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Education / Training Ruger Air Hawk Elite – Part 2

Ruger Air Hawk Elite – Part 2

By B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Who’s your pal? Pyramyd AIR has just uncovered a very small number of new-old-stock Norica Young breakbarrel spring rifles from the 1990s. These were left after an airgun dealer went out of business and they’ve been sitting around for years. While they are brand new, a few may have some age discoloration and handling marks.

The Norica breakbarrels come in several different colors (color choice not possible because of short supply).

Here’s your chance to grab a new rifle from the ’90s at a ’90s price.

The Norica Young is a youth model breakbarrel with a colorful painted wood stock. Norica is the quality Spanish airgun maker that made several models for Beeman. I imagine this .177 rifle will produce velocities in the low to mid 600 f.p.s. The gun has no safety and the non-adjustable trigger is very heavy for safety. The price for this time capsule air rifle will be only $75. Quantities are very limited, so act as soon as I alert you they are live. Don’t call before because until it’s live on the website, there’s nothing to sell.

Field target course in jeopardy
Things aren’t looking good for a field target course in 2008. So far, only Wayne has said he’ll attend. We’re issuing a press release to locate more students. If we don’t have any more takers before the end of the month, we’ll have to postpone this course until the summer of 2009. We understand that we gave you very short notice this year, and if it doesn’t work out – so be it. We’ll sure get a head start on a 2009 course!

Here comes the Diana scope base
Tomorrow, I will start a report on the new Leapers scope base for Diana air rifles. They’ll be available in about a month. I’ll explain in detail what this new base has going for it.

Now, let’s get back to Ruger’s Air Hawk Elite and test for velocity. The rifle had a few shots before this testing took place. The first one was a powerful detonation, but not a sound after that. The rifle is rated to 1,000 f.p.s. I shot a few dozen times before recording these velocities, just to get any excess oil out of the compression chamber.

RWS Hobbys
RWS Hobbys (7.0 grains) used to be the lightweight pellet of choice. Unless the manufacturer had some compelling reason, like they made their own pellets, they used Hobbys for velocity tests. And, every airgun writer used them for the same reason. In the test rifle, Hobbys averaged 920 f.p.s., with a range from 912 to 930. That’s 18 f.p.s., which is considered pretty tight for a spring rifle. The average muzzle energy is 13.16 foot-pounds.

Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets
The Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellet is another test standard. For .177 spring rifles you use the 7.9-grain weight unless the gun’s power dictates otherwise. This one did not. The average was 815 f.p.s., with a spread from 791 to 833. That’s surprisingly slow and also a larger velocity spread than I expected from this pellet. Muzzle energy averages 11.65, which you can see is a large drop from the Hobbys.

Gamo Raptors
Every dog has its day, and this time the Gamo Raptor (5.4 grains) surprised me completely. Not only were they surprisingly fast at an average 1072 f.p.s., they also had a relatively tight velocity spread from 1059 to 1081. The muzzle energy was the highest, at 13.78 foot-pounds. The first time Raptors have lead in any test I’ve conducted. They earned a place in the velocity test with this performance. Wouldn’t it be fun if they were accurate, too?

Pellet choices
We have a rifle in the sub-14 foot-pound category that performs well with lighter pellets. Popular wisdom says it won’t do as well with heavyweights. Just so we’ll all know for sure, I also tested the rifle with Beeman Kodiaks. Before I get to that test, though, let me explain why I say this. A spring rifle operates on a balancing act of spring strength, piston weight and the length of the piston’s stroke. If the rifle does well with light pellets, it means the piston is probably too light to also do well with a heavier piston. Tuners can actually adjust the gun to a certain pellet by adding weight to the piston until performance peaks. But let’s see how this works in practice.

Beeman Kodiaks (10.6 grains)
Beeman Kodiaks (10.6 grains) also astonished me. I expected a velocity around 690-710, but the rifle averaged 747 f.p.s. What’s more surprising is the tight velocity spread from 743 to 751. The average muzzle energy was 13.14 foot-pounds, only a little behind the Hobbys. Conventional spring gun tuning wisdom suggests this isn’t possible – that a rifle be good on both ends of the pellet weight spectrum. So much for conventional wisdom. Clearly, this powerplant loves both Raptors and Kodiaks.

