Posts Tagged ‘Beeman R1’

Hatsan 95 combo breakbarrel air rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The test rifle was prettier than the photo Hatsan provided for the website.

There has been a lot of interest in the .22-caliber Hatsan 95 combo breakbarrel I’ve been testing! We have even had people emailing Pyramyd Air directly to ask when Part 3 was coming. Folks, they don’t know any more than you do. If you want to know something about the blog, post your comment on the blog and I’ll answer you here.

The Hatsan 95 represents a departure from the other Hatsan spring rifles I’ve tested so far. It’s sized for a normal adult rather than for a giant, and it doesn’t require the strength of Hercules to cock. I found during the velocity testing that the rifle seems to like heavier pellets, so I tested it with some for accuracy. I tested the rifle with open sights because they seem to be a reasonably set even though they’re fiberoptic.

10-meter testing
Before testing the rifle at longer range, I first shot it at just 10 meters. Many of you say this is about as far as you can shoot an airgun in your homes, so today’s test should be very revealing.

The sights
The sights are fiberoptic and they don’t glow indoors. So, I used them as normal post-and-notch open sights. Unfortunately, the front bead is too large for the rear notch; but I did find it possible to see the top half of the front bead, and I could guesstimate where the bead was centered. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best I could do.

Forget looking for aftermarket sights for this air rifle. Air rifle sights these days are mostly proprietary, which means the guns they’re on won’t accept aftermarket sights from another manufacturer, unlike a lot of firearms. Since most shooters will use the scope that comes with this combo package, that presents no problem — but I included it because there are always a few people who want to use open sights.

First up was the Beeman Kodiak that did so well in the velocity test. They put 8 of 10 shots into a round group measuring 0.529 inches between centers, but two other shots opened that to 1.073 inches. I can chalk up those two shots to the imprecise sights, so this group looks promising.

Eight of the ten Beeman Kodiak pellets made a 0.529-inch group at 10 meters. The last two shots opened it to 1.073 inches. While this looks good, don’t forget that it’s only 10 meters.

The firing behavior of the Kodiaks is so smooth that I think they have to be considered by anyone who buys a Hatsan 95. Not only do they generate more energy than lighter pellets, they also group well — at least at 10 meters.

Next up was the JSB Exact Jumbo that weighs 15.9 grains. It’s usually a good performer when Kodiaks are, so I gave it a shot. It didn’t disappoint.

At 10 meters, 10 JSB Exact pellets went into a group measuring 0.648 inches — besting the Kodiaks for 10 shots. However, as with the Kodiaks, I see a smaller group inside the main one on the left side. It’s too difficult to measure, but you’ll see it, too.

Ten JSB 15.9-grain domes made this 0.648-inch group. This looks promising.

The last pellet I tried was one I don’t usually test, because I haven’t found it to be very accurate. Others have, though, and I think they must all be shooting them in pneumatics rather than spring guns. The Predator pellet is a premium hollowpoint that has a cone-shaped tip inside the hollow point of the pellet head.

At 10 meters, 10 Predators grouped in 1.548 inches between centers, and the distribution was open enough to show that it was no accident. This pellet is not for the Hatsan 95 and was eliminated from further testing.

Predator hunting pellets are clearly not the pellet for the Hatsan 95. Compare this open 1.548-inch group to the two before it.

When you compare this group to the other two, you can see why I think this pellet isn’t right for the Hatsan 95. A group like that at 10 meters is due to more than just imprecise sights!

Back to 25 yards
Now that I knew this Hatsan could shoot, it was time to back up to 25 yards and give it a go. This is where those sights would come into play; because at 25 yards, the bullseye I was aiming at was the same size as the front sight bead I could only see the top of.

I shot Beeman Kodiaks first, and 10 shots went into a group measuring 3.735 inches. That’s hardly a good group, but you’ll notice that just a single pellet opened up the group to that size. Nine pellets made a group that measures 1.613 inches. While hardly a good group for 25 yards indoors, this is where the front sight comes into question. I’ve shot 5-shot groups at 50 yards that measure a quarter-inch between centers with the best open sights, and I’ve shot 10-shot groups that measure three-quarters of an inch at the same distance with the same sights. Clearly, this group grew because the sights were not clear and not because the rifle is inaccurate.

Kodiaks didn’t do so well at 25 yards. Most are in the black, but that stray one out to the left was not a called flier. 3.735 inches between centers for this one.

Next up were the JSB Exacts. These had performed a little better at 10 meters, and I expected to see them out-group the Kodiaks at 25 yards, as well. And they did. Ten pellets went into a group measuring 1.882 inches. You can see the dispersion resulting from the fiberoptic sights, yet this pellet shows a tendency to stay together at this distance. Of course, this group is not acceptable, but it does give me hope that this rifle can shoot.

Ten JSB Exacts made this 1.882-inch group at 25 yards. It’s not good, of course, but the sights are probably the main reason for that.

Where does this leave us?
I believe the Hatsan 95 can shoot, and this test shows that. Next, I’ll mount the scope that came with the combo package and try that at 25 yards.

If you’ve been holding off buying a Hatsan 95 until you saw the results of my test, I would say the wait is over. This air rifle can shoot. It’s a breakbarrel springer, so it needs the artillery hold, but it doesn’t seem to be overly sensitive to the hold. It cocks easily enough for a hunting air rifle, and the firing cycle is smooth if you use heavier pellets.

The trigger is very nice, with just a little creep in stage two. I like the wide blade and the general shape of the blade on this gun.

Next, I’ll test this rifle with the scope it comes with.

