Posts Tagged ‘breakbarrels’
by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Doing something different
• Tightened the barrel joint
• Sight-in and the first group with Hobby pellets
• Air Arms Falcon pellets
• RWS Superdome pellets
• H&N Baracuda Match pellets
• JSB Exact Express pellets
• Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets
• Alternate hold
I started this test in July but have laid off for several weeks. Thanks for bearing with me. Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the Ruger Airhawk combo at 10 meters.
I’m looking at this combo because a number of readers say they really like the rifle. Of course, it’s been compared to an RWS Diana 34, but I wouldn’t go that far. Yes, there are similarities between the two rifles, but they’re not identical. And each has its own unique firing characteristics – and we’ll all learn a lot about those as I fire the rifle for accuracy using the open sights.
If this rifle proves to be accurate, it’ll be a best buy, given the price of just $130. I know my test rifle is shooting slower than the advertised velocity, but I plan on testing the velocity, again, after the accuracy test, so don’t give up just yet.
Doing something different
I’m changing the way I test air rifles in an attempt to make some progress faster than in the past. I’ll shoot just 5 shots at 10 meters off a rest with each pellet and then look at the group. If the group shows promise, I will come back to the pellet. If not, I’ll move on. That way, I’ll be able to test more pellets in the same time.
I’ll also test at least 2 different variations of the artillery hold — the 2 that have proven the most successful over the years. If one seems better than the other, I’ll continue to use that hold for all the other tests.
Tightened the barrel joint
I noticed last time that the barrel joint wasn’t tight. This barrel has a bolt that can be tightened, so I removed the action from the stock and tightened the barrel pivot bolt. When I was doing that, I noticed that all of them were loose. The inletting of the action in the stock was very tight — fully the equal of anything made in Europe. That gives me hope this rifle will be accurate.
Sight-in and the first group with Hobby pellets
I sighted-in the gun and shot the first group with RWS Hobby pellets. Sight-in amounted to just one shot that told me the rifle was on target from the factory.
I’m showing the sight-in shot along with the first group for two reasons. First, it shows how low the first shot was, yet I knew I’d be okay because I was shooting from just 12 feet. I knew the group would hit the paper higher. Second, it shows how much the shots climbed on target when I shot from 10 meters. This lesson demonstrates that you cannot sight-in a gun for anything under 10 yards and expect it to be on at any other distance. Even 10 meters is too close to sight-in a rifle if you expect to ever hit things at 15 yards and beyond. The sights are too close to the target, and the angular separation from the bore is too great when you’re this close.
I held the rifle on the flat of my off hand with the triggerguard touching the heel of that hand. The group of 5 Hobbys measures 0.678 inches between centers. This is too large for a 10-meter group, so Hobbys are out of consideration.
After this group, I adjusted the rear sight 7 clicks to the left but didn’t touch the elevation. The sight remained in that setting for the rest of this test.
Air Arms Falcon pellets
Next, I tried Air Arms Falcon pellets. Falcons hit the target well-centered but much lower than the Hobbys. Five pellets went into a group that measures 0.493 inches between centers. While that isn’t as good as I’d like to see at 10 meters, it does show some promise. I’ll probably shoot Falcons from 25 yards, as well.
RWS Superdome pellets
Next, I tried RWS Superdomes. They gave me a puzzling result. Four of the 5 pellets went into 0.506 inches, but the final shot opened the group to 0.906 inches. That might have been an aiming error; but at 10 meters, I usually don’t make mistakes that large. I might try these again, but not if I find 2 other pellets that are better.
H&N Baracuda Match pellets
Next, I shot 5 H&N Baracuda Match pellets. Sometimes these pellets that seem too heavy for a gun will surprise you with their accuracy, although I have to say that happens more with heavy .22-caliber pellets than with .177s. It certainly didn’t happen this time. Five Baracuda Match went into 1.372 inches. Although 3 pellets are close, I don’t think this pellet is right for this rifle.
JSB Exact Express pellets
Five JSB Exact Express pellets were next. I have to confess that, while I like JSB pellets a lot, I’ve never had any luck with the Express pellet in either caliber. Today was no different. Five went into a 1.466-inch group that proved to be the largest of the test. Definitely out of the running for this rifle!
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets
I felt I had to try the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet that’s often the best in some rifles. And I got an interesting result. The first pellet hit the target high and near the center of the bull. Then the next 4 dropped over one inch and grouped in 0.411 inches.
This group is small enough to interest me, so I shot a second group of 10 pellets. They landed in 0.746 inches, which is okay, but not the best. However, if you look at the group, you can see that 6 of the 10 pellets went into a much tighter group that’s a single hole measuring 0.357 inches between centers. I know that aiming errors can put me off by as much as these 4 outlying pellets at 10 meters, so this group gives me confidence that the Airhawk can really shoot.
