by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Kyle MacLeod is this week’s Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
The Chinese Fast Deer sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?
Today will be both a report on the Fast Deer and a rant. The report comes first.
This is accuracy day. Since the Fast Deer has open sights, I thought 10 meters would be a good test distance. You may remember that in Part 2 I told you that I turned the rear sight around to get longer eye relief. Well, that really paid off big time in this test. I found the rear notch to be sharp and well-defined, making alignment of the front and rear sights easy. Blog reader Matt61 asked why good eye relief is necessary for an open-sighted rifle. It’s because you must align the front and rear sights with each other and with the target. If you shoot with a peep sight, no front and rear sight alignment is required — just look through the rear hole and align the front sight with the target. The peep sight is more like a scope in that respect, while the open-sighted (notch and post) sight requires good eyesight for the alignment of the two sight elements.
I started with 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lites. They fit the breech on the loose side but good enough to shoot. The first shot was high and wide to the right, so I adjusted the rear sight down and also to the right. Because it’s turned around, I have to adjust to the right to make it go to the left. And you always want to adjust the rear sight in the same direction that you’re trying to move the pellet.
The group of 10 shot with Premiers was average. It measures 0.756 inches between centers of the two widest shots. That’s not wonderful for 10 meters, but it’s a start.
Ten Premier lites made this 0.756-inch group at 10 meters. Although it does have a large group of 6 or 7 at the right, it’s a little too open for my tastes.
Next, I tried H&N Match Pistol pellets. During the velocity test, I found them to be very consistent in this rifle. I also said this pellet seemed to fit the breech well; but as I loaded them for the accuracy test, I felt they were still somewhat loose. But look at what they did on target! I did adjust the sights after the Premiers, but I didn’t check where it got me — I just shot 10 of these target pellets and let them land where they would. I didn’t even look at the target through the spotting scope until all 10 had been fired, and in retrospect that was a good decision. I could see the dark hole growing in the center of the bull from where I sat, but I didn’t know if there were any pellets outside the main group. This 10-shot group measures 0.48 inches between centers and is centered in the bull.
Now, this is what I was hoping for! Ten H&N Pistol Match pellets went into 0.48 inches.
Next, I tried RWS Hobbys. They seemed to fit the breech very well and just look at the group they gave. The sights were not adjusted after shooting the H&N Match Pistol pellets but notice that the point of impact shifted slightly to the right. Ten of these pellets gave a super-tight 0.38-inch group at 10 meters. That was the best overall group of the test.
It just gets better. Ten Hobbys went into 0.38 inches.
The last pellet I tried was our new friend, the H&N Baracuda Green that has done so well in recent tests with other air rifles. I did so for two reasons. First, the weight of this pellet, at 6.5 grains, is light enough to be effective in the Fast Deer. And second, because I wanted to see one domed pellet do well in the rifle and because I may want to shoot it at 25 yards. At that distance, the will start to fight me on accuracy.
This pellet did well, but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. And there was a problem. I was shooting the lower right bullseye with this pellet, and a piece of Scotch tape I used to hold the target tight to its backer was reflecting brightly. Was that causing aiming errors? I can’t say for sure, but I can say that this one target was harder to aim at than all the others because of that reflection.
Baracuda Greens gave me a 10-shot group that measures 0.902-inches between centers. In the center of the group, though, as seven shots in just 0.353-inches. So maybe this is a great pellet and maybe it isn’t. But I think I know a way to find out.
Not the best group, but does it contain the best pellet? The Baracuda Green was hampered by aiming difficulties. Would that have made a difference?
The Fast Deer has earned a Part 4 accuracy test with a scope. I find the heavy trigger is not as much of a problem as I thought it would be. And I really want to see how those Baracuda Greens do when I can aim precisely. So, there’s at least one more report coming on this unique Chinese sidelever.
On to the rant
Why can’t airgun manufacturers recognize that spring guns running at this power level (650-700 f.p.s.) are more accurate and have the least problems with hold? That was what gave me the idea to develop the rifle that became the Air Venturi Bronco — because I couldn’t find enough good, accurate airguns that aren’t Olympic-grade target rifles or top-end PCPs.
Everyone seems to think the market will not support a 700 f.p.s. spring rifle that also has great accuracy. They all point to the Beeman R7 and say that it isn’t selling that well. But the R7′s price has left three-quarters of the market behind. To succeed, a rifle needs to cost under $200, like so many of the mega-magnums now do.
No — airguns have to hit the magic 1,000 f.p.s., and the faster you go the better! I appreciate that new buyers are swayed by velocity, and so are some who should know better; but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for a few super-accurate guns that don’t take 50 lbs. to cock. And just so people in all the marketing departments around the world get my meaning: by “a few,” I mean a few tens of thousands per year.
The current horsepower race in airguns reminds me of the muscle car days of the 1960s. Sure, everyone wanted power and speed, but Detroit completely ignored that segment of the population that just wanted reliable transportation. Even after Volkswagen poked a finger in their eye, the fat cats in Motor City thought it was just a blip on the radar that would eventually go away.
Well, it wasn’t a blip, and it was Detroit that went away, instead, when the Japanese snuck quietly into the American car market with their little cars that were what the majority of buyers really wanted. Call them names if you must — we certainly did back in the late ’60s — but acknowledge that they took over the world of automobiles from the Big Three.
People will tell you that it was the gas crisis of 1973 that boosted Japan to the top. Well, I was there and that wasn’t it at all. The Japanese were already entrenched when the gas crisis hit. Sure, it put them over the top, but they were already poised to win before the gas stopped flowing.
The same thing exists right now with spring-piston airguns. Everyone, and I mean every single company who builds or imports spring-piston airguns today, will tell you that a gun HAS to go a thousand feet per second or they can’t sell it. That is the kind of reasoning that drives people like me to the Diana 27 air rifles and Hakims of the world. And I shoot airguns all the time. The folks in the airgun marketing departments play golf and fish and have lives outside of the airgun realm. To them, this is just a job — a paycheck.
Well, I see ways of making that paycheck bigger and fatter than ever, and nobody’s paying attention The Bronco is just one such gun. This industry is starved for more like it. But until we learn the hard way that monster vibration machines are not what the world needs more of, the status quo will remain.