Archive for April 2012
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll take our first look at the accuracy of the AirForce Talon SS precharged pneumatic air rifle. Since I just returned from the NRA Annual Meetings and heard from a lot of owners what they think about this airgun, let me tell you what they all said. Many of them said they’ve never seen a more accurate airgun. Some do own other precharged air rifles, but admit that the Talon SS is equal in accuracy to the best of them.
A few years ago, I used to hear some criticism about the Talon SS trigger since it isn’t adjustable, but I guess people are shooting it more these days, because everyone I talked to at the NRA Show loves their trigger. They all confirmed that the trigger and safety both get lighter, smoother and easier to use as the rifle breaks in. One man was awed that his rifle had held air without leaking for seven months. Then, I told him about the prototype rifle I once found in the factory when I worked there. It was tucked under a work table and was covered with dust. It was still holding a charge after more than five years! So, they do hold their air indefinitely.
Many perspective buyers came up to me knowing a lot about the gun already, yet this was the first time they’d actually seen one. And a great many of them went to the airgun range and shot the Talon SS that was available to the public. After that, some of them came down to the Pyramyd Air booth and insisted on writing an order on the spot. If there had been working guns to sell, I estimate we could have sold quite a few during the show. And .22 caliber was the overwhelming choice of all buyers.
I used an obsolete Leapers Accushot 4-12×44 Mini SWAT mil-dot scope (without illuminated reticle) on the rifle. I mounted it in two-piece Leapers 30mm medium-height rings. Most shooters feel they need higher rings than I use because they don’t hold their rifles the same way I do. I get by with much lower rings because of this hold, so you may need more height than I do. Consider that when you buy one of these rifles.
I normally recommend an AirForce 4-16×50 scope for this rifle. It helps with the longer distances. But both of my AirForce scopes are on other airguns that are also being tested, so I had to use something different this time.
As I mentioned in the last report I had to install the factory 12-inch Lother Walther barrel that comes standard for this test, because I keep an optional 24-inch barrel in my SS at all other times. The benefit of almost doubling the power with the same amount of air is too good to pass up. I didn’t show the barrel changing process, but I will show it when I switch over to the 24-inch barrel in the next report.
So, the new barrel is in the gun and how many shots did it take to sight in? How about two? That’s correct. After two shots, all pellets were landing where I intended. This was not in the center of the bullseye, as I didn’t want to destroy the aim point.
As I mentioned in Part 2, there’s just one pellet for this rifle — the JSB Exact 15.9-grain dome. It’s true that the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier was once the most accurate pellet for the rifle; but as I mentioned, this particular JSB has replaced it in my rifle.
There were already 35 shots on the tank from the velocity test and two from the sight-in, but I dialed the power setting to 6 and proceeded to shoot a 10-shot group at 25 yards that measured 0.296 inches between centers. Getting 47 accurate shots on a single fill is pretty darned good.
Then, I filled the tank and shot the next group on power setting 10. Same pellet, just going faster. And naturally because I said in the last report that power setting 10 was the most accurate, this time it chose not to be. A single pellet turned a 0.33-inch group into one that measures 0.394 inches between centers. Again, the group is fairly round, telling me that the gun has no hangups and is performing up to snuff.
I mentioned earlier that I used to shoot 3/8-inch test groups at 23 yards when I set up a new rifle for an AirForce customer or when I tested a customer’s rifle after repairs, but that was always a 5-shot group. Three-eighth’s of an inch is 0.375 inches, so I’m actually getting 10 shots into about the same size group as I used to get 5. I guess what that says is that you have to move back farther to really test an air rifle this accurate.
If this was the final report on the SS, I would go into some other things…but there’s more to come. So, that’ll be it for today.
I’ve already been asked by one reader to test the CO2 adapter on the gun. As long as I’m doing that, I think I’ll ask AirForce if I can borrow a Micro Meter tank and test that for you, as well. Next up will be the gun with the 24-inch optional barrel, which is the way I keep my SS set up. It effectively doubles the gun’s power and makes a rifle that I believe to be the most flexible in the PCP world.
by B.B. Pelletier
Let’s look at the accuracy of the Hatsan Torpedo 155 air rifle. The thing I was concerned about was how the movable barrel affects accuracy, and also how the gun handled in general.
The artillery hold
I knew the rifle would be sensitive to how it is held, so I approached it with kid gloves. I initially balanced the rifle with the forearm resting on my flat open hand while the heel was touching the triggerguard. That makes the rifle muzzle heavy and often it stabilizes the gun. Beeman Kodiaks were the first pellets I tried. The distance was 25 yards off a rest, and this time I used the open sights, exclusively.
