by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- The initial test
- Today’s test — the firing cycle
- JSB Exact 8.44-grain
- How I set up the Vortek kit
- Air Arms Falcon
- RWS Superdome
- Cocking effort
Today is the day we find out what the Vortek PG3 SHO tune has done for the Beeman R10 I’m testing.
I received the rifle from a reader who wanted a rifle that had a tune done by me. I will tell all of you now that I am not an airgun tuner. I tune some of my own guns from time to time, but I don’t do it as a service. And there is absolutely nothing special about any tune I have done. This report is more a testimony of what the Vortek kit can do than it has anything to do with me.
The reader and I both agreed that a smooth-shooting air rifle was preferable to the last f.p.s. in velocity. So smoothness was what I was after, and nothing more, as long as the rifle performed within reasonable parameters.
I had installed one Vortek PG3 kit previously, but like I told you previously I applied Tune in a Tube to that mainspring — to make the powerplant as smooth as it could possibly be. This time, however, I decided to tune the gun the way Vortek recommended, to see if their kit was as smooth as they claimed. So all I used was the Vortek grease that came with the kit. Gene Salvino says it is slicker than TIAT and it is certainly less viscous. It would be up to the tolerances of the Vortek kit to eliminate vibration.
I told you that when the piston was installed it moves inside the spring tube with resistance. Several readers advised me to trim the piston seal down a little to realize more velocity. But as I have explained — velocity is not what I am after. I want smoothness, and a looser piston seal could well allow a little vibration back into the rifle.
The initial test
After receiving the rifle I tested it with the same JSB Exact 8.44-grain domed pellet that the owner had tested it with. He recorded a velocity of 847 f.p.s. My ten shots averaged around 815 f.p.s except for the last shot when the cocking link disconnected with the piston. So my chronograph reads about 30 f.p.s. slower than the chronograph owned by rifle’s owner. That sets us up for understanding today’s test.
Today’s test — the firing cycle
The firing cycle of the rifle before the tune had some vibration on every shot. When I took the mainspring out we saw it was canted and starting to fail. That was where much of the vibration came from.
The rifle now fires with zero vibration, which is exactly the result I was seeking. In fact I said this was as good a tune as I have even done. Only my Beeman R1 with the custom Mag 80 LazaGlide kit that I installed about 22 years ago was as smooth! Therefore, I did something I say I try never to do. I pulled out my HW85 rifle (the same model as the Beeman R10) that Brian Enoch tuned years ago. This is the rifle I bought from him just based on how smooth it shoots.
That rifle is a .22 so I can’t compare the performance but I can compare the shot cycle. Both rifles are equally smooth but Bryan’s tune does something this one doesn’t. At the end of the shot cycle with the R10 I just tuned there is a very tiny forward bump, when the piston comes to a stop at the end of the stroke. Bryan managed to prolong the timing of that bump in the HW 85 he tuned, so it feels like slightly less. But as I said before — this Vortek kit gives you a $400 tune for $90 if you do the work.
JSB Exact 8.44-grain
First to be tested was the 8.44-grain JSB Exact. That would tell us what this Vortek tune has accomplished.
Ten pellets averaged 818 f.p.s. through the chronograph, so the kit has maintained the same power as the factory powerplant. The velocity spread was 11 f.p.s., from 809 to 823 f.p.s.. That’s a little better than what we saw with the factory tune before the cocking link disconnected. It varied by 19 f.p.s. from 806 to 825 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet now generates 12.54 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
We know that the owner’s chronograph is recording velocities higher than mine. I think we can expect him to see a velocity of about 850 f.p.s. from this pellet when he gets the rifle back.
How I set up the Vortek kit
Now I will tell you something I purposely left out of Part 2. The Vortek kit has a forward spring guide (I call it a tophat) that has three positions for the end of the spring. Think of them as low-, medium- and high-power settings, though the differences aren’t that great. In the Air Arms Pro-Sport test the difference between the lowest notch and the highest one, plus the addition of two heavy weights to the piston, increased the average velocity of .22 caliber H&N Baracuda pellets from from 437 to 463 f.p.s. That was a 12 foot-pound kit and the relative energies of those velocities is 8.97 foot-pounds and 10.07 foot-pounds, respectively.
The spring end is in the lowest notch with the least preload.
I set this kit up with the spring in the lowest notch to put the least amount of preload on the spring. As I keep saying — I was after smooth shooting and not power. Still, I got power equal to what the rifle had before the tune and it now shoots very smoothly. If the owner desires he can easily remove the spring and adjust the end that’s in the forward guide/tophat to the top notch. I estimate he will gain about 25-30 f.p.s. with the JSB 8.44-grain pellet.
Air Arms Falcon
The next pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain Air Arms Falcon dome. Ten of them averaged 867 f.p.s. The low was 864 and the high was 869 f.p.s. so the difference was 5 f.p.s. That’s a remarkable result from a spring piston rifle that’s just been tuned! At the average velocity this pellet generates 12.24 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
Next I tested the 8.3-grain RWS Superdome. Ten of them averaged 789 f.p.s. with a spread of 23 f.p.s, from 779 to 802 f.p.s. That spread is a little large, considering what the other two pellets did, and the energy of 11.48 foot-pounds tells us this is probably not the best pellet for the R10.
Based on the results of these three tests I was prompted to try a heavier pellet. This powerplant seems to like them. The 10.65-grain H&N Baracuda averaged 686 f.p.s. for 10 shots. We know that the magic number is a velocity of 679 f.p.s. — where the velocity in feet per second is equal to the energy in foot-pounds. This pellet is therefore slightly above 10.65 foot-pounds. In fact it registers 11.13 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
The R10 was supposed to cock with 25 lbs. of effort when new. When I tested the rifle before this tune it cocked with 24 lbs. of effort. After the tune it now cocks with 26 lbs. of effort. Cocking is smooth and I can just barely hear the new cocking plate/shoe as it runs along the slot in the spring tube. It’s an ever-so-slight slight sound and the only one the rifle makes when cocked.
The rifle is tuned. I got exactly what I was after and I think the owner will be pleased when he gets it back. The next step is to test the accuracy. The owner and I talked about that and he said he might buy whatever type of scope I tested it with. Well, my HW-85 has an obsolete UTG 3-12X44 Mini-SWAT scope that I like just fine. While that one of no longer available UTG does have a current version of the same scope, only this one has an illuminated reticle.
Because the HW-85 has the same scope base as the R10, the 30mm BKL high scope rings will fit perfectly. This R10 has a scope stop that the BKL rings don’t need but with it installed the scope will be positioned in almost the identical place on the R10.
The Vortek PG3 HO tuning kit is remarkable. It doesn’t need any extra help from TIAT. It’s dead calm and, except for the issues mentioned during installation, it goes in easily. The R10 is a bit of a chore to tune, but I would imagine that an R9 would be easier. Stay tuned.