Archive for March 2011

Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This is the new Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol. It’ll send those light little airgun silhouettes into orbit.

Today is velocity day for the Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol, and there’s much to report. For starter…what a little sweetie this pistol is! This is one of those every-so-often-they-make-a great-one guns. The trigger seems to make all the difference in the world, but the power it generates is an additional benefit.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I filled the gun to 3,000 psi, as indicated by the gauge on my carbon fiber tank. The onboard manometer read about 100 psi less. But no matter, as I only watch one gauge during the fill, and the larger one on the tank is very reliable.

Let’s shoot!
Then, I just started shooting. Since this pistol is for airgun silhouette, domed pellets are fine, and I selected Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. The shot string is presented below.

25……484 (avg. 1st 25 shots 476)
34……487 (fastest shot in string)
50……474 (avg. for shots 26-50 482)
75……455 end

The string shows that this pistol is well above the advertised 450 f.p.s. mark. It also shows that there are more than the claimed 50 good shots in the string. Whether you start with the first shot or drop 100 psi from the fill and start with shot number 6 (that’s a guess), you’ll still get over 60 good shots. We’ve discussed shot string analysis enough by now that you understand all too well how to look at this string and evaluate it. If you’re new to this blog and would like to see that analysis in greater detail, look at this report on the first Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol to see how a long shot string should be analyzed.

Foot-pounds of energy don’t matter that much in the silhouette game, because it doesn’t take much energy to send these little metal targets flying. Even the big rams that sit out at 18 yards will be bowled over by the energy that starts out at around four foot-pounds.

In centerfire rifle silhouette, the ram is at 500 yards and a light strike by a small caliber like the .243 Winchester is likely to turn the target sideways on the stand, but not knock it off. That’s a bad thing, for the target must be knocked off its stand to count. In airgun silhouette, it takes a really poor shot to not knock it off the stand. The real problem is finding those tiny chicken silhouettes on the dirt and grass after they’ve been launched 10 yards by a pellet. So, the power of this pistol is more than adequate.

They’ve come a long way
Five years ago, Crosman couldn’t even spell PCP, and now they’re one of the world leaders in the technology! That says a lot about the company and the resolute vision they have of the future. The valve in this test pistol seems to defy belief, getting so many powerful shots from such a small reservoir. It shows that Crosman knows how to design a valve and also how to build precharged pneumatics. Twenty years ago, the world would not have believed that such efficiency could be gotten from an air pistol.

Okay, so let’s test the pistol with some more potential pellets.

RWS Hobbys
I won’t put you through the agony of the shot strings for these pellets. RWS Hobbys averaged 483 f.p.s. The spread went from 478 to 491 f.p.s. over a 10-shot string. The average muzzle energy was 3.63 foot-pounds.

RWS Hobbys aren’t used for shooting silhouettes, but they are a legitimate lead pellet that people really shoot. They demonstrate that Crosman’s advertised velocity of 450 f.p.s. is extremely conservative.

Gamo Match
The next pellet I tried was Gamo Match. This is another lead wadcutter that no one will use to shoot silhouette, but they showcase what the powerplant can do. The website says they weigh 7.71 grains, but mine must be older because they weigh 7.5 grains. They average 484 f.p.s. in the Crosmann Silhouette with a spread from 479 to 490 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generate 3.9 foot-pounds.

JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes
The 8.4-grain JSB Exact dome averaged 469 f.p.s. in this pistol. It’s a pellet that might be used for silhouette. The spread went from 456 to 475 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generated 4.1 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

I said in Part 1 that I would report on the new trigger and this is it. As it came from the factory, the trigger had a 1-lb. first stage, then a definite second-stage stop and it broke at 2 lbs. on the nose. Because there’s an overtravel adjustment that’s set perfectly, the trigger is the paragon of crispness. If you’re a 10-meter pistol competitor, you’ll be used to pulling through stage one and stopping at stage two, waiting for the opportune moment for the break. Then, the trigger becomes like a 1-lb. trigger because the first stage has been removed from the equation. Don’t try to over-think it. It just works that way, and you need a precision trigger to learn that. This one certainly is.

