Posts Tagged ‘springer’
by B.B. Pelletier
Today is the day we see the accuracy of the Hatsan 125TH air rifle I’m testing. I have a surprise for you, and it isn’t what you expect. Just to review, the rifle comes with a scope that’s best not used. It’s very poor optically. And their mounts are very lightweight, so I didn’t use them today, either. Instead, I mounted my favorite scope, a Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Tactical Sidewinder that I have raved about in other reports. It’s the sharpest scope I have (don’t own it yet, but I expect to), so no one can say the Hatsan rifle didn’t get the best optics.
Hatsan has a scope base that gives you the choice of Weaver or 11mm rings, and the Hawke scope was already mounted in a set of BKL 30mm medium rings with double topstraps. With these butted against the Hatsan’s scope-stop plate, there was no way the scope or rings were going to move under recoil — even the heavy thrust of the 125TH.
After the scope was mounted, I cleaned the bore. And that was when I got the surprise. Even a brand-new brass cleaning brush slipped through the bore with little resistance! I thought for a moment the rifle was a .22 and of course I was using a .177 brush. But no — the rifle I’m testing is a .177. It just has a very large bore. How large? The rifle I’m now testing has the largest bore of any .177 air rifle I’ve ever examined!
I looked through the bore to make sure it’s rifled, and it is. But there are no pellets in my inventory that begin to be large enough to fit this bore — which is why I got the results that I did.
Note from Edith: I asked B.B. if this is so big that it might be .20 caliber. He took a .20-caliber pellet and tried to insert it, but it was too big. So, this is just an oversized .177.
Still a drooper
If you recall, this rifle is a drooper. I knew that, but there are ways to test droopers that don’t compromise the scope. Pick a small aim point located as many inches above the intended impact point as necessary and let that be your aim point for every group. After adjusting things as much as possible, the groups were still landing three inches below the aim point at 25 yards. But if the groups you shoot are tight, you can always replace the rings with a set of droopers afterwards.
The first pellets I tried were Beeman Kodiaks — more to keep them from breaking the sound barrier in my home than for any other reason. I knew from earlier testing that middleweight pellets will go supersonic too easily in this rifle, and every shot will crack like a rimfire!
After I got the sight adjusted, I proceeded to shoot the best group of the day. In fact it was the only complete 10-shot group I fired in this test, because all other pellets scattered so much in the first three shots that it wasn’t worth my time to complete the group.
At 25 yards, 10 Kodiaks made this group that measures 1.336 inches between centers. The pellet at the low right isn’t part of the group. This is similar in size to the best groups made with open sights.
The group is terrible, but it tells me something important that I haven’t noticed until now. Notice that many of the holes are elongated rather than round? These pellets are wobbling as they fly downrange! Some look almost as though they were tumbling when they hit the target. There’s no way they can possibly be accurate when they fly like that, and that’s why I didn’t complete any other groups. Not only were the pellets scattered, many of them also tumbled or wobbled like these. Nothing I shot could ever be accurate in this airgun. When I looked back at the earlier targets from previous tests, I noticed some elongated holes there, too.
The other pellets
At first, I tried to keep the velocity below the sound barrier, so I tried JSB Exact Jumbo 10.2-grain domes and 10.5-grain Crosman Premier heavies. Both wobbled in flight and scattered worst than the Kodiaks. I don’t have the new JSB Exact Heavy 10.34-grain domes, but there’s little reason to think they would have performed differently.
I did try a couple middleweight pellets — just to say I did. Some old Beeman Trophy pellets I had on hand cracked like a .22 long rifle, and they did make a couple round holes, but they also scattered widely and one of them did rip an elongated hole.
On to other, lighter pellets. The H&N Field Target was on the border of supersonic. Some were, others weren’t. But I got more elongated holes with this pellet, as well.
Then I tried RWS Superdomes. I thought their thin skirts might blow out and hug the bore better than the other pellets. But, once again, I got all supersonics and elongated holes. Three shots opened to two inches, and I just stopped shooting.
That is as far as I am going to take the Hatsan 125TH. I’ve shot it with open sights, with the scope and mounts that come with it, and with the best scope available. I’ve checked the screws and cleaned the bore. I’ve tried a range of the best pellets. Nothing seems to help. This rifle I’m testing is simply not going to be more accurate than these tests have already demonstrated.
The bottom line
The Hatsan 125TH is a $200 magnum spring rifle. It has their best trigger, their shock absorber system and their Weaver/11mm scope base. Yet, it also has a barrel that’s so overbore that it doesn’t stabilize any pellet I tried. The trigger is too heavy and doesn’t adjust very far. The rifle cocks hard but gets easier as it breaks in. In the end, though, the test rifle wasn’t accurate. I could forgive everything else if I’d been able to shoot a good group with this air rifle.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today will be something different for many of you. This Hatsan 125TH air rifle combo I’m testing is more than just a test of one new gun. It’s really a test of the Hatsan trigger, the SAS, the scope mounting rail and the potential accuracy of Hatsan air rifles in general. So this is an interim step toward the goal of discovering if this air rifle can shoot.