The open sights are fiberoptic, so you know they are large and somewhat imprecise. I used a 6 o’clock hold but couldn’t see the sides of the rear sight, so there was more horizontal dispersion than there normally would be. The rifle was very close to being on target right from the box, and it took only a few small adjustments to get it shooting where I wanted.
Kodiaks were first
At 21 grains, the Beeman Kodiaks are heavy enough to keep the rifle from breaking the sound barrier. Since I was shooting inside my house, that was important.
But they didn’t group — no matter how I held the rifle. With my hand back against the triggerguard, 10 Kodiaks made a group larger than four inches! I moved my hand forward to the cocking slot, hoping the change would improve things…but, again, I got a four-inch group. Kodiak pellets were just not right for this rifle.
JSB Exact Jumbo heavies
The 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets were next. This is a pellet that really does well in more powerful PCPs, and I thought that might carry over to the big Hatsan. Again, no dice. I shot them with both handholds previously mentioned and also with the rifle rested directly on the bag. Nothing worked, and the groups were all around the three-inch size. So, another pellet that I couldn’t get to shoot. The only interesting thing I noticed was that resting the rifle directly on the bag didn’t make it any less accurate. That was an exception to the norm.
The final pellet I tried was the Gamo TS-22. This is a 22-grain dome that you haven’t seen me test very much, because I haven’t found it to be accurate in anything until now. But in this Hatsan underlever, it was the best pellet I tested. The group was much smaller than all the others, plus I tried a third variation of the artillery hold — with my hand under the brass button that releases the cocking lever. That’s about halfway between both of the other two holds, and the rifle seems balanced at that point. What I’m going to show you is not a great group for 10 shots at 25 yards, but it is significantly better than those made by the other two pellets.
It’s not a great group, but these Gamo TS-22 pellets stayed together better than the other two I tried. Group measures 2.658 inches between centers. It indicates the rifle wants to shoot, but the open sights may be holding it back.
After shooting this better group, I tried another target with Kodiaks using the new holding method. The group opened back up to over three inches, so the assessment that Kodiaks were not right for the gun still stands.
Remember what the cocking effort measured during the velocity test? It was right at 64 lbs. of effort. After today’s accuracy test in which another 60 pellets were fired, the cocking effort had fallen to just 54 lbs. As expected, the rifle is clearly breaking in.
The trigger releases with a lighter pull than before, though I didn’t measure it again. Stage two has a bucketful of creep, but it’s now very light creep. I think the trigger is getting better with use, as well. I’ll measure it, again, when I do the next accuracy test.
The overall firing behavior is now faster and has less recoil than it did during the velocity test. That’s one more indication that the rifle’s breaking in.
Conclusions thus far
The Hatsan Torpedo 155 seems to need a prolonged break-in, like the air rifles of old. It’s a shame I can’t give it that kind of attention, but all indicators are that it will smooth out as the shots stack up. It’ll never be a plinker because of the size, weight and power it projects; but if I can get it to shoot accurately, it might be a viable spring hunting rifle.
Next, I’ll test it with a scope.
by B.B. Pelletier
There have been so many questions about the silver dime I use for scale in my reports that today I will reveal the entire truth to you. In fact this is a very special dime! It is a rare misstrike, and the image on the obverse isn’t President Roosevelt at all! It is his feeble-minded but kindly identical twin cousin, Louie Roosevelt. You can’t tell that from the pictures I have been publishing, so today I have enlarged the image to show all the subtle but important differences.
You don’t notice until the dime is enlarged that the man on the coin has a thin mustache and an anchor tattoo on the back of his neck. The date of the coin is another giveaway. What looks like a smudge over his eye is actually a birthmark that was the only way his nanny could tell young Franklin Delano Roosevelt from his cousin. Twin siblings are rare enough, but you almost never hear of cousins who are identical twins. The danger of a mixup while they are young is obvious. You don’t want Bob Dylan’s twin cousin, Dylan, growing up as Bob. The music would be awful and think of all the album covers that would have to be changed, once the mixup was discovered!
This is an extremely rare misstrike that was never supposed to leave the U.S. Mint. The date is a clever giveaway,
Back in the 1960s I was a dealer in rare coins in New York. I specialized in error coins such as the 1955 double die cent and others that are less known. One day while I was eating lunch in the coin district of New York City where my shop was located, I witnessed a crime. A robber had just robbed the Ersatz-Mart, a huge emporium of rare counterfeit coins, bills, rare artifacts and political promises. Manny Ersatz was a good friend of mine, so I copied down the license plate number of the getaway car and within an hour the robbers were caught. Why would anyone drive their own car to a robbery, a pink Eldorado convertible with vanity plates that said BADGUYZ?