Well, there it is and that’s how it works. It’s very sophisticated, yet not very complicated. If you like good triggers, you’ll like this one. (From Crosman’s owner’s manual)

A good day of testing and promise for a great finish for this latest release. Of course accuracy matters, so we still need to see that.

RWS Diana 350 Feuerkraft 350 in .177: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Test and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Today, the Feuerkraft gets a quality scope.

When Mac did the accuracy test of the RWS 350 Feuerkraft air rifle, he got mediocre groups with the open sights, but great groups with a peep sight. The rifle quickly killed the scope he had on hand, so we asked him to mount a different scope on the rifle and try again. This time it would be a good scope on good mounts.

Scope up!
We sent Mac a Hawke Eclipse SF 6-24x50AO scope. That’s a scope so good that nobody can complain about it. We also sent him a UTG scope base that has no droop, because 350s are known to not normally droop. To mount the scope, we sent a set of UTG 30mm quick-detatchable scope rings that allow you to move scopes from one gun to another rapidly without destroying the zero. Actually, Mac did a separate test of just the scope rings that has yet to be published. When you see it, you’ll see how nice they are. For now, though, I’ll tell you that he moved the scope from another rifle over to the 350 with absolutely no fuss and only a minute’s worth of work.

Best pellet?
Mac then researched Part 3 of the report and found that the JSB Exact 10.2-grain domes were the best pellets in this rifle. So, instead of wasting his time testing a long list of possible pellets, he confined the test to just this single pellet.

Nine of the ten JSB Exact 10.2-grain domes went into a group measuring 0.62 inches at 30 yards. Shot 10 was a called flier.

Best group
In fact, this is the best group we’ve gotten from this rifle. The previous best group measured 0.66 inches and was shot using a peep sight. I have to believe that we’re seeing the potential accuracy of this rifle at this point. Please remember that these are 10-shot groups, not 5-shot. As such, they’re about 40 percent larger than the best 5-shot groups will be. However, Mac was not done testing the rifle just yet.

The group shot with peep sights was pretty good, too! It measures 0.66 inches and there were no fliers.

Another pellet
I had asked him to also try RWS Supermag pellets, which are heavy wadcutters. Remember that this is being shot at 30 yards, where wadcutter pellets don’t do so well. After 25 yards, wadcutters usually start to open up and cannot usually be counted on to deliver good accuracy. In this case, they did better than expected and gave some interesting insight into their performance. Let’s take a look at what they did.

The heavy RWS Supermag wadcutters in the 350 Feuerkraft displayed some interesting groups. Mac recorded how each pellet felt when loaded, and they landed in these corresponding groups. The overall group measures 1.21 inches across, but you can clearly see three sub-groups within, and that’s where it gets interesting.

Mac was fascinated by how the Supermag pellets felt when he loaded them, so he kept track of each one in a 10-shot group. Some loaded loose and made a lot of powerplant racket when shot, while others loaded tight and shot smooth. Two had loose heads but tight skirts. They also shot smooth. Let’s look at the group and the subgroups they made at 30 yards. All ten shots in the following group were made with the same aim point, and each had the loading feel as indicated on the target.

The most interesting sub-group is the one with four shots at the lower right. Those were the pellets that fit the bore the tightest. I see an interesting correlation between this performance and what my Ballard rifle did at 100 yards, when shooting the largest, tightest bullets I had. As you may remember, in that test the group tightened up into the smallest one of four fired that day once I learned how best to use the rifle’s sights. In firearms that shoot lead bullets, the best performance is always with bullets sized .001 inches to .002 inches larger than the bore at its widest. I wonder if there’s a similar correlation with air rifles and pellets? Well, that’s something I’ll file away and check as I test other airguns.

Overall impressions
For starters, the RWS Diana 350 rifles are big, powerful spring rifles and shouldn’t be bought unless the buyer understands what that means. They’re hard to cock, the kick hard enough to bother cheaply made scopes and they require the best holding technique for good accuracy. Unfortunately, too many brand-new airgunners look at the velocity, alone, when making their choices without understanding what it means in the spring rifle.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced spring gunner and want the power that this model offers, it’s one of the best. It holds like a classic 1903 Springfield rifle and rewards those who take the time to do things right.

