Today’s test report comes at the request of reader Kyle, who wondered if there would be a velocity increase if he changed the 14.6-inch barrel in a Crosman 2250 to a 24-inch barrel. I said there would be at least a 100 f.p.s. increase, but Crosman said no. They said the barrel on the 2250 was optimum for that airgun.
I told Kyle that Crosman knows their guns better than I do, but that I would look back at my airgun literature and see if I couldn’t come up with some test data for him that shows the relationship of barrel length to velocity. In the October 1994 issue of The Airgun Letter I found a test where Tom Gaylord had cut the barrel of a Quackenbush CO2 rifle and recorded the velocities as he went. I think this is exactly what Kyle is looking for.
The airgun Gaylord used is the Quackenbush XL, a rifle with a removable 7-ounce CO2 reservoir. It had a .22 caliber Crosman 2200 pneumatic barrel that was 20.125 inches at the start of testing.
The rifle was shot at 76 degrees F with 80 percent humidity. The chronograph was an Oehler 35P and the muzzle of the gun was positioned 6 feet from the start screen. Ten shots were fired with each of two pellets at each barrel length. The shots were spaced 1.5 minutes apart, to allow the rifle’s temperature to recycle after each shot. When the barrel was cut, the muzzle was reamed with a tapered reamer to remove any burrs. Since this was just a test of velocity, no accuracy was tested, so crowning the muzzle didn’t matter. The test started with a full CO2 tank which was refilled when the barrel got to the 15-inch length. The reservoir had been perviously tested to give not less than 125 shots at consistent velocity.
Barrel- Hobby- Kodiak
20″ ——– 645 ——– 548
19″ ——– 689 ——– 564
18″——– 680 ——— 562
17″——— 681 ——— 555
16″——– 671——— 547
15″——– 641——— 541
14″——– 639——— 518
13″——– 637——— 512
When the barrel was cut to 12 inches, it was then shorter than the gas reservoir underneath and the velocity dropped like a stone. Gaylord thought the gas might have reflected off the reservoir at the muzzle and caused some interference, so he ended the test at that point.
Well, I’m glad I revisited these results, because I didn’t remember them as well as I thought. My prediction that increasing a 15-inch barrel to 24 inches would bump the velocity by 100 f.p.s. was clearly wrong.
Gaylord also wrote that he was surprised that the 20 inch barrel was slower than the 19 and he prevailed on Quackenbush to send a 24-inch barrel to test. To his surprise, the 24-inch barrel was the slowest of all, even though it emitted a huge cloud of CO2 with each shot.
The fact that the 20-inch barrel was slower than the 19-inch shows that you cannot keep increasing the length of a barrel and hope to get higher velocity with CO2. Also note that the barrel performed about as good at 16 inches as it did at 20, and 15 inches wasn’t far behind.
The valve/hammer/spring of every CO2 gun will give different results that are peculiar to that setup, and different barrels will also perform differently but this is the trend they will all exhibit. The point of optimum velocity will change as the setup changes, but the relationship will remain the same.
I have some thoughts about how barrel length affects velocity with pneumatics, too. Perhaps in a future post.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today’s blog is going to be a BIG one, so settle back with your coffee cup and make sure the pot is still hot. At the end of my report I’m going to do some editorializing, because there’s something I have to get off my chest. This will sound like a rant, but I believe I can expose something that is seriously wrong with some companies today. Read it if you like. I will warn you before I launch.
For those just tuning in, a while back I wrote a post about a .45 automatic I bought that didn’t live up to its hype. Since I can usually steamroll my way past most airgun problems, I thought I’d use this experience with a new firearm to let you watch what I do when life hands me a lemon. And what a lemon it was! Read part one to learn what an uphill battle this turns out to be.
Just a quick reminder, the problem I experienced was a failure to feed fresh rounds from the magazine. Eight times in 84 rounds a round failed to feed properly. I took a picture to show you what that looks like. Okay, now you’re up to date.