I then tried the same Premier lite pellets with my off hand slid forward so I could feel the beginning of the cocking slot against my palm. Now that I know this is a good pellet, I can try different things like this. Five pellets went into 0.852 inches, which isn’t good — but look where 3 of them went! That hole is a group measuring 0.069 inches! I don’t think that was due to the different hold, but I do think it tells me this rifle can really shoot and that the Premier lite pellet is right for this gun.
Using an alternate artillery hold, 5 Premier lites went into 0.852 inches. While that isn’t so good, 3 of those pellets went into 0.069 inches. I think the rifle can shoot, and this pellet is the right one – but the first hold is best.
Edith spotted the fact that I may have skewed the test results by not seasoning the barrel for each pellet. I guess that’s the down side of shooting so many 5-shot groups. It does bring up a good point. I think that when I move back to 25 yards, I’ll season the barrel with 20 shots per pellet before shooting the first 10-shot group.
She also suggested that I do a seasoned barrel vs. unseasoned barrel accuracy test. There are enough of you who believe in the seasoning process, so that makes such a test worth the effort.
by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is the start of a guest blog from airgunner and blog reader Fred_BR from Brazil. He’s going to tell us about a breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle he recently acquired. It’s a civilian copy of a scarce military trainer.
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.
Over to you, Fred.
This report covers:
• FAL in the Brazilian army
• FAC: Fuzil de Ar Comprimido
• My Model Sport 82
Rossi Sport 82
Today, I’ll show you an old rifle that I believe most of you have never seen: the Brazilian-made Rossi Model Sport 82. It is a civilian version of a military training rifle used by the Brazilian army to train recruits before letting them handle the firearm – the FN-FAL 7.62 NATO battle rifle.
FAL in the Brazilian army
In 1964, the Brazilian army adopted the FN FAL 7.62X51mm (.308 Winchester) battle rifle as a replacement for the old bolt-action Mauser rifles then in use. IMBEL, the Brazilian Government arsenal, acquired the rights to produce a local version of the firearm, eventually making 250,000 of them according to some sources. The FAL proved to be a very sound choice, and to this day it’s the preferred rifle of many military and police elite units. For recruits, however, the FAL is not exactly easy to master, especially for inexperienced hands.
The Brazilian army approached Amadeo Rossi S/A and asked for a version of their standard air rifle to mimic the FN FAL. Rossi, a Brazilian manufacturer well known to American shooters for its line of budget-priced revolvers, is also a traditional maker of popular air rifles, mostly inexpensive and very simple in design — but well built.
The response from Rossi was a breakbarrel spring-piston rifle with a redesigned stock that has a pistol grip, a false magazine, and front and rear metallic sights that copy those of the FAL. Lead inserts would bring the weight close to that of the standard FAL rifle. Even the carry handle was included. Caliber was .177, the only airgun caliber then available in Brazil.
The Sport 82 is a civilian version of the military FAC, or compressed air rifle, used by the Brazilian army for training.
[Editor's note: Many countries do not permit former military weapons or even airguns to be sold to civilians. They feel it promotes theft, which it certainly does. Some countries don't even allow civilians to use firearms chambered for military cartridges for the same reason.]
FAC: Fuzil de Ar Comprimido
The resulting gun would be adopted as the “FAC – Fuzil de Ar Comprimido,” Portuguese for “compressed air rifle,” a nickname sufficiently close to “FAL” to satisfy the officers. The rifle would be the initial introduction of recruits to shooting, before being allowed to use the firearm.
Rossi would sell this rifle to civilians with some modifications. Some say they were obliged to do so because of military restrictions, others say they modified the rifle to become more acceptable to young shooters — then the only market for airguns in Brazil. Rossi may have realized that no kid in their early teens would buy such a heavy rifle and made it lighter and without the false magazine and carry handle, but keeping the FAL-style sights. This model would be released to the shooting public in Brazil as the Model Sport 82.
My Model Sport 82
I searched for an example of this rifle after B.B.’s post on the Egyptian Hakim airgun. It didn’t take me long to find one. The gun is a spring-piston, breakbarrel rifle with 13.60 inches of barrel length, 38 inches overall, weighs 5 lb., 4 oz., and has a 15-inch length of pull. The stock is made of black-painted wood, and features a pistol grip and general style that basically copies the grip and stock of a standard fixed-stock FAL, although some models were sold with the natural color of wood. Later models would be equipped with barrel-mounted open sights, but my rifle has the FAL-style peep sights regulated for height and windage via two screws.
The front sight is a simple post protected by two ears like the FAL and located closer to the breech than on most airguns
The rear sight is an aperture adjusted for height and windage by two screws. It’s mounted on top of a wood extension to fit the FAL-sized stock.
The spring-piston tube assembly is very short, almost junior-sized. To meet the FAL-lookalike specs required by the army, Rossi added an extension behind the rear portion of the spring tube, apparently also made of wood, just to keep the action from being too short in the long stock made for this model. Keep in mind, fellow readers, that airguns made back then in Brazil were mostly considered youth rifles not intended for adults at all, so they were mostly compact and lightweight models. The gun has no safety of any kind, so it relies on good handling to avoid accidental discharges.