BSA Scorpion PCP air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

BSA Scorpion PCP air rifle looks a lot like the BSA Hornet.

Every time I test a BSA PCP, I like it. They have accurate barrels and simple actions. They don’t offer frills that I don’t care about, and the things they do have are usually very good. I’m looking forward to this test of the .22 caliber single-shot BSA Scorpion air rifle.

Unfortunately, the Scorpion needs a 232 bar fill. That means you either need a Hill pump or a carbon fiber tank. I have the latter, but I wonder how many other airgunners have one…or are they willing to put up with the expense of buying either one just to operate this rifle?

The Scorpion lists a muzzle velocity of 860 f.p.s. But no muzzle energy is given, so that number means very little. But the print owner’s manual tells me the rifle delivers 24 foot-pounds in FAC trim, which is the gun I’m testing for you today. That number means something, and it’s a good power for hunters.

The reviews all say the rifle is loud. Well, duh! This is a PCP with a short barrel and lots of power, so of course it’s going to be loud. Only a shroud or silencer is going to take care of that. I dry-fired it already, and I can assure you that this rifle is very loud.

Special things
The reviews also praise the trigger. I want to look into that in the velocity test. I tried the trigger and, thankfully, it’s adjustable. As it came from the factory, it had a huge amount of creep in stage two. I will attempt to adjust that out in Part 2. The barrel is free-floated, which should make a lot of people happy because of the potential for greater accuracy.

The rifle comes packed with a CD manual. It may work on a PC, but it doesn’t on a Mac. So I used the paper owner’s manual.

There’s also a Scorpion T-10 that’s a repeater (guess how many shots?), but I’m looking at the single-shot.

BSA has its own proprietary fill probe, so you have to adapt it to whatever filling system you’re using.

BSA has a proprietary fill probe that has male 1/8″ BSPP threads on the other end.

General description
The BSA Scorpion is a single-shot PCP that comes in both .177 and .22 calibers. The .22 I’m testing makes the most sense at this power level. The reservoir is on the small side, and they advertise 20 full-power shots per fill. The rifle reminds me of the Hornet and that was also a good one, so I’m hoping this one will be, too.

This is a carbine-length airgun and just 36.5 inches overall. The barrel is 18.5 inches long, but a muzzlebrake adds two more inches. As a result of the short length, the rifle feels very compact and you’ll want to consider that when you scope it. No long scope on this one. I’m going to use the Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Sidewinder Tactical scope, because I want to see every bit of accuracy this rifle has to offer.

At 7.7 lbs., the Scorpion is no lightweight. Add a scope and the weight will increase by at least another pound. My unscoped rifle weighs 7.5 lbs., exactly, so I reckon the density of the beech wood in the stock is different.

The finish of the overall rifle is subdued, as a hunting rifle should be. The metal is finished matte black and the wood is a low-gloss satin. The finish overall is even and without any flaws. Both the grip and forearm are checkered with an aggressive pattern that lacks any sharp diamonds, but feels very rough to the touch. It works well at giving you a firm hold, which is what checkering is supposed to do. There are also three BSA logos laser-engraved into the stock — two at the butt and one on the bottom of the grip.

The rifle comes with the bolt for righthand operation, but it can be switched to the other side — making the gun completely ambidextrous. The Monte Carlo profile features a raised cheekpiece that rolls over to both sides of the butt.

Because of the 232 bar fill pressure I’m going to need to top off my tank before testing velocity. But I do look forward to testing this rifle, because BSA PCPs have always done well for me.

Gamo PT-85 Blowback Tactical air pistol: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Gamo’s PT-85 Blowback Tactical air pistol is a lot of gun for the money.

Before we start, I want to update you on the Arkansas Airgun Extravaganza show that’s coming up on Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16. The show’s organizer, Seth Rowland, told me he still has a few tables available, so if you want to try your hand at buying and selling at an airgun show, this might be a good opportunity. He also mentioned that Tom Kaye, the shoebox compressor man, will have a table there.