Back to my story. Manny was so thrilled to recover his stolen merchandise that he offered me any one thing in his store as a reward. Well, I had no trouble selecting what I wanted. On display in his store for everyone to see was the actual hatchet used by young George Washington to chop down his father’s cherry tree. Of course, being so old the wooden handle had been replaced three times and the head once since the incident, but the provenance for this historical artifact was beyond reproach. I wanted it!
But Manny wasn’t about to let that hatchet go. So he reneged on his generous offer, and instead gave me a collector’s book of Roosevelt dimes. It was half-filled and at the time was worth about ten dollars! However, I was a coin guy, so naturally I popped every dime out of the book for a once-over. That’s when I discovered this rare misstrike. You can bet that I went straight to Manny and waived it under his nose. I was angry over losing the hatchet, but I didn’t appreciate how upset he would be over this mistake. He offered to buy it back from me, but I was pigheaded and told him I reckoned I’d just keep it awhile.
Well, a while turned into over 30 years. Manny and I never spoke again and he passed away in a freak accident involving a runaway Macy’s Thanksgiving parade balloon. It was Woody Woodpecker that was featured in a Seinfeld episode, where it was supposed to be accidentally deflated. What the public never saw was the balloon falling on one of the line holders as it came down on Fifth Avenue. Manny was wearing a World War I Bavarian pickelhaube helmet in support of Woody’s German ancestry, and when the balloon came down the tip of the helmet ripped through the fabric, trapping his head inside the gas bag for several minutes until the other workers could get it off him. When they did it was too late. Manny had passed. The Seinfeld people stopped doing real stunts after that. They embedded a brass plaque in the avenue where he fell and visitors can see it in the early hours of the morning, when the traffic dies down. And the city passed an ordinance making it illegal for anyone to wear a pickelhaube helmet on Thanksgiving.
Of course I was devastated when this all happened, but it was too late to do anything about it. My good friend, Manuel Varms Ersatz, was gone forever and I still had the dime that caused the rift between us. So, now you know the whole story behind the dime that appears in my reports. I hope in a small way that this tale helps us all remember Manuel Varms!
by B.B. Pelletier
The 2012 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, in St. Louis.
The NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits: it runs for three days instead of four, yet it out-attracts people 2:1 over the SHOT Show. The public can’t get into the SHOT Show except on the last day by buying a $50 ticket; but if you are an NRA member, you walk into the exhibit hall of the Annual Meetings for free. If you aren’t a member, they’ll give you a one-day dispensation for a small fee. And, unlike the SHOT Show, there are things to actually buy, as well as tons of guns to win in drawings — both free and paid.
Ostensibly, the reason for the event is the annual election of a new president and board members, but the main attraction are the exhibits. They’ve been described as a mini-SHOT Show, because most of the exhibitors are the same, though their booths are just a fraction of the size of the ones they have at SHOT. This show fits into about one-fifth the space needed for the SHOT Show, meaning that most major American cities can host it because they have civic centers adequate for the task — where the SHOT Show has grown to a size that just a few cities can handle it.
And at SHOT, people always complain that they don’t get to shoot the guns — well at least those who aren’t in the press don’t. But at the NRA Show, there’s an airgun range in the same building where, for a small fee, a family can try their skills with a number of popular airguns. Pyramyd Air hosts the airgun range and helps to staff it, though a platoon of NRA-certified instructors also serve as volunteer range safety officers.
For safety, every shooter on the airgun range sat and fired off a rest. A horizontal bar limited the guns from elevating too high.
Mac always tells me the SHOT Show is great for people-watching. At the NRA show, I’m under far less pressure and can watch people a lot more. It’s interesting to see them react with the brands that are second-nature to me. I might walk past a Rock River Arms booth full of all sorts of AR-15s and not turn my head, but at the NRA show I saw people lined up three deep with each of the company’s representatives. Those poor guys and gals got no rest because the entire time the show was open customers were tag-teaming them. As soon as one would leave, two more vied to be next. The same holds true at every booth at this show, because the public isn’t jaded like those in the industry. They may not see a display like this more than once in their lives, and they intend to get as much from it as they can! Try to imagine what happens to 70,000 kids in a candy store over a three-day event like this.
