First shot: Yes or no? Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

I sort of backed into this report several weeks ago when I reported on shooting my .250 Savage with 10 “first” shots. Actually, I waited long enough between each shot that the barrel cooled down to the ambient temperature so the rifle “thought” it was shooting its first shot. The actual first of the 10 shots was a little wide of the rest of the group, probably because the bore had been cleaned and was just a bit oily — but also because it went off before I was ready. I’d forgotten how light the trigger was on that rifle. After that, though, the gun settled down and put the next 8 rounds into a very nice group that was centered on the bull. The last shot was a called pull to the right.

250 Savage group1
Eight tight first shots out of 10 at 100 yards from my .250 Savage.

That target and experience got me wondering whether an airgun could also put all of its first shots in the same place. So, I devised a test to see what would happen. Today, I’m reporting on the outcome.

Initially, I’d said that to be a true first shot a long time had to pass between each shot. I thought hours would be appropriate, and a full day would be even better. There’s no scientific reasoning behind those times — it’s just something that I came up with.

I initially put an entire day between each shot, but that proved to be too much of a burden. To shoot, I have to set up a light on the target, set up a shooting bench with sandbag and a chair, and I have to clear the furniture out of the intervening space. So, at shot No. 3, I resolved to shoot two shots per day and leave the shooing bench and light set up all day. There would be about 5 hours between each shot on any given day.

This is hard!
Right off the bat, I discovered that this is the hardest shooting test I’ve ever done. Because I wasn’t shooting but a single shot, I wasn’t giving myself time to warm up as a shooter — to heck with the rifle. It took from 2 to 5 minutes to settle in for the shot, and each shot was a first shot, so they were as scary as all first shots are. In that respect, I think this was a true test of both the gun and the shooter. If you’ve never tried something like this, you owe it to yourself to try it at least one time. I think you’ll see how difficult it is if you really try to shoot the very best you can.

My test rifle was my Beeman R8 that I’ve shown you several times in the past. It’s tuned to be very smooth and has always been able to shoot a small group on command, so I thought it might also be good for this kind of test.

The best pellet in this rifle has been the JSB Exact RS that weighs just 7.3 grains in .177 caliber. It’s extremely stable in this rifle and seems to forgive many faults on the shooter’s part — something I would need for certain.

Beeman R8 profile left
This Beeman R8 is tuned, so it shoots to the point of aim.

What are we testing?
With the .250 Savage, I was testing the ability of the rifle to put the first bullet where I wanted it to go. A centerfire rifle will often throw the first bullet wide of the mark, either because the barrel is cold or, more likely, because it has an oily film which lubricates the bullet differently than all the bullets that follow. An airgun acts differently, because different things are happening. First, since we don’t routinely clean our barrels, you don’t have the oily film problem. If it’s a springer you’re shooting, the grease is stiff on the first shot and looser afterwards. If it’s a PCP, the valve tends to stick on some guns with the first shot.

But we’re also testing the shooter. I usually need a couple shots to get into the groove every time I shoot — and I shoot almost every day of the week. A shooter who shoots less often than me will probably need more shots — just to warm up and remember all his shooting techniques. But you don’t get that with a first shot. It’s right then or never — no do-overs. And that was what affected the outcome of this test as much as anything, I think.

The results
What follows is a photo record of 10 shots. It starts with two shots and ends with 10. After that, I’ll shoot another 10-shot group, after settling in, so we can compare the difference.

Two shots from the R8 at 25 yards. So far, so good.

110 shot test target2
Shot three enlarged the group quite a bit.

After the third shot, I abandoned the need to wait a day between shots and shortened it to not less than 5 hours. I did that for the reasons already mentioned.

10 shot test target3
Shot four went on the other side of the aim point, which is the dot at the center of the target. I’m in danger of losing my aim point.

10 shot test target4
Shot 5 enlarged the right side of the group a little.

About at this point, I observed that this is a very difficult way to shoot targets! Every shot takes settling in, which a first shot doesn’t really afford; so you have to spend extra time getting set up. It was taking me 3 to 5 minutes to settle in for every shot, and that’s no exaggeration. And, even then, I always wondered if there was any tension left in me that might throw a shot wide of the mark. As you will see, that can happen all too easily.

10 shot test target5
Shot 6 joined the hole to the left with the group on the right, making it look better. It also removed the aim point. It was guesswork from this point on.

At this point in the test, I was feeling that the gun was going to perform as I knew it could. And that was all it took to make me relax my setup for the next shot.

10 shot test target6
And that is all it takes! By rushing the setup for the 7th shot, I left some sideways tension in my hold. I knew the tension was there, but I thought the rifle would compensate for me and still drill the center.

Let my 7th shot be a lesson to everyone. When shooting for the tightest group, you absolutely cannot leave anything to chance, nor can you take anything for granted! I know that very well, and you can see the results of it in the group at the top of this report. But I got careless this one time and look what it cost me.

