by B.B. Pelletier
Today is just for me and Josh Ungier, because we both like the looks of this new airgun. Josh likes it so much, in fact, that he called me while I was writing this report to ask when I was going to review the gun. The Norica Massimo has the most upscale look of any breakbarrel I’ve ever seen. Now, don’t get me wrong–I love the look of a fine HW55 Tyrolean or perhaps a vintage ball-flask rifle, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the Massimo looks sharp! It looks like a Browning Automatic Rifle to me, and I’m referring to the modern BAR sporter, not the 1918 full-auto military arm.
I am not easily influenced by style. In fact, when it comes to shooters, it ranks at the bottom on my index of important things. In this case, it does come into play.
The Massimo is rated to 1,000 f.p.s., but I really don’t care about that. I would be happy with 800 f.p.s., if the rifle can shoot. Yes, pretty as I think it is, it either shoots or I walk away. However, I will make a prediction about this one. I predict that it will be the prime target for airgun tuners, and the one who lightens the cocking effort will get my vote. I can even envision a light-cocking gas spring conversion. The great feel of this rifle would do well with a butter-smooth, 20-lb. cocking effort and a shot cycle that feels neutral, like a PCP.
The two-piece stock is different– a butt and a separate forearm. I don’t usually care for that style, but on this gun it looks and feels right. It’s that styling thing, again. The forearm is tall and blocky, but thin enough to fit well in your off hand. And the pistol grip is on the slender side, so you feel like you’re in control. Both pieces of wood are roughened by a combination of reverse checkering (the diamonds are pressed in, rather than sticking out) and stippling. The overly generous 15-inch pull, combined with the beefy wood pieces, gives the rifle an overall feeling of substantial size.
The weight is seven and one-half pounds, about a full pound less than I would have guessed. The length overall is a very shotgun-like 47 inches, or nearly two inches longer than Beeman’s big R1 Supermagnum air rifle.
The barrel is shrouded (for looks, only) with a fat synthetic tube that looks for all the world like a 20-gauge shotgun barrel at the muzzle. That’s because the real muzzle of the 16.5-inch barrel is located about two inches down the shroud. This is done for style, only, and has nothing to do with the discharge sound. The barrel is finished in a matte dark charcoal that matches the flat sides of what looks like the receiver, back above the triggerguard. The real receiver is the spring tube, of course, which Norica left with a low polished blue finish. I think a deep high polish would look better on this part, because of the contrast with the matte parts.
The raised, ventilated rib does nothing for the rifle but look good. Vent ribs belong on shotguns–not rifles, but we’ll forgive the faux pas because it fits the styling so well.
The trigger is two-stage and adjustable for the location of the second-stage engagement. It seems to release pretty easy, but these Norica triggers are so crisp that I’ve been fooled before. Let’s wait for the scale to tell us the whole story.
The adjustable sights are fiberoptic, front and rear. The front sight is protected by a hood that can be removed. They look good enough to use, so I plan to. Of course, there’s an 11mm scope rail cut directly into the top of the spring tube and a proper scope stop at the back.
One more surprise
A tin of Norica wadcutter pellets was included in my test Massimo box. They look well-formed and weigh between 7.5 and 7.7 grains, according to the small sample I checked. That puts them at the same quality as the Gamo Match pellet. I’ll use them in the accuracy test, just for fun.
I couldn’t wait! The rifle cocks more easily than the last two Noricas I have tested. I’ll weigh it for you next time. The trigger breaks cleanly and VERY light compared to the other two rifles! And the firing behavior is quick and without vibration. You can feel the forward thump, but that’s as far as it goes. This is a smooth shooter.