Posts Tagged ‘AirForce Talon SS’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Before we begin, there was a request last week for me to test the Benjamin 392. I thought I’d tested it already, and it turns out I did. Click see all 5 parts on the old blog.
The question of barrel equivalency
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy side of this test, where yesterday we looked at how the twist rate affects velocity. Before I begin, however, we have to settle an issue that’s in a lot of people’s minds. Namely, is it reasonable to test barrels made by Dennis Quackenbush against a Lothar Walther factory AirForce barrel? Will the test results be skewed for that reason and not because of the different rifling twist rates? Or will the twist rates determine part of the results and the barrel’s pedigree determine the rest?
To carry that kind of logic out to its conclusion, every barrel will be different. Who’s to say that one Lothar Walther barrel is not better or worse than another? The fact is that we know that some of them will stand apart — being either better or worse than the norm. There’s no way to test the exact same barrel with all 3 twist rates because we cannot adjust the twist rate of a rifled barrel. Once it’s built, it is whatever it is. Three separate barrels have to be used for this test, whether they’re made by Lothar Walther or by someone else.
Another thing to consider is that other smallbore barrels made by Dennis Quackenbush in the past have proven to be as accurate as barrels made by Lothar Walther. I’m now talking about barrels of the same caliber — not comparing .22-caliber Walther barrels against .308-caliber Quackenbush barrels. I know of .22-caliber barrels and .25-caliber barrels made by Quackenbush that can go against the best barrels made by Lothar Walther.
But in the end, we can never know if the barrels I’m using for this test are exactly as accurate as the Lothar Walther factory barrel I am also using. There is just no way to know that. There is, however, a way of getting pretty close. If the Quackenbush barrels produce some groups in the same accuracy range as the Lothar Walther barrel, then we can be assured that we are testing barrels of similar quality. We can never be entirely certain they are exactly as good, so this is as close as it is possible to come. And, by the same logic, that is all we could do if Lothar Walther had made all 3 barrels used in this test.
Lothar Walther is not going to make test barrels for a test like this unless they want to. There is no way to contract with them to make one-off barrels that have the different twist rates we are testing. They don’t make one-off barrels — at least not for the public. There are barrel makers who do make one-off barrels, and Dennis Quackenbush is one of them. We’re going to have to be satisfied with the barrels he has provided and look at the results to see if we believe his barrels are as good as the factory barrel we’re testing.
On with the test
With that issue set aside, let’s look at what the 3 barrels did in this test.
The group sizes in the table are shown in inches.
The first thing I looked at was the results of the 2 Quackenbush barrels against the factory Lothar Walther barrel, and I learned something interesting. At 10 meters, the 1:22″ twist barrel shot better than the factory barrel with Crosman Premier pellets — not by a little, but by a significant margin. On both zero and 6 power, the 1:22″ barrel made groups that were one-tenth of an inch smaller than those made by the factory barrel. On power setting 10, the factory barrel beat the 1:22″ barrel by only four one-hundredths of an inch. I think that’s significant. It shows that the 1:22″ twist barrel can keep up with and even exceed the Lothar Walther barrel…at least to 10 meters.
The 1:12″ twist barrel wasn’t quite as good as the factory barrel at 10 meters, but it was very close. At power settings zero and 6 they differed by just a few thousandths of an inch. On setting 10, the factory barrel exceeded the 1:12″ barrel by the same four one-hundredths of an inch that it did with the 1:22″ barrel.
These results tell me that the two barrels made by Dennis Quackenbush are as capable of making good groups as the Lothar Walther barrel. The differences in the group sizes are less than the measurement errors made when measuring the groups. That puts the barrel equivalency question to rest in my mind. I’m willing to accept that the results of this test are from the different twist rates and not from the inherent quality or lack of quality of the barrels being tested.
Ten meters is really too close for definitive results when the question of accuracy is on the line. That’s why the test was also shot at 25 yards, and later I’ll shoot it at 50 yards. It was at that distance that the factory barrel really shined. With 14.3-grain Crosman Premiers, the factory barrel was more accurate on power setting 10 than on the lower settings. With 15.9-grain JSB Exacts, the factory barrel did its best on power setting 6. But both of the other barrels did not perform their best at this range.
The 1:12″ barrel shot Crosman Premiers best on power setting 6, but it shot JSB Exacts about the same on settings 6 and 10. There was a little difference with the Exacts, but it was down in the measurement error margin.
The 1:22″ barrel, on the other hand, got worse with Premiers as the power was increased. And the difference between the best and worst groups was large enough to be more than a coincidence. It was almost twice as large on power setting 10 as it was on power setting zero (1.082″ compared to 0.671″).
With JSB Exact pellets, that trend was reversed. The greater the power, the smaller the groups became. For both pellets at 25 yards, the 1:22″ barrel was not anywhere near the factory barrel at the same distance. Only at power setting zero with Premiers was that barrel close to the factory barrel, and the difference was still outside the measuring-error margin.
