Posts Tagged ‘AirForce Condor SS’

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle: Part 7

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank
AirForce Condor SS with Spin-Loc tank.

I bet some of you thought we were finished with the AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank. Well, we are…in a way. I’m removing the Hi-Flo Spin-Loc tank and replacing it with a standard AirForce tank. Instead of the Hi-Flo valve that gets 20-25 shots per fill, this tank has the standard valve that gives 35-40 good shots per fill. Of course, the power is lower, but it’s still a powerful airgun.

Blog reader Gunfun1 recently asked me to test the Talon SS rifle with all three barrel lengths so he could see the power and velocity increase that the longer barrels bring. I will do that in a future series, but today’s test is different. What we’re testing today is how a Condor powerplant and a .22-caliber 18-inch Lothar Walther barrel performs with the standard tank. The Condor and Condor SS share a common powerplant and air tank — only the barrel lengths differ.

Valvology
Let’s talk about pneumatic valves for a minute to gain a better understanding of what we’re testing. A couple things determine how much power a precharged pneumatic airgun has, and most of them are attributed to the valve. Fundamentally, it comes down to how much compressed air gets through the valve. That’s controlled by two things. The first is the size of the air hole running through the valve. A Hi-Flo valve has a huge hole running though it, so more air gets through each time the valve opens.

AirForce Condor SS Hi-Flo tank and standard tank
The Hi-Flo tank on the left has a larger hole at the end of its valve stem than the standard tank on the right. This is where the extra power comes from.

The second thing that determines how much air gets through a valve is how long it stays open. For a knock-open design like the AirForce valve, the duration the valve remains open is controlled by the length of the valve stem stroke and the strength of the valve return spring (the spring that closes the valve after the shot is fired).

Think of it like this. A hundred thousand people cannot all go through your front door at the same time. The number that can get through depends on how wide the doorway is and how long the door stays open. The moment the door starts to open, people can start coming though; and they’ll continue until the door closes. If a powerful man controls the door, only a few people will get through at a time. If a child controls it, many more will get though each time.

A Hi-Flo valve is like a very large door, while a standard tank is like a regular door. But here is the thing. No matter whether there are a hundred thousand people or two hundred thousand people outside the door (the analog of the air pressure inside the tank), only a certain number will get though each time it opens. And if the number of people outside the door becomes too large, they press against the door and hold it shut. No amount of force can open it then. That’s valve lock.

Barrel length
I’ve said many times that a pneumatic barrel is a lot like the barrel in a black powder gun — the longer the barrel is (within limits): the more time the gas has to push against the pellet, the faster it will exit the muzzle. Bore diameter also figures into this equation. A .177 barrel runs out of steam sooner than a .22 barrel does. The longer barrel is also tied to the caliber. This deserves an explanation.

Imagine 2 funnels. Both have spouts that are 3″ long. One spout is .25″ diameter on the inside, the other spout is 1″ diameter on the inside. Which funnel will empty fastest? The one with the wider spout. That’s because more of the material that passes through the funnel is not in direct (frictional) contact with the walls of the spout. Don’t get confused by what I just said. The larger spout does have more material that’s in contact with the spout; but because the inside diameter of the spout is larger, a much greater amount of material never touches the walls of the spout.

We’ve been testing a .22-caliber Condor SS that has an 18-inch Lothar Walther barrel. As we saw in the earlier tests, this barrel is 6 inches shorter than a regular Condor barrel and produces somewhat less velocity than a standard Condor of the same caliber. We’re now going to install a standard tank that has a smaller valve, so the velocity will drop. That’s one way of looking at it.

The other way to look at this is a standard Talon SS has a 12-inch Lothar Walther barrel. This rifle’s barrel is 6 inches longer. We’re about to see what a longer barrel does with the standard tank. The only difference between today’s rifle and an AirForce Talon (not the SS — the Talon that has an 18-inch barrel) will be the Condor powerplant, which means the weight of the striker. That will add a little velocity because the valve is being opened more forcefully. Going back to the door analogy, it won’t affect things nearly as much as those additional six inches of barrel.

Installing the standard tank
The Condor SS I have is fitted with a Spin-Loc tank. It stays on the rifle all the time and is filled through a male Schraeder nipple. To convert to the standard tank, I’ll remove the Spin-Loc tank with the wrench supplied by AirForce. Then the standard tank will spin on and off for filling, just like it does on my older Talon SS. No tools are required, but of course it does not have a built-in pressure gauge, either. So, I’m back to counting the shots fired; but in today’s test, we’ll see exactly how many good shots there are in this tank at high power.

The test
For the purpose of comparison, I’m going to test the same pellets and the same power settings as were used in the Condor SS test. While those pellets aren’t necessarily correct for this lower-powered rifle, it will give you a basis for comparison between the two tanks, which is all we’re testing here.

Condor SS velocity

AirForce Condor SS velocity data

What we have learned?
There isn’t much adjustability with the Condor SS using the standard tank. I haven’t given you the velocity spreads or the shot count, which are all very close, regardless of the power setting. I actually recorded over 40 shots on power setting 10; so I think I would shoot 40 shots per fill, regardless of where the power was set. The velocity spread varied by pellet, but not so much by power setting. It was about 32 f.p.s. across 40 shots for Eun Jin 28.4-grain domes; 41 f.p.s for 40 Premiers; 25 f.p.s. for 40 JSB Exact Jumbos, except on power setting 4, where it was 17 f.p.s. and 15 f.p.s. for 40 Beeman Kodiaks.

