by B.B. Pelletier
Man does not live by bread alone — so today we’re having cake! Taking some time away from the BB guns, today we’ll begin looking at a Beeman RX-2 Elite Series combo air rifle. This rifle is built by Weihrauch and has a Theoben gas spring instead of a coiled steel mainspring. It’s still a spring-piston gun, but the gas spring changes some of the characteristics that I’ll address as this report unfolds.
I decided this time to treat all of us to a combo package instead of a basic rifle that I would then have to scope. Pyramyd Air mounted the scope for me and performed their 10-for-$10 test, which means they chronographed the rifle with 10 shots (actually 13) and included the chrono ticket inside the package. That way both Pyramyd Air and the customer know what the rifle can do at the moment of delivery. This service is included in the price of the combo package, so all you have to do is order what I did.
The RX-2 comes in all four smallbore calibers, but if ever there was a case for ordering the larger calibers, this is it. The power this rifle generates is lost on a .177 gun, because the bore is too narrow for all the air to flow freely. I went all the way and ordered a .25 caliber. I now know from testing the TalonP air pistol that there are at least two superlative .25-caliber pellets on the market, and I’ll test this rifle with several of the other premium brands just to make sure I’ve tested the right ones.
A long time coming
I’ve owned three Theoben gas spring rifles — four if you count the fact that I converted a .25 to .20 to get more accuracy. And I’ve tested many more Theobens besides those. So, you would think that the RX-2 and I were old friends, but we’re not. This will be the first time that I’ve ever shot this model. Back when it first came out as the Beeman RX in 1990, it was viewed by many U.S. airgunners as a “poor man’s Theoben.” It was priced at about half what a Beeman Crow Magnum (Theoben Eliminator) was selling for, and in my mind it didn’t hold the attraction of the pricier airgun.
But over the years, it evolved through the RX-1 (1992) model and finally into the RX-2 (2001)…and I still didn’t test it. I got questions all the time about the trigger, which is not Weihrauch’s fabled Rekord. Because the trigger must grab the gas piston at a different place, a Rekord will not work in this gun. So, Weihrauch replaced it with a trigger especially designed to work with the gas spring. I never knew how good it was and will only discover as this report unfolds. My test rifle is serial number 1817631.
There have been several stocks to choose from over the years, and the one on this rifle is a laminate. That adds weight to the gun, which the lighter gas piston counteracts to some degree, but in the end the rifle I am testing is slightly heavy — at 10 lbs., 15 oz. with the scope. I say “slightly heavy” because I’m used to the weight of magnum spring rifles; but if the heaviest rifle you’ve ever held is a Winchester model 70, this one will feel like an elephant rifle in comparison. At first, the weight seems oppressive, but wait until you’ve shot the gun a thousand times before wishing it was lighter. That weight adds stability that modern rifles don’t have. Sporting (hunting) rifles of a century ago weighed 10-12 lbs. as a rule, rather than as the exception.
The trigger is entirely different than the Rekord. It is two-stage, and the triggerguard houses the release button of the automatic safety. The Rekord trigger has the safety release button at the back of the receiver. While the safety comes on automatically, you can take it off any time and put it back on without recocking the barrel, as must be done on all rifles having the Rekord trigger. Simply depress the lever in front of the triggerguard (so THAT’S what that lever is!) until you hear the safety click back on. If the click bothers you, such as while hunting, simply depress the safety button until you have pulled the safety release lever all the way, then slowly release the safety button and the gun will be back on safe without making a sound.
I tried the trigger only a few times for today’s report, but that’s enough to tell me this is no Rekord. It is creepy in stage two. Whether or not I can adjust that out remains to be seen. The pull is set at several pounds of effort, so we’ll see if I can change that, as well.
