Beeman RX-2 Elite Series Combo air rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Around 10 or 11pm tonight (12/15/11) Eastern time, the server for all of Airgun Academy (including this blog) will be restarted. Hopefully, it’ll be unnoticed and everything will march along just fine. If something does go wrong and everything goes offline for a while, please know that people are working on it.

Part 1
Part 2

Beeman’s RX-2 is a handsome air rifle. The brown laminated stock looks perfect.

Here we go! Today is accuracy day for the .25-caliber Beeman RX-2 Elite series combo air rifle. Before I start shooting groups, though, I thought I would adjust the trigger. In Part 2, blog reader SpringGunner commented that the screw inside the trigger blade is what determines the location of stage two. It’s a very small Allen screw, and the one in the test gun is so deep inside its hole that it can’t be seen.

I started by turning this screw counter-clockwise about a turn and a half, but all that did was lose the second stage for me. What I ended up with was a single-stage pull with lots of creep and an indeterminate and extremely light release. I came back clockwise on the screw about a third of the way and voila — stage two reappeared! When it did, I made certain that it was positive and repeatable before accepting the adjustment.

The trigger now breaks cleanly at 1 lb., 9 ozs. The second-stage creep is gone, and the trigger is much crisper now. While it’s still not quite as good as a Rekord, it is much better than I reported in Part 2. It’s more than adequate for hunting and occasional target work.

I noticed at sight-in that the rifle has a lot of barrel droop. Pyramyd Air had shimmed the rear scope mount, but I think I would want to use something like the BKL Drop Compensating mount to get the scope in the center of the adjustment range.

What’s in a name
And before I move on, I would like to say something about product naming and why it’s so difficult to find things on a website. BKL has named their mounts “drop” compensators, but the most common term among airgunners is “droop.” Some people think that spelling or naming a product doesn’t matter, but on the internet it matters a lot. When I searched for a BKL mount that compensated for droop, I entered the word droop in the search window and came up with all the drooper mounts except those made by BKL. Then, I happened to remember that BKL uses the term drop instead of droop, and I was able to find all their drooper mounts. [Note from Edith: I fixed it so a search for droop will now bring up the BKL drop-compensating mounts.]

Several years ago, I had an ongoing conversation with Crosman about the use of the term soft air for their airsoft line of guns. We went back and forth for five years about this until one day their VP of sales told me they just liked the term soft air better. So, I challenged him to do a Google search for airsoft and again for soft air. Soft air turned up just over three hundred thousand hits. Airsoft turned in over 15 million! Today they call all their current 6mm guns airsoft.

When the world is looking for something today, it uses an internet search engine. If you don’t call your product what everybody else calls it, expect to be excluded from the party. End of sermon.

Back to the RX-2
Sight-in went pretty quickly, and then I up to the 25-yard line. The first pellet to be tried was the Benjamin dome that did so well at 50 yards in the AirForce TalonP pistol test. But in the RX-2 it didn’t do as well. I tried a number of different holds, but the results were always the same — an open group. Since this rifle is difficult to cock, I decided to move on to the JSB Exact King.

Success with this new .25-caliber pellet was immediate. Among the four pellets I tested, the Kings were the best. The first group was very tight but had two pellets that went above the main group. I hesitate to call them fliers. They were due to a subtle shift in how I held the rifle, and the second time I knew the shot was going to move from the main group. I didn’t know that it would group with the other stray, but I must have repeated the same hold for those two shots.

Eight pellets made the lower group that measures 0.563 inches between centers. These .25-caliber pellets make huge holes and the groups appear larger than they are. Notice that the other two shots are also tightly grouped.

This target showed me two very important things about the RX-2. The first was that the huge .25-caliber pellets make big holes in the paper — groups that appear larger than they are.

The second thing I learned is that the RX-2 is very sensitive to hold. It doesn’t seem to want to be held as lightly as many other accurate spring rifles. But it does want to be absolutely “dead” weight in your hands. This means stretching the off hand out until the cocking slot is touching your palm. The rifle then sinks into your palm, and that pushes the buttpad back into your shoulder — you can’t avoid it. It’s a tighter artillery hold than I would normally use, but it works with this rifle.

More pellets tested
Next, I loaded some RWS Superdomes and noted that, of all the pellets I tested, these loaded the easiest. All other pellets were hard to push into the breech, with Benjamin Domes being hardest of all. But Superdomes went in rather easily.

