Posts Tagged ‘H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets’

Air Venturi Bronco with optional target sights: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

You know how your wife buys a new trash can for the kitchen, and it doesn’t match the front of the old refrigerator that you’ve been talking about replacing for several years? So, you buy a new fridge, but you want this one to have an ice dispenser in the door; so, you hire a plumber to run the water lines; as long as he’s there, you decide it’s time to replace the chipped sink with a new stainless-steel double sink; but as long as he’s under there, you might as well have him replace the water supply lines and the waste pipes. Then, your wife doesn’t like how the new sink looks against the old green Formica counters, and she wants those granite countertops you’ve been promising her ever since you forgot your 17th anniversary; but the new countertops won’t look right on the old painted cabinets, so you decide on some Scandinavian teak cabinets with glass doors; and now the chipped dishes look out of place. [Note from Edith: This is hypothetical. It's not a true story about us!]

So, seven months later, the total bill for the new trash can comes to 70 thousand dollars? Well, that’s what I seem to have gotten into with the Air Venturi Bronco. I was just testing the new Bronco Target Sight kit on the rifle, and I raked back the compost pile a little too far. So, today, you’re going to benefit from my puttering gone amuck.

I took a lot of heat from you guys in my last report. You didn’t like how I did things, plus I introduced the new Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet and called it maccaroni without any warning! Well, shame on me!

I began today’s test by mounting the Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Sidewinder Tactical scope on the rifle. The Bronco has a hole for a vertical scope stop pin, so I was able to anchor the two-piece mounts rock-solid.

I thought I would back up just a bit and see just what the best pellet is for this rifle, and then see if there’s a difference between seating that pellet flush and seating it deep. I started at 10 meters with five-shot groups, just to weed out the pellets that were not worth pursuing. They were all pretty good, but the lightweight Air Arms Falcon was just a bit better than the rest.

I realize that this is a test of a peep sight, but my last report raised some questions about the rifle’s accuracy that I felt needed to be laid to rest before the test was continued. I’m validating the rifle before I continue reporting on the new sight.

Then, I backed up to 25 yards and shot two 10-shot groups. One was with the pellets seated flush with the end of the breech, and the other was with the pellets seated deeper, using the PellSet. Let’s look at my results before I analyze them.

Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets seated flush with the end of the barrel went into this 25-yard group that measures 0.531 inches. The group is reasonably round.

Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets seated deep with a PellSet made this 0.821-inch group at 25 yards. Nine of the ten pellets went into a group measuring 0.564 inches.

Looking at both the shape and size of these groups, I would be tempted to say the flush-seated pellets shot best. And there’s no doubt that this Bronco can shoot. But let’s not make up our minds just yet.

See that “flyer” in the deep-seated pellet group? It wasn’t a called flier. The hold and release were perfect. There is no reason that pellet should be that far away from the rest of the pellets at 25 yards.

What I’m not showing you are some other 10-meter groups with different pellets that also had strange fliers like this one. I had removed both the front and rear sights, so we can’t blame the front sight screws for being too long. But something is happening with this rifle that’s unusual.

Edith questioned me in the same way that I know the rest of you are going to question me. Didn’t I have good groups in the past? Why is this rifle suddenly shooting like this?

I went back and looked at the groups I shot in Part 3 of this report. If you do the same, you’ll see a couple “fliers” in those groups, as well. The difference is that those groups were shot at 10 meters instead of 25 yards.

So, then I went back to the 7-part report I did on the Bronco and examined those targets. In Part 5 of that report, I shot the rifle with a scope at 25 yards and guess what? There are “fliers” within some of the groups.

What’s happening?
I think the Bronco I’ve been testing is extremely accurate, but it has also been throwing fliers like this all along. I chalked them up to my poor shooting instead of something else. Now that I’ve examine the rifle under the microscope, I’m not so sure it was me. I think this rifle has been tipping pellets all along. It’s only when the gun is fired at 25 yards that this becomes evident.

I think this has gotten worse recently, but I cannot say with certainty what’s causing it. It’s clear from the two groups shown here that the rifle can really shoot, but I think it can do even better than it currently is.

I have a plan to try to remedy this situation; and, at the worst, it will not affect the accuracy of the rifle. But if I succeed, this rifle could shoot smaller groups than you see here.

I need to try my remedy before returning to finish the report on the peep sight kit, because I think it has been affecting the results. And there’s a second problem I’ve identified with the peep sights that has nothing to do with the sights, themselves, but with how I’ve been sighting the gun. I’ll describe that problem in detail for you and tell you how to easily avoid it.

Til then!