So, the gun is right on the money as far as power is concerned. I think Ruger may be on to a good thing with this rifle. Accuracy testing comes next.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

41 thoughts on “Ruger Air Hawk Elite – Part 2”

  1. B.B.

    Good morning, that is very interesting about the Kodiaks having the almost same foot-pounds as the hobbys. So does that mean that a squirrel would be best shot with either pellet, or is the heavier pellet always best if the foot-pounds are close?

    Learning in Ashland

  2. B.B. & All

    I have been looking for a better way to eliminate human factor when testing rifles…..(very important with this human)…

    So when browsing a locally owned sporting goods store, I was very happy to find a steel tube frame rifle holder with great adjustments….
    When the rifle is held, you can still get perfect eye relief and center the target…

    This Bench rest is so solid and adjustable, it comes as close as possible, I would think for $125 in eliminating human factor……

    It will make the Discovery “barrel” test much easier.

    I did not see anything like it on the PA site…..

    If it is OK B.B., I will post the web address here…


  3. B.B.

    Great, I will include a photo also….

    It is a super great tool for accuracy testing…….

    Well, I am not a virgin to the high quality spring world anymore…

    I went 300 miles north and bought the Diana 300r and a slightly used hw77….now I get it…or starting to….
    This will be a fun week for me, I should get the TX200HC carbine and the Chinese copy BAM B40 I ordered from PA…
    With the new bench rest tool I can really find stuff out………

    About to really learn in Ashland,


  4. B.B. and Wayne,

    Wouldn’t the rigidity of a machine rest which is its great selling point make it unsuitable for a spring gun which requires a soft hold?

    Otherwise, I would expect that a machine rest would have to surpass a human being since the rest does not introduce any motion to the gun whatsoever. But B.B., didn’t you write somewhere about how humans can actually surpass a machine rest in accuracy? If I’m remembering correctly, I can’t imagine why that would be.

    By the way, I passed my handgun safety test with no mistakes at all–thanks for your assistance–and the S & W 1911 is on the way. Regulation of the test was not very tight as the guy after me was taking it with his wife looking over his shoulder while talking on a cell phone.


  5. Matt61,

    A machine rest has to be specially constructed before it can exceed the accuracy of a human marksman. Frank Mann was the last successful user of a machine rest for accuracy testing, back around the turn of the 20th century, and his rest weighed perhaps 500 pounds. You should buy his book, “The Bullet’s Flight From Powder to Target.” It is the all-time classic study of external ballistics

    Congratulations on passing your handgun safety test. Any test passed is a test passed – never question the means.


  6. B.B.

    Thanks for the reference. I’m devouring all of this like a sponge and take care to always learn from the best, regardless of the field of study.

    I’m finding that safety is an ongoing study of its own. In this gunsmithing book that I’m reading the author says that while reassembling a 1911, he lost control of the recoil spring which flew into his safety glasses, scratching them and knocking them off his face. Without them, he could have been blinded. Whoah! Safety glasses it is (that was his point) and maybe some Kevlar body armor too. I guess this is the sort of thing that can happen with the mainspring of an airgun.


  7. Matt61,

    I once had an end cap get away from me. It broke a wooden desk divider, so I photographed it and put it into the mainspring compressor chapter of the R1 book as the opening picture. Could easily have broken my arm, because the end cap of a C1 weighs over a quarter-pound.


  8. B.B. & Matt61

    It seems to me that this stand has the option for the softest hold, ( by just adjusting the up and down knob to center of target with a loose grip on the handle and trigger)…. or the tightest hold.. or anything in-between…

    just pull the rifle down into the nylon back saddle and front bean bag type rest as much as you find works….
    but who knows….just got it ( actually two, for side by side testing)…. just testing now…. at least I know I am not moving and the scope is on the center of the target……..

    Doing my best to learn this complex world of air guns…..


  9. BB –

    You might have more luck compressing the FT course down to a weekend; fly in Fri night, leave late Sun. evening sort of affair. A lot of folks have to work for a living, you know!

  10. BB, I see you’re getting about the same numbers for Premiers that I got from the AirHawk I had briefly. After tearing the rifle apart, deburring it, honing it, and replacing the seals (piston and breech) I managed to get it up to about 870fps.

    I’m real curious to see the rest of this review… and especially how it you think it compares to the Diana 34 which it is something of a copy of.

