by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • From Yogi
  • From Will S.
  • History
  • El Gamo 300
  • Collectable Gamos?
  • Beeman Precision Airguns
  • Gamo 126 10-meter target rifle
  • El Gamo triggers
  • HOWEVER
  • What about the interim rifles?
  • So — what’s the verdict?
  • Summary

Today I am writing about Gamo. Here is how it came about. On Tuesday we received these comments to my post about the Gamo Swarm Fusion 10X Gen2 repeater.

From Yogi

B.B.
“Well, Gamo knows how to make airguns and I’m rooting for this one to deliver on all that it promises.”
My only experience with Gamo was a piece of junk, and the pellets re not much better. What is the greatest Gamo of all time?
Maybe a Friday blog about it?
What is the best gun they have ever made? Anything worth collecting?

From Will S.

Morning B.B.,
On some rifles, not all, Gamo uses an all-polymer breech block and the pivot bolt is GLUED IN so you can’t adjust it when the barrel has side-to-side wobble. If you can’t adjust such an important part of the rifle, then the rifle will permanently lose its accuracy and will no longer be interesting to use. No more Gamo springers with polymer in place of steel for me.

There were lots of other comments, but they were either about specific Gamo rifles or about the two major complaints people have about Gamo these days — lousy triggers and too much plastic.

I have to agree with most of what these comments say. But since I have been doing this a little longer than some of you I remember when things were different. That’s what I want to talk about today.

History

In 1889 a company called Antonio Casas, SA was making mostly lead products in Barcelona, Spain. In 1950 that company began specializing in the production of lead pellets. In 1959 they formed a new company known as Industrias El Gamo, and in 1961 they began to produce airguns. They started selling in Spain but soon opened up to the rest of the world.

That is the official company history in edited form, however in the 12th edition of the Blue Book of Airguns, an Antinio Casas BB gun from 1930 is shown on page 485. So there was an airgun connection before 1959.

When I came on the airgun scene as a writer in the ’90s, the company was called Gamo and was managed by CEO Juan Carlos Casas. So, in all that time the company was owned and operated by the same family.

El Gamo air rifles were imported into the US in the 1970s and two companies stood out as their principal retailers. The first was Air Rifle Headquarters that began business around the same time El Gamo was entering the world market. My oldest catalog from them is from 1973, which is about in the middle of the ARH lifespan, if not closer to the end. They have two El Gamo models in the catalog — the Expo and the 300 — that I would now like to address.

The Expo was a simplistic breakbarrel somewhat along the lines of a Beeman R7, but with far less precision and features. Nevertheless, for its day it was a standout in the US. In 1963 I owned a Slavia (probably a 236) that was its equivalent, but Slavia never took hold here in the US, while Gamo USA became a US company.

The Expo was a basic breakbarrel, but it was also the foundation of the Expomatic — El Gamo’s early foray into repeating breakbarrel spring-piston air rifles. I’ve never owned or even handled an Expomatic, so everything I know about it is second- and third-hand. I heard and read that they were very pellet picky — not for accuracy, but for whether they would feed though the tubular magazine. I heard that so often that I stayed away from them. That’s why the rifle I’m now testing — the Swarm Fusion 10X, and the Swarm Maxxim I  tested two years ago are such marvels to me — because they work!

El Gamo 300

The El Gamo 300, however, is an air rifle I have owned and tested for you. After testing it I later sold it to a blog reader at the Malvern, Arkansas, airgun show several years ago. Like me, he was delighted to get it.

The 300 is a stout little breakbarrel with an adjustable trigger and decent accuracy. I had wanted one ever since I read the 1979 ARH catalog, but life had its ways of keeping me celibate for a couple more decades. I finally got this one at the Toys That Shoot airgun show in Findlay, Ohio. And I finally got to scratch a 20-year-old itch!

But what made me want it even more was another El Gamo I got and still have — the El Gamo 68/68-XP. I tested one in .177 caliber for you and I even tuned it. Then, in 2017, I bought a .22-caliber rifle that was very similar, but different in some small ways. That one was a very accurate rifle! And I sold that .22 at the Texas Airgun Show for exactly what I paid for it. Someone else is having the fun with that one!

Collectable Gamos?

