Posts Tagged ‘carbine’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 68 is a futuristic breakbarrel from the past.
I last reported on this rifle on August 8 of last year. And that was Part 5! I had just tuned the rifle with a new mainspring and proper lubricants and was wondering what the changes would be. I was ready to report on it several months ago when I discovered that it wouldn’t cock. After fiddling with the trigger adjustments awhile with no success, I set it aside and moved on — thinking that the gun would need to be disassembled.
I disassembled it last week and discovered there was nothing wrong! The sear was working properly, or at least it seemed to be when I played with it as the gun was disassembled. I relubricated everything and put it all back together and was going to write Monday’s report on it. But the trigger still didn’t work! ARRGH!
This time, I remembered that when I got the gun the trigger was also a bit iffy, so I fiddled with the adjustments WAY outside the normal realm and, presto! I got it working again. Oh, it took a couple hours and there were some accidental discharges when the barrel was closed (direct sear!), but I solved all that by giving the sear way more contact than it needs.
Now the trigger releases at about 12 lbs., but at least it’s safe. Today, I’ll share with you how the tuned gun does at 25 yards — heavy trigger and all.
One other thing I did to the rifle was lubricate the leather piston seal with 10 drops of 3-in-One oil, leaving the rifle standing on its butt for two days afterward. The oil was allowed to slowly soak into the leather, which it did, but to protect the carpet and walls (Edith–Are you listening?) I put a long drop cloth in front of the rifle when I shot it.
Today’s test is a deviation from my normal pattern. I’ve tuned this gun and not yet reported the new velocities, and yet here I am shooting for accuracy. I decided to do it that way; and if I got good results, I would test the velocity next. I’m not changing the usual way of doing things — this is just an exception.
The first pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby. I chose it for its light weight and because it’s often accurate in lower-powered spring rifles and pistols. Sitting 25 yards from the target, I have to admit that I was wondering if the rifle had enough power to hit that target — let alone shoot a decent group.
Five of the first 10 pellets were detonations from the oiled piston seal. And the smell of burning oil was in the air. The Hobbys landed in a vertical group that was pleasingly tight from side to side. I was prepared to blame the verticality on the dieseling, but the truth is, that wasn’t the problem. The gun just doesn’t want to shoot Hobbys at 25 yards. That’s not too surprising since 25 yards is about the maximum distance for any wadcutter pellets, in my experience.
Air Arms Falcon
The second pellet I tested was the Air Arms Falcon, a 7.3-grain dome that’s often accurate in spring rifles. I used the spotting scope only on the first shot, which was a detonation, to make sure it was on the paper. There were 4 detonations in the 10 shots. I didn’t look at the target again until I walked down to change it. Boy, was I surprised by what I saw! To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee, “Now, THAT’S a group!” For open sights at 25 yards and 65-year-old-eyes, it ain’t too bad!
Remember, I’m shooting 10 shots — not 5. So this kind of group really proves the rifle can shoot. It also proves this old man can still hit things when the rifle does its part! So much for the problems of the droopers and gas springs! I needed this validation after some of the disappointing tests I’ve done recently.
The heavy trigger apparently is not causing much of a problem for me. I think that’s because the rifle is rested. If I were shooting offhand, I’d want a lighter trigger-pull.
JSB Exact RS
Next, I tried JSB Exact RS pellets. This is another 7.3-grain dome from JSB (JSB also makes Air Arms Pellets) and is very often accurate in many different airguns. And this is one of them. The group is slightly larger than the Falcon group, but the two are so similar that I would call it a tie.
The last pellet I tried was the RWS Superdome, which often does well in lower-powered spring rifles. This time, however, it didn’t. Ten pellets produced a 1.765-inch group. It didn’t disappoint me, though, because the Falcon and JSB RS groups looked that much better. It showed that the earlier Hobby group wasn’t just a fluke of bad luck — the gun simply likes what it likes.
This test was calming for me. It was slower than many of the tests I’ve run in the past month, and the results were more based on me as a shooter rather than on the equipment. I find that I like that a lot!
The El Gamo 68 XP is operating well right now, except for the heavy trigger that I’ll probably keep just as it is for a while. The tuned powerplant is now smoother with less of a jolt. I noticed in this test that each pellet has a firing characteristic of its own. The two JSB pellets were definitely the smoothest of the four tested, and the Hobbys were the roughest.
