Andreas – this is for you!

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

When I started this series on the AirForce Condor, it quickly became apparent that our readers have a lot of questions about this rifle. I tried to answer those questions in the series, but as soon as I answered two, you asked me three more. There are two that are still unanswered, so today I want to get to one of them.

Andreas from Cyprus asked this question many months ago. I thought I could get to it quickly, but some problems delayed me until now. AirForce was out of 24″ .177 cal. barrels and I don’t own one. I had to wait for them to arrive and be processed before I could borrow one for this test. Andreas joined the military for two years just last week, so he may not get to read this report for some time, but I still want to do it now, just in case he can get to a computer that connects to the internet.

Andreas told us that in Cyprus only .177 caliber is legal to own, so even though he wanted a Condor, it had to be a .177. He wanted lots of shots for hunting small birds, and the Condor isn’t really made for that. It gets about 20 shots on full power and perhaps 40 shots on reduced power, so one of our readers suggested that he buy the CO2 version of the gun that gets several hundred shots per tank. Well, it turns out that CO2 is also illegal on Cyprus! That left only the Micro-Meter tank with the special low-flow air valve, if one of the goals was a high number of shots.

In the time, since he posted the question, Andreas revised his thinking and now believes a Talon SS with an optional 24″ barrel is probably more what he needs, but he asked me to do this test just the same.

How many shots can you get from an AirForce Condor in .177 caliber when using the Micro-Meter tank?

An unlikely pair
I doubt this test has ever been conducted, because it just isn’t in the mainstream of the technology. The Condor is capable of 65 foot-pounds in .22 caliber, which is its recognized forte. The MicroMeter valve is capable of giving lots of low-powered shots for indoor shooting and plinking in any caliber. Today, these two converge in a most unlikely test.

I’ll test the velocity difference between the power wheel on the lowest setting and the highest setting, and the velocity of a couple of heavy pellets on high power. I filled the Micro-Meter tank to 3,000 psi with a 12-year-old hand pump. It’s entirely possible to fill an AirForce tank from empty (I’ve done it many times), and hand pumps don’t have to break or wear out over time. There are two quick object lessons before we start shooting!

I cleaned the barrel in the recommended way with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound before testing. I used Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets for the bulk of the test. It really doesn’t make any difference what pellet is used, as long as it remains consistent throughout the test.

These are the recorded velocities for Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets for the first 63 shots. Those shot numbers with three zeros, like shot number one, were shots where the chronograph failed to record anything. Shot 34 is probably a Crosman 10.5-grain pellet that was loaded by mistake.

We learned several things
The table shows several things. First, the total number of shots seems to be less than 100 with the Condor powerplant. I stopped at shot 63 because the velocity dropped below 790 f.p.s., but anyone can draw the cutoff point anywhere they desire. Second, if we use an average velocity of 833 f.p.s., which was certainly available for the first 30 shots, the Condor produces 12.23 foot-pounds of energy with a 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet. I expect that energy to rise slightly with a heavier pellet. The third thing we learned is that the power wheel does not control power when the Micro-Meter tank is used. So you might as well run the gun at the lowest setting. Finally, shot number 34 must have been pulled from a box of 10.5-grain Premiers that were sitting close to the 7.9s. In the second test you will see that’s a velocity more appropriate to that pellet.

A second look
After the first string of shots the pressure in the tank had dropped to 2,250, which is pretty standard for a Condor. I refilled it with the pump, and that took 112 pump strokes, for those who like to keep score. On the second string, I decided to test the heavy pellets to establish the rifle’s maximum power with the Micro-Meter tank.

The second string lasted six more shots before 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers dropped below 790 f.p.s. The numbers below 10.5 are for heavy Crosman Premiers and the numbers below 10.6 are for the Baracudas/Kodiaks.

String two has some slight differences from string one. First, it starts faster; second, it lasts longer. The differences are not large enough to concern us, but they do need some explanation. The first tank was stored overnight, then used the next morning, so there could have been a small pressure drop as the compressed air cooled. However, the tank was filled from a pump, so the temperature drop would not have been as large as if it had been filled from a scuba tank.

On the first string I adjusted the power to as high as it would go for 14 shots (shots 22 through 34). Although the velocity didn’t appear to increase on those shots, it is possible that more air was lost that way. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense, in light of the 24″ barrel and the velocities that were obtained. The only other explanation is that the gauge on the AirForce refill clamp may have read slightly wrong or I may have misread it on the two fills.

Don’t obsess over small inconsistencies like these, because you will always have them. However, the data are clear enough to catch obvious errors like shot number 34 on the first string. That one wasn’t a blip in the gun or tank – it was the wrong pellet.

How much power?
The 10.5-grain Crosman Premiers averaged 761 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 13.51 foot-pounds. The 10.6-grain H&N Baracudas (Beeman Kodiaks) averaged 769 f.p.s. for a muzzle energy of 13.92 foot-pounds. That’s seven-tenths of a foot-pound higher than with the 7.9-grain Premiers, so heavy pellets produce greater power in PCPs.

This much power
Andreas wanted to know if a Condor could be used to take small game when fitted with a Micro-Meter tank. I think this test proves that it can. He wanted a lot of shots. I thought we would see more, but the number we did get is quite useful. I don’t know when he will see this report he waited so long for, but Matt61, who loves to relate life to novels, will tell us why I feel like the main character in The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman, because I’m posting this for Andreas without knowing when he’ll read it.

The one Condor question that remains is one Mr. Experience has stated – that a Condor filled to 3,000 psi and set on a low power setting will soon float up to full power. Dr. G. agrees with him. This isn’t anything I’ve ever tested, so that will be my next look at the Condor.