Erma ELG-10 spring rifle
by B.B. Pelletier
This report was requested by Western PA. If you know anything about vintage firearms, you know the name Erma means quality. Erma made a .22 semiautomatic trainer for the Egyptian Hakim 8mm service rifle around the same time (1954) Anschutz made the underlever single-shot .22 pellet trainer, and it was just as well made as the pellet rifle. The ELG-10 is the only pellet gun made by Erma, according to the Blue Book of Airguns, though I always thought they made some of the 98 Mauser insert trainers along with Hammerli.
The ELG-10 looks very solid and good when you first see one, yet your airgunner's mind warns you to look for plastic and places to put the CO2. Is that due to too much exposure to the Daisy 1894? You won't find any plastic in this Erma, and it uses a spring piston to power the pellet, so no CO2, either.
The rifle is carbine length at 37.75" overall, but a weight of exactly 6 lbs. makes it feel exceptionally solid. Never does your hand touch anything but wood and metal.
Beeman brought the ELG-10 into this country in the 1980s. And they didn't bring in very many of them, either, because the retail price of more than $300 had to compete with rifles such as the R1, which was new and novel at that time. When you find one at an airgun show, it'll probably be in excellent condition with an asking price above $500. I owned two for several years, which is how I was able to do this report. For one new in the Beeman box, I paid $550 in the late 1990s; and the other I bought for $175 a few weeks later at a local gun store. I always felt the low price of the second one cancelled out the high price of the first gun, which is how it worked out when I sold them.
The finger lever cocks the mainspring but not exactly as you might imagine. Instead of just the lever moving, it's the grab handle of a longer lever. The rifle cocks on both the opening and closing stroke, and instead of cutting the effort in half, this arrangement actually doubles the effort required. Not that the rifle is difficult to cock...it's simply cumbersome. You aren't going to cock this rifle while holding it to your shoulder and aiming.
Cocking the rifle slides a cylinder containing the piston to the rear. When the lever is returned to rest, the piston remains in place, similar to an RWS Diana 48 or a TX200. With the sliding cylinder in the rear, there is direct access to the breech for loading a single pellet. A ratchet catches the sliding cylinder while it is being cocked, and it's one of the rifle's several safeties.
The rifle cannot be uncocked, so it must be fired with a pellet every time it's cocked. To shoot, the finger lever must be pulled up by the shooting hand, so that's a second safety.
The manual safety is located in the place where a hammer would normally rest. Pushing it down and to the rear engages it, making the third safety.
Velocity with .177 RWS Hobby pellets, it's in the low 600s when the leather seal is properly lubricated. You'll want to lube the piston regularly, as in every couple of months, at least.
The rifle has a hooded front sight and a rear that adjusts for elevation with the familiar stepped ramp. Some windage can be accommodated by drifting the rear sight in its dovetail. There's also a short 11mm dovetail along the top of the receiver, where I mounted a Beeman SS3 short scope. It's about 2/3 the length of the Bug Buster and perfect for the rifle's small size.
The tube under the barrel that would hold cartridges in a firearm actually houses a small cleaning kit, consisting of a single-piece rod and a bore mop. The mop is wedged in the tube to prevent the rod from rattling around when the gun is carried.
Accuracy and firing behavior
The rifle has a sharp forward thrust followed by a short spring buzz when fired. Tuning would be a blessing, though I'm not aware of anyone tuning one. Accuracy is on par with a Diana model 27, which is to say 0.20" groups of five pellets at 10 yards. Probably half-inch groups at 25 yards.
As I said, I had two and got rid of both of them. I saw one at the Roanoke airgun show last year, and I believe that the owner was asking $650. I would think $600 would be a good price to pay for an excellent one, and the price should drop if the finish is worn. You'll have to be patient if you want one, because there are probably fewer than 100 in this country.