by B.B. Pelletier

This is the third part of Vince’s test of old and new Gamo Match pellets. In parts 1 and 2, he tested .177 caliber. This test is for .22 caliber.

After part 1 was published, we discovered that today’s report was supposed to be the first part! So, you’ll read a lot of introductory info that Vince intended for you to see when he started this series. Sit back and enjoy the rest of Vince’s pellet tests.

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Part 1
Part 2

by Vince

Gamo. A name well known in the airgunning field and inextricably intertwined with its history. Just run it by any knowledgable, passionate airgunner and you’ll quite likely elicit the emotionally charged response, “Gamo? Ehhh….”

Gamo was never known for making junk. Well, their PT-800 came close (plastic compression tube? Oh, please!), but that was more a case of poor design than poor manufacturing. There’s a world of difference between the two. They also didn’t let advanced engineering get in the way of a good profit margin. And, maybe that’s what always defined Gamo — engineering compromises coupled with reasonable manufacturing quality control yielding a product that, well, could be worse.

Their old standby springers of a few years back certainly showed this dual side of Gamo. Remember the steel-barreled Shadow, 220, 440, 880 and 890? Say what you want about their 5000-shot triggers (that’s often how long it took before they smoothed out), spotty spring reliability and zesty twanginess. They looked good, with nice bluing and decent plastic or wood stocks. They generally shot pretty well with solid lockups and good barrels. My first decent air rifle (and I still have it!) was a $125 Shadow from Walmart. Before buying that Gamo, I thought the Industry Brand QB25 was a good airgun. Seriously.

But times change and while there are still a few holdouts in the Gamo lineup (the CFX comes to mind) many or most of their products are being modified or substantially altered to adapt to changing market conditions. A lot of these changes have traditionalists scratching their heads. Although guns like the Big Cat and its cousins still seem to shoot well, the proliferation of structural plastics and marketting gimicks just detracts from their appeal.

Their pellets, however, have followed a different course. Seems that the marketing and advertising departments at Gamo got deeply involved in the ammo end of the business. The result? Killing a hog with a PBA pellet. Bragging about breaking the sound barrier with a pellet that isn’t shaped for it. Armour piecing. Red Fire. Glow Fire. Clearly, these pellets don’t follow the traditional path.

These gimicks might lure in the novice, like my Dad and, well, probably most of their customers. But, with products like that, they’re not going to capture the heart of the purist! They kept their old standby pellets — Gamo Match, Hunter, Master Point and Magnum — for that one-tenth of one percent of their customer base…the traditional airgunner.

Note from B.B.: Gamo’s business goals may not be what we assume they are. From my discussions in the past, I’ve learned that they’re most interested in converting firearm shooters to also use airguns. It seems to me that they see their products not as airguns but as firearms, and in that light they seem to be pursuing the hunting crowd most actively. In that pursuit, they seem less concerned with traditional airgunning. And, given that the hunting demographic that uses firearms is so many times larger than all airgun disciplines combined (in the U.S.), this may be a good business model for Gamo.

No one is going to march into a field target match armed with Gamo pellets. After all, quality control hasn’t always been the best. I occasionally come across one of these in a tin of Match pellets in .22:

Inverse wadcutter, SUPER hollow point, or the Escher pellet? I call it the “Gamo Cadwutter.”

The occasional cadwutter aside, they were still reasonably priced and shot well enough in enough guns that they were pretty popular for everyday use. B.B. even alluded to some competitors using them in local pistol matches, although I imagine this is after sorting them. Generally, they seemed to work pretty well in low-powered guns. Since I’m doing all of my shooting indoors these days, I’m spending a lot more time with guns like that.

That’s why I ordered a bunch of Gamo Match pellets from Pyramyd Air — a total of 23 tins in both .22 and .177. I figure I’m set for a while. Then, I opened one of the .22 tins…

New Gamo Match on the top, old on the bottom.

…and something’s wrong. These pellets are impostors! They’re trying to LOOK like Gamo Match, but I’m not fooled! Something fishy is going on. I examined the tins side-by-side.

New Gamo Match on the left, old on the right.