The 1:12″ barrel performed similar to the 1:22″ barrel at 25 yards. Only once, at power setting 6 with Premier pellets, did the 1:12″ barrel exceed the factory 1:16″ barrel.
If you look at the results of the 1:22″ barrel, you’ll note that it falls apart at 25 yards. It held its own at 10 meters; but at 25 yards, it falls far behind the factory barrel.
The 1:12″ barrel does the same, but it doesn’t open up as much as the 1:22″ barrel. There are individual instances where one of the two Quackenbush barrels exceeds the other; but in general, what I’m saying holds true. The factory barrel, however, doesn’t work that way.
The factory barrel holds together at 25 yards, just as it does at 10 meters. Again, there’s a single instance at 25 yards where it is beaten by the 1:12″ barrel (power setting 6 with Premier pellets), but that stands out as the only time the factory barrel was beaten at 25 yards. We can say in this test the factory 1:16″ twist barrel outperformed the other two barrels at 25 yards. That allows me to say two things.
First, I predict that the factory barrel will be the most accurate at 50 yards. Second, I believe that the 1:16″ twist rate is the best twist rate of the 3 we’ve tested.
Don’t get too excited
This test has been too small to say anything with certainty. I said that before we began, and I’m saying it again now. All these results can do is suggest things that should be looked at more closely. Other pellets will give different results — I’m sure of that. And more testing will refine these numbers. Where there’s gross separation between the Quackenbush barrels and the factory barrel, I feel certain the trend will continue with more testing. But where things are close, there might be a reversal of the outcome. There simply isn’t enough test data to say otherwise.
Conclusions so far
Based on the data we see thus far, I think that the 1:16″ twist rate seems to be the best of the three twist rates we’ve tested. At 10 meters, the factory barrel shot 3 of the best 6 results. At 25 yards the factory barrel shot 5 of 6 groups better than the other 2 barrels. Out of the total of 12 results, the factory barrel was the best 8 times. So, 67 percent of the best groups in this test were shot by the factory barrel.
The factory barrel is the best overall barrel in this test so far, and it gets better the farther the distance is to the target.
Because the other 2 barrels beat the factory barrel one-third of the time, I think the question of their quality can be laid to rest. Clearly, they’re giving the Lothar Walther factory barrel a run for the money.
Power versus accuracy
In Part 8, I talked about not needing to use power setting 10 with the 1:22″ barrel if it proved to be accurate enough. The velocity at power setting 6 was so high that I said I could stop there and conserve air. I think I’ve now shown that it isn’t accurate enough. Yes…when you look only at that barrel’s accuracy, you could surmise that it’s accurate enough at power setting 6 to stop at that point. But when the factory barrel is brought into the equation, the 1:22″ barrel falls behind.
Next, I’ll shoot all 3 barrels at 50 yards. I’m planning to shoot only power settings 6 and 10 with each barrel because of the distance involved. This will be outdoors, and the pellets will really scatter in the light breezes if they’re shot on the lowest setting. I will have to wait for ideal range conditions, so it may be quite a while before I’m able to make my next report.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’m presenting the first part of the data collected thus far in this extensive test. My thanks to blog reader Fred DPRoNJ (Democratic People’s Republik of New Jersey) for creating the original spreadsheet for this data. Although I didn’t use his spreadsheet in the publication, I did use it as my worksheet to put this report together. Thanks, Fred!
This is a look at how the twist rate of rifling affects the velocity and accuracy of pellets in an AirForce Talon SS rifle in .22 caliber. We’re testing the same 2 pellets in each of 3 different barrels in the same gun. All 3 barrels are the same 12-inch length. Two of the barrels were custom-made by big bore airgun designer/maker Dennis Quackenbush for this test, and the other barrel is a factory Lothar Walther barrel that comes with the rifle. I chose this airgun for two reasons. First, it allows the quick barrel change that makes this test possible. Second, it has adjustable power so we can vary the power for each pellet we test.
I’m testing the rifle with 2 pellets. The first is the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier that has long been established as one of the most accurate pellets for a .22-caliber Talon SS. The second pellet is the 15.9-grain JSB Exact pellet that I’ve found will sometimes exceed the Premier for accuracy. I don’t believe there’s another pellet in the world that can match either pellet’s performance in my .22-caliber Talon SS.
Velocity was the first thing I tested, and it will be the only thing I report today. There’s too much data in this test to dump it all in a single report, so the accuracy portion of the test will follow tomorrow.
I shot 10 shots with each pellet at each of 3 different power settings on the gun — zero power (as low as the gun will go), power setting 6 and power setting 10. That was done in each of the 3 barrels, so there are a total of 18 outcomes to this test. Those 18 outcomes are shown in the table below.