Air Venturi Bronco with optional target sights: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Today is the day you find how I improved the accuracy of the Air Venturi Bronco rifle I’m testing with the Bronco Target Sight kit. I asked you to guess what I did to get better groups, but only Fred of PRoNJ got it right. I thought this would be a straightforward test and that one range session was all I needed for this rifle. After all, I already did a 7-part report on the gun, so there’s been plenty of time to get to know how it shoots. In fact, I even installed a Williams peep sight on the gun, so I even know how it shoots with that. This was just supposed to be a test of the Bronco Target Sight kit and nothing more. But man plans, and God laughs!

Yesterday, I told you about the front sight screws and the barrel that obviously needed cleaning. Afterwards, I was not rewarded with those perfect groups I’d anticipated. The groups I got were better than before the rifle was cleaned, but they were still bad for an accurate rifle at 10 meters off a rest. Something else was needed.

The artillery hold
How many of you guessed that the secret to good shooting was the artillery hold? Guess again, because I saw no difference between resting the rifle on the flat of my palm and on the backs of my fingers.

One thing I did rediscover was the need to hold the Bronco absolutely “dead” in my hands rather than with any tension built in. For its power level, the Bronco seems to be on the twitchy side as far as hold sensitivity goes. So, before you shoot, it’s imperative that you relax all the way and allow the rifle to settle in wherever it wants to. Then, you have to shift your hands and body until it settles in with the sights very close to on-target.

But that wasn’t the secret I was looking for because the groups were still on the large side. Then, something cool happened. As you know, my friend, Mac, has been visiting us; and while he was here, I got a couple spring-piston air rifles to test before they come to market. I’ll be starting some reports at the end of this month, so I asked Mac to test the rifle while I worked on other things. It’s never difficult to get him to test a brand-new airgun!

One of the pellets he selected to test the rifles with was the venerable RWS Hobby, which is the lightest all-lead pellet around. Hobbys are often among the most accurate pellets for spring-piston airguns, and they did really well in these new rifles, so his choice seemed obvious. Since the Bronco is also a spring-piston gun, I wondered if Hobbys might do well in it.

Did Hobbys shoot better?
Yes, they really did. They gave groups that were in the ballpark for the rifle as it was now performing with the clean barrel, but they weren’t the groups I’d hoped for. But something drove me to continue to shoot them. I guess I was thinking about the pellet seasoning effect we talk about. As I was shooting, another thought popped into my head.

Two years ago I was testing a Hy-Score 801 — a Belgian-made breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle that has a pellet seater built into the gun. It sits above the breech and swings down to push the pellet deep into the breech. When I tested it, the seated pellets increased in velocity by 100 f.p.s. and also grouped closer. Could that same thing be true for the Bronco, I wondered?

Well, it didn’t take much to test the pellet-seating theory, because I’ve been testing the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet for some time. But this was the first time I had occasion to use the adjustable PellSet tool to push a pellet into the breech of an air rifle! Until now, I’ve always used a Bic pen, but this new tool is adjustable so I can control the depth to which each pellet is seated. And once the tool’s adjusted, every pellet gets seated to exactly the same depth. Consistency is paramount to accuracy, so that’s very important.

The moment I began seating the pellets deeply with the PellSet tool, the groups shrank to an acceptable size. It looked like a television infomercial, because the difference before and after was night and day. I shot another group but didn’t seat the pellets. I held the rifle as carefully as I had when the pellets were seated deep, just to eliminate any bias. I’m not saying there still isn’t some bias in my testing, but the results of seating the pellets looks very promising!

This PellSet tool is an adjustable pellet seater that hangs around your neck and seals each pellet to the correct depth in the breech. Using it immediately tightened the Bronco’s groups!

When you load a pellet manually, you seat it flush with the breech like this.

The PellSet tool enables you to seat each pellet to the same depth in the bore. The tool is adjustable so you can fine-tune it.

Ten RWS Hobby pellets seated flush with the end of the barrel grouped in 0.916b inches at 10 meters. While not a great target, this demonstrates that the Bronco wants to shoot Hobbys well, because 8 of the 10 pellets made a group about half the size of the large one.

When the Hobbys were seated deep into the breech, they grouped into this 0.72 inch group. This is much better than the first group and clearly shows what deep-seating can do. But notice there’s still one flier in this group.

When I saw the difference between the deep-seated and flush-seated pellets, I believed I was on to something. But one result doesn’t make a conclusion, so I shot another two groups. This time, I was very careful with each shot to apply the artillery hold correctly.

The second group of flush-seated pellets was tighter than the first, though not as tight as the first group of deep-seated pellets. Only a single flier this time. Group measures 0.845 inches between centers.

The second group of deep-seated pellets gave this 0.516 inch group. No fliers at all. This is the accuracy potential of the Bronco!

There was a lot to cover in this test. First: I found that the longer front sight screws do not present any problems as far as accuracy is concerned. That was a needless concern.