We saw the potential accuracy with open sights in the last report; but as I noted, the front sight is too big for the notch in the rear. The accuracy wasn’t as good as I believe it can be.
I mounted the scope and rings that came with the combo. The two-piece rings were attached to the scope, but they weren’t spaced correctly to engage the cross-slots in the rifle’s scope rail, so I loosened the caps and adjusted them after installing both rings on the rail. It took only a couple minutes, and Hatsan included the one Allen wrench that I needed, so it was no trouble.
I needed to position the scope as far to the rear as it would go to get the correct eye relief, so the fact that the rings had to be moved wasn’t a problem. They would have been moved in any case. Although the rings are thin two-screw cap rings, they seem to be strong enough for the lightweight scope that came in the package.
The scope in this package is not one you will want to use — even for a little while. The parallax is fixed at long range; and no matter how low you adjust the power, the image seems fuzzy and indefinite. And that’s the heart of today’s report, because I could’t even shoot as well with this scope as I did with the less-than-optimum open sights in Part 3.
However, I went through the trouble of sighting-in the rifle with this scope just to see things like the barrel droop. And it did droop, though not as much as I thought it was going to. At 10 feet, the pellet was hitting about seven inches below the aim point. After adjusting the reticle about 100 clicks up, I got on target. There was room left to adjust, and the erector tube did not feel as though it was floating. As I said, the aiming was so indefinite that I felt the scope wasn’t doing the rifle justice.
But I did not waste any time testing multiple pellets with this scope. I used only Beeman Kodiaks for sight-in and, after confirming the gun was sighted but the scope wasn’t helping, I decided to end the test.
The trigger seems to be smoothing out as the test progresses. That agrees with what some owners have said about the Quattro trigger, so we may see an improvement over the first thousand shots. Other spring guns have such improvements, which is why it’s often good to withhold judgement until a couple tins of pellets have gone through the gun.
It also felt as though the cocking effort had dropped significantly. In Part 2, I measured it at 51 lbs. But when I measured it for this report, the effort required to cock the rifle had dropped to 45 lbs. A six-pound decrease is very substantial!
Where to now?
Okay, why did I stop the test with just one 10-shot group? Simple — the rifle was not doing well because I wasn’t able to see the target. There’s no sense shooting any more pellets with this scope, so I stopped.
I also now know that this rifle does, indeed, suffer from a drooping barrel. The next scope I mount will be mounted to take care of that problem from the beginning. I’ll also mount a relatively good scope (i.e., one with bright optics and a fine reticle) to give the rifle every benefit of the doubt.
Don’t get discouraged from this test. As I said at the beginning, it’s an interim test. We’re by no means finished with this rifle, yet. But it’s useless to waste time when you can clearly see there is a problem, which is what I learned today. With another better scope, we’ll return and complete the test. Only then will we know if the Hatsan 125TH in .177 caliber is an air rifle to choose.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll report on the Hatsan 125TH’s accuracy using open sights. It was a day of learning the rifle, and a lot was discovered. In the next report, I’ll mount the scope that comes with the rifle and test it again. But today it’s open sights all the way. When you read tomorrow’s report, you’ll understand how appropriate this test is.
The 125TH has a post-and-bead sight with TruGlo fiberoptic inserts. Fiberoptics are a poor choice for precision shooting because they cover too much of the target to aim precisely; but when you shoot outdoors on a bright day, they’re quick to acquire. Out to 25 yards, they’re adequate; but never choose them for long-range shooting or for hunting in the woods.
The rear notch on the 125TH is too small for the size of the front bead — hence I found it difficult to see any light on either side of the post when sighting. I also discovered that the barrel is drooping quite a lot; because even with the rear sight adjusted as high as it will go, I was still shooting below the aim point at 25 yards. That won’t get any better at longer distances, either. So, I think a scope will be better if I can get it to accommodate the droop as much as I need.
The first pellet I tested for accuracy was the Beeman Kodiak. I selected them because I knew they wouldn’t break the sound barrier, and I was shooting inside the house. The distance was 25 yards, and I used a 10-meter pistol target. The hold was at 6 o’clock on the bull. The first group was the best one of the day. It won’t look that good to you, but I learned a lot from it.
The group was 1.272 inches between centers, but it was taller than it was wide. The width is only 0.956 inches. This a characteristic that holds throughout this session.
Pellets that didn’t work
I tried JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes that went supersonic, but they were not grouping well. And Air Arms domes that also weigh 8.4 grains are equally bad. Both pellets broke the sound barrier and gave quite a crack as they went downrange.
The absolute worst pellet of all was the H&N Rabbit Magnum II. For starters, it’s designed with straight walls, so you can’t load it into the breech of a breakbarrel. You have to have something to press it in because your thumb isn’t hard enough to push it to engrave the rifling on the sides of the pellet. But I knew that going in. The first shot was about four inches higher on the target than any other pellet, and I hoped that I had found the miracle pellet for this rifle. Alas, the second pellet dropped about a foot (12 inches) at 25 yards, went through the reflector of my spotlight and popped the light bulb! Needless to say, I stopped shooting those pellets at that point.