This is such an odd airgun, with the fat heavy butt and no forearm to hold. Yet, it shoots like a thoroughbred. With the new tune, it cocks smoothly and just feels good to shoot — I don’t have any better way of describing it. I wish you could all try one, but since you can’t, I will, again, recommend the Air Venturi Bronco, which is the closest thing still being made today.
by B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 68 is a futuristic breakbarrel from the past.
I’m sure many of you imagine that I’m immersed in airguns all the time, which is true. That my office is filled with all sorts of models (it is) and that my workshop bench is strewn with parts of projects in process. There’s just one problem with that view. I don’t have a workshop. When I really need a lot of room, such as for today’s report, I usually move to the kitchen, where I do my work on that time-honored bench — the kitchen table!
The other thing most readers don’t appreciate is how whipsawed I am with time. I can’t afford to spend a week or even two days on a project anymore. Back in the days of The Airgun Letter, I had one month to crank out the stories that are now written in about four days! If I spend more than three hours on a project before starting to write about it, I’m working on a 12-hour day because the writing and photography take so much more time than the actual testing. And so it was with some trepidation that I approached today’s report, which is a disassembly, evaluation, cleaning and lubrication of my Gamo 68 breakbarrel air rifle.
I wanted to do this because the 68 shoots very suddenly. It doesn’t vibrate like many spring guns, but the thump when it fires is very heavy — way out of proportion with the power of the gun. The trigger is very heavy, and I wanted to see what might be involved in bringing it down. It’s crisp enough, just too heavy for the release.
Because of the potential time element and the fact that I have no room for another disassembled airgun, I studied the rifle carefully for two months — the way a diamond cutter examines an important stone. And with all that study, I still did not recognize the way the gun is assembled. But one look at a schematic sent by David Enoch showed me what to do.
Only three screws have to be removed to take the action out of the stock. That’s no different than any other breakbarrel, but the location of the third screw is certainly different! It’s at the back of the spring tube.
This photo shows the action out of the stock. One extra screw was removed. The one below the triggerguard does not hold the action in the stock. It’s one of two screws that hold the trigger unit to the stock, and it doesn’t have to be removed to get the action out of the stock.
With the action out of the stock, you have access to disassemble the mechanism and do what I ended up doing to the rifle. The trigger is really a complex bullpup unit that’s entirely separate from the barreled action. By “bullpup,” I mean that the trigger blade does not directly contact the sear. It’s located many inches forward of the true sear and is connected by a long lever inside the trigger unit. If I want to improve the trigger-pull beyond what simple adjustment can do, I need to remove this unit from the stock to get access to the pins and levers.
I decided to leave that task for another day, as working on the powerplant was all I had time to do in this session.
You’re looking down into the aluminum stock that holds the spring tube. The trigger unit runs from almost all the way on top, where the trigger blade is located, to all the way on the bottom, where the true sear releases the piston. It’s a complex bullpup unit that must be removed as a unit for work. You can see the steel channel that holds all the trigger parts.
Because of the way the Gamo action is designed, I could set the trigger aside and go to work on the powerplant. The end cap is held in the spring tube by a single large pin that must be drifted out. The action was installed in a mainspring compressor for this next step.
Here you see the barreled action in the mainspring compressor with the large pin drifted out. The pin is on the table, next to the hammer handle. The spring tube is ready to come apart.
Moment of truth
Taking a spring-piston powerplant apart for the first time is always a surprise. You never know how much compression the mainspring is under, even when relaxed, and how far it will come out of the gun before it’s fully relaxed and the gun can be removed from the mainspring compressor. It was a real surprise this time, for the spring came out several inches before fully relaxing. If I had just drifted the pin and tried to hope I could hold the end cap with my body, I could have broken bones!
Like a python that swallowed a telephone pole, the mainspring just kept coming out of the spring tube until it was this far! As you can see, I didn’t have much more room on my adjustment screw.
Once tension is off the mainspring, the rifle can be removed from the compressor. The end cap, spring guide and mainspring can now be removed. The piston, though, is still held in the rifle by the cocking link. You must disconnect the link from the piston before it will slide out of the gun.
The 68 has an articulated cocking link, and I noticed a spot at the front of the cocking slot that was enlarged for the removal of the cocking link. That told me that I did not need to remove the barrel from the action to disconnect the link from the piston. Just line up the link end with the enlarged hole, and the end pops right out.