Hatsan 95 combo breakbarrel air rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The test rifle was prettier than the one shown on Pyramyd Air’s website.

Today, I’ll test the velocity of this Hatsan 95 combo breakbarrel. After shooting it for this test, I have to tell you that I’m liking this air rifle. For staters, it isn’t impossible to cock. The barrel requires an effort of 40 lbs. to cock, which is light enough for one-hand cocking (for me) but too heavy for a plinker. It is world’s better than Hatsan’s portable gyms, which go by the model names 155 Torpedo and 125TH.

The second thing this 95 has that those other two don’t is a nice trigger! I mean — right out of the box. There’s a little creep in the second stage, but it’s not much and I can live with it. The trigger of my test rifle breaks at 4 lbs., 10 oz. and the only thing that would make it nicer would be an adjustable overtravel stop.

Firing behavior
The rifle jumps forward when it shoots, plus there’s a small amount of vibration I can feel. It’s over quickly and not objectionable, but it lets you know that you’re shooting a spring rifle.

I like the way the trigger blade tracks in this rifle. It feels wide and comfortable to my trigger finger, and I cannot feel any raising as the blade comes back. It feels like a trigger on a far more expensive air rifle.

Velocity and power
If the Hatsan cocks with the same force or even a little more than a Beeman R1, it ought to have roughly the same power, to my way of thinking. So, that’s what I was looking for.

The first pellet I tested was the .22-caliber Crosman Premier. I know that this pellet will average around 750 f.p.s. in a .22-caliber R1. In the Hatsan 95, the average was 734, so pretty close to the R1. The spread, however, went from a low of 699 to a high of 763 f.p.s. The rifle is probably burning off excess oil because it’s new, but the increase over the break-in period will balance that out. We may be looking at the final velocity, albeit with a much closer spread once it’s broken in. At the average velocity, this pellet produced an average 17.11 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Next up was the RWS Hobby pellet — that lightweight lead wadcutter that gives us a true sense of realistic top velocities for the rifle. Hobbys averaged 801 f.p.s. and ranged from 794 to 805 f.p.s. That’s a much tighter spread and perhaps indicative that the gun is stabilizing — but it’s still too soon to tell. At the average velocity, Hobbys delivered an average 16.96 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. They felt harsh on firing, though; in retrospect, I don’t think I’d use them in this rifle.

The final pellet I tested was the Beeman Kodiak dome. Many people think a Kodiak is too heavy for a spring-piston powerplant, but I disagree. In the Hatsan 95, the Kodiaks smoothed out the firing cycle so that it felt the best of all three pellets I tried. Kodiaks averaged 646 f.p.s. and ranged from 644 to 650 f.p.s. — an incredibly tight velocity distribution!

At the average velocity, Kodiaks generated an average 20.02 foot-pounds in the test rifle — confirming how they felt upon firing. Clearly, the Hatsan 95 has a heavier piston that’s best-suited for heavier pellets. And, since Kodiaks are often among the most accurate types in many guns, it’ll be interesting to see how they do in the accuracy test.

Observations thus far
To this point, the Hatsan 95 is stacking up to be the best Hatsan-branded spring gun I’ve tested. It cocks with a reasonable effort, the trigger is good (very much better than the two other Hatsan springers I’ve tested) and it develops decent power. The gun is also sized right for an adult male — rather than for a giant.

I think the next test will be the rifle without the scope that came with it. I want to really put this rifle through its paces, because it has the potential of becoming one of the best values for the money in a powerful spring rifle.

Hatsan 125TH air rifle combo: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Hatsan’s new 125TH breakbarrel is a large, powerful spring-piston air rifle.

Today is velocity day. Before I dive into the test, I want to say some things about today’s test. This is not supposed to determine the velocity of the best pellet for this rifle. It’s supposed to give a general range of power that can be expected from a rifle like this. That way, you’ll have an understanding of all the pellets that aren’t tested. They should either fit within the range or be very close to it.

The test
I must admit I had some misgivings about this test, because the Hatsan 125TH is such a powerful spring-piston air rifle. I already knew it took a lot of effort to cock. I’d estimated over 50 lbs. in Part 1; and when I tested it for today’s report, the bathroom scale went to 51 lbs. If you’d like to learn how to measure the cocking effort of a breakbarrel air rifle like this, watch this video.

Hatsan advertises this rifle as getting 1,250 f.p.s. with lead pellets in .177 caliber. And this one does! I’ll spare you the anticipation — the 125TH hits its advertised velocity on the head!

Three things to watch
There were three things I was curious about. The performance of the new Quattro trigger, the amount of vibration transmitted through the stock with the gun’s Shock Absorbing System (SAS) and the general firing characteristics. Let’s look at the trigger first.

The Quattro trigger resembles the Air Arms TX200 trigger more than a little, which in turn is an improved Rekord trigger. The Quattro has adjustments for the length of the first-stage pull, the pull weight (which is the weight of the second-stage release) and the weight of the first-stage pull. I adjusted it several different ways, and the lightest pull I got was 6 lbs., 5 oz. — which is heavy for the best work. The letoff is very crisp after adjustment, and I do like the wide trigger blade very much. But this is not a TX200 trigger.

I believe the SAS is doing its part to attenuate vibration, but there’s still a lot to be felt when the gun fires. Perhaps nothing can completely tame this action short of a master tune, because the long piston stroke makes the rifle leap forward at the end of every shot. So, those scope stops are not there for window dressing! The vibration dies off fast, which I attribute to the SAS doing its part.