I would set the power on No. 4 for the test rifle because that setting gave more power and velocity than any other setting. You probably want to know why that is. I think the valve opens too forcefully at settings above 4, and it bounces (flutters open and closed rapidly) on the valve seat, costing power. But on setting 4, it doesn’t bounce and thus gets the highest power. Note that setting 2 was always less than setting 4. I believe the valve on setting 2 is not bouncing, but actually opening cleanly, which is why it resembles some of the higher power settings that are bouncing. At least that’s my theory.

The Condor SS is quieter with the standard tank, but it isn’t absolutely quiet. It sounds about like a Talon SS at power setting 10. That’s pleasant, like a loud hand clap. It is quite a bit quieter than with the Hi-Flo tank attached.

Summary
There’s less power when you use the Condor SS with the standard tank, but you just about double the shot count. And the discharge noise is less than that of the gun with the Hi-Flo tank.

What you get when the rifle is set up this way is a Talon that’s a little quieter. The Talon has more adjustability, of course, but today we’ve looked at a way to enjoy more flexibility from your rifle without buying another complete PCP.

If I were to use the standard tank with the Condor SS, I would set it to power level 4 and shoot 40 shots per fill. That would be regardless of which pellet I used.

We’ve already seen the accuracy of this rifle at 25 and 50 yards. Is it necessary for me to do those tests again with the standard tank installed? I think the group sizes will be similar, but of course they’re never quite the same. I’ll let you readers decide.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle: Part 6

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank
AirForce Condor SS with Spin-Loc tank. The buttpad is shown flipped down.

Yesterday, I shot the AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank at 50 yards. I’m also going to show you that one surprising group I got last week when I tried shooting the rifle in windy weather. That is a pellet I need to try more often!

The day was not perfect for shooting airguns at 50 yards, but it was calm enough to get the best results. I proved that by shooting some groups when the wind wasn’t calm and they didn’t open at all. We’re talking about a 5 m.p.h. head-on breeze that occasionally dropped to 1 m.p.h. at the lowest, so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. But when the target is 50 yards away, any breeze can affect the pellets.

I’m going to cut right to the chase in this report. I did try Beeman Kodiak pellets, as well as .22-caliber Crosman Premiers, and neither pellet was worth pursuing. Then, I tried the Air Arms Field Heavy pellet, and knew I’d found the right one. I got good 10-shot groups that had superior smaller groups inside them, but there were always a couple fliers. The power was set to 6 on the power window, and the discharge sound was quite loud, especially considering I was at a rifle range (with my ear protectors off, so I could hear what was really happening).

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Air Arms Field Heavy pellet power 6-1
Ten Air Arms Field Heavy pellets went into 1.968 inches on power setting 6, but 8 of them went into 1.046 inches. That’s good, but why were there fliers?

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Air Arms Field Heavy pellet power 6-2
This best group of 10 Air Arms pellets on power setting 6 went into 1.254 inches, but 9 of them are in 0.906 inches. Once again, we have a flier.

By this time, I had fired about 40 shots and was starting to understand how this rifle behaves. It seemed to be using too much air at power setting 6 with this pellet, so I dialed it back to power setting 4, and that’s where the magic started. The groups tightened up dramatically, and the fliers stopped altogether. Power setting 4 is where this rifle wants to be with this Air Arms Field Heavy pellet.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Air Arms Field Heavy pellet power 4-1
This best group of 10 Air Arms pellets went into 0.873 inches. This was on power setting 4, which seems to be the best setting for this pellet.

Not only did I get better groups at power setting 4, but I also got an astounding 40 good shots per fill. The last 10 shots (shots 31 to 40) did open up just a bit, but even then the group was just 1.172 inches between centers, which is still very good for 10 shots at 50 yards.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Air Arms Field Heavy pellet power 4-2
Shots 31-40 on power setting 4 did open up a bit; but these 10 pellets are still in 1.172 inches, and I got 40 shots from one fill.

I’ve a thought about what’s happening. I understand the Talon SS rifle and its 12-inch barrel quite well, and I also understand the Condor and its 24-inch barrel. What I do not yet have is much experience with a Condor valve and tank and an 18-inch barrel. I need more experience with this combination before I’ll be comfortable with the power settings and pellets that work the best. For now, though, the 18-grain Air Arms pellet on power setting 4 is the best in my test rifle.

A wind-bucking pellet
Now, for that pellet that seems to buck the wind better than the rest. It’s a Skenco New Boy Senior 28.6-grain dome. I shot it last week when the wind was higher and it bucked the wind when every other pellet was getting thrown around. My 10-shot group size was a bit large, at 1.704 inches, but 8 of those 10 pellets are in a tight 0.789 inches, and this was in considerable wind! I didn’t have any more of them for today’s test, but I’ll be ordering more for the future, I can assure you.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Skenco New Boy Senior pellet 4
On a windy day, 10 Skenco New Boy Senior pellets made a 1.704-inch group, but 8 of them landed in 0.789 inches. This is worth pursuing.

All things considered, the Condor SS performed flawlessly this day. I like the new trigger a lot, and the new safety is the best. I can’t wait to try out this rifle in some novel ways!

We aren’t done with the Condor SS yet. Next, I’m going to switch the Spin-Loc Hi-Flo tank with a standard tank, and we’ll look at the velocity, shot count, noise signature and accuracy at both 25 and 50 yards. By the time I’m finished, you all should know quite a lot about this new air rifle from AirForce.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle: Part 5

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank
AirForce Condor SS with Spin-Loc tank. The buttpad is shown flipped down.

Before we start today’s report, many of you requested to see the Condor SS next to a regular Condor and a Talon SS for size comparison. The photo below shows that.

AirForce Condor SS rifle Condor and Talon SS
Condor SS on top, Condor in the middle and Talon SS on the bottom.