The cocking link is two pieces.
The end of the link can be removed from the spring tube through the enlarged hole at the end of the cocking slot. The two-piece cocking linkage helps you do this.
The mainspring and piston both told me this gun had probably never been apart before. The grease looked like factory grease, and there were many years of accumulated dirt and grime on all the parts.
The piston has a leather seal that looks brand new. It was a bit on the dry side. After I assembled the rifle, I lubricated it heavily. I’ll continue to do that many times over the next few months, until I’m satisfied that the leather is oily and supple once more.
Leather piston seal looks good.
The piston itself is a very strange duck. It has to be, because the trigger is autonomous from the powerplant. There’s a window on the side of the piston at the rear where the sear catches it when the gun is cocked.
Here you see the entire piston, which is a machined steel part. The rectangular window at the end of the piston skirt is where the sear catches and holds it when the gun is cocked. Only the piston seal and the machined section at the rear touch the inside of the spring tube, so that’s where the moly lubrication goes.
The inside of the spring tube was as dirty as the piston and mainspring. I put paper towels over the end of a long-bladed screwdriver, dipped the paper in alcohol, and cleaned the inside of the spring tube and compression chamber. This would also be the time to remove any burrs from the cocking slot, but there weren’t any on this one.
After the entire powerplant was cleaned, I examined that long mainspring. After all those years, I thought it had to be canted — and it was, though not as much as I’d imagined. Rolling it on a flat surface revealed a wobble at one end, which translated to a jolt during firing. Hopefully, I had a suitable replacement.
I found several possibilities, but the best one proved to be a replacement spring for a TX200, of all things. It’s a special spring Jim Maccari made some years ago and it has collapsed coils in the center and at one end. As you can see in the picture, it’s a lot shorter than the spring that was in the 68. The wire is thicker, but there are so many fewer coils that I knew it would fit. The fit inside the piston was about the same as the factory spring, and the fit on the spring guide was tighter. So, this is a good replacement.
Factory spring above, replacement below. The new spring will certainly be under less compression when the gun is not cocked!
I coated the new spring with a thin layer of black tar and inserted it back into the piston. The front and rear of the piston were then coated with a heavy layer of moly grease and installed back into the spring tube. The cocking link was inserted back into the enlarged hole, where it contacted the piston for cocking.
The spring guide was coated with moly and slid inside the mainspring as far as it would go. The end cap was placed over the end of the spring guide, and the barreled action was installed in the mainspring compressor, once again. This time, the amount the spring stuck out was drastically reduced.
The spring guide is steel. It was coated with moly and slid back inside the mainspring.
The new mainspring has just begun to compress. It’s a lot shorter than the old one!
The gun went together without a hitch! And that was when I noticed for the first time that the entire job from start to finish had taken me only one hour — including photos! That’s as fast as I could tune a TX200 (assuming I would, which would never happen), and it doesn’t require a mainspring compressor. This wasn’t the time-killer I thought it was going to be.
How does it shoot?
The rifle cocked with 22 lbs. of force before this tune. Now it takes 28 lbs. to cock it, and the final sear lockup takes a final crunch that wasn’t there before.
The gun fires with 70 percent less jolting than before, but its just as quick as it was before the tune. The feel of firing is atypical of a lower-powered breakbarrel, just as it used to be. I can now feel a little vibration in the powerplant that I think was previously masked by the heavy firing jolt.
I still don’t know the gun. It will take a session of velocity testing and shooting for accuracy before I can finish this report. Since I’ve already tested the gun extensively before, I’ll combine both of those things in the next report.
by B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 68 is a futuristic breakbarrel from the past.
Today, I’ll take the El Gamo 68 to the next level of accuracy testing. I mounted a scope and went back to 25 yards to see what this gun can do.
Blog reader Mike sent me a trigger shoe he wasn’t using, and I installed it on the rifle’s thin blade. It made all the difference in the world. I don’t think I could have endured the 80+ shots that went into today’s test without it! Thanks, Mike!
The trigger shoe made the heavy pull pleasant.
I mentioned mounting a scope on the rifle before I checked it out. The 11mm scope dovetails are cut into the top of the spring tube and are very short by today’s standards. I was able to mount only a Leapers Bug Buster scope using 2-piece BKL mounts. The Bug Buster is a very compact scope, whose size compliments the 68 — and the eye relief worked out fine, so this was a happy coincidence.