This is a really big spring-piston air rifle, and it does move around a lot when it fires! I believe it’s fully the equal of the old British-made Webley Patriot, which was legendary for its recoil. Factor that into your buying decision. The 125TH is a hunting rifle — pure and simple. Or buy it for the bragging rights. But don’t expect to plink a lot with it unless you have 18-inch biceps.

Velocity test
As I started the velocity test, I noticed two things. First, the rifle is not over-lubricated. There was some honking during initial cocking, but that went away after 30 shots. Second, the big gun diesels heavily with the first few shots. I saw Beeman Kodiaks clocking 1,194 f.p.s during the initial shots! That’s to be expected with a rifle of this power — but it never detonated. So, praise for the spare lubrication!

Beeman Kodiaks
The Beeman Kodiak, whose weight is back up to 10.60 grains, following several years of lighter weights, averaged 1,021 f.p.s. in the 125TH. The spread went from a low of 1,013 to a high of 1,042, but only two pellets went faster than 1,024 f.p.s., once the big gun slowed down. The total spread was 29 f.p.s. I think it’ll stabilize around this speed, if not increase just a little with a break-in. At the average speed, this pellet generated 24.54 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. That’s really cracking for a .177!

Crosman Premier 7.9-grain
The next pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier dome. This is a light pellet for a rifle of this power. Plus, it’s a Premier, and the antimony in the lead will tend to lead the bore at these velocities. These pellets averaged 1,186 f.p.s. and had a spread from 1,167 to 1,191. At the average velocity, they produced 24.68 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Did you notice that the velocity spread of 24 f.p.s. is tighter with these than with the Kodiaks? I believe that shows that the rifle is settling down quickly.

RWS Hobby
Hatsan advertised 1,250 f.p,.s. with lead pellets, and RWS Hobbys are the normal test pellet for velocity with lead pellets. Of course, any of the other 7-grain RWS pellets would work just as well. The Hobbys fit the breech of the 125TH loosely, yet they produced the tightest velocity spread of all three pellets, varying by just 19 f.p.s. They averaged 1,254 f.p.s. and went from a low of 1,248 to a high of 1,267 f.p.s., generating an average of 24.45 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Overall observation
This was my first test of a true Hatsan airgun, so it represented an introduction of the entire line for me. I’ve tested other air rifles they’ve made, but always under other names; and the specifications are subject to change when someone else sells the gun. This time it was just them. I think the impression is a good one, in general. The Quattro trigger could be a lot lighter without compromising safety, but the SAS is probably doing everything it was designed to do.

They met their velocity specification with lead pellets, just as they advertised. That was both surprising and encouraging.

This is a big, powerful spring-piston rifle and my plan is to treat it that way. I’m not looking for quarter-inch groups at 25 yards, though I would be delighted to get them. But next I will test the rifle using the open sights. They look like a good set, and that will give me some time to find a good pellet for this rifle.

Hatsan 125TH air rifle combo: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Hatsan’s new 125TH breakbarrel is a large, powerful spring-piston air rifle.

Today, we’ll begin our look at the first of what I hope will be many new Hatsan air rifles. The Hatsan 125TH air rifle is a powerful breakbarrel spring-piston gun with a black synthetic stock. The advertised velocity for this large .177 Turkish rifle is 1,250 f.p.s. A month ago, I would have decried that kind of velocity, but the results of the Pellet velocity versus accuracy test showed us that velocity, by itself, is not what causes inaccuracy. It is the harmonics of the gun that cause inaccuracy, and they can be moderated or “tuned,” if you prefer, by selecting the right pellet.

This is a combo package, so I’m not only testing the rifle but also the 3-9×32 Optima scope that came with it. This scope dopes not have parallax adjustments; but if you’re consistent in placing your sighting eye at the same place in relation to the scope’s eyepiece every time (your “spot weld”), you can eliminate any parallax error that tries to creep in. The scope mounts that come already attached to the scope are two-piece high rings (aluminum) with two-screw ring caps.

Quattro trigger
When I was in the Hatsan booth at the 2012 SHOT Show, I saw all their new models. There was no opportunity to try any of them, so I’m looking forward to putting this pellet rifle through its paces. Hatsan is advertising two features that I’m especially interested in. One is the Quattro trigger. I was told by the president of Hatsan U.S.A. that the Quattro is a match-grade trigger. I told him I would reserve judgement, but he assured me that it is extremely adjustable.

The Quattro trigger has three adjustments. It’ll be interesting to see how well it can be adjusted.

The reason I’m skeptical of the trigger is the physical difficulty encountered by a trigger on a spring-piston gun that has to restrain well over 100 lbs. of mainspring force (probably more like 160 lbs. in this case) and yet break cleanly and crisply. The Rekord can do it, but that design is a multi-lever trigger that’s more famous than many entire airguns! If Hatsan has been able to design another trigger that’s just as good, it’s earth-shattering news.

I’m giving lots of leeway to the “match-grade” trigger comment…a real match-grade trigger releases in ounces, as we’ve seen from testing numerous vintage 10-meter guns. I won’t be looking for that level of performance on this gun. But I will hold the Quattro trigger up to the Rekord, which, on a Beeman R1 rifle of similar power, can be adjusted to a crisp release weight of 1 lb. and still be quite safe.

I couldn’t resist a couple test shots, but they didn’t reveal much. The trigger is reasonably crisp as it comes from the box and not too heavy, either. There’s a small amount of creep in the second stage. I’ll have to try adjusting it for the next report. To do that, I’ll read the owner’s manual, which I must say is very nice. It has clear instructions on adjusting the Quattro trigger and should be a great help when I do it. The adjustments, by the way, are for the length of the first stage pull, the length of the second stage pull and the second stage pull weight.

