The AirForce Condor – Part 1 A universal air rifle?

by B.B. Pelletier


AirForce Condor, dressed with a scope, trirail, rear accessory rail, bipod and laser.

I was asked to write this report by SavageSam, who said the following:

I’m writing you to remind you to do a writeup on the AirForce Condor. Also you could split [your report] into what is Condor-specific and what applies to all the A.F. line. You asked me to ask you what I wanted to know, well here goes….I want to know what can be tinkered with, without voiding the warranty. Such as, adjusting the top hat vs. adjusting the power wheel. Installing a different barrel. Having a different valve spring in the bottle (mine does NOT care for a full fill) to help flatten out the rainbow velocity curve. Accessories (best bang for the buck scope) green daylight lasers. The micro-meter tank. Etc. From SavageSam

Andreas from Cyprus also asked for a very specific test of a .177 Condor shooting on high power with a Micro-Meter tank. He cannot legally own a .22 caliber airgun, nor can he own a CO2 gun, so his request is focused on getting the maximum number of shots from an air tank at a decent hunting power. He mentioned 15 foot-pounds, but I must say here and now, that would only be possible with a .22 caliber Condor using the Micro-Meter tank. I would expect the .177 to get 11-12 foot-pounds.

What is a Condor?
If you know anything about Condors, you know that we’re in for a grand time. The AirForce Condor is one of the most powerful smallbore air rifles made. I say “one of” only if we stay with the factory model. There’s a custom Condor that beats them all at 110+ foot-pounds in .25 caliber. I’m not going to test that one for this report, because, believe me, 65 foot-pounds is more than enough to play with. The Condor is also the most versatile air rifle made – hands down. It can be owner-modified in so many ways, plus there is a world of aftermarket accessories to go on it. It’s an airgun collection by itself.

The Condor was created by AirForce in 2004. It shares a similar frame with the Talon SS, but it is not identical. The only difference is that the Condor’s scope rail is two inches longer. You can spot that by the second hole in the rail that only the Condor has. There were a small number of Condors shipped on Talon SS frames, and an SS frame can be turned into a Condor rifle with a few modifications to the powerplant. Those are the similarities and differences between the SS and the Condor. The Talon frame is about four inches shorter than the SS and Condor frames.

The positive way to tell which model you have, since none of them are marked with the model name, is by the serial number found on the right side of the gun. A Talon will always be B00000. A Talon SS is BS00000 and a Condor is BC00000.

The entire purpose of the Condor is hunting. When it was created, AirForce thought the .177 model would not sell well in the U.S., but in other countries, like South Africa and in the United Kingdom, it would do better. That has pretty much been the way it’s gone, with .22 caliber accounting for over 95 percent of the U.S. sales. Now, however, Condor owners are starting to buy an optional .177 barrel for their guns and the sales of that caliber have picked up a little. And, .20 caliber was introduced by the factory last year, so all rifles are available in that caliber, as well. AirForce doesn’t make a .25 caliber, but a number of dealers offer it as a custom option.

SavageSam mentioned the “rainbow trajectory” of the rifle. Well, out to 50 yards a Condor can shoot pretty flat. Beyond 50 yards it does drop fast, as even a .22 long rifle will do. But, buying a high-speed .177 is not the solution to this. That’s because you cannot shoot the lighter pellet fast enough to stay flat and also remain accurate. With a Condor, you’re better off staying with .22 caliber and learning how your rifle shoots.

Adjusting the top hat
SavageSam also asked about adjusting the top hat. I have to smile, because the Condor is the one AirForce rifle that you DON’T want to do that to! Let me explain. First of all, adjusting the top hat on any AirForce rifle is obsolete, as far as the factory is concerned. The power adjustment wheel made it unnecessary. Before the power wheel was put on the rifle in 2001, adjusting the top hat was a crude means of power adjustment.


The top hat is the silver thing. The space behind the knurled ring determines how far open the valve can go, which means how long it can remain open. That’s the clearance you measure. Two Allen setscrews (one is showing) hold the hat in position on the valve stem, and on the Condor, they will dent the valve stem when tightened – so this is not something you do often.


