by B.B. Pelletier
January’s podcast is now up!
Now that I have this rifle in hand, there’s no doubt that the Hammerli 490 Express is a QB-18. That’s a good thing, because the 18 is a very nice youth-sized air rifle, and there aren’t enough of those around. The price is very reasonable for a gun of this size and quality. However, I’m getting ahead of myself. We have yet to test it.
The 490 Express is a small rifle by adult standards, and a large one by youth standards. I rate it as a youth rifle because the weight is only 6 lbs., and the cocking effort is a mere 13 lbs. That is spectacularly light! The wood stock has a 13.5″ pull that further helps shooters of smaller stature.
Hammerli rates this rifle at 495 f.p.s., which is almost 200 f.p.s. less than the QB-18 I tested. A lighter mainspring could explain some of that power difference. The chronograph will tell us for sure in the next report.
The wood is stained dark reddish-brown and has a few small areas where the stain has accumulated, and I found only one small filled spot (pistol grip). That’s remarkable, too. A black rubber buttpad is ribbed on the end to keep the rifle from moving on your shoulder or when the gun is stood up in the corner.
The metal is polished to semi-gloss on the spring cylinder, and the barrel and base block are left as-machined. The markings are in attractive silver laser-cut letters.
The sights are a hooded post on a ramp in front and a square rear notch with click adjustments in both directions. They’re a combination of steel and synthetic. The adjustments are well-marked in both directions, but there’s no index scale to mark where you are.
The barrel is exceptionally long for a modern spring rifle. Almost 19″ from breech to muzzle, it no doubt accounts for the ease of cocking. It also means a lot of technique will be required to shoot well, because the pellet cannot begin to move in a spring gun before the vibration and part of the recoil is underway.
After the rifle is cocked, the barrel moves up and down freely. I’m used to a base block that holds the barrel in the last position it was placed, and this rifle seems loose to me. But, I’ll watch it as I go; and, if it seems the barrel pivot needs to be tightened, I’ll tell you. The chisel detent that holds the barrel closed is powerful and positive. There’s no slop when the barrel is closed.
Trigger and safety
The trigger blade and triggerguard are synthetic. There are no adjustments for the trigger. The blade is relatively straight with cross grooves to give your finger more traction. The trigger-pull is rough and creepy and breaks at variable weights, from 5 lbs., 4 ozs. to 6 lbs., 8 ozs. It feels as though it’ll break-in to something nicer in the 5+ lbs. region, but time will tell. Lots of room for some good gunsmithing.
The safety is automatic but can be taken off and the rifle uncocked by pulling the trigger while restraining the barrel. The safety button has to be pressed flush with the spring cylinder, which means it has to be a deliberate act. Unlike the TX200 MkIII or most Weihrauch-based spring rifles, the safety button on this rifle does not stand proud of the gun when it is on.
There are 11mm scope grooves cut into the top of the spring cylinder, with a scope stop plate at the back end. The low recoil of the rifle and a lack of vibration means you can scope it with pretty much whatever you want. Chances are good the scope and rings will cost more than the rifle. I’ll scope the rifle, but the quality of the open sights will compel a test with them, as well. The 490 also comes in a gun/scope combo.
I can see that the barrel is dirty, so I’ll clean it with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound before checking velocity or shooting for accuracy. I’ve already shot the rifle to check trigger-pull, though, and I can report that it’s very quiet. For those of you who are looking for a quiet air rifle, this is a good one!