The powerful new Condor from AirForce, What's the deal with the world's most powerful smallbore air rifle?
By Tom Gaylord
© Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved
The Condor was announced in January of 2004, and by the end of March, they were in dealers' hands. The world's most powerful smallbore air rifle. Is it really all that the advertising and hype claims?
The powerful new Condor rifle from AirForce looks very much like a Talon SS with a longer barrel. The only giveaway from the outside is the additional two inches of scope rail (the "handle" on top of the rifle). The Hi-Flo valve that helps give the Condor its power sits inside the same 490cc air tank of the other AirForce rifles and is impossible to spot in this view. A new AirForce red laser sits on the forward accessory rail, in front of and below the Leupold scope. The pressure switch for the laser is located on the left side of the pistol grip. The AirForce bipod is the most popular accessory for all their rifles, after a scope.
Pyramyd Air was the first to place an order for the new rifle and they ordered many times more than other airguns dealers. Over the years they have sold large volumes of AirForce air rifles and their trust of the guns was what prompted this quick action on a yet-untried new model.
The Condor is a precharged air rifle that uses a huge black air tank as both its buttstock and air reservoir. It is closely related to both the Talon and Talon SS rifles with which it shares many parts, like the 490 cc air tank and premium Lothar Walther barrel.
The Condor's valve, however, is brand new. It's called the Hi-Flo valve because is allows so much air to pass through with every shot. Here is what that means to airgunners. The Korean-made Career 707 has been known to reach velocities of almost 1,200 f.p.s. in .22-caliber when shooting Crosman Premier pellets. But the 707 cannot sustain such velocities. The first shot after a fill is always the fastest and the following shots diminish in velocity in a more or less straight line.
In contrast, the Condor will shoot the same 14.3-grain .22 Crosman Premier at velocities of around 1,250 f.p.s. for the first five shots! The first 15 shots will usually be faster than 1,200 f.p.s., and even shot 20 will usually still be above 1,175. No other air rifle on the market has a capability of that many shots at this velocity.
Of course the Crosman Premier is too light and fast for serious accuracy at the Condor's top power level. It's simply used to give shooters a point of reference that they may find familiar. What you want to use are pellets that slow the rifle down to less than 1,000 f.p.s., because to go faster than that is to approach the speed of sound, and that causes inaccuracy with airgun pellets.
The pellet used for the velocity test was a .22-caliber Crosman Premier
that comes in a cardboard box similar to this one. The round tins of Premiers you see in discount stores are not handled in the same way by the manufacturer and may not be as uniform.
Pyramyd Air has many pellets that weigh enough to accomplish your goals. For starters, at the lower power settings (did I mention that Condor has fully adjustable power like the Talon and Talon SS?) like number 6 or below, the JSB Exact pellets weighing 15.9 grains are superb. The Lothar Walther barrel loves them and the group the best of any pellet we know. When you dial the power wheel up to 8, use H&N Baracudas, which are the same as Beeman Kodiaks. AirForce tests Condors with Baracudas at power setting 8 and gets groups much smaller than a dime at 25 yards.
When you want to go for power, the Eun Jin pellets from Korea are a good bet. They will produce over 60 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle on the highest power setting. And Pyramyd Air offers its own line of heavyweight pellets that will push your Condor to 65 foot-pounds and beyond. Even with a 30-grain "pellet", you will still be shooting at about 1,000 f.p.s. on full power.
What kind of accuracy can you expect from the new rifle? Well, owners of the Talon and Talon SS have been getting the same kind of accuracy as the Condor for many years. AirForce tells their customers to expect a five-shot group of about one inch at 50 yards. That's with everything being done right. The truth is, the guns are a little better than that, but it takes skill and the right kind of conditions to realize it. The Condor, which uses a barrel made by the same Lothar Walther, will be just as accurate at 50 yards. Where it starts to shine, however, is at ranges beyond 50 yards. It is so powerful that shooters can keep right on shooting to 70, 80 and even 100 yards and the gun will still group well. How well remains to be seen, and Pyramyd Air would like to hear from our customers on that issue. Drop us an email and even a picture of the targets you have shot.
This group of five .22-caliber Premiers was shot at 35 yards and is typical of the accuracy one can expect from an AirForce rifle. It fits easily inside a wedding ring.