Today, we’ll begin the accuracy test of the new .22-caliber AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank. This was shot indoors at 25 yards and was the first time I’ve shot this rifle for accuracy.

I mounted a Bushnell Banner 6-18X50 AO scope in a one-piece BKL mount with 1-inch rings. The scope was clear and bright at 25 yards. I’ve used it in the past, so I know it’s a good one.

One shot from 12 feet confirmed that the rifle would be on target at 25 yards, so I backed up and shot one more. The vertical adjustment had to be adjusted up about 8 clicks, and I was centered on the target. Now, the shooting could begin.

For this test, the rifle was set on power setting 2, as that had delivered good velocity with all the pellets I would be testing. I didn’t want to waste air; and I was shooting indoors, so there were no breezes to contend with.

Beeman Kodiaks
The first pellet I tried was the Beeman Kodiak that weighs 21.14 grains. The first shot almost destroyed the aim point, but the rest of the shots drifted to the left a little. After 10 shots, I had a 2-hole group that measured a maximum of 0.626 inches between centers. It’s okay, but not what I was hoping for.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank-Kodiak-group-25-yards
Ten Beeman Kodiaks made this group at 25 yards. At 0.626 inches between centers, it’s okay but not what I’d hoped to get from the Condor SS.

JSB Exact Jumbo
After the Kodiaks, I shot 10 JSB Exact Jumbo pellets. They weigh 18.1 grains and are perfectly suited to the power of this rifle. They did give a better, more rounded group; but at 0.613 inches, it wasn’t much smaller than the Kodiak group. I felt the Condor SS should be capable of even better accuracy.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank-JSB-Exact-Jumbo-group-25-yards
Ten JSB Exact Jumbo pellets did better, at 0.613 inches between centers, but I was still hoping for better from this rifle.

Air Arms Field Heavy
The next pellet I tried was one I’d not shot before. The Air Arms Field Heavy looks a lot like the JSB Exact Jumbo; and at 18 grains, it weighs about the same. But this pellet did much better in the test rifle. Ten of them made a group that measures just 0.328 inches between centers. This very round group was what I was looking for from the Condor SS. It tells me the rifle wants to shoot — I just had to find the right pellet.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank-Air-Arms-Field-Heavy-group-25-yards
Bingo! This is the group I was looking for. Ten Air Arms Field Heavy pellets went into a nice round group measuring just 0.328 inches between centers.

Eun Jin
The last pellet I tested was the Eun Jin 28.4-grain dome. AirForce barrel breeches are specially cut to allow Eun Jin pellets to be loaded more easily than in other PCP rifles, though they still do take a push to seat. But no tools are needed and your thumb doesn’t get sore. And they’re the kind of pellet to use when going after medium-sized game such as woodchucks and raccoons. They made a pleasing 0.577-inch group that’s good for a heavy hunting pellet. It’s a round group, too, so this pellet doesn’t seem to be disturbed on its flight in any way.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank-Eun-JIn-dome-group-25-yards
Ten Eun Jin domes made this well-rounded group, which measures 0.577 inches between centers.

What’s it like to shoot?
Now that the shooting is done, don’t you want to know what the Condor SS is like? I tested the new trigger and safety last year, but that was on a regular Condor. This is the first Condor SS I’ve had a chance to shoot.

The trigger is light and crisp, but I can hear one of the internal springs tensioning as I take up the slack. That became a sound I heard on every shot. It’s neither good nor bad, just different.

The safety goes off like a stick of butter on a hot pan. There’s almost no resistance. It may look similar to a Garand safety blade, but it’s much smoother and lighter.

The rifle recoils with the shot. Even on power setting 2, there’s a rocket-push to the rear with each shot you fire. It’s not as much as a .22 rimfire, but enough that you know something has happened. I think I like the sensation in a hunting rifle.

What’s next?
Next, we take the Condor SS out to 50 yards and try its accuracy there. We now know the best pellet. Let’s see if that remains the case when the distance doubles.

After that, I plan on installing the standard tank and rerunning the entire test — velocity and accuracy at 25 and 50 yards. With the standard tank, we should see Talon power (greater than the Talon SS) and quiet operation, too. We shall see.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank AirForce Condor SS with Spin-Loc tank. The buttpad is shown flipped down.

Today, I’ll report the velocities I got with the new AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank, as well as the shot count per fill and some other interesting things. Yesterday, I spent some time informing you of how the baffled silencer system works in this rifle. Today, that becomes important to understand.

Before we begin, let me clear up some things. Blog reader RidgeRunner thought the reservoir of the Condor SS looked smaller in the photo than the old reservoirs on the other two rifles. It isn’t. It is exactly the same size. The foam that surrounds the tank has changed, and that might give the illusion that new tank is shorter, but that’s just an illusion.

Blog reader Bob from Oz asked for a diagram that shows the flow of air because he was confused by my textual description. That’s where the photo of the silencer parts comes in. The end of the barrel, the true muzzle, is buried deep inside the frame of the rifle. The frame is tubular in front, and many people might think that it looks like a bull barrel, but it’s actually a hollow tube that has an inside diameter of one inch. The baffles fit inside that hollow tube exactly as shown in the photo, except that they are touching each other when they’re installed, so they’re not spread out like they appear in the photo.

When the pellet and compressed air exits the muzzle of the barrel (deep inside the tubular frame of the gun), it passes through the first baffle and much of the air is stripped off. It passes through the open slot of the baffle and is deflected backwards by the wide flange of the next baffle. Then, it passes back through the holes in the front barrel bushing and into the open space between the barrel and frame behind the front bushing.