You readers offered advice about 1911s. Some of you told me to go easy on Taurus because you had good experiences with their guns, but a couple people told me Taurus guns had let them down in the past. Well, I checked into this deeper. I have an acquaintance who used to do work for Taurus, and he still has some connections inside the company. He placed a call and learned that Taurus knows all about the PT1911 problem. What I experienced is apparently not that uncommon.
Then I did some more research on the Internet. The problem with that is you can’t tell whether a person is telling the truth or just has it in for a particular company, but when you encounter the SAME problem being discussed everywhere, there is a reason for it. PT1911 feed problems are being talked about in many places. And there seems to be a common solution – the Wilson Combat 8-round magazine!
Boy – if that isn’t ironic! I bought the PT 1911 BECAUSE it offered the same features as a tricked-out Wilson, only the Taurus retails for under $600 (street price) vs the Wilson that STARTS at $2,100. Big difference there! Yes, I could have really stretched and bought the Wilson (by giving up a couple birthdays, maybe Christmas and perhaps by mowing the lawn extra times), I suppose. And if I had, what would I have had to talk about? Wilson Combat guns are the gold standard when it comes to 1911 reliability. The phrase “As good as a Wilson” would be used, except there aren’t any other guns that good. Oh, that’s not true at all – I’m just crying in my beer now! But you guys who want me to conspire with you in a lie that a Gamo CF-X is just as good as a TX200 – THIS is what I am talking about when I rant at you! One gun really is the standard to which all others are compared and the other is just a good value for the money.
Only the PT1911 wasn’t turning out to be such a good value, after all. It is a defense gun that cannot be counted on to operate. That’s as useful as a nuclear hand grenade with a three-second fuse!
So I gird my lions and place the call to Wilson, expecting a lecture on sow’s ears from some good old boy who puts me on speakerphone so the office can have a good laugh. Instead, I get Traci, who seems to know exactly what I need when I tell her what gun I own. She’s new to Wilson, so she checks with one of the techs, but it turns out she has heard this problem enough times that she has it down pat. I placed my order and yesterday evening the new magazine arrives.
Today I was at the range for many different things, but one of them was to see what kind of difference a different magazine can make (you Umarex shooters getting this?). Well, instead of 8 failures in 84 rounds, there were 3 failures in 116 rounds. I call that an improvement. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re heading in the right direction.
Now some something else has come from my research. Apparently, some new 1911s with trick tuning have to be broken-in before they shoot reliably. Nothing was said anywhere about the Taurus PT1911 being a tight gun, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Some of my research has been in books written about the 1911. As I mentioned in part one, I used to tune 1911s, but I know nothing of the post-1980 models that Colt added a fourth safety device to. However, in my reading, I learned that it’s a good idea to shoot a new gun without cleaning it for several hundred rounds, which is exactly what I have done. It seems that a gun that’s allowed to get dirty and still forced to function wears in better. Then you are supposed to clean the gun thoroughly and lubricate it well.
Where do I go from here?
I’m looking for reliability, and this pistol is not there yet. When I can feed it 500 handloads with lead semi-wadcutters with nary a bobble, I’ll call it macaroni (Americans, sing the lyrics to Yankee Doodle – everyone else, I will be satisfied). I will be very happy then, because I will have a $600 pistol that’s almost as good as a Wilson.
If I can’t get to my goal of reliability, I will sell the pistol and buy the Wilson I should have bought in the first place. Someone else will have to rationalize the occasional mis-feed. Either way, I will continue to report to you on my further research and experiences.
NOW COMES THE EDITORIAL – Look away if you don’t want to know what I think is wrong with retail sales today.
Taurus knows there is a problem with this pistol. Do they tell customers they might need to expect a break-in period? No, they don’t. Had they done that, I would have shut my trap and soldiered on in the knowledge that what I was doing would result in me getting what I wanted in the end.