Power-adjust wheel on the left side of the frames of all AirForce rifles is the current way the power is adjusted. The numbers on the wheel and on the oval slot to the right are there for reference, only. THEY DO NOT CORRESPOND TO ANY VELOCITIES OR TO ANY EXACT VALUES.

However, adjusting the top hat is still quite popular with the owners of standard AirForce rifles (the Talon and the Talon SS). They’ve discovered that they can adjust the top hat, then use the power-adjustment wheel to fine-tune their work. They aren’t adjusting their rifles from low to high power the way many new AirForce owners do. They have found a single accurate pellet (most probably the 15.8-grain JSB Exact dome) and have adjusted the top hat to get the greatest number of shots from a fill of the tank at a power level they like. They may have found two settings on the power wheel that give them two very different velocities for two different kinds of shooting, such as plinking and hunting. And that is all the adjusting they do. That way, they know where their zero is and the gun can remain sighted-in.

There is NO WAY I can tell you all about adjusting the top hat; there are simply too many variables, plus these guns all seem to operate as individuals, so anything I tell you may not work on your rifle. The top hat leaves the factory adjusted to 0.080″ for a standard tank and 0.090″ for the Condor Hi-Flo tank.

I’ll give you an example of what some people do. When I was the technical director at AirForce, we had a customer who discovered that a clearance of 0.068″ under his Talon SS top hat, coupled with a certain setting on his power wheel, gave him 80 very uniform shots of .22 caliber Crosman Premiers at 800 f.p.s. If he adjusted to 0.072″, the uniformity was destroyed and the total number of shots was bad, as well. He used this very precise top hat clearance and didn’t adjust his gun any more.

SavageSam, if you do ANYTHING to the top hat of your Condor, simply open it up as far as it will go and still allow the cocking knob to swing closed into the notch on either side of the cocking slot. That’s going to be as much as 0.094″ on some guns but less on others. The reason for this is air flow. The Condor is what it is because it allows a lot of air to flow. Restrict the flow by adjusting the top hat smaller than 0.090″, and you no longer have a Condor. In fact, when the gun was still new, I used to get returns for low power and many times I found the top hat had been adjusted in, because that was what they were talking about on the forum that day. Adjusting the top hat doesn’t void the warranty, but like I said, it also doesn’t help a Condor.

One final thought that I may come back to – barrel length. This isn’t rocket science. The way pneumatic guns work is that the longer time the pressurized air accelerates the pellet, the faster it will go. The Condor has a 24″ barrel, but some new buyers look at all the features on all three AirForce rifles and they decide it would be nice to have the Condor’s power in a quiet gun like the SS. They buy an optional 12″ .22-caliber barrel and an SS end cap and they make the switch. Lo and behold, their new short-barreled “Condor” now develops only half the power it did with the factory barrel, plus it isn’t really that quiet. You can buy a regular Talon and get the same performance, plus a lot more shots for a lot less money.

If you really want a quiet Condor, buy a bloop tube and attach it to the gun. They’re all over the internet.

Don’t own a chronograph? No problem!
After a few months of working on Condors, I stopped using the chrongraph to tell when the gun was shooting right. I could tell by the sound it made. I tested myself against a chronograph and I was able to tell within 25 f.p.s. (up to 1,200 f.p.s.) the velocity a .22 caliber Condor was shooting by the sound, alone. That held true for shooting in the old AirForce plant, only. Apparently the acoustics were perfect for that.

But there’s an even easier way. A .22 caliber Condor will drive a Beeman Kodiak pellet through the short dimension of 1.5 soft wood 2x4s. A .177 Condor will shoot through the same wood with Kodiaks. If it does that, it’s a Condor – I don’t care what the clock says!

Next time, I’ll tell you about filling the tank.

53 thoughts on “The AirForce Condor – Part 1 A universal air rifle?

