by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


How did Ruger’s new Explorer perform in testing? Read on.

I’m compressing this report because of Christmas looming next week. Several readers are considering the Ruger Explorer for kids and grandkids, and I want to finish the report for them.

Although I shot for accuracy first and did velocity testing afterward, I will report them in the usual way.

H&N Finale Match Pistol
H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets weigh 7.56 grains, nominally. Being lighter, they go faster than some rifle target pellets that weigh over 8 grains. I shot from a rest at 10 meters. I shot using the open sights on the rifle and each target got 10 pellets.

They averaged 437 f.p.s., with a spread from 420 to 444. However, only two shots went slower than 437 f.p.s. They dragged the average down. Without them the average would have been about 440.

I didn’t learn that there might be a problem with the gun’s powerplant while shooting these pellets, but when I shot Beeman Bearcubs next, the problem jumped out at me. I will discuss what I did in a moment, but after adjusting the breech seal to sit higher and oiling the piston, both things to fix the “problem” that really wasn’t there, the average for H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets climbed to 453 f.p.s. and had a spread of only 7 f.p.s. I think the breech seal may have been marginal in the first test, though not so much that it matters.

Beeman Bearcub
I tested Beeman Bearcub pellets next, and they were all over the place. From a low of 376 f.p.s. to a high of 454 f.p.s. They’re what started me thinking that there might be a problem. It seemed that the breech seal might have been marginal. I shimmed it, as Vince instructed us to. The velocity seemed to climb, but it was still erratic, so I oiled the piston seal with two drops of Chamber Lube.

I’m normally the person who cautions against over-oiling a spring-piston airgun, but when they exhibit erratic velocity, sometimes oiling is the right cure. Only this wasn’t the time. The velocity was still erratic. So erratic that I didn’t bother computing the average velocity. I did, however, return and retest the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets, and they were both faster and more uniform. The improvement was hardly worth the effort, though. It seems the gun wasn’t malfunctioning at all. It just did not like the Beeman Bearcub pellets.

RWS Meisterkugeln Standard
RWS Meisterkugeln Standard pellets go way back in time. I was shooting them in the 1970s. At the time, they were considered one of the best pellets available. In the Explorer, they averaged 426 f.p.s., with a spread from 423 f.p.s. to 430.

So, the Explorer is about where it should be power-wise. Perhaps, this example is on the slow side of average, but that’s about all. And the consistency is great for a brand-new spring rifle. Let’s take a look at accuracy.

Accuracy
I set up a target at 10 meters, because this is a youth rifle, after all. It’ll be used for plinking and target shooting. No one in their right mind would ever shoot it at an animal. We are talking about bouncing pop cans and water bottle caps around the back yard.

First to be tested were the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. Once I got the rifle sighted in, I shot a 10-shot group. Shooting a paper target with open sights is a real trip, because you cannot see what you are doing until lots of pellets have passed through the same hole. Well, that’s what happened with Finale Match, or pretty close to it.


Ten H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets went into a nice group at 10 meters. The 9-ring, which is just inside the 8-ring, isn’t much larger than an American quarter or a one-Euro coin. I see potential here.

Next, I tested the Beeman Bearcubs. If there’s a better way to represent the difference in accuracy between average pellets like the Bearcubs and superior pellets like the Finale Match than these two targets, I sure don’t know what it is. It is crystal-clear the rifle likes the Finale Match pellets better than the Bearcubs.


Ten Beeman Bearcubs look like a shotgun pattern. Though this group isn’t much larger than the group made by the Finale Match Pistol pellets, the dispersion of pellets within the group tells a different story.

RWS Meisterkugeln pellets were next. I didn’t expect them to be as good as Finale Match, which shows how little I know. When you see the group you will see that they were the best of all. And not just slightly better, either. No, the Meisterkugeln were demonstrably better than the Finale Match in the Explorer.


That’s what I wanted to see! This 10-shot group declares the Explorer to be an accurate youth rifle.

Next time, I might shoot two more groups and watch the Finale Match come out on top of the Meisters. But one thing I don’t expect is for the Bearcubs to ever challenge either one of these two target pellets in this rifle.

Firing behavior
The Explorer trigger is two-stage, and stage two is long and creepy. It breaks at 4 lbs., 12 ozs. effort. The automatic safety has to be pushed in before taking the shot. When the rifle fires, there’s very little vibration. It’s a good, solid feel.

I must note that as short and petite as this rifle is, it was a challenge for me to shoot it off a bench. In the hands of a smaller shooter, this will be a dynamite shooter.

One final observation, is that the barrel is held to the spring tube by a bolt and nut. Many new guns are using pins these days, but not the Explorer. That means you can adjust the barrel tension as the gun wears in, which means a long life.

The bottom line
We’ve gained another good youth air rifle. And one that sells for a remarkable price. Buy it with confidence this Christmas and for those other important events that will arise in the future.