While the packaging looks the same, the weight is different. I flipped the tins upside down.

New Gamo Match on the left, old on the right.

They looked identical from this side. In fact, even the UPC is the same. Are they really the same? We’ll see about that.

I picked out a selection of .22 rifles so I can put these to the test. I’ve included my low-power guns and a few stronger ones as well. I didn’t bother most of my heavy hitters since I usually shoot just Crosman Premier hollowpoints in those.

Rules of the game
For each gun, I shot 5-7 of the new Gamo Match pellets just to get the bore used to the pellets (this seems to make a difference). I put 5 shots onto the target sheet from 10 meters, switch to the old version of the pellet and fire five more. I’m not sorting pellets. If I get a flyer that’s way off the main group, I’ll give the pellet the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I just got a bad one, and I make a 6th shot and discount the flier.

How did the impostors fair? Let’s take a look and see (in no particular order).

Mendoza RM2000
The Mendoza RM2000 is a repeater that likes only repeating with certain pellets. It has an inline mag with an elevator shuttle, an arrangement that can be prone to deforming long or short pellets or squirting undersized ones right through the shuttle and onto the floor. I never used the repeater, and these were all loaded single-shot.

The Mendoza didn’t seem to differentiate much between the two in terms of consistency although the point of impact did shift a bit. Verdict: Comparable performance.

This gun is BAM’s pseudo-clone of the RWS 34 action with the TO5 trigger. I say pseudo because it isn’t an exact copy. There are differences. It’s the same family as the Ruger Air Hawk rifles (of which I’ve had two), but the B25 is probably the best of the lot that I’ve sampled. Still, it’s taking me a bit of time to warm up to it.

In this gun, there’s absolutely no comparison. Quite passable with the old pellets, useless with the new. Verdict: The new ones just don’t cut it.

This is a fairly new addition to my collection. It’s also a gun I’ve owned before and always sold to make room for others. Since I’ve got tons of room now, it’s a non-issue! It’s a massive sidelever that outweighs the RWS Diana 48 by a pound or so. It’s also longer and a much cruder gun. It’s frequently described as being a clone of the 48, but I won’t even call it a psuedo-clone. There are just too many significant differences. Let’s call it an imitation.

And what did the B21 think of the new Gamo pellets?

Point of impact seems pretty consistent, and the groups are comparable (although not outstanding for either pellet). Verdict: Pretty much interchangeable.

The BAM B3 is a novelty gun that’s proven quite popular over the last several years, although for some reason it seems to have been discontinued. It’s made to resemble an AK47 and is equipped with a folding stock. Mechanically, it’s a simple rifle but made fairly well.

As you can see, it didn’t like the new Gamo Match pellets very much, and frankly it’s so-so on the old ones. Verdict: The new ones are inferior.

RWS Diana 27
The Diana 27 is an old favorite of B.B.’s and for good reason. It’s a nicely made rifle that looks good, shoots well, and is easy to cock and hold. Diana barrels are generally pretty good, and this one is no exception, although the Gamo Match isn’t it’s favorite ammo.

Oddly enough, this rifle — so far, the only rifle — seems to show a preference for the new pellet. It wasn’t a blowout, but the group is definitely tighter. There’s a very significant POI shift. Verdict: New pellets are at least as good as the old.

Winchester 425
Known as the Diana 25 in its native brand, the Winchester 425 is the smaller cousin to the Diana 27. It’s a very similar gun overall with the same trigger and sights, but shortened to make it more of a youth gun. Like the 27, it’s very well made. It didn’t agree with the 27 on pellet preference, though.

It didn’t scatter the new pellets to the four winds the way a few guns did, but the preference for the old ones is pretty clear. Again, we have a POI shift. Verdict: Old pellets are superior.

Industry Brand QB57
The QB57 is another novelty gun made by Shanghai Airguns and sold under the Industry Brand name. It’s a 2-piece takedown sidelever bullpup that comes in its own suitcase with a cheap scope and a tin of even cheaper pellets. Oddly enough, it copies the Gamo trigger. Generally speaking, Shanghai’s knockoff of this trigger isn’t that bad. The scope rail is way forward on this gun, so it’s a bit awkward to shoot with a standard scope. At least it’s mounted directly to the barrel, which is the most accurate place for it to be. It’s also relatively new and, I’m sure, not quite broken in yet.