  1. Thank you B.B. Ok I might just leave the top hat alone. I’d be very interested in the .177 review and a .25 review (I plan to buy both, but one at a time) Go back and read what I typed once more. I said “velocity curve” not trajectory curve. What I mean by that is, over my chrony with a full fill and my power wheel set at nine, my gun starts off weak, then climbs after around the end of string two, then has a decent number of good shots before starting to fall off. Hence the term “rainbow” velocity curve. I’m wondering if the only solution (or maybe i should consider this a blessing and adjust myself accordingly) is to find the “sweet spot” correct fill pressure. Or have some valve work done. I have a scuba tank that I’m going to use for the purpose of finding the sweet spot for now. As the pressure drops in the tank, so will my fill pressure. I read your past articles about it. Again thank you and look forward to part two. From SavageSam


  2. Tom,
    You forgot to mention that a huge problem with the Condor was that AF put in a spring designed for .177 and it was to stiff for use for .22 and this was the main reason Condors where notorious for not being able to fill to 3000psi.
    The good thing is after several years of frustration by Condor owners AF finally admitted what they had done and now admit there is a valve spring for the .177 and a different one for the .22. And they will put in the proper spring if they know what caliber you are going to use. Recently AirForce has really improve their customer service and they no longer give the Customer the run around. If you need a part they will sell it to you and if you have the wrong spring in the Condor valve they will change it for the proper one.

    We all now know the reason the Condor could not shoot at 3000 psi was due to the valve spring being incorrect for the .22 and not peoples gauges being inaccurate. People are using the same gauges on their pumps and filling to 3000psi now with no problem since AF has started putting in the correct spring.
    The company is better then ever…Thank Goodness

    talonairgun.com


  3. This is pretty intense. I am impressed with the way that the Condor is the most powerful smallbore air rifle and also the quietest with the frame extender that B.B. blogged. That’s pretty much the whole spectrum.

    Does anyone remember the eight steady hold factors for shooting that the U.S. military used to teach? I can find references to the system but cannot find the factors listed even with Google.

    Matt61


  4. I’m concerned about portability in a backpack, so I’d like to know how many inches long the Condor is WHEN THE AIR BOTTLE IS REMOVED. If I buy a Condor with a, say, 18″ to 24″ .25 caliber barrel and put a shroud on it to muffle the sound, how long will it be when disassembled and how many fpe will it develop? I want a Condor that is sort of “carbine” length when assembled that can generate at least 45 fpe. Is this possible? Tom in Hawaii


  5. Another great blog BB,
    I cannot wait to see the one on the Crow Magnum .22, since this is the gun I own.
    Thank you for the excellent reports.



  6. Great article. One question.How long should the bloop tube be for the Condor weth the stock 24″ barrel.
    K in the Philippines


  7. BB,

    A bit of topic but…I just bought a Beeman SS1000H, loved your review of this gun. I’m happy with the gun but the scope left a lot to be desired. I plan on using the gun primarily for squirrel hunting and shooting probably 20-30 yards max. I’d like to get a new scope but I’m knew to the whole airgunning world and don’t know where to start. Can you recommend a couple scopes that would work for what I’m trying to do? I’d like to stay at or below $100.

    Thanks,

    Sweet Home Aaron


  8. Sweet Home Aaron

    B.B. will likely recommend a Leapers brand scope for you. I guess they hold up very well on spring guns and have a good warranty.
    If so, the 3-9x-32 or 3-9x-40 should suit you needs at your cost range both being about $70.00 US. They are available at Pyramid air too!

    JBA


  9. In addtion to the above recommendation. I would recommend a scope with the Adjustable Objective (known as AO, example a Leapers 3-9×40 AO ) so you can adjust the parallax setting down to as much as 5yards!! Very helpful with an airgun for those closeup shots to stay in focus. FYI, this is not the same thing as the regular focus on the rear of a scope.. Can’t explain it all here, but I belive BB may have a link he can provide that explains it. Anyone else know of a good link?

    Bruce


  10. AF gun needs to be tinkered with to get it where it needs to be. Period. Springs, top hats, hammeres, polish, etc. Chronograph is a MUST.