My Talon SS doesn’t have a power setting scale etched on it, so I put a piece of tape on the side of the gun above the power window. Zero power is with the power-indicating Allen screw head all the way to the left in the window (the same as it would be on a gun that has an index etched on it). I put marks on the tape where power settings 6 and 10 are. I’ve tested many hundreds of these guns over the years that I know where the power screw head has to be, so these settings are quite accurate. The fact that I used the marks for each test (by centering the screw head on the mark) means that everything was identical for each test.
First, I note that in all cases the velocity increased the most between power setting zero and setting 6. The velocity increase from setting 6 to setting 10 was always smaller than the increase from setting zero to setting 6, and that’s irrespective of the twist rate or which pellet was shot.
It’s true that there’s more variation between power setting zero and power setting 6 than between settings 6 and 10, but what you’re seeing here is the slowing down of the rate of velocity increase. That becomes clear in a moment when I discuss the rifle’s maximum velocity potential.
Next, I noted that, as the twist rate slowed (1:22″ is slower than 1:12″), the velocity increased at most power settings with most pellets. There was one instance with the 1:22″ barrel where the 15.9-grain JSB Exact pellet actually went 2 f.p.s. slower at setting 10 than at setting 6, but with all other barrels and all pellets, there was always a velocity increase as the power setting went higher.
Focusing on the 1:22″ barrel for a moment, we see that the velocity increases between setting 6 and setting 10 were not as great as they were in either the factory (1:16″) barrel or the 1:12″ barrel. This suggests what we have suspected all along — that the twist rate of the barrel does slow down the pellet as it gets tighter. And we can see from this test that the phenomenon is most apparent at the lower power settings. At the higher power settings, the differences seem to shrink, indicating that the influence of the power setting is overriding the influence of the twist rate. I believe this is an important finding, and it sets up the next observation, which is that the top velocity of the gun was fairly close for all 3 barrels, regardless of the twist rate. The type of pellet made more difference to the top velocity than the barrel twist rate did.
Specific things we learn from this test
It should be obvious from these results that the Talon SS powerplant has upper limits that cannot be exceeded by forcing more compressed air through the barrel. Better than anything I’ve seen, this illustrates the relationship between barrel length and velocity in a pneumatic airgun. Last week, I had an inquiry from a budding inventor who wanted to know the fastest pellet velocity I had ever witnessed. After I told him what it was, he told me he was working on an airgun design that used compressed gas at 5,000 to 6,000 psi, implying that this would increase the velocity. He told me that he had done extensive research on the internet and was unable to find anything on this topic, despite several of my own reports that address this very thing.
My point is that I get such inquiries all the time from people who are not yet connected to the airgun community and are out there reinventing the wheel. They’re working on a supposition that we all recognize as erroneous — namely that higher reservoir pressure gives higher velocity — but they haven’t gotten far enough into the subject to know that yet. This test serves as a foundation for why we say that barrel length affects velocity in a pneumatic gun.
A second thing that I found interesting is that power setting 6 is very close in performance to power setting 10. In the case of the 1:22″ twist barrel, it’s remarkably close…but it’s close for all three barrels. A prudent airgunner might consider this when setting the power wheel adjustment on his Talon SS, knowing that a lower setting uses less air, yet gives velocity that isn’t that much slower.
A third thing is that the velocity performance of the 1:22″ barrel is so good at power setting 6 that it makes power setting 10 useless. Take that thought just a little farther, and you’ll see that all power settings above setting 10 are pretty much a waste of air in a Talon SS with a 12-inch barrel, regardless of which pellet you use.
If the 1:22″ twist barrel turns out to be accurate, we’ll want to use it in the Talon SS instead of the factory 1:16″ barrel because we’re getting the same performance at power setting 6 that the factory barrel gets at setting 10. On the other hand, there’s not much real velocity difference between the 1:12″ barrel and the factory 1:16″ barrel. So, whichever one is more accurate is the one to go with if the 1:22″ barrel proves not to be as accurate.
That’s all I have to say, but I’m sure that some of our readers will have even more observations to add. Let the discussions begin.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, blog reader John shares his experience getting his AirForce Condor to shoot quieter. I asked him for this report because he’s written many comments about it. We all know that John is a pest hunter, so let’s look over his shoulder and see what works for him.
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.
Okay, John, the floor is yours.
Noisy gun goes quiet
Before I begin the report, I want to show you a piece of my past. It’s a Remington 514 made somewhere between 1948 and 1968. It’s a single-shot, bolt action .22 rimfire designed by K. Lowe.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a dislike for old guns. This one is an exception, however, since it’s the only thing I have that belonged to my dad. It’s fairly primitive, but as accurate as anything I’ve seen. It puts the shot where I want it…every time.
Remington 514 single-shot .22 rimfire.
It may not look like much, but it means a lot to me. And it shoots!
Now, on to the report.