Next, I discovered that the barrel wasn’t just dirty — the bore was actually constricted at the muzzle. Cleaning the bore (but not with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound this time) did improve accuracy, but not as much as I’d hoped. Something else was needed.

I had shot decent groups with this rifle in the past, so it is accurate. After cleaning the barrel, I almost got groups as good as before, but not quite. However, I’d been shooting 10 shots at 25 yards before and only five shots at 10 meters. Any direct comparison between before and now was impossible.

Switching to RWS Hobby pellets was good, though Hobbys may not be the most accurate pellets for this rifle. But by staying with them, I eliminated any other comparisons that might lead me astray. I also seasoned the bore, so no one can say that accuracy suffered from switching pellets.

Finally, I used a pellet seater, and not just any seater, but one that’s adjustable so I can set how deep the pellet goes. This tool has a lot of potential for improved accuracy in lower-powered spring-piston airguns, and I plan on using it in a lot of future tests.

Bottom line
The Bronco Target Sights are a nice addition to the rifle and far less expensive than any alternatives. A scope would work well, too, but for those who like iron sights, this sight set might be the best way to go.

Air Venturi Bronco with optional target sights: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

We get requests all the time for basic maintenance articles and fundamental articles about how to diagnose an airgun and make it shoot better. Often, I refer readers to blog reports I’ve done in the past, but today (and tomorrow!) is a blog report with something for almost everyone. It started out as a simple test of my Air Venturi Bronco rifle with different sights, but it blossomed in several different directions — answering many questions and raising issues about which many readers have indicated an interest in the past.

I didn’t plan on this report turning out the way it did. This special two-part report (today and tomorrow) is a serendipitous journey of airgun discovery. It began when I mounted the optional Bronco Target Sight kit on my rifle and thought I would be demonstrating just how accurate a Bronco can be. (The Bronco is also sold with the target sight kit installed.)

Heck (I thought), there’s no risk here. I’ve shot this same Bronco before and I know how accurate it is. What could possibly go wrong?

What, indeed. If you click on the link to Part 1 of this report provided above, you’ll see that the first groups I shot with the Bronco and its new target sights were anything but encouraging. If this had been a different rifle I might have been tempted to write it off as inaccurate (I said tempted — not a sure thing), but because I’ve shot this exact same Bronco several times in the past with great results, I knew it was something other than the rifle’s inherent accuracy at fault.

Back-bored muzzle
You readers guessed what the problem could be, and Mac and I conversed at the same time. Mac owns a Bronco, too, and he knows how accurate it is.

One early theory was that the new longer front sight mounting screws might be protruding into the rifled barrel and clipping the pellet just before it leaves the muzzle. I had noticed when mounting the four front sight riser plates that the screw holes are drilled deep, so I checked them and discovered they are drilled all the way through the barrel. The kit has two longer screws that are needed because of the four riser plates, so was it possible that one of those screws was hitting the pellet as it passed through the bore?

The four front sight riser plates require longer mounting screws. Was one of them touching a pellet?

But Mac told me the barrel was back-bored. The muzzle is not where you think it is, but it’s about seven inches deep inside the barrel — behind the front sight. Back-bored means that instead of being crowned at the end of the barrel, the muzzle is sunk deep inside the barrel with a deep-hole drill. Doing this protects the muzzle from damage and preserves accuracy longer. It can also restore accuracy to rifles that have been cleaned from the front instead of the breech. When cleaning rods scrape against the sides of the muzzle they wear the metal and cause accuracy loss. Mosin Nagant rifles are often found with back-bored muzzles.

The true muzzle of the barrel is located at the tip of the cleaning rod. So, the front sight screws are not interfering with pellets before they leave the barrel.

Look inside the barrel
Once I confirmed where the true muzzle was, it was obvious the front sight screws could not be interfering with the pellets before they left the muzzle. But what about after they left? Could a pellet still be touching the edge of a screw after it exited the muzzle?

This time, the answer was less exact. From what I could see with an endoscopic light down the bore, the screws were probably not protruding deeply enough to touch the pellets in flight unless the pellets were yawing wildly. And if they were yawing wildly, they were never going to be accurate anyway. So I stopped looking at that and checked the cleanliness of the barrel next.

The barrel had a constriction right at the muzzle! A brass bore brush passed from breech to muzzle (the true muzzle — not the end of the barrel) stopped abruptly at the muzzle. Something was constricting the barrel right at the point the pellet exited. The barrel needed to be cleaned, but this constriction was so abrupt that it felt like a large burr had been raised right at the muzzle. But the muzzle is seven inches deep inside the barrel, so that’s next to impossible!