I used this test not only to see how accurate the 68 is at 25 yards, but also to see if there’s a difference between seating pellets flush and seating them deep with an Air Venturi Pellet Pen’s PellSet. Each pellet shot one 10-shot group seated each way. Let’s see how it went.
H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets
I first shot a 10-shot group of H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets seated flush with the breech. The group measured 0.963 inches between centers.
Then, I shot another 10-shot group with the same pellets seated deep. It measured 1.232 inches between centers. Clearly, the flush-seated pellets were best.
Air Arms Falcon
Next, I tried the Air Arms Falcon dome. Ten pellets seated flush gave a group measuring 1.163 inches between centers. Ten seated deep printed into 1.28 inches. This is too close to call.
The last pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby pellet. And here we had a reversal of the first test with the H&N target pellets –because the deep-seated pellets out-grouped the flush-seated ones. Flush-seated pellets grouped in 1.311 inches at 25 yards. Deep-seated pellets grouped in 0.888 inches, which was the best group of the test, though the initial sight-in group of Hobbys did group even better. But all the controls of the test weren’t in place when I shot that first group, so I can’t count it.
The results didn’t turn out as good as I expected. The 68 is accurate, but it’s not a 10-meter rifle in disguise. Having the trigger shoe makes the heavy trigger-pull comfortable, but a lighter pull would be much better.
As for the seating exercise, it seems to work with some pellets but not with others. And, of course, I haven’t yet experimented with different seating depths.
The next step with the 68 will be to disassemble the rifle and see what I can do to slick it up a bit.
by B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 68 is a futuristic breakbarrel from the past.
As I said in Part 2, Mac and I simply couldn’t resist shooting the El Gamo 68 that I got from reader David Enoch at the Arkansas airgun show this year. And from the numerous reader responses, I see that we’re not alone in our admiration of this futuristic-looking breakbarrel from the past. Many owners have .22-caliber guns, which really surprises me, because I thought most European manufacturers, and especially El Gamo, produced mainly .177 airguns in the 1960s and ’70s, when this was new.
Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to locate a trigger shoe for the rifle. I probably got rid of one when I sold or traded a Webley Tempest years ago, though now I wish I still had it. If anyone sees an old Beeman trigger shoe for sale anywhere, please let me know, because this rifle really needs one.
It really didn’t begin as a test of this rifle. Mac was helping me test some new models you’ll be reading about later this month and asked if he could shoot the 68 when he finished with them. The test range was 10 meters indoors, and he produced a nice 5-shot group that can almost be covered by a dime in the center of the bullseye. It was so enticing that I decided to have a turn — which of course means a contest. Mac is a better rifle shot than I am, and we both know it. So when my 5-shot group came up noticeably smaller than his, he thought we should never speak of it again. And, Mac, after today…I probably won’t! I’ll add here that the next day he beat me by one point in a silhouette match at a friend’s place. That sounds close until you learn that my rifle was scoped and he was using peep sights!
But I digress. The fact is that we were shooting the 68 with the classic RWS Hobby pellet, and I have no idea how accurate the rifle really is. I just know that it shoots Hobbys well.
Well, Mac finally had to return home, leaving me with the 68 and much more to “test.” Much, much more, I hope!
Yesterday, I shot the rifle at 25 yards indoors and, once again, with Hobby pellets. Yes, I shot off a rest and used the artillery hold; but with this model, it’s a little more difficult to let the rifle float in your hands. The trigger has a stiff 8-lb. release, and the pistol grip forces the shooter to grip hard to squeeze that hard trigger blade. Other than that, the artillery hold was the usual one, but I mention the difference so you’ll know what went on.
The first shot went high and well-centered with the bull, so I settled in and fired 9 more just like it. The resulting group isn’t a thing of beauty, but it is what it is.
Last week I “discovered” that seating pellets with the new Air Venturi PellSet seemed to improve the accuracy of the Air Venturi Bronco I was testing. I took a lot of heat for mentioning that, because the test did not have the controls you usually see in this blog, but what the heck! I have a tough old hide, so go ahead and flog me!
I thought, why not try the PellSet with the 68 and really get the crowd in an uproar? I listened to several of you who advised me to start by seating the pellets as shallow as possible, so I adjusted the PellSet to do just that. Then, I shot a second 10-shot group at 25 yards and, lo and behold, it was smaller. I’ll probably never hear the end of this!
