AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle: Part 4
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll report the velocities I got with the new AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank, as well as the shot count per fill and some other interesting things. Yesterday, I spent some time informing you of how the baffled silencer system works in this rifle. Today, that becomes important to understand.
Before we begin, let me clear up some things. Blog reader RidgeRunner thought the reservoir of the Condor SS looked smaller in the photo than the old reservoirs on the other two rifles. It isn’t. It is exactly the same size. The foam that surrounds the tank has changed, and that might give the illusion that new tank is shorter, but that’s just an illusion.
Blog reader Bob from Oz asked for a diagram that shows the flow of air because he was confused by my textual description. That’s where the photo of the silencer parts comes in. The end of the barrel, the true muzzle, is buried deep inside the frame of the rifle. The frame is tubular in front, and many people might think that it looks like a bull barrel, but it’s actually a hollow tube that has an inside diameter of one inch. The baffles fit inside that hollow tube exactly as shown in the photo, except that they are touching each other when they’re installed, so they’re not spread out like they appear in the photo.
When the pellet and compressed air exits the muzzle of the barrel (deep inside the tubular frame of the gun), it passes through the first baffle and much of the air is stripped off. It passes through the open slot of the baffle and is deflected backwards by the wide flange of the next baffle. Then, it passes back through the holes in the front barrel bushing and into the open space between the barrel and frame behind the front bushing.
As the pellet passes through each baffle more of the compressed air gets stripped off and reflected backwards. This all happens in miliseconds and the air is still under pressure, so it eventually comes out the end cap of the rifle.
Why am I telling you this?
You have to understand how this works, or nothing I say will make much sense. The key to quietness is the volume of empty space inside the frame of the gun and the length of time it takes the compressed air to exit the gun. You don’t notice anything, of course. You shoot and hear the report at the instant of firing. But there really is a small lag time, during which the compressed air expands and loses its energy. That energy is what makes the noise, so the greater the expansion, the less noise there is. And the less compressed air that’s used with the shot, the lower the noise will be when everything else remains the same.
I told you this because, when I began testing the Condor SS for velocity, I was surprised by the noise. I was testing inside my office, which is 12 by 15 feet, and the last time I heard the rifle was outdoors back in November of last year. I knew this gun I was testing was louder than what I’d heard back then. So, I went to AirForce yesterday and we conducted some tests to determine where the production Condor SS is sound-wise. I’ll get to that after we look at the velocity, so let’s do that right now.
Like all the sporting precharged rifles AirForce makes, the Condor SS has adjustable power and interchangable barrels. There’s no way I can test every possible combination of pellets, calibers and power settings, so I selected spots in the power spectrum that I’ll report today. I will report each pellet at all the power settings and give you the shot count for each one.
Eun Jin domes
The first pellet I tested was the Eun Jin 28.4-grain dome. While there are heavier pellets that will generate greater power in .22 caliber, I believe this one will do well in the accuracy test, so it’s a reasonable top-end pellet to test. On the maximum power setting, this pellet averaged 892 f.p.s. I shot it 20 times and the high (shot 3) was 912 f.p.s. The low (shot 20) was 814 f.p.s. Yes, that is a 98 f.p.s. spread; but out to about 35 yards, this pellet will hold zero for those 20 shots. If you plan on shooting at 50 yards and farther, stop at around 10 shots. Your average then climbs into the low 900s and the max spread is less than 30 f.p.s. At the average velocity for the 20 shots, this pellet generates 50.19 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
The power band is more or less a straight declining number from start to finish. Starting at 3,000 psi, you finish at 2,200 psi. A Hill pump then takes about 100 strokes to fill the tank again. So, there are 5 pump strokes per shot on max power.
The rifle was very loud, so I told Edith to change the sound rating in the description to a 4 because this gun is louder than a Sheridan Blue Streak on 8 pumps. It’s quieter than a Condor running at the same power, but still loud enough to notice. In fact, when I was testing the velocity in my office (with the door closed), Edith was in the living room and thought I was shooting a Quackenbush big bore because it was so loud.
Now, let’s look at the performance of the same pellet at different power settings.
On power setting 10, there were 20 total shots at an average of about 878 f.p.s. (48.63 foot-pounds).
On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 868 f.p.s. (47.52 foot-pounds).
On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 858 f.p.s. (46.44 foot-pounds).
On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 830 f.p.s. (43.45 foot-pounds)
The power spreads from the first shot to the last were closing up as the power was dialed down; but even at setting 2, there was still 80 f.p.s. variation, start to finish. The beginning and ending air pressure was always the same for each string. Even on the lowest power the rifle sounded just as loud.
Then, I tried the Crosman Premier pellet that weighs 14.3 grains. The Condor was the first air rifle to get this pellet supersonic in .22 caliber. In the Condor SS, the average on high power was 1076 f.p.s. It ranged from a low of 1029 f.p.s. to a high of 1117 f.p.s., so, once again, a large spread. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 36.77 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. And there were the same 20 shots per fill, with the same starting and ending air pressures. There was no noticeable difference in the report between this pellet and the Eun Jin.