The only solution was to clean the barrel, and I started with a clean brass bore brush. Don’t waste your time with a nylon brush. It isn’t stiff enough to remove the metal if there’s any. As long as the barrel is made of steel, like the Bronco’s barrel is, you cannot damage it with a brass brush.

After 20-30 passes the brush was meeting no resistance, so I then cleaned the barrel with Otis bore solvent until the patches came out clean. Now, the barrel was ready to perform at its best!

On to shooting
After all of this, I felt ready to shoot the rifle and expected it to do well. A quick read of Part 1 showed me that I tested it with H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets and JSB Exact RS pellets. Those were the first two pellets I shot. The range was 10 meters, and each group got 10 shots.

I would have loved to have shot two beautiful targets and ended this test right there, but that didn’t happen. Yes, the groups were somewhat smaller than those shot in part 1, but they were not good groups — not for a Bronco, anyway. The H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets grouped 10 in 1.059 inches — compared to the group in Part 1 of 1.668 inches. And the JSB Exact RS pellets grouped 10 into 0.82 inches this time –compared to 1.169 inches in Part 1. Yes, these are smaller groups, but they aren’t small enough for the Bronco at 10 meters. Something else had to happen.

I found the secret
This is where I’m going to end the report today. Tomorrow, I’m going to tell you what happened to change the outcome of the test. Yes, a different pellet was used, but that wasn’t the big news. In fact I’m convinced that I’ve found the secret to increasing accuracy with any Air Venturi Bronco — shooting any pellet!

You have a day to wonder, ponder, guess and discuss. Let’s see how smart you guys are.

What did I do that was different? A hint — I’ve done it before with similar results.

Crosman MAR177 test report: Part 6

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Crosman’s new MAR177 upper is big news!

Today’s test is shooting the Crosman MAR177 at 25 yards, both with and without the magazine. We’ll also shoot it with the best wadcutter target pellets and the best domed pellets to see what differences there are.

Rather than shoot the rifle myself, I let Mac shoot it this time. He is the better rifle shot between us, and I just wanted to see what the rifle would be like in his hands. He shot it off a bag rest at 25 yards indoors. Ten pellets were shot from the magazine, then another 10 of the same pellet were shot using the single-shot tray. Mac tested both domed and wadcutter pellets, so we get to compare the relative accuracy of both today. And the results did not turn out as I expected.

I’d noted in an earlier report that the particular 10-shot magazine I’ve been using has two chambers with tight entrances. Mac found the same thing without being prompted by me. I had him use the same magazine as I did so I could compare his results with all other variables remaining the same.

You’ll recall that I mentioned not liking magazine guns because of how they handle the pellets. So, today was also a test between the magazine and loading each pellet as you shoot. I’m not saying that all pellets have feeding problems, but that some magazines may have a problem. But when you load each pellet singly, you have less chance of damaging the pellet.

Single-load tray
That said, the MAR177 has a gap at the front of the single-load tray that can catch the nose of certain pellets and make it very difficult to load. The H&N Field Target pellets that were the most accurate in an earlier test had this problem and had to be exchanged for a different domed pellet. The H&Ns have a semi-wadcutter rim around the head that just catches in the gap on the tray and causes the pellets to flip up and possibly get damaged on loading. I substituted 7.3-grain Air Arms Falcon pellets that fed perfectly through the tray.

On to the shooting
Let’s get right to today’s test. First, Mac tested the domed pellets at 25 yards.

Through the 10-shot magazine, 10 Falcon pellets made this 0.667-inch group at 25 yards. This is very good!

When the single-shot tray was used, 10 Falcon pellets made this 0.429-inch group at 25 yards. This is clearly better than the group made using magazine-fed pellets.

Mac tried the H&N Field Target pellets first, and they were very accurate, but a couple of them refused to feed through the magazine. But the Falcon pellets fed flawlessly, so we changed the test to use them as the domed pellet of choice. Once again, I want to say that in another magazine this pellet might have fed better, but this is a quirk you get with mags that you don’t get when loading singly.

Clearly the single-loaded pellets are more accurate than those loaded by the magazine. That may not hold from magazine to magazine; but for this one mag, you’re better off loading the pellets one at a time. Let’s see how the rifle does with wadcutters at 25 yards.

Using the magazine, 10 RWS R10 7.7-grain pellets (an obsolete weight for the R10) grouped in 0.484 inches at 25 yards. That’s great performance.

When each pellet was loaded singly, the R10s grouped 10 in 0.402 inches. This was the best group of the test!

The trend continued with the wadcutter pellets. The R10s grouped even tighter than the Falcons at 25 yards, and those that were loaded singly did much better than those that fed through the magazine.

What have we learned?
First, we’ve learned that some magazines do influence the accuracy of the gun with all ammunition — or at least with the pellet types used in this test. A different magazine might well give different results, but one thing it will never do is outshoot loading the pellets by hand, one at a time. As a 10-meter shooter, I knew this going into the test. But it was nice that we were able to demonstrate it so clearly.