  11. B.B. & All

    On the subject of copies from China …the beeman RS1 and the similar 1100s’ a special run for walmart (discontinued) are very accurate when put into the “Benchmaster”…we are talking 20 shots on a 3/4” dot at 60′ indoors, like I have done once or twice before, without the benchmaster..but now, the gun does it, twice in a row…..
    on par with the HW77K I just got, and am learning to shoot……of course the 77 is a much nicer gun…just talking accuracy now……

    just passing info along,


  12. B.B. or Wayne
    Have either of you used the Gamo rifle rest on Pyramid’s website? It is significantly cheaper than a Benchmaster although I don’t think it offers any protections against recoil.

  13. Well, the past couple of days have opened a new opportunity in airgunning for me thanks to my son. He has expressed a great interest in shooting birds and eating them. Now, I don’t intend to take a 4 year old wingshooting, but we had crows aplenty and iffy weather forecasts, so we took the QB36-2 and his real toy “firegun” to the edge of the woods and spent some enjoyable time scaring away crows. Funny how a 4-year-old’s idea of stealth would scare an armored division, but he tried, and I had fun imagining a crow dumb enough to fly w/in range — much less land, as well as how we might cook it:).

    Anybody actually shoot any crows lately?

  14. Anonymous;

    No, I have not tried the gamo version yet…just ordered one from PA now….I could not find it anywhere when I was shopping for them before….but with the name you gave a search at PA brought it up, it might be under close-outs…

    It holds the rifle in different spots that are unlike the way a human holds a rifle…
    but you can get your shoulder against the rifle better, it looks like..
    what do you think……..does it eliminate human factor like it seems to me that the benchmaster is doing?

    Randy & I are learning a lot about scopes and pellets tonight…. (turns out that the JBS DIABOLO EXACT 15.8 are most accurate in the Discovery using the benchmaster)………..


  15. Hi BB & all,

    Lots of talk about accuracy. I was reading an article on Savage accu-triggers, and how they have started to revolutionize (or start anew)accuracy in modern rifles. I have a modified Ruger 10/22 which is amazingly accurate (especially from a tack-driver bag), with it’s biggest drawback being it’s trigger (I can easily fix this in the future – for a price). However, regarding airguns (especially spring sporters – the same seems to hold true. Less expensive models’ triggers have too much creep, and very little adjustment. I’ve heard BB recommend some custom trigger sites, but it appeared they fit mostly Gamo models. Could we get a report on custom trigger tuning for the do-it-yourselfers? The basics, with some direction to real improvement… My IZH 613m would be a tack driver if the trigger wasn’t so unforgiving. If I switch to one of my other more expensive rifles, the first shot usually startles me as the trigger pull is so decidedly different.

    Western PA

  16. BB,

    I don’t know if you remember my earlier quest for a Colt SAA Airsoft revolver, but at the time I was very frustrated.

    No more.

    Tanaka makes a Colt SAA .45 gas airsoft revolver in a variety of styles and bbl lengths. Haven’t yet found one in the US yet but at least now I know they exist. Apparently Tanaka puts them out when and if they feel like it, but the quality is excellent. Cost seems to be in the $159-176 range (although I’m not certain if these are modern day prices).

    If interested, check out:


    Just one of the many sites suggested by Google.

    Cool, eh?

    –Joe B.

  17. Dragon,

    There were very few Parker Hale Dragons made – perhaps 100 or less. So the gun is worth whatever a collector is willing to pay.

    I have shot one. They are as accurate as a fine PCP. They are more difficult to get ready to shoot than a flintlock.

    If you like. I can blog one.


  18. Western PA,

    The subject of accuracy is one I share an interest in, so I’ve been doing a series in Shotgun News over the past several years entitled, “What can you do with a 10/22?” The best accuracy I was able to get in a controlled test between a customized gun with a factory barrel that had a target chamber, a custom gun with a Butler Creek bull barrel and a Ruger 10.22 Target was a 10-shot group just larger than a half-inch at 50 yards. The Target out-shot the Butler Creek barrel by a few hundredths of an inch.

    The triggers on these guns were key to this performance. A 10-shot half-inch group means many 5-shot three-tenths groups, by the way.

    There have been articles about slicking up airgun triggers, but not many because of liability. Also, there are very few qualified airgunsmiths, while there are a thousand times more gunsmiths.

