Posts Tagged ‘breakbarrels’

Ruger Air Hawk combo: Parts 1 and 2

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

Ruger Airhawk Combo

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
• Trigger-pull
• 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.

Shot       Vel.
1…………1093
2………..1499
3………….789
4………….797
5………….766
6………….803
7………….810
8………….755
9………….769
10…………806
11…………750
12…………771

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.

Shot       Vel.
1………….659
2…………757
3…………665
4…………534
5…………553
6…………536
7…………550
8…………593
9…………555
10………..546
11………..631
12………..581
13………..559

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.

Shot       Vel.
1………….882
2…………970
3…………892
4…………904
5…………854
6…………835
7…………816
8…………877
9…………814
10………..799

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.

Shot      Vel.
1…………630
2………..644
3………..677
4………..722
5………..720
6………..699
7………..706
8………..1080
9………..790
10……….1089

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.

Trigger-pull
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.

Firing behavior
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.

El Gamo 300: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

El Gamo 300
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
• Trigger
• Firing behavior
• Accuracy
• First pellet
• Summary

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.

Adjustable trigger
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.

Firing behavior
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.

Accuracy
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.

El Gamo 300 chisel breech
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.

First pellet
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!

El Gamo 300 Hobby target
Not only is this 0.588-inch group of 10 Hobbys nice and round, it’s also centered in the bull. That makes it appear even better than it is. This is the best group the El Gamo 300 shot at 10 meters.

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.

El Gamo 300 Falcon target
This group of 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets looks amazing, though at 0.629 inches between centers it’s larger than the Hobby group. Without that one pellet at the bottom, there are 9 in 0.41 inches.

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.

El Gamo 300 Premier lite target
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.

Summary
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.

What we need now: A look at some possibilities

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:

• Uniformity
• Dimensions that compliment the available pellets
• Stability

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.

El Gamo 300: Part 2

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

Part 1

El Gamo 300
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
• Trigger-pull
• 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.

Velocity testing
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.

Breech seal
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.

Gamo 300 breech seal
The breech seal (right) and the plastic shim I made to fit under it to raise it higher at the breech.

Gamo 300 making breech seal
I made the breech seal spacer from a coffee can lid by using hole punches.

Re-testing velocity
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.

Cocking effort
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.

Trigger-pull
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.

El Gamo 300: Part 1

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

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

This report covers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BSA Supersport SE: Part 2

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

Part 1

BSA Supersport SE
BSA Supersport SE

Let’s look at the velocity of the BSA Supersport SE. The factory advertises 750 f.p.s. for the .22-caliber rifle I’m testing. I just hope that’s with lead pellets.

Cocking effort
I mentioned in Part 1 that the rifle cocks a little on the heavy side. I estimated 40 lbs. of effort. On my bathroom scale, this one actually requires 39 lbs. to fully cock the rifle. My gut tells me that some of the effort is the tightness of the new gun and will probably decrease by a few pounds over time.

I cannot resist making a comparison with the Beeman R9, which is also sold as the HW 95. The size and power of this rifle seem to align with that classic, but shooting will tell us the whole story.

RWS Hobby
The first pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby – a lightweight lead wadcutter that’s used to test the legitimate velocities of all airguns. By legitimate, I mean that there are many lead-free pellets that may go faster; but since very few of them are accurate, they probably won’t be used by many shooters.

Hobbys averaged 717 f.p.s. from the test rifle. But the velocity spread was large — from a low of 695 f.p.s. on the final shot to a high of 731 on shot three. That’s 36 f.p.s., which is a bit high for a springer — especially these days when many new spring guns come out so well adjusted.

At the average velocity, Hobbys generated 13.59 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Hold your comments, however, because I noted in Part 1 that I thought this rifle might have a heavy piston (or top hat) that I said could make it shoot better with heavier pellets. So, let’s try one.

Beeman Kodiak
The next pellet was the 21.14-grain Beeman Kodiak — a heavyweight if ever there was one. Kodiaks averaged 535 f.p.s. in the test rifle, and the spread was just 12 f.p.s. It ranged from 527 f.p.s. to 539 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet produced 13.44 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Not as much as the Hobby, but very close. And the tight velocity spread leads me to suspect I was right about the piston. I think the Kodiak has earned a spot in the accuracy test.

RWS Superdome
We need to see what a medium-weight pellet can do in the Supersport SE, and the RWS Superdome is a fine one to try. At 14.5 grains, it sits right in the middle of the weight spread — especially in the range of pellets that should be considered for this rifle.

Superdomes averaged 661 f.p.s. in the Supersport. Since we know the “magic” number is 671 f.p.s. — where the weight of the pellet in grains equals the muzzle energy in foot-pounds — we are very close to that level. This rifle must therefore produce a shade less than 14.50 foot-pounds with this pellet. And it does! It produces 14.07 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle — the highest energy of the three pellets tested.

The total velocity spread for the Superdome was 16 f.p.s. Therefore, the 2 heavier pellets did better (shot more stably) than the lightweight Hobby. I’ll keep that in mind as I test the rifle for accuracy. Yes, I will test it with a scope; but since it comes with a nice set of open sights, I plan to first test it with them.