Another gentleman will be bringing some nice collectible Red Ryders. I’ll be there with Mac and am planning on bringing my 1860s gallery dart gun and perhaps one or two other beauties that you’ve read about in this blog. Mac will have several vintage 10-meter rifles to sell.

Crosman is considering attending, because they have to deliver a Rogue to me for testing. Umarex and Daisy are also considering attending. This year’s show should be the best one ever. The times, directions and contact information are all at the link provided above.

One more bit of good news before we begin. I thought I’d asked Mac to return the .177 caliber RWS Diana 350 Feuerkraft air rifle without retesting the accuracy with a good scope, but as it turns out, I hadn’t. So, Mac is doing that accuracy test and there will be a Part 4 to that report as initially promised.

Now, on to today’s report.

I must say that I’ve been eagerly awaiting this test. The 12-inch barrel on the Gamo PT-85 Blowback Tactical air pistol just begs to be shot for both velocity and accuracy. Today’s the day for velocity. Let’s get going.

Powering up
The first step was to install a CO2 cartridge. I found it easy to do except that the winding stem is in a tight space and a little hard to grab. I think those with large hands will notice this. And, of course, I put a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of the cartridge to keep the gun sealed for a long time. I fired one shot to know that the cartridge was pierced successfully, and the blowback surprised me. I’d forgotten that feature, but it feels very realistic, which means it feels just like the recoil of a .22 rimfire pistol.

RWS Hobbys
The first pellets tested were RWS Hobbys. They averaged 532 f.p.s. and the spread went from 510 to 565 f.p.s., but the decrease in speed was nearly linear from start to finish. I’ll have more to say about that in a bit. At the average velocity, the gun generated 4.4 foot-pounds.

Gamo Raptors
Of course, I had to test Gamo Raptors in this air pistol! They averaged 544 f.p.s., with a spread from 529 to 567 f.p.s. Once more, the velocity decreased with almost every shot. At the average velocity, Raptors generated 3.55 foot-pounds.

Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domes
The next pellet tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier. They averaged 480 f.p.s., with a spread that went from 459 up to 499 f.p.s. As before, the velocity decreased with almost every shot. At the average velocity, the energy was 4.04 foot-pounds.

By this point, I could see that the velocity was dropping off in a linear fashion with every 8-shot clip. But the gun was not yet finished firing powerful shots. It was acting like the impression everybody has of a CO2 gun, but of course they don’t really work that way. Only this one was working exactly that way — velocity dropping throughout the power band.

After the Premiers, which took me to 24 total shots, I fired another magazine of Hobbys. This time the average was 487 f.p.s., with a declining spread from 499 to 472 f.p.s. Then I shot another clip of Hobbys, which averaged 479 f.p.s. That spread went from 501 down to 451. Clearly, the CO2 cartridge was on its last legs. The next group of Hobbys fired averaged 394 f.p.s., and that was the last clip I fired. The spread went from 437 down to 341 f.p.s. The gun was now running on residual gas; and if I’d continued, I risked jamming a pellet in the barrel.

Total shots per cartridge
I calculate the total number of reasonable shots as 48. If you’re going after target accuracy, I recommend stopping after the fifth clip, which would bring the total down to 40 shots. Though that’s a small number, it’s much larger than what you get with a Magnum Research Desert Eagle pistol, which has lower velocity and also has blowback action. By the way, the blowback did function reliably throughout this test. That’s the extra gas conservation a 12-inch barrel gets you.

At this point, I can make two observations. First, loading the 16-shot magazine takes longer for this pistol than it would if the two circular clips came out. They have to be rotated chamber by chamber to load each pellet and that takes time. And, second, the trigger is strange. The stage-two pull has a huge spot of relaxed pull before tightening up again. It’s almost a three-stage trigger, which doesn’t exist.

On the single-action versus double-action power potential, I decided not to test it because of the blowback feature. After the initial shot, all the follow-on shots will be single-action because the slide has cocked the hammer, so that’s how I tested the gun. I doubt that anyone will lower the hammer every time after firing, just so they can keep shooting double-action.

