.22-caliber Browning Gold air rifle: Part 3
by B.B. Pelletier
With the assistance of Earl “Mac” McDonald
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the Browning Gold air rifle. I think many of us have been eagerly awaiting this report, so we can evaluate this rifle in terms of a future buy.
Mac did the testing for me because the Gold cocks with a little more effort than I want to handle at this time. The cocking effort is still about 45 lbs., although you can tell that the action is breaking in and getting smoother as it does. The barrel lock, for example, is now very smooth and requires just a light touch to open. I’d hoped that both the cocking effort and the trigger would both lighten up as well, but so far that hasn’t happened.
I asked Mac to test several pellets for me. He got all the pellets that were used in the velocity test in Part 2, plus we added an interesting one for flavor.
Sight-in with Crosman Premier pellets
Not knowing which pellets the rifle would like, Mac sighted-in with the classic 14.3-grain Crosman Premier. The sight-in distance was about 15 feet; but when he backed up to 25 yards, there was still a lot more work to get the rifle safely on paper.
Normally, a rifle can be sighted-in at 10 feet and you’re assured it’ll be on paper at 20-30 yards, but this time it didn’t work that way. I don’t believe the rifle is different in any way from other powerful breakbarrel spring rifles, but I do think I need to spend a little more time with it. I get a vibe that there is more to the Gold than I’m seeing in the standard three-part test, so at the end of today’s report I’ll tell you what I’m going to do about it.
Crosman Premier pellets
After sight-in, Mac backed up to 25 yards and began the test. The first pellet he tried was the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier he’d used to sight in the rifle. But at 25 yards, Premiers were all over the place. After eight shots, he had essentially a three-inch group, so he decided to stop that target and more on.
H&N Baracuda Match pellets
The next pellet Mac tried in the Gold was the heavy H&N Baracuda Match. This is the same pellet as the Beeman Kodiak, and it turned in the best group of the test. Ten shots went into a group measuring exactly one-inch across the centers of the two widest shots. Within that group, though, is a smaller one containing seven shots that measure 0.52 inches across. That tells me that Mac hadn’t discovered the exact hold for the rifle. Indeed, he shot two 10-shot groups with Baracudas, and the first one was 1.5 times larger than the second. It was during the second group that he discovered the way the rifle likes to be held.
The best hold
The Gold requires the artillery hold. Mac started out by balancing the rifle on two fingers placed just in front of the triggerguard. That makes the rifle very muzzle heavy and is usually the best way to hold a sensitive springer, but not this time. Mac discovered the Gold wanted to be placed on the flat of his open palm in the classic artillery hold. His off hand was forward, where it just touched the back of the cocking slot. All the rest of the hold remained the same, which means no pulling into the shoulder and no heavy hand on the pistol grip.
Follow-through is a huge part of the artillery hold, and there’s a relaxation technique I sometimes use on extra-sensitive spring rifles to calm them down the maximum amount. I will explain it in part four of this report, because that’s where we’re headed.
While this 10-shot group of H&N Baracudas isn’t exactly tight, it does show promise. Seven of the 10 shots went into about one-half inch.
JSB Exact Express pellets
The next pellet to be tested was another one that I had high hopes for. Just like the Premier, the JSB Exact Express 14.3-grain dome is a classic pellet that usually does great things in spring guns. But they didn’t like the Browning Gold, grouping in over two inches before Mac stopped shooting the group. By this time, he knew how the rifle liked to be held yet this pellet still wouldn’t group. So, he moved on.
RWS Hobby pellets
Neither Mac nor I held out much hope for the lightweight RWS Hobby pellet in this powerful spring rifle. And this time our predictions came true. This was another pellet that didn’t finish, after several shots went into almost three inches at 25 yards.
JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets
The last pellet Mac tried was the JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy 18.1-grain pellet. Because the heavy Baracudas were accurate, I figured these would be as well. They gave a best 10-shot group of 1.167 inches, which isn’t great but, once again, showed some promise within the group.
Ten JSB Exact Jumbos made this group, which measures over an inch but still shows promise.
Let me now try to make sense of what’s happening (I believe), and we’ll see where we go from here.
Powerful spring rifles are hold-sensitive
From hundreds of tests of different airguns, I’ve observed that powerful spring rifles are usually very sensitive to how they’re held. Sometimes, there are exceptions; and in one case, the exception gives good insight into what may be happening with the Gold.
Let me tell you about the Beeman R1 that I used to write the Beeman R1 Supermagnum Air Rifle book. I tested that rifle both before and after a 1,000-shot break-in period and what I found was interesting. When the gun was tuned with most conventional tunes, including the one that came from the factory, it was extremely sensitive to hold. I would get 3-inch, 5-shot groups at 50 yards. But the most powerful tune I could apply to that rifle, which came from Ivan Hancock, proved to also be the least sensitive to hold.
With the Mag-80 Laza tune in the gun, I could get 1.5-inch, 5-shot groups at 50 yards with the same pellets that gave me groups twice that size with all other tunes — including a gas spring! That told me that it wasn’t just the power of the rifle or the fact that it was a breakbarrel springer that made it touchy — it was also the specific tune on the gun.
I don’t have the time or inclination to tune this test rifle, nor do I want to go inside for that matter. I do want to give the rifle another chance to do well on the test. I want that because I sense there’s more here than I’m seeing from the brief test I normally do.
You might think I could say the same thing about all powerful breakbarrel springers, but I can’t. If the manufacturer didn’t bother making the barrel pivot joint adjustable with a bolt that allows the user to adjust the breech as the rifle breaks in, then nothing can be done that’s economically realistic to make it a better shooter. I’m referring to the current crop of Chinese-made magnum blasters that have plain pins for their pivots. But this Browning Gold has a bolt that can be adjusted, and I think this is one of those air rifles that will wear in, not out. I could be wrong, and I’m certainly not going to test it for several thousand shots to find out, but I do think the rifle deserves a second chance to succeed.
Part four — a plan for the future
I’ll do a Part 4 retest of accuracy, where I’ll shoot the rifle myself. Mac is on his way back to Maryland, unfortunately for me.
I plan to clean the bore with JB-Non-Embedding-Bore-Cleaning-Compound, the same as I have done in the past for other air rifles that I felt had more potential than they were showing. I’ll also tighten all the stock screws, because Mac noted that they loosened during testing. He tightened them as he went, but I’ll keep a watchful eye on them. Lastly, I’ll apply that special follow-through technique I alluded to earlier. When I do it, I’ll talk you through how it’s done so you can try it yourself. I have written about this technique several times in past reports, but it’s time to focus on it once more, I think.
I’ll start the test with Baracudas and then test some other good .22-caliber pellets to see if there are some that could prove to be accurate. When all is said and done, I want this rifle to have had the best chance to shine because I have a strong feeling that it’s a good one.