I was thinking about how to make a noisy gun become not so noisy since noise tends to alert the pests you hunt, making your day very boring. I like to hunt with my AirForce Condor, which I lovingly call “Marvelous Magnificent Mad Madam Mim,” due to the fact that she can change just like that wacky Disney villain.
I took off the forearm and left it off just to make my work a bit easier today since I was going to be swapping things around. I think I should warn you that this is going to be an unusual report since I’m not using anything fancy like noise meters, showing accuracy targets or running shots through a chrony. All I’m concerned with is taking a loud gun and making it backyard friendly. So, I’m going to be using the tools we all have…ears.
For this test, I’m out on a little private island with a one-room guest cabin on 15 acres of land. It’s fairly dense, with trees and brush surrounding my work area. The cabin is about 10 feet to my right, where I normally set up for muskrat. We’re located in one of my actual hunting areas.
The first thing I did was test the Condor against my Remington 514 to compare how loud it sounds to me. I found that the Condor set at maximum power, with no barrel shrouds or anything to quiet it down, sounds louder than the Remington 514 shooting a .22 long rifle cartridge. It sounded about like a .30-caliber rifle to me.
I wanted to make it quiet, so I put on a Bullseye Bill frame extender (bloop tube) and tried it at full power with the standard Condor 24-inch .22-caliber barrel. Since the pellet was breaking the sound barrier, it sounded about like the Remington. It was quieter than before, but not quiet enough.
I wondered if stopping more air from escaping the gun would help, so I installed an optional 12-inch .22-caliber barrel and the Bullseye Bill frame extender. Now, the barrel was buried deep inside the frame extender. Since the shorter 12″ barrel wastes air at full power, I dialed down the power setting to about the middle of the scale. I figured that was about the top performance I could get out of the shorter barrel.
The rifle was now definitely quieter, but no quieter than if I’d just used the AirForce end cap on the frame of the gun and left off the frame extender. The report was now about as loud as a loud hand clap. Either way (with the end cap on or with the frame extender installed), it was equally quiet. I still wasn’t satisfied with how quiet it was. I knew I could do better and retain much more power than with a 12-inch barrel.
The 12-inch barrel and Talon SS end cap are just as quiet as the rifle with the frame extender installed.
Here comes the band
I heard B.B. talk about how they used to use rubber bands to quiet the sound of the striker, so I figured that was worth a try to quiet down the gun a bit more. Before trying this, I dialed down the gun’s power to about level 2 with a 12″ barrel and the end cap. Voila…a Condor became a Talon SS! This definitely made the gun as quiet as it could be. Then, I tried it with the rubber band installed.
No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the gun to fire with a piece of rubber band on the end of the top hat. That rubber band was acting like a shock absorber — not letting the striker hit the top hat hard enough to fire the gun. So, that was a total failure. Let’s try something else.
Looking for the best performance
We all know that performance is everything in airguns. You want a hunting gun to hit hard and accurately. I needed to get the most performance out of the gun. So, the 24″ barrel went back in the gun, and the frame extender went back on. If I correctly use that combination, the only sound the gun will make is the clunk of the striker and impact of the pellet. In other words, nobody’s going to know I took the shot but me and whatever I was shooting at. Now, it’s on to pushing the envelope.
Which of my available ammo types will get me the best performance, while not telling everybody around me what I’m doing? First up is my standard go-to pellet, the Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum hunting pellet. I like these because they’re available everywhere, and I get fairly good results with them. So, let’s see just where the upper power limit is for these while making as little noise as possible. I’m firing at a target 75 yards out, which is the longest distance I’ve ever taken a muskrat with this gun. The cabin is just close enough that I should hear any significant echo that a backyard shooter would also have.
I fired shots using the highest setting I thought I could and get just the clunk of the striker and slap of the pellet. Then, I’d inch up until it began to return an echo off the cabin wall. That told me I’d crossed the boundary, so I backed off to the last quiet setting for Premiers. The rifle stayed quiet up to 7.45 on the AirForce power wheel. This is the setting I’d use in the city for backyard target practice without anybody knowing what I was doing…and the setting I want to use if I do not want to alert critters to the fact I’m hunting.
With Crosman Premier Ultra Magnums, the rifle is still quiet when the power wheel is set no higher than 7.45. The major power setting (7) is indicated by the center of the screw head in the oval window on the right. The fractional power setting (.45) is indicated by the power wheel on the left.
Next, I dug out some Predator Polymags. I found these would give me slightly better performance, fly a bit faster and hit a bit harder while still not alerting anyone or anything to what I was doing. This is with a 24″ barrel and a frame extender — like a Condor SS on steroids. I got them to hit my 75-yard target with the dial set to a maximum of 7.10 [about 3/4 of the way toward power setting 8] as the outside power without advertising to everything around what I am doing. This gave me the slap of the striker and the thud of a pellet hitting the target 75 yards away.