One BIG problem with the PT1911 is the Taurus magazines. They don’t always work reliably. Neither of my two are reliable. But does Taurus tell their customers that? Of course not! That would be an admission that their stuff doesn’t work, and if they know that, why aren’t they fixing the problem? Wilson Combat obviously knows it, and they have a solution ready to go. So, instead of stopping to fix a problem that is obviously fixable, they continue to pour thousands upon tens of thousands of guns on the market and ignore what has now become a black eye on their reputation – at least for this one model.
What Taurus is doing is taking out full-page $50K full-color ads in American Rifleman, touting the wonderful features of this pistol. And more people like me are wondering whether it is possible to get $2100 worth of value in a $600 package.
Want to know why it isn’t? Because a part of that money Wilson charges is for the labor of human beings checking things after assembly. They can afford to do that, and they HAVE to, because their reputation is on the line with every gun that ships. Taurus, on the other hand, has cut the price so close that they haven’t got the same time to devote to after-assembly work that Wilson does. It’s nothing they should be ashamed of – they are selling a product for a price, and there have to be certain efficiencies to hold the line on costs when you do that.
Well THERE YOU GO! There are airgun manufacturers who also do not have the time to spend testing each and every gun they produce. They are selling for a price and there will be guns that slip through the cracks. In just the past three days I’ve heard of a Crosman 1077 and a BAM B40, both of which I have touted long and hard as excellent guns, only these two have problems – barrel problems, it seems.
Up to this point, I have no beef. This is the way the world turns and anyone who thinks otherwise is a pollyanna.
HOWEVER – when there is a known problem and a company does not reveal what they know about it, I do have a problem. When a manufacturer ships a gun that cannot meet an advertised specification and they know about it, I get mad. And this happens everywhere! The Gamo Hunter Extreme that they advertise in American Rifleman as being a 1600 f.p.s air rifle, when all the reports I have heard point to it perhaps being a 1400 f.p.s. gun, for example. I don’t care that nobody would WANT to shoot 1600 f.p.s. – just that they are claiming it with nothing to back it up. Oh, well, they do have a televised spot that shows the gun going 1600. Well, next week I will test one for you with PBA Raptors and guess what? You’ll just have to wait and see.
I have worked in organizations where the ship was full of holes and taking water fast. It broke my heart to see a hopeful customer with cash in hand about to make the mistake of his life. Could I warn him? Of course not! But after the sale, I was often the guy who had to take his vehement (and deserved) tirade. It’s sad to be in the wheelhouse and see that the ship is running aground, yet not to be able to do anything about it. It’s sadder to steer a customer towards a product or service that you know is wrong for them, but it’s all your organization provides.
That’s what’s wrong with retail sales today, though it doesn’t affect every organization. Land’s End and L.L. Bean are two companies that have set the retail world on its ear with service that astounds both the average shopkeeper and the huge chain store. It also takes their business, each time they decide to play games.
Anyway, that’s the way I feel today.
by B.B. Pelletier
This post was suggested by a reader named Gary, who also goes by the handle oldhootowl. He asked specifically whether the Leapers compact scopes were made for airguns and would they fit on his Gamo Shadow breakbarrel rifle.
To that I answer: yes to the first and no to the second. The yes is unqualified, because Leapers scopes have been made for airguns since they started making them in the 1990s. Two things determine whether a scope can be used on an air rifle. First, is it parallax-corrected close enough and second, can it take the two-way recoil of the spring gun. Leapers holds the current record in close parallax correction, at 9 FEET with both Bug Busters.
Some Leapers scopes have a fixed parallax correction. I have a 3 to 9 variable that’s fixed at 35 yards. It works fine and I have no problems with it. But a sister scope is corrected to 100 yards, which might be a little long for an airgun. It will work, of course, but there might be more parallax than you want at close range.
I also own an older Leapers compact scope with adjustable AO (parallax correction) that only goes as close as 25 yards. I still use it because the power is set at six, so the closer targets are not too fuzzy. As you can see, I’m not a fussy guy. I just take the shot, instead of debating about the specifications.