Now, to me, it looks like the intentionally seated pellets really do want to group better in this particular rifle. But what do I know? This was not a real test of seating pellets because there weren’t enough groups fired, plus there’s a lot more I want to test than just the single depth.
In fact, this wasn’t much of an accuracy test for the 68. Think of it as more of a “getting to know the rifle” session, because I plan to mount a scope and return with a genuine accuracy test in the next report.
But it sure was nice just to play with this little rifle once more! As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to find reasons to do more of this.
by B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 68 is a futuristic breakbarrel from the past.
Mac and I couldn’t stay away from the El Gamo 68 once we started looking at it. The first thing we did was adjust the trigger so it would catch positively every time the rifle (carbine?) is cocked. When I got the gun, it failed to catch the sear several times every time the barrel was broken, but all that turned out to be was a trigger adjusted with too little sear contact area.
Trigger adjustments come in two different types. One adjusts the spring tension of the trigger return spring, and adjusting it will give a somewhat lighter trigger-pull. The other adjusts the actual sear contact area and makes the trigger release crisper without affecting the pull weight. That’s the type of adjustment the 68 has. It also has an adjustment for the length of the first-stage pull; and on this gun, I found stage one had been adjusted completely out. So, you started the pull on stage two — effectively giving the rifle a single-stage trigger.
Adjusting the trigger
The following instructions for adjusting the trigger are taken from the El Gamo owner’s manual for the 68 and 68-XP that David Enoch was kind enough to supply. They might also apply to the El Gamo model 300 rifle, which has the XP action in a conventional wood stock. I don’t know that the 300 has the same trigger adjustments, but I assume that it does.
The forward screw (closest to the triggerguard) is a locking screw that should be loosened before any adjustments are made. After all adjustments have been made, tighten the locking screw to lock the adjustments in place.
The larger screw in the center adjusts the length of the first-stage pull. Turn counterclockwise to lengthen the pull and clockwise to shorten it. As I mentioned, it’s possible to eliminate the first stage altogether.
The screw in back adjusts the sear contact area. It does not lighten the trigger-pull, so be careful not to over-adjust it or the rifle will not cock, as mine did not. Turn counterclockwise to increase the sear contact area and clockwise to decrease. Ostensibly, this adjustment would give you a crisper trigger release, but I didn’t see any difference at all. But when the contact area was adjusted too small, the rifle failed to catch when cocked.
Three trigger adjustment screws are located at the back of the triggerguard.
I was able to put back a long first-stage pull that I like; so now when the trigger stops, I know it’s at stage two and ready to break. Stage two was set with much more contact area, and now the rifle catches every time it’s cocked. I can’t detect that the pull has changed in weight or crispness. After it breaks, the trigger blade is at the end of its travel. It feels like there’s a trigger overtravel adjustment, but there isn’t.
The trigger blade is much too thin for the pull weight, which is between 7 lbs., 14 oz. and 8 lbs., 10 oz. This trigger can really benefit from the installation of a trigger shoe. I have a couple of them around somewhere, so I’ll try to find one and see if it benefits the rifle as much as I think it will.
The 68 fires very quickly and ends with a sudden small jolt. The feeling is strange, because you don’t expect a rifle this small to be so quick. It’s definitely not an R7! On the other hand, there’s virtually zero vibration with each shot. You might expect it to buzz a little because it’s an El Gamo, but you’d be surprised. Clearly, this rifle’s action is made much smoother than the current crop of Gamo spring rifles.
Since I own the rifle, I’m tempted to take the action out of the stock to see what I can do to smooth the firing cycle even more. If I can get the trigger to break reliably at 3 or even 5 lbs. and still be as crisp as it is, this would be one of my better spring-piston rifles.
The 68 appears to be butt-heavy, but that’s only an illusion. In fact, it’s somewhat muzzle-heavy, which stabilizes the rifle in the offhand position. The lack of a forearm means you have to hold it more like a pistol that has an attached shoulder stock, and both hands are centered around the vertical pistol grip. I don’t care for that hold, which is why a more conventional model 300 would suit me more, if all other parts of the action remain the same.
The gun seems to have a leather piston seal; but even if it doesn’t, it might benefit from the application of some silicone chamber oil dropped through the air transfer port behind the breech. I tested it with three pellets, both before and after oiling.