Crosman Premier heavies
I figured the 10.5-grain Crosman Premier heavy pellet might do well, so I gave it a try. They grouped in 2.111 inches overall, but side-to-side the group was just 1.34 inches. Again, the group was taller than wide. I’m tempted to try this pellet again when the rifle is scoped.
I tried a different hold with the Kodiaks that were the most accurate pellet to this point. This time the group measured 1.71 inches between centers, but the width was only 1.152 inches. Again, taller than wide.
So, the hold didn’t improve things, but it’s now clear that the open sights are causing the problem. I’m not getting enough precision in the vertical orientation, which is why all the groups are significantly taller than they are wide. That means using a scope should show a marked improvement.
How the rifle feels
Whoever suggested trying to pull up on the trigger blade — I can’t do it because the thumbhole stock forces my hand to pull the trigger straight back. And the trigger is too heavy for good work. While there’s no creep in the second stage, there’s considerable travel that can be felt. I have the trigger adjusted as light as it will go, so this is a detractor.
The SAS works very well. I can feel some vibration with the shot, but it dies quickly, which must be attributed to the SAS.
The rifle recoils heavily. But it also rests very well on the flat of the hand, so it isn’t difficult to shoot. The best hold point is with the off hand touching the front of the triggerguard.
If the trigger were lighter, this rifle would be a pleasure to shoot. I’m getting used to the cocking effort needed, and I can’t wait to see how the rifle does with a scope.
A good day!
You might feel from these targets that I had a bad day, but with what I learned about the rifle I think I had a very good day. Next time, I’ll know two pellets to try going into the test, and I’ll also know the best hold to use. Until I did the pellet velocity versus accuracy test a couple weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known that it’s harmonics and not velocity that opens these groups. Let’s see what I can do with that newfound knowledge.
What is it?
Can any reader identify the tool in the photo below, and tell us what is it used for? It will play a part in an upcoming blog.
What is it?
by B.B. Pelletier
Today is velocity day. Before I dive into the test, I want to say some things about today’s test. This is not supposed to determine the velocity of the best pellet for this rifle. It’s supposed to give a general range of power that can be expected from a rifle like this. That way, you’ll have an understanding of all the pellets that aren’t tested. They should either fit within the range or be very close to it.
I must admit I had some misgivings about this test, because the Hatsan 125TH is such a powerful spring-piston air rifle. I already knew it took a lot of effort to cock. I’d estimated over 50 lbs. in Part 1; and when I tested it for today’s report, the bathroom scale went to 51 lbs. If you’d like to learn how to measure the cocking effort of a breakbarrel air rifle like this, watch this video.
Hatsan advertises this rifle as getting 1,250 f.p.s. with lead pellets in .177 caliber. And this one does! I’ll spare you the anticipation — the 125TH hits its advertised velocity on the head!
Three things to watch
There were three things I was curious about. The performance of the new Quattro trigger, the amount of vibration transmitted through the stock with the gun’s Shock Absorbing System (SAS) and the general firing characteristics. Let’s look at the trigger first.
The Quattro trigger resembles the Air Arms TX200 trigger more than a little, which in turn is an improved Rekord trigger. The Quattro has adjustments for the length of the first-stage pull, the pull weight (which is the weight of the second-stage release) and the weight of the first-stage pull. I adjusted it several different ways, and the lightest pull I got was 6 lbs., 5 oz. — which is heavy for the best work. The letoff is very crisp after adjustment, and I do like the wide trigger blade very much. But this is not a TX200 trigger.
I believe the SAS is doing its part to attenuate vibration, but there’s still a lot to be felt when the gun fires. Perhaps nothing can completely tame this action short of a master tune, because the long piston stroke makes the rifle leap forward at the end of every shot. So, those scope stops are not there for window dressing! The vibration dies off fast, which I attribute to the SAS doing its part.
This is a really big spring-piston air rifle, and it does move around a lot when it fires! I believe it’s fully the equal of the old British-made Webley Patriot, which was legendary for its recoil. Factor that into your buying decision. The 125TH is a hunting rifle — pure and simple. Or buy it for the bragging rights. But don’t expect to plink a lot with it unless you have 18-inch biceps.
As I started the velocity test, I noticed two things. First, the rifle is not over-lubricated. There was some honking during initial cocking, but that went away after 30 shots. Second, the big gun diesels heavily with the first few shots. I saw Beeman Kodiaks clocking 1,194 f.p.s during the initial shots! That’s to be expected with a rifle of this power — but it never detonated. So, praise for the spare lubrication!
The Beeman Kodiak, whose weight is back up to 10.60 grains, following several years of lighter weights, averaged 1,021 f.p.s. in the 125TH. The spread went from a low of 1,013 to a high of 1,042, but only two pellets went faster than 1,024 f.p.s., once the big gun slowed down. The total spread was 29 f.p.s. I think it’ll stabilize around this speed, if not increase just a little with a break-in. At the average speed, this pellet generated 24.54 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. That’s really cracking for a .177!
