Choosing an airgun
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- What to do?
- Electric bicycle
- No idea
- A bonus
- My eyes were opened
- The upside
- What I learned
- New eyes
- Get what you want
I was going to do a test today, but this subject popped up and I think it should be addressed. I recently started a review of the Benjamin Fortitude Generation 2 PCP air rifle. The Fortitude Gen 2 is a price-point PCP (PPP). So far the review of that rifle is going well.
On Tuesday of this week I started my review of the Air Venturi Avenger PCP air rifle, another PPP. From our first look at that rifle it also looks very promising.
Now, some comments have said that if the airgun is a precharged pneumatic, the rifle doesn’t stand alone. You need a way to get compressed air into the rifle, and that costs more money. So, the cost of the rifle is not the end of the story for PCPs. But with a spring-piston airgun, the rifle does stand alone. Except for the pellets that all pellet guns need, everything you need to shoot is there when you purchase a spring-piston airgun. With a few exceptions like some spring-piston rifles that come without sights, I have to agree with that reasoning.
What to do?
Well, it’s obvious there is no wrong or right in this situation, just differing opinions. But let’s go back to the Fortitude and Avenger. Which of them is best? I may be able to help you there. Just because they are both feature-laden PPP air rifles does not mean they are alike. In fact, they are quite different. Both are looking good at this point and if they both prove out in testing, which one is better? I can answer that for you, and I will, but first I need to lay some groundwork.
As some of you know, I rode an electric bicycle for the first time at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas this year, and became enthralled with the idea of electric bikes. I spent hours on You Tube, looking at reviews of many bikes and learning which reviewers seemed trustworthy and which ones to avoid. And oddly enough I focused on one thing above all others in my reviews — how fast the bikes could go. See any parallel there?
But I had one thing going for me that maybe most first-time electric bike owners don’t have. I test airguns. Lots of airguns, it turns out. And in doing that I have learned that specifications don’t tell the whole story — even when they are great and are met.
The bike I bought is a LectricXP. It’s a folding fat tire bike that comes set up to go as fast as 20 m.p.h. You can either do that by twisting the hand throttle and just going or you can pedal the bike.
It’s not the fastest electric bike you can get. There are other bikes that go up to 28 m.p.h. That’s faster, of course. But what does it mean to ride a bike that can go 28 m.p.h.? I own a non-electric bike and I am able to get it up to 28 m.p.h. on a downhill grade, so I have a little experience going that fast on a bike, but with that one I am peddling hard to do so. With an electric bike I don’t have to peddle hard to achieve the maximum speed. How does that equate to riding a bike?
To tell the truth, I had no idea what it’s like to go 28 m.p.h. and not have to pedal fast. I didn’t even know what it was like to go 20 m.p.h. and not have to pedal fast. Oh, I have owned motorcycles that went very fast, but that is not the same as doing it on an almost silent bicycle.
As it turns out, the LectricXP has software built in that allows me to change its top speed from 20 m.p.h. to 28 m.p.h. That’s a feature that helped me decide to get that bike. But I haven’t made that change yet and it may be a long time before I do.
My eyes were opened
Once I had the bike it took some time to learn how it works and to get used to the pedal assist function. I don’t like it that much. When I pedal the bike there is little to no resistance in the pedals and it feels like I’m doing nothing. Yet the faster I pedal the faster the bike goes. At some point when I peddle fast, resistance in the pedals starts, but by then I am very close to the top speed. And the top speed they advertise isn’t really the top speed of the bike, because if I pedal very hard I can go faster than 20 m.p.h. All of that is the downside of an electric bike — the bad stuff.
Is there an upside? Yes, there is, but it took me many rides before I discovered it. The upside comes when I put the derailleur (the mechanism that selects the different sprockets on the rear wheel) at its fastest setting, which is 7 on this bike. I set the pedal assist at 2 (out of a possible 5 settings) and then I can cruise comfortably at 13-15 m.p.h. on level ground and 8 m.p.h. on steep hills — all while pedaling comfortably with some resistance in the pedals. In other words — this electric bike has made bike-riding much easier for me! As a result, I’m riding my (new) bike more and more each day.
What I learned
I learned that an electric bike is not what anyone said it is — at least it isn’t for me. Some reviewers got close by saying that it would make your daily commute much easier. They were speaking to people who ride their bicycles to work. I understood that, but my daily commute is from my bedroom into my office. I pass through the living room and pet the cat if she’s awake, but that’s about it. The reviewers did not know how to look at their products with new eyes. And that is what I want to talk to all of you about today.