Downrange, however, they scattered everywhere. No matter how I held the rifle, they never went to the same place twice. I was worried that I might shoot out of the pellet trap so I stopped. I think this pellet is better-suited to precharged rifles and not spring-piston guns — at least not the RX-2.

Then, I tried the H&N Baracuda pellet. These required a different hold than the JSB Exact Kings, but they showed some promise. However, as I was attempting to shoot a 10-shot group, I inadvertently held the forearm slightly wrong and blew the group with two shots. I think I got cocky because of the early success and didn’t pay as much attention to the hold as I should have. Instead of shooting another group of these, I opted for one more round of JSB Exact Kings, which had already proven quite accurate.

Five H&N Baracudas went into a nice cluster at 25 yards, then a small change of hold sent two pellets elsewhere. I decided to stop shooting this group and move on. The five closest holes measure 0.592 inches between centers.

When the hold is applied correctly, the pellets all go to the same place. Group of 10 JSB Exact Kings measures 0.622 inches between centers.

One more pellet you should try with this rifle is the H&N Field Target Trophy. I didn’t test them, but several readers mentioned that they are very accurate with this rifle. And, at just over 20 grains, they’ll also have good velocity!

Another observation is that the rifle is starting to cock smoother, if not exactly easier. I think the RX-2 might be one of those rifles that needs a good period of break-in, which I have not provided in this test. Certainly from what I read on the internet, the owners of the gun seem to like it a lot and are very faithful to the model. It may even be that breaking it in will show a gain in velocity over the numbers you saw in Part 2.

The bottom line
The Beeman RX-2 is a big spring rifle that has good power. In .25 caliber, it performed better than any .25-caliber spring rifle I’ve tested recently. Part of that is due to the excellent JSB Exact King pellet, but part must also go to the underlying Weihrauch quality.

The trigger can be adjusted to a nice crisp let-off. Don’t just use it as it comes from the box. Read this whole report and don’t be afraid to experiment.

I don’t know if all RX-2 rifles will droop like this one did, but you’ll want to keep it in mind. If you get one that does, there are drooper mounts that will fix the situation.

Lastly, the RX-2 is primarily a hunting air rifle. Buy it in a large caliber (either .22 or .25) but don’t think that you’ll be able to plink all day. This is a rifle you can leave cocked and on safe as long as you hunt without worrying about the state of the mainspring — and that’s the biggest advantage of a gas spring.

Beeman RX-2 Elite Series combo air rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Two new airgun videos have been posted. Both are about cleaning airgun barrels, how to do it correctly and which products are safe for airguns. Part 1 reviews when you should consider cleaning, and part 2 shows you the mechanics of cleaning.

Now, on to today’s blog.

Part 1

Beeman’s RX-2 is a handsome air rifle. The brown laminated stock looks perfect.

Today, we’ll test the power and velocity of the Beeman RX-2 Elite Series combo air rifle. Remember, this rifle contains a gas spring instead of a coiled steel spring, so the cocking effort is entirely different. A gas spring doesn’t increase in effort as you advance through the cocking stroke. It starts out at the maximum force and maintains that same force until the gun is cocked. But the leverage of a breakbarrel rifle is poor in the beginning of the cocking stroke, so the gas spring feels like a lot more effort.

I measured the force needed to cock this rifle, and it came up an even 44 lbs. That was actually lighter than I guessed, but heavy enough that everyone will notice it. Of course, this isn’t a plinking rifle, so the effort it takes to cock it isn’t a problem. Hunters can cock their rifles and leave them cocked for hours while they hunt, because the gas spring doesn’t degrade from being compressed. Just don’t buy this rifle for its power without being aware that the cocking effort is quite high.

Alas, this rifle is a .25 caliber, and that caliber has long suffered from a lack of accurate pellets. Shooters buy the .25 because it offers the heaviest pellets on the market, but they fail to realize that none of these pellets are particularly good. And when I say “good” I mean in comparison to what a quality .22-caliber pellet can do at great range. Almost anything will shoot well at 10-15 yards, but when the range stretches out to 25 yards and farther, most .25-caliber pellets can’t keep up with what a good .22 can do.

The H&N Baracuda (Beeman Kodiak Extra Heavy) was about the best pellet available up to the present time and they were only okay — not spectacular. However, this situation has recently changed. I asked for the rifle in .25 caliber because, during the test of the TalonP PCP pistol, I found two new pellets that are quite accurate.

