by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Some facts
- The rifle
- Power adjustability
Okay! Today we start looking at a precharged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle that I bet not too many of you know about — the AirForce International Orion. First of all — AirForce International? Are they the same as AirForce Airguns? If so, why the International?
AirForce International is the division of AirForce Airguns that imports airguns from abroad. They select the guns they feel have the level of quality their company demands, but with features their domestically-made airguns may not offer. The Orion is a 13-shot repeater that comes in a classic wood stock.
I have known about the Orion for several years. You know how some companies tell you that they have worked with the manufacturer to iron out all the details of a product until it was what they wanted to offer their customers? Well, I have witnessed that happening with the Orion. When the project started the rifle had an iffy trigger and was set to retail at a higher price. I watched as the details were ironed out, one by one, until what you are about to see was born.
Let’s face it — anyone bringing out a new PCP in the U.S. today has one rifle to overcome — the Benjamin Marauder. That’s no secret! All airgun companies know it, and, if they want to sell to the U.S. market, they have to keep that fact at the forefront of everything they do. AirForce is very aware of the market, and this Orion is a rifle they believe will sell. I don’t compare airguns very often, and I’m not going to start today, but as this report unfolds, you know what is driving my look at this new air rifle.
The Orion is a PCP that is offered in .177, .22 and .25 calibers. I am looking at a .22, because it was the caliber I most wanted to test for you. The max velocity in this caliber is said to be 800 f.p.s., but of course I will test that in detail. Accuracy is said to be quite good, and you know I’m going to test that. In fact, because of what I said at the beginning of the report, I have to test the Orion out to at least 50 yards.
The rifle is made by Cometa of Spain, whose name is on the air gauge in the stock. Cometa also makes the AirForce International 94 spring-piston air rifle. AirForce is pleased with the quality of these Cometa products, which is why they invested the effort to sculpt the Orion into the rifle I am now introducing you to.
The 18.5-inch barrel is hammer-forged, which is the easiest way to get superlative accuracy from a rifled barrel. I can’t wait to see that! The barrel is fully shrouded At the power level, it should be very quiet. I plan to report on that for you.
The stock is an attractive wood that’s checkered at the pistol grip and on both sides of the forearm. The cheekpiece adjusts for height, which is very handy, since the rifle has to have some kind of optical sight mounted. I’m thinking I will install a powerful scope, based on the performance I expect from the rifle.
The stock has one additional feature many will like. It is slim! The forearm cross section is narrow and the pistol grip is very comfortable in my hand. I mention this because I know stock dimensions are very important to a lot of shooters. I really like your this one holds.
The overall length of the rifle is 41 inches, which makes it comfortably short for hunters, even though it is a full-sized rifle and not a carbine. The unscoped test rifle tips the scale to 7.75 lbs., but that will vary with the weight of the wood. That makes the Orion an all-around comfortable airgun for carrying afield, in my opinion. And it comes with sling swivel anchors attached, so you can install a sling with no hassle.
The Orion comes with a male Foster quick-disconnect fitting for filling. It’s located at the front of the air reservoir, and the cap just pops on and off — no need to unscrew it. The pressure gauge is located at the bottom of the forearm, just forward of the triggerguard. The rifle operates on 206 bar/3000 psi pressure, thank goodness, so all the standard filling equipment will work. Until I know what sort of shot count you can expect I can’t really say whether I advise you to use a hand pump to fill this rifle, but with the Foster fitting and 3000 psi limit, it is certainly possible. The specs tell us that the air reservoir has a capacity of 225 cc, so I’m hoping there are at least 30 good shots.
Of all the design elements I think the trigger was the one AirForce concentrated on the most. I know they actually made modifications that they sent back to the factory for evaluation. I tried the trigger at several times during its development and I can tell you that what’s in the gun today is a vast improvement over what it originally was. It has to be, because look what it’s up against! I will give you a complete report on the pull in Part 2.
The trigger adjusts for what the owner’s manual calls travel, and what I would refine to call the length of the first stage. Stage 2 and the letoff weight are fixed, but light enough that I don’t think anyone will complain. Oh. that’s not true. Some people would complain if they struck oil in their back yard, “The derricks are so unsightly!”
The safety is a bar in front of the trigger. It is 100 percent manual, so hallelujah! Because it runs across the trigger blade and sticks out on either side it is ambidextrous.
Yes. the power can be adjusted via an Allen screw located at the rear base of the receiver. Turn clockwise to increase and counterclockwise to decrease. I will test it for you in Part 2, but by just looking at it I can tell you it’s not something you are going to do all the time. It’s there to optimize accuracy, pellet by pellet.
The Orion is a 13-shot .22-caliber air rifle that’s positioned in the lower end of the sporting market. It’s quiet, has a good trigger, and hopefully great accuracy. Settle in and we shall all see together.