Baracuda Hunter Extreme
I like the cross-hatch pattern on the nose of these Baracuda Hunter Extreme pellets for hunting, which is my primary use for air rifles. Surprisingly, with them, the power wheel went up. I thought the Polymags, with their nice sharp point, would cut through the air and give the quietest and most powerful shots of the day. But I was surprised. With these Baracuda Hunter Extreme pellets, the power wheel climbed up to 8.9 before anybody knew what I was doing. Birds kept on doing bird things. The Canadian geese kept swimming, totally unaware that a shot just landed in the target 10 yards to their left. Even the mallard ducks didn’t take off. That’s what I wanted.
This is important since, in the places where I hunt pests, we also have some very shy animals. I have to try my best not to disturb them. It’s spring, and the geese and ducks are nesting. I don’t want to scare them off their nests. It’s all about being a good steward of nature.
Gamo round balls
Last up was the .22-caliber Gamo round ball. I got these as a freebie with a Gamo gun, so I figured I might as well see what a “musket ball” would do. This one was the worst of the bunch. To keep the gun quiet with round balls, I had to dial the power down to 4.7. All the birds in the area took off and hid when I put one of these in the target at 8.9 on the power scale. I don’t think I’ll be using those again when I’m hunting at a sensitive time of the season.
What did I learn?
There’s plenty to take away from this that has nothing to do with the speed of the pellet. A PCP gun like the Condor can be accurate, powerful and quiet depending on how it is set up and which pellet is used. A shorter barrel robs power, but it also quiets down a gun. However, it can only do so much — even if you give it a massive space in which to allow the air to expand. My best bet was to leave the 24″ barrel on the Condor and put the frame extender on the barrel, leaving the end of the extender about 3 inches past the muzzle. This setup trapped spent air well due to the fact the pellet was blocking the end of the shroud at about the ideal time to minimize the muzzle blast. It’s kind of how a car muffler works.
This made my Condor about as quiet as a loud whisper. Just a thud of the striker and the slap of the pellet hitting the target. Very little echo, if any at all. Adjusting the power of the gun had quite a bit to do with this. If you throw too much power behind the pellet, you’ll hear something like a .22 rimfire bullet, which is not what you want to hear if you’re hunting pests in an environmentally sound-sensitive area or doing some backyard plinking and don’t want the police responding to reports of small-to-medium caliber gunfire in your neighborhood.
I tested a Condor only in .22 caliber since that’s all I had, and this is my primary pest hunting gun. I also used several pellets that I normally use for target shooting and hunting to compare their results. This is in no way a scientific study with high-tech instruments. Just one man with a good pair of ears. I did what I could to recreate a backyard shooting environment in an actual hunting environment. The intention was to gather some good information to help keep your shooting as quiet as possible so you don’t disturb the animals or people around you.
P.S. My day on the range ended on a high note when I took an opposum that was on my list of pest critters. It was a perfect shot with my dad’s old Remington 514.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This is Part 7 in this lengthy test series that looks at the effects of the rifling twist rate on both velocity and accuracy of a pellet rifle. Today, we’ll look at the 1:22 barrel, which means the pellet will turn once in each 22 inches of barrel it traverses. Of course, the Lothar Walther barrel in the .22-caliber AirForce Talon SS rifle I’m using is only 12 inches long, so the pellet doesn’t even turn one time before it leaves the muzzle, but that twist rate sets the pellet in rotational motion as it flies through the air to its target. The rotational speed will be less than what the 1:16 factory barrel imparts, and much less than the 1:12 barrel we have also tested.
Dennis Quackenbush made the two custom barrels I’m testing against the factory barrel with its 1:16 twist. So far, we’ve tested velocities with 2 different pellets at 3 different power settings for all three barrels (see Parts 2 and 3), and I did a short analysis of those tests in Part 4. Then, we tested the accuracy of the custom 1:12 barrel with both pellets at all 3 power settings at 10 meters, and again at 25 yards. Next, we did the same thing with the factory barrel.
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the 1:22 barrel with both pellets at all 3 power setting at 10 meters and again at 25 yards. In the next report, I’ll summarize the entire test to this point for you — comparing all 3 barrels for both power and accuracy. After that, I plan on testing all three barrels for accuracy at 50 yards. At that distance, the pellets will be spreading and accuracy benefits should show up vividly.
On to today’s test — the 1:22 twist-rate barrel.
First up was the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier pellet. I had to remove and remount the scope, and the pellets were now striking to the left and low of the bullseye, but I left it there because where the pellets land doesn’t really matter in this test.
Ten pellets made a group that measures 0.258 inches between centers. Besides being tight, it’s a very round group, indicating the pellet likes this twist rate and power setting.
Next came 15.9-grain JSB Exact pellets on zero power. They also made a round group, but it was larger, at 0.324 inches. This is still a very nice group, but not as nice as the Premier group on the same power setting.