  11. Hello, BB,

    I have a question about the loudness ratings that appear in the Pyramydair web site. For example, the Daisy Avanti 747 (which I’ve just purchased on your recommendation) carries a rating of “2,” which is described as “Low-Medium,” whereas another pistol may carry a rating of 4 (“Medium High”)

    Who decides on these ratings and now are they achieved? I note that guns that are new models and not yet in stock at Pyramydair getting rated acccording to their noisiness. What are the “anchor points” for these ratings (e.g., “a 22 calibre rimfire being fired = 4″).

    If you can share any insights into this process, I’d be very interested in what you have to say. As well, I’d like to suggest that Pyramydair make it possible to search by loudness of the weapon, for those of us who have to shoot in situations where discretion is important.

    As always, I enjoy your blog tremendously.


  12. Hey B.B.,
    Once again great post. I was wondering if youve tested the Talon ss? I was wondering, because i have some very close neighbors, and dont really want to disturb them, and i know this gun wont. I was also wondering, if you would hunt Ground hogs with an ss at 75+yds. Thanks
    Brody


  13. brody

    If you are going to hunt ground hogs at 75+ yards you probably need something like a Condor or AR6 in .22.


  14. Thanks,
    i was just wondering, i probably wont travel that road(pcp) for a while. i was just thinking, more like dreaming. I wish they made a condor ss. that would be awesome.
    Thanks again,
    Brody



  15. BB,

    I like this series on the Condor and the AirForce airguns in general. There is one thing I would like to comment on. Our military training taught us small arms that are cocked rearwards. I love the trusty 1911, I am sure I will have a very difficult time adjusting to a forward cocking slide if ever. Imagine a Garand that is cocked forward! The Condor and the Talon both have forward cocking motion. Maybe I am just an old dog, but this motion distracts me. The Logun S16 with more “proper” cocking, but that rifle has too mechanically-complicated internals for me. If only the Condor and Talon cock rearward, they would have been perfect.

    David


  16. To SavageSam and everyone:
    Sam thanks for asking for this blog topic. Although I don’t own a Condor yet I probably will soon. I am very fortunate to live within a few miles of the Mac 1 store here in Los Angeles. I was hanging out there while Tim was going through the tuning process for a guy that had just bought a new condor. I watched him fill the gun about 5 or six times to different pressures to find the “sweet spot”. When filled to 3,000 or over the gun shot slow for the first 10-20 shots then powered up. He found the optimum fill pressure was 2,700 psi. That gave about 40 or so 60 fpe shots with little to no ramp up! It was very impressive, and I learned a lot that day. Hope this helps.

    Scott in Cali


  17. Your welcome Scott. As the gentleman above said a chronograph is a must have item. As to the loudness, at full power it is very similar to a .22 rimfire, especially if your pellets go supersonic (loud crack) and the forward cocking once you get used to it, no problem. From SavageSam also in Cali.






  18. June for the new Diana droop mount… Nuts! I’m in need of one now.

    Can you leak to us whether it is fixed at the proper angle or if it is adjustable?

    Thanks,
    Andy


  19. If the Airforce Condor is truely a “Universal Air Rifle” can we expect to see Condors with more powerfull scopes being used in Field Target matches? I’ve seen some pretty expensive Steyr, Anchutz, Fienwerkbaus etc. but all you realy need for “Field Targets” is an accurate from 10yds to 55yds 177 rifle. Would one of these be welcome at a match or would it be shunned?


  20. B.B.
    I got a chance to try my SS with a 2 week old .22 barrel with my squirrely micro tank today.
    It did not blow through air nearly as fast as the .177 barrel did. Velocity was still not adjustable with the PW. Was running about 600 fps.
    Appears that it is closer to being right with the .22 barrel.

    Looking like the valve spring needs to be a little stiffer, or needs a little more preload.