The first pellet I tested was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. This lightweight lead pellet is often very accurate in lower-powered spring guns and gives the highest velocity consistent with accuracy. Before oiling, Hobbys averaged 612 f.p.s., with a range from 604 to 615 f.p.s. They produced an average 5.82 foot-pounds of muzzle energy and the total velocity spread was a tight 9 f.p.s.
After oiling, Hobbys averaged 592 f.p.s. and ranged from 582 to 598 f.p.s. They produced an average of 5.45 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. The spread opened to 16 f.p.s.
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain
Next came the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier domed pellet. Before oiling, this pellet averaged 570 f.p.s., with a range from 558 to 588 f.p.s. They produced an average of 5.7 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. The total velocity spread was 30 f.p.s.
After oiling, the Premier lite pellets averaged 551 f.p.s., with a spread from 545 to 564 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 5.33 foot-pounds and the spread was 19 f.p.s.
The last pellet I tested was the 8.3-grain RWS Superdome. Before oiling, the velocity averaged 534 f.p.s. with a spread from 522 to 545 f.p.s. That produced an average of 5.26 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
After oiling, the same pellet averaged 524 f.p.s. with a spread from 519 to 527 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet produces 5.06 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
What have we learned?
The first thing we learned was the need to properly adjust the trigger for contact surface. It didn’t change the pull weight, but it did correct the gun’s inability to cock positively.
Was it necessary to oil the gun? Probably not; but as the oil wears off, the velocity will increase again. Does the gun shoot any smoother as a result of oiling? I can’t tell any difference, so maybe this gun was working okay as it was.
The trigger could probably benefit from some lubrication and perhaps from more careful adjustment. I’ll have to see it closer to know if there’s anything that I can do to make it better.
by B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 68 is a futuristic breakbarrel from the past.
I told you that the Arkansas airgun show was unique in yesterday’s report. Today, I want to start a report on an airgun I bought at the show. It was on the table next to me throughout the show, and I thought for sure someone would snap it up before I got the money to buy it; but as fate would have it, the gun waited for me until the end of the show. Literally, an hour before it was due to be packed up, I made an offer to reader David Enoch, the gun’s owner, and he accepted. I now own an air rifle that I’ve been wondering about for the past 32 years.
I first noticed the 68-XP (it’s a little hard not to notice!) in the pages of a 1979/1980 Air Rifle Headquarters catalog. I was still in the Army, living at Fort Knox with my young family at the time, so the discretionary funds were too tight to buy many of the things that caught my fancy, but this gun was so odd that I both hated it and wanted to get to know it at the same time.
Note: My gun is clearly marked as a model Gamo 68. A bit of Google searching came up with an old forum posting that the 68-XP was sold only in America, but the same gun was sold in Europe as the 68. If the guns were actually marked 68-XP when they came to the U.S., then mine was made for the European market since it lacks the “XP” initials.
You could tell that the description in the ARH catalog was mostly hype (not really, but I will explain as we go); but there seemed to be a thread of truth that ran through all their tests, and this rifle was reported as being fairly accurate. I already owned a Beeman FWB 124, so I didn’t need aspirin-busting accuracy; but the thought that a $90 spring-piston air rifle that looked like something Buck Rogers carried — but could also be a shooter — was enticing. It was offered only in .177 caliber, of course, because the powerplant was barely up to launching even those light pellets, to say nothing of the much heavier .22s. Of course, things like that never stopped companies like Diana, but El Gamo was a Spanish company that seemed wedded to the smallest caliber.
In those days (around 1979), Spanish airguns were looked upon like Chinese and Turkish airguns are today. We knew the companies were able to make good guns, but they often seemed to lack the willpower to actually do it. So, I considered El Gamo to be a junk brand, and in retrospect I believe that was a serious misjudgment on my part. What they really were was a non-German airgun maker that was building accurate and solid airguns at a time when most of us couldn’t see past Weihrauch, Webley, BSA and Feinwerkbau. And when I say “most of us,” I really mean just me, because there were no airgun magazines on the market (that I knew about), nor had Al Gore invented the internet, yet. It would be another 14 years before I started writing The Airgun Letter and attending airgun shows to discover that others shared my misguided opinions.
Robert Law, the owner of Air Rifle Headquarters, did his best to convince us that El Gamo rifles were good, but he was fighting unreasonable opposition. For some reason, we all (I later learned) believed every word he said about a Weihrauch HW 55 target rifle, but thought the copy about El Gamo was nothing but hype!
