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?"
A Quackenbush .457 Bandit Long Action tricked by Big Bore Bob (power),
A .177 AirForce Condor shooting Gamo Raptors (velocity),
A Beretta CX-4 Storm (30-shot semiauto), and
An IZH 61 (under $100).