Posts Tagged ‘El Gamo 68-XP’

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.

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.

El Gamo 68/68-XP — A futuristic airgun from the past: Part 6

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

El Gamo 68 XP breakbarrel air rifle
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.

RWS Hobby
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.

El Gamo 68 XP breakbarrel air rifle RWS Hobby target
Ten Hobbys made this 2.151-inch group at 25 yards.

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!

El Gamo 68 XP breakbarrel air rifle Air Arms Falcon target
Ten Air Arms Falcons went into 0.898 inches between their two widest centers. This is an acceptable group for this rifle at 25 yards.

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.

El Gamo 68 XP breakbarrel air rifle JSB Exact RS target
Ten JSB Exact RS domes went into 1.028 inches. Though not quite as small as the Falcon group, I would rate both pellets about equal in this rifle.

RWS Superdome
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.

El Gamo 68 XP breakbarrel air rifle RWS Superdome target
Ten RWS Superdomes made this 1.765-inch group.

Evaluation
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.

El Gamo 68/68-XP – A futuristic airgun from the past: Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


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.

El Gamo 68/68-XP – A futuristic airgun from the past: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


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.

Scope
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.


A Leapers Bug Buster scope fit the small 68 very well.

The test
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.


Flush pellets on the left, deep-seated on the right. The flush pellets are more accurate.

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.


Flush pellets on the left, deep-seated on the right. Too close to call.

RWS Hobby
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.


Flush pellets on the left, deep-seated on the right. This time, the deep-seated pellets performed best.

Bottom line
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.

El Gamo 68/68-XP – A futuristic airgun from the past: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2


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.

The “test”
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!


Mac put 5 Hobbys into this 0.576-inch group at 10 meters.


I put 5 Hobbys into this 0.381-inch group at the same 10 meters. Yes, I know it looks like only three pellets hit. Mac already pointed that out.

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.

25 yards
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.


Ten Hobbys made this 1.617-inch group at 25 yards.

But wait!
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!


Ten Hobbys just barely seated into the breech made this 1.436-inch group at 25 yards. Eight of those shots made the much smaller 0.665-inch group!

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.

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