Falke 90 test: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Falke 90 restored
Falke 90 underlever rifle is a German spring-piston gun from the early 1950s.

This report is my test of the .22-caliber Falke 90 underlever air rifle I acquired a few years ago. When I got it, the rifle wasn’t working, so blog reader Vince offered to fix it for me. After he finished, he took it to my friend Mac, who tested it. I’ve owned this rifle for several years and never really tested it myself, and I thought it was about time to do so.

I recently had the stock restored by Doug Phillips, who did a wonderful job. Now, I have a nice-looking underlever spring rifle as well as one that works well, so today we’re going to look at its velocity. And we’re going to do more than that because Mac told me some things about the gun that have shaped today’s test. Why don’t I share them with you now?

The Falke 90 is an underlever, which means there is a separate lever to cock the mainspring. In the Falke 90, it’s hidden by the stock — very much like the BSA Airsporter and the Hakim, which are both related to the Falke. All three rifles are loaded through a tap that rotates open automatically when the lever is cocked. That provides a place to drop the pellet, nose-first. Then the tap is manually rotated closed, the pellet aligns with the breech (in front) and the air transfer port (behind the pellet). Let’s talk about that tap for a bit.

Tap alignment
The tap opens by a mechanical projection on the cocking linkage that pushes the tap as it passes it during cocking. I think the remarkable thing is that it stays in adjustment over hundreds of thousands of shots and scores of years of use. My tap is still aligned perfectly, so I don’t have to do anything except drop a pellet nose-first into it and then rotate it closed to align with the barrel.

There can be a problem with a tap, however. The pellet chamber in it can be so exact that pellets don’t fall all the way in when they’re just dropped in. This is what Mac pointed out to me about this rifle. My taploader experience has been with the Hakim rifle, which has a generous pellet chamber and seldom has a problem — unless the pellet skirt is bent. Then, the pellet won’t fall into the tap’s pellet chamber as far as it should; and when you rotate the tap closed, you’ll catch and bend the pellet’s skirt. But the pellet chamber on the Falke 90 tap is very small and may or may not accept the pellet as far as it needs to — to clear the receiver when the tap is rotated closed.

Mac told me to watch for that problem and to make sure each pellet made it into the pellet chamber as far as it needed for clearance. He advised me to use an instrument to push each pellet as far into the tap chamber as it would go — thus clearing the skirt when the tap rotated closed.

Falke 90 pellet in tap not seated
This pellet was dropped into the tap and failed to enter the pellet chamber far enough to clear the end of the pellet skirt when the tap is closed.

Falke 90 pellet in tap seated
Here the pellet has been pushed into the tap as far as it will go. This pellet will easily clear the gun when the tap is closed.

This tap business got me wondering about the affect on velocity. Would a deep-seated pellet be better (faster and more consistent), or would a pellet that has just been dropped into the tap do better? I’m sure you can come to your conclusions quickly enough, so let’s test a couple pellets and see what really happens.

RWS Superpoints
I began shooting RWS Superpoints when I got my first Hakim. They seemed like the perfect pellet for that rifle because they have thin skirts that will flare out from a smaller blast of air and also because they just dropped deeply into the Hakim tap. Other pellets were too small for the Hakim tap and failed to produce adequate velocity because much of the air compressed by the piston slipped past them in the barrel.

In the Falke 90, however, it’s a different story. The pellet chamber in the loading tap is very small, and Superpoints do not usually drop in far enough to close the tap. Many of them need to be seated mechanically. So, I tested them two ways. First, as just dropped in but not pushed deep and second as pushed into the tap as deep as they would go.

Very few of the pellets fell into the tap deep enough by themselves to close the tap, so even in the first test there was some pushing that had to take place. Perhaps 6 pellets had to be pushed into the tap a little while 4 fell in deep enough on their own. This string of what I’m calling unseated pellets averaged 476 f.p.s. and ranged from 465 to 484 f.p.s. That is a spread of 19 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet and loading method generated 7.3 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Next, I tried pushing the pellets into the tap as deep as they would go. Now, I bet you think they’re going to go faster than the unseated pellets. Right? Well, they did one foot-per-second faster! Yes, the average for seated pellets was 477 f.p.s., and the spread went from 461 to 493 f.p.s. So the range was 32 f.p.s. And the average muzzle energy was 7.33 foot-pounds. Not much difference, is there?

JSB Exact RS pellets
The other pellet I tried was the lighter JSB Exact RS pellet, which in .22 caliber weighs 13.4 grains. This is a pure lead pellet, like the Superpoint, and it also has a thin skirt. But the Exact pellet is smaller than the Superpoint. These pellets fell into the tap far enough to close without any damage every time.