10 shot test target7
Shot 8 is back in the main group — of course.

10 shot test target8
You can’t tell where shot 9 went, so it’s somewhere in the main group.

At this point you know how this is going to turn out. The rifle is accurate, even if I slip up occasionally. And shot 7 is staring me in the face, reminding me to not do that. One more shot to finish the group, and I probably was the most careful with this one.

10 shot test target9
And there you have it. Ten shots — all of them the first shot from a cold gun. Only one “flyer” that we all know is not a flier at all.

Shot 7 now appears to be a “flier” in this group. But we know differently. We know what caused it to go wide was technique — not a bad pellet, scope shift or any other lame excuse. I just shot bad that time.

We also suspect that the R8 is a first-shot rifle. In other words, there’s no need to warm it up to get the best results. But I still need to do one more thing to prove that it is. I need to shoot the best group I can — which will be shot all at the same time.

To get ready for the group I shot 5 pellets at another target to get myself into the groove. Once I knew I was there, I shot a final 10-shot group with the same gun and pellet at the same 25 yards.

10 shot test target10
This is what I can do under the same conditions, when I shoot all 10 shots at one time. The rifle isn’t more accurate — I just make fewer mistakes.

What have I learned?
For starters, I know that this R8 is a stable gun. It doesn’t have to be limbered up to shoot its best. That doesn’t translate to other air rifles, though. Each gun will be unique, and some of them will have to be warmed up to shoot where you aim.

I also learned how difficult it is to put the first shot where I want to. Actually, I sort of knew that already — this test just forced me to see it more clearly.

Does this apply to other powerplants, as well?
I think it applies to all guns — air-powered or firearm. But I suppose I need to test it to see for sure.

What’s coming
Just as a reminder, I’ve been writing a number of reports about the basics, or what I call the components of accuracy. Last December, I did one on velocity versus harmonics, and I’m still referring back to that 11-part test to see the lessons.

Dennis Quackenbush has long been intrigued by the same thing: What makes a gun accurate? One of the things he and I have discussed over the past decade is rifling twist rates. And I have learned a lot about twist rates in the past 5 years from my firearms shooting. Most of it was what not to do; but, still, it was stuff I didn’t know.

Dennis kindly offered to help me perform a little experiment with twist rates for pellets. We selected the AirForce Talon SS as a testbed because the barrels are so easy to change, and Dennis made two special .22-caliber barrels for the rifle. One has a 1:12 twist rate (that means the pellet rotates one time in 12 inches of barrel), and the other has a 1:22 twist. The standard barrel has a 1:16 twist rate; so by shooting groups with all three barrels, we’ll be able to compare the performance.

AirForce helped out by furnishing the exterior barrel dimensions, plus they supplied the barrel bushings for the barrels. I have these barrels now and am set to start testing very soon. Before I do, I’d like the blog readers to give me their thoughts on what I should do to perform this experiment.

Air Venturi Tech Force M12 combo: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The new Tech Force M12 breakbarrel is a new midrange springer from Air Venturi.

Today, we’ll look at the firing behavior and velocity of the Tech Force M12. You readers had mixed feelings about this rifle. Some of you liked the look of the gun and the fact that the trigger is nice, though it’s only single-stage. Others were put off by the lack of open sights. Once again, for anyone who missed it, the Tech Force M12 is made for Air Venturi (who owns the Tech Force name) by Mendoza. It is not a model Mendoza makes under any other name, so if you want one, you have to get an M12.

I’m testing the combo with the 4-12x40AO Tech Force rifle scope. The scope comes into play in the next report, when I look at the rifle’s accuracy. Now, we’ll look at its performance over the chronograph. The first pellet I shot was the one I think may shoot best in the rifle — the venerable Crosman Premier 7.9-grain dome.

The first several shots from the rifle detonated, which means they were accompanied by a loud bang. Some people call that dieseling, but it’s more than that. Dieseling means that the piston causes the oil in the compression chamber to ignite when the gun fires. All spring guns in this power class diesel with every shot — even the ones that have been tuned. You don’t usually notice it because there’s so little oil to act as fuel for each shot that the gun neither makes a bang nor does it smoke. Only when there’s too much oil does the gun smoke with every shot, and only when there’s even more oil does it detonate. Detonation usually goes away after one to several shots, so you just keep shooting until the gun becomes quieter.

The M12 only detonated on the first 4 shots with Premier lites. The first shot went 1012 f.p.s., which is well over the advertised velocity of 750 f.p.s. for lead pellets. It was the detonation that caused the higher velocity, because shot No. 2 went 932 f.p.s., even though the rifle was still detonating.

