El Gamo 300: Part 1

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

I asked you last week to send me an email about how this blog changed your life (see last subhead). The special email set up for that didn’t work after that blog went live, but we’ve just tested it — and it’s fixed. I look forward to hearing from you.

This report covers:

• History of the gun
• The rifle
• Firing behavior
• A poor man’s R7

El Gamo 300
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.

I told you that I bought an El Gamo 300 at this year’s Toys That Shoot airgun show in Findlay, Ohio. And those readers who have been with me for a couple years know why I wanted this rifle — I said it was the conventional version of the El Gamo 68-XP breakbarrel that I bought from blog reader David Enoch at the 2012 Arkansas airgun show. I wrote 6 reports on that rifle, which today lives in my collection as a fine example of an airgun from an earlier time.

The recent passing of Robert Law caused me to read a 1979 Air Rifle Headquarters catalog yesterday, and I looked at the El Gamo 300 writeup very closely. Apparently, it isn’t as much a conventional version of the 68-XP as a variation on that powerplant. The two rifles do share the same velocity and accuracy potential; and even though their styling looks different, I believe they have a lot of the same parts. When I examined the triggers, I could see that the 300 trigger is much simpler than the one on the 68-XP. So, what I said about their similarity needs to be better defined. The two rifles are closely associated, but the 300 is not just a 68-XP in a conventional stock.

El Gamo 68-XP trigger
The 68-XP trigger has three adjustments (behind the guard).

El Gamo 300 trigger
The 300 trigger has a single screw behind the trigger blade for adjustments.

History of the gun
Robert Law, the owner of the original Air Rifle Headquarters, was the George L. Herter of the U.S. airgun world. He published a large black-and-white catalog in the 1960s and ’70s that got thousands of people started in this hobby — including me! He wrote tons of descriptive information about each gun, and he made you salivate over the thought of acquiring them. Here’s what he wrote about the 300.

“An opportunity to buy a match profile rifle at a price typical of the 1960′s era might seem a little too much to ask in this day and age. Yet that is just what the ElGamo people have accomplished in their remarkable 300 model! The remarkable price breakthrough has been made possible by eliminating expensive frills, using mass production, and the use of less expensive labor.”

Let’s look at that price a moment, for I have the price list that came with this April 1979 catalog. The 300 (he called it the 300 Target in the price list) sold for $82.95. The 68-XP brought $89.95. At the same time, a Weihrauch HW30S (the model with the Rekord trigger) was bringing $114.50, and a deluxe FWB 124 right-hand rifle went for $209.50. In today’s dollars, the 300 would fetch around $225-250 because the HW30S is now bringing $329.99. But in 1979, Law felt that $100 was a price point that a rifle like the 300 could not top.

The rifle was actually discontinued in 1975 because of the increasing price, and then brought back when a large purchase was made by a single customer, dropping the production cost. The 68-XP and the 300 were made in both Spain and Brazil. When you bought one from ARH, it could potentially come from either country.

The rifle
The El Gamo 300 is a breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle in .177 caliber that I believe is the only caliber it came in. It’s midsized, at 42-7/8 inches overall and weighing 6 lbs., 12 oz. The barrel is 17-1/2 inches long. The length of pull measures 14-1/4 inches.

Cocking is light and easy. I’ll measure it in Part 2. The barrel is held shut by a chisel detent that’s easy to open. For the modest power the rifle develops, the detent is sufficient to keep the barrel closed during firing.

The stock is a dark blonde-stained beech with almost no grain. The forearm is tall and narrow, having a boxy cross-section and pistol grip. The butt has El Gamo’s “melted” look, where the raised cheekpiece barely stands out from the stock. And the comb has a Monte Carlo profile. The buttplate is hard plastic with some anti-skid lines and a bullseye mark and nothing else.

There’s also some other plastic on the gun. The end cap, trigger blade, triggerguard, as well as some front and rear sight parts are made of plastic. The metal parts are blued steel that, by today’s standards, is quite good. In its day, the 300 wasn’t finished better than any other airgun in its price range.

The sights are a fixed hooded post in front and a rear notch that’s click-adjustable in both directions. El Gamo made the notch too narrow, so the front blade fills it completely, making this rifle difficult to sight. A pair of 11mm dovetail grooves will handle a scope, but no provision for a scope stop. Remember, this rifle comes from a time when scoping an air rifle was considered a novelty.

El Gamo 300 rear sight
The rear sight adjusts in both directions with light, smooth clicks. The rear notch is too narrow for the front post.

El Gamo also put a hole in the spring tube that allowed the direct oiling of the piston seal. I guess they wanted to keep the leather seal supple. I have only seen that on the Mendoza rifles of a few years ago.