Next, we see that wadcutters were more accurate than the domes in this test. Even though both pellets were very accurate, the wadcutters had the edge. That was the part that surprised me. I’d expected the domes to take over at 25 yards.

The bottom line
The Crosman MAR177 is a valuable addition to an AR and a wonderful target rifle in its own right. It was held back in this test by the use of an AR National Match trigger, which is by no means as good as a target trigger on an air rifle. Even so, we see accuracy that any 10-meter precision rifle would be proud of.

I think Crosman has made a winning rifle in the MAR177. And when they bring out more powerful versions of it in the future, it’ll be all the greater justification for owning an AR! My thanks to Crosman for the loan of this MAR177 for both this test and for the feature article I am writing for Shotgun News!

Crosman MAR177 test report: Part 5

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Crosman’s new MAR177 upper is big news!

Today, we’ll look at the Crosman MAR177 upper shooting domed pellets at 25 yards. I’ll be using the 10-shot magazine, so we’ll get to see that in action, as well. I’ll tell you right now that today was a learning day that spawned another report that’s still to come. Read on to learn what it is.

As you know, the Crosman upper receiver is attached to a lower receiver that I built on a Rock River Arms lower receiver shell. I used Rock River parts, and the trigger is an upgraded two-stage National Match trigger, also from Rock River.

National Match?
To the uninitiated, the term National Match sounds like the finest possible precision. Well, it isn’t! A National Match trigger in an AR is about like a John Deere tractor — strong and effective, but as far from real precision as it is possible to get and still have a good trigger. My trigger has a light first stage and a crisp release in stage two, but it’s not what any target shooter would call precision. The break point is right at 5 lbs. My Trapdoor Springfield, which was made in 1875, has a trigger just as nice. My 1879 Argentine rolling block’s trigger is lighter and crisper, now that I have replaced the heavy service-grade trigger return spring. So understand that National Match does not mean the same as precision. You owners of Rekord triggers don’t know how good you have it.

The National Match AR trigger is quite a bit better than the single-stage trigger that comes standard on a military or civilian AR, but it isn’t a target trigger by any stretch. I tell you that so you’ll understand what I had to deal with in this test.

10-shot magazine
The MAR’s magazine is the same one that a .177 Benjamin Marauder uses. It’s wound under spring tension as it’s loaded and advances by spring power as the bolt is worked for each shot. Remember that on the MAR, the bolt is retracted by pulling back on the charging handle — the same as all other ARs.

The 10-shot magazine comes from the Benjamin Marauder and is completely reliable, as well as quick and easy to load. Here the last shot is in the magazine, holding it in place. The clear plastic cover is rotated to drop in the other 9 pellets.

To cock the MAR the charging handle is pulled back.

The mag loads easy once you know the right procedure. A couple of the chambers were tight, so I used a mechanical pencil to push in the pellets. Once they cleared the lips of the tight chambers, they dropped into place easily. There were no feeding problems throughout the test, which entailed about 90 pellets, give or take.

The scope
I mounted a Leapers 4×32 mini scope on the rifle. It’s not a scope that Pyramyd Air stocks, but it would be similar to this Leapers scope. You may criticize my choice for some lack of aiming precision; but when you see how good the little scope looks on the rifle, I think you’ll understand why I went with it. It allowed me to use medium scope rings and still clear the magazine that stands proud of the receiver top. If I were hunting feral hogs with a 300 AAC Blackout or a .50 Beowulf cartridge, this is the scope I would use. No, it doesn’t magnify as much as a good 3-9x scope, so we may have to take that into consideration when we look at these groups.

This mini-Leapers scope looks perfect on the MAR. The two-piece rings have to be close to each other because the scope tube is short.

I sighted-in at 12 feet, using my 10-minute sight-in procedure. If you haven’t tried this yet, you need to. It took just three rounds to get on target; and although a bit of luck was involved, this sight-in procedure always cuts time from the front-end of my scope tests.

Air Arms Falcon
I used the 7.3-grain Air Arms Falcon pellet to sight in. The scope seemed right on for elevation, but off to the right. I dialed in some left correction and shot again. Almost there, but not quite. One more adjustment put me at 6 o’clock, as far below the aim point as the center of the scope was above the bore axis (approximately). I knew I was safe to back up to 25 yards and start shooting.

The next 7 shots made a group measuring 0.422 inches between the centers of the holes farthest apart. It was an auspicious beginning for the test!

Three shots to get on target, then a great 25-yard, 7-shot group of Air Arms Falcons.

It was also the best group I shot with the Falcons. The other two opened up to over three-quarters on an inch, so although they made a good first impression, Falcons were not the best domed pellet in the rifle I’m testing.