Another benefit of the NRA show is that it’s a second chance to see things I didn’t see at SHOT. Or perhaps things that weren’t present at SHOT but are there for the NRA show because it comes several months later in the year. This year, the special thing was two new airguns coming from Daisy — both under the Winchester name. One is a 16-shot BB and pellet rifle styled like an M14. It’s powered by two CO2 cartridges and holds both the CO2 as well as the BB/pellet clips inside a structure that looks like an M14 magazine. Joe Murfin, Daisy’s VP of marketing, told me the rifle gets up to 700 f.p.s. with BBs. This is definitely going onto the test list!
I also got to heft the new 1911 Winchester Model 11 CO2 pistol. Now, there’s a product with an identity crisis! The last time Winchester made a handgun was in the late 1800s — when they were trying to convince Colt to quit building lever-action rifles! It worked then, but I doubt that anyone even cares today. This new BB pistol is all-metal, heavy and features blowback action that shooters are going to love. And, like the 1911A1 firearm, it’s single-action only. This will be another one to test this year.
At the Umarex booth, I was surprised to learn that the beautiful new P38 Walther BB pistol is single-action, only. The P38 firearm was noteworthy for carrying a round in the chamber and being fired double-action for the first shot. After that, the blowback of the slide turned it into a single-action shooter with a much lighter trigger. But the new air pistol is going to be single-action, only. It’s certainly gorgeous to look at and is a heavy chunk in the hand. I suppose people will be willing to do without the double-action feature. I’ll probably test one to see how it does in the accuracy department.
One of the coolest sections of the whole show is the collectors’ row. Dozens of the finest collector clubs from around the country vie to amaze the public with some of the finest vintage firearms ever seen in one place. Some of these clubs are legendary — like the club from Ohio that actually invented the modern gun show 80 years ago. I’ve seen collectibles that are never seen outside of a museum, and no one museum can come close to the variety of models on display at the NRA show!
This Winchester 1873 One of One-Thousand is one of the five best examples known. It is worth at least in the high six figures, if not over a million dollars.
There were several glass cases filled with exquisite miniature arms such this 2mm pinfire revolver. The box it’s in is the size of a book of matches. Tools all have ivory handles. Made around 1860!
I stumbled on a kindred lover of old Ballard rifles in the collector’s section. We exchanged stories and information for half an hour, though he did most of the talking. I got some good pointers from him that I’ll soon try on my Ballard, and he steered me to Swiss black powder, for which I finally found a source in Texas! Soon, my old girl will be puffing the great blue clouds she was brought up on, and hopefully the groups will shrink accordingly.
Besides the collectors’ section, some of the older firms such as Colt displayed the guns of their past right in their booths. These are guns that they once made on a daily basis, but which have long since entered the history books. Imagine what it feels like to stand next to a real Gatling gun worth six figures and see the Colt name on its plaque — right where it has been since the indian wars!
A real 19th century Gatling gun by Colt — and you could walk right up to it!
Besides the exhibits, there were live musical performances, celebrities galore, workshops and seminars on everything having to do with the shooting sports — and bunches more. When you look at the crowd that attends these meetings, you realize that today’s NRA is heavily weighted toward successful people who make their own way in life. It’s no wonder both political parties regard the organization with respect; they’re the heart and soul of this nation.
I suspect this show broke the record for attendance, as the aisles were too crowded to walk most of the time. And the people were enthusiastic about being there. It was a real supercharged event that sapped me of my strength each day.
The show ended on Sunday, and we all returned to our workaday lives, enriched by the experience of the long weekend. I was never more tired than when I left the last time; but if everything goes right, I’ll return next year when it’s practically in my back yard — in Houston.
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Stephen Carolyn Donahue says this about his winning picture: “Most of our children, posing with air rifles purchased from Pyramyd Air, three years ago. Please note that none of these weapons were loaded in this picture.”
I am attending the NRA Annual Meetings in St. Louis today, so I’m asking the veteran readers to watch out for new readers who need their questions answered before I can get to it. I’ll be back in the office on Tuesday.
Today, I want to talk about mixing airgun features that don’t go well together. I see this in two main ways. One is a thread on a forum in which someone touts a certain feature, such as a 24-inch barrel on a CO2 rifle. The thread that follows looks like a line of lemmings stepping off the same cliff as the originator of the thread. What if 24-inch barrels don’t do well on CO2 guns? No matter! Off they go in a race to change over all their CO2 rifles to 24-inch barrels, and someone wonders aloud where he can get a 30-inch barrel.