On the first test, where the pellet was just dropped in, the Exact RS averaged 453 f.p.s. The range went from 445 to 463, so a spread of 18 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 6.11 foot-pounds. And no mechanical seating was necessary.

On the second test, where the pellet was pushed into the tap as far as it would go, this pellet averaged 457 f.p.s., but the spread was much larger — ranging from a low of 448 to a high of 484 f.p.s. So, the velocity varied by 36 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 6.22 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

What do these numbers tell us about the rifle?
For starters, I hope you realize that this was not a normal velocity test that produced standard numbers. The way the pellet fits the loading tap has a tremendous effect on the outcome. I believe that will probably carry over into the accuracy test, as well, so I wanted to try one more test. What would happen if I flared the skirts of every pellet before loading it into the tap, and then I pushed each pellet to the bottom of the tap? Wouldn’t that give me the best sealing of the pellet to the bore? Mac thought it would. But only one way to know for sure. I had to test it. And I decided to test both pellets, as I could see no compelling reason to choose one over the other.

RWS Superpoints flared and deep-seated
Superpoints averaged 474 f.p.s. when their skirts were flared, and they were then seated as deep as they would go into the tap. That puts them in about the same place as the pellets that were just dropped into the tap and those that were intentionally seated deep. But here’s where it gets interesting. The range went from a low of 464 f.p.s. to a high of 504 f.p.s. I’m not looking at the 40 foot per second velocity spread as much as I am the four pellets that topped 490 f.p.s. Clearly, flaring the skirts has an effect, but I must not have done it uniformly enough to make a difference.

JSB Exact RS pellets flared and deep-seated
The JSB Exact RS pellets are more flared to begin with. Even though their skirts are not quite as wide as those on the Superpoints, they lend themselves to flaring much better. These pellets averaged 487 f.p.s., which is a 20 f.p.s. increase over just seating the unflared pellets deeply. The range went from a low of 465 f.p.s. to a high of 501 f.p.s. Four pellets were at or above 500 f.p.s. Again, there must have been some inconsistency in the flaring, but the RS pellets did seem to respond better to the process.

Trigger-pull
Normally, I report on the trigger-pull in the velocity report, but I’m not going to do that today. The Falke 90 has an adjustable trigger that works on the sear contact area; and during the test, the trigger-pull went from being very light to not staying cocked. So I adjusted it heavy for safety’s sake. A taploader is safe because, until the loading tap is aligned with the bore, the pellet will not move; so when the gun fired on its own several times, there was no problem. But if I were to adjust it to a light pull, I might then close the tap before the gun is on target — and that’s dangerous if the gun then fires on its own! So, I’ll adopt a procedure with this rifle of not closing the tap until the sights are on target.

I’m also having difficulty with the trigger because the trigger return spring isn’t sufficient to push the trigger blade into lockup with the sear. When I cock the rifle, I also have to push the trigger blade forward to engage the safety. That may be because the new wood is a little tight in the trigger region. It’s something I need to look at.

The rifle is shooting well thus far, with the exceptions noted. The next report will be accuracy, and for that Mac has set the bar very high.

26 thoughts on “Falke 90 test: Part 3

  1. Trends… So far it appears that the “just dropped in” had the less extreme spreads, even if the velocity was a touch lower…

    Unfortunately, having just the extremes and the mean doesn’t give information on the shape of the variance. Are those extremes really outliers or typical?

    Okay, I’m going to bed now — to the noise of a plow truck scraping the driveways


  2. I don’t know the answer to this puzzle, but I’m sure you’ll have fun finding the pellet it likes, BB! It’s a beautifully restored gun! Maybe include some larger diameter, seated pellets in the accuracy test. I like the classic lines of this Falke! Makes me want something like it.

    /Dave


    • /Dave,

      Well, the Hakim made by Anschutz is pretty close. So is the early BSA Airsporter. So you can realize your wish.

      B.B.


      • B.B. Any plans to do a Webley Rebel review ? Interesting air rifle with a maximum of three pumps to reach velocity. Great price, as well.
        Thank you,
        Pete



          • B.B. Thank you ! Who was it that said, ‘with a lever long enough, I can lift the world” ?… to paraphrase. Looking at the Webley Rebel, possibly the linkage is long enough to reach a level of suitable fps with less effort than other Pumpers.
            Happy New Year to everyone, 2013 is going to be very, very interesting year ,indeed.
            Pete
            California


        • Pete, I don’t doubt you found the information about three pumps, but the only things I have found so far offer 4 to 8 pumps, much like the original Sheridan multi-pump rifles. The other thing I read is that the trigger pull increases with each additional pump up to the max of 8. Interesting. ~Ken