The JSB Exact King pellet is a medium-weight .25 that delivers phenomenal accuracy at long distance when everything is done right. It weighs 25.4 grains, nominally, which puts it in the lightweight to middleweight range among .25-caliber pellets. That means it gives you the best velocity you’ll get from a superior pellet in .25 caliber. You can waste your time shooting sinker larvae, or you can pony up and buy the very best. As long as you’ve gone to the trouble to buy a .25-caliber air rifle, doesn’t it make sense to buy the pellets that make it shoot the best?

The other good .25-caliber pellet we have is the Benjamin dome. This one came out over a year ago, probably to support the .25-caliber Marauder, but the rest of the market also benefitted. I think it should be called a Premier, because when you stand it next to the other three calibers of Premiers, it looks very similar. But it has no special name, other than diabolo, which references the shape. This one weighs 27.8 grains, so it’s a little heavier than the JSB and definitely in the middleweight range. It offers reasonable velocity with good power — especially when used in precharged guns! It also happens to be quite accurate, which is a plus for the quarter-inch bore, so I definitely included it in today’s test.

I included the H&N Baracuda just because it was once the favorite. Who knows what it might do in this rifle?

First up were the JSB Exact Kings. They averaged 556 f.p.s. and ranged from a low of 545 to a high of 560. That’s a span of 15 f.p.s., but it looks larger than it is. All but a single shot out of ten were at or above 551. At that speed, the rifle generates 17.44 foot-pounds at the muzzle. You may remember that the test certificate sent with the rifle had placed it at 17.4 foot-pounds with a lighter pellet, so this is pretty stable performance.

Next up were the Benjamin domes. They averaged 507 f.p.s. and ranged from 499 to 514, so again a 15 foot-second spread. At that velocity, they averaged 15.87 foot-pounds.

Finally, I tested the H&N Baracudas. At 31.02 grains, they’re definitely among the heavyweight .25-caliber pellets, though the bar has been raised to over 43 grains by Eun Jin. These pellets averaged 494 f.p.s. in the RX-2. The range went from a low of 487 f.p.s. to a high of 499, so the spread is 12 f.p.s. At the average velocity they delivered 16.81 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

The trigger breaks at 2 lbs., 1 oz., which is more than light enough. My only complaint is that the second stage is so creepy. I went on the internet and attempted to find instructions on how to adjust this Elite-series trigger. Imagine a dark night with a train whistle in the distance and a lone dog barking! There are a lot of folks asking the same thing, but I’m darned if I can find any instructions on how this trigger works. Just a lot of plaintive inquires that date back to 2005.

So, I grabbed a screwdriver and found out how to do it on my own. The adjustment screw is the one in front of the trigger blade. When you turn it counterclockwise, the trigger-pull becomes lighter, and the first-stage travel length increases at the same time. I was never able to remove all of the second-stage creep, but I got about 75 percent of it out with 1.5 revolutions of the screw. The pull then registers 1 lb., 11 oz., which is too light on a sporting rifle, but it is safe and reliable.

The picture worth a thousand words. Turn this screw counter-clockwise to reduce the pull weight and lengthen the first-stage travel — clockwise to do the reverse. The length of the first stage is tied to the pull weight (apparently), so that’s all I was able to do.

What about the power?
Are you as surprised as I am that the velocity, and power are as low as this? The specs say it should get 725 f.p.s., but I don’t know with what. If Pyramyd Air tested it with the H&N Field Target Trophy pellet that weighs 20.06 grains and only got an average of about 626 f.p.s., what sort of trick pellet would get another 100 f.p.s.? I think what we’re seeing is the rifle’s true potential in .25 caliber.

This is not that surprising; because when a spring-piston rifle is upgraded to .25 caliber, the maximum power it generates often falls off. The RWS Diana 48, which generates 22 foot-pounds in .22, will make about 19-20 foot-pounds in .25 on its best day. That’s probably why they don’t make them in that caliber anymore. And other guns perform about the same. The only spring-piston air rifles that seem to perform up to spec are those that start out in .25 caliber, and they usually have a much longer piston stroke. Now you can see why I was so impressed with the power of the TalonP air pistol.