    Tophat was backed out to normal setting. No attempt to tune.
    May fool with it again on another day.

    twotalon


  21. Charlie

    i understand that according to the marketing blurb that the condor seems to be the only rifle anyone needs. The truth is however very different. They are made to VERY loose tolerances compared to other high quality rifles (daystate, BSA, Airarms for example) and just check out the Condor forums, they are notoriously problematic and need a lot of work before the work as they were designed. My safety broke after less than 200 shots, and i was told by the forum that i did well, usually they break a lot sooner. I know BB likes them a lot but he is no average owner, i imagine his knowledge would rival most gunsmiths. Me, i found them nothing but trouble. I eventually fixed the safety (by removing it completely, as was recommended by the forum guys) and now the inner ring that holds the bottle in place has slipped a tiny amount. This basically drops the pressuse by 25% and is another job that needs doing. this is also a VERY common problem. Mine has sat unused for many months whereas my other rifles get used constantly.

    just my 2 cents worth…..

    Paul


  22. B.B.,

    Thanks for starting this. I can tell that this is going to be a very very interesting series of blogs.

    From the day I picked up airgunning as a pass-time and as a sport, the condor stood out from everything else there is in the market.

    I have to ask you though, does the accuracy of a .177 condor suffer greatly past 50 yards? – at least noticably more than in .22?

    I am asking this since you brought up the pellet weight issue there is when using the .177 caliber. The truth is that you cannot make full use of the condor’s power in that caliber…

    Thanks a lot


  23. Andreas..
    My Talon will shoot Kodiaks and cph at 1000fps with a 18″ .177 barrel. About 1050 with cpl. And that’s not at a full 3000 psi fill.
    That’s getting pretty fast.

    A 24″ seems a bit much even with a Talon in .177

    twotalon



  24. Charles,

    A Condor dialed below 20 foot pounds would be welcome at a field target match, but it probably wouldn’t win.

    Field target is as specialized as America’s Cup yacht racing, and you need certain things to compete. A Hobie Cat wouldn’t do well in the America’s Cup, either. You need a 12-meter yacht, I believe.

    B.B.


  25. Andy,

    I can probably leak a lot of things about the new base, but if I do, people will take the little that I do say as the whole story and run off half-cocked.

    Nice try, though.

    B.B.


  26. Tom in HI,

    A Condor with an 18 inch barrel is a hamstrung Condor. Why get it with a .25 caliber barrel, then hamstring it by cutting off 6 inches of barrel.

    I understand the portability issue, and I will give lengths, but they will be for full-spec guns, only. Making a Condor perform like a Talon when you can save $150 by buying the Talon to start with doesn’t make any sense.

    B.B.


  27. Savage Sam,

    Sorry about mixing up velocity with trajectory.

    ALL airguns with adjustable power and no reg have this curve. The old Career 707 had one, too.

    You learn your gun and how to adjust as the air pressure declines. I was getting 100 30 foot-pound shots from my Career 707 after I learned at which shots it had to be adjusted up.

    B.B.



  28. Hi BB,

    I’ve enjoyed your article on the Condor. I’ve owned an Gunpower Shadow but have since sold it on because I couldn’t get along with it. Shame, but we all have our preferences. It did made me wonder how Airforce (US) and Gunpower (UK) are related though. Are they one and the same, does Gunpower license Airforce designs or maybe the other way around…basically, what’s the story on Airforce and Gunpower?



  29. Polar,

    GunPower has several models that differ from AirForce models in small ways. And many GunPower guns are set at the UK legal limit of slightly below 12 foot-pounds, though the FAC models are quite similar to the AirForce models.

    The two companies are very close, but they are separate entities. The designs are similarly close but also distinct.

    B.B.


  30. Condor in .177 is like Ferrari with V4 engine. Doesn’t make much sense. It would be extremely difficult to keep even heaviest pellets subsonic. Don’t make that mistake. It performs best in .22 and .25



  31. I have a gunpower storm, the main body of the gun and trigger mechanism both say “made in USA” even says Airforce air guns on one side. I don’t think it was F.A.C. spec cause it was shooting 21.4 grain H&N Barracudas over 900fps. After modifying the crap out of it i was very pleased, it now preforms better than the evanix Ar6.
    Don’t believe me, then check this out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWLSrsKGixA

    Small mod showoff.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUVWBk5QMeQ


  32. Hi B.B.

    I’m about to buy a hand pump for my Talon SS so I can unshackle myself from a scuba tank.