The other way I see this is in questions. They never come out and say what’s really on their mind, but a careful reader can usually see it just below the surface. “Where can I get a 6,000 psi nitrogen tank?” [...so I can fill my PCP rifle to 6,000 psi so it will shoot faster, flatter and straighter -- won't it?] Or they ask where they can get something “repaired.” I have a Sheridan Blue Streak that needs the barrel attached.” [...because when I mounted a 24x scope on the gun it cracked the solder joint and the barrel fell off.]
I gave you all a good look at what happens when someone acts on an idea they have without thinking it through. Remember Steel Dreams? That was an oversized Beeman R1 through which the builder planned to shoot .22 pellets as fast as a .177 R1. In other words — break the sound barrier. If you recall, the rifle weighed over 11 lbs., cocked with 75 lbs. of effort, had an Anschütz match barrel and was no more powerful than a normal R1.
And so it goes
But these stories don’t dampen the passions of the armchair tinkerer, because in his world all it takes to invent something is to imagine it. No metal is required, no machine time, no need to test whether that longer spring will even fit into that “underpowered” spring gun. Just the knowledge that he is right sends him off to the races.
Writer Ladd Fanta once wrote of a reader of his who “invented” the perfect airgun. It had to be fully automatic, have a plastic body so all the parts could be seen and cost less than a hundred dollars. He wasn’t talking about an airsoft gun, either. No, sir! he wanted a full-blown accurate and powerful pellet rifle with all those features.
Comedian Tim Allen got it right when he recognized the male need for more power in everything. What he missed entirely was the male resistance to doing work to get it! I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard something like the following. I bought the new Dragon Spittle Extreeeeme because I thought it was the most powerful air rifle made. But I can’t cock it! I am a healthy 15 year-old and large for my age, but my father can’t even cock this rifle more than once. Why do you sell such a powerful rifle that is impossible to cock? He might as well have asked why sports car seats are so small or why 180-lb. beer kegs weigh so much!
You meet this same guy on a double diamond ski slope with his face planted firmly in the snow.
I want the most accurate, most powerful pellet rifle made, and I don’t want anything made in China or Turkey. And it has to cost $125 or less. Well, start working, Bunky, because you will be the first to build one, if you can!
Why don’t they…
… make barrels longer? Because everybody knows that longer barrels are more accurate. Oh, really? Then why, pray tell, are Olympic target rifle barrels 16 inches long, when the barrel shrouds that house them are 25 inches long?
… make better hunting air pistols? Could it be because it takes a long barrel to produce the power needed for a hunting airgun? And what’s wrong with the TalonP?
… make PCPs that sell for under $100? I’m actually working on that one.
… turn 10-meter target rifles into more powerful rifles for field target? Everyone knows 10-meter rifles are the most accurate in the world. Actually, Walther did just that about a decade ago. I worked on it through Smith & Wesson. They called it the Dominator, and it was supposed to sweep the field of all the prizes. The other competitors didn’t get the memo in time, I guess.
… make a BB gun that’s accurate? They did and they still do. The Diana model 30 was such a gun and is still sold in Europe, but the thousand-dollar price scared away American buyers. The Daisy Avanti Champion 499 is still a very accurate gun, though it competes at just five meters.
I’m as guilty as anyone
Many years ago, I had an “idea” that it would be nice to own a reloadable .22 cartridge that performed like the long rifle, but one for which I could cast bullets. So, I set out to build it. First, I ordered an E.R. Shaw .22 barrel with a 1:10 inch twist and forced them to chamber it in .22 Hornet. They balked because the Hornet twist is supposed to be 1:14 inch, but I knew better. They did what I asked and afterward they announced they would lo longer make .22 Hornet barrels!
I envisioned driving a 50-grain lead bullet at 1,200 f.p.s. and having the equivalent of the .22 WRF (or better still, the much older 22/45/10 single-shot from which the .22 Hornet was derived). Twenty-two ammo was up to $20 a brick and this was a chance to stick it to The Man. I never checked the availability of .22-caliber bullet molds (there aren’t many) or of custom mold makers who make .22 molds (there are next to none who do). I just assumed all the molds I needed would be there when the time came.
What I ended up with was an inaccurate .22 Hornet that didn’t like cast bullets or jacketed bullets, either. I had the barrel rechambered for .219 Donaldson Wasp — another cartridge that is supposed to have a 1:14 inch twist. I’m still playing with that one — trying to get it to work, because underneath everything there is a fine custom E.R. Shaw .22 barrel.