After 7 shots, the rifle had stabilized, and the velocity had dropped to the 800 f.p.s. mark, which is what we expect it to do with this pellet. The average velocity was 797 f.p.s., and the spread ranged from 792 to 800 f.p.s. That’s a tight 8 foot-second range that tells me the Premier lite will probably be a good pellet for the accuracy test. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 11.15 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

The next pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby — an all-lead pellet that weighs 7 grains. I use Hobbys or other RWS pellets of equivalent weight to test spring guns for power, so we can have a standard reference.

Hobbys averaged 848 f.p.s. in the M12, but their performance was not stable. They ranged from 829 to 877 f.p.s. While I did not hear any definite detonations while shooting Hobbys, there was a lot of smoke with each shot, so the rifle is still burning off oil. It’s good to get that out of the way now before the accuracy test, where it would disturb the shots. At the average velocity, Hobbys produced 11.18 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

The next pellet I tested was the 10.3-grain JSB Exact dome. I felt that a heavier pellet might help stabilize the rifle in the early stages of its break-in. This pellet averaged 716 f.p.s.; but like the Hobbys, it wasn’t too stable. The spread went from 699 to 746 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 11.73 foot-pounds — the highest power noted in this test.

And the last pellet tested was the lead-free RWS HyperMAX pointed pellet that weighs 5.2 grains. These averaged 961 f.p.s. in the test rifle if I throw out the first shot that registered 919 f.p.s. The spread of the average string ranged from 948 to 970 f.p.s., so once more it wasn’t too stable. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 10.67 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

The M12 has surprised me thus far. Why? Because it’s a Mendoza, a company that I know can make some wonderful air rifles. But they often add too much oil during assembly. The M12 is not like that. Yes, it does have a little too much oil, but the same can be said of a new Weihrauch these days. And Air Venturi had them eliminate the oil hole they put on all their rifles, so there’s no encouragement to continue over-oiling the gun.

It seems well-behaved. The oil takes care of itself during the break-in period, so it’s of no consequence. The trigger is still very nice, though I can now feel it moving through the single stage. But there’s still no creep and it still releases crisply. The trigger breaks at 2 lbs., 15 oz. fairly consistently.

The firing behavior is accompanied by a slow shudder, not by high-speed vibration, so this rifle will probably be pleasant to shoot. The trigger is good enough to do good work on target, and I think the rest remains to be discovered.

Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
The Chinese Fast Deer sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?

I found this rifle at the 2012 Roanoke Airgun Expo a few weeks ago. The thing that caught my eye was the beauty of the finish — and that’s a stretch for most Chinese air rifles. Especially the vintage ones, which this most assuredly is.

I made the mistake of commenting to the dealer that it resembled an older TS-45 sidelever like the ones Randy Mitchell is selling, and I received an earful of protests that it was most definitely NOT a TS 45. And it really isn’t; but when you see the two guns side-by-side, you know their makers at least saw the competition.

TS 45 rifle right
The TS-45 appears to be the Fast Deer’s close relative. This test will determine how close.

The Fast Deer (or, as some call it, the Fast Dear — referring to their wives or girlfriends?) is finely finished, as I noted. The metal parts are deeply blued and the wood is very shiny. The fit of the action to the stock, however, leaves little doubt as to the rifle’s origins. The label on the box says the gun is made by the Zhongzhou Machinery Plant China North Industrial Corporation, or Norinco, as it is known in the U.S. Norinco is to China what Ishmash is to Russia — a huge arsenal that also makes items of a commercial nature.

When Mac first saw the gun, he remarked that the sidelever release appears similar to the one on the FWB 300S. Because this is a Chinese air rifle, you would expect the release to require a huge amount of pressure to operate, but it doesn’t. It’s smooth and as light as it can be for what it does.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle rear sight
The rear sight looks robust enough, but the adjustments are vague. You can make out the parallel dovetail grooves in the spring tube that might serve as a scope mount base. Also, note the sidelever release that works smoothly on the test rifle.

I haven’t removed the action from the stock, but so far the only marking I see on the gun is the serial number stamped into the left side of the spring tube. So, how do I know it’s a Fast Deer? Simple — it came in a Fast Deer box with a Fast Deer owner’s manual.

Fast Deer sidelever air right box graphics
The graphics on the box tell you the name of the rifle.

As I was admiring the rifle (I was not yet its owner), the dealer told me that it shoots at an honest-to-goodness 715 f.p.s. The TS-45 I tested for you earlier this year launched RWS Hobby pellets at an average 552 f.p.s. This gun may do a lot better than that.

Two things I can tell you for certain at this point. First, the rifle has an incredibly heavy trigger. It feels like at least 12 lbs., but it could be even more. There isn’t any creep in the single-stage pull, but the release is much heavier than it should be or even needs to be. The other thing I can say is that it feels like a tuned gun when it fires. It isn’t tuned, because it still smells like bacon frying after a few shots, and that smell is a telltale sign of Chinese grease. But there’s very little vibration and recoil with the shot. It feels like there’s a wonderful air rifle struggling to get out of the Fast Deer.