          • Ken Thanks..I am clueless where I saw the 3 pump maximum. I thought at AoA, but no, not there. One Bing search I found a dealer in the U.K. that was going to have the U.K. Version ( Ft.lbs. legal issue air gun..) and they said the Webley Rebel was the Chinese Puma Innova U.K. version. Trigger pull weight increase with pumps is from another planet. This will be an issue, big time.
            Pete
            California


            • It is on the AoA blog that I found the information about the trigger pull. I get totally confused about who manufacturers what for whom under what brand. The Rebel has all the earmarks of a Hatsan and I noted that other Webley models appear to definitely be Hatsan. Looks like the Puma Innova wins, though.
              BTW, the blog author does state that he found the trigger pull issue to be no problem with the 8 pump pull being 3 lb. 9 oz. (and that it was “crisp and manageable”). All in all, it would be nice if it could reach highest power with three pumps. ~Ken


              • Ken, I visited PA and clicked on ‘ view larger image’. One picture shows the pump action open, and it seems the forearm is much longer than a Blue Streak, for example. A longer lever. I think I’ll pop for the .22 as recommended by PA when it comes in and I get the added adventure of FedEx Ground finding us ( We tell them to leave it at Kinko/FedEx..store ). It weighs less the 5 pounds and stated that 3 pumps is enough for plinking. My GAMO Big Cat .177 is for pests.
                Stay tuned.
                Happy New Year, bolt the doors and Windows !
                Pete
                California


                • Pete, I’m glad you found the “3 pumps” again. I have not looked on the PA site regarding the Rebel. Iook forward to learning what you think of it. ~Ken


  3. Tom,
    Just curious, but by forcing the pellet down into the tap could the head of the pellet then come in contact with the breach surface below it so that when you turned the tap the pellet nose scrapes on that surface thereby deforming or gouging the head and affecting accuracy? Then, could that part of the breach under the pellet head become corroded over time and scratch the pellet head during the rotation?
    -Chuckj


    • Chuckj,

      The way the tap works that is impossible. The pellet is automatically limited so that it doesn’t come in contact with the breech when it rotates around.

      B.B.


  4. BB, I’m wondering what pellet was the most available ,back then,and thus probably most used in this rifle?What pellet ,available today ,is most like that?These may seem like stupid questions,but I’m thinking the options must have been very limited in the 1950′s.This could lead to finding the best pellet for the rifle.-Tin Can Man-


    • TCM,

      Good on you for figuring that out! That is what I’m going to do. You are right, in the 1950s the pellet selection was pretty bleak. RWS made a poor pellet and BSA did, too. Benjamin made one here in the U.S.

      They are all like the Eley Wasp in 5.6mm, which is quite large and may do well in this rifle.

      We shall see.

      B.B.


  5. B.B., I don’t believe I commented previously about the “before and after” of your Falke 90, but it really looks pretty now. I also enjoyed reading your piece in the December issue of Shotgun News.

    Now I know I cannot hope for an airgun that will shoot 30 grain solids at 3000 fps that can group inside a half inch at fifty yards and will dispatch perps with the finality of Arnold and Sylvester without even aiming.
    However, I will still enjoy working on hitting the target center within what are reasonable conditions for the gun in hand.

    Speaking of which, I got a Gamo PT-85 (non tactical) pistol for Christmas. This will probably be all of the airgun handguns I will have. I will continue to shoot the Crosman revolver as well. These will not equal my recent experience shooting the 9mm and the .38 specials in the S&M 656, but they do offer a reasonable facsimile to shoot here at home. What is reasonable is, of course, quite subjective. I find the PT-85 to offer a rather satisfying experience; I wish (silly me) the revolver could have a recoil similar to the blow back. Of course, after reading a number of customer reviews, I note that most seem to not realize that every change desired would also add to the cost of production and the final price. At any rate, I get to practice all of the basics of handgun shooting within reasonable boundaries. It has been too cold to shoot CO2 outside and I’m not allowed to shoot inside when the boss is home or when Scampi (aka the cat) is demanding attention.

    Christmas may have officially passed but I still wish all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year (even as we pray for those who are grieving). ~Ken


  6. B.B., I meant to mention one other thing. It has been a number of weeks since I shot either of the handgun firearms. I can tell you that the Gamo PT-85 is very similar to the 9mm we used that day, both in appearance and feel. That pistol was a decocker model with no manual safety. I can’t really remember the recoil, except that I had no problem handling it. I was too ignorant then to inquire about the details. Perhaps the loads were on the light. Of course, the .38 Specials didn’t have the recoil of a standard .357 load. I’ll ask about this on Sunday. Anyway, to piggy back on an earlier blog, I shoot airguns because I enjoy the freedom and pleasure of doing so (which includes everything you mentioned). ~Ken


    • 9mm is fractionally smaller (.355) than .38/.357 (the many .38s are rather misnamed — as I recall the .38S&W, .38Special, and one or two others, are all .357… The .38-40, OTOH, may be a true .38). Typical 9mm is 115-124gr, whereas .38Special is something in the 150-160gr.