Yogi — this 68XP is a very desirable El Gamo. It isn’t that expensive, yet just try to find one! The 300 is another one to look for. And even an Expo would be nice to have.

Beeman Precision Airguns

I have a black and white Beeman catalog that came out in 1974, and both the El Gamo Expo and 300 are listed. I have read where people said Beeman never carried El Gamo air rifles, but they did in the very beginning. And, when ARH went out of business in 1980/81, Beeman bought up some of the inventory — or maybe all of it — and sold off the last of the El Gamos. So Beeman was a player, too and because my Beeman catalog is only a year newer than my earliest ARH catalog, I can’t really say who carried El Gamo first. Both companies represented the El Gamo brand as a low-cost entry into adult airguns, which it was.

Gamo 126 10-meter target rifle

Then there was the Gamo 126 single stroke pneumatic target rifle. Daisy sold them for a while (1984-1994), just as they did FWB 300s. They are not as refined as a Walther LGR, but they do work fine and are quite accurate. They typically sell for a little less than FWB 300s , but still command a fair price. Expect to pay north of $400 for one that works.

El Gamo triggers

Okay — here comes the part that prompted me to write this whole report. Many comments in the report I cite above talked about Gamo’s poor trigger! Well here is new for you. Ford automobiles don’t accelerate worth a darn! At least not the model T Fords I have seen. Get it? You can’t just cut out a segment of a company’s past and claim it is representative. Yes, the Gamo triggers that were in rifles made between about 1990 and 200? (the 220/440/880/etc.) did suck — big time. They had a long, heavy inconsistent pull with a surprise release at the end. But that 15-year period of production does NOT include all Gamos!

Then, the Chinese COPIED those poor triggers (probably prompted by buyers who knew nothing about buying airguns but price) and started putting them into airguns that had American names on the outside and the ship hit the sand!

Was Gamo even aware this was happening? Probably. And they were also in the process of being purchased (2007) by a private equity group (MCH) whose knowledge of airguns I do not know. All I know is that after that purchase the Gamo booth at SHOT was filled with real motorcycles on stands like they were doing wheelies! At the SHOT Show! Where was Alice and the white rabbit?

HOWEVER

The triggers in the older El Gamo rifles were not that bad. When they were new they were heavy and creepy. Creep is an uneven starting and stopping as the trigger blade is pulled.

As these rifle wore in the creep went away and the trigger pull became much lighter. I have shot well-used Gamo rifles with triggers that were probably 2.5 lbs and smooth as silk. Yes, the trigger blade did move, but that is common with single-stage triggers.

What about the interim rifles?

The triggers on the rifles made in the bad period (1990-200?) also wore in if given the chance. But many shooters opted to change or modify them, so all the talk is about what needs to be done to one — not how to let it break in with 4,000 shots.

Towards the end of the first decade of this millennium Gamo started paying real attention to their triggers, their gas pistons, their shot cycle impulse — in short, to all the things that make an air rifle good. However at this same time they were also producing thinner steel barrels encased in plastic, and that put off a lot of buyers. But not me. I liked them — a LOT. Maybe you don’t remember my report series on Testing the Gamo Whisper – Part 8 Gas spring accuracy. That was the Whisper that Pyramyd Air modified with a gas spring — in 2007 — before Gamo started doing it!

The first 5 sections of the report are on a straight Gamo Whisper with a coiled steel mainspring. I even installed a Charlie da Tuna trigger so you could see how that worked. Then I tested the gas spring modification. Read it and weep, because Gamo was shooting 5-shot groups of less than four-tenths of an inch at 25 yards! Don’t tell me a Gamo can’t shoot!

So — what’s the verdict?

I actually wrote the finale to this report in January of 2006. Read that report here. I said at the end of that report that Gamo was closing the gap with Weihrauch. And they are closer today than they were then. Are they even with Weihrauch yet? In my opinion they are not yet even. But their triggers are better than ever, they don’t vibrate when they shoot, they are accurate and they are very light for the power they have. In my opinion, Gamo has earned its spot in the limelight. And these new repeaters are something with which they may well be the leader.

Summary

This report is choppy and leaves out a lot of data because Gamo is a huge company with lots of products to its credit. I feel like I just skimmed the surface today. But I don’t see a followup report, because the bulk of the guns I skipped over are the more modern models that differ in small details only.