Based on the performance we see here, I’ll probably shoot 40 shots at 10 meters for the accuracy test.

Shooting the Falke 90: Parts 2 & 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Test and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1

Falke 90 underlever is a rare and vintage British air rifle.

I got an email from Vince yesterday morning, asking if I planned on publishing the rest of Mac’s Falke 90 test. Well, I figured old Vince just hadn’t read the blog the day I did the rest of the test. A few minutes of fruitless searching later, I discovered he was right, I hadn’t told you the rest of Mac’s story. What happens in a case like this is I get the report, I read it and then two days later I forget what I’m doing and figure that everyone in the world knows what I know. To make up for that, I’m going to combine Parts 2 and 3 and give you the rest of the report on the Falke 90 today.

As you may recall, the Falke 90 is a rare underlever spring rifle from the 1950s. It copies the even older BSA Airsporter, in that the underlever is concealed in the forearm and the pellets are loaded through a tap that opens automatically when the rifle is cocked. According to the best information we have at hand, it’s believed that fewer than 200 Falke 90 airguns were ever made and fewer than 35 are known to exist today. It’s not an airgun that’s commonly encountered.

Vince repaired this rifle, which wasn’t working when I acquired it at the 2010 Roanoke airgun show. He reported on how that went in a special three-part report. Now that we’ve seen the insides and read Mac’s overall impressions of the gun, it’s time to test both the velocity and accuracy.

Mac found the bore to be oversized, which was common for British airguns back in the 1950s, so he tested the largest pellets he had on hand that also had the thinnest skirts. The first of these were RWS Superdomes.

RWS Superdomes
The 14.5-grain Superdome isn’t a large pellet, but the skirt is thin and it can be expanded with a ball-type pellet seater. That’s what Mac did.

The Beeman pellet seater has a ball on one end to expand pellet skirts for a better fit.

Superdomes averaged 490 f.p.s. with a total velocity spread from 481 to 494 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generated 7.72 foot-pounds. The total velocity spread was just 13 f.p.s. Mac mentioned that he did try these pellets without expanding the skirts, but the rifle sounded wrong. It sounded as if it was dry-firing.

A loading tap like the one found on this Falke is tapered on the inside. It has to pass all sizes of pellets in the correct caliber range, and the taper usually takes care of that. But most taps tend toward the large side, and we know that the bore of this rifle is already oversized, so only by expanding the skirts can regular pellets be used.

RWS Superpoints
I told Mac that I had found RWS Superpoints to be accurate in the Hakim, which is very similar to the Falke 90, so he tried them next. Superpoints have very thin skirts — even thinner than the skirts found on Superdomes. They weigh the same 14.5 grains as the Superdomes, but their skirts have less reinforcement, so I figured they would be good in this rifle.

They averaged 499 f.p.s. and ranged from 488 to 513 f.p.s., for a total spread of 25 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 8.02 foot-pounds.

Eley Wasps
The next pellet Mac tested was the 5.56mm Eley Wasp. These are still being made, and I believe you can import them from Canada, but the U.S. Eley importer stubbornly refuses to bring them into this country, and Eley doesn’t seem to mind. I bought 30 tins of them years ago to make the importation worth the effort. If you decide to try to get some, be aware that there’s a 5.5mm Wasp pellet, also, and they won’t be as large as these. Only the 5.56mm Wasp is oversized for all those vintage pellet rifles that have overbore barrels.

Eley Wasps also weigh 14.5 grains, so at their average velocity of 474 f.p.s in this rifle they generate 7.24 foot-pounds of energy. The total velocity spread went from 451 to 500 f.p.s. — a 49 f.p.s. gap. Those numbers are for a group of pellets with expanded skirts. But Mac found that he had to push the expanded pellets into the tap, so he shot a second string with non-expanded pellets.

The second string averaged 503 f.p.s. with a spread from 465 to 542. So, the spread was 77 f.p.s. At the average velocity the energy developed was 8.12 foot-pounds.

Okay, so now we know the power, to which Vince already alerted us in his guest blog. Next, let’s look at accuracy.

