by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

AirForce Talon SS is a whole shooting system.

Today is Part 2, the velocity test of the AirForce Talon SS. With an AirForce rifle, this could easily be three separate reports by itself because there’s so much flexibility built into the rifle that it takes that long to explain it all. The rifle isn’t complex, but the adjustable power and barrel options give the shooter a world of possibilities to explore.

I’m testing a box-stock Talon SS in .22 caliber. My rifle is around 10 years old, so it’s broken-in. New Talon SS rifles may not do what mine does right from the box, but keep shooting them a while and they’ll settle in like this one did.

Normally in the velocity test, I pick a range of pellets to test, but today I’ve selected only two. These are the two most accurate pellets in this rifle, and I don’t shoot anything else. What this allows me to do is show you what the adjustability looks like in operation.

Power setting 10
I learned many years ago that my SS likes power setting 10. Adjusting it higher only gets a few extra f.p.s., but the air is exhausted much faster. I get about 35 powerful shots from the 12-inch .22-caliber Lothar Walther barrel that comes with the rifle on power setting 10, and I’ll show you what that gives me. Refer back to Part 1 to see the power adjustment mechanism and what the settings look like.

The first pellet I shot was the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier. For many years, this was the hands-down best pellet in my SS and also in the hundreds of SS rifles I tested at the AirForce factory, where I used to work as technical director (2003-2005). I used to mount scopes on rifles that were sold directly and then I sighted them in. For this, I used the Crosman Premier pellet. I also tested every rifle that was sent in for repairs — including several that were simply sent in because their owner’s claimed they weren’t accurate. In the latter cases, I always tried calling the owner to ascertain what was going wrong, because in all cases except one the rifles were always deadly accurate. I may have had to clean the barrel, but afterward it always shot great.

I had only 23 yards of distance inside the old factory, so that was the distance at which the gun was tested, but I have shot the SS at 50 yards so much that I could extrapolate what it would do from a 23-yard group. The standard was about a 3/8-inch group of five at 23 yards, and, with one exception in three years of testing, that’s what I almost always got. In a couple cases, I got a quarter-inch group, and I envied the owners of those special barrels! By the way, this is where I developed my 10-minute sight-in procedure.

At power setting 10, my SS (filled to 3,000 psi) gets an average 854 f.p.s. with Crosman Premiers. The range is from 850 to 860, so the spread is 10 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the rifle produces 23.16 foot-pounds. This is fast for an SS at power setting 10. Most of the brand-new rifles I’ve tested get from 820-830 f.p.s. on the same setting, but as I said earlier, once they break in they go a little faster.

Then, I tested the JSB Exact 15.9-grain dome. This is now the best pellet in my SS, having passed the Premier a number of years ago. And that’s in both the factory 12-inch barrel as well as the optional 24-inch barrel I usually have on the rifle. On power setting 10, this pellet averages 823 f.p.s., with a spread from 821 to 825 f.p.s. That gives us a muzzle energy of 23.92 foot-pounds.

Can the rifle give more energy?
The short answer is yes. By loading heavier pellets, you’ll get increasingly higher energies. An SS is good for a bit more than 25 foot-pounds; but if you want to hit what you shoot at with my rifle, you’ll shoot either of the two pellets already mentioned.

Power setting 6
Okay, let’s back off the power and see what happens. On power setting 6, my rifle shoots Premiers at an average 787 f.p.s. The spread is from 775 to 800 f.p.s., so it has jumped from a 10 f.p.s. spread to a 25 f.p.s. spread. At lower power settings, you can expect your Talon SS to shoot less consistently than it does on higher power. However, you aren’t going to shoot 50-yard groups on power setting 6 if you want to do well, so it really doesn’t matter. At 25 yards, you won’t be able to see a difference between the rifle on 6 and 10. At 6, the pellet produces 19.67 foot-pounds, so it’s still as strong as many powerful spring rifles. The benefit of this setting is more shots per fill, but I get so many shots on power setting 10 that I never use anything else.

The heavier JSB pellets average 778 f.p.s. on setting 6. They range from 769 to 785 f.p.s., so the spread is a bit tighter than with Premiers. And the average energy with this pellet on setting 6 is 21.38 foot-pounds.

Power setting 0
I then adjusted the power as low as it will go. I call it setting 0, though there is no zero on the adjustment scale. On this setting, the rifle is quieter than a Red Ryder BB gun. Crosman Premiers average 486 f.p.s. with a spread from 451 to 522 f.p.s. The velocity has really opened up at this low setting. You can live with it if the distance is 10 meters or less, or you can bump the power up to setting 2 (on my rifle) and cut the velocity spread in half. At that setting, the velocity will average about 520 f.p.s. On setting 0, the power averages 7.5 foot-pounds, or just about what you get from a Diana 27 breakbarrel in good shape.

