Getting started with a precharged air rifle: Part 2
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Talon SS?
- Accuracy expectations
- Get parallax adjustment
- Match the scope to the task
- More to come
This is Part 2. In the first part I was brutally honest about the precharged pneumatics (PCP) I think are good for beginners. Now that I am doing my experiment about learning to sharpen straight razors I appreciate the level of information most new guys are seeking and are able to accept. There will always be some folks who don’t get it the first time around, but I won’t talk down to the rest of you to cover that. I will answer their questions and explain in greater detail as they require.
Reader Cal raised an issue in Part 1 and answered it at the same time. Why didn’t I put AirForce rifles like the Talon SS into the entry-level category? Can’t someone who is new to precharged airguns shoot one of those? Of course they can! The Talon SS is no more difficult to learn to operate than any other PCP. The reason I held off is the style of the rifle.
When you shoulder a Talon SS for the first time, it feels different than most rifles that have conventional stocks. The straight line of the air reservoir that also serves as the stock bothers some people. They feel they can’t get their face low enough to see through the scope. I can show a person how to hold the rifle properly in a minute, and have done so many times, but even then some folks just will not like doing it my way. Because this series is for new shooters, I thought I had better not recommend a rifle they might not feel comfortable with, once they get it in their hands. However, if you can accept the difference, the Talon SS makes a wonderful first PCP that will out-shoot anything near its price range!
Let’s talk about triggers and what your expectations are. Some people buy a PCP thinking that the trigger will be like one they have read about on a thousand-dollar rifle. It won’t. For the most part the trigger is the one place in which entry-level PCPs are lacking. Other than the Benjamin Marauder, most entry-level PCPs have triggers that are just okay. The Marauder is the only one that’s highly adjustable and lives up to the PCP trigger expectations. The Talon SS trigger is very good, but it’s not adjustable.
Is it possible to modify an entry-lever PCP trigger to make it better? Sure. You can do any number of things that range from a basic slick-up and tightening of the bearings to (sometimes) installing a Marauder trigger like Lloyd Sikes did on my Disco Double. Expect to pay for what you get.
This point is very important for new buyers. Don’t expect a world-class trigger on a $200 air rifle.
What do you expect from your new PCP? If you expect 10-shot groups that are sometimes smaller than 3/4-inches at 50 yards, either buy a Marauder, a Talon SS or wait for me to test those entry-level rifles I haven’t tested yet. First of all, I am talking about TEN-shot groups — not five-shot groups. There is a world of difference in the group size when you shoot 10 shots.
Next, don’t think that any rifle can always shoot groups that small. None of them can. There will always be groups that are larger than your expectations for a variety of different reasons. But a really good PCP can shoot groups this small quite often, under the right conditions.
The Marauder and Talon SS can both do it, with the SS getting 10-shot groups of around 0.60-inches in the right shooter’s hands. But surprisingly, several of the lower-priced rifles in the budget entry-level category can do almost as well. With the Benjamin Discovery you may need to play with the positioning of the forward barrel band, but when you hit the sweet spot the Disco will surprise you.
And remember this — one of a PCP’s biggest advantages is the fact that they have no vibration or movement to throw your shots off. With a spring gun you are fighting recoil and vibration on every shot.
Here is where things start to get hairy for the first-time PCP user. Nearly everyone will scope their new rifle, but you have to adjust your thinking when you select a scope for an accurate rifle. I am all for you choosing an inexpensive PCP, because you don’t know if you’re going to stick with this hobby. But a cheap scope can undo all the positives that the manufacturers build into their airguns.
However, just because a scope isn’t cheap doesn’t mean that it can’t be economical. For not too much more than you spend to buy an off-brand scope you can get a reasonably good one that has decent optics. It will probably offer lower power (3-9 is common), but the image will be reasonable clear.
Get parallax adjustment
I recommend that you any scope you buy comes with parallax adjustment. Do you notice that I am not suggesting any specific scope models? That’s because there are hundreds to choose from. Get one whose features you like and whose name you respect. Hawke and Leapers/UTG are two that come to mind, but there are others. Just stay away from those Red Star scopes that you find at gun shows for $30. [That remark is going to wake up somebody who swears by Red Star scopes, I just know it!]
If you push me to recommend a scope it’s going to be the UTG Bubble Leveler. Sorry if it costs more than the PCP you have chosen, but remember — you can use this scope on any airgun or firearm.
Match the scope to the task
If you want to shoot groups at 50 yards, get a scope with higher magnification. Sixteen power would be the minimum I would recommend.
If you want to hunt, get a scope that’s lighter weight and smaller — so it’s less cumbersome to carry in the field. Also consider one of the shorter scopes like the Bug Buster 3-9X32. They are not only lighter but also a lot smaller, so they don’t get caught in brush when you walk through the woods. Just bear in mind that a short scope like a Bug Buster has limited mounting options. The short scope tubes that are available to go into the rings don’t give much back-and-forth movement. I see shooters trying to mount these scopes on rifles that have a scope mount base located too far forward on the rifle. Then they can’t slide the compact scope back far enough to get the best eye relief.
More to come
There is at least one more report in this series. I want to talk about filling options for your entry-level PCP.