El Gamo 300 scope grooves
Two 11mm dovetail grooves allow a scope to be mounted. That hole is for oiling the piston seal.

Firing behavior
I’ve shot the 300 several times just to get a sense of how it feels. There’s a little buzzing upon firing, but it isn’t objectionable. Compared to my tuned 68-XP, though, I did notice the difference. The breech seems to fit most pellets well, so I hope that the accuracy Robert Law promised is achievable. He said I could expect to put 5 shots into 0.21 inches at 25 feet. I’ll be shooting at 33 feet (10 meters), so I’m hoping that means I can expect a quarter-inch group. Then, again, I’ll shoot 10 shots instead of just 5, and use today’s super-accurate pellets. So, all bets are off.

Air Rifle Headquarters said to expect a velocity of 665 f.p.s. after conditioning, which is the combination of a break-in and initial lubrication. They said to expect 680 f.p.s. with their accurization. I don’t care what my rifle does in the velocity department, but I do want it to shoot smoothly.

It isn’t fair to compare this rifle to my 68-XP because I tuned and adjusted that rifle extensively. Maybe if I see enough potential from this one, I’ll do the same.

At the time when the rifle was initially being sold, there was probably talk about whether or not a Brazilian model was as good as a Spanish model. I have no way of knowing whether there’s any basis to that — both of my rifles were made in Spain.

El Gamo 300 logo
The El Gamo logo and the country of manufacture are stamped on the spring tube.

A poor man’s R7
Whenever there’s a rifle like this 300 that embodies a lot more quality than the price signifies, it gets labeled as a “poor man’s something.” In this case, given the size, accuracy and power, I think the Beeman R7 is the comparison. I do remember thinking back when this catalog was new that there was no way I would ever want either the 300, which looked cheap to me, or the 68-XP that looked like a kid’s gun. But the long lens of time has a way of distorting things.

In light of the air rifles being offered today, the El Gamo 300 seems to offer a lot more than it did 35 years ago. I don’t need the supersonic velocities being offered today, and will trade them in a heartbeat for a cocking effort that’s lower. The questions that remains are how well the trigger performs and what kind of accuracy I can get.

El Gamo 300 two rifles
The El Gamo 300 (top) is a conventional breakbarrel, compared to the 68-XP.

23 Responses to “El Gamo 300: Part 1”

  • RifledDNA Says:

    Instead of Mr Law “put putting” out the catalog, a driver, or my favorite, a five iron, would’ve worked better! Lol, sorry to be the typo police, but that was funny…
    On the gun, its amazing to look at the NP2 yesterday and then this one from over 30 years ago and what performance changes have made, but overall styles and operating is still pretty standard on breakbarrels. Besides the odd tacticool, breakbarrels are enduring with the simplicity and ease of cost of use, I wonder how different a breakbarrel from 50 years in the future could be? Be an interesting project to redesign one, like a bullpup style where the barrels underneath the piston stacked to compact it, but not just an underlever single stroke pnumatic, a full power springer without valves etc…. Time to hit the drawing board!

  • Reb Says:

    It looks like I was right about this gun.I like the story told in the numbers. The weight and styling are acceptable If velocity & accuracy are what they’re supposed to be I’d say we have a longstanding capable break-barrel. My curiosity wants to know “How much?” but I think I have a pretty good idea of what a rifle of this level should go for.Hope you got a good deal! Let’s see what she does!
    PS,I kinda like the pistol grip on that68-XP
    Reb

    • Mitchell in Dayton Says:

      I couldn’t tell you why, but I think that 68-XP is a cool looking rifle as well. Standard breakbarrel rifles are handsome on their own, but there is something to be said for companies who have tried and pushed the limits of styling to create something unique.

    • RidgeRunner Says:

      You would be surprised at how little you can pick up some of the old air rifles and pistols for at an airgun show. To build my 1906 BSA today would literally cost thousands of dollars, but I picked it up for under two hundred. True, it did not work at the time, but it did not take much time or money to fix it and it is now my “keep it to the last” air rifle.

      Now some of them are way overpriced. A Beeman that says San Rafael on it will cost you more than a new one. It won’t shoot any better, but it will cost you more.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Reb,

      I paid either $100 or $90. I have seen rough ones go for $50. I paid the top dollar because I wanted to test it. But $50-90 seems like the right price range.

      B.B.

