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Optics AirForce International Orion PCP air rifle: Part 3

AirForce International Orion PCP air rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


The Orion PCP repeater from AirForce International.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • UTG Bubble Leveler scope
  • The test
  • Zero
  • JSB Exact Heavy
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • Trigger is spongy
  • Loading the magazine
  • H&N Baracuda Match 5.53mm heads
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Evaluation so far

Today we start looking at the accuracy of the AirForce International Orion air rifle. Though I seldom compare airguns, we have discussed that this one is positioned against the Benjamin Marauder. This accuracy test should sharpen that focus.

UTG Bubble Leveler scope

The rifle needs a scope, so I mounted the best one I have — the UTG Bubble Leveler scope. This was the first time I looked through this scope since my cataracts were removed and — WOW! That bubble is bright, clear and apparent. Guys, if you’re having trouble seeing the bubble, schedule a visit with your eye doctor! The optics on this scope are the sharpest of any scope I own, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. This is a best buy and a world-beater!

The test

Despite what reader RidgeRunner predicted, I started the accuracy test at 25 yards, rested. Yes, I did fire one shot at 12 feet after mounting the scope, and it was close enough to proceed. The scope had been on my Marauder, so the mounting was very similar because the rifles are similar. It took me all of 10 minutes to scope the Orion.

The velocity test showed me there were more than 2 full magazines of shots (26 shots) per fill, so I decided I could get 30 good shots between fills. That could be 3 10-shot targets, which was all I needed.


The first shot from 12 feet landed in line with the center of the bull and as far below as the center of the scope was above the center of the bore. That’s good enough! I backed up to 25 yards and started the test.

JSB Exact Heavy

I began with the JSB Exact Jumbo 15.89-grain pellet that reader Munt from the Netherlands recommended. The first shot hit high and to the right of the bull, but I decided to just go with it. I was testing accuracy potential, not trying to hit anything particular. I also figured that 9 shots were as good as 10, since this was just a test to learn about the Orion’s potential, so I went with what was left in the magazine.

Nine JSB Exacts went into 0.636-inches at 25 yards. That’s not the smallest group I ever shot at that distance, but it is pretty good. Remember, I have yet to tune this rifle for a specific pellet!

Orion JSB Jumbo group
Nine JSB Exact Jumbo pellets went into 0.636-inches at 25 yards. It’s good, but not great.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

Next, I tried the JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellet. This is the one that weighs 18.1-grains in .22 caliber. They averaged 899 f.p.s. in the velocity test and looked like a good match for the rifle.

Ten pellets went into 0.535-inches at 25 yards. While that’s only slightly smaller than the first group, remember that there is one additional shot here. Also, this group is a little rounder. This is a pellet to pursue!

Orion JSB Jumbo Heavy group
Ten JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets went into 0.535-inches at 25 yards. This is much better accuracy, in my opinion.

Now I feel that the Orion is showing us what it can do. Of course we will have to see what it looks like at 50 yards before we form any concrete conclusions.

Trigger is spongy

I must say I don’t care for the Orion’s trigger that much. It is light enough for good accuracy, but stage 2 is hard to identify. It feels light and spongy.

Loading the magazine

Each time I load this magazine I find I have to learn it all over. It doesn’t feel natural to load pellets skirt-first. They drop in easily enough, it just feels odd. Okay, lets get back to shooting.

H&N Baracuda Match 5.53mm heads

The next pellet I tried was the H&H Baracuda Match with 5.53mm head. The Orion is certainly powerful enough to shoot this pellet well. The first several went into a tight group, but then they started scattering. After 10 shots I had a 0.742-inch group that was disappointing. This is not the pellet for this rifle.

Orion Baracuda Match 5.53 group
Ten H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 5.53mm heads went into 0.742-inches at 25 yards. In light of what the first two pellets did, I don’t think this one is suited to this rifle.

JSB Exact RS

The last pellet I tried was the lightweight JSB Exact RS. But these are not for this Orion. Not only do they scatter, they have feeding issues that caused me to stop shooting. I believe they are too small to feed through the magazine reliably.

Evaluation so far

The Orion is accurate, I will say that. And it is quiet. If this was your first PCP rifle it would be a good start.

I don’t care for the trigger nor the magazine. However, if the rifle shoots accurately at 50 yards I can live with both of them.

The rifle is still slim and light. And it is well-suited to the UTG Bubble Leveler scope that’s now mounted. I look forward to the 50-yard range.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

40 thoughts on “AirForce International Orion PCP air rifle: Part 3”

  1. Exactly my question too BB. Don’t want to sound like an armchair engineer, but why so many guns don’t have decent triggers? Is it very difficult or expensive to design a nice trigger?

    • I wonder how much patent infringement factors in? For that matter, I wonder how much that factors into (anything) air gun when one maker’s product comes very close or the same to another’s product?