The breakbarrel action is very smooth and easy to cock, as a good youth models needs to be. The short-stroke spring-piston rifle can push pellets in the 450 f.p.s. to 480 f.p.s. range. This is sufficient for most applications of such a training airgun. That’s the good news.
Now for the bad news: The trigger is horrendously heavy. I couldn’t even measure the trigger weight. I can only tell you that this gun sports the heaviest trigger I’ve ever encountered on any rifle — airgun or firearm. The thing is so difficult to pull that, after a few shots, I was feeling pain in my trigger finger. It definitely took the fun out of the equation pretty quickly. As the gun has no safety, I can only think this was Rossi’s way of preventing an accidental discharge by making the trigger so heavy that kids wouldn’t pull it unintentionally. Well, I almost could not pull that thing even on purpose!
I would love to show you lots of pictures of very tight groups made with the Rossi 82, but the best I could do was a mere 1.25 inches at 10 meters with this gun. I blame the trigger for that, and I plan to disassemble the gun to check the exact condition of its trigger and sear. Maybe some careful trigger work will improve it.
Except for the trigger, the Sport 82 is a lightweight, easy-to-cock carbine with a distinguished look that sets it apart from other air rifles. It has a history of service to my country, training civilians and military recruits, and doing its job gallantly. To this day, the Brazilian army still introduces safe gun handling to trainees using the FAC.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Ruger Air Hawk velocity retest
• RWS Hobby pellets
• JSB Exact Heavy pellets
• RWS HyperMAX pellets
• New Arlington field target club
• Beautiful course!
Ruger Air Hawk combo
Ruger Air Hawk velocity retest
I hadn’t planned to do this test, but the velocity numbers in the previous blog post were so far off expectations that I felt compelled to try it, again. I was curious about the poor velocity performance of the Ruger Air Hawk combo. Someone suggested the breech seal might be too low and others agreed, so I shimmed the seal. It appears to be ever so slight higher now, but the velocity is definitely higher.
The shim raised the breech seal slightly.
RWS Hobby pellets
In the first test, RWS Hobby pellets settled into a range of 750 to 810 f.p.s. I didn’t give averages because the gun seemed to be detonating too much.
This time, the range went from 1014 to 1088 f.p.s. Two shots registered 649 and 761 f.p.s., respectively. My gut feeling is that the velocity has increased, but the rifle’s still detonating too much to know anything for sure.
JSB Exact Heavy pellets
The second pellet was the JSB Exact Heavy that weighs 10.34 grains. In the last test, these ranged between 534 and 757 f.p.s. In this test they ranged between 572 and 893 f.p.s., with all but two shots above 623 f.p.s. There’s a definite velocity increase this time; but, again, I can’t be precise.
RWS HyperMAX pellets
The last pellet tested was the 5.2-grain RWS HyperMAX lead-free pellets. Previously, these ranged between 817 and 970 f.p.s. In this test, they ranged from 906 to 1203, with only one not going above 1180 f.p.s.
I think it’s clear that the breech seal was too low during the first test. Raising it with a shim did boost velocity, though the gun is still burning too much oil to tell for sure how much velocity has been gained. When it stabilizes, we’ll have a better idea – but it does seem the gun is on the numbers now.
My next test will be for accuracy at 10 meters, using the open sights.
And, now, for something completely different!
New Arlington field target club
We have a new field target club in North Central Texas. The Arlington Sportsman’s Club has started a field target club, which held their second trial match last Saturday on 10 of the club’s 35 3D archery lanes. These lanes are carved into a wooded section of the club’s property and are ideal for field target matches.
This is the second FT match I’ve attended in the past few years, and I have to comment that the sport is now more popular than ever! When I competed in the 1990s, field target was run by a rigid set of rules that put older and less mobile shooters at a disadvantage. And there were some clubs that enforced offhand-only shooting to the extent that the sport just wasn’t attractive to many shooters.
Today, I see relaxed rules that allow seating and bipods for the rifles, changing everything! The shooter doesn’t have to get into a seated position on the ground and hold the rifle so nothing touches the ground. Now, it’s fun! And I can tell that the shooters are 10-20 years older than they were when I competed in the 1990s. That still puts them at my age — only, now, they’re having fun.
The Arlington match director, Chris Simmons, showed me around the course, which was the finest FT course I’ve ever visited. Of course, having those lanes premade by the 3D archers made all the difference.
The match director’s briefing started early, so the match started right on time.
Chris allowed one point for every target that fell, which is the common way of scoring a match. The Pecan Plantation club I visited some months back allowed 2 points for a target fall and one point for just hitting the target. Either way works fine, but seeing the target fall is what the sport’s all about.
Chris left all the kill-zone reducers off for this match, so every kill zone was 1.5 inches. In the future, that will change. I know these targets seemed easier to kill, but when they have half-inch kill zones and are 25 yards distant, that will change.