As the pellet passes through each baffle more of the compressed air gets stripped off and reflected backwards. This all happens in miliseconds and the air is still under pressure, so it eventually comes out the end cap of the rifle.

Why am I telling you this?
You have to understand how this works, or nothing I say will make much sense. The key to quietness is the volume of empty space inside the frame of the gun and the length of time it takes the compressed air to exit the gun. You don’t notice anything, of course. You shoot and hear the report at the instant of firing. But there really is a small lag time, during which the compressed air expands and loses its energy. That energy is what makes the noise, so the greater the expansion, the less noise there is. And the less compressed air that’s used with the shot, the lower the noise will be when everything else remains the same.

First encounter
I told you this because, when I began testing the Condor SS for velocity, I was surprised by the noise. I was testing inside my office, which is 12 by 15 feet, and the last time I heard the rifle was outdoors back in November of last year. I knew this gun I was testing was louder than what I’d heard back then. So, I went to AirForce yesterday and we conducted some tests to determine where the production Condor SS is sound-wise. I’ll get to that after we look at the velocity, so let’s do that right now.

Velocity
Like all the sporting precharged rifles AirForce makes, the Condor SS has adjustable power and interchangable barrels. There’s no way I can test every possible combination of pellets, calibers and power settings, so I selected spots in the power spectrum that I’ll report today. I will report each pellet at all the power settings and give you the shot count for each one.

Eun Jin domes
The first pellet I tested was the Eun Jin 28.4-grain dome. While there are heavier pellets that will generate greater power in .22 caliber, I believe this one will do well in the accuracy test, so it’s a reasonable top-end pellet to test. On the maximum power setting, this pellet averaged 892 f.p.s. I shot it 20 times and the high (shot 3) was 912 f.p.s. The low (shot 20) was 814 f.p.s. Yes, that is a 98 f.p.s. spread; but out to about 35 yards, this pellet will hold zero for those 20 shots. If you plan on shooting at 50 yards and farther, stop at around 10 shots. Your average then climbs into the low 900s and the max spread is less than 30 f.p.s. At the average velocity for the 20 shots, this pellet generates 50.19 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

The power band is more or less a straight declining number from start to finish. Starting at 3,000 psi, you finish at 2,200 psi. A Hill pump then takes about 100 strokes to fill the tank again. So, there are 5 pump strokes per shot on max power.

The rifle was very loud, so I told Edith to change the sound rating in the description to a 4 because this gun is louder than a Sheridan Blue Streak on 8 pumps. It’s quieter than a Condor running at the same power, but still loud enough to notice. In fact, when I was testing the velocity in my office (with the door closed), Edith was in the living room and thought I was shooting a Quackenbush big bore because it was so loud.

Now, let’s look at the performance of the same pellet at different power settings.

On power setting 10, there were 20 total shots at an average of about 878 f.p.s. (48.63 foot-pounds).

On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 868 f.p.s. (47.52 foot-pounds).

On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 858 f.p.s. (46.44 foot-pounds).

On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 830 f.p.s. (43.45 foot-pounds)

The power spreads from the first shot to the last were closing up as the power was dialed down; but even at setting 2, there was still 80 f.p.s. variation, start to finish. The beginning and ending air pressure was always the same for each string. Even on the lowest power the rifle sounded just as loud.

Crosman Premiers
Then, I tried the Crosman Premier pellet that weighs 14.3 grains. The Condor was the first air rifle to get this pellet supersonic in .22 caliber. In the Condor SS, the average on high power was 1076 f.p.s. It ranged from a low of 1029 f.p.s. to a high of 1117 f.p.s., so, once again, a large spread. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 36.77 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. And there were the same 20 shots per fill, with the same starting and ending air pressures. There was no noticeable difference in the report between this pellet and the Eun Jin.

On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 1067 f.p.s. (36.16 foot-pounds).

On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 1062 f.p.s. (35.82 foot-pounds).

On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 1033 f.p.s. (33.89 foot-pounds).

On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 1010 f.p.s. (33.70 foot-pounds)

As with the heavy pellets, the power spreads were closing up as the power declined; but even at setting 2, they were still 60 f.p.s. from start to finish. The beginning and ending air pressure was always the same for each string. Even on the lowest power, the rifle sounded just as loud.

JSB Exact Heavys
Next, I tried the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Heavys. I expect this pellet to be matched well to the power of this new rifle. On maximum power, they averaged 1004 f.p.s., which generates 40.52 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. The high was 1059 f.p.s., and shot 20 was 962 f.p.s. I still got 20 shots per fill, and the muzzle report was identical to the others.

On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 988 f.p.s. (39.24 foot-pounds).

On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 981 f.p.s. (38.69 foot-pounds).

On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 970 f.p.s. (37.82 foot-pounds).

On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 966 f.p.s. (37.51 foot-pounds)

Notice that these pellets seemed to do very well on the lower power settings. That is important because the shot count increases with very little loss of power. The total velocity spread on setting 2 was 69 f.p.s. I think this may be the best pellet for this rifle, but accuracy testing will have to prove it.

Beeman Kodiaks
The last pellet I tested was the Beeman Kodiak that weighs 21.1 grains in .22 caliber. Many will select this pellet for a powerful rifle like the Condor SS. On the maximum power setting, these pellets averaged 970 f.p.s. The high was 1017 f.p.s. The low was 908 f.p.s. Like the other 3 pellets tested, a large velocity spread over the 20 shots; but as I pointed out before, out to 35 yards it won’t make much difference. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 44.09 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 965 f.p.s. (43.64 foot-pounds).

On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 952 f.p.s. (42.47 foot-pounds).

On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 936 f.p.s. (41.06 foot-pounds).