JSB Exact 8.4-grains
I also tried JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes. They put 9 pellets into 0.495 inches, but threw the tenth shot low and right, opening the group to 1.047 inches. I detected no reason for this wild shot, so I’ll have to chalk it up to the pellets — maybe.

BSA Wolverine
Next I tried some BSA Wolverines. This is yet another JSB dome that sometimes out-performs anything else. But in the MAR, they were just satisfactory, putting 10 into 0.642 inches.

JSB Exact RS
Another tantalizing group was made by JSB Exact RS pellets. We’ve learned over many tests that the RS is one of the best pellets for low- to medium-powered springers, and the MAR177 shoots at the same velocity, so I wondered how well it would do. Nine shots went into 0.474 inches, but the tenth shot opened that to 0.874 inches. It was a second instance in which 9 shots were tight and the tenth was a flier. I cannot say where in the string the wild shots occurred, though, because the scope couldn’t see the pellet holes as they were made.

Nine were tight, then a tenth opened the group. JSB Exact RS pellets

H&N Field Target
Next, I tried H&N Field Target domes. A reader recently asked me why I don’t try these, as he had good success with them. I responded that I had, and had not experienced the same success; but when I checked my pellets, I discovered that I’d been shooting H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. The Field Target pellet tin was unopened. See what confusion a small name change can make?

Best group of the day was shot with 10 H&N Field Target pellets. It measures just 0.441 inches across.

These 8.5-grain domes gave me the best 10-shot group of the test — a stunning 0.441 inches between centers! This is a pellet I will work into future tests, you can be sure. This also serves to demonstrate that although the scope only magnifies four times, that’s good enough.

I was starting to tire from all the concentration, so this was the place to stop. I would say that the MAR177 made a good showing, but also raised some questions.

What comes next?
The performance of the rifle in this test was so intriguing that I want to reshoot the same test, only using the single-shot tray next time. Then I will know for sure whether or not the magazine has any influence over the group size. I’ve always had reservations about magazines in any rifle, and I really want to see if there’s any discernible difference. If there is, I may have to do a lengthy test of magazines vs single-shot operations in PCPs.

The next test that will also offer an opportunity to pit wadcutter target pellets against the best domes at 25 yards. I’ve always maintained that 25 yards is about the maximum distance at which wadcutter pellets are accurate, and we even shot a segment on the American Airgunner TV show in which we put that to the test. The domes were clearly superior to wadcutters at 35 yards, so this test will be at a closer distance and indoors. It should prove interesting.

Crosman MAR177 test report: Part 4

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Crosman’s new MAR177 upper is big news! This view shows the front sight properly oriented.

Today is the first accuracy test day for the Crosman MAR177 upper, so let’s see how this baby shoots. Blog reader Darth Cossack pointed out that I had mounted the front sight backwards in the last report, so I fixed that for today’s photo. It wouldn’t have mattered from a shooting standpoint, but we do want the gun to look right.

On this AR-15, both the front sight and the rear sight adjust for elevation, while the rear sight also adjusts for windage. The front sight requires a sight adjustment tool that I don’t have and didn’t see packed with the upper. You can also use the point of a 5.56mm military round, which I have an abundance of, but doing it that way is very laborious. I’m hoping the rear sight adjustments will take care of everything that’s needed.

And one more time for those who didn’t read it — the MAR177 is purpose-built for the new sport of National Match Air Rifle (NMAR). NMAR can be shot with traditional 10-meter rifles (using the CMP classifications of Precision and Sporter) and the course is three positions — standing, kneeling and prone. You can continue to use your shooting glove, sling and shooting jacket for this sport, as well. Shooting trousers are not permitted.

The benefit of the AR-15 type rifle that the MAR177 is a part of is that it helps shooters transition over to National Match highpower shooting, because the lower that includes the trigger can be the same for both rifles. And from a competitive standpoint, the MAR177 is very affordable. The only other AR-type air rifle that’s suitable for this sport is made by Anschütz and sells for $1,850.

It cost me $450 to build my lower receiver, and half of that was the National Match trigger. If I wanted to build a lower on a budget, I could do it for under $200 by careful shopping. And I just saw a complete lower advertised in a local sale for $250. But the trigger would then be single-stage and heavier, though there are ways to gunsmith the pull weight down to the legal range of 4.5-5.0 lbs. And when I say the legal range, I refer to high-power competition, only. An air rifle has no trigger-pull limit, because Precision-class target rifles, which are the Olympic target air rifles, are permitted to compete in NMAR.