It isn’t up to Rekord trigger performance right now, but it also isn’t a bad trigger. It’s probably the equal of the Diana T06 trigger at the present time. I’ve fired the rifle only a few times as I write this. With the right adjustments, I hope this will turn out to be a great trigger.

My friend Mac had observed that the trigger looked like it came up, rather than straight back. Of course, he was limited by not being able to shoot the gun, just as I was. In fact, the trigger does come up, but the angle of the blade makes it slide through your finger so it feels like it’s going straight back. Some airguns do feel funny this way, but the trigger on this Hatsan feels quite normal.

The safety is automatic, and the button is located at the back of the spring tube — convenient for release by your thumb. Unlike most other airguns and firearms you pull the safety button back to release it. The norm would be to push it forward.

The safety engages automatically when the rifle is cocked. But to release it, you pull the button back, rather than pushing it forward.

The other feature Hatsan is touting for this new line of airguns is their Shock Absorbing System (SAS), which is supposed to isolate the shooter from the vibrations of the powerplant. As I understand it, it’s one or more rubber bushings between the action and the stock. At this point, I have fired the gun only a few times, but it does vibrate some — as I would expect from an untuned rifle of this power. The vibration isn’t that bad, though. It certainly doesn’t give you a headache or sting your cheek when the gun fires, so the SAS is probably doing its thing.

This illustration shows how the SAS works. The stock is held to the action by a strong bolt that passes through a rubber bushing.

This is the actual cocking link. You can see how it wraps around the stock bushing.

Looking straight up into the stock slot, you can see the rubber bushing that the stock bolt passes through. It’s contained in a steel housing.

The stock
The stock is for right-handed shooters only, as the sculpted cheekpiece does not roll over to the other side. This is a thumbhole design, and it has to be shot that way — there’s no provision in the shape of the stock to shoot the rifle any other way.

The pull on the rifle as it came from the box is 13.25 inches, but there are three spacers that came with the rifle to lengthen this pull. The owner’s manual doesn’t address them at all, and the Phillips-head wood screws that hold the rubber pad on the rifle are buried so deep inside the pad that you’ll have to find them by feel, alone. I added all three spacers and now the rifle’s pull is a more comfortable 14 inches.

The buttpad can be moved back with one to three spacers that come with the rifle. With all three spacers installed, the pull is 14 inches.

The synthetic stock material is rough to the touch, but it feels good when the rifle is held. The stock profile or cross-section is large at all points of contact except for the thumbhole, where it fits me surprisingly well.

The rifle weighs just one or two ounces under 10 lbs., even, with no scope mounted. Overall length is 47.4 inches, so this is a very large air rifle. Your Winchester model 70 will feel like a carbine in comparison, unless it’s an African model. The barrel is 19.6 inches long, and you’ll be glad that it is when you cock this powerhouse…it’s like bending the bow of Hercules. You need one of Archimedes’ really long levers to cock this one! I’m guessing the effort will exceed 50 lbs., but I’ll measure it for you in Part 2.

The rifle comes with a nice set of open sights, even though it’s a combo that includes a scope. The front sight is fiberoptic and the tube is exposed, which could lead to damage. This is where a metal hood would be appropriate.

Front sight contains a fiberoptic tube that’s exposed to damage. A hood would be good here.

The rear sight, which is also fiberoptic, is a nice, adjustable open sight with click detents on both adjustment knobs. The windage knob detents are mushy and vague, but the vertical detents are crisp. There’s a scale on the windage adjustment and reference numbers on the elevation knob.

The rear sight looks like a good unit. I plan to try it in this report.

I like the open sights on this rifle enough to conduct a separate accuracy test with them. So, there will be at least four parts to this report.

There’s also a scope rail on top of the spring tube. And this is perhaps where Hatsan shows its capability, along with the Quattro trigger and the SAS. When Hatsan made Webley spring rifles, they had a two-dimensioned scope rail that appeared to be sized for both 11mm and Weaver dovetails, but the base was very crude and the cross-slots weren’t even the same size. They looked like someone from summer camp had filed them by hand. I criticized them at the time; but upon reflection, perhaps Hatsan was only doing what Webley paid them to do. The scope rail on this 125TH is correctly proportioned and well-finished. Maybe Hatsan did the right thing by coming to the U.S. under their own name!

Notice in the picture that there are two vertical holes for scope stop pins, as well as a flat metal plate. There’s also a threaded hole forward of the metal plate if the shooter desires to reposition it. This gives great flexibility for positioning your scope mounts.

The scope rail gives you the option of using either Weaver or 11mm scope mounts. It looks very nice. Note that there’s a flat scope stop plate for the 11mm dovetail grooves and two vertical holes for scope stop pins. You can also reposition the flat metal plate forward by using other threaded hole.

So far
I’m impressed. After seeing the Webley Hatsans, I didn’t think too much of their airgun designs, but this 125TH looks like it could turn out nice. To do that, the rifle has to be accurate. We can only hope.

Some scope fundamentals: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This is one of the most popular reports I’ve done in a long time. That may be because scopes can be very cantankerous to deal with — hard to mount, difficult to zero, always seem to shift their zero, etc. Today, I’ll address some of the problems you can have and some ways to minimize them.

Scopes should work — no?
To the non-shooter, the telescopic sight seems like a guarantee of accuracy. We’ve all seen the movies. Put the crosshairs on the target, squeeze the trigger and you can’t miss.