On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 920 f.p.s. (39.67 foot-pounds)

Summary of power performance
The Condor SS I’m testing seems to work best at power setting between 4 and 10, with the lower setting being better. The shot count increases, and the velocity spread gets a little tighter, plus not much power is lost. Let’s keep that in mind, and I’ll get back to it in a moment.

Sound testing at AirForce
I took my rifle out to AirForce Airguns and tested it against a production gun, another gun that had a pre-production prototype barrel and a .22-caliber Benjamin Marauder. I had said in Part 1 of this report that the Condor SS set on maximum power was no louder than the Benjamin Marauder when I saw it shoot last November. The one I now have for testing certainly seems to be louder.

We shot outdoors but next to the steel building, so there was some sound reflection from the building walls. Clearly, my Condor SS is just as loud as the current production gun, and both are louder than the Benjamin Marauder dialed up to its maximum power. But here’s the difference. The Benjamin Marauder shot Beeman Kodiaks between 801 f.p.s. and 828 f.p.s., and both Condor SS rifles shot the same pellet at an average 920 f.p.s. when set on power setting 2. So the Condor SS is putting out about 40 foot-pounds when dialed down low, and the Marauder is putting out around 30 foot-pounds with the same pellet when it’s adjusted as high as it will go. That’s a big difference.

So, why was the Condor SS I had heard back in November so much quieter than this one? Well, for starters, back then the baffles had smaller holes through them. Now, they’re able to safely handle calibers .20 through .25; but back then, they were still experimenting with the hole size. Also, the barrel in my test rifle is 16mm diameter. The prototype rifle had used a 12mm diameter barrel; so AirForce installed a 12mm diameter barrel in their production rifle that we tested yesterday, and the sound went down a little. The 12mm barrels are being processed now for production.

Then, we installed a standard SS tank on the Condor SS that now had the 12mm barrel and dialed the power down to 838 f.p.s. with the Beeman Kodiak pellets. That was as low as we were able to go when the 3,000 psi fill was fresh. Now, the Condor SS was only a little louder than the Marauder that was shooting just a little slower. We shot them side by side several times to make sure. There’s a difference you can discern when testing side by side, but outdoors it isn’t that great.

Remember, this is shooting outside but close to a building, and the standard tank is being used instead of the High-Flo tank that comes with the rifle. You can buy a standard tank as an accessory, but they aren’t going to sell one with the rifle instead of the High-Flo tank, so don’t even ask!

As far as the Spin-Loc tanks are concerned, they’re the new design. Pyramyd Air has opted to phase out the version with the old-syle quick-detach tank and stock only the versions with the Spin-Loc tank. The quick-detach tank that screws in is also available as an accessory in both the standard and High-Flo configurations.

Observations so far
Wow! This has to be one of the longest reports I’ve ever written. And the first part of it was yesterday, in Part 3. I hope this addresses your concerns about this rifle, and that you now clearly understand what you’ll receive when you order a Condor SS. It’s quiet for the power it generates, but it’s not whisper quiet like I originally said.

There’s still so much ground to cover with this test rifle. Accuracy testing comes next at 25 yards and then 50 yards. And after that, I’ll install a standard tank and do today’s test again. Stay tuned!

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank
AirForce Condor SS with Spin-Loc tank. The buttpad is shown flipped down.

This report is going to be a long one! There is so much to tell about the AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank that I can’t pack it into the usual 3-part report. But today I’m going to start the velocity report and I’ll finish it tomorrow. I’m doing it that way because there are so many things to see and talk about before I get to the velocity test, plus the velocity test revealed some interesting things. And, since today is Wednesday, I really do mean that the second part of this report will come tomorrow.

A longer frame
Let’s start with a question that was asked by several people. What differentiates the Condor SS from the standard Condor? I told you about the barrel length differences (standard Condor = 24-inch barrel; Condor SS = 18-inch barrel) and the different frame lengths (the Condor SS has a longer frame than the Condor so it can hold the baffles), but several people asked me to show it. And I did promise to do that when I first reported on the new rifle, so here you go.

AirForce Condor SS air rifle plus Condor and Talon SS
Here you can see the Condor SS (top) has the longer frame to hold the baffles. Under it is the Condor and then the Talon SS on the bottom. Note that both those rifles frames are the same length. The Condor end cap is slightly longer than the Talon SS end cap, so it looks longer,

Inside the frame — the technology
This is what you have been waiting to see. The Condor SS has 3 Delrin baffles, held tight between a bolt and a Belleville washer, so there’s no rattling of parts. The baffles fit close inside the frame, which AirForce reams for precision. That’s the only way this can be done because a raw extrusion will have a certain amount of size variation.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle baffles
This is the assembly of the parts inside the frame. Everything is shown in the correct position, below the rifle’s frame, wherein it all fits.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle baffle detail
Here you can see how the baffles are designed. This isn’t crude!

But there’s more than just the baffles. The front barrel bushing has air holes that allow the compressed air that’s reflected by the baffles to pass through.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle front barrel bushing detail
The front barrel bushing has holes that allow the compressed air to pass through — giving more room for it to expand inside the frame. That robs the air of its energy and lowers the report at the muzzle.

And the changes don’t even stop there. The rear barrel bushing now has an o-ring around its circumference to help stabilize the barrel inside the frame without transmitting any sound. When you change barrels now, you’re going to have to push the barrel out of the frame instead of it dropping out like it did previously.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle rear barrel bushing detail
Here you see the rear bushing o-ring and rubber pad that cushions the striker spring. AirForce owners have not seen bushings like these.

