by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

I’m sorry I had to break this up, but the text starts Where we left off yesterday.

The Chinese-made diopters have excessive slack in the gears and then “jump” when they start adjusting. For years, coaches who used Daisy’s all-plastic, American-made aperture sights have instructed their shooters to wind the sight several clicks in the opposite direction before adjusting to take the slack out of the gears. Now the problem exists in the upgraded apertures, as well. Fortunately, there’s a bright light on the horizon.

AirForce will soon be manufacturing an entirely new type of diopter rear sight for their new Edge rifle. This sight will also be available separately, and I predict it will become necessary equipment in the Sporter Class inside of a year. If you’re looking to buy a 10-meter budget rifle and the sight is from Gamo, Daisy or Crosman, you might want to keep an eye on this development.

Weight and size – A budget 10-meter rifle usually weighs under 6.5 lbs. The ones at the bottom of the price scale all do. When you think of budget 10-meter rifles, you have to think about kids who are the target users. Even though we know that thousands of adults also shoot these airguns, hundreds of thousands of kids shoot them each year, so the guns will be made with them in mind. Fortunately, with target rifles, length of pull isn’t as critical as with sporting rifles. The erect stance and different hold tends to shorten the required length of pull for everyone.

Accuracy – What can you expect from a budget 10-meter target rifle? More accuracy than most shooters can use. Until you’re good enough to compete in national-level competition, a budget target rifle would not hinder you at all. I addressed this when I wrote about Entry-level 10 meter airguns in December. If you reread that post, you’ll get a good idea of the level of accuracy to expect.

Ergonomics, however, is another story. The heavier triggers and less adjustable stocks will play havoc with all shooters, which is why I hate to hear a parent or coach say, “These guns are good enough for junior shooters.” No, they’re not! When I first learned basic rifle marksmanship from the NRA, they used Winchester model 52 target rifles to train us. I was only 9 or 10, but the rifle I shot weighed a good 10 lbs. I learned what a good trigger felt like and what good sights could do. After that experience, my cheap Winchester model 69 was a poor substitute and I knew it. Don’t think for a minute that kids are not as sophisticated as adults when it comes to man-machine interface.

There is no reason budget (kids) target guns have to have creepy triggers or sights that don’t adjust crisply. What prevents a budget target rifle from having a dry-fire feature? These things are all important, even if the trigger isn’t going to break below 1.5 lbs. At least it can break cleanly.

What about the Daisy 753? The 887?
Daisy builds all their target guns on a common set of parts. The 753 has a more adult-sized stock and an upgraded rear sight (that is still Chinese), but in all other aspects, it’s an 853. The 887 is a CO2 gun, of course, yet most of the frame and components of the 853 are used. The 887 comes out of the box with a 2-lb. trigger, while the 853 must be adjusted to get that light.

What about the Daisy 953?
The 953 is really outside the budget 10-meter rifle category, except a lot of people don’t want to leave it there. It doesn’t have a Lothar Walther barrel like the 853, 853C and 753, and the base rifle lacks any kind of diopter sight (but one can be added). Accuracy is surprisingly good, despite the American-made barrel, and thousands of shooters enjoy this rifle for informal target shooting.

To summarize
So, what conclusions can be made? First, that there are budget 10-meter rifles (costing under $1,000)…and within that category there are certain rifles acceptable to compete in the Sporter Class of NRA and CMP matches. The Sporter Class rifles are all at the bottom of the cost spectrum, because the two governing groups want to make 10-meter competition affordable for as many kids as they can. What you give up at the low end of the price spectrum of budget rifles is a nice/light trigger, ergonomics and a precision rear aperture (or diopter) sight.

You can spend more money and get a finer rifle, though it will still not be capable of competing at the world-class level, or what the NRA and CMP call the Precision Class. That may not make a difference to you if you don’t plan on competing. I haven’t mentioned used rifles yet, but I will when we look at world-class target rifles.

One final fact, and then I’ll let this rest. At the 2006 SHOT Show NRA Airgun Breakfast, all who attended were told that the NRA has over 700,000+ kids competing in sanctioned matches each year. Most of those kids compete in the Sporter Class. Those numbers far exceed any other airgun sport, or firearm sport for that matter! Field target may have 1,000 shooters competing in the U.S., though I think that’s overstating it, and silhouette may have another 1,000. Do you see why 10-meter competition is important to airgun manufacturers – especially the Sporter Class?