Then, you try it for the first time, and you notice that you can’t keep the scope’s reticle (crosshairs) steady. As long as you hold the rifle, no matter what you do, the crosshairs move. Each beat of your heart makes them jump a little. Each breath you take in can move the scope or at least tilt it. You can minimize these movements through training, but nobody can eliminate them entirely. That’s why I shoot from a rest so often. But sometimes that doesn’t work — especially with spring-piston airguns. You have to learn the artillery hold; and since that technique goes well beyond what many people think, I’ll explain it more fully here.

Relax for a neutral hold
The artillery hold is really just a way to get you to follow through, but there’s more to it. An important part of the hold is how you are at the instant the gun fires. You have to be completely relaxed, so the gun doesn’t recoil back and encounter an off-center obstruction that shifts the muzzle in a certain direction.

Here’s how to achieve this relaxed state. After putting the crosshairs on your target, take a breath and expel most of it. Try to relax as you do this. The crosshairs will usually move off the target in a certain direction. If you had fired before relaxing, the pellet would have gone off target in the same direction the crosshairs just did. Maybe it wouldn’t have gone quite as far as the crosshairs seemed to, but it would have moved in the same direction. The result is a larger group.

Let’s try again. This time, after you relax, move the crosshairs back on target by shifting the gun or your hands slightly. It doesn’t take much.

Once you’re back on target, take a deep breath, close your eyes, let out most of the air and relax again. Now, open your eyes and see where the crosshairs are. They probably moved again, only this time they didn’t move so far. Shift things to get back on target again and repeat this procedure.

You may have to repeat this procedure several times before the crosshairs are still on target when you open your eyes. When they are, you can take the shot — making sure that you allow the gun to recoil and move as much as it wants to. This time, the shot should feel very different than it normally does. It should feel neutral — as though you’re no longer connected to the gun. That’s the feeling of a perfectly neutral shot and one that will group as tightly as the gun is capable of — if you can repeat the process several times.

What does this have to do with scopes? Everything! This is the only way to shoot a recoiling airgun with any accuracy; and until you can do that, you’ll never have much success with a scope.

With most firearms, except .22 rimfires, the hold isn’t nearly as important for accuracy because the bullet is out of the gun before all the movement takes place. But with airguns, and especially spring-piston airguns, the pellet hasn’t started to move before the gun does. Only a .22 rimfire is similar, and even they’re much more forgiving than most airguns.

However, you do need to know that all firearms are affected by hold, as well. Even centerfires that shoot in excess of 3,000 f.p.s. will benefit from the hold I’ve described here, but the amount of accuracy increase is so small that it’s only of interest to target shooters and long-range varmint hunters. The average shooter won’t normally notice the difference between a 1-inch group and a 1.25-inch group at 100 yards. Or if they do, they won’t care. I’ve heard that from so many shooters at my rifle range over the years that I know it’s true.

Now you’re ready
If you can learn how to neutralize your rested hold using the process I just described, you’ll see an immediate increase in accuracy from your scoped guns. Then, you’re ready to discuss scope fundamentals!

Temperature is critical
We don’t appreciate how sensitive a modern telescopic sight can be. I don’t mean fragile, either — I mean sensitive. Every change in temperature changes the point of impact of your scope a little. No scope is immune to this phenomenon, yet most shooters act as if once the scope is zeroed it stays zeroed.

Field target shooters know different. I’ve seen a field target scope with three different sets of click values on the elevation knob, each color-coded to a 20-degree temperature range. The shooter who owned that scope took the time to not only figure out all the elevation click values for every yard between 10 and 55 — he did it three separate times when the temperature was in three different ranges! That’s something Hollywood will never show you.

The optical elements inside a scope are refracting light to the millionths of an inch. When they move in relation to one another — because the metal tubes that hold them expand and contract from changes in temperature, the light beams do move. The movement is very slight, but it can and sometimes does change where the images appear. The point of aim changes.

There are many other reasons for a shift in the point of aim, but temperature is a constant one that must always be taken into account. If you’re looking for the way to prevent such changes, I’m sorry to disappoint you. There’s no solution to cancel the effect of temperature changes on a telescopic sight. But if you know it will happen you can at least anticipate it and adjust your scope when the time comes.

There are so many different kinds of scope reticles that it would take a book to cover them all. And most of the highly specialized ones are for specific purposes, such as the ballistics of a single military round, so they have no place in a general discussion. I’ll address hree general types of reticles found on most scopes. If I miss something, you can bring it up in the comments.

The oldest type of reticle is the plain “crosshair,” which is two straight lines — one vertical and the other horizontal. In some scopes, these lines actually appear to move as the scope is adjusted, but that’s getting pretty rare today. More often, the crosshairs remain in place in the center of the image and the adjustments move the whole image, so you don’t notice anything.

The plain crosshair is the oldest type of reticle. This image shows thick reticle lines, but they can be much thinner for greater aiming precision.

Often a very thin reticle can be difficult to see against a background, so there will be a small dot at the center of the crosshairs that makes them stand out. This dot will be small, perhaps one or two minutes of angle (a minute of angle covers about one inch at 100 yards), but it doesn’t take much to be noticeable against anything but a dark woods background.

This dot looks large on the heavy reticle lines. But in many scopes, both the dot and reticle lines are very small and fine. This is just for illustration.