So – what is the problem?
The problem with mounting all compact scopes is where they have to be positioned, because of their compact size. There is only a small space on either side of the adjustment knobs that will accept the scope rings. You have to put them there or nowhere. That’s why I keep harping on using two-piece rings. Unless one-piece rings have been made to fit a compact scope, they will not line up with the only place on the scope that will accept the rings. I’ve taken a picture to show you what I mean.
You can see the extremely limited area for scope rings on this Bug Buster 2. I have used half-sized rings to get more space, but thin rings are not recommended for recoiling spring guns.
Now, combine the limited positioning of the compact scope with the location of the scope stop on the Shadow 1000 and you can see that the compact scope has to be mounted too far forward on the rifle. The rear scope ring has to butt against the front of the scope stop, which puts the eyepiece several inches too far forward. If you can see any sight picture at all, it will be just a fraction the size it is supposed to be, plus it will be loaded with parallax from you craning your head all over the place to see the picture. Not good! I may not be fussy, but this just doesn’t work at all.
The Shadow 1000 scope stop blocks the rings from coming back far enough for the eye-relief to be right.
Where can compact scopes be used?
One type of airgun that is ideal for compact scopes is the precharged pneumatic. Several, like the Career Dragon Slayer, seem to be made for it. Another type of rifle that’s good for compacts is the small CO2 gun, like the Crosman 1077 and the Walther Lever. Guns like these not only have no scope mounting issues, the smaller size of the compact scope compliments their smaller overall size and weight.
This compact Leapers scope fits a Dragon Slayer like it was made for it. The lack of sharp recoil means no scope stop is needed.
That’s why you have to be careful selecting compact scopes for air rifles. To determine if they will fit, find out about the need for a scope stop, and if the gun needs one, where is it located?
by B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin, there’s an announcement for all you .20 caliber fans. Pyramyd Air just uncovered a pile of .20 caliber Crosman Premier pellets! These are the genuine article and there aren’t many of them, so act TODAY.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately asking about airgun capabilities that are in the stratosphere. They have finally gotten to me, so today I want to address reality, as it concerns airguns.
The one-inch group at 50 yards
This one is the most commonly asked question of all. It goes something like this, “I want to get a hunting rifle and I want one that will shoot at least one-inch groups at 50 yards. I’m trying to decide between a .177 Gamo Hunter Extreme, a Webley Patriot in .25 caliber and an RWS 350 Magnum in .22.”
I don’t doubt that you’re having some difficulty! Please tell me that ANY of those rifles can EVER shoot a one-inch group at 50 yards under ANY conditions, so I can be certain you are out of your mind!
Gentlemen – do you know HOW HARD it is to shoot one-inch groups at 50 yards? It ain’t easy. And now you want to compound the difficulty by attempting to do it with a breakbarrel spring-piston rifle? Why not tie on a blindfold, while you’re at it?
There is a reason that I tend to shoot precharged pneumatic rifles farther than I do spring-piston rifles. It’s because springers are FAR MORE DIFFICULT to shoot accurately! On July 16 I finished my report on the RWS Diana 34 Panther. I was so proud to show you a group that measured less than one-half inch. That group was shot at 35 yards. Had I moved it to 50 yards, the group would have opened to more than an inch, I am fairly sure.
But that goes against “common knowledge” doesn’t it? I mean, if a rifle groups one inch at 50 yards it’s going to group two inches at 100 yards – right? I mean that’s just simple math, isn’t it?
No. A pellet rifle that groups one inch at 50 yards will be hard-pressed to do better than four inches at 100 yards. Six to eight inches is more likely. How can that be?
Because pellets are not laser beams. They don’t fly straight for infinite distances (Laser beams don’t either, if there are gravity wells in the way.)
So, what’s right?