For this test, Mac tried both the open sights and a Mendoza sport aperture rear sight that Pyramyd Air no longer stocks. With the open sights that came with the rifle, the best group of 10 Eley Wasps he was able to get measured 0.66 inches between centers at 15 yards.

When he installed the Mendoza rear sight on the rifle, it was loose, so he inserted a paper shim under the sight base to tighten it up.

Here you can see the paper shim Mac placed under the base of the Mendoza peep sight to tighten it on the Falke.

Ten RWS Superdomes made this group at 15 yards that measures 0.92 inches between the centers of the two farthest holes. This is not good accuracy for a rifle like this. You can probably blame the too-small pellets for this.

Mac says he also tried shooting RWS Superpoints at 15 yards, but they were too bad to measure. Several missed the target.

This is a great 10-shot target! It measures 0.35 inches at 15 yards. Ten Eley Wasps, which appear to be THE pellet of choice for the Falke 90. These Wasps had their bases expanded.

From my experiences with Hakims, I can say that this Falke is just about as accurate as they are. In the past, I used to mount short scopes on Hakims, and they shot just about like this Falke is doing with the peep sight.

Final word
The Falke 90 is a shooter, as well as a rare vintage collectible. Vince was clever enough to put this one back on the range. Thanks to Mac, we now know what to expect. It’s certainly no barn-burner air rifle. More like a Diana 27 that’s put on too much weight. But the neat hidden underlever and machined parts throughout the action make the Falke 90 an airgun you’ll remember.

Many people have asked me if I intend to refinish the stock, or in my case, to get it done by somebody else. I don’t think I will. Even though it’s been disfigured by someone in the past and even though the wood is cracked in several places (that Vince glued), I think a rare gun like this is always more valuable when it’s left as is rather than being prettied up. Refinishing destroys collectibles in my opinion.

BSA Polaris underlever air rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

BSA’s Polaris underlever air rifle is an attractive new design. Featuring BSA’s rotary breech, this rifle comes in a hardwood stock.

Today is accuracy day, and I hope I have a surprise for you. Sometimes, I get an airgun that just wants to shoot, and the BSA Polaris underlever air rifle seems to be just such a gun. It isn’t quite in the TX200 class, but it rivals the Diana 46 underlever more than a little. So now let me stop telling you the results and instead show the tests that provided them.

The scope
I decided to go straight to a scope. Since I had it on hand, I mounted the Hawke 4.5-14×42 Sidewinder tactical scope. The more I use this scope, the better I like it. I definitely need to find a way to keep this one around, because the optics are finer than anything I have in my gun closet.

Unfortunately, I did a poor job of mounting the scope. For starters, I used high rings, and the Polaris already has a tall scope base, plus this Hawke is designed for low mounting. It ended up being so high that I had to put my chin on the comb to see the image. Also, I mounted the scope too far back, so instead of a full image that was bright, I was getting a smaller image with black borders. The image rotated around the central axis of the reticle as I moved my eye slightly. Nevertheless, as you will shortly see, I got good results in spite of these problems.

Obviously, this scope is mounted too high. It made me shoot with my chin on the comb. Also, the scope could be moved forward a little.

Firing behavior
For most of the test, the Polaris acted like a tuned air rifle. The shot cycle was quick and without any buzzing. That’s what put me in mind of the Diana 46. Only when I shot the lightweight Air Arms Falcon pellets did it have just a touch of buzz.

I’ll criticize the Polaris trigger a little. The long second stage that releases so indifferently is a distraction. However, I remember something I learned years ago about shooting accurately with a poor trigger. Squeeze the trigger faster and your groups will shrink. Whenever you have a trigger that’s vague, get through the pull as fast as you can without disrupting the sight picture and you’ll get the best results. I tried that technique here, and pellets started going through the same holes.

Modified artillery hold
Normally, I like to place my off hand back, touching the triggerguard. With the Polaris, this makes the rifle so very muzzle-heavy that it shakes. For this one, I slid the off hand forward to the point that I could feel the cocking slot on my palm. That settled the rifle down and, as the groups will show, it was a good hold.

The Polaris is very forgiving of the hold, as long as you follow through. Make sure you’re on target when the sear releases, and the rifle does the rest.