Sound attenuation
I’m going to discuss the sound of the rifle tomorrow, but there are several technical things you need to know before we get to that, so we’ll look at those today. First, there’s the size of the hole through the baffles. The pellet needs room to pass through the baffle without touching the side as it goes through. The larger the hole through the baffle, the less risky it is…but the more compressed air can also pass through and the less quiet the gun will be.

Remember that all AirForce sporting rifles allow you to change barrels, so the baffles have to accommodate all calibers. Or, in this case, the largest 3 calibers — .20, .22 and .25. The .177-caliber Condor SS has its own baffles that cannot be used on the larger calibers.

Then, there’s the power the gun generates. The more power you are dealing with, the greater the volume of compressed air that has to be quieted. Reduce the power, and the sound also goes down.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow, I’ll give specific velocities with different pellets, shot count and pressure curves. I’ll also discuss a strategy for using this rifle in the most effective way, as I believe I’ve discovered that for you. After that, but not tomorrow, we’ll advance to accuracy testing at 25 and 50 yards.

But that will not complete this report. After I wrap up this test of the factory rifle, I’ll install a standard Talon SS tank and run more velocity and accuracy tests. That will probably complete what I’ve planned. I could easily go on and run tests with a Micro Meter tank, a CO2 tank and so on, but I think what I have planned will give all of us a good look at this remarkable new air rifle.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle: Part 2

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

Part 1

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank
AirForce Condor SS with Spin-Loc tank. The adjustable buttpad is shown flipped down.

Today, I’ll start testing the new AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank. I’ve been waiting a long time for this test, because it affords us the opportunity to look at so many new things from AirForce Airguns. Not only will we get to see the new baffled silencer system, we’ll also get another look at the new trigger and safety on which I reported back in January. I linked to that report, above, and labeled it as Part 1 so you can get a better look at the new trigger by reviewing it, though I’ll continue to make comments on the trigger as this report unfolds. We’ll also get a look at the new Spin-Loc tank that allows filling without removing the tank from the gun. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s begin.

The rifle I’m testing is in .22 caliber, which I believe is the best caliber for all AirForce rifles. I won’t give the serial number because this rifle is mine. It’s not going anywhere after this report is completed. Don’t worry — they’ll make more!

What is the Condor SS?
AirForce Airguns is an American manufacturer based in Fort Worth, Texas. They make all the parts of their guns except for the barrels, which they source from Lothar Walther, the air tanks on many of the sporting models and the synthetic parts. Although shrouded barrels are commonplace in 2013, it was AirForce that introduced them to the market back in 2001 with their Talon SS.

In 2004, they started production of the Condor, one of the most powerful smallbore air rifles the world has ever seen, and one that still gets more shots per fill than any of its competition. Generating 65 foot-pounds of energy in .22-caliber, the Condor is a pellet rifle whose muzzle energy equals the standard speed .22 short rimfire cartridge. Only the diabolo design (wasp waist and hollow, flared tail) of the pellets it shoots prevents it from shooting as far as the rimfire. The Condor gave airgunners a rifle with .22 rimfire power and reasonable downrange safety at the same time.

These are all precharged pneumatic (PCP) airguns. Their butt reservoirs are filled to 3,000 psi (nominally — each gun may be a little different) and fired until they fall off the power curve at lower pressure. A Condor will get up to 20 powerful shots on a fill, and a Talon SS will get around 35-40 shots.

Shooters liked the SS for its quiet operation. When it was new, the SS was one of the quietest airguns in town that was also legal to own because it doesn’t have a silencer that can be installed on a firearm. And the Condor that can shoot a pellet through one and a half 2×4 boards delighted folks with power they’d only dreamed about. But the Condor was noisy, and the SS produced only about 25 foot-pounds of muzzle energy in .22 caliber. People wondered why AirForce couldn’t do both things — power without the noise.

Quiet power!
The rifle we’re looking at in this report combines much of the power of the Condor along with the quiet of the SS. In fact, this rifle is even quieter than an SS. It’s as quiet as SS owners wish their guns were.

Spin-Loc tank
And, in response to customer requests, AirForce now offers the Spin-Loc tank that remains attached to the rifle, once installed. It has to, because it sports an onboard pressure gauge — a manometer — that customers also said they wanted. I’ll grant that this gauge is a handy thing since it lets you know the state of the fill the moment you grab the rifle. That’s very convenient when you pick it up after the gun hasn’t been used awhile. There’s no need to guess at the charge — it’s right there on the gauge. It was always easy to count your shots before; but when you set aside the gun for many days, you might not remember where it was in the fill. Of course, you could always top it off before shooting, which is what shooters did before the gauge; but now they don’t have to. The gauge tells them if there’s still enough air.

The Spin-Loc tank has to be installed with tools that come with the rifle. An Allen wrench loosens the single locking screw that allows the threaded bushing in the frame to turn freely. That bushing will join the tank to the frame. Don’t remove the locking screw — just loosen it so the threaded bushing can turn freely. A toothed wrench or spanner that comes with the gun can then turn the bushing to tighten it onto the tank. The tank itself cannot be turned much because neither the pressure gauge nor the male Foster fill nipple will clear the frame. So, the bushing has to be tightened onto the tank’s threads — drawing it onto the frame.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank attaching tank
The Spin-Loc tank is installed by tightening the captive bushing with a special wrench that’s supplied with the rifle.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank installed
Once installed, the Spin-Loc tank fits tight to the gun’s frame.

I have to say that it took me a couple tries before I got the tank threading straight onto the bushing. It’s a problem of controlling both the gun and the tank, so the tank’s threads do not start cross-threading. Both the bushing and the tank’s threads are steel, though, so the risk of damaging the threads is low. Just work carefully; and once the threads start to join, everything goes together easily.