    • it amazes me that guys want a target trigger in all guns. some guys want an ounce trigger in a hunting gun or they think they will miss an elk. you can get used to any trigger and in the 90’s me and my friends had savage heavy barrels before they were well known and you needed a come along to pull the trigger but I have never saw tighter groups with any rifle or triggers since then. look at the BP shooters using sharps rifles with the big hammers falling quite a distance before hitting the cap. if you saw the shooting they do you would not believe it

      • Mildot52,

        Not that I want a target trigger. I’m just wondering after all the effort placed by AirForce in improving the trigger the best that they could do was to end up with a light and spongy trigger. Considering that they began with heavy and creepy this is way better than struggling with that. The armchair engineer in me just wonders if somewhere down the road an end user will produce a modification that improves the trigger such as the ones found in Gamo and Crosman/Benjamin rifles.


      • So, you’re a fan of Savage rifles! I remember reading an accuracy test of Savage vs. other big names. Up to that point, I had thought the Remington 700 was the ultimate design for accuracy, but it came in second. The final evaluation was that the Savage rifles were in a class by themselves.

        You don’t mean to say that Savage rifles have lost accuracy since the 90s do you? My factory rifle is almost a half minute gun and that’s before the improvements I’ve designed for my rear supporting bag. One of the things I like best about the gun is the Accu-Trigger which is as a good as a custom, hand-stoned match trigger on another of my rifles. I suppose you could get used to any trigger like David Tubb, but why should you? Surely, high-end triggers like on the Anschutz guns are not a waste of time for their intended purpose.

        But it is an interesting point about exactly what element makes a gun accurate. The Savage rifles were accurate before the Accu-Trigger. Then, they added an Accu-stock. On paper, it made a lot of sense, but no review I’ve seen shows any difference. Their latest offering is a “stealth” model with an aluminum chassis. The stock has the stability associated with this design, but it has been made light enough to carry around. Good again, but the reviews I’m seen don’t show any improvement here either. I suspect that the heart of the Savage accuracy is its barrel and minimum headspace manufacture technique with the other elements playing a supporting role.


        • no I meant with the old savage rifles you can get around the fact that you do not have a good trigger. but like you said all the improvements savage made did not make that much difference on the target. a good trigger is great to have but with practice a not so great trigger can be made to work. I think the best triggers I ever shot was on a standard M1A or garand love that two stage trigger. the only type rifles to me that you have to have a great trigger is the 10 meter match rifles whether it be air rifles or 22

        • Matt61
          I got 2 Savage 93’s with a stainless action and synthetic stock. One is a .22 rimfire and the other a .17 hmr rimfire.

          Both have the accu-trigger which I love and both guns are very accurate. And handle nice too.

          I even have a Stevens 320 pump 20 gauge shot gun which is suppose to be a company of Savage. And the reason I mention it is because it has a excellent trigger for a shot gun. It’s not a accu-trigger but has a nice pull and break.

          I wouldn’t be afraid to recommend them to somebody.

  2. B.B.,

    You did say in Part 1 that AirForce concentrated on the most in improving the trigger and that what’s in the gun today is a vast improvement over what it originally was. Did something go wrong in the assembly/geometry? Maybe too much of the wrong type of grease (silicone instead of moly grease maybe)? Considering this is supposed to grab sales from the Marauder this is going to be a sticking point with some people.


  3. B.B.,

    Nice shooting there Cowboy! 😉 I gave a (quick) look for a .22 M-rod article and nothing popped up. I suppose the .25 might be the best for comparisons sake at 50 yards. Looking good so far.

    Nice glowing endorsement for the UTG. I have the same (minus level) and there is nothing to complain about. For anyone “on the fence” on UTG,… that should do it. How’a ’bout a pic with the scope mounted?

    Good Day all,….. Chris

  4. BB,

    Did you recharge the air between groups or did you shoot four groups on one fill, because you stated you were going to shoot three ten shot groups on one fill? If so, that may explain why the Baracuda group started opening up after it began with a nice, tight group.

    Isn’t that scope just sweet? I have one sitting on top of my HM1000X. You will have to pay twice as much for such a scope. They are that nice.


    It is a shame this rifle does not have a good trigger.

  5. BB,
    You say that the Orion is quiet. In your estimation, is it quieter than the Marauder right out of the box? I have read that the Marauder can be tuned to be quieter than the way it arrives.

  6. B. B.,

    Glad to read that your improved sight allows full appreciation of good optics! This is reason to celebrate. The quality of images provided by the current crop of UTG scopes is excellent for the price. Even the budget-priced 4X32 is unexpectedly sharp and has a wide, flat field.
    Also glad to see that manufacturers are working hard to give us more affordable PCP options. This one looks interesting, and would figure into the mix if I were a first-time PCP buyer. When I bought my Marauder it was a choice between it and the Hatsan AT-44.