Sight-in with Premier lites
I sighted-in with 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellets. The range was 25 yards, and it took 8 shots to get on target. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of making the POI the exact intersection of the crosshairs, so on the first target I blew out the aim point on the first shot. With other scopes, that might not have mattered as much, but this Hawke is so sharp that I had to guess where the center of the target was. Yet, with all that going on, I managed to shoot the best group of the day with the first pellet tested.

Ten Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domes went through this 0.385-inch group at 25 yards. It was the best group of the day.

At this point, I got that confident feeling about this rifle. I actually started feeling good about the Polaris in Part 2 when I saw the velocity was not ridiculous. You’ll remember that the velocity for Premier lites was 782 f.p.s. That made me think that this might be a good shooter; and if this target doesn’t convince you of that, I don’t know what will. Remember, the Polaris is a spring-piston rifle and these are 10-shot groups. This is very good performance for such a rifle.

Air Arms Falcon
Next, I dropped the scope by 10 clicks so I wouldn’t shoot away the aim point. This time, the pellet was the Air Arms Falcon dome that in some air rifles has been shown to be a winner. The 10-shot group was slightly larger but still able to hide under a dime.

Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets went into this 25-yard group that measures 0.467 inches. It was the worst group of the test, yet a dime can entirely cover it. The group is intentionally low, so the aim point isn’t shot away.

With the 7.33-grain Falcons, the Polaris also buzzed a little with every shot. Maybe this isn’t the best pellet for this rifle, though it isn’t that bad.

JSB Exact RS
The final pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. Another 7.33-grain light weight, the RS didn’t make the powerplant buzz, so there’s a definite difference between it and the Falcon pellet. It gave me a better group than the Falcons, too.

Ten JSB Exact RS pellets made this 0.431-inch 10-shot group at 25 yards.

Overall impressions
The BSA Polaris is a killer air rifle! One of those that comes along so rarely. I’m thinking strongly of putting it in Tom’s Picks, because it isn’t that often I test a gun that is this easy to shoot and also is one that shoots so well.

Want to know what this rifle reminded me of? It reminded me of my Beeman R8, which is another lower-velocity springer that shoots 25-yard groups a dime can cover. You can’t buy a new R8 anymore, but the Polaris is available as a new gun.

I have to give this rifle high marks for almost everything except the trigger. But it isn’t a magnum by any means. It’s just a good accurate spring rifle that wants to shoot where it’s aimed. You can’t do much better than that.

Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This is the new Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol. It’ll send those light little airgun silhouettes into orbit.

I expect to get some negative feedback from this report. It won’t come from airgunners, but from airgun manufacturers who think I’m in bed with Crosman, because these days it seems like I’m always praising their work. Well, sorry guys; here comes another one.

In a day when many manufacturers seem to think their No. 1 testing resource is their customer, Crosman turns the tables and actually listens to what people are saying. The pistol I’m reviewing today has been on the market for the past year, yet the model I place before you now is completely new for 2011. How can that be? Well, Crosman learned a few lessons over the past 12 months while selling the earlier release, and they did something about it. They took a well-designed successful air pistol and improved it.

You see, the original Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol was actually introduced at the 2010 SHOT Show. It was touted as an air pistol made on the 2240 frame with an improved trigger, a better barrel and the ability to operate on air instead of CO2.

I was among those who told Crosman that changes were needed to that first Silhouette pistol. In my fourth report, while praising the accuracy of the gun, I was critical of the “improved” trigger. If you take the time to read that report, you’ll discover that I shot a quarter-inch five-shot group at 10 meters using an aperture sight! At the same time, I complained about the long, creepy second stage of the trigger.

And Crosman listened — not necessarily to me, but to all of you. The new Silhouette pistol has the same adjustable trigger that’s found on the Benjamin Marauder PCP pistol, a trigger that’s received a lot of deserved praise from those who’ve used it. I’m not going to report on that new trigger today, but I’ve tested it briefly and the praise is warranted.

My year-long illness, which began on March 29, 2010, created a time capsule that allows me to compare the first Silhouette pistol to the one I’m now testing. Because I never finished testing the first pistol before entering the hospital, I now have both of them on hand to examine side by side.