What’s next?
Don’t be discouraged with the RX-2 just yet. We still have to test the accuracy. If this rifle can lob them one on top of the other, we won’t care what energy it develops. As many have noted, a heavy .25-caliber pellet will buck the wind and deliver its payload to the target better than any other smallbore pellet around. So, let’s give the rifle the chance to perform.

Beeman RX-2 Elite Series combo air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Beeman’s RX-2 is a handsome air rifle. The brown laminated stock looks perfect.

Man does not live by bread alone — so today we’re having cake! Taking some time away from the BB guns, today we’ll begin looking at a Beeman RX-2 Elite Series combo air rifle. This rifle is built by Weihrauch and has a Theoben gas spring instead of a coiled steel mainspring. It’s still a spring-piston gun, but the gas spring changes some of the characteristics that I’ll address as this report unfolds.

I decided this time to treat all of us to a combo package instead of a basic rifle that I would then have to scope. Pyramyd Air mounted the scope for me and performed their 10-for-$10 test, which means they chronographed the rifle with 10 shots (actually 13) and included the chrono ticket inside the package. That way both Pyramyd Air and the customer know what the rifle can do at the moment of delivery. This service is included in the price of the combo package, so all you have to do is order what I did.

The RX-2 comes in all four smallbore calibers, but if ever there was a case for ordering the larger calibers, this is it. The power this rifle generates is lost on a .177 gun, because the bore is too narrow for all the air to flow freely. I went all the way and ordered a .25 caliber. I now know from testing the TalonP air pistol that there are at least two superlative .25-caliber pellets on the market, and I’ll test this rifle with several of the other premium brands just to make sure I’ve tested the right ones.

A long time coming
I’ve owned three Theoben gas spring rifles — four if you count the fact that I converted a .25 to .20 to get more accuracy. And I’ve tested many more Theobens besides those. So, you would think that the RX-2 and I were old friends, but we’re not. This will be the first time that I’ve ever shot this model. Back when it first came out as the Beeman RX in 1990, it was viewed by many U.S. airgunners as a “poor man’s Theoben.” It was priced at about half what a Beeman Crow Magnum (Theoben Eliminator) was selling for, and in my mind it didn’t hold the attraction of the pricier airgun.

But over the years, it evolved through the RX-1 (1992) model and finally into the RX-2 (2001)…and I still didn’t test it. I got questions all the time about the trigger, which is not Weihrauch’s fabled Rekord. Because the trigger must grab the gas piston at a different place, a Rekord will not work in this gun. So, Weihrauch replaced it with a trigger especially designed to work with the gas spring. I never knew how good it was and will only discover as this report unfolds. My test rifle is serial number 1817631.

There have been several stocks to choose from over the years, and the one on this rifle is a laminate. That adds weight to the gun, which the lighter gas piston counteracts to some degree, but in the end the rifle I am testing is slightly heavy — at 10 lbs., 15 oz. with the scope. I say “slightly heavy” because I’m used to the weight of magnum spring rifles; but if the heaviest rifle you’ve ever held is a Winchester model 70, this one will feel like an elephant rifle in comparison. At first, the weight seems oppressive, but wait until you’ve shot the gun a thousand times before wishing it was lighter. That weight adds stability that modern rifles don’t have. Sporting (hunting) rifles of a century ago weighed 10-12 lbs. as a rule, rather than as the exception.

The trigger is entirely different than the Rekord. It is two-stage, and the triggerguard houses the release button of the automatic safety. The Rekord trigger has the safety release button at the back of the receiver. While the safety comes on automatically, you can take it off any time and put it back on without recocking the barrel, as must be done on all rifles having the Rekord trigger. Simply depress the lever in front of the triggerguard (so THAT’S what that lever is!) until you hear the safety click back on. If the click bothers you, such as while hunting, simply depress the safety button until you have pulled the safety release lever all the way, then slowly release the safety button and the gun will be back on safe without making a sound.

The RX-2 trigger is not a Rekord. However, it has an automatic safety that can be reapplied without recocking the rifle: simply pull back on the lever in front of the triggerguard.

I tried the trigger only a few times for today’s report, but that’s enough to tell me this is no Rekord. It is creepy in stage two. Whether or not I can adjust that out remains to be seen. The pull is set at several pounds of effort, so we’ll see if I can change that, as well.