The sights are a hooded square blade in front and an adjustable rear notch that sits too close to the eye. Your eye cannot focus well on a notch that close, so aiming should be something of an adventure. I do note, however, that the TS-45 rear sight sits in the same place, and I managed to do okay with it. As nice and crisp as the rear sight appears, though, the detents on the windage adjustment knob are soft and mushy — and on elevation, they’re nonexistent.

The rear sight sits on parallel rails that might be pressed into service as a scope mount base. There doesn’t appear to be a scope stop on the gun, but as smooth as it shoots, maybe you don’t need one.

When the rifle is cocked, you can both hear and feel a ratchet dragging scross the coils of the mainspring. That ratchet holds the sidelever in case you slip before the gun is cocked. Once cocked, though, there doesn’t seem to be any anti-beartrap, so use the safe cocking method I recommended for the TS-45.

Restraining the TS 45 sidelever during loading
The sidelever is safely restrained by your arm during loading. If the sear should slip, you might get a welt on the arm, but your digits would have time to get away from the sliding compression chamber.

I was ready to buy this rifle when I overheard another dealer telling this dealer that he also had a Fast Deer on his table. It didn’t have a box, but I thought I’d better check it out first. So, I wandered over to his table where there, indeed, was Fast Deer No. 2. It wasn’t in as good condition as this one, though, and the price was a little higher. I returned to the first dealer and bought the gun seen here for $40.

Some people might ask for a price break on a deal like that; but as far as I was concerned, the dealer had already marked it with his best price. It was cheaper than the other rifle in lesser condition and was only $40. That’s two trips for a couple to Pizza Hut. How could I go wrong?

What’s different?
The single standout difference in the Fast Deer over the TS-45, other than the overall level of quality, is the manual safety. On the Fast Deer, the safety is a switch on the rifle side of the stock, just above the trigger. The TS-45 has no safety.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle safety
The safety is on the right side of the stock, above the trigger. It’s set to fire now.
There’s a red dot below the round black plate. When you move the lever clockwise, the fat part of the lever covers the red dot in the 6 o’clock position. Then, the gun is on safe. When you move the lever counterclockwise so the red dot shows, the gun is ready to fire.

I can tell you that the Chinese pellets I’ve used thus far fit the bore well, so it doesn’t seem to be oversized like so many Chinese air rifles are.

More cheap Chinese airguns, B.B.?
I think that hope springs eternal in the human breast. I know it does in mine! I always hope that I will find some overlooked little wonder than shoots well, is accurate and doesn’t cost a fortune. I have very high standards, and the trigger on this rifle is already a bust — but I’m curious to see if there’s a diamond somewhere amongst all this coal.

I would like to hear from those who own Fast Deer air rifles, because I think they must like them a lot. Either way, though, please let us know what you think of this airgun.

One last thing: Why “deer”?
Edith and I wondered why the term “deer” was used…and this also made us wonder why Leapers (makers of UTG optics, bipods and more) uses a deer for their logo. Plus, their name relates to the leaping of deer. After a bit of research, we found a site that explains this…if the data is true: The deer is a Chinese symbol for longevity. The word for “deer” in Chinese is “lu” which could also be translated to mean “revenue” or “earnings.” It’s a mark for desire for fame, recognition and enduring success. If any of you are fluent in Chinese culture and language, maybe you could shed some light on this.

The need for speed!

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Daniel Page is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their airgun facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

Pyramyd Air Big Shot of the Week

Daniel Page won the BSOTW. Looks like we have 10-meter pistol shooter in the making!

When I was a boy growing up in Ohio, I was obsessed with guns. Most of the time, I didn’t exactly have any I could call my own; or if I did, I wasn’t able to shoot them very often. But I remained obsessed. While other boys my age were quoting baseball statistics, I was rattling off ballistics data with the same enthusiasm — with no one to listen.

I always looked for an edge in my guns — a way to trump the competition that didn’t actually exist. And I found one. While poring through a Stoeger’s catalog, I stumbled across a little-known cartridge — the .22 short gallery round. It had a muzzle velocity of 1,710 f.p.s., which was well above any other .22 rimfire ammo except for the .22 Winchester Magnum — and remains so to this day.

The round featured a 15-grain frangible bullet, but frangible was a big word, so the Winchester marketing department substituted the words disintegrating and composition to dumb down the copy. This “bullet” was a combination of lead dust and compressed wax that was swaged into bullet form and stuffed into the tiny short cartridge case. The wax made it self-lubricating and also ensured that when it hit anything hard it exploded into dust instead of ricocheting — the perfect round for a shooting gallery that operates in a confined space. I believe the extra velocity was there to assist in the total destruction of the bullet.

Once I knew about it, I had to have this cartridge. I just knew it would give me the edge over all my competition, which I have already acknowledged was nonexistent. I went in to Akron and visited a gun store. They were able to find the round in their catalogs; so after a couple weeks’ wait, a brand new box of 250 rounds was mine. Two-hundred fifty rounds! This was way before the value cartons of ammo were sold!