Why did Crosman make the MAR177 upper for a firearm lower?
This question is being asked by many airgunners. Why would Crosman knowingly make their upper to fit a lower that then classifies the whole rifle as a firearm under federal law? The answer lies in the tens of millions of AR rifles now in the hands of shooters and the extreme popularity of the model. Crosman is building for a market that is more than a hundred times larger than the current active airgun market in the U.S. Even if only a few percent of those owners decide to buy a MAR177, they represent more than all the active airgunners in the United States at this time.

But Crosman isn’t blind to the potential for sales of an MAR that’s not classified as a firearm. I have no doubt they’re working hard on a lower that will accept a modified MAR upper that will not be classified as a firearm. But these things take time. I would expect such a project to be on the fast track right now, but how long it might take before we see it is unclear.

The difficulties are enormous!
You probably think the MAR was easy to develop. After all — every AR is the same (they’re all held to certain specs), so don’t they just have to develop a gun for one lower that will automatically work on all the rest? Actually, no. When your upper has to interface with all the lowers on the market and all possible combinations of triggers in those lowers, there are bound to be some problems. Crosman did their due diligence in designing a universal upper, but there are bound to be some combinations of lower receivers and triggers that experience temporary problems. That would be true for any company designing any new AR-15 upper from scratch.

As I mentioned in Part 2, my Rock River lower and National Match trigger worked fine from the first moment I assembled the rifle, so every new owner can expect success, but there are bound to be some hiccups. There are synthetic lower receivers on the market that are being sold on a price basis that are known to have interchangeability issues with firearm uppers, and this is going to carry over to the MAR177 as well.

I’m not going to list those brands here, but if you do a search for AR-15 lower receiver problems, you’ll come up with a good list of what to avoid. The problems are both the lower receivers, themselves, and the separate parts kits to complete them. People are buying these receivers and parts based on price, alone, and they’re running into problems when one brand of lower won’t accept another company’s parts kit and then work with those three other uppers.

Somebody asked me why I chose a Rock River lower receiver and a Rock River parts kit, and I’m telling you why. There are other brands that are just as good, and a few that are even perhaps better, such as the Giessele National Match trigger that one of our readers mentioned, but you have to be aware of the fact that not all AR-15 uppers fit all AR-15 lowers.

What I’m testing
One final comment I want to make. Building a gun like this is full of decisions. You are free to choose whatever appeals to you; but once you choose, your path is determined by the decisions you make. As I said before, there’s no trigger-pull weight restriction in the NMAR class for air rifle shooting, but if I were to want to use the same lower in a match with a firearm, I would be restricted to a weight range for the trigger release and also the style of pistol grip. While I’ll probably never compete in a high-power military-style match, I wanted to shoot a gun that would qualify. It was a choice I made, and one that you do not have to follow. But that choice led me to a certain level of performance in the rifle I am now about to test.

I’m also shooting the military-style post front sight. An aperture front would allow more aiming precision; but if you want to use the MAR as a training tool for your high-power competition rifle, you’ll stick with the sights that come on the upper.

The test
I shot 5 shots per group off a rest at 10 meters with each pellet I tested. Since there’s going to be more testing with this gun, I didn’t try to test all the pellets I have, but I did try eight different ones.

Sighting in was done with the Crosman Premier Super Match target pellets that Crosman packed with my test gun. And they were astonishingly good! The group fired for record measured 0.144 inches between centers. That’s in the range for CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) and NRA Sporter class 10-meter rifles that have much lighter triggers and aperture front sights. I was impressed.

Crosman Premier Super Match pellets are great in the MAR177. Five shots went into a 0.144-inch group between centers at 10 meters.

Loading is not perfect
I used the single-shot tray for all this testing. This is the same tray that the Benjamin Marauder uses, and there’s a small gap just before the breech of the barrel. If you try to load the pellet tentatively, the head drops into the gap and binds. If you slam the bolt home too fast, the pellet jumps up in front and also jams. It takes a while to get the right closing speed so the pellet feeds smoothly. Not all pellets jam this way, but a couple are particularly bad. You’ll have to try it for yourself if you use the tray. I was able to get the feed right for every pellet I shot, so it’s not a problem — you just have to spend some time to learn the peculiarities of the gun with the ammo you choose.

You can see the gap at the front of the single-shot loading tray. You have to learn how fast to load pellets to get wadcutters past that gap.

Number two
The second-best pellet in the test was the Gamo Match. While the group they made looks large, it’s so round that it doesn’t take up that much room. In reality, this probably means they’re not really second best, but I may have made a small aiming error with one of the other pellets. However, it’s surprising that such an inexpensive pellet is also this capable.

Five Gamo Match pellets made this 0.136-inch group. Second best of the test, though it appears open.

Best group
RWS R10 7.7-grain pellets that are no longer available gave the best results, with a group size of just 0.106 inches between centers. I shot them early in the test and was probably more rested than I was later, so my eyes were working at their best.

