Air Venturi Seneca Aspen Part 2

Air Venturi Seneca Aspen Part 2

The PCP air rifle that goes it alone

By Dennis Adler

The scope that comes with the Aspen is a fairly good optic but the gun can be outfitted with any number of sights to enhance its long range accuracy. The receiver is drilled and tapped and has a built-in 11mm rail for scope mounts.

The Air Venturi Seneca Aspen is offered in 4.5mm (.177), 5.5mm (.22), or 6.35mm (.25) caliber models. The .22 is an ideal gun to take on small game hunting trips or just as a plus one for your hunting gear. There are certain advantages to a very quiet, high velocity air rifle in the field.

The Aspen provides a number of options, the number of shots vs. number of pumps to maintain ideal psi for single or multiple rounds, as well as psi firing modes, there are two, High and Low, the latter providing more shots without pumping up the air pressure as often, but still with an average of 750 fps with .22 caliber pellets (within the set psi range).

The Aspen has two firing modes, Low and High which significantly change velocity. Using 21.14 gr. Sig Sauer Wraith Pb, high velocity went from 656 fps on L to 824 fps on H. With lighter weight 14.66 gr. Sig Sauer Crux Pb, velocity increased from 735 fps to 917 fps.

I shot velocity tests at both H and L settings and established my optimum psi and number of shots, without additional pumps. Another option is to shoot several rounds, then add a few pumps to bring the psi back up, thus maintaining as close to the same psi per shot as possible. One advantage to the Aspen is that when you have pressure set (number of pumps to a predetermined psi in order to achieve your desired result with a given pellet at a given range), you can have the gun ready to load and leave it. I pumped the Aspen up to 2800 psi and let it sit for several days. The pressure gauge showed a decline in pressure to 2500 psi, still more than enough to send a .22 caliber pellet downrange with effective velocity and stopping power for small game without pumping it back up to 2800 psi. The point is, like a rimfire or centerfire rifle you have sighted in with a specific cartridge, the Aspen will provide the same assurance with air and pellets.

The 10-shot rotary magazine slides into the breech, aligned with the bolt. This is a fairly easy magazine to load. On the side that faces the bolt there is a clear plastic cover. You rotate it clockwise, and as it moves around it exposes an open port into which you place one pellet nose down. Move the plastic cover another step, insert another pellet and continue the process until you have loaded all 10. At this point the leading edge of the plastic cover will be all the way around. Simply rotate it back to where you started and the magazine is ready to load in the Aspen. When the magazine is empty a solid channel moves into the slot preventing the bolt from closing, just a reminder that “you’re out of ammo.”

Trigger

The Aspen has an excellent adjustable trigger, (it can be set to work as a 2-stage trigger as well), and the trigger is perfectly positioned when you grasp the deep pistol grip stock. Average trigger pull, as set by the factory, is a short, crisp 3 pounds, 9 ounces with a mere 0.25 inches of take up and zero over travel. This can be adjusted lighter or heavier, but I was satisfied with the factory settings for this short field test.

Main operating features are all closely arranged, the bolt handle is large and easy to operate and the SAFE and FIRE switch has a large copper pellet-shaped selector that is easily operated by the thumb.

Another excellent feature of the Aspen is a large cocking lever which is as ruggedly built as the rest of the gun. It rests at 90 degrees to the receiver and has a checkered rubber cover for an easy grip. It takes very little effort to cock the action and it is as smooth as a bolt action rifle. The cocking handle opens the breech to load a single round when the pellet try is inserted, or rotates the 10-shot magazine to the next pellet when operated. Below the lever is a large safety that can be easily thumbed to the FIRE position after closing the action. It has a copper, pellet-shaped tip that makes it easy to hit. Like everything on the Aspen, it is laid out for quick handling.

Pellet and psi combinations

There are various ways to achieve optimum psi, pellet, velocity, range, and accuracy and establish a table of combinations (Tom Gaylord has done these for years and the stats can be extraordinary). For this test I am going after an optimum combination for just two types of domed lead pellets to be shot at 25 yards. The gun is good to twice that distance on High with the right pellet combination. Tuned all the way up, a lightweight .22 pellet will leave the muzzle at over 900 fps, which is nearing .40 grain, .22 long rifle velocities from an 18 to 20-inch barrel. The Aspen’s rifled steel barrel is just a hair under 18 inches.

Length of pull is 14 inches, pretty good for most shooters, and after mounting the scope and establishing my ideal eye relief, I was able to quickly shoulder and put the sight on target.