    The AirForce and the new Benjamin Discovery pumps at PA look good for the price. Should there be a third?

    What pump would you suggest, and why, if price is lower priority over features, quality, and reliability?

    Second question, my Talon screw-on fill adapter has a male fitting for my universal quick-release yoke. Will this also work with a new pump?

    Thanks as always,
    Bill


  33. Bill,

    The AirForce pump is sold set up for all AirForce guns. It will fit your rifle with nothing else to buy.

    The Benjamin Discovery pump is the same pump as the AirForce, but it has different fittings. It will be up to you to find the adapters to connect that pump to your AirForce gun.

    The AirForce pump (and the Discovery pump) are both rated to 3,600 psi. That makes them capable of higher pressure than any other pump on the market. That pump is the only one that doesn’t need to be cooled between pumping sessions. Just pump until the job is done.

    The only other pump that is built as strong as the AirForce pump is the Hill pump.

    The FX pump is rated to 3,000 psi, but you must lets it rest for 15 minutes after every 5-minute pumping session. I have one and it’s lasted for many years, but I’ve always taken care of it. The FX pump is the one pump people break the most because they don’t operate it according to the instructions.

    Whatever pump you get, DO NOT try to clean it or disassemble it. Just use it according to the directions.

    B.B.



  34. How does the shooting technique differ using this gun vs. another PCP? Do you know if AirForce has plans on a repeater version?


  35. AirForce has been talking about a repeater mechanism for all their rifles for at least five years. But it isn’t easy to build one. So I don’t know if you will ever see one or not.

    To shoot this rifle place the toe of the buttplate against your collarbone. That elevates the tank to the cheek. IIt feels funny at first, but this rifle has no recoil, so it works.

    B.B.


  36. I'm new at airgun world..

    right now i'm planning to buy one pcp air rifle..

    and the candidates are: fx gladiator and airforce condor.

    Can you give me some recommendation which one should i choose? range and accuracy is important to me.. but i couldn't decide which rifle will fit my expectation

    razr


  37. B.B.,
    You said that condor bloop tubes can be found all over the internet. I am having some difficulty finding one. Sure, talontunes and other sites are the top picks in a google query, but what about a solution that does not require me to ship my rifle out of state for several days. I thot of machine shops, but really want a pre-made solution.
    PS. all this discussion about condors adjustments and power, fpe, fps, yada yada yada…its funny. the answer is this; hit the target first. all that power and stuff means nothing if u cant hit the target.




  38. need advice in how to get a top hat replacement for a condor rifle (the tank) the one that comes whit the rifle (the normal) today i drop mine on the floor and the portion that connect whit the pellet bend slightly but im still concern about future perfomance thanks in advace


  39. litempo14,

    You can google AirForce and get their phone number. Give them a call and they'll help you out.

    If you cannn't call them, fire off an e-mail.

    Mr B.


  40. litempo14,

    There is only one source for AirForce parts, and that it directly from the company.

    The Condor top hat comes set perfectly from the factory. I know because I used to set them. The valve stem of the Hi Flo valve is very thin and cannot stand up to much adjustment of the top hat because the dimple the setscrew puts in the valve stem will break it, after a few times. Is that what happened to you?

    The best thing is to let AirForce fix your valve, then never adjust it again. My Condor is five years old and has never been adjusted. It still works as new.

    Now that I think about it, you may have simple screwed the top hat off the valve stem and just need to put it back. The bending you mention could easily be the dimpling I am talking about. Try to screw the top hat back on the stem. Be sure to loosen the 0.50" setscrews before you do (there are two of them on the current Condor valve). The proper setting is with 0.090" clearance under the tophat, or just screw it up until the bolt doesn't lock closed, then screw it down a little and lock it off.

    B.B.


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