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain
The next pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier dome. This is a light pellet for a rifle of this power. Plus, it’s a Premier, and the antimony in the lead will tend to lead the bore at these velocities. These pellets averaged 1,186 f.p.s. and had a spread from 1,167 to 1,191. At the average velocity, they produced 24.68 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Did you notice that the velocity spread of 24 f.p.s. is tighter with these than with the Kodiaks? I believe that shows that the rifle is settling down quickly.
Hatsan advertised 1,250 f.p,.s. with lead pellets, and RWS Hobbys are the normal test pellet for velocity with lead pellets. Of course, any of the other 7-grain RWS pellets would work just as well. The Hobbys fit the breech of the 125TH loosely, yet they produced the tightest velocity spread of all three pellets, varying by just 19 f.p.s. They averaged 1,254 f.p.s. and went from a low of 1,248 to a high of 1,267 f.p.s., generating an average of 24.45 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
This was my first test of a true Hatsan airgun, so it represented an introduction of the entire line for me. I’ve tested other air rifles they’ve made, but always under other names; and the specifications are subject to change when someone else sells the gun. This time it was just them. I think the impression is a good one, in general. The Quattro trigger could be a lot lighter without compromising safety, but the SAS is probably doing everything it was designed to do.
They met their velocity specification with lead pellets, just as they advertised. That was both surprising and encouraging.
This is a big, powerful spring-piston rifle and my plan is to treat it that way. I’m not looking for quarter-inch groups at 25 yards, though I would be delighted to get them. But next I will test the rifle using the open sights. They look like a good set, and that will give me some time to find a good pellet for this rifle.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll begin our look at the first of what I hope will be many new Hatsan air rifles. The Hatsan 125TH air rifle is a powerful breakbarrel spring-piston gun with a black synthetic stock. The advertised velocity for this large .177 Turkish rifle is 1,250 f.p.s. A month ago, I would have decried that kind of velocity, but the results of the Pellet velocity versus accuracy test showed us that velocity, by itself, is not what causes inaccuracy. It is the harmonics of the gun that cause inaccuracy, and they can be moderated or “tuned,” if you prefer, by selecting the right pellet.
This is a combo package, so I’m not only testing the rifle but also the 3-9×32 Optima scope that came with it. This scope dopes not have parallax adjustments; but if you’re consistent in placing your sighting eye at the same place in relation to the scope’s eyepiece every time (your “spot weld”), you can eliminate any parallax error that tries to creep in. The scope mounts that come already attached to the scope are two-piece high rings (aluminum) with two-screw ring caps.
When I was in the Hatsan booth at the 2012 SHOT Show, I saw all their new models. There was no opportunity to try any of them, so I’m looking forward to putting this pellet rifle through its paces. Hatsan is advertising two features that I’m especially interested in. One is the Quattro trigger. I was told by the president of Hatsan U.S.A. that the Quattro is a match-grade trigger. I told him I would reserve judgement, but he assured me that it is extremely adjustable.
The reason I’m skeptical of the trigger is the physical difficulty encountered by a trigger on a spring-piston gun that has to restrain well over 100 lbs. of mainspring force (probably more like 160 lbs. in this case) and yet break cleanly and crisply. The Rekord can do it, but that design is a multi-lever trigger that’s more famous than many entire airguns! If Hatsan has been able to design another trigger that’s just as good, it’s earth-shattering news.
I’m giving lots of leeway to the “match-grade” trigger comment…a real match-grade trigger releases in ounces, as we’ve seen from testing numerous vintage 10-meter guns. I won’t be looking for that level of performance on this gun. But I will hold the Quattro trigger up to the Rekord, which, on a Beeman R1 rifle of similar power, can be adjusted to a crisp release weight of 1 lb. and still be quite safe.
I couldn’t resist a couple test shots, but they didn’t reveal much. The trigger is reasonably crisp as it comes from the box and not too heavy, either. There’s a small amount of creep in the second stage. I’ll have to try adjusting it for the next report. To do that, I’ll read the owner’s manual, which I must say is very nice. It has clear instructions on adjusting the Quattro trigger and should be a great help when I do it. The adjustments, by the way, are for the length of the first stage pull, the length of the second stage pull and the second stage pull weight.
It isn’t up to Rekord trigger performance right now, but it also isn’t a bad trigger. It’s probably the equal of the Diana T06 trigger at the present time. I’ve fired the rifle only a few times as I write this. With the right adjustments, I hope this will turn out to be a great trigger.
My friend Mac had observed that the trigger looked like it came up, rather than straight back. Of course, he was limited by not being able to shoot the gun, just as I was. In fact, the trigger does come up, but the angle of the blade makes it slide through your finger so it feels like it’s going straight back. Some airguns do feel funny this way, but the trigger on this Hatsan feels quite normal.
The safety is automatic, and the button is located at the back of the spring tube — convenient for release by your thumb. Unlike most other airguns and firearms you pull the safety button back to release it. The norm would be to push it forward.