Plain crosshairs are best in open country and are therefore favored by long-range shooters. They’re fine for plinking, as long as the reticle lines aren’t too thin. They’re less useful in deep forests, where the reticle lines don’t stand out. For that terrain, probably nothing beats the duplex reticle.

The duplex reticle is a plain crosshair that has thicker lines near the edges of the field of view and thinner lines in the center. When I shot field target, I used a scope with a duplex reticle for two reasons. First, it was much easier to see in the deep woods where many matches are shot; and second, the duplex offers four additional aimpoints.

The duplex reticle uses crosshairs of two different sizes. The ends of the thick posts provide four additional aim points that can be used for things…like greater or lesser distance and wind.

Duplex reticles are the favorite of hunters, because they work well in deep foliage yet they permit precise aiming at the same time. Like plain crosshairs, duplex reticles come in different thicknesses.

In the mil-dot scope, the dots are an exact size (measured in mils) and are spaced apart an exact distance. On variable scopes, they must be used at one power setting to work as designed. Read the information that comes with the scope to discover how this works.

Mil-dot reticles are a more recent invention. They feature dots of a controlled size spaced along one or both reticles at regular spaces. Mil is short for milliradian, a measure of angle that, unfortunately, has never been standardized. Or perhaps it’s more correct to say that it has been standardized dozens of times — each with a different measurement. When I was a mortar platoon leader, our fire direction center and mortar sights used the old French measurement of 6,400 mils to a circle, but there are many other measurements that differ — some slightly and others in a more significant way.

One common use for the mil is rangefinding. Though it isn’t exact, we say that one mil subtends (covers) one meter at 1,000 meters. At 100 meters one mil subtends one-tenth of a meter or 3.9 inches. That’s so close to 4 inches that we round it up.

A whitetail deer is about 12 inches from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the chest. A two-mil dot will just about cover the deer’s chest at 150 meters.

Is that too much for you? It is for many hunters who still use the mil-dot scope for aimoff when there’s wind. Or they use the vertical dots for aim points at distances other than the range for which the scope is sighted.

Focusing the reticle
The first thing a shooter must do with a scope is focus the reticle. The eyepiece should adjust to allow you to do this, and it does on all but the cheapest scopes. Focus by looking through the scope at the sky or a light-colored wall and turn the eyepiece until the reticle appears in sharp focus. I’ve read that this is supposed to be done incrementally; because if you stare at the reticle very long, your eyes will naturally focus on it. So do it in stages.

After you focus the reticle, some scopes have a locking ring to hold that focus. Others don’t have the locking feature, but the focus rings should be stiff enough to hold your focus without it.

Focusing the reticle is very important for scopes with adjustable objectives, because the scope’s designers assume the scope is in sharp focus when the objective ring or sidewheel is turned. Only when the reticle is in focus will the scope come close to the distances marked off on the parallax ring or knob, which is the adjustable objective we are discussing. And, of course, that will also depend on the temperature when the scope is used.

On the other hand, on lower-powered scopes that have a fixed parallax setting you can use the focus to bring close targets into better focus. This isn’t what the adjustment is for and it will blur the reticle somewhat, but sometimes it’s the best way to use a low-priced, fixed-focus scope at closer distances than it’s intended.

Some scope fundamentals: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I’ve noticed that a lot of you are responding positively to the fundamentals that have come out in some of the recent reports, so I thought I would do a few more important ones for you, starting with scopes. This will be a series of bite-sized reports.

My experience shooting the Conquest with a 4x scope at 50 yards last week and getting great groups prompts me to want to share a number of scope evaluation tips with you. And, as always, I expect the comments from our readers are going to be even more interesting than the reports.

What magnification (power) to choose?
Starting with the Conquest accuracy test, it’s obvious that you don’t need a lot of magnification to shoot well. I normally use more than just 4x for a gun as accurate as the Conquest, but not on all rifles. As a scope increases in power, it also gets longer and heavier, so a compromise between power and size is usually best.

I have some 3-9x scopes that have unusually clear optics and thin reticles that I enjoy using. Of all of them, the one I like the best is not marked in any way. I think it’s a Leapers, but there are no identifying marks that reveal who the manufacturer is. The optics are clear and the crosshair is thin and sharp. This is often my go-to scope to use for a quick test.

My favorite power combination is probably a 4-16x. I find it packs the most power into a convenient package without the scope becoming too long and heavy. Given today’s optics, a good 4-16x isn’t much longer than a 3-9x from a decade ago.

But you don’t need even 16x to shoot accurately. That is what the new airgunner must understand. I have a .250 Savage centerfire rifle that shoots 10-shot groups smaller than one inch at 100 yards nearly every time. The scope on that rifle is a vintage all-steel Weaver V9 W, which means it is a 3-9x variable that has a wide field of view. The objective lens is only 32mm, so it isn’t as bright as some modern scopes, but it has a super-fine reticle with a tiny dot at the intersection of the crosshairs. If I ever find another scope like this at a gun show, I am prepared to buy it because the combination of power, optical clarity and crosshair size is ideal for this rifle. I use this rifle for prairie dog-sized targets out to 300 yards. That’s good enough for me.

Another rifle that shoots small groups is a custom No. 5 SMLE that I’ve converted to .219 Donaldson Wasp. The scope on this one is another one that’s vintage and all-steel — a Redfield 2-7x variable with what appears to be a 28mm or 30mm objective. The crosshairs are even finer than those of the vintage Weaver, and the dot at the intersection is also smaller. This rifle should be good for prairie dogs out to 300 yards, as well, but I feel the power of the scope limits the range to 250 yards for targets so small. Coyotes to 300 yards are possible because they’re much larger. So, I’m saying that a 7x scope works well at 250 to 300 yards, but the maximum effective distance depends on the target — at least for me.