It must have been around 1961 or so because we’d moved to the country, where I could shoot — and I’d finally wangled a .22 rimfire of my own from my mother (who never let me have a BB gun). Of course, I factored velocity into that purchase, too, and the gun I wound up with was the Winchester 67A — a single-shot that had a 27-inch barrel. I just knew that long tube was giving me velocity that only Roy Weatherby had ever seen — especially with my new hyper-velocity ammo.

Then, I set about discovering all that this marvelous round could do. Right away, I found that the bullet was most accurate while it remained in the barrel. So, for the first 27 inches I could count on every bullet going exactly where that barrel pointed — sort of like driving your car in the fog by keeping it centered between the turn signals. Once free of the muzzle, though, the bullet had a mind of its own. Perhaps that’s why shooting galleries have three walls.

In short, my little experiment was a flop. The additional speed did nothing for accuracy. Though, I didn’t know it at the time, the extra-long barrel on my rifle was slowing the bullet down a lot because it ran out of steam about halfway down the bore. But at least I had the privledge of paying $5.60 for those 250 rounds at a time when .22 short high-speed round would have cost perhaps a third as much. But wait, there’s more! My little story isn’t over, just yet.

NOW they tell me!
It wasn’t until I researched this blog yesterday that I discovered there were actually two different galley rounds. One had the high-velocity lightweight bullet while the other — the one I have (of course) — has a conventional-weight disintegrating bullet that exits the muzzle of a normal-length barrel at 1,045 f.p.s. and probably slower in the longer barrel of my musketoon. That’s slower than the standard .22 short high-speed round that all my friends — the ones who could quote baseball statistics — shot in their .22 rifles with conventional barrels!

22 short gallery ammo
The joke was on me all along! My gallery ammo was not the hyper-velocity round I believed it to be. But at least I got to pay three times too much for it. Getting over 1,700 f.p.s. in a .22 rimfire is the stuff of a young boy’s dreams.

Where am I going with this?
Is there a purpose to my humiliation — beyond the need to publicly embarrass myself? Why, yes there is! I just returned from the Roanoke airgun show where I got to watch all manner of airgunners — from the very new to the old and infirm — in their natural habitat. While there, I noticed that a great many of the new ones — those who have been in the hobby for the past 11 minutes or so — seem to be impressed with speed. And the old silverbacks, among whom I am numbered, gaze fondly at airguns like the Diana 27 and the Slavia 630, and wonder if they can be tuned down to cock with less force.

We, of the “Been there, done that” club, have already suffered the hard-cocking, tooth-jarring magnum guns that only seem to exist for the purpose of bragging rights. It was obvious at the airgun show when you observed who was interested in what. If the gun on the table was a “Bow of Hercules” springer with its mainspring borrowed from a one-ton pickup truck, the experienced guys avoided it while exchanging knowing looks, and the newer airgunners stood mesmerized in front of it in a pool of their own drool. And, if the gun was a “Pansy Special” with a mainspring taken from a retractible ballpoint pen, the veterans all teared up while the new guys steered a wide path around it. Nobody came out and criticized anyone for their beliefs, but those who have had the powerful guns in the past knew that the new guys had a lesson or two coming.

I find that the longer I remain in this hobby, the more things I know about what not to do. But the receptiveness toward any of this hard-won wisdom is inversely proportional to the age of the person or the time they have spent in the hobby. I have found that there are a great many things I simply cannot say to a new airgunner without turning them off completely. I now let them make their mistakes and try to be there when they need some encouragement to stick with airgunning instead of finding something new. This hobby has a bucket-list of fascinating things one ought to see and do before deciding to move on.

It’s not just airgunners, either!
I was talking to a Texas champion archer today, and he said the same thing without me prompting him. He said he wins tournaments partly because many of the younger competitors still use hunting bows that they have set up for competition. They have draw weights of 70 lbs., which makes their arrows go very fast, but also destroys their fine edge as far as stability is concerned. And he told me the funny thing is that these guys don’t even need such a heavy draw weight to kill deer! He says Ted Nugent hunts deer with a bow many would consider a woman’s bow. It has a draw weight of about 45 lbs. And it handles his business very well.

Oh, well. W.D.M. “Karamojo” Bell killed over 1,000 elephants — mostly with the 7mm Mauser (he called it the .275 Rigby) cartridge, yet gun writers will tell you even today that the .458 Winchester Magnum is a “mouse gun,” not worthy of taking on safari. I guess that’s what sells magazines, because this debate has been raging all my life. From what I read, it went on long before I was born.

The downside is when a guy spends all his money to acquire a “Mangel-em Magnum,” only to discover all the baggage that comes with it. He’s now tapped out of cash, and the only airgun he has requires a clearance from the local sheriff’s office to cock and load. He thought he was getting into airgunning — not tank gunnery!