The other feature Hatsan is touting for this new line of airguns is their Shock Absorbing System (SAS), which is supposed to isolate the shooter from the vibrations of the powerplant. As I understand it, it’s one or more rubber bushings between the action and the stock. At this point, I have fired the gun only a few times, but it does vibrate some — as I would expect from an untuned rifle of this power. The vibration isn’t that bad, though. It certainly doesn’t give you a headache or sting your cheek when the gun fires, so the SAS is probably doing its thing.
The stock is for right-handed shooters only, as the sculpted cheekpiece does not roll over to the other side. This is a thumbhole design, and it has to be shot that way — there’s no provision in the shape of the stock to shoot the rifle any other way.
The pull on the rifle as it came from the box is 13.25 inches, but there are three spacers that came with the rifle to lengthen this pull. The owner’s manual doesn’t address them at all, and the Phillips-head wood screws that hold the rubber pad on the rifle are buried so deep inside the pad that you’ll have to find them by feel, alone. I added all three spacers and now the rifle’s pull is a more comfortable 14 inches.
The synthetic stock material is rough to the touch, but it feels good when the rifle is held. The stock profile or cross-section is large at all points of contact except for the thumbhole, where it fits me surprisingly well.
The rifle weighs just one or two ounces under 10 lbs., even, with no scope mounted. Overall length is 47.4 inches, so this is a very large air rifle. Your Winchester model 70 will feel like a carbine in comparison, unless it’s an African model. The barrel is 19.6 inches long, and you’ll be glad that it is when you cock this powerhouse…it’s like bending the bow of Hercules. You need one of Archimedes’ really long levers to cock this one! I’m guessing the effort will exceed 50 lbs., but I’ll measure it for you in Part 2.
The rifle comes with a nice set of open sights, even though it’s a combo that includes a scope. The front sight is fiberoptic and the tube is exposed, which could lead to damage. This is where a metal hood would be appropriate.
The rear sight, which is also fiberoptic, is a nice, adjustable open sight with click detents on both adjustment knobs. The windage knob detents are mushy and vague, but the vertical detents are crisp. There’s a scale on the windage adjustment and reference numbers on the elevation knob.
I like the open sights on this rifle enough to conduct a separate accuracy test with them. So, there will be at least four parts to this report.
There’s also a scope rail on top of the spring tube. And this is perhaps where Hatsan shows its capability, along with the Quattro trigger and the SAS. When Hatsan made Webley spring rifles, they had a two-dimensioned scope rail that appeared to be sized for both 11mm and Weaver dovetails, but the base was very crude and the cross-slots weren’t even the same size. They looked like someone from summer camp had filed them by hand. I criticized them at the time; but upon reflection, perhaps Hatsan was only doing what Webley paid them to do. The scope rail on this 125TH is correctly proportioned and well-finished. Maybe Hatsan did the right thing by coming to the U.S. under their own name!
Notice in the picture that there are two vertical holes for scope stop pins, as well as a flat metal plate. There’s also a threaded hole forward of the metal plate if the shooter desires to reposition it. This gives great flexibility for positioning your scope mounts.
The scope rail gives you the option of using either Weaver or 11mm scope mounts. It looks very nice. Note that there’s a flat scope stop plate for the 11mm dovetail grooves and two vertical holes for scope stop pins. You can also reposition the flat metal plate forward by using other threaded hole.
I’m impressed. After seeing the Webley Hatsans, I didn’t think too much of their airgun designs, but this 125TH looks like it could turn out nice. To do that, the rifle has to be accurate. We can only hope.
by B.B. Pelletier
Now that Vince has tuned the Sterling, it’s time to see how she shoots.
It’s time to see how the Sterling underlever rifle shoots. Benjamin put Lothar Walther barrels on these rifles, so I’m hoping the pedigree will show in today’s test. Vince got the velocity back up to a respectable level, as we saw in Part 3 (and Vince showed you what he did to the gun in his guest blog about the Sterling), so there should be nothing to prevent the gun from shooting its best.
When I went to mount a scope, I saw that the Sterling has two vertical holes that can be used for a scope stop. They’re located where the front ring needs to be, but with two-piece rings that presents no problem.
There are two vertical holes for a scope stop on top of the Sterling scope rail. They require the stop to be positioned forward, so I used the front ring of a two-piece ring set.
Since I wanted to give the rifle every chance to shine, I selected the Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Sidewinder Tactical scope for this test. This is the finest of all the scopes I have available for testing, so the Sterling is getting the absolute best of everything.
All shooting was done from a rest at 25 yards. I used my indoor range, so nothing got in the way of the Sterling this day. As usual, all groups contain t10 shots.
H&N Neue Spitzkugel
I thought I would give a pointed pellet a chance this time, as I seldom use them. The H&N Neue Spitzkugel (new pointed bullet) has a very shallow point and looks almost like a wadcutter at first glance. Pointed pellets are most often inaccurate, so I usually don’t bother with them, but it’s always nice to check from time to time to see if there have been any advances.
Well, 10 H&N Neue Spitzkugel pellets made only a mediocre group at 25 yards. With some breakbarrels, this would be pretty good, but I expect more than this 1.146-inch group from this Sterling. The shot at the left is a called flyer, resulting from an inconsistent hold — the only one of the test.
