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

Part 1
Part 2

Falke 90 restored
Falke 90 underlever rifle is a German spring-piston gun from the early 1950s.

This report is my test of the .22-caliber Falke 90 underlever air rifle I acquired a few years ago. When I got it, the rifle wasn’t working, so blog reader Vince offered to fix it for me. After he finished, he took it to my friend Mac, who tested it. I’ve owned this rifle for several years and never really tested it myself, and I thought it was about time to do so.

I recently had the stock restored by Doug Phillips, who did a wonderful job. Now, I have a nice-looking underlever spring rifle as well as one that works well, so today we’re going to look at its velocity. And we’re going to do more than that because Mac told me some things about the gun that have shaped today’s test. Why don’t I share them with you now?

The Falke 90 is an underlever, which means there is a separate lever to cock the mainspring. In the Falke 90, it’s hidden by the stock — very much like the BSA Airsporter and the Hakim, which are both related to the Falke. All three rifles are loaded through a tap that rotates open automatically when the lever is cocked. That provides a place to drop the pellet, nose-first. Then the tap is manually rotated closed, the pellet aligns with the breech (in front) and the air transfer port (behind the pellet). Let’s talk about that tap for a bit.

Tap alignment
The tap opens by a mechanical projection on the cocking linkage that pushes the tap as it passes it during cocking. I think the remarkable thing is that it stays in adjustment over hundreds of thousands of shots and scores of years of use. My tap is still aligned perfectly, so I don’t have to do anything except drop a pellet nose-first into it and then rotate it closed to align with the barrel.

There can be a problem with a tap, however. The pellet chamber in it can be so exact that pellets don’t fall all the way in when they’re just dropped in. This is what Mac pointed out to me about this rifle. My taploader experience has been with the Hakim rifle, which has a generous pellet chamber and seldom has a problem — unless the pellet skirt is bent. Then, the pellet won’t fall into the tap’s pellet chamber as far as it should; and when you rotate the tap closed, you’ll catch and bend the pellet’s skirt. But the pellet chamber on the Falke 90 tap is very small and may or may not accept the pellet as far as it needs to — to clear the receiver when the tap is rotated closed.

Mac told me to watch for that problem and to make sure each pellet made it into the pellet chamber as far as it needed for clearance. He advised me to use an instrument to push each pellet as far into the tap chamber as it would go — thus clearing the skirt when the tap rotated closed.

Falke 90 pellet in tap not seated
This pellet was dropped into the tap and failed to enter the pellet chamber far enough to clear the end of the pellet skirt when the tap is closed.

Falke 90 pellet in tap seated
Here the pellet has been pushed into the tap as far as it will go. This pellet will easily clear the gun when the tap is closed.

This tap business got me wondering about the affect on velocity. Would a deep-seated pellet be better (faster and more consistent), or would a pellet that has just been dropped into the tap do better? I’m sure you can come to your conclusions quickly enough, so let’s test a couple pellets and see what really happens.

RWS Superpoints
I began shooting RWS Superpoints when I got my first Hakim. They seemed like the perfect pellet for that rifle because they have thin skirts that will flare out from a smaller blast of air and also because they just dropped deeply into the Hakim tap. Other pellets were too small for the Hakim tap and failed to produce adequate velocity because much of the air compressed by the piston slipped past them in the barrel.

In the Falke 90, however, it’s a different story. The pellet chamber in the loading tap is very small, and Superpoints do not usually drop in far enough to close the tap. Many of them need to be seated mechanically. So, I tested them two ways. First, as just dropped in but not pushed deep and second as pushed into the tap as deep as they would go.