It might be an ugly rifle, but this .219 Donaldson Wasp can shoot. It has a custom Shaw barrel of my own design with a faster twist. And the little Redfield scope is plenty good for what I want to do.

Going the other way, I absolutely love Leapers’ line of long eye relief scopes that produce 1.5-4x. These scopes may not make the target appear large, but they can’t be beat for clarity. For value, I don’t think the Leapers 1.25-4×24 long eye relief scope with the one-inch tube has any equal. It’s currently priced at only $85, which is very little for such a great sight. It would be ideal on big bore airguns of all kinds, as well as powerful springers that won’t be shot past 50 yards — rifles like the Beeman R1 in .22 caliber, for example. Yes, the parallax is set at 100 yards, but I have found that when the magnification is this low, it doesn’t matter where the parallax is set. This scope would be ideal on a New England Firearms (NEF) single-shot rifle in .45 Colt or .44 Magnum or on any small carbine in a pistol caliber.

What about more powerful scopes?
There are a FEW applications for the scopes with power up to 32x and more. Field target competition is one such game — not because of the additional aiming precision, but because that extra power helps you resolve small objects out at 55 yards, so you can determine ranges with the parallax adjustment more precisely. When you can focus on very small objects at long distances, the scope helps to determine the range to them. And long-range target shooting is another time when a higher-powered scope is needed. When you’re going for the absolute best group that can be fired from a gun, the scope must be powerful enough to reduce the aiming error to the smallest fraction of an inch.

Talk all you want about big scopes. Try carrying around one like this for a couple hours! A Daystate Harrier is dwarfed by this monster Tasco Custom Shop 8-40×56.

HOWEVER — and this is the whole point of this discussion — it doesn’t take the Hubble Space Telescope to shoot good groups at 50 yards. As you clearly saw in my report on the Conquest, I did it with only 4x. Consider that when thinking of your next scope. You can have a handy package that carries easily and handles rapidly or you can mount the biggest bragging-rights scope money can buy on your air rifle and then suffer for it.

Clarity goes hand-in-hand with accuracy when using a scope. In fact, I think clarity is the single most important attribute a scope sight can have. There are technical means of determining relative clarity in scopes. The most common one is determining how many line pairs the scope can resolve in a standard test. Clarity is actually a statement of the scope’s ability to resolve an image. When we say clarity, we mean resolution.

I am not an optical engineer, nor am I qualified to discuss how scopes are tested. And the subject is so technical that even if I could discuss it, not everyone would understand what I was saying. I’m going to reduce the resolution/clarity question to something we can all understand.

I have a simple test I use to subjectively determine the relative clarity of a scope. All I do is point the scope at the roof of my neighbor’s house about 25 yards distant and look at the shingles. If the shingles appear sharp, with the vertical joints well-defined and the abrasive particles standing out clearly, I know the scope is clear. If any of the image is muddy, even after the scope is adjusted for that range, I know the scope is not as clear as I would like it to be.

I developed this test a couple years back when I pitted a Hawke scope against a Leapers scope of the same power and specifications. Until that test I thought nothing affordable could ever beat a Leapers scope; but in that test, the Hawke scope emerged as the clearer sight. It was also more expensive, but it didn’t cost twice what the Leapers did, as I remember. The shingle test is a good one for any scope you intend using for target shooting or hunting, as nothing in the field will exceed the fineness of the image the shingles can give.

If you don’t have access to shingles, anything with a fine grain will work just as well. Old wooden fences are another way of testing the resolution of your scope. Just be sure to always test every scope at the same distance and using the same object, and your test will soon become very refined.

When you buy a scope, you usually can’t perform the test I just described. You have to take someone’s word on the clarity. But I have a couple tips about that.

1. Multi-coated optics on inexpensive scopes are usually not as clear as single-coated lenses. Leapers has used a single coating of emerald for as long as I’ve known them, which is why they’re as clear as they are at such a low price. You might give up something else with single-coated optics, such as five minutes hunting time in the morning and evening, but that depends on what kind of coating it is.

This deserves an explanation. While multi-coatings can be applied to make optics perform their best, the hype of multi-coating is too powerful to be overlooked by the marketing departments of many manufacturers. Therefore, the cheap scopes are multi-coated without regard to light transmission or any other enhancements. As a result, these multi-coated optics are much like airguns that shoot over 1,000 fps — lots of hype but you’re giving up accuracy. On the other hand, expensive multi-coated optics deliver superior performance.

2. The objective size doesn’t matter as much as you think. You don’t always need the 56mm objective to see clearly. The quality of the lens material and the optical coating(s) matter more than the objective size.

3. A 30mm scope tube will be noticeably clearer than a one-inch tube, if all else is equal.

4. You can live with a lower-power scope if it’s also clear, but a high-power scope that doesn’t focus or is unclear is the worst headache imaginable.

The bottom line
Considering just these two subjects — power and clarity — shop for a lower-power scope with a 30mm scope tube and a single lens coating. From what I saw in the Leapers booth at this year’s SHOT Show, there will soon be a flood of very clear scopes at good prices (but not cheap!) hitting the market this year.

Stop shopping for scopes by price, alone, and then condemning your rifles, pellets and the entire hobby of airgunning when things don’t work out! Most cheap scopes are cheap for a good reason. I understand trying to buy the best scope you can afford, but stop focusing on the price so much.