While loading, I noticed that the skirts didn’t always want to go into the loading trough unless I pressed them in with my thumb. The trough is probably on the small side for larger pellet skirts. This made me watch that the pellets didn’t flip backwards before the bolt pushed them into the breech.
I also had plenty of time to observe the Sterling’s trigger. It seems to be a single-stage, but the pull is short enough. There’s some slight creep, but you need a target-shooter’s trigger finger to feel it. Overall, it was good enough for very precise shooting without disturbing the aim. If I pull the gauge very slowly, the trigger breaks between 2 lbs., 3 oz. and 2 lbs., 5 oz., which is plenty light enough for good work. I said it was 2 lbs., 8 ozs. in Part 3, but that was when it was pulled more deliberately. I know Vince had a hand in making it so nice, because Sterling triggers have a reputation for being crude and not so good.
JSB Exact 8.4-grain
Next I tried some 8.4-grain JSB Exact domes. They’re at the upper limit of weight of I would choose for a gun of this power, but sometimes that’s a plus. Not this time, though, because 10 went into a 0.788-inch group at 25 yards. That’s okay for many breakbarrels — but from a fixed-barrel rifle that has a Lothar Walther barrel, I expect more.
Shot cycle and hold
The Sterling shoots with a very pronounced forward jump — reminiscent of spring guns of the 1970s. It feels like the stroke is long, and the piston is heavy. On the other hand, the rifle lies completely dead in my hand, so applying the artillery hold is easy. My off hand touched the triggerguard, yet I could still feel the cocking slot of the stock on my palm. That means the stock is cut far to the back, which means Vince did a wonderful job of deadening the powerplant to get the rifle as smooth as it is. I just wish airgun makers today would go to the same trouble instead of mounting everything in rubber to deaden the vibration that’s still in their guns.
Crosman Premier lites
Next up was the venerable 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lite pellet that often wins the race in these tests. This was the only pellet of the four tested that fit into the loading trough without a push, yet it was also the pellet that gave the most trouble by flipping backwards in the trough.
This time, I got the results I was hoping for, though the group is more open than I would have liked. Look at the group and read the caption, though, because you’ll be surprised where most shots went.
More like it! The group of 10 Crosman Premier lites measures 0.606 inches between centers, but the surprise is in the largest hole in the center of the group. Six shots went through that one hole! Now, we’re talking!
Scope not mounted perfectly
By this time, I noticed that I’d mounted the scope a little too far to the rear, and the high mounts I used were not needed. Repositioning the scope in lower mounts would make the rifle easier to shoot — though I don’t think it would affect the accuracy. However, if I were to keep a scope on this rifle (and it can’t be this wonderful Hawke, as I need it for other tests) I would remount whatever scope I used.
JSB Exact RS
The last pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain JSB Exact RS. You might recall that this pellet is one of Kevin’s favorites, and we have seen it do amazing things with some spring guns in the past. The report I did a while back on the Beeman R8 was the most dramatic example of the capability of the RS.
And it didn’t disappoint this time, either! Ten RS pellets went into a group measuring just 0.41 inches at 25 yards! That’s game, set and match as far as I’m concerned. The Benjamin Sterling has proven itself to be a very accurate underlever spring rifle that warrants special attention from shooters as well as collectors.
This test series has been long and rewarding. Thanks to Vince, we now know what a Benjamin Sterling can do under the right conditions. I’m sorry this rifle is no longer available. Except for the lower power and stiffer trigger, it could hold its own with a TX200. When I usually do these reports on vintage airguns, we get to see a lot of warts, but the Sterling doesn’t have as many as I was prepared to see. Without a doubt, Vince’s work has a lot to do with that.
by B.B. Pelletier
Photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald
This is the second of my reports on the 2012 SHOT Show. There will certainly be at least one more after this, and perhaps even more, as there’s simply too much new information to pack into a single report.
The state of the airgun industry in 2012
Before I get to some specifics, I want to make a general observation. This year’s SHOT Show was different for me in a major way, because I saw for the first time that firearms shooters are beginning to understand airguns as never before. In the past, I always had to start my explanations with the cooling of the earth’s crust and then progress through the age of the dinosaurs because each firearms person I talked to thought of airguns as either toys or BB guns. This year, a lot of them were clued-in on what’s happening. They weren’t surprised by the accuracy we get, and they knew about big bores. A lot of them had some airgun experience and more than a few asked me the same kind of questions that I get from long-time readers of this blog.
That tells me the day of the airgun has finally dawned in the U.S. Instead of 25,000 to 50,000 active shooters (at best!), we will now see an influx from over 5 million active firearm shooters who are ready to augment their shooting experience with airguns. I’m already getting calls and emails from state departments of wildlife resources, asking about the issues of incorporating airguns into their hunting seasons.
It has been a long haul to get to this point, but we’re now seeing the start of the harvest of all the work that’s been done over the past 40 years — starting with Robert Beeman in the early 1970s. The job is now to manage this growth and provide useful information to the tens of thousands of new airgunners who are flooding in the doors.