Everybody makes a big deal out of the quick “lock time” of this rifle, but all the reports I’ve read prove that the authors who say that don’t actually know what lock time is. The term lock time comes to us from the days of the flintlock, which has a definite time delay from the moment the powder in the pan explodes until the main charge explodes and sends the bullet out the barrel. If the delay is a long one, the shooter would develop a flinch — anticipating the force of the main charge and wincing in response before the gun fires. The result is a movement of the muzzle before the bullet exits, which throws the shot wide. If the gun was a musket that wasn’t expected to hit a man beyond 35 yards, it didn’t matter that much; but with the advent of the Kentucky-style rifle that was capable of very precise shooting out to much longer ranges, lock time became important. And the best gun makers soon learned how to make flintlocks that fired almost instantaneously. Hence, the real importance of lock time.
Today, many airgun authors are saying that this rifle has a fast lock time and is therefore more accurate. Hogwash! In a spring-piston rifle, the term lock time refers to how long it takes from the instant the piston is released by the sear until the piston comes to a dead stop. In that sense, the RX-2 does have a very fast lock time because a gas spring drives a piston faster than a coiled-steel counterpart. But it makes no difference to accuracy.
What they fail to appreciate is the fact that the pellet is still in the barrel when the piston comes to a stop. It takes the pellet several more milliseconds to traverse the barrel and leave the muzzle, and that happens after the lock is finished working. So lock time in a spring-piston airgun is meaningless. But follow-through, which is holding the gun on the target after it has fired, is all-important. If you can do that, you can forget about the supposed advantage of lock time. And the artillery hold is what helps you follow through.
There are no sights on this version of the rifle. The Elite series combo I’m testing comes with a Bushnell Trophy XLT 4-12×40 AO scope mounted in two-piece rings. I’ll report more on the scope when we get to the accuracy test.
As I mentioned, the test rifle was tested in the 10-for-$10 offer, and it was included in the package. So, I got a certificate telling me the velocity the Pyramyd Air technicians got from this rifle using H&N Field Target Trophy pellets weighing 20.06 grains apiece. The test gun ranged from a low of 618.07 f.p.s. on shot 7 to a high of 634.13 f.p.s. on shot 11. There were 13 shots recorded in all. So, the rifle I have generates about 17.4 foot-pounds as it comes from the box. That’ll change with each different pellet I shoot, but it gives you an idea of where we are.
The laminated stock is stained brown, setting off the black metal parts in an attractive contrast. Though the stock is made for right-handed shooters by virtue of the cheekpiece that’s only on the left side of the butt, the rest of the stock is uniform enough that the gun can also be shot by lefties. The pistol grip is cut-checkered on both sides, and the forearm is smooth.
The finish on the wood is transparent, allowing the laminated grain to show. It’s most attractive, and the brown color adds to the masculine look of the rifle.
The rifle is a Weihrauch, and that means that the metal parts are finished smooth with an even black finish. The polish isn’t high — just enough to promote pride of ownership, and there’s a contrast between the spring tube that’s polished higher than the barrel. A solid metal muzzlebrake provides a handy place to grab when cocking. The trigger appears to be gold-plated.
The benefits of a gas spring
Gas springs never take a set. They can continue to work at full power even when compressed most of the time. You know that from your experience with cheaper versions of them in the automotive world. So, this is a spring gun that you can leave cocked for many hours at a time without worrying about any degradation of power.
Gas springs also work well in very cold weather because they do not require the level of lubrication that a steel spring would need. Therefore, there isn’t as much grease to stiffen as the temperature drops — leaving the powerplant free to operate at its full potential.
Gas springs do not vibrate nearly as much as steel springs, so having one in a gun is tantamount to having a good tune. They do recoil quite quickly, but that can be offset by holding the rifle as lightly as possible, which is part of the artillery hold anyhow.
The small downside
The greatest fear with a gas spring is that it will develop a leak, leaving the owner high and dry. Where steel springs can be obtained through many commercial channels, gas springs are unitized with the piston and specific to the gun. If one does go bad, it must be repaired or replaced. Theoben gas springs have an enviable track record for reliability in this area, but nothing is perfect. The owner will find gas spring replacement easier than steel spring replacement in most cases; but as I said, he will need to find the right set of parts.
That’s all I’m going to look at for today, but I’ll return to this rifle soon for the velocity test.