That guy is on my mind constantly. He’s the guy I’m trying to save for our hobby by showing a kinder, gentler way. Then, if he wants to lob bowling balls into the local supermarket parking lot after he knows the civilized side of airgunning, I step away.

Cometa Fusion Premier Star .22-caliber breakbarrel air rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Cometa Fusion Premier Star breakbarrel air rifle
The Cometa Fusion Premier Star is stunning! This is the actual test rifle.

How many times do I show you a photo of the actual test rifle because it’s prettier than the example on the website? Well, this one is. The .22-caliber Cometa Fusion Premier Star air rifle has a gorgeous blonde wood stock that has a subtle fiddleback pattern running across the grain. I’m testing serial number 4243-12, but it’s on loan from AirForce Airguns and I doubt they will sell it.

The Fusion Premier Star is a Fusion action in a nicer stock with an adjustable cheekpiece. This one has a slight bias for right-handed shooters because of the low-profile raised cheekpiece on the left side, though a lefty should be able to do quite well with it. There are no bad angles anywhere. The wood is stained blonde, and as you can see in the picture, it’s attractive! The checkering pattern differs from the one on the standard Fusion. The cheekpiece adjusts via two large hex screws found on the right side of the butt. Finally, I’m going to have a rifle that fits me exactly without resorting to a Tyrolean stock.

Cometa Fusion Premier Star breakbarrel air rifle
The checkering is different on the Fusion Premier Star…and isn’t that wood pretty?

Now that I know how the trigger adjusts, you can be certain that this one will be adjusted perfectly for all the testing. And I’m mounting the Hawke 4.5-14x42AO Sidewinder Tactical scope, so the rifle will have the best possible chance to shine.

A powerful air rifle
We already know that the Fusion powerplant is right on the money, as far as the advertised velocity goes. So, I assume the advertised velocity for the .22 is correct, as well. They say 1050 f.p.s.; and if that’s right, this rifle is in Beeman R1 territory for several hundred dollars less! The rifle I’m testing retails for $392.50, and a new R1 goes for $614.25.

Metal finish
Some things remain the same on the Fusion Premier Star. The metal is finished in a matte black, with the same contrasting matte silver muzzlebrake. I neglected to mention it in the Fusion report, but both the trigger blade and the triggerguard are made of plastic. They’re not offensive in the slightest, and the straight shape of the trigger blade is actually a quality feature. It makes the trigger pull feel so much more positive and controllable.

Wood finish
The wood on this rifle really sets it apart from the regular Fusion. Not only is the stain blonde, the grain of the wood looks like walnut to my eyes. It can’t be or they would advertise it for sure, but it sure looks like it. And the wood is finished in a satin finish that looks like a fine oil finish. Again, it can’t be, but it does accept Ballistol readily and develops a deeper luster after wiping with an oily cloth. The buttpad on the Premier Star is the same soft, solid, thick black pad that’s on the Fusion.

The checkering on the Fusion Premier Star is cut diamonds instead of the pressed pebble grain that’s found on the Fusion. The diamonds are sharp and really grab your hands when you hold them.

You know that the barrel is backbored and really only 11-9/16 inches long when the freebore is subtracted. We know that the rifle is accurate in .177, and I’m expecting the same in this .22 caliber. The long barrel gives you a longer lever to cock the rifle, which is why it only takes 31 lbs. to cock the gun, despite the power it puts out.

The rifle is supposed to weigh 7.5 lbs. as it comes from the box. We know, of course, to allow for small variations that are based on differing weights of the wood in the stock. The test rifle weighs 8.75 lbs. with the scope mounted. That’s lighter than a Beeman R1 with no scope, so the Fusion Premier Star really is a medium-weight spring-piston air rifle.

Just like the Fusion, you’re going to have to install optical sights of your own because the rifle has no open sights. The same 11mm dovetail grooves are cut directly into the spring tube, and there are the same four scope stop holes for a vertical stop pin. They’re located along the top center of the scope grooves.

Overall impression
Thus far, I’m very impressed by this rifle. Can you tell? The appearance, alone, would be enough to guide me to the Premier Star over the regular Fusion. And I’m assuming the performance will be just as good, though we never know that for certain until the test has been completed. I’m looking forward to this one!

AirForce Talon SS precharged pneumatic air rifle: Part 10

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

AirForce Talon SS precharged pneumatic air rifle both sides
AirForce Talon SS is a whole shooting system.

Before we start, you’ll remember that the president of Pyramyd Air promised to eat his hat if the IZH 60 I recently tested could not put 10 shots inside a quarter-inch group at 10 meters. It was close, but he lost the bet, so today we have two photos — one of the hat and the other of him eating it. Well done, Val!

The “hat.”

Eating hat
Pyramyd Air President Val Gamerman eating the hat.