Next, the power was dialed up to 6, and I shot a second group of Premiers. This time, the group was wider than it was high and measured 0.293 inches between centers. That’s smaller than the previous group of JSBs but slightly larger than the Premiers on the zero power setting.
Following that, I shot 10 JSB Exacts on setting 6. They gave a group that is more vertical and measures 0.309 inches between centers.
I noticed at this point in the test that both pellets were loading very easy into the breech. I wouldn’t call them loose — just very easy to load.
It was time to dial the power up to 10 and see what happened. Premiers went first, and 10 of them went into 0.288 inches. That’s just slightly larger than the first 10 on zero power.
And, finally, I shot 10 JSB Exacts at 10 power. They spread out more than expected, giving a group measuring 0.53 inches at 10 meters. That was by far the largest 10-meter group.
What I see here is that Premiers are very stable in the 1:22 barrel. There is little difference in group size at any power setting. JSB Exacts, on the other hand, get progressively worse as the power increases. If we see this much dispersion at 10 meters the difference should be even more visible at 25 yards.
First up at 25 yards was the Crosman Premier with the power set to zero. The 10-shot group landed very low on the target paper, and measured 0.671 inches between centers.
Next, I tried 10 JSB Exacts at the zero setting. They were horrible — making a vertical group measuring 1.949 inches between centers. I won’t shoot this pellet at this power at 50 yards because they would go off the paper!
Next, the power was increased to 6 and Premiers were loaded again. Ten of them made a horizontal group that measures 0.845 inches between centers.
Then it was the JSB pellet’s turn. Ten Exact Jumbos landed in 1.797 inches, which is a little smaller than the group when the power was set to zero. If I try to extend this pellet and power setting out to 50 yards, I’m very likely to get a 7-10-inch group.
Finally it was time to try the pellets on power setting 10. Here they would be traveling their fastest, which means the spin rate would also be highest for this barrel. According to the theory, the groups should get smaller.
Premiers went first, and 10 of them landed in a group measuring 1.082 inches between centers. That’s larger than both groups that went before. Since the velocity increased, the Premiers spread out. Interesting!
Finally, it was time to try the JSB Exact Jumbos on power setting 10. This time the theory did play out as expected, because 10 pellets made a group measuring 1.172 inches between centers. It’s smaller than the group from both of the lower power settings, and those groups decreased in size as the power increased.
Premiers behaved differently than JSB Exact Jumbos in this test. They did not become more accurate as the velocity increased, and I think I can suggest a reason why. JSBs are longer than Premiers. Premiers measure 0.269 inches in length, while JSB Exact Jumbos measure 0.296 inches in length. At their widest, which is the skirt, Premiers are 0.220 inches in diameter, while JSBs are 0.222 inches across. So, JSBs are longer than Premiers, in relation to their diameter, and that makes them harder to stabilize.
That was one of the problems I had with the .22 Hornet centerfire rifle I reported on last week. It shoots its bullets very slow, relative to other .22 centerfires, yet the twist rate is 1:16, where other .22 centerfires are 1:12, or in the very specialized instance of the .223/5.56mm, anywhere from 1:7 to 1:12. That’s why I’ve been writing about these rifles — so we can all gain an appreciation for how twist rates affect accuracy. The .22 Hornet can only do its best with short, fat bullets of relatively light weight. Now, you see the same thing in a pellet rifle.
Today, we see a very dramatic result of how the twist rate affects accuracy. We learned in our test of the smoothbore pellet gun that while a gun may be accurate at 10 meters, it may fall apart at 25 yards. Today, we see that in a rifle that has a very slow twist rate doing the same. If we wanted to use this twist rate, we would need to shoot only very short pellets so they could stabilize. See how it works?
Next, I’ll write up a summary article of the test to this point so we can get a grip on all the data that’s been generated. Of course, it’s all here for you now. All you have to do is go back and look at the results of all the testing to see how the twist rate affects both velocity and accuracy.
Following the summary report, I’ll test all three barrels at 50 yards.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This is the sixth part of a very long test in which we’re looking at the effects of the rifling twist rate on accuracy and velocity. If you have landed here and not read the first 5 parts of the report, I advise you to do so before reading today’s report because I’m not repeating a lot of what went into this test.
I’m using an AirForce Talon SS rifle in .22 caliber because it’s accurate and also because the barrels are easy to change. Dennis Quackenbush has made two barrels with twist rates of 1:12 and 1:22 for this rifle, but today I’m testing the Lothar Walther barrel that comes standard in the gun.
Today, we’re looking at the accuracy of the factory barrel that has a 1:16 twist rate. I’ll shoot 10-shot groups at 3 power levels with 2 different pellets at 10 meters and 25 yards. That means I’m shooting the rifle 120 times for today’s report. Some of you have wondered why it takes so long between reports — this is the reason.
What you’ll see in today’s report was actually shot on two different days because I cannot maintain concentration for 120 continuous shots. So, I shot the 10-meter targets on one day and the 25-yard targets on another. All shooting is off a rest, to take as much of the shooter out of the equation as possible.