So, what gives?
Why do people want things that are impossible? I think I know. I think they read a few “facts” and become fixated on them to the exclusion of everything else. You can’t tell them anything because it’s way too loud inside their heads. They “know” they’re right and that others have simply missed the wonderful thing of which they’ve dreamed. Until they attempt to do something about it, they will never know the truth. They sit back and view the airgun world as one large buffet, putting things from every dish on their imaginary plate. From this, we get requests for pocket-sized air pistols with 50 foot-pound power and minute-of-angle accuracy. Or 30 foot-pound spring rifles that cock with 20 pounds effort and cost less than $150.
I’m just ranting now; I don’t expect an answer or think this will ever change. It must be part of human nature.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today is Part 2, the velocity test of the AirForce Talon SS. With an AirForce rifle, this could easily be three separate reports by itself because there’s so much flexibility built into the rifle that it takes that long to explain it all. The rifle isn’t complex, but the adjustable power and barrel options give the shooter a world of possibilities to explore.
I’m testing a box-stock Talon SS in .22 caliber. My rifle is around 10 years old, so it’s broken-in. New Talon SS rifles may not do what mine does right from the box, but keep shooting them a while and they’ll settle in like this one did.
Normally in the velocity test, I pick a range of pellets to test, but today I’ve selected only two. These are the two most accurate pellets in this rifle, and I don’t shoot anything else. What this allows me to do is show you what the adjustability looks like in operation.
Power setting 10
I learned many years ago that my SS likes power setting 10. Adjusting it higher only gets a few extra f.p.s., but the air is exhausted much faster. I get about 35 powerful shots from the 12-inch .22-caliber Lothar Walther barrel that comes with the rifle on power setting 10, and I’ll show you what that gives me. Refer back to Part 1 to see the power adjustment mechanism and what the settings look like.
The first pellet I shot was the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier. For many years, this was the hands-down best pellet in my SS and also in the hundreds of SS rifles I tested at the AirForce factory, where I used to work as technical director (2003-2005). I used to mount scopes on rifles that were sold directly and then I sighted them in. For this, I used the Crosman Premier pellet. I also tested every rifle that was sent in for repairs — including several that were simply sent in because their owner’s claimed they weren’t accurate. In the latter cases, I always tried calling the owner to ascertain what was going wrong, because in all cases except one the rifles were always deadly accurate. I may have had to clean the barrel, but afterward it always shot great.
I had only 23 yards of distance inside the old factory, so that was the distance at which the gun was tested, but I have shot the SS at 50 yards so much that I could extrapolate what it would do from a 23-yard group. The standard was about a 3/8-inch group of five at 23 yards, and, with one exception in three years of testing, that’s what I almost always got. In a couple cases, I got a quarter-inch group, and I envied the owners of those special barrels! By the way, this is where I developed my 10-minute sight-in procedure.
At power setting 10, my SS (filled to 3,000 psi) gets an average 854 f.p.s. with Crosman Premiers. The range is from 850 to 860, so the spread is 10 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the rifle produces 23.16 foot-pounds. This is fast for an SS at power setting 10. Most of the brand-new rifles I’ve tested get from 820-830 f.p.s. on the same setting, but as I said earlier, once they break in they go a little faster.
Then, I tested the JSB Exact 15.9-grain dome. This is now the best pellet in my SS, having passed the Premier a number of years ago. And that’s in both the factory 12-inch barrel as well as the optional 24-inch barrel I usually have on the rifle. On power setting 10, this pellet averages 823 f.p.s., with a spread from 821 to 825 f.p.s. That gives us a muzzle energy of 23.92 foot-pounds.
Can the rifle give more energy?
The short answer is yes. By loading heavier pellets, you’ll get increasingly higher energies. An SS is good for a bit more than 25 foot-pounds; but if you want to hit what you shoot at with my rifle, you’ll shoot either of the two pellets already mentioned.
Power setting 6
Okay, let’s back off the power and see what happens. On power setting 6, my rifle shoots Premiers at an average 787 f.p.s. The spread is from 775 to 800 f.p.s., so it has jumped from a 10 f.p.s. spread to a 25 f.p.s. spread. At lower power settings, you can expect your Talon SS to shoot less consistently than it does on higher power. However, you aren’t going to shoot 50-yard groups on power setting 6 if you want to do well, so it really doesn’t matter. At 25 yards, you won’t be able to see a difference between the rifle on 6 and 10. At 6, the pellet produces 19.67 foot-pounds, so it’s still as strong as many powerful spring rifles. The benefit of this setting is more shots per fill, but I get so many shots on power setting 10 that I never use anything else.
