by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
You’ll notice that I’m signing in differently today. I’ve decided to start using my real name along with my pen name. I’m doing this because some people are confused about who I am, and I don’t want there to be any confusion. From now, I’ll sign in this way. You can refer to me as Tom or B.B., just as you always have, but I’ll always answer as B.B.
Today’s the day we look at how the Vortek adjustable muzzlebrake helps control pellet dispersion for the Beeman R1 air rifle. It has been a very long time since I tested this brake, so I didn’t remember how effective it was. This test was a learning experience for me, too.
At least one reader suggested that I test the brake with all three pellets, but that would have taken much longer than I had for this test. As it was, I wound up shooting seven 10-shot groups that really fatigued me by the time it was over.
I decided to test just one pellet — the H&N Baracuda Match that I said seemed to be the best pellet the last time I shot the gun. The only thing I changed during most of this test was the muzzlebrake. The scope and type of artillery hold stayed the same, except for at the end of the test, which I will explain when we come to it.
I also used the Michael Jackson artillery hold that was recommended by blog reader mikeiniowa. That’s where you wear a glove on your off hand, so the stock can easily slide on your open palm. It’s a bit quirky, and at the end of the test I have to say that it didn’t seem to make a bit of difference, but perhaps it did help me feel the rifle’s weight better. And that did lead to an alteration in my artillery hold, but that’s yet to come.
I added the cotton glove to make the Michael Jackson artillery hold.
The first group was fired with the muzzlebrake set where it was for the Part 3 test. Since I used the same pellets as were in Part 3, I expected to see a group of about the same size. What I did not expect was to see a group that looked exactly like the first group in the last accuracy test, but that’s what happened. This one measured 1.269 inches between the centers of the two widest shots, which is considerably larger than the last test with the same H&N Baracuda Match pellet. Eight of the shots landed in a much tighter group that measured 0.55 inches between centers.
The first group was 10 H&N Baracudas shot with the same muzzlebrake setting that was used in the Part 3 accuracy test. As there were then, there were 8 tight pellets and 2 that strayed from the main group.
Like before, I got 8 shots in a good tight group and 2 that went wide. These were not called fliers, but I did feel that I wasn’t holding the gun good enough, yet.
Then, I screwed in the adjustable weight as far as it would go, which was 16 clicks. This brake adjusts in very large and definite clicks, so it’s easy to know where you are and where you’re going. The next group of 10 shots was fired with the weight adjusted all the way in.
Next, I put 16 clicks of adjustment back into the brake to see if I would get the same results as the first time. This time, no shots strayed from the main group, which measures 0.583 inches between centers. The entire group of 10 shots is close to the size of the 8 tight shots in the first group.
While there’s some degree of repeatability in the two groups shot at the same 16-clicks out position, I didn’t feel confident that I’d seen all the performance the brake had to offer, so I turned it out 4 more clicks — a total of 20 clicks out from the beginning. Then, I shot another group. This time, there was definite group disruption, as not only were the shots scattered more openly, they also grouped into 1.192 inches.
Where does that leave me?
It seemed as though the groups were opening and closing, depending on how far out the weight was adjusted. It also seems that it didn’t take much to make the groups change. But I still was not convinced.
I adjusted the weight in to the point that it had 14 clicks of adjustment, then I shot another group. This time, 9 pellets landed in a reasonably tight group that measures 0.824 inches between centers. But the tenth shot opens that to 1.346 inches — the biggest group thus far and also the largest shot during this entire test. What do I make of that?
The glove tells me my hold is not consistent
It was at this point that I began to feel a difference in my hold from shot to shot. The cotton glove was so slippery on the stock that I was able to feel the shape of the stock like never before. Maybe that’s what the glove is good for? I don’t know, but I went back to 16 clicks of adjustment and shot another group.
This group measures 0.913 inches between centers, but it’s different from the other groups shot on this adjustment setting. First, instead of 8 pellets bunched in one hole, this time there were only six. The other four pellets were not in the main group. The 6 that were, however, were in 0.292 inches!
The second thing I noticed was that this group is not in the same place as the other two groups that have 16 clicks of adjustment. It’s lower on the target for some reason. While shooting this group, I definitely felt the hold was changing slightly. The R1’s stock is rounded near the triggerguard, and part of the time I had the weight pressing deeper into my off hand, while other times it was away from the center of my hand, where it seemed to want to roll to the right. I thought I needed to try one more group, and this time concentrate on centering the weight of the stock in my off hand.
I was also growing fatigued at this point, having fired 60 shots thus far. Each of those shots had taken well over one minute to set up; and as I was shooting, I remembered the person who was incredulous that I said it might take up to five minutes for each shot. Right now, the time was expanding in that direction and I was growing angry, thinking about this conversation. I wondered why anyone who ever shot off a bench did not realize that shots can take this long, when you took the time to ensure everything was perfect before releasing the shot.
And it was that anger that told me I was finished for the day. I’d shot too much. But I still plowed on, convinced that the new hold I had found might be the Holy Grail for this rifle/pellet/brake setting combination.
So, I shot one more target, using this new, weight-centered hold. I felt sure it would give me the tight groups I had been looking for. The weight was still adjusted 16 clicks out, which is the best setting I’ve found with the Baracuda pellet.
At 16 clicks out and concentrating on centering the weight of the gun in my off hand. This group measures 1.151 inches between centers and has two shots outside the main group — again! The central group of 8 shots measures 0.657 inches between centers.
It doesn’t take a graph to show that the rifle performs the same on the same weight adjustment setting. No matter how the hold is modified, the rifle wants to put 8 shots into a smaller group and have two outside shots that stretch the group size considerably.
The bottom line?
I don’t think I have a bottom line for this test, yet. I think Baracuda pellets may not be the best ones to test the gun after all. I also think I shot the gun too long in this session and tired myself out, so the final results (after about the fourth or fifth group) are suspect.
It seems clear that the adjustable brake does work, but I can’t say how well, yet. I’ll set the R1 aside for a while, but I do want to come back to it in a week or so and try it with the 15.9-grain JSB Exact domes. Maybe that’ll give me better results.