First up is the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier pellet with the rifle’s power set at zero. Ten pellets made a group measuring 0.495 inches between centers. If you’re interested in the respective velocities of each pellet at the various power settings, you can find that in Part 2.
Next, I fired 10 15.9-grain JSB Exact pellets on the same power setting. The group measures 0.10 inches between centers. That’s for 10 shots! Don’t tell me that a Talon SS isn’t accurate!
Next, the power was dialed up to setting 6, and I shot a group of Premiers. To see how the power settings are calculated, look at Part 2. Ten pellets made a group that measures 0.404 inches between centers.
Then, JSBs were shot at the same power setting. This time, they landed in a group that measures 0.092 inches between centers. This is better than a lot of 10-meter rifles can do for 10 shots at the same distance. People will argue that they can do better, but it’s always a 5-shot group they show.
Now, THAT is a group! Best one of this test and better than many 10-meter target rifles, it’s 10 shots on 0.092 inches. It looks vastly smaller than the other small group above, but this one has more paper that closed back on the group than the first one.
Finally, we come to power setting 10. Premiers grouped 10 pellets in a tight 0.247 inches. This group is very round, indicating the barrel likes this pellet at this power level.
JSBs at power setting 10 finished the 10-meter testing. They landed in a group measuring 0.299 inches between centers.
Now it’s time to move back to 25 yards and test everything again. First up is the Crosman Premier at power setting zero. Ten made a 0.48-inch group.
JSBs came next. On power setting zero, they made a 0.571-inch group.
Then, the power was dialed up to 6, and Premiers were fired again. Ten went into a 0.654-inch group. That was the largest group fired with the factory barrel in today’s test. This group was also spread very horizontal.
JSBs made a 10-shot group that measured 0.569 inches between centers. This group was also horizontal in shape.
Finally, the power was dialed up to 10, and 10 Premiers were fired again. This time the group shrank to 0.329 inches. I call that a significant result; because not only is this group much smaller than the group fired on power setting 6 with the same pellet, it’s also very round and uniform. I think it shows that the factory barrel likes this pellet at power setting 10.
And JSB Jumbos at power setting 10 produced a group measuring 0.359vinches. That’s just slightly larger than the Premiers. I think the rifle really likes power setting 10. This group isn’t as round, but it’s clover-shaped, which is also good.
Interpretation of these results
I will hold off interpreting the results of all the testing until I’ve shot the 1:22 barrel at 10 meters and 25 yards, but something stands out in today’s test. At power setting 6 and 25 yards, accuracy went out the window. It got better at the low end of the scale and again at the high end; but for both pellets, power setting 6 didn’t seem to work well at 25 yards. Yet, at 10 meters, that setting and JSB pellets produced the tightest group of the entire test.
This is the kind of thing an owner has to do with his rifle with each pellet he plans to shoot. And it’s also why spending an inordinate amount of time examining one specific power setting is useless if you don’t know the big picture first. Look at the JSB target on the zero setting at 10 meters to see what I’m saying.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
If you’ve reached this webpage because you’re searching for information about the AirForce Talon SS rifle in .22 caliber, please note, this report is not about a standard rifle. You may be more interested in the 10-part Talon SS test than in this one.
For those who are following this series, this is the first accuracy test. Today, I’ll test the barrel made by Dennis Quackenbush with a twist rate of 1:12 inches. I’m testing with two pellets at this time — the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier and the 15.9-grain JSB Exact. You’ll soon see why I’ve chosen to test with just two pellets, as there are several variables that each required testing. I’m trying to limit the number of shots in each test.
Following today’s test, I’ll do the same thing with the factory barrel and also with the other barrel Quackenbush made with a 1:22 inch twist rate. Then, I’ll write a report that analyzes the data from the three accuracy tests. After that, I plan to shoot each barrel at 50 yards for accuracy, but that will probably be done on power setting 10, alone, unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise.
I shot the rifle at two distances — 10 meters (11 yards) and 25 yards. Each pellet was tested on each power level — zero, 6 and 10. If you forget how those levels are controlled, you can find them described and shown in Part 2. The standard was a 10-shot group. Because the Talon SS is so easy to shoot (it requires no special holding technique), I went with just one group. There’s always the possibility of returning and shooting additional groups after everything has been tested; but as we’ve learned from reading this blog, a 10-shot group is very representative of the true accuracy of a rifle.
There were no called fliers in this test. While that sounds incredible for 120 aimed shots (yes, 120 shots!), I was resting the rifle in the groove of a large sandbag while shooting and it was extremely stable. I did note on one test of the rifle at zero power immediately after filling the reservoir that the pellets were stringing wildly (about 6 inches) in the vertical dimension. I threw that test out and shot another group with the same pellet after the reservoir pressure had dropped a bit. That one seemed reasonable.