Let me reflect on how the industry seems to be reacting to this trend. Some companies have been on board for many years and are poised to ride the new tidal wave of business as far as they can. Other companies are aware that airguns are very hot, but they’re foundering, trying to understand them. Let me say right now that it’s not as easy as you think!
The readers of this blog are among the most clued-in airgunners in the world. But they’re unique, and they do not represent the true market. The demographic of a new airgunner is a man (usually) in his late 20s to late 40s who is most likely a fan of AR-type rifles and Glock-type pistols. He wants repeaters, semiautos and he thinks that a five-shot group is the gold standard of any gun. Velocity impresses him, and he isn’t comfortable with the term kinetic energy.
Things like good triggers and good sights are not an issue with this customer until he experiences bad ones. His ARs have decent triggers off the rack, and he can choose from many drop-in triggers that are much better. When he encounters a spring-piston gun with a horrible trigger that cannot be easily modified, he’s surprised.
He does not use the artillery hold, and he equates all airguns to be alike in terms of performance. When he learns about precharged guns, he’s put off by the additional equipment he must buy. Spring-piston guns seem the best to him for their simple operation, and he doesn’t appreciate the fact that they’re also the most difficult airguns to shoot well.
That’s the customer who’s coming to airguns today, so that’s the person airgun manufacturers have to deal with. If you have wondered why many of the new airguns are what they are — this new-customer profile is the reason.
Okay, I’ve talked about those companies that get it and those that are struggling to understand. There’s one more type of company out there. I like to call them the “gloom and doom company” or the “zero sum company.” They’re firmly entrenched in the 1970s and cannot take advantage of this new windfall of business. They either fired their engineers years ago or they let them all retire, and now they couldn’t build a new airgun to save their lives. As far as they’re concerned, there are only 25,000 airgunners in the United States and it’s the NRA’s responsibility to identify and train them so these companies can sell them some guns.
They think of marketing in 1950′s terms, when a simple paint job and some sheet metal was enough to create a new product. Their “secret” business plan is to buy guns made by other manufacturers and have their name put on. If you’re a collector, better buy up the guns these guys sell because in 10 years their name will be a memory.
That’s enough of the big picture. Let’s see some more products.
More from Crosman
Many of you saw the list of new Crosman products Kevin posted last week, so the few that I show here are by no means all there is, but they’re the highlights. Crosman had about half the new airgun products at the entire SHOT Show.
New tan M4-177 and carry handle
The M4-177 multi-pump that I recently tested for you is going to be very popular this year. Crosman is also offering it as an M4-177 Tactical air rifle with a new carry handle that replaces the rear sight for improved sighting options. I think this gun will be in their lineup for many years to come.
I mentioned to Crosman’s Ed Schultz that this rifle looks like the A.I.R.-17 of the 1990s, but done better. He said he always wanted to update that design, and that is exactly what this is. So, what he said next came as no great surprise.
I shared my thoughts on a 2260 made as a multi-pump in .25 caliber, and Ed told me that was how the rifle was originally created (not in .25, however). The CO2 version was an afterthought that got put into production, while the multi-pump version languished in the Crosman morgue. I told him that I thought the time was ripe to bring it back as an upscale hunting rifle, and he seemed to agree. We can only hope.
Carbon fiber tank
As Crosman extends their capability into PCP guns, they know shooters are always looking for better options for their air supply. Besides the new butterfly hand pump I showed you last time, they’ll also be adding a long summer-sausage black carbon fiber tank with increased capacity over their current tanks. This is a 300-bar tank that has 342 cubic-inch capacity. It comes in a black nylon carrying case with sling for field transport.
More air for you! New Benjamin carbon fiber tank will help you take your PCPs further afield.
Benjamin Nitro Piston breakbarrel pistol
The Benjamin NP breakbarrel pistol certainly has people talking on the internet. This is the first commercial gas spring application in a pistol, I believe. The most distinctive feature is a cocking aid that can either be detached or left in place while shooting. That reminds us that this pistol is going to be hard to cock, but I’ll test one for you so we’ll all know just how hard.
New Benjamin Trail NP pistol is a breakbarrel with a gas spring. The cocking aid can be detached or left in place while shooting.
Crosman 1720T PCP pistol
Everybody was ready to jump down Crosman’s throat for creating the 1720T PCP pistol. They wondered with the .22-caliber Marauder pistol and the .177-caliber Silhouette PCP pistol already selling, why was this one needed? As Ed Schultz explained it to me — this one is for field target. It’s a .177 (naturally) that produces just under 12 foot-pounds through a shrouded Lother Walther barrel. It can be used for hunting, but field target was its primary purpose. They worried about the shot count with the Silhouette; but with this one, power was the criterion. Look for about 800 f.p.s. with a 7.9-grain Premier. And the trigger is the same as the Marauder, so excellent operation there.
Crosman MAR 177 PCP conversion
The Crosman MAR-177 PCP conversion is another new product that has a lot of people talking. This AR-15 upper converts your .223 semiauto into a .177 PCP repeating target rifle. Because it’s on an AR platform, almost everybody expects it to be semiautomatic — including those who should know better. This rifle is a bolt action that cocks and loads via a short pull on the charging handle.