Reversible buttpad
Once the tank was on the gun, I adjusted the pull length by adjusting where the buttpad clamps to the rear of the tank. I noticed that the buttpad can also be flipped upside down, allowing it to extend lower for more contact with the shoulder, so I did that, too. In the end, I have the rifle set up for a 14-1/2-inch pull, which is ideal for me, and the buttpad is canted inward at the toe, which is how all my AirForce rifles are set up. There are several inches of adjustment with this pad, so fitting an adult shouldn’t be a problem. The picture at the top of this report shows the buttpad reversed like this.

New trigger and safety
I covered the new trigger and safety thoroughly in Part 1, but it’s new so I’ll mention it here. The trigger is 2-stage and not adjustable. I’ll give you the pull weight and critical data in the velocity test, which comes next, but we do know that it’s very crisp and stops after the sear is released.

The biggest difference in this trigger is that it cannot be uncocked. The gun, once cocked, must be fired. Since the Spin-Loc tank cannot be easily removed, the question becomes: Can you release the trigger without opening the valve? As it turns out, you can. Simply move the bolt a little forward so it isn’t pressed against the valve (which is referred to as the top hat), hold it there with your thumb and pull the trigger. Your thumb will catch the striker before it opens the valve very far, limiting the amount of air the gun fires. As convenient as this is, I would only do it with an unloaded (no pellet in the breech) gun that’s pointed in a direction that would be safe to fire. Because if you misjudge where the bolt has to stop, the gun could still fire a pellet.

AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle with Spin-Loc tank catching striker
To uncock the gun, catch the striker with your thumb, as shown above. Point the muzzle in a safe direction when you do this.

18-inch barrel
The Condor SS comes with an 18-inch Lothar Walther barrel in your choice of calibers (from .177 through .25). Naturally, you can change the barrels as with all other AirForce sporting rifles, so you can own all 4 calibers for a fraction of what 4 complete guns would cost.

Ahead of the barrel is the system of baffles that make the SS what it is. I’ll show those in the next report, but there’s something that nobody has mentioned, yet. This rifle will also accept a tank with a standard valve; and if you use one of those, you’ll get twice the number of shots as you get from the Hi-Flo tank that comes standard on the Condor. And because of the 18-inch barrel, the gun will also be more powerful than a stock Talon SS. So, you’ll have great power and lots of shots! This is so intriguing that I’ll test it for you after I complete the full test of this gun as it comes from the factory.

Adjustable power
Like all AirForce sporting rifles, this new one also has adjustable power. We’ll experiment with that when we test the rifle for velocity.

Construction
The Condor SS is made of aluminum, steel and some soft synthetic parts such as the grips and forearm. It has very straight lines, and the buttpad that drops down plus the raised scope rail make it quite easy to adapt to scope use. The accuracy is legendary, and we’ll put that to the test at multiple distances.

I’ve waited a long time to test this gun for you. So, sit back and enjoy this — it’s going to be a long ride.

AirForce’s new Condor and Condor SS: Part 1

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

AirForce Condor SS
The new AirForce Condor SS has an improved trigger and safety. But the biggest news is that it’s quiet!

Oh, boy, do I have a lot to tell you today! You’re reading this while Mac and his wife (Elissa), Edith and I are attending the 2013 SHOT Show. I did the testing for this blog back in November of last year. See? I can keep a secret!

There are many new things coming from AirForce, and today they’re showcasing them to the industry at the 2013 SHOT Show. Subscribers to Shotgun News got a sneak peak at them last week when the SHOT Show issue hit the newsstands with a full report.

There’s a new trigger and safety that will appear on all the sporting rifles. Then, there’s the new Condor SS and an updated Talon SS — both of which I will report for you today.

I was actually testing the new AirForce trigger and safety for them, to see if I could break it or make it malfunction. Then, at the end of my test, I visited AirForce for a day and got to see and hear the new Condor SS and Talon SS. And when I say hear, I do so only as in using a common phrase because you can’t actually hear the discharge of either rifle!

How much better is the new trigger?
I’ll never forget the day blog reader Kevin was visiting me and tried the trigger on my Wilson Combat 1911 CQB Light Rail pistol. He guessed it let off at one pound and simply refused to believe it was really three pounds. I got the trigger-pull gauge, and we tested it right there! Three pounds and an ounce or two, as I remember.

Well, that’s what the new AirForce trigger is going to feel like to veteran AirForce owners. The trigger on my vintage Condor breaks at about the same 26 oz. as the trigger on the new gun, but what a difference it is! First of all, the new gun is a brand-new gun. My old Condor has an untold number of shots out the muzzle, all of which helped to smooth up the trigger parts. And I never took it apart, because I used to build these guns and I know they do not tolerate lubricants, dirt or modifications to parts.

The other thing the new trigger does is stop right after it releases. It’s like a perfectly adjusted trigger stop, only there’s no stop. It comes that way from the factory.

The new trigger cannot be exchanged for the old. The pins are in different places, and the parts are completely different. This was not done to make you buy a new rifle. It’s just a fact that the new parts are all different and fit together differently.

old AirForce trigger and safety
The old trigger and safety. The safety comes on automatically and is pushed forward to release.

new AirForce trigger and safety
The new trigger doesn’t look much different until you notice that the pins are in different places. This safety is a prototype, and the production safety will not have teeth on the end.

This new trigger and safety will become the standard of the AirForce sporting rifle line, so you’ll find it on all three rifles — the Talon, Talon SS and Condor. And, of course, the new Condor SS will also have it when it comes to market.

All the new parts were designed on a CAD system that lets the designers play with different configurations without having to cut any metal. Only when they feel the design is right do they make the parts for testing.

new AirForce trigger and safety on workstation
All the new trigger and safety parts were designed on a workstation. This allows incredible control over the final parts the machines make!