      In my, limited, experience, I found the 9mm Parabellum (115gr supersonic) less comfortable than .40S&W (180gr just at the sonic transition). This may be mainly due to my (2nd gen) S&W 459 being an alloy frame while the (3rd gen) S&W 4006 is all stainless steel — the added mass reducing felt recoil. However, the other component is speed — the 9mm “snaps” in my grip while the .40S&W pushes.

      Grip shapes can also be a major influence. I have a first generation T/C Contender in .357Mag. The original grips felt like they were tearing my thumb off from my hand. They were a very wide curved thumb-rest design — all the recoil forces tried to push the basal joints of thumb and index finger to the sides. After the first range session I swapped in a Pachmayr rubber grip… It is narrower, so pushes into the web between thumb and index finger without spreading the joints, and has a hollow bubble under the area that is pressing on the web, so extra give…

      Decocker with no manual safety: SIG/Sauer model? http://www.sigsauer.com/CatalogProductDetails/p229.aspx


      • Wulfraed, thanks for the info. I can tell you that the 9mm was black as a starless night and a lot like the P229, but I will have to ask to be sure. I know that the .38 Special is same caliber but a bit shorter than the .357. The pastor who owned the S&W 656 (note special reference to guns and bibles) remarked about meeting resistance loading .357 cartridges after close to 200 rounds of .38 Specials were fired (leaving residue in the forward part of the cylinder).

        I have an uncle who has a S&W .40 caliber. I haven’t asked about shooting it but I may overcome my reticence in the near future (if I can feel it is appropriate).

        I seem to remember the T/C Contender from way back, with the tag that it could flip a coyote at (a distance I can’t remember but seemed like a long shot). You have a Condor, don’t you? I’m envious. ~Ken


      • Wulfraed, your reply to my question about the Condor made it to my email but doesn’t show up here in the blog. We probably have to speak in hushed voices about that gulag, Chicago. I can imagine you were relieved to make it past the city and state line. Wow! You do have a few “guns”. I started to ask about a favorite, but I see they are different enough to each be a favorite in their own right. I hope you can get some range shooting in soon. ~Ken


        • Ah, good — at least I don’t have to worry about recreating that inventory…

          I could probably do without the 459; it was bought used, I can’t find a longer grip screw to make up for where the prior owner half-stripped the pinned-in nut (he’d replaced the factory thin plastic grip panels with hand-carved wood, but the wood was too thick for the screws; I put a set of Pachmayr rubber panels on, but the left is held by just one screw). The 459 and 4006 look practically identical.

          {look ma, no ampersands, let’s see if it posts}


  7. Hi B.B. Pete Hallock was asking if you were doing a review on the Webley Rebel and i’m glad to hear you are going to soon, i have heard good reports on them so far and i am very interested in getting one. But the problem is you can only get them in .177 in the UK at the moment though i have read that they will be coming out in .22 as of about now, so i would think they would be in the gun shops by the time you review it. Even though its restricted to 10.5 ft/lbs over here it ‘s not a problem as my HW35 is about the same and that stops rabbits in their tracks no problem.

    best regards wing commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe.


    • Sir Nigel, apparently the first distributor here in the U.S. only has .177 caliber Rebels, so you are in good company so far. However, someone in South Yorkshire claims to have .22 Rebels for 112.20 pounds. ~Ken


  8. I was considering buying an RWS model 48 in .22 .what are your feelings about this gun and what is the difference in the TO5 and T06 triggers?


    • I have a ’48 in .22 (T05) and a ’52 in .177 (T01). Neither one disappoints. Yes, that platform is heavy, but it balances well and the relatively short length makes it easier to handle than the weight would suggest. Both are easier to shoot than a breakbarrel with comparable power, and I don’t find the cocking to be that bad. The beartrap safety is a good design – it has positive engagement and its operation is easily verified by sight and sound. The button for disengaging it is well placed and can be operated without seriously disrupting your shooting rhythm.

      I can’t comment on the T05 vs. T06 trigger.

      If the price doesn’t put you off, and it’s the general class of gun you’re looking for, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.


    • blowback241,

      I really like the Diana 48 in .22 caliber! I much prefer the T05 trigger over the T06, but both of them are good triggers. The difference is the use of a plastic trigger blade in the T05 and a metal blade in the T06, plus the internal geometry is a bit different. I find the T05 adjusts better for me. Here is a three-part report on those two triggers:

      http://airgun-academy.pyramydair.com/blog/2011/06/comparing-the-t05-trigger-to-the-t06-part-3/

      B.B.


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