RWS R10 7.7-grain pellets made this five-shot group measuring 0.106 inches. It was the best of this test.

The other pellets
Besides these three, I tried five other target pellets. They were all very equal to the Crosman Super Match, and the largest group fired during the test was 0.162 inches with RWS Hobbys.

H&N Finale Match Rifle

H&N Finale Match Pistol

RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet

7-grain RWS Hobby

JSB S100 Match

One test like this is not enough to determine the most accurate pellet. If I were to do the same test again, the results would no doubt change. Lots more testing is needed to find that one best pellet for this competition air rifle. However, one test was sufficient to prove that the MAR177 has everything going for it. It’s accurate, easy to use and conserves air like a free diver. It mates to an AR lower perfectly to become the best possible training system for AR shooters.

I have more plans for this rifle. Next, I plan to mount a scope and test the rifle with accurate domed pellets at 25 yards. I believe the MAR177 has more to show us.

Air Venturi Bronco with optional target sights: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is about mounting the new Bronco Target Sight kit on an Air Venturi Bronco and seeing how it works. The kit consists of a peep sight for the rear and four riser plates with two long screws to raise the front sight high enough to work with the rear.

I tested the Bronco extensively in 2010 and wrote seven reports about it then. If you’ve been a reader for some time, you may remember that I even mounted a Williams peep sight on the rifle and tested it for you. So, today’s question isn’t whether the rifle can shoot with a peep, but rather how this new sight and riser plate set attaches and works with the gun.

The installation is pretty easy. Just unscrew the two front sight screws and attach the four riser plates under the front sight base with the longer screws. It took less than five minutes and there were no tricky parts.

The Bronco front sight as it comes from the factory.

These four riser plates lift the front sight up to work with the rear peep sight.

The installation of the riser plates is quick and easy.

Once the plates were installed, they were rigid and looked like they belonged there. They’re keyed to each other so they don’t slip around once the screws are tightened.

The rear sight
The rear sight is really what this kit is about, both because it is much less expensive than the Williams rear peep sight that is, unfortunately, no longer available and also because it does exactly the same thing. Since this is a cheaper sight that could be just as good, it would would be a find if it proves true.

The sight is made more rugged than the Williams sight and mounts easier. Where the Williams has two very small screws pushing on a dovetail for mounting security, the Mendoza sight is made with larger parts. The screws are also proportionately larger.

Like the front riser plates, the rear sight was a quick installation. Just slip the dovetails into those on top of the Bronco’s receiver and tighten the two screws.

The rear peep sight attaches with two screws. The adjustment knobs are knurled.

Is this a better sight?
That’s a question I’ve heard several times in reference to this sight. What does “better” mean? This sight does exactly the same thing the $60 Williams peep sight did, yet it costs a lot less. It has target knobs, which only the more expensive of the two Williams target peep sights had. Each knob has crisp detents, so you can feel the adjustments as they’re made. Everything works as it’s supposed to, and the machining is excellent — this sight is the equal of the more expensive and now unavailable Williams peep sight.

The one drawback this Mendoza-made rear sight had that the Williams didn’t was the inability to adjust low enough to work with most front sights. The Williams could be modified to go very low and this one can’t. Well, that’s what the riser plates are for, so that problem has been solved.

Testing the sight
Naturally I had to test the new sight set as anyone would, and I expected no problems. We already know about the legendary accuracy of the Air Venturi Bronco, so this sight should help it shoot its best.

I can tell you that the adjustments do move the impact of the pellets in the directions they should. And the movements are small, as you would hope from a 10-meter sight.

Not today!
Unfortunately, I was not up to the task of shooting today. I don’t know what the problem was, but I could not get the new sight set to give results that were even as good as I got with open sights back in 2010. If I hadn’t shot several extremely tight groups at 50 yards with my new Remington model 37 target rifle just last week, I would wonder if my accuracy was slipping, but I know it isn’t. But something is wrong, because I’m not getting the tight groups I got two years ago with the same rifle.

Ten JSB Exact RS pellets made this 1.169-inch group.

Ten H&N Finale Match rifle pellets went into 1.668 inches at 10 meters. Nine of them went into a group measuring 1.114 inches.

These are not good 10-meter groups, yet we know from past experience that this exact rifle is very accurate. So the thing that’s changed is either me or the sights. I re-read Part 3 of the Bronco report and discovered the rifle likes to be shot off the backs of the fingers. That’s an alternative artillery hold that I didn’t try yet, but I’m going to.

So, there’s more to come. But at this point, I can say that the new sight set is a good one and it works as you would expect. It’s a shame I didn’t get the performance we were expecting from the gun in this test, but I remain confident that it’s me and my technique and not the rifle.

That’s why this is Part 1.

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