      • Reb Says:

        I tend to be fairly discriminant when it comes to condition most of the time so I notice little things like the screw damage on that 68-XP. These things will be mentally tabulated and although not structurally detrimental,the possibility of other, sometimes hidden damage also considered and if necessary used as valuable bargaining tools when it comes checkout time! I’ve witnessed some very brutal “horse traders” in action and consider my technique to be much less painful than most others’. But I’ve no qualms about paying a fair price for a fair product,If I want it. After all,I did pay $100 for a non-working Benjamin 3120, whose resurrection has been postponed, due to medical complications.
        I was browsing at a local retailer the other day when I noticed a severely damaged tin of StoegerX-match pellets on the shelf when I took them up to the counter for a price check I noted the severity of the damage to the tin and the fact that they would be difficult to open due to it. At first there was no break on the price until I noted that they would inevitably be the last tin to go , as no’one would pay full retail for such a damaged product.The verdict was 15% off, which wasn’t very enticing but I offered to buy it if the damage proved not to be too extensive after opening & inspection of the contents…I wound up paying $11 for 500 because they all looked good! I’ve already been through one tin of these which I fondly recall because they shot so great in almost everything I have! After a quick search, they appear to be relabled H&N rifle match8.18grain, a very high quality pellet this means I paid about 1/3 their value!

        Reb

      • Reb Says:

        Sounds like the transaction went smooth,Good job!

    • 103David Says:

      Don’t know how it would affect performance, but I can’t help but think how totally cool a front pistol grip (think 1921 Thompson) would look on that 68-XP. It’d be edging towards Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian Radium Rifle.

  • Gunfun1 Says:

    Well seeing the above guns sure makes me remember looking through those old catalogs. I cant wait to see how the gun performs.

    • buldawg76 Says:

      Gunfun
      I to remember looking through the old catalogs that I seem to hoard because it seems whenever I throw some old mag or part away I end up needing it 2 weeks later. I like the 68 XP for sure because it does not look like every other air gun out there. Can’t wait to see how the 300 performs.
      Buldawg

  • Matt61 Says:

    Speaking of catalogs and poor men, I suddenly got the urge to look up a particular Feinwerkbau match rifle. This is a single stroke pneumatic that apparently won a gold medal at one point. I figured this would free me from the burden of a pump. And the globe sight and general quality would help me do better with my Anschutz at the firing range. But the Feinwerkbau model 603 appears to be discontinued by PA. :-( Another example of missing the chance on a rifle.

    Matt61

    • RidgeRunner Says:

      Matt61,

      There are gobs of used ones for sale in very fine condition at very reasonable prices. If you look around on some of the other sights you can find FWB 601s, 602s and 603s in the $600 – $800 price range. I had a FWB 601 that was absolutely gorgeous.

      If you have any trouble finding some, let me know and you will point you in the right direction.

    • RidgeRunner Says:

      Well, that was all garbled up. I will be happy to point you in the right direction if you cannot find them.

    • Michael Says:

      Matt61,

      I hate to tell you, but I believe the FWB 603 was discontinued in the mid to late 1990s.

      If you can pick up a 601, 602 or 603, and this is important, WITH BOTH THE ORIGINAL REAR AND FRONT SIGHTS (alone worth maybe 60% of the purchase price just by themselves) for under $600, jump on it.

      The 600 I would pass on. It had no anti-beatrap on the charging mechanism and allegedly injured some owners with the arm slapping back.

      Michael

  • Edith Gaylord Says:

    Yesterday, someone asked me how they can access the historical archives. Below is a link :-)

    All blogs from 2005 thru April 2010 are listed there:

    http://airgun-academy.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2005-01-01T00:00:00-06:00&updated-max=2006-01-01T00:00:00-06:00

    Edith

  • Wulfraed Says:

    Seem that a narrow slot in a sight blade could be easily remedied — especially on a sight with click-adjust windage.

    A few minutes with a jeweler’s file (or some tense seconds with Dremel cut-off wheel), followed by some touch up cold bluing (or black paint, as applicable)

  • RidgeRunner Says:

    I wonder if you can turn the rear sight blade over. Maybe they have a different size notch available.

  • Chris Says:

    That looks frighteningly similar to my favorite air rifle I own, a Crosman 3100 which was made in Spain as well. I’m told the Cometa 100 is the same as my Crosman, any idea if the El Gamo is the same as well?

    • Mel Says:

      No, Cometa and Gamo are two different manufacturers. Both exist today. Gamo grew considerably and adapted much to the US market, while Cometa remained a relatively small player and sells mainly in Europe.

  • Fred_BR Says:

    I never heard of Model 300s being made here in Brazil. I know that Taurus once produced the 68XP, but the 300 also being made here is news to me.
    Do the Brazilian made rifles bear any markings as to identify their origins?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Fred_BR,

      I would assume the Brazilian-made guns will say Made in Brazil, as U.S. law requires. That’s why I showed that photo of the logo that includes Made in Spain.

      B.B.

  • Vince Says:

    Cometa and Gamo are different, and the guns don’t really share much in the way of design details. I’ve worked on a number of older Cometa’s, and they are definitely a notch above Gamo.

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