This conversion is an Olympic-grade target rifle for a new official sport that Scott Pilkington and others have been promoting for several years. It will take the U.S. battle rifle back into the ranks of target shooting. However, the look of the gun has many shooters totally confused. I was even asked at the show if I thought Crosman should have come out with an “everyman’s” version of the gun first. That would be like asking whether Feinwerkbau missed the boat by not first making their 700 target rifle in a $300 version for casual plinkers.
Crosman TT BB pistol
It’s all-metal and a good copy of the Tokarev pistol. The weight is good and the gun feels just right. This will be one to test as soon as possible.
Crosman’s TT Tokarev BB pistol is realistic and looks like fun.
Benjamin MAV 77 Underlever
The Benjamin MAV 77 underlever rifle is going to force Crosman to recognize spring-piston air rifles instead of just calling them all breakbarrels. This is the TX-200 copy from BAM that was once sold by Pyramyd Air. When the quality dropped off, it was discontinued. Hopefully, Crosman will watch the quality on this one.
They didn’t have a firm retail price yet, but hopefully it’ll be significantly under the TX. Otherwise, why buy it? I may test one for you, but I already know that BAM can make a great rifle when they want to. I think it all comes down to price.
Benjamin MAV-77 is an underlever spring-piston rifle that looks and, hopefully, performs like an Air Arms TX-200.
The Crosman TR-77 is a conventional breakbarrel spring-piston rifle in an unconventional stock. It’s different enough that I want to test one for you. It appears to be a lower-powered rifle that probably sells at a bargain price because it’s branded under the Crosman banner rather than Benjamin. Mac photographed one in a sand-colored stock for you.
Crosman TR-77 breakbarrel in a sand-colored stock also comes in black.
There was a lot more at Crosman that I could have mentioned, but now let’s go over to the Leapers booth.
I’ve watched Leapers grow from a relatively small company back in 1998 to a major player — blasting past older, entrenched companies as they grew. This year, they were playing a video about the company on a continuous loop in their booth. I was impressed to see their plant in Livonia, Michigan, where they build airsoft guns, tactical mounts, accessories and scopes right here in the U.S. The plant is filled with many CNC machining centers and testing facilities to keep close watch over their products during development.
Leapers owner David Ding told me he wants to get control over the production process so he can assure the quality of all of his products. In keeping with that goal, I was shown the new scope line for 2012 that now offers locking target knobs on all of the upscale models. Many of them feature etched glass reticles that are amazingly crisp and sharp.
Mac was impressed by the reticle on the new 3-9x Bug Buster scope. He urged me to look through it; and when I did, I saw that the reticle is now fine and sharp — not the heavy black lines of the past.
David Ding shows me the new 3-9x Bug Buster scope (not out yet), with target knobs and a finer reticle.
But scopes were just the beginning at Leapers. Next, I was shown the whole line of tactical flashlights and lasers, including some mini lasers I will test on my M1911A1 for you. These are all made in the U.S. now and have more rugged internals, adjustments and optics than similar products from the Orient.
UTG 555 Long Range Light
One item I hope Pyramyd Air will consider stocking is a fantastic 500-lumen tactical light for law enforcement. It can be mounted on a rifle, handheld or even mounted on a bike! It comes with rechargeable lithium batteries and a smart charger…and believe me when I tell you it turns night into day!
The UTG Long Range light can go on your rifle, held in the hand or even mounted to your bike! The rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack will keep it shining at 500 lumens for 1.5 hours.
Fast Action Gun bag
Not all Leapers products are for airguns. They also make tactical and law enforcvement gear that rivals spec-built equipment but sells at a fraction the cost. As a result, many of their customers are ordering straight from the front lines of combat and from law enforcement agencies all over the country to get the products that their own supply lines cannot or will not furnish.
One of their latest developments is a Fast Action Gun bag that lets the wearer walk in public with a substantial firearm hidden from view. A quick pull of a strap, and the bag opens to reveal the weapon inside.
Leapers owner Tina Ding models their new Fast Action Gun bag. Here, it’s concealed; but she’s just pulled it over her shoulder from her back, where it looks like a tennis bag.
And in less than a second, the bag is open, giving instant access to the tactical shotgun or submachine gun inside.
Leapers has an entirely new range of quick-disconnect scope mounts coming this year, but there’s another innovation that I think you’ll find even more impressive. It’s an adapter that snaps into a Picatinny scope mount base, turning it into an 11mm dovetail. So, your conventional air rifle will now also accept Leapers Picatinny scope mounts with this adapter.
11mm-dovetail-to-Picatinny adapter is small and doesn’t raise the mount at all! This will be one to test!
Leapers is still the company to watch because the owners want to build a lasting corporation here in the U.S. They’re poised to move to the next level of quality in their optics, which gives me a lot of hope for the future — they’ve always been receptive to the needs of airgunners.
Whew! That’s a lot of products, and there are still many more to show. As I said in the beginning, there will be at least another report.