The heavier JSB pellets average 778 f.p.s. on setting 6. They range from 769 to 785 f.p.s., so the spread is a bit tighter than with Premiers. And the average energy with this pellet on setting 6 is 21.38 foot-pounds.
Power setting 0
I then adjusted the power as low as it will go. I call it setting 0, though there is no zero on the adjustment scale. On this setting, the rifle is quieter than a Red Ryder BB gun. Crosman Premiers average 486 f.p.s. with a spread from 451 to 522 f.p.s. The velocity has really opened up at this low setting. You can live with it if the distance is 10 meters or less, or you can bump the power up to setting 2 (on my rifle) and cut the velocity spread in half. At that setting, the velocity will average about 520 f.p.s. On setting 0, the power averages 7.5 foot-pounds, or just about what you get from a Diana 27 breakbarrel in good shape.
JSB Exacts 15.9-grain pellets average 507 f.p.s,. on setting 0 and they range from 492 to 521. Once more they produced the tighter spread, and this time they went faster, as well. They produced 9.08 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
Shot No. 35
People want to know how many shots a PCP has and the answer is always, “That depends.” In this case, the 35th full-power shot from the rifle set on power setting 10 was a Crosman Premier at 837 f.p.s. Remember, we were getting an average of 854 f.p.s. on this setting in the beginning of the fill. That should give you an idea of how many shots you can expect from a single fill.
Adjusting the top hat
The top hat refers to the end of the valve that is struck by the striker (through the bolt) when the rifle fires. It looks like an old top hat in profile. Back before the Talon rifle came out in 2001, AirForce rifles had no power adjustment mechanism. So shooters would put an o-ring under the top hat to cushion the blow from the striker. You could run the gun without the o-ring, which was wide open, or use the o-ring and get twice the number of shots at reduced power.
Another way to adjust power on that old model was to adjust the clearance under the top hat, so the valve opened for more or less time, depending on what you did. You loosened a single small Allen screw (just one in the old days) and screwed the top hat up or down to suit your intention. That is where the top hat adjustment came into being.
When the Talon first came out with its power adjuster, it was no longer necessary to adjust the top hat, but many owners didn’t get the memo and continued adjusting it anyway. The top hat can still be adjusted today; but it’s set at 0.080 inches from the factory on a Talon and a Talon SS, and there’s no good reason to change that setting. My tank is about a decade old, and its top hat has never been adjusted.
The space under the silver “top hat” (above the center of this picture) controls how far the valve opens and how long it remains open. Leave it alone. The bolt is pushed forward to cock the rifle and for showing the top hat in this photo.
Does adjusting the top hat change anything? Yes, it does. It changes the way the power adjustment mechanism affects the gun. Changing the top hat is like changing the tire size on your car. When you do, the speedometer doesn’t work correctly anymore, because it is calibrated to the original tire size.
My advice is to leave the top hat right where it is when you get the gun, unless you get it used from someone who has adjusted it. It that is the case, set it to 0.080 inches of clearance (Talon and Talon SS) and leave it alone.
The trigger on a Talon SS is two-stage, and the factory rates it at 2.5-3.5 lbs. Mine, which has never been serviced in any way, probably has 10,000 shots on it and breaks at 25-27 oz. — just a shade under 2 lbs. It has no creep in stage two, though most brand-new triggers do have a little.
The safety is automatic, and you can usually push it off with your trigger finger. Some new guns are too stiff to do this; but when they’re broken in, most safeties are easy to release this way.
The trigger parts are case hardened and coated with a film of moly that lasts a lifetime. You never oil the trigger, as that will attract and hold dirt — but the dry moly coating leaves the steel parts looking silvery.
AirForce triggers used to be adjustable; but when they developed the current design, they removed that feature. The adjustment was for stage one, only. Stage two takes care of itself, as it must, since the trigger parts move as the gun is cocked. So they need to be free-moving to align perfectly every time. Don’t trust any aftermarket modifications, because many of them are not safe. I’ve seen them slip off the sear without external intervention.
Is it quiet?
Yes, and no. Compared to the precharged guns without silencers that preceded it, the SS is quiet. But it’s not silenced. To a shooter who has experience with a Korean PCP, it’ll sound quiet. Compared to a fully silenced PCP, it seems loud. At power setting 10, it’s as loud as a magnum spring rifle. On power setting 4, it sounds like a Sheridan Blue Streak on three pumps. On power setting 0, it’s quieter than a Daisy BB gun. If those comparisons mean nothing to you, on power setting 10 it sounds like hands clapping loudly.