      • B.B.-
        Just throwing in my 2 cents on the bubble leveler scope- if you shoot at ranges from 10 yds clear out to 150 yds you need to buy this scope! At 16x magnification, the head and neck of a pigeon fill the scope at 50 yds and the image is so sharp you can see the fleas crawling around near its eyes! I was doing a little rat control the other day and it was after sunset but not yet full dark(I guess they call it “dusk”) and when I turned on the lighted reticle it truly felt like I was “shooting fish in a barrel”! The light transmission thru this scope makes my old scopes look like my eyes did before I had the cataracts removed last fall ! Best optics I’ve ever looked thru.

    • John,

      All UTG scopes come with their own mounts, so I used the ones that came with this scope. Yes, this scope is very large, but it is far from gigantic. There are much larger scopes on the market.

      It takes large lenses to get the clarity this scope has at the magnification it offers. A 4-power scope can be smaller, but a 16-power scope will always be large. There are smaller 16-power scopes, but their optics are muddy.


  7. I know everyone will be benchmarking this rifle against a Marauder, but how does it stack up against its own internal competition of a Talon or Condor?

    I know you don’t do comparisons, this is more to get everyone else’s opionion

    • Belgrath04
      I’m going to have to say the Talons or Condors would be my choice if talking comparing Air Force guns.

      And the reason being the interchangeability of the barrels.

    • Belgrath04
      Oh and forgot another important reason I would choose the Talon or Condor verses the gun BB is testing.

      The bottles can be changed for different air flow. The micro meter, regular flow and high flow bottles.

      That way different combinations can be made out of one gun with different bottles and barrels.

  8. I ran some quick #’s for anyone interested. I (did) find the .22 M-rod article (5 parts), with more time to look.

    .22 M-rod, 25 yards,… .246, .1.132, .872, .592, .496, .378″

    .22 Orion, 25 yards,… .636, .535, .742″

    So I would have to say we are in the same ball park here. Given fill pressure options, power level and pellet choice, we might have a real head to head battle here.

    50 yard was 1.112 w/7@ .558 and 1.516 w/ 9@.888 with the .22 M-rod. By the way, I am a fan of the 7@ and 9@. I use it. I think it adds to the overall evaluation.

    Looking forwards to more.

      • GF1,

        Glad you brought “compare” up. Hate it, love it, fair, unfair, right, wrong? In reality that is what “we” as consumers do. At least the smart ones. Yes, each gun must stand on it’s own. BB helps us all with a neutral review. The good, the bad and ugly. And,… if we are lucky,.. the awesome.

        This might be an option since the price point is there. Well, that is it “would” be an option if I did not already have a customized .25 M-rod. Of the “new” options, the Maximus is one I will never regret.

        • Chris U
          I know BB don’t compare usually. And I see why with the job he has.

          But like you said we the consumers don’t have to be as diplomatic as BB does. And that’s all good on BB’s part. He’s doing a wonderful job.

          But reality speaks for itself. We the consumers do compare. Especially now days when the cost of living is rediculous. And when we have to purchase something that lasts.

          Matter of fact one thing I mentioned at the end of the Crosman website survey was about Crosmans customer support verses the other manufacturers they list on the survey. I think that’s part of why Crosman stays on top. You can pretty much get any part you need to repair their guns by going to their website and looking up the part number on their diagrams. Some of the other manufacturers it’s not so easy. Plus they do make a gun that makes the consumers have something to compare to.

          And by no means am I putting down the Air Force gun BB’s reveiwing here today. It’s more like I’m complimenting it that it’s a major contender in today’s air gun market.

          And not only this Air Force gun. Nowdays the air gun competition between brands seems to be getting pretty feirce. So all in all a good thing for the consumer.

  9. >WOW! That bubble is bright, clear and apparent. Guys, if you’re having trouble seeing the bubble, schedule a visit with your eye doctor!

    There must have been something wrong with the unit I inspected on the SHOT show floor, B.B.. I could not see the bubble easily, because it was hidden in a dark shadow. It was sharp and well defined, but just very, very dim (unlike the nice bright image above the bubble)! Enabling the illumination did not help much, if at all.


    I’m glad to read of your report here. I’m a big bubble user and VERY interested in this scope!

  10. >The optics on this scope are the sharpest of any scope I own, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    But have you looked though all your other scopes lately (since you had your cataracts removed), B.B.? 😉 😉 😉


  11. Dear BB,

    Is there any news on part 4 of this review? Looking forward to it! Do tune the rifle to 925 fps with JSB jumbo for best results,

    Best regards from the Netherlands,


  12. I realize that this post is a few years old, but was wondering if part 4 was ever completed? I did a search and can not find it. I was looking forward to reading how the Orion did at 50-yards.

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