The kill-zone reducers were left off all targets for this match.
The match used archery facilities like this tower, which was designated for offhand shots, only. We never had features like this when I was a match director!
You might think that because this is a startup club all the shooters were duffers, but that was not the case. I saw many shooters who obviously knew exactly what they were doing. One man was shooting a Whiscombe JW 70, which is rare at any FT match. And another shot an Air Arms Pro-Sport he received only the night before the match. He got zeroed before the match started and did very well shooting from the offhand position.
Here is a Whiscombe JW 70! How many of these have you seen?
The shooters from the Dallas FT club weren’t able to make this match because they were working on a new venue for their club on the same day. But they’ll attend matches in the future. And I think I may blow the dead bees out of my Air Arms TX200 and shoot a few matches, myself. It’s been over 15 years since I competed; but the way things are run today, this looks like fun!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Ruger Air Hawk combo
This report covers:
• Why the Ruger Air Hawk?
• Impressions of the rifle
• Before the test
• RWS Hobby pellets
• JSB Exact Heavy 10.34-grain pellets
• Firing behavior
• What to do now?
I’m testing the Ruger Air Hawk combo today, and I’m also starting something new. I’m combining Parts 1 and 2 into a single report. Part 1 has always been a general description of the item being tested, and Part 2 has been the velocity test. But you can follow the links embedded in the report to the Pyramyd Air product page and read the specs, so I don’t have to dwell on them very long. Just give you my impressions and then check velocity, cocking effort and trigger pull. If this works, I will do it this way from now on if the gun isn’t overly complex and if there’s nothing unique about it. If not, I’ll return to the conventional format. For that reason, I’m calling this both Parts 1 and 2.
Why the Ruger Air Hawk?
Most of you are aware that Ruger doesn’t make airguns. They have them made by others to their specifications. In today’s case, the Air Hawk is made in China. It’s imported and distributed by Umarex USA.
I chose to review the Air Hawk because many readers have asked me repeatedly to do so. At the time of this report, there are 114 customer reviews on the rifle and it’s rating is about 4.5 stars out of 5. That bodes well. I won’t read those reviews before I examine the rifle, just to keep my opinions honest.
The Air Hawk is a straightforward breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle. The one I’m testing is in .177 caliber, the only caliber they come in. Mine is serial number 00474874. It has a conventional coiled steel mainspring, a wood stock and blued steel finish. The fiberoptic sights are constructed mostly of plastic, though the rear sight does have some metal parts. And the rear sight is adjustable in both directions.
It has been said that this is a copy of the Diana 34. I do see the resemblance, but there are also differences. The trigger isn’t the same, nor is the cocking linkage.
So here we have a very traditional breakbarrel rifle. What’s the attraction? The price, I suppose. This combo that also includes a 4X32 scope retails for $130. What makes this Ruger Air Hawk such a bargain? One word: Power!
The Air Hawk is a 1,000 f.p.s. rifle — according to its manual, or a 1,200 f.p.s. gun if you believe what’s written on the box. One velocity is probably derived with lightweight lead pellets and the other with lead-free pellets. We shall see in a moment. The point is that velocity sells airguns these days. New shooters need to experience all they can with high-velocity spring guns before they’re willing to explore the rest of what’s available. And, with 4.5 stars from 114 customers, it sounds like the Air Hawk really delivers the goods. Again, we shall see.
Impressions of the rifle
The Air Hawk is heavier than I was expecting. It weighs a tad over 8 lbs. and feels stout in my hands. The stock proportions are generous without being oversized. This is a large air rifle. They rate the cocking effort at 30 lbs., and the test rifle cocks at 30 lbs. on the nose. I did have to try it several times before getting it down to 30 lbs., so there’s initial stiffness that has to be worn away; but that’s part of every break-in.
The finish of the wood and metal parts is smooth and even. The metal parts are matte black and the wood has a shine. The contouring of the wood is well done, although there’s no checkering. The comb is Monte Carlo-shaped, and there’s no raised cheekpiece. Since the automatic safety is located at the rear of the spring tube, this is a 100 percent ambidextrous rifle.
The cocking linkage is two-piece and articulated in the middle. The rear piece slides on a channel cut in the wood stock. Unlike many Chinese spring rifles, this Air Hawk sits centered perfectly in the stock, with no canting of the action! That’s a plus because it means there’s no rubbing of the cocking linkage parts against the wood.
The barrel detent is a ball bearing, similar to a Diana 34. I do have to slap the barrel slightly to break it open, so the ball is under a lot of spring tension. The base block that holds the barrel is held to the action forks by a bolt — meaning that barrel tension can be adjusted. That’s a huge plus in any breakbarrel.
The trigger blade is metal and very straight. I like the angle of the blade, as it suits my hand quite well. The trigger-pull adjusts for the length of the first stage, only. A screw in front of the trigger blade controls this.