The new safety operates differently than the old one. It does not allow the rifle to be uncocked. There’s an additional safety built in so the gun will not function until the bolt is almost closed — so no longer can you release the safety, pull the trigger and ride the bolt down slowly to uncock the gun. Once cocked, the trigger must be fired. To avoid exhausting any air, I found that if I unscrewed the air reservoir and held my hand behind the bolt cocking knob to catch it as the striker hit it I could avoid exhausting any air while uncocking the gun. This takes some practice, and you don’t want to do it indoors the first time — don’t ask!

The proof
Blah, blah, blah! Everyone knows I like AirForce guns, so what can I say about them that you haven’t already heard? Those who agree with me don’t need convincing, and everyone else believes I’ve sold out to the Dark Side. But — what if the new gun really shoots? What then?

So, I went to the range and shot it. And I did something that you haven’t seen me do before — at least not with an air rifle. You all know what I mean by a “group.” I mean 10 shots in succession, one after the other, and let the chips fall where they may. If 3-shot groups are like riding the bumper cars and 5-shot groups are like a drag race on city streets, then 10-shot groups are like Formula One racing.

I already knew the old Condor was an accurate air rifle, and I’ve shown that to you on several occasions. On this perfect, cold November day, I did something a little different. First, I shot 10 JSB 18.1-grain Jumbo Heavy pellets at 50 yards and got a group that measured 0.508 inches between centers. That’s pretty darned good. In fact, that’s a screamer in my book. And, in deference to people like my brother-in-law who thinks the shots must be centered in the bull to be good, I also centered them.

new AirForce Condor 50 yard target
Ten JSB 18.1-grain Jumbo Heavies went into 0.506 inches at 50 yards. This group is a screamer!

Normally this is where I would load a different pellet and shoot another 50-yard group, but on this day I didn’t do that. Instead, I walked out to the 100-yard berm and put up another target. Then, I shot another series of shots at that target. I’d elevated the scope by what amounted to several inches of elevation above the 50-yard zero, but the shots still fell below the bull. But they fell in a group that measured 1.003 inches between centers. Instead of 10 shots, there were 11 because I was so wrapped up in the shooting that I lost count of my shots.

new AirForce 100 yard target
Eleven JSB 18.1-grain Jumbo Heavies went into 1.003 inches at 100 yards. I may never again shoot a group this good with an air rifle.

Did the new rifle shoot that well just because of the new trigger? Of course not. A Condor with the old trigger could shoot just as well. All the new trigger did was make it even easier to shoot that group.

Uniformity is king
What are your chances of getting a trigger just as good straight out of the box? They’re excellent because one of the things the design of this new trigger does is make it easier to control dimensions and tolerances during manufacture. Each and every trigger should feel the same straight from the box. Even more important than how good the new trigger feels is the news about the uniformity.

On to the new quiet guns
I went to AirForce for a day to witness the new Condor SS and Talon SS upgrade perform. When I got there, we grabbed a Condor and immediately went outside where a chronograph was waiting. Why a chronograph? Because the new Condor SS is so quiet that it sounds like you’re shooting a Diana 27 breakbarrel. No — it’s not even that loud. All you hear is the click of the striker hitting the valve — and they’re talking about how to make that even quieter!

Jesse with Condor SS
We shot the prototype Condor SS and the new Talon SS upgrade.

The new Condor SS has an 18-inch barrel, compared to the 24-inch barrel of the standard unsilenced Condor. It’s a little slower, but not much. They get about 1,200 f.p.s. with .22-caliber 14.3-grain Crosman Premier pellets, where the unsilenced gun gets around 1,250.

Imagine a 55 foot-pound air rifle that’s so quiet you have to watch your breathing. As I said about the Benjamin Marauder and thousands of shooters now know: When the rifle fires, it’s the sound of a ballpoint pen falling onto a deep-pile carpet.

The technology
Like the current Talon SS, there’s space ahead of the Lothar Walther barrel in the Condor SS. However, unlike the current guns, there’s now something in that space. There are are 3 Delrin baffles designed to turn around the compressed air and direct it toward the rear of the gun. By the time it finally gets past the end cap, it has lost all its pressure and therefore makes no sound.

I’d love to show you those baffles, but they were still tweaking the design when I was there. All I can say is that the ones I saw looked a lot like large black diabolo pellets seen from the side. And they’re separate and individual. There’s also a spring that presses them tight so they don’t rattle.

Here’s some very good news for owners of the current Talon SS. These baffles will be sold separately so you can install them in your gun. Yes, I did get to hear a standard Talon SS with the new baffles, and it’s quiet. But since it’s impossible to be quieter than nothing, I can’t really give you a rating. It sounds just like the new Condor SS.

I asked them to put a standard air tank on the new Condor SS to see what I would do. We saw Crosman Premiers going 970 f.p.s through the traps, which is 100-120 f.p.s. faster than the standard SS. The benefit of that is that, instead of about 20 good shots on one tank, you get up to 40 shots — and the longer barrel gives you performance in the 30-40 foot-pound region. They have no plans to build that gun (standard tank with an 18-inch barrel and new extended Condor SS frame), but any owner can just put a standard tank on a Condor SS and get it for themselves.

This report is just Part 1 of what I hope will be a complete series on the new Condor SS. That’ll include the new trigger and safety, but I feel like I’ve already addressed that completely in this report. The gun will hit the market in 2013, hopefully sooner rather than later. As soon as it does, I’ll be on top of it for you.

This report is about a single family of new airguns at the 2013 SHOT Show, but it doesn’t really cover the show, so there will be several more SHOT reports coming.

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