by B.B. Pelletier
El Gamo 68 is a futuristic breakbarrel from the past.
I told you that the Arkansas airgun show was unique in yesterday’s report. Today, I want to start a report on an airgun I bought at the show. It was on the table next to me throughout the show, and I thought for sure someone would snap it up before I got the money to buy it; but as fate would have it, the gun waited for me until the end of the show. Literally, an hour before it was due to be packed up, I made an offer to reader David Enoch, the gun’s owner, and he accepted. I now own an air rifle that I’ve been wondering about for the past 32 years.
I first noticed the 68-XP (it’s a little hard not to notice!) in the pages of a 1979/1980 Air Rifle Headquarters catalog. I was still in the Army, living at Fort Knox with my young family at the time, so the discretionary funds were too tight to buy many of the things that caught my fancy, but this gun was so odd that I both hated it and wanted to get to know it at the same time.
Note: My gun is clearly marked as a model Gamo 68. A bit of Google searching came up with an old forum posting that the 68-XP was sold only in America, but the same gun was sold in Europe as the 68. If the guns were actually marked 68-XP when they came to the U.S., then mine was made for the European market since it lacks the “XP” initials.
You could tell that the description in the ARH catalog was mostly hype (not really, but I will explain as we go); but there seemed to be a thread of truth that ran through all their tests, and this rifle was reported as being fairly accurate. I already owned a Beeman FWB 124, so I didn’t need aspirin-busting accuracy; but the thought that a $90 spring-piston air rifle that looked like something Buck Rogers carried — but could also be a shooter — was enticing. It was offered only in .177 caliber, of course, because the powerplant was barely up to launching even those light pellets, to say nothing of the much heavier .22s. Of course, things like that never stopped companies like Diana, but El Gamo was a Spanish company that seemed wedded to the smallest caliber.
In those days (around 1979), Spanish airguns were looked upon like Chinese and Turkish airguns are today. We knew the companies were able to make good guns, but they often seemed to lack the willpower to actually do it. So, I considered El Gamo to be a junk brand, and in retrospect I believe that was a serious misjudgment on my part. What they really were was a non-German airgun maker that was building accurate and solid airguns at a time when most of us couldn’t see past Weihrauch, Webley, BSA and Feinwerkbau. And when I say “most of us,” I really mean just me, because there were no airgun magazines on the market (that I knew about), nor had Al Gore invented the internet, yet. It would be another 14 years before I started writing The Airgun Letter and attending airgun shows to discover that others shared my misguided opinions.
Robert Law, the owner of Air Rifle Headquarters, did his best to convince us that El Gamo rifles were good, but he was fighting unreasonable opposition. For some reason, we all (I later learned) believed every word he said about a Weihrauch HW 55 target rifle, but thought the copy about El Gamo was nothing but hype!
He would say things like, “All El Gamo models feature a rifled steel barrel,” which sounded suspiciously similar to “Each Yugo automobile features four perfectly round tires filled to capacity with factory air.” I think that we (I) had chips on our shoulder(s) and were daring Law to be right about anything he said regarding Spanish airguns..
Before anyone asks, El Gamo used to be the name Gamo used for their company. Sometime in the 1990s (I believe), they dropped the El from the logo.
The crackle finish held up well over time.
El Gamo’s logo is a stylized stag.
The 68/68-XP is based on the model 300 action. ARH sold it as the 300 Target and considered it to be an informal target rifle. They claimed an accuracy of 0.22 inches for 5 shots at 10 meters after their free conditioning, but all 68/68-XPs should shoot about the same after break-in. After they’re accurized, they said the rifle would group in 0.15 inches.
Beeman also sold the model 300, and they gave an accuracy potential of 0.22 inches — so they agreed with ARH. That’s not surprising, since they bought their guns from ARH in the beginning.
The gun is a strange one. It has no true stock, as you can see. What is the stock on most breakbarrels is a cast-aluminum frame on this one. The butt is synthetic — made of two halves screwed together around the cast-aluminum frame.
The trigger has three adjustment screws. Since David Enoch was kind enough to send me the manual, I’ll know how they work when it comes time. At the forward end of the triggerguard is a hole that leads to a large screw that might look like an adjustment screw but actually is the bearing point for the cocking linkage. I’ll pull the action out of the stock to see how this works and maybe why it’s there.
Three trigger adjustment screws are located at the back of the triggerguard. The one screw that’s in front of the trigger seems to adjust the cocking link bearing point.
The little gun feels heavy. It weighs 6 lbs., 2 oz., which isn’t much, but seems like a lot for a carbine whose overall length is only 37 inches. And yet the barrel is 17-9/16 inches long, which helps bring down the cocking effort to just 22 lbs.
The sights are old-school — no nasty fiberoptics to contend with. The rear sight adjusts in both directions, and the front sight is a crisp, wide blade with sharp edges. It fits the rear notch nicely, so you can aim precisely.
The rear sight is adjustable both ways. Though it looks like most modern open sights, it seems crisper than most.
The front sight is exactly what you want in a sporting front sight. Why did they ever change?
The ARH catalog says the gun holds well for offhand shooting, and I saw that when I shot it twice at the Arkansas airgun show. I was surprised when my pellets went into the same hole at 15 yards, because I’m not normally that good offhand. So I hope there’s a real surprise in store for us as far as accuracy is concerned.
There’s a scope rail on this one, so I’ll mount a scope after trying the open sights. They had scoped air rifles back when the gun was new; but they were still in the very early days, when not a lot was known about scoping airguns. Today, I have access to BKL scope rings, which overcome the lack of provisions for a mechanical scope stop.
The butt frame is aluminum, with two-piece synthetic shells that are screwed together.
You can’t buy one of these except as a used airgun, but it has so many of the features that I want to see in every lower-powered spring rifle that I wish it was still being made. If you don’t like the unconventional look of the 67/68-XP I’m testing, the action is identical to the model 300 that comes in a classic wood stock. So, let’s see how El Gamo made themback in the 1970s!