Everyone who purchases an Aspen is going to set up their own combination of pellets. If you look at Tom Gaylord’s reviews of the Aspen he set up a number of tables for a variety of pellets over a lengthy series of tests. I set mine up for velocity and effective range based on needs, which was shooting targets at 25 yards for the highest effective velocity and number of shots within a given psi range. I shot two favorite .22 caliber pellets from Sig Sauer; the 14.66 gr. Crux Pb precision domed pellet, which is designed for competition shooting accuracy at medium range and delivers a very flat trajectory, and the heavier 21.14 gr. Wraith Pb Precision Aero pellets designed for long range accuracy and small game hunting.

After every few shots you can check pressure by simply leaning the gun in and glancing down at the pressure gauge. As previously mentioned it is oriented to be facing up when viewed this way making it easy to quickly verify remaining psi.

The first thing you need to do after selecting your pellet(s) is chronograph them to see if you are getting an effective velocity (especially for small game hunting). With the Sig Sauer 14.66 gr. lead domed pellets, 2800 psi on the Low setting was giving me an average velocity of 735 fps. Shooting from a rest at 25 yards, after sighting in the scope, I shot a series of 10 rounds, which I finally dialed into a best 5-shot group measuring 0.68 inches. After every three rounds I pumped the rifle back up to 2800 psi to maintain velocity. It took eight to ten pumps.

I chronographed the 14.66 gr. Sig Sauer lead pellets a second time starting at 2800 psi on the High setting, which gave me an average velocity of 917 fps for four consecutive shots. The pressure dropped from 2800 psi to 2200 psi. It took 30 pumps to bring it back up. For the second high velocity test, I fired six consecutive shots starting at 2800 psi and the chronographed velocities were 949 fps, 927 fps, 913 fps, 897 fps, 888 fps and 885 fps, with an average velocity of 909 fps. This took the pressure down to 2000 psi and it took 60 pumps to bring it back to 2800 psi. (Of course, in the field, you’re not going to continually run it down and pump it back up like I’m doing, unless you need the exercise).

Jack knifing the lever is the quickest way to add a few pumps when needed in the field. You can work the lever eight to ten times this way without too much effort. There is enough length in the lever that you get a solid closing press as you bring it back. It’s a good workout for your arms and chest, too. It takes about 30 pounds of effort (a rough guess) to work the lever. (Watch Tyler Patner do it in the Latest Airgun Video on the Pyramyd Air website). Alternately, if you have a place to sit or are pumping it up in camp before heading out, rest the gun over your lap and work the lever with your dominant arm.

Thus far I have stayed with the lightest pellet for target shooting. For the most effective stopping power when hunting small game, a little heavier round is needed. The 21.14 gr. Sig Sauer Wraith Pb Precision Aero lead pellets are designed for this. They cleared the chronograph traps on the Low setting beginning at 2800 psi with an average velocity of 652 fps, a high of 656 fps and a low of 649 fps for four consecutive shots. This again brought the pressure down to 2200 psi so there is absolute consistency with the same number of shots. A velocity of 650 fps is about the absolute minimum for most small game if you want a clean, one shot kill. With the heavier pellets you should dial the Aspen up to High. Again starting at 2800 psi the heavier weight pellets clocked an average of 808 fps, a high of 824 fps and a low of 797 fps for four consecutive shots. That took pressure down to 2050 psi. So, I know that I will be in the 800 fps range with the 21.14 gr. and be able to have a quick follow up shot if needed using the 10-round magazine.

The bolt handle is large and easy to operate making follow-up shots as easy as a bolt-action rifle (when using the 10-round magazine as shown).

I decided to run out the last six rounds in the magazine and see what the pressure dropped to and what the low velocity would be at shot number 10. Starting at 2050 psi, the 21.14 gr. pellets recorded velocities of 785 fps, 782 fps, 765 fps, 753 fps, 741 fps and 725 fps. That took pressure down to 1800 psi. Bottom line, you can shoot 10 consecutive rounds and maintain high enough velocity for small game.

Sighting in the scope at 25 yards and firing from a benchrest, I shot a series of 10 Sig Sauer Crux Pb lead pellets at a Birchwood Casey sighting target. My best group contained 5-shots at 0.68 inches (just above the dime).

Using the heavier Wraith Pb pellets on High and target groups were not quite as tight as with the lighter Crux Pb. I shot one full rotary magazine, 10 rounds, from a rested position at 25 yards. All 10 shots had a spread of 2.75 inches, and the best 5-rounds at 1.5 inches. I pumped five to eight times after every third shot to keep pressure between 2500 and 2800 psi.