My overall impression is that this is a well-designed air rifle. More importantly, someone is in the Chinese plant assuring adherence to quality standards.
Okay, you can get the rest of the specifications from the product listing I’ve linked to above. Now, I’m going to test the velocity and trigger-pull.
Before the test
I shot the rifle before the test and noted that the first 5 or 6 shots were detonations (loud bangs, like gunshots) with oil droplets coming out of the muzzle. So, the rifle is lubricated heavily at the factory. I shot the rifle several more times until the detonations seemed to end.
RWS Hobby pellets
The first pellet tested was the RWS Hobby. I use the Hobby as my reality check with some airguns, because not only is it a pure lead pellet — it’s also often very accurate. I’m going to show the entire string here, for reasons I will explain.
Pretty obvious what’s happening. The gun was detonating on the first 2 shots, then it sort of settled down for the next 10. I’m not going to give any averages here because I don’t believe the rifle has completely settled down yet.
People always ask me how I break in new airguns. Well, that depends on the gun. I thought I would show you with this one.
JSB Exact Heavy 10.34-grain pellets
Next up was the JSB Exact Heavy 10.34 grains pellet. If Hobbys are going in the 700s, then this pellet is too heavy for the powerplant; but when a gun is detonating, a heavier pellet will help burn off the excess oil. The rifle was still spewing out a cloud of oil mist with each shot.
As you can see, the gun is still burning off excess oil. That’s where those faster shots come from.
Another way to burn excess oil is to shoot a very light pellet. It makes the gun detonate, which is probably needed here. So, I switched to RWS HyperMAX lead-free pellets.
The rifle is still burning oil, but it’s calmed down a lot by this point. I returned to Hobbys to see where things were.
Okay, at this point I know the rifle is still detonating a bit and dieseling on every shot — as it’s supposed to. All spring guns that shoot over 600 f.p.s. diesel with each shot, according to the testing that was done in the 1970s by the Cardew father/son team.
The trigger adjusts for stage-one length of pull, only. This one feels good where it is, so I’m leaving it there. The trigger releases at 3 lbs., 6 oz. Stage 2 is fairly crisp. I think this will be an easy rifle to shoot.
The Air Hawk I’m testing has a quick shot cycle with some recoil and some vibration. But during the few shots of this test, the rifle became easier to cock and the firing cycle smoothed out. So, I think this is a rifle that will improve with time. Also, I now note that the barrel no longer remains where it’s put after being cocked. So, the pivot joint needs to be tightened. I’ll do that before the next test, which will be an accuracy test using the open sights that come on the rifle.
What to do now?
This is where a lot of newer airgunners are stumped. If they have a chronograph, they may feel their rifle is broken or that they’ll hurt it by shooting it more. But the 98 percent of shooters who don’t own a chronograph will just keep right on shooting their airgun, which is what I plan to do.
Next comes the accuracy test. I’ll test the rifle at both 10 meters and 25 yards using the open sights, then I’ll mount the scope that came with it and test it again.
After I finish the accuracy testing, I’ll return and look at the velocity once more. I’m guessing the rifle will have settled down by then.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.
Before I begin, blog reader HiveSeeker has asked me for some photography tips. Not that I’m a great picture-taker, but I do have some tips on how to photograph airguns. For starters, he wondered about photographing dark guns like his Winchester MP4. In the past, I’ve done several reports on airgun photography, but we may have enough new readers that it would be of interest, again. What do you think?
Okay, let’s get started. Today, we’re looking at the accuracy of the El Gamo 300.
This report covers:
• Poor man’s R7
• Firing behavior
• First pellet
A poor man’s R7
The El Gamo 300 was supposed to be my “poor man’s Beeman R7.” It was supposed to have the power and accuracy of the R7 (which is a modified HW 30S) at a cost that was far less. At the time, when the 300 was selling (the late 1970s), the R7 was sold with open sights, so the two airguns were comparable. The HW 30S still does has open sights today; so in that respect, the comparison can still be made.
As it turned out, the 300 is about 100 f.p.s. slower than an R7. The cocking is easier, but this rifle isn’t in the same power class, so any comparison suffers.
Alas, the 300′s trigger is much simpler and only minimally adjustable, while the R7/30S both have the famous Rekord, which is one of the finest sporting airgun triggers of all time. I did try to adjust it, but the biggest thing that seemed to change was the length of the first-stage travel. The pull did drop, but only by a little. When the first-stage travel was shortened it did increase the length and creep of stage two; so I guess you could say it does adjust the pull to that extent, but the results were not very encouraging. It’s an acceptable trigger for an inexpensive spring rifle, but far below the Rekord for performance and adjustability.
One reason I wanted to get a 300 is because I believed it had the same action and trigger of the El Gamo 68 XP. That rifle’s trigger is very adjustable; and, while it gets unreliable when you take it down too light, it’s very crisp and positive when adjusted to a normal sporting level (3-5 lb. pull weight). The 300 trigger can be adjusted even lighter with safety, but it still retains some creep in stage two.