On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 1067 f.p.s. (36.16 foot-pounds).
On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 1062 f.p.s. (35.82 foot-pounds).
On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 1033 f.p.s. (33.89 foot-pounds).
On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 1010 f.p.s. (33.70 foot-pounds)
As with the heavy pellets, the power spreads were closing up as the power declined; but even at setting 2, they were still 60 f.p.s. from start to finish. The beginning and ending air pressure was always the same for each string. Even on the lowest power, the rifle sounded just as loud.
JSB Exact Heavys
Next, I tried the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Heavys. I expect this pellet to be matched well to the power of this new rifle. On maximum power, they averaged 1004 f.p.s., which generates 40.52 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. The high was 1059 f.p.s., and shot 20 was 962 f.p.s. I still got 20 shots per fill, and the muzzle report was identical to the others.
On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 988 f.p.s. (39.24 foot-pounds).
On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 981 f.p.s. (38.69 foot-pounds).
On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 970 f.p.s. (37.82 foot-pounds).
On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 966 f.p.s. (37.51 foot-pounds)
Notice that these pellets seemed to do very well on the lower power settings. That is important because the shot count increases with very little loss of power. The total velocity spread on setting 2 was 69 f.p.s. I think this may be the best pellet for this rifle, but accuracy testing will have to prove it.
The last pellet I tested was the Beeman Kodiak that weighs 21.1 grains in .22 caliber. Many will select this pellet for a powerful rifle like the Condor SS. On the maximum power setting, these pellets averaged 970 f.p.s. The high was 1017 f.p.s. The low was 908 f.p.s. Like the other 3 pellets tested, a large velocity spread over the 20 shots; but as I pointed out before, out to 35 yards it won’t make much difference. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 44.09 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 965 f.p.s. (43.64 foot-pounds).
On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 952 f.p.s. (42.47 foot-pounds).
On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 936 f.p.s. (41.06 foot-pounds).
On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 920 f.p.s. (39.67 foot-pounds)
Summary of power performance
The Condor SS I’m testing seems to work best at power setting between 4 and 10, with the lower setting being better. The shot count increases, and the velocity spread gets a little tighter, plus not much power is lost. Let’s keep that in mind, and I’ll get back to it in a moment.
Sound testing at AirForce
I took my rifle out to AirForce Airguns and tested it against a production gun, another gun that had a pre-production prototype barrel and a .22-caliber Benjamin Marauder. I had said in Part 1 of this report that the Condor SS set on maximum power was no louder than the Benjamin Marauder when I saw it shoot last November. The one I now have for testing certainly seems to be louder.
We shot outdoors but next to the steel building, so there was some sound reflection from the building walls. Clearly, my Condor SS is just as loud as the current production gun, and both are louder than the Benjamin Marauder dialed up to its maximum power. But here’s the difference. The Benjamin Marauder shot Beeman Kodiaks between 801 f.p.s. and 828 f.p.s., and both Condor SS rifles shot the same pellet at an average 920 f.p.s. when set on power setting 2. So the Condor SS is putting out about 40 foot-pounds when dialed down low, and the Marauder is putting out around 30 foot-pounds with the same pellet when it’s adjusted as high as it will go. That’s a big difference.
So, why was the Condor SS I had heard back in November so much quieter than this one? Well, for starters, back then the baffles had smaller holes through them. Now, they’re able to safely handle calibers .20 through .25; but back then, they were still experimenting with the hole size. Also, the barrel in my test rifle is 16mm diameter. The prototype rifle had used a 12mm diameter barrel; so AirForce installed a 12mm diameter barrel in their production rifle that we tested yesterday, and the sound went down a little. The 12mm barrels are being processed now for production.
Then, we installed a standard SS tank on the Condor SS that now had the 12mm barrel and dialed the power down to 838 f.p.s. with the Beeman Kodiak pellets. That was as low as we were able to go when the 3,000 psi fill was fresh. Now, the Condor SS was only a little louder than the Marauder that was shooting just a little slower. We shot them side by side several times to make sure. There’s a difference you can discern when testing side by side, but outdoors it isn’t that great.
Remember, this is shooting outside but close to a building, and the standard tank is being used instead of the High-Flo tank that comes with the rifle. You can buy a standard tank as an accessory, but they aren’t going to sell one with the rifle instead of the High-Flo tank, so don’t even ask!
As far as the Spin-Loc tanks are concerned, they’re the new design. Pyramyd Air has opted to phase out the version with the old-syle quick-detach tank and stock only the versions with the Spin-Loc tank. The quick-detach tank that screws in is also available as an accessory in both the standard and High-Flo configurations.
Observations so far
Wow! This has to be one of the longest reports I’ve ever written. And the first part of it was yesterday, in Part 3. I hope this addresses your concerns about this rifle, and that you now clearly understand what you’ll receive when you order a Condor SS. It’s quiet for the power it generates, but it’s not whisper quiet like I originally said.
There’s still so much ground to cover with this test rifle. Accuracy testing comes next at 25 yards and then 50 yards. And after that, I’ll install a standard tank and do today’s test again. Stay tuned!