    What few people realize when setting out to slick up a trigger, is that most triggers have case-hardened parts. If the case is shallow, and it often is, they risk cutting through when they work on the sear surfaces. That makes the trigger unsafe.

    The same thing happens in the firearms world. I once had a Sako Vixen in.222 Rem. fire when I closed the bolt. The trigger wasn’t worked on, only adjusted light – too light, it seems. Fortunately I was pointing the muzzle at the ground when it fired.

    However, the topic does deserve a look. So you are on the list.


  19. Gamo Raptors,

    I test with Raptors because many shooters want to know what the mostest fastest is. And in the case of this rifle, I’m glad I did.

    There are people who berate me for my stand on Raptors. They claim they are the most accurate pellets in their guns. Heck, American Rifleman even praises them this month!


  20. B.B.

    Two quick notes:

    The Norcia rifles are now on the PA web site, in case anyone wants one.

    You have the Ruger Air Hawk at 18 ft lbs with the hobby pellets. I would guess this is a typo.

  21. Parker Hale Dragon,

    I see he’s selling it for $600. That’s a no-brain “jump on it” price. I thought it would go for at least twice that price.

    If I hadn’t seen one operate in person and know what a PIA it is to operate, I’d buy it. On the other hand, if ever there was a fiddley airgun, the Dragon is it. If you like eclectic mechanisms, you are about to get the strangest one ever conceived.


  22. BB, it sounds like you are giving in to airgun newbies’ whimsical desires to know the “max velocity” of their guns. We both know velocity without accuracy is useless. While there is a valid reason for testing Hobbies–you’ve said they are a standard for determining velocity due to light weight and accuracy in many guns, the same isn’t true for Gamo Raptors.

    I guess my gripe here is, it’s disheartening to see you, of all airgunners, do something just because the mislead newbies want you to. Yes, I’m berating you for your indecisive stand on the Raptors–saying they’re crap, yet still testing them.

  23. Gamo Raptors,

    But – I’ve been wrong before!

    In fact, I love it (occasionally) when I’m wrong, because it pops any chance I have of getting a swelled head about what I think I know. I no longer correct people who say I know a lot about airguns, but the truth is, I don’t know much more than the next guy. I’m just more willing to tell you what I think I know.

    I have been wronger than any other airgun writer – because I’ve stuck my neck out more times and said what I believed to be true. And I’m not only very forgetful, I’m also just dead wrong some of the time.

    So I was actually pleased to discover that Gamo Raptors work well in this rifle. At least I was willing to test them, is what I guess I am saying.


  24. BB,

    I’m sold on the Ruger Air Hawk Elite. I really like thumb hole stocks, probably due to the Remington Genesis which I love and have become very good with. Heck, I’ve been all over the internet trying to find someone that could due A wood thumb hole for it. No luck yet.

    I normally would wait for the final report on the Air Hawk before I buy it, but I’m ready to take the plunge right now. Unless you beat me over the head and say NO (:>)

    Lubrication is mainly done for smoothness right? Why do most if not all air gun manuals warn against the oiling triggers? Are Center Point and Leapers scopes identical?

    Please hurry with the Air Hawk final, I’m getting real itchy LOL.

  25. Bob C.,

    If there is a fatal flaw with this rifle, I haven’t found it yet. In fact, tomorrow is the accuracy segment, so you don’t have to wait long for it.

    The warnings against trigger oiling is for liability purposes. I ought to do a stupid mistake blog, just to remind people of what can happen when things go wrong. In fact, I will. You talked me into it.

    Yes, Leapers and Centerpoint scopes are pretty much the same.


  26. BB,

    Thanks for the prompt reply. I guess I can wait another day. Just had A good feeling in the gut about this rifle, and I always trust my gut which got me through 23 yrs of being A cop.

    I can’t speak for every blogger here, but I would love to read A “stupid mistake” blog.

    BobC NJ

  27. It isn’t cumbersome. Operating a nuclear power plant is cumbersome. Working a Parker Hale Dragon requires a training course! There are five different steps to perform during the loading process. First, push the trigger forward while holding up on the safety; next…

    Get the idea?

    If a manual transmission is more difficult to operate than an automatic, the Dragon is a crash-box manual without any syncros.


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