The 300 is a buzzy gun. I could no doubt fix it with a little tuning, but right now the buzz is its most annoying feature. When this gun was new in the 1970s, nearly every air rifle felt the same and there was no basis for comparison. However, in the past 20 years, both airgun design and tuning tricks have improved so much that the vintage guns now suffer in comparison.
For today’s test, I shot this rifle at 10 meters from a rested position. I used the traditional artillery hold with the rifle rested on my off hand, back by the triggerguard. As you’ll recall from my earlier reports, I felt the rear sight notch was too narrow for the front blade. Well, when the target was illuminated by a 500-watt lamp, it was easy to see the whole front sight and some light on either side. That made aiming precise when I didn’t believe it could be.
The rifle cocked easily; and when the barrel closed, the detent locked it tight. One of our readers mentioned that breakbarrels with opposing chisels at the breech seem to lock up tighter and with more authority than do those whose chisel detent rides over a round pin. I have to mention that the 300 has the double chisel arrangement and the reader is right. When this barrel closes, it sounds like a bank vault.
Looking down at the open breech, we see the chisel lock (right) that engages the spring-loaded chisel detent on the baseblock. This arrangement makes the breech lock up more positively than if the chisel detent had to go over a round crosspin. That hole above the chisel lock is the air transfer port.
The first pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. I used a 6 o’clock hold and squeezed off the first shot, which surprised me when I saw the pellet had hit the 10-ring almost in the center. After that, I just shot the next 9 rounds without looking again. When I looked after all 10 shots had been fired, I saw a nice round 0.588-inch group in the center of the bull. That was a good start!
Next, I shot 10 Air Arms Falcons. The first shot hit the 9 ring, and I didn’t have to look again until it was all over. Ten shots landed in 0.629 inches, but 9 of them were in 0.41 inches. While this group is slightly larger than the Hobbys, I would say the Falcons are probably more accurate, just based on those 9 tight shots.
The last pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lite. I saw the first shot go into the 8-ring so I stopped looking until it was over. This time, though, the pellets spread out more, and the group measures 0.771 inches between centers. From the open appearance of this group, I can tell that Premier lites are not the best pellet for the El Gamo 300.
Crosman Premier lites scattered more than the other two pellets. Ten made this 0.771-inch group. The group looks larger than it really is because the pellet on the right tore the target wider than where it penetrated.
The El Gamo 300 is not a poor man’s R7. It is what it is — a nice, inexpensive spring rifle that offers a lot of value for the price. Even today, when the used guns sell for $50-100, they’re still a bargain. But they’re not in the same class as a CZ Slavia 630/631, which really is a poor man’s R7.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to test several air rifles in this same vintage class over the past few years. Some of them, like the Diana 25 with the ball-bearing sear, are superlative airguns that withstand the test of time. Their very design makes them perform at a higher level than most guns. Others, such as the Falke model 70, promise the moon but fail to deliver. This El Gamo 300 is closer to the latter guns, although its low price does make it an ideal candidate for home gunsmithing for the careful hobbyist.
No doubt the 300 can be modified and tuned to be a wonderful air rifle; and when it is, it’ll have the accuracy needed to carry it off. But there are other airguns that are inherently nice just as they come from the factory. A 300 is probably the cheaper way to go, but expect to spend some time and sweat equity to turn it into what you really want.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• What airgun manufacturers ought to do
• Fix only what is broken
• What do we need next?
• Accurate barrel
• Good sights
• Better triggers
• Better bedding
• Take out the vibration
• Lighten the cocking effort!
When I first encountered the new Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 at the SHOT Show this year, I remember how impressed I was that an airgun company was able to put so many spot-on innovations into a single airgun. One or two of them, perhaps, but not all of them.
Yesterday, I read two comments that started the wheels spinning in my head. One was from a new blog reader named jerbob, who told me his Air Venturi Bronco is more accurate with open sights than with a scope because the barrel moves sideways at the pivot point. Since both the front and rear open sights are mounted on the barrel, it doesn’t matter when it moves from side to side — sighting will correct for that. But a scope mounts on the spring tube behind the barrel; so when the barrel moves, the sight doesn’t and that throws the accuracy off.
After that, blog reader Gunfun1 asked what will be the next thing to improve accuracy in airguns. That catalyzed the thought for today’s report. This is an open letter to the airgun industry. It could be titled, “What they ought to do.”
Fix only what’s broken
When I worked on the Air Venturi Bronco, I noticed that the rifle it’s based on (also called the Mendoza RM-10 Bronco) was accurate, so I didn’t touch the barrel. It also had a wonderful two-stage trigger, so I left that alone.
On the other hand, it had fiberoptic open sights, which I changed into plain sights, because shooters who shoot targets prefer them. Fiberoptics are okay for close-range shooting, but for precision — they’re not good. The muzzlebrake on the rifle was too short, so it was doubled in length. An oil hole on the spring tube was not drilled, eliminating the temptation to over-oil the gun and cause detonations. Finally, the horrible wood stock that rendered the gun unsalable in the U.S. was swapped for a Western-style stock that’s an island of style in a sea of lookalike breakbarrels.
