by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll look at the power of this .177-caliber TF89 Contender. The rifle is advertised at 1,100 f.p.s., and today we’ll see if that’s true. I tested a TF89 air rifle back when they first came out; although that report is no longer available online, I remember saying lots of nice things about this air rifle.
This breakbarrel has a long arc to cock the long-stroke piston and you feel it all the way. It takes a peak of 42 lbs. of effort to cock the test rifle, though most of the way through the stroke it was just under 40 lbs. When the rifle was brand new, I could feel a dryness to the powerplant, accompanied by a squeaking sound during cocking. That went away during the velocity test, but the barrel still does have a hesitation spot about at the midway point through the barrel arc after the rifle is cocked. Through that arc, the barrel will remain wherever it’s put, but outside that hesitation spot the barrel is loose and floppy.
A tuneup with the removal of burrs and proper lubrication would no doubt help here, plus it might knock off a pound or two of cocking effort. I think the rifle could benefit from a look inside to remove the sharp edges and metal shavings that remain from manufacture.
The trigger is two-stage and supposed to be adjustable, but I did not attempt to adjust it for this test. As it came from the factory, stage two is very creepy and releases with variable pressure of 3 lbs., 7 oz. to 4 lbs., 6 oz. It averaged 4 lbs., 1 oz.
A close examination of the trigger shows that it is not a copy of a Gamo trigger, nor is it like anything else I recognize. It appears to be somewhat sophisticated, and Im going to devote a separate report to the adjustment of the trigger; because if I were to test the rifle for accuracy as the trigger is now adjusted, it would not be to the rifle’s favor.
The firing behavior varied with each different type of pellet. RWS Hobbys were loud (they broke the sound barrier) and just a little buzzy, while Beeman Kodiaks were solid and quiet. The ball-bearing detent that closes the breech is solid and reliable. From the test results I don’t think any air is leaking at the breech joint.
Overall I would rate the feel of the rifle while firing as very solid. It feels like an airgun that wants to be broken in. It also feels like an air rifle that I want to adjust as nice as possible, because it may have some real potential. I can’t explain how that feels, but sometimes I just sense that an airgun has more to offer, and this one certainly seems to.
The first pellet I tested was the Crosman 7.9-grain Premier dome. It averaged 989 f.p.s. with a velocity spread that went from a low of 956 f.p.s to a high of 999 f.p.s. That’s a total variance of 43 f.p.s., which is fairly large for even a new air rifle. Perhaps the lowest-velocity shot was anomalous, because the next-lowest was 980 f.p.s., bringing the total spread to a more reasonable 19 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the rifle produced 17.16 foot-pounds of energy.
Next, I tested the H&N Field Target pellet. This is a 8.5-grain domed semi-wadcutter design that should work for both paper targets and steel targets, alike. The average velocity was 962 f.p.s. and the total spread ranged from 954 to 968 f.p.s. — a spread of only 14 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the rifle produced 17.47 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
The next pellet tested was the RWS Hobby, a very lightweight, all-lead pellet. Hobbys averaged 1083 f.p.s., and all of them broke the sound barrier; so, there was a distinctive crack upon firing. They also made the powerplant noticeably buzzy, so they’re probably too light for this rifle. The spread went from a low of 1071 f.p.s. to a high of 1099 f.p.s., proving the claim for 1,100 f.p.s. At the average velocity, Hobbys produced 18.24 foot-pounds of energy.
Had to try Kodiaks
After seeing these velocities, I knew I had to try at least one heavy pellet to slow down the rifle below transonic velocity. I selected Beeman Kodiaks because I expect to choose them for the accuracy test, as well. They averaged 848 f.p.s., which is ideal. The total spread went from 843 to 855, so a very tight 12 foot-second difference. At the average velocity, they’re producing 16.33 foot-pounds of energy.
The feel when shooting the Kodiaks is like you’re shooting a tuned rifle. It’s so solid that it gives me confidence that the rifle has a lot of accuracy to offer.
So far, I like the rifle. It seems solid and well-built; and if I can adjust the trigger to be reasonable, I’m hoping to get good accuracy from it. It’s powerful, yet not overly so. It handles well and feels right when I shoulder it. This might be a breakbarrel for someone who is looking for power and (hopefully) accuracy at a reasonable price.