Something old, something new
The visible differences between the new gun and the old are very small. There are some lettering changes, a new muzzlebrake that serves as a base for the front sight and the front sight, itself. The old one was just a round post, while the new one is a square post that can be turned to vary the width. You can vary it, that is, if you plan to use a rear sight, which I don’t think many owners will, because this pistol is more like a small rifle when it comes to accuracy. In May, Crosman will bring to market a new CenterPoint scope with multiple reticles that’s well-suited to use on both this pistol and the Marauder pistol.

To adjust the width of the front post, loosen the locking screw on the right side of the base and swivel the front post until it’s right. Then lock it down.

Just looking at the two guns doesn’t tell you much. But shooting does. That’s what you’ll get from this report. For now, however, let me finish my assessment of the pistol as if you were seeing it for the first time.

General description
The Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol is a single-shot, .177 caliber target pistol based on the venerable 2240 frame. But it’s nothing like the 2240, which is a budget .22 caliber CO2 pistol. The Silhouette is a precharged pneumatic that operates on 3,000 psi air (206 bar). While the 2240 has a plastic receiver, the Silhouette receiver is 6.25 inches of machined aluminum, with a scope rail that runs the entire length. It will accept open and peep sights, but it’s really made for a scope and I suspect the majority of them will have one.

You can see the heritage of the 2240 pistol (lower) in the new Silhouette PCP.

The gun is made of metal and finished in a non-reflective matte black. Steel is used for things like the reservoir, where strength is needed, and aluminum is used where it works best. Plastic is reserved for the reservoir fill port cap and the grips.

This pistol was designed with input from Steve Ware of the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association (IHMSA), so it conforms to the rules for silhouette airguns. It has a 10.1-inch Lothar Walther barrel that not only gives great accuracy but also provides a long acceleration time for the pellet. So, the gun doesn’t waste air. However, you have to face the fact that this is a pistol built for the sole purpose of silhouette shooting.

They didn’t make it a magnum handgun for hunting, and it isn’t a good starting point for those who modify, either. They made it powerful enough to send metallic silhouettes into space with a good hit, so it gets a great number of good shots, rather than far fewer high-velocity shots. Crosman advertises it as having 50 good shots on a charge of air, which is incredible when you consider the small size of the reservoir. If you read Part 2 of my report on last year’s Silhouette pistol, you’ll discover that I got over 60 good shots from it, so I expect to see at least as good from this gun. All of that is at an average of 450 f.p.s., which the first gun delivered, as well.

The pistol comes from the factory with the bolt handle on the left side, which is best for right-handed shooters. However, it can be switched to the other side, if you like. And, the bolt handle is longer than the one on the 2240, so cocking this pistol is smoother and easier.

Adjustable fill pressure
The gun comes from the factory set for a 2,900 psi fill (200 bar). You can adjust it from 2,500 psi to 3,000 psi. With a higher fill pressure, you get more shots per fill, but you also run your scuba tank out of air faster. Since we may see more shots than needed in the velocity test with the gun set at the factory setting (2,900 psi), a higher fill pressure would not make sense to me. A somewhat lower fill pressure might work just as well (give an adequate number of full-power shots per fill) and require less air from the scuba tank. Or, if filling from a hand pump, a lower fill pressure would make the job easier.

Why would you want this air pistol?
You would want this air pistol if you like to shoot silhouette in all kinds of weather and temperatures. The Crosman 2300S and 2300T pistols are both similar single-shot target pistols, but because they also both run on CO2, they’re inoperable in cold weather. This pistol won’t notice the cold nearly as much.

The trigger is great
I’ll have more to say about the trigger in Part 2, but it’s a winner. If you can live with about 450 f.p.s. in .177 caliber and great accuracy to boot, this might be the air pistol for you. However, don’t get into the modification mindset with this one, because for only a few more dollars you can buy the .22 caliber Benjamin Marauder pistol that’s both silenced and a repeater. Think of the Silhouette as a dedicated target pistol, and the Marauder as a do-all hunting pistol.

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