Instead of thinking about one-inch groups, you ought to be thinking about powerplant types and their relative capabilities. Spring-piston guns are the hardest to shoot accurately, with breakbarrel springers being the worst of all. Rejoice when you can shoot a group smaller than two inches with one. Sidelever and underlever springers are easier to shoot accurately, and the BAM B40, and the entire line of underlevers from Air Arms are capable of one-inch groups at 50 yards. Sometimes you can do a little better than that, but don’t count on it. The sidelevers are slightly less accurate – except for the RWS Diana 54, which seems to be right on par with a TX 200.
Gas guns and pneumatics are both easier to shoot accurately, but pneumatics are currently being made with the power and the barrels that make them the dominant long-range airguns. Given barrels of equal quality, good CO2 guns could keep pace on a warm day, but compressed air is just so much easier to deal with that no manufacturer is putting forth the effort to keep up with CO2. Sub one-inch 50-yard groups are very possible with good pneumatics on calm days. But only when shot by shooters who can shoot that well. It takes real skill to shoot that consistently, and Easychair Eddy who just reads the forums and does all his shooting in his mind may not be the best bloke behind a real trigger.
That said, allow me to define a GOOD pneumatic as one with a track record. The new Walther 1250 Dominator will have to prove to me that it can group that well, because the Hammerli 850 AirMagnum from which it is derived can not. Simply changing from one gas to another does not increase accuracy. The Logun Domin8tor is BARELY able to group one-inch at 50 yards. I had to work hard to get it to group like that – a lot harder than a PCP is supposed to be.
On the other hand, I can usually shoot groups less than one-inch with most Airforce rifles in either caliber. Sometimes I get one that’s hard to group, but the norm seems to be much better. And I believe that if I were able to clean the barrels with JB Bore Paste, I could get all of them to group well.
Okay, you understand how hard it is to shoot tight groups at 50 yards. So how do I answer the guy who wants to shoot 4-inch groups at that distance with an airsoft sniper rifle? I told him the best groups he could expect might be in the 12-inch range, but not to expect them that good.
Which is better, a Dodge Viper or a dump truck?
The answer depends on what you want to do with them. But how should I answer the 13-year-old boy who wants to know which gun he should buy – a Daisy 953 or a Gamo Nitro 17. I dedicated today’s post to him, in part, because he also asked me whether the 953 could shoot one-inch groups at 50 yards. Before I could write this blog, he was on to a Crosman 1077 and asking similar questions, i.e. one-inch groups. So here is my answer.
No, I don’t think a 1077 can shoot a one-inch group at 50 yards, but is that important? It can hit a dime at 25 yards, which is 75 feet, and I’ll bet you will do a lot more shooting at that distance than you will at 50 yards. I own three 1077s and I find them all just as fun as any of my more expensive precharged rifles. I just shoot them at different targets. And by the way – I don’t think the Gamo Nitro 17 or the Daisy 953 can shoot one-inch 50-yard groups, either. If I had to choose from among those three, I’d get the 1077 first, the 953 next and the Nitro 17 last.
“I want the most powerful air rifle made that goes the fastest and I want it to be semiautomatic with at least 30 shots and I don’t want to pay more than $100. What do you recommend?”
by B.B. Pelletier
Before we begin I have an announcement. Pyramyd Air now has a podcast radio program about airguns. Tom Gaylord will do periodic podcasts about airguns and airsoft, and it’s on the main blog page. Look in the right-hand column, under Links.
Today I will talk about the organization of the squad and how it serves a field target match.
What is a squad?
At a field target match, shooters are randomly placed in squads of at least two shooters, but three are ideal and sometimes even four are necessary at crowded matches. The squad moves from lane to lane as a group, though each shooter is competing by himself against all other shooters in the match. The purpose of the squad is to divide the labor of the match so things move faster and smoother. Labor? There is labor in a match?