The caption to the first picture of the Talon SS PCP says it is a complete shooting system, and today we’ll look at another facet of that. Let’s look at the performance of the CO2 adapter, which turns the rifle from a PCP into a CO2 gun. Before this adapter existed, people were always asking for it. They envisioned it exactly as it turned out, but the demand went unanswered for several years. Then, Pyramyd Air negotiated with AirForce for a production run of adapters and we got them.

AirForce Talon SS precharged pneumatic air rifle with CO2 adapter
The CO2 adapter connects any standard paintball CO2 tank to the Talon SS or any AirForce sporting rifle.

I’m running this report today because I need to use my Talon SS for a lengthy test that’s going to increase our understanding of the components of airgun accuracy. The rifle is the perfect platform for the test because it accepts barrels so quickly and easily. That test will begin soon, and I won’t tease you — everything will be fully explained when that test begins. But before I get to the heart of today’s report, a little history on the Talon SS.

How fast on CO2?
Now comes the question of the day. How does the Talon SS perform on CO2? Using the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier as the standard pellet, I was able to push them out the muzzle at 854 f.p.s. with the power setting on 10. That would be the number I would test against with CO2.

I used a full 20-oz. CO2 tank for this test. I tested the Premiers on both the lowest power setting and the highest. There shouldn’t be too much difference between the two settings, because CO2 is at much lower pressure than air, plus it flows slower than air; so at the same pressure, the velocity with CO2 will be less than with air.

On the lowest power setting, the average velocity for Premiers was 571 f.p.s. On air, it was 854 f.p.s. That’s a difference of 283 f.p.s. with air over CO2. But that was on the lowest power setting for the CO2, so how much does it change when I set the power as high as it will go? The average increases to 582 f.p.s. Not much difference, is there? The extreme spread on the low setting went from 568 to 574 f.p.s., and on high it went from 580 to 584 f.p.s. Since the low and high settings are so close, I decided to just keep the riffle on the low setting for the rest of the test.

At the average velocity (at the low-power setting), the pellet generates 10.36 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. On air, it generated 23.16 foot-pounds, or more than twice as much. That gives you a good appreciation of what the CO2 adapter does for the rifle. And remember, this rifle has a 12-inch barrel. If a longer barrel were installed, the velocity would increase somewhat, but not as much as with air. The optimum barrel length for CO2 is around 14-16 inches. After that, the velocity starts to fall again.

After the Premier, I tested the Beeman Kodiak heavy domed pellet. It weighs 21.1 grains and averages 506 f.p.s. in this gun on the low setting. It’s generating exactly 12 foot-pounds of muzzle energy at that speed. I don’t have the data for this pellet on air. The variation on CO2 went from 503 to 508 f.p.s.

Next up was the JSB Exact 15.9-grain domed pellet, which is the most accurate in this rifle. They averaged 567 f.p.s. on the low setting, which produces an average 11.35 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. On air at power setting 10, they average 823 f.p.s. The variation on CO2 went from 564 to 570 f.p.s.

The final pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby, which weighs 11.9-grains in .22 caliber. It averages 618 f.p.s. on the low setting and ranged from 614 to 621 f.p.s. The muzzle energy was 10.09 foot-pounds at the muzzle. And I don’t have a velocity for this pellet on air.

How many shots on a tank?
All I can tell you is that there are hundreds of shots per 20-oz. CO2 tank. The number is certainly more than we saw in any other test, and I would guess there are no less than 800 shots per tank. It’s one of those things that will vary each time the tank is filled, because no two fills will contain the exact same amount of liquid.

On CO2, the Talon SS is a 12 foot-pound rifle in 70˚F temperatures. It’s better-suited to all-day shooting and indoor plinking, though the Micro-meter tank gives it a fair run for the money. The accuracy of the rifle will not change, except that on CO2 it won’t have quite the same range as with air.

So, there you have the Talon SS in a 10-part report. To recap, we’ve looked at this .22-caliber rifle in stock trim, with a 24-inch barrel installed, with a Micro-meter tank and now with a CO2 adapter. There’s more to come, but it won’t be a test of the rifle. It’ll be a test that uses the rifle as the testbed. Now that you know how it performs, it’ll serve us very well in this new role.

Get a free CO2 adapter for Xmas
After I wrote this blog, I found out that AirForce is giving away a free CO2 adapter with the purchase of every Talon, Talon SS or Condor PCP air rifle. The adapter sells for $99.95, so that’s a nice gift! I understand that the giveaway ends Dec. 31, 2012.

Mac tests a steel IZH 61 with metal clips: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Photos and report by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1

This is the final report about Mac’s vintage steel-breech IZH 61. We are only doing two reports — partly because the rifle performs just like the one that’s being sold today, but mostly because Mac sold this rifle at the Roanoke airgun show this past weekend. He also bought one just like it that was like new in the box because he got a super price at the same show. That one will be given to some fortunate youngster, as part of Mac’s “Arm the Children” program!

