by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Nomad II air compressor
Air Venturi Nomad II air compressor.

This report covers:

  • Air compressors for airguns
  • Fill levels
  • Compressors
  • The Nomad II
  • Operation
  • A valuable lesson!
  • Not made to fill tanks
  • BSA R10 Black Wrap
  • Discussion
  • Summary

“Tis the season!” Ho, ho, ho! Here comes Santa’s helper, The Great Enabler, with more goodies you can’t live without. Today we begin our look at the Air Venturi Nomad II air compressor.

Air compressors for airguns

Before I start looking at the Nomad, let us review the world of the high-pressure air compressors for airguns. Modern precharged pneumatic (PCP) airguns need a source of high pressure air to fill them. Of course there are all manner of air tanks, but there are also air compressors that can fill either the guns themselves or refill the tanks. And let’s not forget the hand pumps that exist — they are pretty special, too. Which you get — tank, hand pump, compressor or even a combination of them — depends on what you can afford to spend and also the air pressure(s) your gun(s) rquire for a full fill.

Fill levels

In recent years, PCPs have become stratified into several groups. They all used to need fills to 3000 psi, but today  there are guns that run on a fill of 2,000 psi. These are the best kind for filling with a hand pump, because it isn’t very difficult to do. Then there are the guns that take a 3,000 psi fill. While the airguns in this group can be filled with a hand pump, it is much easier to fill them from a tank or directly from a compressor. And finally there are PCPs that require over 3,000 psi/206 bar for a full fill. BSA guns require 232 bar, which is 3,365 psi, and there are guns that take 300 bar/4,351 psi. A couple even go up to 4,500 psi/310.26 bar. For all of the guns in this category, a tank or compressor is the best way to go. While there are hand pumps that go that high, it isn’t pleasant to use them much beyond 3,000 psi, and even that high can challenge some folks.

Compressors

There are also groups of air compressors to be considered. Twenty years ago if you wanted a compressor to fill to 3,000 psi and higher you were looking at either a $3,000 investment for a new machine, or getting a surplus compressor that someone had jury-rigged. I saw those sell for around $1,800 at airgun shows in the late 1990s.

Today there are choices. There are the booster pumps that take shop air and boost it as high as needed. The best-known of these is the Shoebox compressor. As far as I can tell, it was the first compressor to sell for less than a thousand dollars. Today they can be found for less than $500. These units are best used to fill an airgun directly — not an air tank.

Then there are a crop of low-cost compressors that fill directly — without needing another source of air. The Nomad II I am testing is one of these. A new Nomad II sells for $650, which is well under a thousand. These units are best used to fill guns, though they can stretch an fill a very small carbon fiber tank if necessary.

Finally there are the larger compressors like the Air Venturi HPA compressor. These fill fast and have no trouble filling the largest carbon fiber air tanks on the market.

The Nomad II

Just to clarify things, I am testing the Nomad II. There is also a Nomad Portable compressor that sells for $100 less. That one comes with a separate power supply. The Nomad II has the power supply built in which makes it handier, I think. Both compressors will fill to a maximum of 4,500 psi/310 bar and both allow the user to set the desired fill pressure that automatically turns off the unit when it reaches the limit.

This compressor is light, at less than 20 pounds. I’m so used to compressors that weigh more than 60 pounds that this one seems feather light to me.

The Nomad II comes in a tough shipping box that’s padded with styrofoam all around on the inside. Let me show you what I saw when I opened the box.

Nomad II compressor box lid off
When you take the lid off the box, the manual is on top of the styrofoam.

Nomad II compressor accessory tray
Lift the top styrofoam to find an accessory tray that contains everything you will need (and probably a lot more) to operate the compressor.

I will come back to talk about what comes in the accessory tray in my next report. Under the accessory tray is the compressor. It comes to you in a tough canvas carrying case that makes it easy to transport.

Nomad II compressor case
The Nomad comes in a convenient canvas carrying case that has several zippered pockets for all the accessories.

Operation

The Nomad II runs on 110V or 220V AC current and 12V DC current from a car battery. That means you can take it to the field, which is a real plus.

A valuable lesson!

After reading the manual, I thought I would give my test Nomad a good workout. My 88 cubic foot carbon fiber tank was down to just 3,200 psi and I thought I would time how long it took the Nomad to boost it back to 4,500 psi. So I connected the compressor to the tank and turned it on. I kept watching the pressure gauges on both the compressor and the tank to see how fast the pressure rose but after 30 minutes it had only increased by about 200 psi. Something was wrong.

Not made to fill tanks

I contacted Pyramyd Air and was told the Nomad II (and the Nomad) is made to fill an airgun — not a large air tank. That made sense, because this isn’t a large compressor. Could it do it? Sure, but you would wear out the unit that way. On the other hand, when you fill an airgun, it’s “mama bear” all over — as in just right. Let’s see.

BSA R10 Black Wrap

I didn’t tell you because I wasn’t planning on testing this for you, but several months ago I bought a .177-caliber BSA R10 Black Wrap rifle from Pyramyd Air. They have them on super special and there are only a few remaining. I didn’t want to get you excited about an airgun that won’t be available for most of you.

Anyhow, this rifle came to me dead-empty, so it’s perfect for this test. The manual says to cock the hammer when the gun is empty, so the valve will be fully closed. I did that and set the shutoff needle on the compressor gauge to stop at 232 bar, or 3,365 psi. Then I turned her on and let her rip!

The compressor makes a pulsing noise when it operates that tells me it is an electrified hand pump. I would also like to note that it is air-cooled and the sound of the air hissing out of all sides of the compressor enclosure made me think it was leaking.

The pressure gauge rose slowly at first. But in the time it took me to get my camera and return, the pressure had risen significantly! By the time I took the pictures you are about to see, four minutes had passed since I started the compressor.

Nomad II compressor running
The compressor is running in this picture. That silver can is a drying filter.

Nomad II compressor gauge
Here is a closer look at the compressor gauge after 4 minutes of operation. The silver bar just past the 3000 psi mark is the automatic shutoff.

As the rifle’s 200cc tank filled, the pressure rose faster and faster. In all it took about 8 minutes to fill the gun’s reservoir from empty to full at 232 bar. Did I get it exactly right? No. According to the gun’s internal gauge the compressor filled it to about 215-220 bar. But that’s easy enough to adjust the next time I fill. And since I will not shoot out all the air, the next time I fill it will only take half the time.

Discussion

How shall I test this Nomad II for you? Many of you want to know how reliable this compressor will be over the long haul. Unfortunately that is something I can almost never test to anyone’s satisfaction. But I’m not finished testing this Nomad by any means. I have other PCPs I can fill and I can also test the compressor running from my truck battery. So there is more stuff I can do — for sure. If there is something you would like me to look at, let me know.

Summary

The Nomad II seems to be a dandy way to operate a PCP. Or, better still, several of them. It seems to be well made, robust and reliable. It works as advertised and is a marvel of engineering for what it is. Along with all the others like it, a good air compressor at this low price will change the face of airguns.