AirForce Condor SS precharged air rifle: Part 7
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I bet some of you thought we were finished with the AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank. Well, we are…in a way. I’m removing the Hi-Flo Spin-Loc tank and replacing it with a standard AirForce tank. Instead of the Hi-Flo valve that gets 20-25 shots per fill, this tank has the standard valve that gives 35-40 good shots per fill. Of course, the power is lower, but it’s still a powerful airgun.
Blog reader Gunfun1 recently asked me to test the Talon SS rifle with all three barrel lengths so he could see the power and velocity increase that the longer barrels bring. I will do that in a future series, but today’s test is different. What we’re testing today is how a Condor powerplant and a .22-caliber 18-inch Lothar Walther barrel performs with the standard tank. The Condor and Condor SS share a common powerplant and air tank — only the barrel lengths differ.
Let’s talk about pneumatic valves for a minute to gain a better understanding of what we’re testing. A couple things determine how much power a precharged pneumatic airgun has, and most of them are attributed to the valve. Fundamentally, it comes down to how much compressed air gets through the valve. That’s controlled by two things. The first is the size of the air hole running through the valve. A Hi-Flo valve has a huge hole running though it, so more air gets through each time the valve opens.
The second thing that determines how much air gets through a valve is how long it stays open. For a knock-open design like the AirForce valve, the duration the valve remains open is controlled by the length of the valve stem stroke and the strength of the valve return spring (the spring that closes the valve after the shot is fired).
Think of it like this. A hundred thousand people cannot all go through your front door at the same time. The number that can get through depends on how wide the doorway is and how long the door stays open. The moment the door starts to open, people can start coming though; and they’ll continue until the door closes. If a powerful man controls the door, only a few people will get through at a time. If a child controls it, many more will get though each time.
A Hi-Flo valve is like a very large door, while a standard tank is like a regular door. But here is the thing. No matter whether there are a hundred thousand people or two hundred thousand people outside the door (the analog of the air pressure inside the tank), only a certain number will get though each time it opens. And if the number of people outside the door becomes too large, they press against the door and hold it shut. No amount of force can open it then. That’s valve lock.
I’ve said many times that a pneumatic barrel is a lot like the barrel in a black powder gun — the longer the barrel is (within limits): the more time the gas has to push against the pellet, the faster it will exit the muzzle. Bore diameter also figures into this equation. A .177 barrel runs out of steam sooner than a .22 barrel does. The longer barrel is also tied to the caliber. This deserves an explanation.
Imagine 2 funnels. Both have spouts that are 3″ long. One spout is .25″ diameter on the inside, the other spout is 1″ diameter on the inside. Which funnel will empty fastest? The one with the wider spout. That’s because more of the material that passes through the funnel is not in direct (frictional) contact with the walls of the spout. Don’t get confused by what I just said. The larger spout does have more material that’s in contact with the spout; but because the inside diameter of the spout is larger, a much greater amount of material never touches the walls of the spout.
We’ve been testing a .22-caliber Condor SS that has an 18-inch Lothar Walther barrel. As we saw in the earlier tests, this barrel is 6 inches shorter than a regular Condor barrel and produces somewhat less velocity than a standard Condor of the same caliber. We’re now going to install a standard tank that has a smaller valve, so the velocity will drop. That’s one way of looking at it.
The other way to look at this is a standard Talon SS has a 12-inch Lothar Walther barrel. This rifle’s barrel is 6 inches longer. We’re about to see what a longer barrel does with the standard tank. The only difference between today’s rifle and an AirForce Talon (not the SS — the Talon that has an 18-inch barrel) will be the Condor powerplant, which means the weight of the striker. That will add a little velocity because the valve is being opened more forcefully. Going back to the door analogy, it won’t affect things nearly as much as those additional six inches of barrel.
Installing the standard tank
The Condor SS I have is fitted with a Spin-Loc tank. It stays on the rifle all the time and is filled through a male Schraeder nipple. To convert to the standard tank, I’ll remove the Spin-Loc tank with the wrench supplied by AirForce. Then the standard tank will spin on and off for filling, just like it does on my older Talon SS. No tools are required, but of course it does not have a built-in pressure gauge, either. So, I’m back to counting the shots fired; but in today’s test, we’ll see exactly how many good shots there are in this tank at high power.
For the purpose of comparison, I’m going to test the same pellets and the same power settings as were used in the Condor SS test. While those pellets aren’t necessarily correct for this lower-powered rifle, it will give you a basis for comparison between the two tanks, which is all we’re testing here.
Condor SS velocity
What we have learned?
There isn’t much adjustability with the Condor SS using the standard tank. I haven’t given you the velocity spreads or the shot count, which are all very close, regardless of the power setting. I actually recorded over 40 shots on power setting 10; so I think I would shoot 40 shots per fill, regardless of where the power was set. The velocity spread varied by pellet, but not so much by power setting. It was about 32 f.p.s. across 40 shots for Eun Jin 28.4-grain domes; 41 f.p.s for 40 Premiers; 25 f.p.s. for 40 JSB Exact Jumbos, except on power setting 4, where it was 17 f.p.s. and 15 f.p.s. for 40 Beeman Kodiaks.
I would set the power on No. 4 for the test rifle because that setting gave more power and velocity than any other setting. You probably want to know why that is. I think the valve opens too forcefully at settings above 4, and it bounces (flutters open and closed rapidly) on the valve seat, costing power. But on setting 4, it doesn’t bounce and thus gets the highest power. Note that setting 2 was always less than setting 4. I believe the valve on setting 2 is not bouncing, but actually opening cleanly, which is why it resembles some of the higher power settings that are bouncing. At least that’s my theory.
The Condor SS is quieter with the standard tank, but it isn’t absolutely quiet. It sounds about like a Talon SS at power setting 10. That’s pleasant, like a loud hand clap. It is quite a bit quieter than with the Hi-Flo tank attached.
There’s less power when you use the Condor SS with the standard tank, but you just about double the shot count. And the discharge noise is less than that of the gun with the Hi-Flo tank.
What you get when the rifle is set up this way is a Talon that’s a little quieter. The Talon has more adjustability, of course, but today we’ve looked at a way to enjoy more flexibility from your rifle without buying another complete PCP.
If I were to use the standard tank with the Condor SS, I would set it to power level 4 and shoot 40 shots per fill. That would be regardless of which pellet I used.
We’ve already seen the accuracy of this rifle at 25 and 50 yards. Is it necessary for me to do those tests again with the standard tank installed? I think the group sizes will be similar, but of course they’re never quite the same. I’ll let you readers decide.