In short, the original rifle had good points that were retained, but it also had bad points that were eliminated.
What do we need next?
This is the open letter portion of today’s report. It’s a free consultation on airgun design, so you can see what airgunners want and are willing to pay for. And that last part is important because it’s no good to give someone what they say they want if they have neither the means nor the inclination to buy one.
1. We need an accurate barrel. American barrelmakers have the ability to make accurate barrels, if they would just pay attention to what works. What makes a barrel accurate is the following:
• Dimensions that compliment the available pellets
Uniformity means the inside dimensions of the barrel are held to close tolerances throughout the barrel’s length. How the barrel is rifled can affect this: Rifle it too fast. Or use the wrong barrel steel. Or use poorly made or worn tooling (buttons and broaches) that will cause the tolerances to grow. But there’s something that can be done to improve almost any barrel, and that is to choke it at the muzzle. Pay attention to a uniform crown, too, and the barrel will benefit.
Pellets come in certain standard sizes, so the barrels for them should, too. But there are barrels on some guns that are so oversized they have no chance for accuracy. They may be very uniform and even have a good choke; but if they’re too large on the inside, they aren’t going to work.
The barrel needs to be stable at certain times. On a spring gun, it has to be stable when the breech is locked. So put the means of tightening the barrel lockup into the gun. In short — stop using pins at barrel pivot joints. Use bolts that can be tightened and give some thought to the side-to-side play at the breech. An airgun doesn’t have to cost $200 for the breech to lock up tight if some thought is given to the design before it’s produced.
On a precharged pneumatic, the barrel has to be free from the influence of the reservoir. If the barrel moves as the reservoir flexes with changes to internal pressure, the gun will never be accurate.
2. We need good sights. They don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to be good. This is such a large area of concern that I can’t cover it in several blogs, so I’m not going to be specific now. What I will say, and what has to happen, is for the manufacturer to shoot their own guns and see how good (or bad) their sights are. Not just how they look when passing the gun around the conference table, but when you try to shoot a tight group at long range. How do the sights help or hinder you then?
3. We need better triggers. Fortunately, I see some companies doing something about this. AirForce Airguns introduced their new trigger a year ago; Hatsan, Gamo and Crosman have all come out with better triggers in recent times. But there is still room for improvement. No one can afford to produce a Rekord-type trigger these days, but the two-bladed unit in a Mendoza rifle is pretty nice. If your company employs an engineer on staff, make better triggers part of his or her job. If you don’t employ one full-time, consider hiring consultants.
4. We need better bedding. This complaint is as old as airguns. Airguns shoot loose. You have to tighten the screws often. And the screws often bear unevenly on wood stocks, compressing them so they will never get tight. Why is that? Why hasn’t some company come up with a way to bed an airgun action so it doesn’t move around? Maybe AirForce has done it by eliminating the stock altogether; but for conventional guns, the problem persists.
5. Take out the vibration! Crosman just gave us a huge lesson in removing vibration from a gas-spring gun. To see what they did, read my first 2014 SHOT Show report. It’s obvious this can be done with careful design. It’s a cheap way to make a gun better, but those who don’t want to do it will say they can’t hold manufacturing tolerances that close. Well — Crosman did it. I you look at what they did, the tolerances aren’t that close! Stop making excuses for what can’t be done and start figuring out how to do it!
6. Lighten the cocking effort! This one is key, but you’ll never get a focus group of shooters to say it. But what do they buy after learning their lessons with hard-cocking spring rifles? They buy guns they can shoot — over and over. Let the youngsters play with the portable exercise machines, real airgunners who shoot a lot and like their sport come back to guns they can handle.
That’s what I think. We don’t need a lot of gee whiz technology. What we need is some serious attention to detail.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced, quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.
I’m out of the office for the next couple days. Will the veteran readers please help the newer readers with their answers while I’m gone? As always, I’ll see the blog early in the morning and, again, late at night. Thanks! On to today’s report.
This report covers:
• A little more history of the 68-XP
• Velocity testing
• Breech seal
• Retesting velocity
• Cocking effort
• How my life has changed
Today, I’ll test the El Gamo 300 velocity. I see that many of you were surprised to learn these were made in both Spain and Brazil. Furthermore, a number of newer readers had missed the 6-part report on the El Gamo 68-XP and were surprised to see it referenced in Part 1 of this report. Here’s a little more on that subject.
There was a repeating version of the 68-XP that had the same mechanism as the El Gamo Expomatic. It was a tube above the gun that fed pellets into the breech one at a time as the barrel was broken during cocking. It didn’t work too well, and Air Rifle Headquarters refused to carry either repeater. They tested them and found that they jammed too easily. I’ve tested other air rifles that have a similar repeating system, and that was my experience, as well. That must mean that the repeating version of the 68-XP is very rare because few were ever sold.