I shot 20 shots on zero power (10 with each pellet) and 20 shots on power level 6. The reservoir was refilled before I shot 20 shots on power setting 10 with both pellets. I did this at 10 meters and again at 25 yards. I have some things I want to say about this test. Before I do, let’s look at the results.
At 10 meters, the first test was with both pellets on power setting zero. Before I tested the gun, the rifle was zeroed so the pellets would land close to or inside the bull I was aiming at, but not hitting the center — as that was the aim point for every shot. As always, it’s the group size I’m concerned about — not where the pellets land.
Premiers made a 10-shot group that measured 0.509 inches between centers. Though the group is large for a Talon SS, in my experience, it’s fairly well distributed. So, the barrel made by Quackenbush seems to be accurate enough for this test. We know from the velocity test that Premiers average 452 f.p.s. in the 1:12 barrel and the velocity spread is 56 f.p.s.
Ten JSB Exacts made a group that measures 0.578 inches between centers. That’s just a little larger than the Premier group. It’s also a bit more horizontal than vertical. We know from velocity testing that this pellet averages 434 f.p.s. in the 1:12 barrel, with a spread of 56 f.p.s.
Power setting 6
Moving up to power level 6, I fired one shot to see where the pellet was going and to allow the valve to adjust to the new setting. Ten Premier pellets made a group measuring 0.408 inches between centers. Velocity at this power setting averages 777 f.p.s. in the 1:12 barrel, with a spread of 63 f.p.s.
Ten JSB pellets made a group that measured 0.419 inches between centers. It was really too close to the other group (of Premiers) to make a distinction; but when I measured it, that’s what I got. The average velocity on this setting with the JSB pellet is an average 786 f.p.s., with a 41 f.p.s. spread.
Power setting 10
Moving up to power setting 10, I fired one shot to set the valve. Then, 10 Premiers made a 0.281-inch group. The velocity at this power setting averages 846 f.p.s., with a spread of 16 f.p.s.
Ten JSB pellets made a group that measured 0.286 inches between centers. Once again, the difference between the JSBs and Premiers was really too close to call. At this power setting, the velocity averages 830 f.p.s., with a spread of 15 f.p.s.
That concludes testing at 10 meters. Now, it’s time to pull back to 25 yards and try everything all over.
Starting at zero power, this was where I discovered that I had to throw out the first group for extreme vertical stringing. After that, though, the gun calmed down and seemed to group as well as it could.
On zero power at 25 yards, Premiers made a 10-shot group that measured 0.903 inches between centers. This is a larger group than I’m used to with an SS, but it seems to be more due to the valve and the velocity variation than the barrel. You’ll notice that there’s a smaller group of 6 shots at the bottom of this group. They were not fired sequentially, though.
Ten JSB Exacts made a group that measures 1.142 inches between centers. Again, there was a smaller group within the large group, but it contains fewer shots than the small group within the Premier target.
Power setting 6
Moving up to power level 6, I fired one shot to see where the pellet was going, plus to allow the valve to adjust to the new setting. Ten Premier pellets made a group measuring 0.375 inches between centers. Velocity at this power setting averages 777 f.p.s. in the 1:12 barrel, with a spread of 63 f.p.s.
Ten JSB pellets made a group that measured 0.979 inches between centers. The average velocity on this setting with the JSB pellet is 786 f.p.s., with a 41 f.p.s. spread. That’s quite a difference from the Premier group at the same power setting/same distance.
Power setting 10
Moving up to power setting 10, I fired one shot to set the valve. Then, 10 Premiers made a 0.753-inch group. It’s still a fairly well-rounded group.
Ten JSB pellets made a group that measured 0.944 inches between centers on power setting 10. This time, the group was not just larger, there were several pellets that did not land in the same place. It’s also strung out horizontally.
What did we learn?
This is just the first test of 3 barrels, so it’s too early to draw a lot of conclusions. But there are things that can be said about this one test. For starters, JSB Exact pellets seem to spread out at the longer distances and higher power levels. Are they over-stabilizing? Too soon to tell, but the Premiers definitely out-grouped them. That may change when we test the factory barrel.
Premiers really only opened up at 25 yards on power setting 10. And they didn’t group well at 10 meters on zero power. Everything else was okay. Are they a more stable pellet? In the 1:12 twist barrel, they seem to be.
In researching this report, I’ve read in several places where gun writers say there is no problem with over-stabilization from fast twist rates. They say that as long as the bullet is stable, there’s no difference in accuracy, regardless of the twist rate. That may or may not be true for bullets (though I doubt that it is), but it certainly isn’t true for these two pellets! That much has been proven pretty clearly.
Beyond that, I don’t think I can say anything else. Next, I’ll test the factory barrel.
This test involves shooting 12 10-shot groups per barrel, so it’s very involved. That’s why I can’t do all three barrels at one time. I hope you understand that.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.