General comments
The rifle cocks smoothly and without the normal noises I associate with a new spring rifle. And when it fires, there’s no objectionable vibration, as long as you hold it lightly.

The trigger is reasonably crisp. It breaks at 2 lbs., 14 oz., which is light but not overly so. I also really like the fact that the safety is manual.

Last comment. The Supersport SE feels very “old school” to me. It isn’t overly powerful. It has a smooth cocking and shooting sequence. And the size and weight of the rifle feel very nice. I’m so tired of those oversized breakbarrels that make me feel like I’m a kid shooting dad’s big shotgun for the first time. The Supersport SE feels just right.

BSA Supersport SE: Part 1

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

BSA Supersport SE
BSA Supersport SE

Today, we’ll begin looking at a .22-caliber BSA Supersport SE. This is a conventional breakbarrel spring piston air rifle in a beech stock. It’s been some time since I’ve tested a conventional new spring rifle like this.

The serial number of the rifle I’m testing is SSE22-770789-13. The metal finish is unpolished but probably tumble-finished, giving all the parts a matte sheen. The only plastic parts you can see on the outside are both sights, the safety lever and the triggerblade. They blend into the overall matte black finish very well.

The stock is shaped well and has 4 panels of pressed checkering — one on either side of the forearm and one on either side of the pistol grip. The BSA stacked rifles logo (called piled rifles in the UK, and the BSA logo is called the Pylarm logo) is pressed into the base of the pistol grip. The wood is finished smoothly, and the only rough area is the point where the black rubber buttpad meets the wood. That transition isn’t smooth, and there’s glue around the joint.

BSA Supersport SE butt
The joint at the buttpad is a little rough and has dried glue.

The barrel comes very far back when the rifle’s cocked, making this a long-stroke piston. The cocking linkage is in 2 pieces that are jointed to keep the cocking slot in the stock as short as possible, which reduces the feeling of vibration. BSA says that the action is internally weighted to deliver top performance. I’m thinking they mean that there’s a weighted top hat inside the piston, or the piston itself is heavy. Either way, the rifle should shoot medium and heavyweight pellets better than lightweight pellets.

BSA Supersport SE air rifle
The barrel comes way back when the rifle’s cocked. That means the piston stroke is long.

The rifle is supposed to weigh 6.6 lbs., according to BSA information. The rifle I’m testing weighs 7 lbs. on the nose. The difference is attributable to the density of the wood in the stock.

BSA advertises the muzzle velocity at 730 f.p.s. That would be with a lightweight pellet, but I’m hoping it’s a light lead pellet. If so, that’s a good velocity for a .22 spring rifle — not too fast, yet plenty of power. We’ll find out in the velocity test.

The trigger is adjustable via an Allen wrench. The adjustment works on the second stage to lighten it or make it heavier. The safety is manual, which I must applaud. Only the shooter should be in control of the gun — never the design!

The sights are fiberoptic, front and rear. The rear sight adjusts in both directions, so I’ll start the accuracy testing using the open sights.

BSA Supersport SE front sight
Front sight is fiberoptic.

BSA Supersport SE rear sight
Rear sight is fiberoptic and adjusts in both directions.

There’s an 11mm dovetail groove machined into the top of the spring tube, but BSA has long been noted for having its grooves set at the widest end of the size spectrum. For newer readers, 11mm is a nominal size for airgun dovetails. They actually range from 9.5mm out to almost 14mm, and BSA has always had the widest set. But it looks like the grooves are now 11mm apart.

I’m very pleased to see a deep, wide vertical scope stop hole in the middle of the dovetails at the rear of the spring tube. This provides a solid anchor point for a vertical scope stop that most of the conventional 11mm scope rings have.

BSA Supersport SE scope stop hole
This deep, wide hole in the spring tube is for a vertical scope stop.

Solid firing cycle
I couldn’t resist shooting the rifle a couple times to check the trigger and the firing cycle. The trigger is definitely 2-stage, with some creep in stage 2. I’ll work on that for next time. The firing cycle is quite smooth. It’s got a hint of spring buzz, but only a hint. The shot feels solid and there is no hurtful vibration at all. This is a very pleasant spring rifle to shoot!

I would add that, when I cocked the rifle, the stroke felt to smooth that I almost thought it had a gas spring. Ten years ago, I would have said this rifle has been tuned. It feels that smooth. The cocking effort is heavier — going up around 40 lbs., as a guess. In recent years, I’ve seen a number of breakbarrel air rifles that cocked as smooth as this one, so what I believe is happening is the manufacturers are paying more attention to the internal tolerances. The result is that the buyer gets a smoother air rifle; and at the price for which this one retails, that’s quite a bargain. Five years ago, you got something much harsher for the same $250.

I have owned and tested BSA Supersport rifles in the past. In fact, in the 1990s they were a huge seller here in the U.S. They are no-frills rifles that offered good performance and accuracy at a good price. Let’s hope BSA has continued that tradition in this latest offering.

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