Umarex Fuel air rifle: Part 5
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
That’s right! The Umarex Fuel carries its own bipod legs tucked against the forearm until you deploy them.
This report covers:
• Scope upgrade
• H&N Baracuda Match pellets
• JSB Exact Heavy pellets
• Air Arms Falcon pellets
• Artillery hold: Better or worse?
I last looked at the Umarex Fuel air rifle on September 19 — almost 2 months ago. I promised you a Part 5 with an upgraded scope, and today we’ll look at it. I learned an important lesson today about the Fuel that you need to know if you’re considering buying one.
I found H&N Baracuda Match pellets with a head size of 4.50mm to be the best at 25 yards in the last test. I also found some differences when shooting off the built-in bipod, whether it rested on a hard surface or a soft one. I wasn’t sure which one was best, but today I rested the bipod on a soft surface for all bipod shots.
I decided to upgrade the scope for this test, so today I installed a UTG 3-9X40 AO scope in the rings that came with the Fuel. There was a shim on the rear ring that I left in place.
H&N Baracuda Match pellets
The last pellet I shot was the Baracuda Match, so I sighted in the scope with them and then shot the first group at 25 yards. Sight-in took a lot of shots because I discovered the Fuel is extremely hold-sensitive. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I will address that issue and explain it to you at the end of this report. It took 9 shots to sight-in the rifle, which is roughly 3 times the number it usually takes. Again, that was due to hold sensitivity.
Today, I got smaller groups than in the last test. Ten Baracuda Match pellets went into 1.04 inches at 25 yards, which is significantly better than the best previous group of 10 that measured 1.281 inches at the same distance. I didn’t even try a second group of Baracudas because I had other new pellets to try.
My thinking was to find the best pellet while shooting off the bipod and then shoot that pellet with the artillery hold. With one pellet down, it was time to move on.
JSB Exact Heavy pellets
Next up was the 10.34-grain JSB Exact Heavy with a 4.52mm head. The first shot went wide to the left, then shot 2 was almost in the center of the bull. When shots 3 and 4 went into the same hole as shot 2, I was going to discard the first shot as a fluke or seasoning the bore or some such thing. So, I shot 11 pellets at this bull and was prepared to take the last 10 as my group. But something that happened later caused me to realize that the first shot does belong to this group. The Fuel is extremely hold-sensitive, and small differences really do matter — as you will soon see. At any rate, there are 10 pellets in 0.826 inches and 11 in 1.196 inches.
There are 10 JSB Exact Heavy pellets in the bull in 0.826 inches, but the first shot (the 11th shot of this group) is low and left. Total group is 1.196 inches across. I was going to disregard the first shot until I learned how hold-sensitive the Fuel is.
Air Arms Falcon pellets
The last pellet I tried was Air Arms Falcon dome with a 4.52mm head. Like the JSBs, the first pellet landed high and away from the bull, but the next 7 pellets went to the same place in the center of the bull. I was all ready to create a universe from this limited data, when shots 9 and 10 went high and right, just like the first shot. Boy, was that aggravating! But there was no denying it — there are 7 pellets in a small 0.594 inch group, and 3 other shots that open the group to 1.348 inches.
The Falcon pellets went just like the JSBs. First shot was high and right, then the next 7 in the center of the bull, and shots 9 and 10 were wide again. Group measures 1.384 inches, with 7 in 0.594 inches.
Artillery hold: Better or worse?
I wasn’t sure what to make of the groups shot off the bipod, but I switched to the artillery hold next. And I shot and shot and shot! I would put 2 pellets into the same hole then the third would land 2 inches away. I tried every variation of the artillery hold I could think of, and then it hit me. Back in the early 1990s, I wrote an article for the Beeman catalog that was never printed. It was about discovering what I later called the artillery hold. Beeman was recommending a firm hold on air rifles, and I had found just the opposite. Could the reverse also be true?
Could it be that some guns do need to be held firm for accuracy? I discovered while testing the Browning 800 pistol that it needed to be held tight, so I decided to try it with the Fuel. Lo and behold — every shot went to the same place!
So, the rifle is sensitive to hold, but the hold isn’t that difficult to do. In fact, you’ll find it more natural than the artillery hold. Simply grasp the stock with your off hand so your fingers fit between the vertical ridges just in front of the triggerguard. Hold the rifle firm but not tight with that hand. Don’t squeeze. Pull the butt into your shoulder normally, but not overly tight.
I did this and put the first 6 shots into 0.211 inches — AT 25 YARDS! Shot 7 opened the group to 0.388 inches, and shots 8, 9 and 10 opened it up to 1.721 inches. It was obvious at this point that I was tiring out. But I had also just discovered how to hold the Fuel for great groups! And I’d discovered that the Falcon is at least one pellet the rifle likes very much!
Handheld with a firm grip on the forearm, the first 6 shots went into 0.211 inches. Then, as I tired, the shots started opening up. I numbered them as they occurred. Total group size is 1.721 inches at 25 yards.
The Fuel has revealed itself to me in today’s test. It’s a fussy rifle that wants to be handheld, although the bipod groups aren’t that bad. It cocks easily for a rifle that has a gas spring, and the shooting cycle is very smooth. The trigger is good, though not world-class. The scope that comes with the rifle isn’t the best, but the rifle is a real value. You can always add a better scope like I did.
I’ve been looking for a good $150 gas-piston air rifle and this may be it. I’m now going to take the rifle to the 50-yard range to see what it can do, but at this point I have no problem recommending the Umarex Fuel as a good buy! Be sure to read all the past parts of this report, and I think you’ll agree that this one is special.