Using the heavier Wraith Pb pellets I set the power level to H. For this test I shot one full rotary magazine, 10 rounds, from the bench rest at 25 yards. My groups were not quite as close as the Crux Pb. All 10 shots have a spread of 2.75 inches, and the best 5-rounds at 1.5 inches. The average three-shot spread was 0.87 inches.

While I know for a fact that target shooters using this rifle can put 5-shot groups at 0.5 inches and less, in the field, sighting in on an average size rabbit at 25 yards or other small game and shooting off hand, I’m not going to miss if I can keep 1.5 inch groups at POA on paper. Given time and additional practice, this rifle will give most shooters 0.5 inch groups at 25 yards (especially from a bench rest). The Aspen is just as good out to 40 yards. As a Plus One for a hunting trip, this self-contained precharged pneumatic will quietly and effectively get the job done, and continue to get it done until you run out of pellets!

Next week we begin testing an American Classic as produced by Springfield Armory, the M1 Carbine.

4 thoughts on “Air Venturi Seneca Aspen Part 2

  1. This Aspen looks like a better option for a survivalist rifle than the Crosman Bug Out kit. A comparison report of the two might be a worthwhile follow-up.

    I started shooting the Beretta M9A3 this morning. I do like the pistol, but it can be improved. Just like with your preview pistol, using a 6 o’clock aim on the center red spot, mine is grouping significantly low and slightly left of center. However, the shot groups are very good with 5 to 8 shots out of 10 grouping within 1″ using both Umarex steel and Hornady Black Diamond BBs. I’m going to mount the LaserMax Spartan Green laser before I continue shooting.

    Regarding the magazine, the one improvement it needs is a larger follower tab to provide a better grip when pulling the tab down to lock it down for loading.



      • When I test an airgun, I start by shooting bench rested to minimize myself as a factor in the airgun’s performance. I started several years ago shooting BB and pellet pistols at 18 feet distance to target. Although my basement range is now set up to do longer distances up to 10 meters, I still use 18 feet with pistols, especially with BB pistols, so that all of my data is at a common distance.

        As I mentioned above, using just the fixed open sights on the M9A3 and a 6 o’clock aim on the red spot, both Umarex and Black Diamond were hitting significantly low and slightly left as you can see in two of the images below. Despite being off target, the shots grouped reasonably well for a blowback BB pistol.

        After attaching the LaserMax Spartan Green laser and sighting in, I had just enough CO2 left for a 10 shot group using Umarex steel BBs. As you can see below, I was able to get 7 out of 10 shots on the red spot or just on the edge of the red spot. The overall 10 shots measure 1.5 inch center to center. The 7 shots on the red spot measure about 0.625 inch (5/8″ on the ruler). The three low were due to either variations in my aim or possibly drop off in CO2 pressure as the CO2 was nearly consumed.

        I recommend that you do a follow-up review in a few months as time permits. Give Umarex some time to possibly fix the low POI issue on the retail pistols. This M9A3 certainly has great potential, especially with the LaserMax Spartan. I’ve got Swiss Arms micro lasers on a few pistols including my M92A1. The LaserMax Spartan is smaller than the Swiss Arms micro laser and fits better on the Beretta 92 frame than the Swiss Arms micro. The holster I use with these type of pistols is the UTG Deluxe Commando Belt holster that I bought at Pyramyd Air. Once I attach a laser, most pistols no longer fit well in that holster. Not so with this M9A3 with the LaserMax Spartan. This combo fits in that UTG holster every bit as well as the M9A3 without the laser.


        • That is a fine report and some good shooting, too. I established 21 feet as a baseline as it is one of the distances I have used testing cartridge guns over the years (based on barrel length or training) 7 yards, 15 yards, 25 yards, and 10 meters or 25 yards for competition pistols. With the Old West guns it has been 21 feet or 45 feet for most tests. But your baseline at 18 feet is just as good as 21 feet. I shoot off hand rather than rested because I have tested so many centerfire guns over the years for Combat Handguns magazine; it became known as Real World Testing. Using a rest does eliminate the human element as much as possible. A Random Rest eliminates it altogether. But that’s a bit extreme for an airgun. I may use a rest for some of the testing on the M1 Carbine, and I will absolutely follow up with a second test on an off the shelf the M9A3 with a laser.

          Great job!

          Thanks,

          Dennis


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