He would say things like, “All El Gamo models feature a rifled steel barrel,” which sounded suspiciously similar to “Each Yugo automobile features four perfectly round tires filled to capacity with factory air.” I think that we (I) had chips on our shoulder(s) and were daring Law to be right about anything he said regarding Spanish airguns..
Before anyone asks, El Gamo used to be the name Gamo used for their company. Sometime in the 1990s (I believe), they dropped the El from the logo.
The crackle finish held up well over time.
El Gamo’s logo is a stylized stag.
The 68/68-XP is based on the model 300 action. ARH sold it as the 300 Target and considered it to be an informal target rifle. They claimed an accuracy of 0.22 inches for 5 shots at 10 meters after their free conditioning, but all 68/68-XPs should shoot about the same after break-in. After they’re accurized, they said the rifle would group in 0.15 inches.
Beeman also sold the model 300, and they gave an accuracy potential of 0.22 inches — so they agreed with ARH. That’s not surprising, since they bought their guns from ARH in the beginning.
The gun is a strange one. It has no true stock, as you can see. What is the stock on most breakbarrels is a cast-aluminum frame on this one. The butt is synthetic — made of two halves screwed together around the cast-aluminum frame.
The trigger has three adjustment screws. Since David Enoch was kind enough to send me the manual, I’ll know how they work when it comes time. At the forward end of the triggerguard is a hole that leads to a large screw that might look like an adjustment screw but actually is the bearing point for the cocking linkage. I’ll pull the action out of the stock to see how this works and maybe why it’s there.
Three trigger adjustment screws are located at the back of the triggerguard. The one screw that’s in front of the trigger seems to adjust the cocking link bearing point.
The little gun feels heavy. It weighs 6 lbs., 2 oz., which isn’t much, but seems like a lot for a carbine whose overall length is only 37 inches. And yet the barrel is 17-9/16 inches long, which helps bring down the cocking effort to just 22 lbs.
The sights are old-school — no nasty fiberoptics to contend with. The rear sight adjusts in both directions, and the front sight is a crisp, wide blade with sharp edges. It fits the rear notch nicely, so you can aim precisely.
The rear sight is adjustable both ways. Though it looks like most modern open sights, it seems crisper than most.
The front sight is exactly what you want in a sporting front sight. Why did they ever change?
The ARH catalog says the gun holds well for offhand shooting, and I saw that when I shot it twice at the Arkansas airgun show. I was surprised when my pellets went into the same hole at 15 yards, because I’m not normally that good offhand. So I hope there’s a real surprise in store for us as far as accuracy is concerned.
There’s a scope rail on this one, so I’ll mount a scope after trying the open sights. They had scoped air rifles back when the gun was new; but they were still in the very early days, when not a lot was known about scoping airguns. Today, I have access to BKL scope rings, which overcome the lack of provisions for a mechanical scope stop.
The butt frame is aluminum, with two-piece synthetic shells that are screwed together.
You can’t buy one of these except as a used airgun, but it has so many of the features that I want to see in every lower-powered spring rifle that I wish it was still being made. If you don’t like the unconventional look of the 67/68-XP I’m testing, the action is identical to the model 300 that comes in a classic wood stock. So, let’s see how El Gamo made themback in the 1970s!
by B.B. Pelletier
Photos and tests by Earl “Mac” McDonald
Before we begin today’s report, I’d like to give you an update on two projects. First, I’ve replaced the trigger in the RWS Diana 34 P rifle, so I’m ready to do the T06 trigger evaluation. It was the easiest trigger replacement/piston removal I’ve ever encountered! I used to think Weihrauchs were easy to work on, but now that Diana has gotten rid of the T01 trigger that had a couple small things you needed to know how to do, replacing a trigger in one of their rifles is about like putting batteries into an airsoft AEG. I did the whole job in 20 minutes, start to finish, which included set-up and clean-up time. A lot of the credit for that goes to the Air Venturi spring kit that was in the gun, because the mainspring is not under a lot of pre-compression. I’m sorry to see that product go, because it made a world of difference in the performance of the gun.