Back to the 300. According to the ARH catalog, a broken-in 300 should shoot about 665 f.p.s., and one that’s been accurized gets up to 680 f.p.s. They don’t mention what pellet was used in testing to obtain these numbers; but given that it was the 1970s, we know it had to be a lead pellet. Lead-free pellets were not on the market at that time.
The first pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier. They averaged 503 f.p.s. for 10 shots. The velocity ranged from 490 f.p.s. to 511 f.p.s., so a 21 f.p.s. spread.
I thought that was low, so I tried 10 more that were deep-seated with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater. This time, the average rose to 506 f.p.s., which is hardly worth the effort. The spread went from 496 f.p.s. to 519 f.p.s., so the spread opened to 23 f.p.s. Deep-seating doesn’t seem to be worth the time and effort with this rifle.
The next pellet I tested was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. These averaged 539 f.p.s. The Hobby was the lightweight lead speed demon of its day, so this rifle is not performing to spec. And yes, I did oil the leather piston seal before testing. The spread for Hobbys was from 524 to 547 f.p.s., so 23 f.p.s.
The final pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain Air Arms Falcon. They averaged 519 f.p.s. with a spread from 510 to 523 f.p.s. So the spread was only 13 f.p.s. Falcons fit the breech loosely, where the other two pellets fit snugly.
That puts today’s test into perspective. I don’t think my test rifle has been shot very much, if at all, because it doesn’t have the bluing wear that’s usually found on guns that have been used, and the bluing is original. I looked at the breech seal, which looked okay, but it’s very difficult to tell by just looking. There was no puff of air to be felt at the breech, but sometimes that isn’t conclusive, either.
While the seal looks like an o-ring, it’s really a tall synthetic seal that’s proprietary. When I removed it, I could see that nothing I could make would work as well, so I made a spacer to fit under it, raising it for a tighter fit.
The breech seal (right) and the plastic shim I made to fit under it to raise it higher at the breech.
I made the breech seal spacer from a coffee can lid by using hole punches.
The spacer did increase velocity a little. Premiers went from an average of 503 to an average 522 f.p.s., and the spread that had been 21 f.p.s. dropped to 15 f.p.s. Hobbys went from 539 to 568 f.p.s., and the spread went from 23 f.p.s down to 15 f.p.s. Falcons jumped from an average 519 f.p.s. to 553, and the spread that had been 13 f.p.s. dropped to 6 f.p.s.
While these are all improvements, I don’t think they’re large enough to warrant the work that was done. I would leave the rifle where it is; but now that the spacer is in place, I won’t remove it.
I measured the cocking effort on my bathroom scale. It topped out at 19 lbs., making the 300 a youth rifle by my criteria of a cocking effort of 20 lbs. or less. But the large size of the rifle means that it is for older kids or adults.
The trigger was releasing at 3 lbs., 2 oz., with the second stage being very creepy. I adjusted the one screw behind the trigger in both directions. Turned all the way in (clockwise), the first stage is removed entirely, and the pull remained where it was. Turned out as far as it will go, the first stage becomes light and stops positively at stage two. Stage two releases at 2 lbs., 14 oz., so a 4-oz. decrease from where it was.
The rifle is now ready for 10-meter accuracy testing. I may do something about the narrow rear sight notch so I can see some light around either side of the front post. If I do, I’ll tell you and show you what I do.
How the blog changed my life
I initially published this section on the May 30, 2014, blog. I’m going to repeat it at least once a week during June and July so it doesn’t get lost or forgotten.
From the comments many of you make, I believe the blog may have positively impacted your lives. I invite you to send me an email telling me about that impact.
Were you a firearms shooter who accidentally discovered airguns through this blog? If so, tell me how this blog has helped your understanding of airguns.
Were you already an airgunner, but you thought what you saw in the big box stores was all there was? If so, how has this blog helped you understand more about airguns?
I’ve gotten quite a few responses already, but I want to make sure you know that I’m not looking for “attaboys,” pats on the back or personal recognition. I’m looking for real feedback on what you’ve learned so I can target my blogs to what you feel is important, what you’d like to know and what you’re still unsure of. This blog is written for its readers, and I want to share your stories with others who may be where you were before you found this blog.
Pyramyd Air has created a special temporary email address for this. I’ll be the only person to get these emails, and we’re not going to generate any lists from the addresses.
My plan is to publish one or more blog reports with the more interesting comments. If you want, I will use your real name or blog handle; but you can be anonymous, too. I won’t use your name or handle unless you give me written permission to do so.
This email address will be live for only a few weeks. We have tens of thousands of readers worldwide. Even if you’ve never commented on the blog, you can email me your message if you like. If you’re reading this blog after July 2014, email submissions will no longer be forwarded to me, and you may get an auto-reply email stating that or your email might bounce back to you.