Well, it isn’t debilitating, but yes, there is labor. While the shooter is busy shooting, someone else is keeping score. The shooter is too busy adjusting his position, getting pellets and adjusting his scope to be bothered with binoculars, a clipboard and pencil, so another squad member handles that duty. Binoculars, you say? Why binoculars? Well, they aren’t required by regulation, but I do recommend them. They make it easy to see if a target was hit properly or if the shooter has a possible alibi, or claim that the target should be scored, even though it didn’t fall. It’s easy to see out to 25 yards with the naked eye, but sometimes at 40 or 55 yards things happen to the targets that need to be witnessed. I always used binoculars for that. But even if the scorer doesn’t have them, it’s always best to have a second pair of eyes watch the target, in case of a malfunction.
Squad member scores so shooter can concentrate on one thing.
Dad acts as spotter for his son. Note the young man is shooting a PCP, while dad seems to have a TX200!
Shooters are trusted to keep score
So the shooters in a squad keep their own scores. Each shooter is scored by another squad member, of course, but we do trust the squads to be honest about the scoring. In four years of running matches, I never saw a single problem doing it that way. But when the match is elevated to the state level or higher, things have to be more formal, so other steps are taken that I will mention in a moment.
Another thing the squad members do is go downrange to fix the target if something happens. The shooter has taken no small amount of time to get settled in position, adjusting the bum bag (I will address this item of gear in a later post) and perhaps strapping into the harness (a later post). We don’t want to disturb him, once he gets settled in. But the squad members who are not shooting are free to do things like fix the targets. At my club we didn’t call the whole range cold when a target needed fixing – just the lanes adjacent that would ensure the safety of the personnel walking downrange. You have to use judgement when doing this, of course, but it’s pretty easy to see what needs to be done when you see the layout of the course.
Once a shooter gets trussed up like this we don’t want to waste his time with superfluous tasks. Let him shoot. Another TX200.
Every shooter is briefed about the course before the match, like how the day will go and various safety procedures. Then they are all deputized as safety officers – or at least that’s my recommendation. Anyone could call a cease-fire at my matches, and we had occasion to several times. One time a visitor was walking down the path and stepped in front of a shooter who was positioned well back of the firing point. A sharp squad member called an immediate cease fire, which drew everyone’s attention to the infraction (except the guy who committed it, of course). I then had a discussion with the walker and learned that the match was so quiet that he wasn’t fully aware of any danger! He had come to our match to see what field target was all about, and although the match was in full swing, it was quieter than a golf tournament, so he assumed nothing was happening. But that quick cease-fire call may have saved him from a trip to the emergency ward to get a 10.5-grain Crosman Premier dug out of his thigh!
Another thing squads do is give each of their members time for things like refilling their guns, making repairs, eating lunch, hauling gear from the car, going to the bathroom and other personal things. If you are not keeping score, you have 5-7 minutes of time to yourself. The squad is like a team of buddies in combat. Every man is in the war for himself, but you help your buddies, too.
How squads are formed
As a match director, I found the best way to form squads was by random selection, but it wasn’t always that random. If the match was just a normal one with no special significance, I had no problem with people asking to be squadded together. People like to be with their friends, and part of the enjoyment of the sport is the friendship. Also, shooters will often band together so one can coach another during the match. There’s nothing wrong with that.
At a state-level match or higher, however, random squad formation is more important. At that level we want no hint or possibility of collusion during the match. So the buddies have to be broken up by random selection. And in the very high matches, separate scorers often are assigned to the squads.
The negative side of squads
While I never had a problem with squads being honest, there was another very real problem. There will always be certain shooters that nobody wants to be squadded with. We had one who was a motormouth. The guy never shut up! Others shooters would come to me privately and “take the duty” by volunteering to be squadded with this guy, but as match director I had to take my share of turns with him, too. He was a wonderful shot – just couldn’t zip his trap.
I bet those of you who haven’t yet shot a field target match haven’t given any thought to squads. Why would you? They aren’t anything glamorous or worthy of study. But squads are the core of running a match smoothly. Later on in this series I’m going to tell you how to start a field target club of your own, and you will need hints and tips like managing squads if you do.