This report covers:
- Pick a pellet
- What pellets are good?
- Test a pellet
- What can go wrong
- Baffled silencer
- The magazine
- My plan
Today’s report was inspired by a comment I received last week. Here it is.
Reader ErikDK said, “Have you given up on the Arrow? I purchased one in .177 based on the first two parts, and I’m waiting for a part 3 where you find the correct pellets.
I get terrible groups.”
He’s referring to the Gamo Arrow (once again, that was a poor choice of names, because many of us think it is an arrow launcher) that I tested last on September 6. And his comment made me think — A LOT!
Here is my answer to him, “I haven’t given up. I will probably get to it soon.”
It was my plan to get to the Arrow today, but his question stirred my imagination. I thought that I would first share with you how I operate, because this test could be both interesting from the standpoint of the Arrow but also informative in a much broader sense. It almost sounds like a challenge.
If Erik is having a problem getting his Arrow to shoot, maybe others are having similar issues. I would remind you that I’m examining the Crosman Fire breakbarrel this way, as well. I’m looking at it like I’m new to airguns, because we have added a lot of new enthusiasts to our hobby in recent years. I want them to see how we get used to a new airgun, and maybe save them a lot of time in the process.
I know Gamo can make a very accurate airgun. And the Arrow is made in Spain, so there isn’t the issue of another shop being the actual maker. I’m referring to Chinese-made airguns that have the names of well-known airgun companies on the guns they make. While we acknowledge that the Chinese can make splendid airguns, their quality control is an issue with all but a very few makers. So a Chinese-made airgun immediately raises our sensitivity to certain issues like accuracy. But, as I have already said, the Arrow is made in Spain.
Pick a pellet
Erik, step one is to select a pellet to test. I will tell you right now that there are good pellet makers and there are pellet makers that are not so good. The latter make what I have referred to as “sinker larvae” which means their primary value is the lead that’s in them. Melt them down and use the lead for something else, but for gosh sakes don’t expect to get any accuracy from them!
And now you probably want a detailed list of the good pellets as well as the ones to avoid, don’t you? Ain’t a-gonna happen! You may not remember this but this year I returned from the SHOT Show with some pellets that were branded Apolo Air Boss. They were supposed to be the next great thing and I started testing them in this blog. But when I tried to contact the owner of the company, all I got was crickets chirping!
I knew better than to move so fast, but the owner was a smooth talker and really sounded like he was dedicated to his new line of pellets. You try to help a guy and…
What pellets are good?
Erik, here is what I will tell you. Pellets made by JSB, H&N, RWS and Crosman are uniformly good. I might have had an issue with a couple pellets made by those companies over the years, but I later found a gun or guns in which those pellets worked well. So — no lists from BB. And several pellets that have other names on the tin are actually made by these four companies. For example, Air Arms pellets are made by JSB and Beeman pellets are made by H&N. Just watch out for those “bargain” pellets sold at discount stores, because many of them really are sinker larvae.
Test a pellet
The next step is to determine which pellets work in your airgun. If you don’t own a lot of different pellets, this is where pellet samplers come in handy.
Before I get into that, I’d like to relate a story reader Sawdust just told me. He told me his son-in-law has a DeWalt miter saw with a 12-inch blade. That’s a nice piece of equipment, but he was getting ragged cuts from it. Sawdust discovered that he was using a 32-tooth DeWalt blade, which is an old-school blade for crosscuts. Sawdust recommended switching to a 60-tooth Freud blade and that fixed the problem. No need to buy a different miter saw, just get the right blade.
So how do we test a pellet? We shoot groups with it — all under similar circumstances. My plan is to shoot 5-shot groups at 10 meters and to use the open sights that come with the rifle. I want to test a large number of pellets that I expect to be accurate. From that test I will select the three or so pellets that do the best and I will back up to 25 yards and shoot 10-shot groups with just those pellets.
If everything works well, I should find the best pellet or pellets in this way. But what can go wrong?
What can go wrong
We know that the Arrow is a repeater that uses a circular or rotary magazine. That’s one thing that can go wrong. We also know that the Arrow has a baffled silencer on the end of the barrel. That is another thing that can go wrong and it’s the first place to start looking for problems.
A baffled silencer usually has synthetic washers with a hole through their center. Their holes are supposed to be in line with the bore. As the pellet passes through the holes, the energetic air is stripped off by the sides of the washers/baffles. The pressurized air does get out of the muzzle but not before it’s lost some of its energy bouncing around in the baffles. And less energy means less noise.
Obviously the closer the pellet is to the sides of each washer, the more pressurized air is stripped off and the quieter the gun is. But the closer the pellet gets the the edges of the washer, the greater the chance it will touch as it passes by. And that is a problem. To find out if this is happening shine a powerful flashlight down the muzzle and look for silver marks on the edges of the baffles. That would be lead, and it will cause an accuracy problem. Warning — The gun must be uncocked and unloaded when this is done!
On some guns you may be able to shine a light from the breech to see. But the Arrow’s breech is very tight because of how the magazine is inserted and this doesn’t work.
Sometimes you won’t see a silver mark, but you will see a nick on the inner edge of the hole through one or more of the baffles. This is an even stronger indication of a pellet that’s touching a baffle. In fact with this kind of damage all the pellets are probably touching. Most likely the entire silencer is out of alignment with the bore of the airgun. The good news here is, if you don’t do anything but continue shooting, this problem will eventually sort itself out, because the pellets will wear away everything that’s in their way.
The silencer that’s on the Arrow can’t be removed, so this inspection can only be done from the front — the muzzle end. If the silencer can be removed then inspection from both ends is possible, and that makes this sort of thing easier to see.
When you inspect from the muzzle end it’s difficult to see all the baffles in the silencer, but if you jockey your head and the light around you can see most of it. You will have to turn the gun around in a circle to see everything because all you can see in any one position will be a narrow portion of each baffle. The Arrow baffles are bright orange, which makes it even harder to see imperfections, but if they are there you should be able to see them.
I did visually inspect the silencer of my test Arrow and I can’t see any problem. I therefore expect to see decent accuracy in the test.
Circular or rotary magazines can also cause accuracy problems. If one or more of the chambers fail to align with the breech the pellet can be damaged when it’s pushed in by the bolt. That will cause inaccuracy. In my experience there are two things to watch for to detect this. First you may feel the bolt hesitate when pushing the pellet forward. Take note when this happens and if possible watch the target for a flyer on that shot.
The second thing to watch for is if the magazine moves as the pellet is pushed through and into the breech. If that happens watch where that pellet goes on the target if you can. There may always be a little magazine movement with this type of repeater; I’m talking about more than that.
This magazine thing is why I like to shoot single shot whenever possible. I just don’t think it’s possible with the Arrow.
I plan to shoot the Arrow for accuracy at 10 meters tomorrow and we will all see together how accurate it is. I’d like Erik to comment on what he sees as I do this.
I have been saying all along that I’m impressed with the Arrow. Tyler Patner shot his .22 Arrow at 45 yards and got decent accuracy as well, so I’m believing this one is going to be a winner.