Cheap scopes aren’t usually that much worse than more expensive scopes. I say “usually” because I’ve seen a couple brands that can be counted on to be bad. But cheap scopes don’t pass through the quality controls that most of the more expensive scopes do. You’re far more likely to end up with a lemon if you buy the rock-bottom scope.

And this final tip is worth the price of this entire blog: Most combos (rifle and scope for one price) that are put together by manufacturers are put together by their marketing departments to get rid of the cheap scopes nobody will buy! However, when a combo is put together by a dealer, that usually isn’t the case. Pyramyd Air has put some very decent scopes on some of their combos because they realize their customers really care which scope comes with the gun. The more the combo costs, the better the scope will probably be.

But watch out for those manufacturer combos!

Gamo’s Silent Stalker Whisper IGT air rifle: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Gamo Silent Stalker Whisper IGT surprised B.B. by being difficult to group.

Before I start today’s report I have to share a concern. The other evening while we were watching TV, Edith suddenly suggested that I write an airgun blog for beginners. I thought about it, and I decided she is probably right.

Of course, this very blog is supposed to be for beginners, but I fear that I’ve wandered away from that objective. There’s too much jargon in the articles and not enough explanation. As far as the comments are concerned, I have no problems with what’s said because readers ought to be able to say almost anything. But the articles ought to be more informative and not require an airgun background to understand.

If you’re new to airgunning and have been struggling with this blog, please speak up now. I would like to hear your views on how we can make this blog better and easier to understand.

Okay, on to today’s report, which, if subtitled, would read, BB gets frustrated. I’ve tried to like this Gamo Silent Stalker Whisper IGT. I really have, and I did like many things about it. I liked the light weight, the ease of cocking and the lack of vibration when fired. I didn’t care for the scope Gamo sends with the rifle, but today was supposed to take care of that. But it didn’t work out that way. Instead, adding a better scope only demonstrated that this rifle isn’t going to shoot like it should, and I believe I now know why.

New scope
You’ll recall that I criticized the Gamo scope pretty severely, so for today’s session I mounted a Leapers 6-24×50 AO scope in the BKL 1-piece droop compensating mount I’m using to compensate for the rifle’s extreme droop. Blog reader Kevin has said that he wouldn’t buy another Leapers scope because of the way he was treated by the company in what should have been a warranty situation, and I have to agree with him on that; but their scopes are still a very good value for the money. This scope is one I’ve used several times before, and it’s never let me down.

I figured the first thing to do was to verify my zero after changing out the scope, and of course there was a lot of adjustment to be made with the new one. I have no idea what gun or mounts this scope was associated with last, so it will naturally be off unless I get lucky. But this wasn’t the day for luck.

After zeroing, the first pellet I tried was the 14.3-grain JSB Exact Express that looked so tantalizing in the last accuracy test. And this is where the frustration began. In the last test using the poor scope, I managed a 10-shot group that measured 1.267 inches between centers. I expected far better than that, now that I could clearly see the target. But after only seven pellets went into a group measuring 1.479 inches, I knew it was not to be.

JSB Exact Express pellets spread out so far that I gave up after seven shots.

I then changed to the heavier 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbo pellet. But another seven of those pellets went into a group measuring 1.427 inches, and I stopped wasting my time.

JSB Exact Jumbos weren’t much better, with seven going into 1.427 inches. I didn’t complete this group, either.

I was really frustrated, because nothing I tried was working. I would get two pellets in the same hole when I tried a new hold, and then the third would land two inches away. This was starting to get embarrassing! And I did try many other pellets, including some that are obsolete, like Beeman Silver Jets. Nothing worked. RWS Hobbys were so far off-target that they put a hole in the aluminum light fixture I use to illuminate the target. And Beeman Kodiaks, which I think are much too heavy for an air rifle in this power class, were doing the same thing as all the rest — grouping two tight and then throwing the next two several inches away. Then I shot another disappointing group of H&N Trophy Hunters.

Finally in desperation I shot a last group of Beeman Silver Bear hollowpoints that ended with the fourth shot. Why shoot any more when four shots already has you over one inch? Look at the group, and you’ll see what I mean.

When a group begins like this, why bother going farther? Four Beeman Silver Bears at 25 yards.

Now this is the point in many reports where I pull back the curtain and reveal the sunshine of a successful test. But not today. There is no joy in Mudville today. Oh, that’s not true.

I felt so bad about all the lousy shooting, and believe me, there’s more than I’m reporting, that I grabbed my tuned .177-caliber Beeman R8 and shot a final group of ten Beeman Devastators at the same 25 yards. This was to wash the bad taste of this test out of my mouth.

This group of ten Devastators came from my Beeman R8 at 25 yards. The group measure 0.5 inches on the nose, allowing for the built-in error.

And it worked. Apparently I can still shoot — even on a day when I can’t get the Gamo Silent Stalker Whisper IGT to shoot worth a darn. It just felt good to be able to say that.

So, what’s wrong?
I think I know why the Silent Stalker Whisper isn’t grouping, and there isn’t a darn thing I can do about it. Early on in this second accuracy test, I started grabbing and shaking things to see if anything was loose. When I came to the barrel, it shook from side to side. It wobbles on its pivot, and there isn’t anything I can do about it.

I see from examining the action outside the stock that a lot of thought went into this gun, but they missed a very critical point — the barrel lockup. If that’s loose and can’t be tightened, and apparently it can’t, then the rifle will never live up to its potential. It’s still a nice lightweight breakbarrel with smooth shooting characteristics, but it lacks the all-important accuracy potential shooters want.

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