We could continue
There are many power settings I haven’t tested in this report. I hope the ones I did test demonstrate the range of power that’s available. Between settings 2 and 6, the power changes very rapidly as the adjuster changes; then from 6 to the top, the changes are slower. The rifle is most stable around power setting 10. Each rifle will differ, and each rifle will also change as it breaks in — getting faster with time if left alone.
If you buy a Talon SS and don’t own a chronograph, don’t worry — all you have to do is adjust it to the setting that gives the best accuracy. That’s going to be somewhere near setting 10 on the coarse setting and forget what the number on the power wheel says.
I’ve also told you the two very best pellets for my rifle. Because I’ve tested so many of these guns, I know that these pellets will work well in any of them. That’s not to say that a better pellet won’t come along someday, but for right now — these two are the best.
Next, we’ll mount a scope and see what sort of accuracy we get from the rifle.
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
This is a test I said I would do the next time I got a calm wind day at the range. That day came last Friday, and I took the opportunity to test the FWB 300S at 50 yards with a scope. This test was designed to see if there is any discernible accuracy difference between pellets that are sorted by weight and those selected at random from the tin. If you read part 4, you’ll see that I was surprised to find that these JSB Exact RS pellets I selected for their accuracy had such a variation in weight. I sorted through almost 40 pellets to find 20 that weighed exactly 7.3 grains. Though the weight difference was only four tenths of a grain, it was more than expected and more pellets were affected than I thought.
The JSB Exact RS pellet was chosen because of previous performance demonstrated in part 3. And I had to choose a domed pellet because out at 50 yards no wadcutter can possibly be accurate — I’ve proven that on many occasions in the past.
In part 4, I tested the rifle at 50 yards using the target sights that come on it, and I got two groups of 10 shots each. One was with random pellets taken from the tin. That group measured 1.689 inches between the centers of the two widest shots, while the other was 10 weight-sorted pellets that grouped in 1.363 inches. I didn’t feel that test was conclusive, so I wanted to return with the rifle scoped to see what it could do.
Not only did I mount a scope on the rifle, I also installed a scope level, and on every shot the bubble was leveled. That eliminated the possibility of any cant, so the rifle was always shooting in the same orientation.
The scope hangs over three-quarters of the loading port, making loading a chore. Notice how close together the scope rings are, yet they occupy the entire length of the dovetails. The 300S is not made for a scope! Notice, also, the scope level that was consulted on every shot.
I mounted a Leapers 3-9×50 scope with AO. It’s an older version of the one I linked to, but the specs are mostly the same. Notice in the photo that this scope was almost too long for the rifle, even though it was mounted at the extreme rear of the spring tube.
Where I had used a 3-inch bull target with the aperture target sights, I switched to the smaller 10-meter target when using the scope. The pellets were falling off the target paper anyway and onto the plain backer paper attached to the target frame, because of the large drop of this pellet at 150 feet.
I couldn’t have asked for a better day in which to shoot. Since I was at the range very early, there was absolutely no breeze. The sun hadn’t risen very high, so I didn’t need to shield my non-sighting eye. The rifle rested in the bunny bag dead calm, so altogether this was as perfect a test as I could have run.
Bore already seasoned
Because the bore had been shooting JSB Exact RS pellets last, it was already seasoned for this test. Still, I did shoot the rifle a few times to wake up the action. Then, I began the first group of unsorted pellets.
This time, the pellets did very poorly — grouping 10 shots into 3.152 inches at 50 yards. The group is very elongated, looking like a large velocity swing. The group measures just 1.178 inches wide, which is less than half the height.
Next, I shot the pellets that were sorted by weight. Ten went into a group measuring 1.606 inches across. This group is fairly round and well-distributed, so it makes me wonder all the more about the first group. Perhaps the gun needed longer to warm up for the first group than I allowed?
Test is not conclusive
I’m declaring this entire test invalid. I think I’ve stretched the FWB 300S beyond its capability, and the results are not telling me what I need to know. I’m aware that others have shot 10-meter rifle at 50 yards and say they’ve gotten good results, but clearly I’ve not been able to do the same with this rifle.
I think the test itself is worth pursuing, but with a rifle better-suited to accuracy at 50 yards. Pushing the FWB 300S outside its comfort zone was not a good idea. But I have several accurate air rifles that are all capable of grouping well at 50 yards. That’s what I need to rerun the test.