by B.B. Pelletier
This report is dedicated to Kevin, who asked yesterday what the quietest .22 pellet rifle anyone’s ever heard. For me, it was my Shamal from Air Arms. I reported on that rifle in 1998 in Airgun Revue #2. That rifle wasn’t my first PCP rifle, but I did learn a lot from it. Please read the opening paragraph of that report:
“They wouldn’t bring out new models if they weren’t better than the older ones, would they?” Have you ever found yourself thinking this? Is a 10-meter rifle built a decade ago less accurate than one made today? Are modern precharged rifles better than the ones from the 1980s? These are some of questions we often ask ourselves; but, until recently, we really didn’t have a frame of reference from which to answer them.
The Shamal opened my eyes to what had been possible in the past. As I will show you, it was very accurate. But first, I want to address Kevin’s question about noise. That Shamal was the quietest airgun I had seen up to that time,
When I fired the gun, there was no muzzle report. In fact, read what I said about the sound it made:
Another surprise I got from this rifle is the strange “piano” sound the hammer spring makes when it fires. It sounds like someone smashing their hands down on a piano keyboard. Rodney told me this was characteristic of the Shamals, although not all of them exhibited it. Airgunsmiths used to weave fat rubber bands through the coils of the spring, or else they put rectangular foam in the center of the spring to stop the vibration. The noise is distracting, but the rifle’s exceptional accuracy convinces me to just live with it.
The Rodney I mentioned is the late Rodney Boyce, one of the grand old gentlemen of American field target and a great guy to know. That “piano” sound I was talking about was the sound of the hammer spring. I could only hear it because the rifle was so quiet. Do you recall me saying in the first report about the Marauder that it also has a musical pinging sound when it fires? Well, by that time, I’d heard many quiet PCPs, so this sound is no stranger; but when I had the Shamal, it was unfamiliar.
The Shamal was extremely accurate. In those days, I also didn’t have as much experience with accurate PCPs as I do today, but even today that rifle would be a keeper.
So, the rifle was accurate to boot. Kind of like falling in love with a beautiful woman who can also cook! But wait–there’s more. Because, to continue the beautiful woman analogy one step farther, this rifle also taught me (as women often do) an important fact–that the number 3,000 isn’t magical!
When I got the rifle, it was used and there was no manual. Also, the standard working pressure was not stamped on the receiver the way it is on most PCPs today. I filled it to 3,000 psi because I was so used to that number. Little did I know my “beautiful woman” was about to give me an important lesson in airgun physics!
Determining the right fill pressure
The first shot was a .22-caliber Crosman Premier that registered 659 f.p.s. on my Oehler 35P chronograph. By that time, I’d already had an experience with a Daystate Huntsman that taught me what a gross overfill looks like. I can relate to all those Condor owners who freak out because their rifle doesn’t shoot its hardest at 3,000 psi! While 3,000 PSI may be very common, many British PCPs were filled to lower pressures back then.
Let me share the results of shooting the rifle:
We saw similar results from the Air Arms Alfa Competition pistol last week, didn’t we? Are you able to pick a performance curve from this set of numbers? It’s arbitrary, so there’s no wrong answer. You might select the first velocity of 767 f.p.s. (shot 38) and end at the final velocity of 773 f.p.s. (shot 64), which gives you a useful string of 27 shots. Or you might want to expand that to include the first shot of 751 f.p.s. (shot 29) and the final shot of 758 f.p.s. (shot 66). Your string would be larger, at 38 shots. It’s up to you and what you want the gun to do.
The ideal fill pressure for my Shamal turned out to be 2,600 psi–a far cry from 3,000 psi. And that taught me that you absolutely do not go by the numbers on the pressure gauge until you’ve checked them against the numbers on the chronograph.
What the Shamal DIDN’T have
There was no pressure gauge on the rifle. In those days, we simply counted out shots and listened to the muzzle blast to tell us when to refill the reservoir. With a quiet rifle like this, the muzzle blast wasn’t much help.
The Shamal didn’t have a shroud. It had a muzzle-mounted silencer that was marginal. But the valve was so well-balanced that the rifle was quiet just the same.
However, Kevin had originally asked for a .22 rifle that gets an average velocity of 900 f.p.s. with 16-grain pellets. That would be a 29 foot-pound gun. The Shamal was about a 20 foot-pound rifle, so it fell short of Kevin’s requirement. However, the performance in all ways was so remarkable that I could forgive any shortcoming.
Sadly, my Shamal went away. I know the man who owns it and he still treasures it to this day. If I still had it, I probably would not allow it to get away from me a second time. It was proof that you don’t always need a new air rifle to have a good one.