This is an actual five-shot group made with heavy Dae Sung pellets at 50 yards. It measures just larger than one inch. The day this was shot, the wind was gusting 5 to 15 mph, which makes it hard to shoot a really tight group at this distance. The Condor was dialed up all the way, which had the 29.6-grain Dae Sung pellets moving just faster than 1,000 f.p.s. Dae Sung pellets are no longer available, but similar results are possible with Eun Jin pellets and Beeman Kodiaks (which are also known as H&N Baracudas). If the power wheel is set below number 8, JSB Exact pellets are also extremely accurate in this rifle.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT The Condor is adjusted at the factory. The only thing you need to do when you get your gun is fill the tank with air and run the power wheel up all the way if you want maximum power. But don't forget those other power settings, too. The Condor is accurate at all power levels, as long as you don't push the pellets too far past 1,000 f.p.s.
The wheel of the power adjuster is on the left side of the Condor's frame. The Allen screw head in the oval window is the power indicator. Turn the adjustment wheel until the center of the Allen screw rests below the desired power level. For maximum power, the Screw head must be all the way over to the right. The numbers on the wheel itself allow the shooter to repeat a power setting exactly.
On other AirForce rifles, some adjustment of the silver valve stem shown in this picture is permitted. The Hi-Flo valve of the Condor is factory set and should not be adjusted.
Another thing you need to know is that the Condor gets a great deal of its power from its 24-inch barrel. Even a Talon SS that normally gets 23-25 foot-pounds in .22-caliber will increase to over 40 foot-pounds, just by adding the optional 24-inch barrel.
The Condor will not shoot as powerfully with a shorter barrel and the Talon or Talon SS will not benefit from the Condor's Hi-Flo air valve. In fact, a Talon SS will get less than 600 f.p.s. with Premiers when using a Condor tank, both because of the shorter barrel and because the rifle's mechanism is not adjusted properly to operate the Condor's bigger valve.
It will soon be possible to upgrade the power of either a Talon or Talon SS to Condor power by the installation of a special kit. We recommend upgrading the Talon SS over the regular Talon, because the 24-inch barrel looks strange on the Talon's shorter frame. But either gun can be upgraded when the kit becomes available. The kit consists of a 24-inch barrel (in either .177 or .22) and new air tank with Hi-Flo valve and a special striker weight. There will be a set of instructions with the kit, when it becomes available.
Only the guns with a power adjustment wheel on the left side of the frame can be modified with the upgrade kit. Some very early guns may require additional parts that are available only by sending the rifle back to AirForce.
What about the Condor in .177? It will be possible to get the Condor in .177, but unless you plan to shoot heavy lead bullets you cast yourself, or until pellets of at least 25-grains weight become available in .177, the Condor just is too powerful for this caliber. In AirForce testing, a .177 Condor pushed lightweight pellets faster than 1,450 f.p.s.
The power range of a .22 Condor is between 19 and 65 foot-pounds. This gives the rifle a wide range of applications. There is no sound suppression on a Condor, and the noise of a high power shot is similar to the sound made by a .22 rimfire rifle shooting shorts.
The Condor needs a clean barrel to achieve its top power. This was learned during development. One gun that topped out at 1,204 f.p.s. with .22 Premiers got up to 1,270 f.p.s. after a cleaning with JB Bore paste. Clean the barrel from the breech end, using a bronze brush laden with JB Bore paste. Push the cleaning rod at least 20 passes in both directions before stopping. Then clean the JB paste out of the barrel and keep cleaning until a cloth patch comes out clean. The Condor's design, where the air tank can be so easily removed, makes cleaning this way a snap. You don't need to do this often, but if you are not getting the velocity advertised, this technique should do the trick. If you continue to shoot Crosman Premiers in the rifle at top velocity, however, you will lead the bore, so cut your velocity to well below 1,000 f.p.s.
The new Condor is a purpose-built hunting air rifle that turned out to be more flexible than anticipated. Is it the right airgun for you? The best way to find out is to get one and see for yourself. If you don't like it, you can always convert your Condor back to the Talon SS power and quiet operation, and that rifle is by far the most popular one AirForce makes. This new rifle looks like a winning proposition for everyone.