Very few of the pellets fell into the tap deep enough by themselves to close the tap, so even in the first test there was some pushing that had to take place. Perhaps 6 pellets had to be pushed into the tap a little while 4 fell in deep enough on their own. This string of what I’m calling unseated pellets averaged 476 f.p.s. and ranged from 465 to 484 f.p.s. That is a spread of 19 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet and loading method generated 7.3 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Next, I tried pushing the pellets into the tap as deep as they would go. Now, I bet you think they’re going to go faster than the unseated pellets. Right? Well, they did one foot-per-second faster! Yes, the average for seated pellets was 477 f.p.s., and the spread went from 461 to 493 f.p.s. So the range was 32 f.p.s. And the average muzzle energy was 7.33 foot-pounds. Not much difference, is there?

JSB Exact RS pellets
The other pellet I tried was the lighter JSB Exact RS pellet, which in .22 caliber weighs 13.4 grains. This is a pure lead pellet, like the Superpoint, and it also has a thin skirt. But the Exact pellet is smaller than the Superpoint. These pellets fell into the tap far enough to close without any damage every time.

On the first test, where the pellet was just dropped in, the Exact RS averaged 453 f.p.s. The range went from 445 to 463, so a spread of 18 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 6.11 foot-pounds. And no mechanical seating was necessary.

On the second test, where the pellet was pushed into the tap as far as it would go, this pellet averaged 457 f.p.s., but the spread was much larger — ranging from a low of 448 to a high of 484 f.p.s. So, the velocity varied by 36 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 6.22 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

What do these numbers tell us about the rifle?
For starters, I hope you realize that this was not a normal velocity test that produced standard numbers. The way the pellet fits the loading tap has a tremendous effect on the outcome. I believe that will probably carry over into the accuracy test, as well, so I wanted to try one more test. What would happen if I flared the skirts of every pellet before loading it into the tap, and then I pushed each pellet to the bottom of the tap? Wouldn’t that give me the best sealing of the pellet to the bore? Mac thought it would. But only one way to know for sure. I had to test it. And I decided to test both pellets, as I could see no compelling reason to choose one over the other.

RWS Superpoints flared and deep-seated
Superpoints averaged 474 f.p.s. when their skirts were flared, and they were then seated as deep as they would go into the tap. That puts them in about the same place as the pellets that were just dropped into the tap and those that were intentionally seated deep. But here’s where it gets interesting. The range went from a low of 464 f.p.s. to a high of 504 f.p.s. I’m not looking at the 40 foot per second velocity spread as much as I am the four pellets that topped 490 f.p.s. Clearly, flaring the skirts has an effect, but I must not have done it uniformly enough to make a difference.

JSB Exact RS pellets flared and deep-seated
The JSB Exact RS pellets are more flared to begin with. Even though their skirts are not quite as wide as those on the Superpoints, they lend themselves to flaring much better. These pellets averaged 487 f.p.s., which is a 20 f.p.s. increase over just seating the unflared pellets deeply. The range went from a low of 465 f.p.s. to a high of 501 f.p.s. Four pellets were at or above 500 f.p.s. Again, there must have been some inconsistency in the flaring, but the RS pellets did seem to respond better to the process.

Trigger-pull
Normally, I report on the trigger-pull in the velocity report, but I’m not going to do that today. The Falke 90 has an adjustable trigger that works on the sear contact area; and during the test, the trigger-pull went from being very light to not staying cocked. So I adjusted it heavy for safety’s sake. A taploader is safe because, until the loading tap is aligned with the bore, the pellet will not move; so when the gun fired on its own several times, there was no problem. But if I were to adjust it to a light pull, I might then close the tap before the gun is on target — and that’s dangerous if the gun then fires on its own! So, I’ll adopt a procedure with this rifle of not closing the tap until the sights are on target.

I’m also having difficulty with the trigger because the trigger return spring isn’t sufficient to push the trigger blade into lockup with the sear. When I cock the rifle, I also have to push the trigger blade forward to engage the safety. That may be because the new wood is a little tight in the trigger region. It’s something I need to look at.

The rifle is shooting well thus far, with the exceptions noted. The next report will be accuracy, and for that Mac has set the bar very high.