Lock time
Everybody makes a big deal out of the quick “lock time” of this rifle, but all the reports I’ve read prove that the authors who say that don’t actually know what lock time is. The term lock time comes to us from the days of the flintlock, which has a definite time delay from the moment the powder in the pan explodes until the main charge explodes and sends the bullet out the barrel. If the delay is a long one, the shooter would develop a flinch — anticipating the force of the main charge and wincing in response before the gun fires. The result is a movement of the muzzle before the bullet exits, which throws the shot wide. If the gun was a musket that wasn’t expected to hit a man beyond 35 yards, it didn’t matter that much; but with the advent of the Kentucky-style rifle that was capable of very precise shooting out to much longer ranges, lock time became important. And the best gun makers soon learned how to make flintlocks that fired almost instantaneously. Hence, the real importance of lock time.

Today, many airgun authors are saying that this rifle has a fast lock time and is therefore more accurate. Hogwash! In a spring-piston rifle, the term lock time refers to how long it takes from the instant the piston is released by the sear until the piston comes to a dead stop. In that sense, the RX-2 does have a very fast lock time because a gas spring drives a piston faster than a coiled-steel counterpart. But it makes no difference to accuracy.

What they fail to appreciate is the fact that the pellet is still in the barrel when the piston comes to a stop. It takes the pellet several more milliseconds to traverse the barrel and leave the muzzle, and that happens after the lock is finished working. So lock time in a spring-piston airgun is meaningless. But follow-through, which is holding the gun on the target after it has fired, is all-important. If you can do that, you can forget about the supposed advantage of lock time. And the artillery hold is what helps you follow through.

There are no sights on this version of the rifle. The Elite series combo I’m testing comes with a Bushnell Trophy XLT 4-12×40 AO scope mounted in two-piece rings. I’ll report more on the scope when we get to the accuracy test.

A Bushnell Trophy XLT 4-12x40AO scope comes mounted as part of the combo package.

10-for-$10 certificate
As I mentioned, the test rifle was tested in the 10-for-$10 offer, and it was included in the package. So, I got a certificate telling me the velocity the Pyramyd Air technicians got from this rifle using H&N Field Target Trophy pellets weighing 20.06 grains apiece. The test gun ranged from a low of 618.07 f.p.s. on shot 7 to a high of 634.13 f.p.s. on shot 11. There were 13 shots recorded in all. So, the rifle I have generates about 17.4 foot-pounds as it comes from the box. That’ll change with each different pellet I shoot, but it gives you an idea of where we are.

The stock
The laminated stock is stained brown, setting off the black metal parts in an attractive contrast. Though the stock is made for right-handed shooters by virtue of the cheekpiece that’s only on the left side of the butt, the rest of the stock is uniform enough that the gun can also be shot by lefties. The pistol grip is cut-checkered on both sides, and the forearm is smooth.

The finish on the wood is transparent, allowing the laminated grain to show. It’s most attractive, and the brown color adds to the masculine look of the rifle.

The metal
The rifle is a Weihrauch, and that means that the metal parts are finished smooth with an even black finish. The polish isn’t high — just enough to promote pride of ownership, and there’s a contrast between the spring tube that’s polished higher than the barrel. A solid metal muzzlebrake provides a handy place to grab when cocking. The trigger appears to be gold-plated.

The benefits of a gas spring
Gas springs never take a set. They can continue to work at full power even when compressed most of the time. You know that from your experience with cheaper versions of them in the automotive world. So, this is a spring gun that you can leave cocked for many hours at a time without worrying about any degradation of power.

Gas springs also work well in very cold weather because they do not require the level of lubrication that a steel spring would need. Therefore, there isn’t as much grease to stiffen as the temperature drops — leaving the powerplant free to operate at its full potential.

Gas springs do not vibrate nearly as much as steel springs, so having one in a gun is tantamount to having a good tune. They do recoil quite quickly, but that can be offset by holding the rifle as lightly as possible, which is part of the artillery hold anyhow.

The small downside
The greatest fear with a gas spring is that it will develop a leak, leaving the owner high and dry. Where steel springs can be obtained through many commercial channels, gas springs are unitized with the piston and specific to the gun. If one does go bad, it must be repaired or replaced. Theoben gas springs have an enviable track record for reliability in this area, but nothing is perfect. The owner will find gas spring replacement easier than steel spring replacement in most cases; but as I said, he will need to find the right set of parts.

That’s all I’m going to look at for today, but I’ll return to this rifle soon for the velocity test.