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy Mac got from his rifle. Then you can compare it to what I was able to do with the IZH 60 I recently tested for you.

As I reported in Part 1, this vintage rifle has a truly adjustable two-stage trigger, instead of just being able to reposition the trigger blade like on the current gun. Mac had it set to release at 27 oz., and he says it was crisp.

Someone wanted me to post a photo of the entire vintage rifle, but there isn’t that much difference between it and the current one. I didn’t think it was worth showing. Yes, if you’re a fanatic collector, there are some small differences; but I spent the weekend with the vintage gun before it sold, and it’s pretty much the same as what they sell now except for having a steel breech and metal clips.

Metal clips
On the subject of the metal clips, Mac says he has had some plastic clips that got worn to the point that they would no longer stay in the gun as they should. They’re supposed to advance one pellet each time the sidelever is pulled out to cock the rifle, but he said some of his would shoot out the side of the rifle because they’re under spring tension.

I showed the sights on this rifle in Part 1, but Mac tried both the peep sight that comes with the rifle and also a Tasco Pro Point dot sight with a 4 MOA dot. At the 10 meter distance he shot, the dot covered about 0.35 inches He e got equal accuracy with both types of sights, but all the groups seen in this report were shot with the Tasco.

He rested the forearm of the rifle on the palm of his hand and shot off a bag rest at 10 meters. We wanted to keep the results equivalent with those I recently got with the new rifle. And he also shot at 10-meter rifle targets, which is why he elected to use the dot sight. The hole in the factory peep sight is so large that there’s a loss of precision when using the smaller 10-meter rifle bulls. They get lost in the hole (meaning you can’t tell when they’re exactly centered). He could have used pistol targets that have a much larger bull, but he wanted his test to look just like mine.

Mac shot 5-shots groups instead of 10-shot groups. Things got confused in our talks, so we didn’t shoot the same number of shots per target. Still, I think you will see some interesting things as we go.

JSB 8.4-grain Exacts
The first pellet tested was the JSB Exact that weighs 8.4 grains. Five shots at 10 meters produced a group measuring 0.95 inches between centers. That’s pretty big for just 10 meters!

JSB Exact Target for IZH 61
Five JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes at 10 meters made this 0.95-inch group. One pellet looks like it went through the paper sideways!

There are some indications of tumbling with the JSB, so it’s possible the rifle wasn’t stabilizing it. That would account for the large group.

RWS Hobbys
Next he tried RWS Hobby pellets. These are often among the most accurate in a low-powered rifle, but not this time. Five Hobbys made a 0.90-inch group.

RWS Hobby target for IZH 61
The only nice thing I can say about the Hobbys is they did cut larger holes. They’re obviously not the right pellet for this rifle.

H&N Finale Match
Next up were H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. Five of them made a group that measured 0.80-inches, but notice that one is apart from the other four. If there was something wrong with that pellet, it could explain why it’s apart. This might be the right pellet for the rifle, and it’s a good example of why one 10-shot group tells you more about accuracy potential than three 5-shot groups.

HN Finale Match Target pistol target for IZH 61
Five H&N Finale Match Target Pistol pellets made a group measuring 0.80 inches.

Eley Wasps
The next pellet Mac tried was one you can’t buy anymore. The Eley Wasp has left the stage, at least in the version Mac was shooting. It was an oversized pellet that sometimes cured accuracy problems for rifles with larger bores. In this rifle, 5 shots made a group that measures 0.70 inches. You’ll also notice that there don’t seem to be any signs of tumbling like there were with the JSBs.

Eley Wasp target for IZH 61
Five Eley Wasp domes made a group measuring 0.70-inches. This group also has a single stray pellet, which means it might also have more potential than seen here.

RWS R10 Pistol pellet
The last pellet Mac shot was the RWS R10 Pistol pellet. These grouped best, with 5 of them making a 0.50-inch group. While that looks good in comparison with the other groups, it doesn’t begin to equal the groups I got with the new IZH 61 shooting 10 shot groups! That means is we have to revise our thinking about the old steel-breech/metal clip guns, don’t you think?

RWS R10 Pistol target for IZH 61
Five RWS R10 Pistol pellets made a half-inch group at 10 meters. It’s good only in comparison with the other groups, but doesn’t begin to equal the groups from the new rifle.

Our conclusions
Mac and I discussed these results at length, and we believe that the steel breech IZH 60/61 has perhaps become more accurate through the long lens of memory. Just as a walk to school was always 10 miles uphill in both directions when we were young, so it’s possible that these rifles were as variable back then as the new ones are now. From the results, we have to say that it looks like the current version of the gun is at least as accurate as the old one, if not more so.

We think that there were probably some very accurate rifles with steel breeches, and then the rest — which our test rifle seems to be — were only good plinkers. I know this test was hardly exhaustive, nor was it entirely without bias. Even so, I think we must admit that the new rifle beat the old one in this case.

What do you think?