I was so pumped with the success of the trigger swap that I tackled the Slavia 631 next. It’s also easy to take apart, and you won’t believe the improvement that just lubrication has brought. A 35-lb. cocking effort is now down to just 21 lbs.! I had guessed it could drop to 28 lbs., but that was way too conservative. I also got rid of 80 percent of the vibration, but that’s something I will save for the next report. Since the rifle is now so different from the way it was, I’m going to retest the velocity for you in a special report.
There’s lots more to tell about both projects. This was just an update to let you know how things are going. And, wprejs, this week I’ll pack the harmonica rifle and send it to Vince. Now, let’s look at today’s test.
Let’s take a look at the accuracy potential for the Benjamin 397C that Mac’s been testing. There’s been a lot of interest in this little rifle since this report started, and practically nobody knew of the gun’s existence before now. Even so, it was produced so recently that there’s still a good chance of finding one in near-new condition and still in the box, so this is one of those sleeper opportunities that abound in this hobby. As I finish this report, you have to ask yourself what it is that you like about airgunning; because if it’s finding rare guns for very little money, this carbine is one to look for. And, you need some references like the Blue Book of Airguns to help you find things like this.
Because this is a multi-pump pneumatic, there are some things we need to know before we look at the targets. The number of pumps that were used for every shot. Mac shot the carbine off a rest at 25 yards, and each shot got the maximum of eight pumps.
The way this gun works, some high-pressure air will always be trapped in front of the pump piston head after the pump stroke is finished. All the air does not go into the reservoir, even on modified guns.
As the number of strokes increases, the amount of air trapped in front of the piston head increases, so naturally it’s always the greatest when using the maximum number of strokes. When that happens, the air pushes back on the piston head, forcing down the pump lever, which is the carbine’s forearm, just a little. When you shoot, the air pressure inside the reservoir drops instantly and the tiny bit of high-pressure air in front of the pump piston head pushes its way into the reservoir. That allows the forearm to return to its relaxed position, and the shooter feels this as the whole gun settling. It’s a trait very common to a multi-pump, and it allows some movement of the gun with the shot.
There’s nothing a shooter can do about this movement when it happens; when it does, the pellet is already out of the barrel. The slight movement should have no effect on the accuracy of the gun. However, I want you to remember this discussion, because it had an effect on the outcome of the test.
Mac notes that the little carbine is hardly a bench gun, and we wouldn’t expect it to be at just 4 lbs. Sometimes, light weight and overall shortness can be a detriment to accurate shooting, as these little rifles are so twitchy (sensitive to how they are held).
You’ll remember from Part 1 that there is a Williams peep sight on this gun. Mac installed the hunting aperture, which has a larger hole for more rapid target acquisition. Peep sights with large apertures are quicker to get on target than regular notch sights, but the downside is you give up some precision to get the speed. I love the way an M1 carbine gets on target in an instant, but nobody will ever confuse it with a target gun because the large aperture reduces it to a minute-of-person weapon.
The first pellet Mac tried was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier dome that’s usually one of the most accurate pellets in these multi-pumps from Crosman, Benjamin and Sheridan. But this day there was no joy as five pellets went into a group measuring 0.93 inches.
Next, he tried RWS Hobby pellets, which he also thought would be wonderful. They disappointed as well, with a five-shot group that measured 0.77 inches at the same 25 yards.
Finally, Mac tried the pellet he likes the best for most air rifles in .177 caliber — the RWS Superdome. But try though he might, five of them grouped only 0.84 inches at 25 yards. Then, he had a thought.
Remember that forearm that moves on every shot? Mac noticed it, too, and was holding the rifle with his off hand close to the triggerguard, the way you’re supposed to hold a breakbarrel. He decided to throw caution to the wind and rest the rifle with the forearm lying on the flat of his palm. He just knew that the moving forearm would throw him off, but he tried another five RWS Superdomes and discovered the secret. That’s the perfect way to hold this little carbine! Five pellets went into 0.24 inches at the same 25 yards.
What this test tells us is that conventional wisdom isn’t always right. This reminds me of the time when I decided to hold my Beeman C1 carbine with a super-light hold to see how bad it would group and wound up discovering what I now call the artillery hold!
The bottom line for this little gun is that Mac loves it. He likes it most for its size and weight, and it’s the gun he most often hands to guests when they want to do a little shooting. Offhand, it shoots much better than these groups might suggest, and Mac doesn’t worry about the loss of velocity. As long as everyone has a good time and can hit the targets, everything is fine.