by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- A little history
- Installing the Ring Loc Kit
- Adjusting the top hat clearance
- The bolt-locking notches
- Protect the bolt bushing
- What is the measurement under the top hat?
- Let’s test it
- Air use
- One last test
Today we take the Ring Loc Kit from AirForce in a new direction. To this point we have seen the performance of all the orifices except for the smallest one — the 0.070 orifice that is supposed to be a pilot hole for drilling your own custom orifice. But some of you have asked me to shoot the gun with that orifice as it is? Well, I was told that it won’t push a pellet out of the barrel when the rifle is set on maximum power, but when I pressed him, Ton Jones told me that was with the .25 caliber barrel installed. They were interested in the maximum power in each caliber, because this kit goes on an AirForce Condor, after all.
A little history
When the .22-caliber Condor was first released in 2004, the top power was 65 foot-pounds, with the pellets that were available. Today, in .25 caliber the rifle can deliver up to 105 foot-pounds! Power and accuracy has always been the focus of this amazing air rifle.
There was also a .177 Condor in the first release, but we didn’t think any shooters would be interested in it. Maybe a spare .177-caliber barrel, but certainly not a whole rifle. And, for the American market, that held true for many years. But we had orders from South Africa, where .22 caliber airguns were legally considered as firearms. They needed the .177 Condor, so we shipped them there. And that is when it became obvious that the Hi-Flo valve that worked so well in .22 was not as reliable in .177. It was borderline. On very warm days and very cold days the valve might not work. It could remain open and dump the entire tank on the first shot or it could refuse to open at all. We had to tweak the valve and we settled on a stronger return spring to balance the airflow so the rifle worked reliably every time. And that brings us to the Ring Loc Kit!
The Ring Loc Kit allows the shooter to adjust the performance of his rifle by switching orifices. Today I’m going to show you how that is done. Let’s get right to it.
Installing the Ring Loc Kit
Each new Condor, CondorSS and TalonP reservoir comes with a RingLoc valve installed, so installation of a different orifice from the kit is quite easy. Just remove the front part of what we used to call the top hat and replace it with a different orifice and you’re done. However — there is an entirely new way of adjusting the clearance of the top hat, so let’s look at it.
The Ring Loc base stays on the valve, with the o-ring that fits between it and the orifice. Screw the chosen orifice down on the valve until it contacts the base. Use the two thin wrenches to tighten the base and orifice together, but not too tight! The o-ring does not need the parts to be over-tight, and it is possible to squash the o-ring if you tighten too much. The kit contains three spare o-rings just in case.
Adjusting the top hat clearance
Now comes the most important part — the top hat adjustment. Remember, with the Ring Loc valve, the top hat is really two pieces with an o-ring in between.
The bolt-locking notches
Owners of AirForce rifles know that after cocking and loading, when the bolt is returned to cover the valve (top hat), its handle is then rotated into one of the notches on either side of the frame. If you don’t do this the bolt will be free to move upon firing and consistency of velocity goes out the window.
The locking notches in the frame of the rifle are the key to adjusting the Ring Loc Kit correctly. Once the bolt is rotated into the notch after cocking, you should not be able to push it forward and backward. If you can wiggle it back and forth, it is too loose and the Ring Loc base needs to be adjusted forward until the bolt cannot be moved in the notch. I discovered that the notches in my test rifle are not exactly the same. The bolt was solid in the left notch but wiggling in the right notch. I always use the right notch when I load the rifle, so I adjusted the Ring Loc top hat until it was tight in that notch.
Here’s another important picture. You see the bolt handle has been rotated into the right notch to lock the bolt at firing. You also see that the rear of the bolt now covers the end of the top hat. Inside the bolt are two small o-rings that seal the bolt at firing to keep all the air behind the pellet. This and the straight-through airflow design are how the Condor develops all that power.
Protect the bolt bushing
Here is where a heavy hand can cause a problem. The screw that holds the bolt handle to the bolt passes through a soft synthetic bushing. Aside from elevating the bolt handle so it has room to rotate into the locking notches, that bushing deadens any vibration from firing that tries to dislodge the bolt from the locking notch. You can damage this soft bushing if you force the bolt handle into a locking notch — so watch it!
I adjusted the orifice several times until the bolt handle was locking solidly in that right notch without putting undue stress on the soft bushing around the bolt screw. The job was done!
What is the measurement under the top hat?
Guys, forget about the measurement under the top hat. That was what we worried about in the old days. The reason I say that is that each rifle is ever-so-slightly different and this adjustment method allows for that. Measurement doesn’t. This adjustment is critical because, if there is any movement in the bolt when the rife fires, you will loose air with the shot. That will cost you velocity or shot count, and probably both.
Let’s test it
I have installed and adjusted the 0.070-orifice that AirForce advises is not for shooting. It’s to use as a pilot hole for drilling your own custom orifice that can be any size up to but not exceeding 0.232-inches.
But some readers wanted to know what the 0.070 orifice does by itself. I selected the lightweight RWS Hobby pellet to shoot. I’m about to test something AirForce hasn’t tested yet. Let’s face it — given all the orifices, calibers, barrel lengths and pellets there are, they haven’t tested everything yet. So come with me and we’ll take a look at the dark side of the moon.
I am testing a standard .177-caliber Condor that has a 24-inch barrel. I’m shooting the 7-grain Hobby pellet for all this test. I filled the air reservoir to 3,000 psi yesterday and when finished the onboard tank gauge read 2,800 psi. It was still reading that at the start of this test.
Remember that I was told this orifice wouldn’t even shoot a pellet out of the barrel. That was for the .25-caliber gun of course, but for safety I decided to start the test with the rifle set on maximum power.
This test is just to find out if this orifice works at all, and, if it does, how well does it seem to work? Remember — this has not been done yet.
Power setting 10
Power setting 8
Power setting 6
Power setting 4 (discharge was quieter)
Power setting 2 (quieter)
Low power (quieter)
There you have it. The Condor does work in .177 with the smallest 0.070 orifice. The highest velocity produced 11.39 foot pounds. At the lowest velocity the slowest pellet produced 9.46 foot-pounds. So that becomes the known power spread for the AirForce Condor at this point. It can produce muzzle energies that span from as low as 9.39 foot-pounds to as much as 105 foot pounds. There isn’t another air rifle in existence that can come anywhere close to that! Of course you can install shorter barrels and get results that are even less powerful, because all this testing was done with a standard Condor 24-inch barrel.
When all 27 shots had been fired, the gauge on the reservoir showed that there were 200 less psi in the tank. Don’t ask me for a shot count; I won’t live long enough — ha!
One last test
Okay, how slow can we go? To test this I loaded a10.65-grain H&N Baracuda Match pellet with the rifle’s power still set on the lowest setting. Here is what I got.
Clearly the 0.070 orifice does work with the .177 caliber Condor. There is no need to drill it out. In fact I’m thinking it might be possible to slip a small o-ring under the top hat to take the rifle down even farther — they way we used to with the Gunpower Stealth.
This $50 kit makes the AirForce Condor the most all-around PCP ever built. If you own one, you need a kit!