JSB Exacts 15.9-grain pellets average 507 f.p.s,. on setting 0 and they range from 492 to 521. Once more they produced the tighter spread, and this time they went faster, as well. They produced 9.08 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Shot No. 35
People want to know how many shots a PCP has and the answer is always, “That depends.” In this case, the 35th full-power shot from the rifle set on power setting 10 was a Crosman Premier at 837 f.p.s. Remember, we were getting an average of 854 f.p.s. on this setting in the beginning of the fill. That should give you an idea of how many shots you can expect from a single fill.

Adjusting the top hat
The top hat refers to the end of the valve that is struck by the striker (through the bolt) when the rifle fires. It looks like an old top hat in profile. Back before the Talon rifle came out in 2001, AirForce rifles had no power adjustment mechanism. So shooters would put an o-ring under the top hat to cushion the blow from the striker. You could run the gun without the o-ring, which was wide open, or use the o-ring and get twice the number of shots at reduced power.

Another way to adjust power on that old model was to adjust the clearance under the top hat, so the valve opened for more or less time, depending on what you did. You loosened a single small Allen screw (just one in the old days) and screwed the top hat up or down to suit your intention. That is where the top hat adjustment came into being.

When the Talon first came out with its power adjuster, it was no longer necessary to adjust the top hat, but many owners didn’t get the memo and continued adjusting it anyway. The top hat can still be adjusted today; but it’s set at 0.080 inches from the factory on a Talon and a Talon SS, and there’s no good reason to change that setting. My tank is about a decade old, and its top hat has never been adjusted.

The space under the silver “top hat” (above the center of this picture) controls how far the valve opens and how long it remains open. Leave it alone. The bolt is pushed forward to cock the rifle and for showing the top hat in this photo.

Does adjusting the top hat change anything? Yes, it does. It changes the way the power adjustment mechanism affects the gun. Changing the top hat is like changing the tire size on your car. When you do, the speedometer doesn’t work correctly anymore, because it is calibrated to the original tire size.

My advice is to leave the top hat right where it is when you get the gun, unless you get it used from someone who has adjusted it. It that is the case, set it to 0.080 inches of clearance (Talon and Talon SS) and leave it alone.

The trigger on a Talon SS is two-stage, and the factory rates it at 2.5-3.5 lbs. Mine, which has never been serviced in any way, probably has 10,000 shots on it and breaks at 25-27 oz. — just a shade under 2 lbs. It has no creep in stage two, though most brand-new triggers do have a little.

The safety is automatic, and you can usually push it off with your trigger finger. Some new guns are too stiff to do this; but when they’re broken in, most safeties are easy to release this way.

The trigger parts are case hardened and coated with a film of moly that lasts a lifetime. You never oil the trigger, as that will attract and hold dirt — but the dry moly coating leaves the steel parts looking silvery.

AirForce triggers used to be adjustable; but when they developed the current design, they removed that feature. The adjustment was for stage one, only. Stage two takes care of itself, as it must, since the trigger parts move as the gun is cocked. So they need to be free-moving to align perfectly every time. Don’t trust any aftermarket modifications, because many of them are not safe. I’ve seen them slip off the sear without external intervention.

Is it quiet?
Yes, and no. Compared to the precharged guns without silencers that preceded it, the SS is quiet. But it’s not silenced. To a shooter who has experience with a Korean PCP, it’ll sound quiet. Compared to a fully silenced PCP, it seems loud. At power setting 10, it’s as loud as a magnum spring rifle. On power setting 4, it sounds like a Sheridan Blue Streak on three pumps. On power setting 0, it’s quieter than a Daisy BB gun. If those comparisons mean nothing to you, on power setting 10 it sounds like hands clapping loudly.

We could continue
There are many power settings I haven’t tested in this report. I hope the ones I did test demonstrate the range of power that’s available. Between settings 2 and 6, the power changes very rapidly as the adjuster changes; then from 6 to the top, the changes are slower. The rifle is most stable around power setting 10. Each rifle will differ, and each rifle will also change as it breaks in — getting faster with time if left alone.

If you buy a Talon SS and don’t own a chronograph, don’t worry — all you have to do is adjust it to the setting that gives the best accuracy. That’s going to be somewhere near setting 10 on the coarse setting and forget what the number on the power wheel says.

I’ve also told you the two very best pellets for my rifle. Because I’ve tested so many of these guns, I know that these pellets will work well in any of them. That’s not to say that a better pellet won’t come along someday, but for right now — these two are the best.

Next, we’ll mount a scope and see what sort of accuracy we get from the rifle.