It seems to agree with its countryman, the XS-B3, only more so, with a wider gap between the two. With the old pellets, it really didn’t do too badly for a lower-grade rifle. Verdict: No contest. Old ones are much better.

TF97 (aka Industry Brand QB-36)
The TF97/QB36 used to be one of the flagship springers of the Shanghai Airgun Factory. Along with the QB36-2 (TF97), it represented one of the better efforts of that company, which, of course, is relative to the other offerings of that company (B1, B2, B3 underlever, etc.) which were pretty poor. Judged on it’s own, the’97 is a so-so gun — low-powered for the weight, fair trigger, and accuracy that’s somewhere in the middle. But certainly not an oinker by any stretch.

As you can see, this gun really wasn’t crazy about either pellet. Although the spread with the new ones looks a bit larger, it’s really about the same. Verdict: They’re comparable.

Sterling HR81
The British Sterling HR81 (and it’s nicer-stocked sibling, the HR83) is a bit of an oddball. The compression tube on this underlever is located beneath the barrel, almost like the reservoir on a CO2 or PCP rifle. The air is ducted up to the barrel via a short, vertical transfer port and into the hollow pellet feed rod behind the pellet. Powerplant efficiency, needless to say, is not its strong point. The loading port is opened with a bolt located several inches behind the loading port, and closing the bolt pushes the pellet into the firing position. I’ve sampled 2 of them and found both to be stable, consistent shooting platforms. The much-used .22 I have doesn’t seem to shoot quite as well as the .177 HR-83 I serviced for a fellow last year, but it still does pretty well with the right pellet.

Well, the right pellet certainly is NOT the new Gamo Match, which performed horribly in this gun. Much better results were obtained with the old ones. Verdict: New pellets are inferior.

Gamo 440
The 440 was part of the old Shadow/220/440/890 family that immediately preceded the current crop of plastic-shrouded, higher-powered breakbarrels (Big Cat, Whisper, etc). Like its old stablemates, it’s light, accurate, well-balanced, and easy to cock and shoulder. Once the trigger is modded and the spring properly tarred, it’s a very pleasant plinking rifle. Originally, I wasn’t even going to try this one. This is one of the guns that does so well with Crosman Premier hollowpoint pellets that I typically don’t shoot anything else in it. But, it’s the only .22 cal. Gamo I have, so I decided to see how well a Gamo rifle did with Gamo pellets.

So, there you have it. A nice group with the old pellets, and a lousy one with the new. It didn’t choke on them as badly as the HR-81, QB57 or XS-B3; but this is certainly a poor showing for a decent rifle. Verdict: No comparison. Old pellets are superior.

So what’s the final tally? I’ve shot these pellets back-to-back in 10 different rifles. Of those 10 rifles, 4 shot the new pellets as well as or slightly better than the old; 3 of those 4 showed a significant POI shift. The remaining 6 preferred the old, most by a very considerable margin. From all this, I think we can safely draw three conclusions:

1. The new pellets are not the same as the old, and they’re not interchangeable. They do carry the same part number and description, and the Gamo website gives no indication that there’s anything different about them at all. I would suggest that it’s misleading for Gamo to alter the pellet and change its characteristics while pretending that its the same. It’s common knowledge that airguns can be real picky about their ammo; Gamo should know better.

Note from B.B.: We’ve been seeing the same thing from various high-quality European pellet manufacturers. Things can suddenly change without notice. However, the comments on this blog serve to inform the manufacturers that veteran airgunners are very concerned.

2. In my tests, the new pellets were generally not as good as the old ones. In the cases where they fared well against the old pellets, it was a relatively close call. In those cases where it didn’t, they generally shot pretty poorly.

3. The new pellets are not absolute crap. They might be OK for plinking in some guns, but make sure you try them out first. If your gun liked the old Gamo Match in .22, there’s no guarantee they’ll like the new ones.