When I write about an airgun I always try to see it with fresh eyes. That’s hard, because I see so many of them. But you readers don’t. Most of you see what you already own, if you even have an airgun at all. I know we have many readers who stumbled onto this blog by accident and became intrigued. That’s great, but if they want to try airgunning where should they start?
This is why I keep harping on a few certain airguns all the time. It’s not that I’m trying to sell you on them. Heck, I probably talk about the Diana 27 more than any other air rifle. Good luck getting one!
But, when I mention the TX200 Mark III, I know that if you buy one, knowing up front what to expect (such as it will need a scope and rings), you won’t be disappointed. In the 26 years I have been writing about airguns I have convinced hundreds of people to buy a TX200, and in all that time only one person ever complained. He even did it on this blog, and I don’t think I was able to resolve his complaint. I will take a ratio like that!
So, when a bombshell new spring-piston air rifle like the ASP20 comes along and it costs a lot less than the TX200, but offers many of the same features such as a good trigger, easier cocking and superb accuracy — OF COURSE I’m going to climb on the bandwagon! I can’t miss, because it’s as good a breakbarrel as I have seen. It’s affordable for all the features you get and it’s made by Sig, who have given me every reason to trust them. If Umarex had continued with their Challenger LGV, I would be shaking my pom-poms for them, too! I loved the Air Vernturi Bronco for exactly the same reasons.
But it doesn’t stop there. Spring-piston airguns are fine and I have several that I do revere — one above all other airguns — the Diana 27. But there is much more to airgunning than just spring-piston guns, just as there is much more to bicycles than one particular style. To make this report manageable I’m going to skip past CO2 guns, multi-pumps, single-stroke pneumatics and go straight to precharged pneumatics.
The PCP is the closest that airguns come to rimfire firearms. Some PCPs are as powerful as a .22 long rifle cartridge, but that isn’t why they are comparable. It’s because you don’t have to do anything but load and shoot them. As long as they are charged with air, the experience is nearly identical to what you get when you shoot a rimfire.
That means that no special technique is required to get accuracy from a PCP, though holding it correctly can improve the consistency a little.
Triggers on PCPs can be made finer and more positive than those on springers, though by no means is that a guarantee. The Rekord trigger, the Diana T06 trigger and the trigger in the ASP20 are very fine springer triggers that are better than many PCP triggers, despite what I just said. It’s just much easier to put a better trigger into a PCP because it doesn’t have to restrain a heavy mainspring.
And when a powerful PCP fires the experience is pleasant. When a powerful spring-piston rifle fires the experience can be disturbing. Once again, it doesn’t have to be, but it takes a lot more design work to make a spring-piston powerplant smooth and enjoyable.
And, if power is important, there is no denying that PCPs have the high ground. The most powerful spring-piston airguns wind up somewhere in the 30+ foot-pound region. The big bore AirForce Texan that is a PCP produces more than 800 foot-pounds currently, which makes it the most powerful production airgun on the market. There are boutique PCPs that get even more muzzle energy. But where are the boutique springers? A few have existed over time but they were frightfully expensive and did not even produce as much energy as we are seeing in production models today.
Get what you want
All of these things come down to the one question that shooters are asked when they are thinking of buying their first airgun — what do you want to use it for? But — like me and electric bicycles — they don’t know what they don’t know and that question is impossible to answer. Now, I will tell you which is better between the Benjamin Fortitude and the Air Venturi Avenger, like I promised in the beginning.
The better airgun is the one that has more of the features you want and tests well.
But what if you don’t know what you want? That would be the time to not jump into the deep end of the pool with your clothes on! Dip one foot in and see if you like the feel. What I’m saying is — get an airgun to find out what airgunning is all about. If you find you like it, this will not be your last airgun. If you don’t like it, you haven’t wasted too much money.
Don’t try to imagine what airgunning is without sampling it. If you do, a rifle like the Avenger might be a better choice than the Fortitude. It has a great trigger and is quite powerful. If that turns out to be what you expected, your choice would have been right. But if the Avenger seems too loud and powerful, you will have missed the quiet of the Fortitude.
Either way, though, it’s hard to make a big mistake when both choices are good ones like the Fortitude and Avenger. But, if you disregard this advice altogether and buy something based solely on power, velocity or some other single criteria that you have no experience with, your choice could be so wrong that you are turned off of the sport of airgunning altogether. I have seen shooters who were completely surprised when the big bore airgun they thought they wanted kicked them hard! In all their dreams, recoil was never a factor!
Getting into airguns is no different than getting into any hobby. First you need a little practical experience, and there is only one way to get that — not through video games, not by reading reviews or watching videos, but by first-hand experience.