El Gamo 300: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

El Gamo 300
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.

Before I begin, blog reader HiveSeeker has asked me for some photography tips. Not that I’m a great picture-taker, but I do have some tips on how to photograph airguns. For starters, he wondered about photographing dark guns like his Winchester MP4. In the past, I’ve done several reports on airgun photography, but we may have enough new readers that it would be of interest, again. What do you think?

Okay, let’s get started. Today, we’re looking at the accuracy of the El Gamo 300.

This report covers:

• Poor man’s R7
• Trigger
• Firing behavior
• Accuracy
• First pellet
• Summary

A poor man’s R7
The El Gamo 300 was supposed to be my “poor man’s Beeman R7.” It was supposed to have the power and accuracy of the R7 (which is a modified HW 30S) at a cost that was far less. At the time, when the 300 was selling (the late 1970s), the R7 was sold with open sights, so the two airguns were comparable. The HW 30S still does has open sights today; so in that respect, the comparison can still be made.

As it turned out, the 300 is about 100 f.p.s. slower than an R7. The cocking is easier, but this rifle isn’t in the same power class, so any comparison suffers.

Adjustable trigger
Alas, the 300’s trigger is much simpler and only minimally adjustable, while the R7/30S both have the famous Rekord, which is one of the finest sporting airgun triggers of all time. I did try to adjust it, but the biggest thing that seemed to change was the length of the first-stage travel. The pull did drop, but only by a little. When the first-stage travel was shortened it did increase the length and creep of stage two; so I guess you could say it does adjust the pull to that extent, but the results were not very encouraging. It’s an acceptable trigger for an inexpensive spring rifle, but far below the Rekord for performance and adjustability.

One reason I wanted to get a 300 is because I believed it had the same action and trigger of the El Gamo 68 XP. That rifle’s trigger is very adjustable; and, while it gets unreliable when you take it down too light, it’s very crisp and positive when adjusted to a normal sporting level (3-5 lb. pull weight). The 300 trigger can be adjusted even lighter with safety, but it still retains some creep in stage two.

Firing behavior
The 300 is a buzzy gun. I could no doubt fix it with a little tuning, but right now the buzz is its most annoying feature. When this gun was new in the 1970s, nearly every air rifle felt the same and there was no basis for comparison. However, in the past 20 years, both airgun design and tuning tricks have improved so much that the vintage guns now suffer in comparison.

For today’s test, I shot this rifle at 10 meters from a rested position. I used the traditional artillery hold with the rifle rested on my off hand, back by the triggerguard. As you’ll recall from my earlier reports, I felt the rear sight notch was too narrow for the front blade. Well, when the target was illuminated by a 500-watt lamp, it was easy to see the whole front sight and some light on either side. That made aiming precise when I didn’t believe it could be.

The rifle cocked easily; and when the barrel closed, the detent locked it tight. One of our readers mentioned that breakbarrels with opposing chisels at the breech seem to lock up tighter and with more authority than do those whose chisel detent rides over a round pin. I have to mention that the 300 has the double chisel arrangement and the reader is right. When this barrel closes, it sounds like a bank vault.

El Gamo 300 chisel breech
Looking down at the open breech, we see the chisel lock (right) that engages the spring-loaded chisel detent on the baseblock. This arrangement makes the breech lock up more positively than if the chisel detent had to go over a round crosspin. That hole above the chisel lock is the air transfer port.

First pellet
The first pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. I used a 6 o’clock hold and squeezed off the first shot, which surprised me when I saw the pellet had hit the 10-ring almost in the center. After that, I just shot the next 9 rounds without looking again. When I looked after all 10 shots had been fired, I saw a nice round 0.588-inch group in the center of the bull. That was a good start!

El Gamo 300 Hobby target
Not only is this 0.588-inch group of 10 Hobbys nice and round, it’s also centered in the bull. That makes it appear even better than it is. This is the best group the El Gamo 300 shot at 10 meters.

Next, I shot 10 Air Arms Falcons. The first shot hit the 9 ring, and I didn’t have to look again until it was all over. Ten shots landed in 0.629 inches, but 9 of them were in 0.41 inches. While this group is slightly larger than the Hobbys, I would say the Falcons are probably more accurate, just based on those 9 tight shots.

El Gamo 300 Falcon target
This group of 10 Air Arms Falcon pellets looks amazing, though at 0.629 inches between centers it’s larger than the Hobby group. Without that one pellet at the bottom, there are 9 in 0.41 inches.

The last pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lite. I saw the first shot go into the 8-ring so I stopped looking until it was over. This time, though, the pellets spread out more, and the group measures 0.771 inches between centers. From the open appearance of this group, I can tell that Premier lites are not the best pellet for the El Gamo 300.

El Gamo 300 Premier lite target
Crosman Premier lites scattered more than the other two pellets. Ten made this 0.771-inch group. The group looks larger than it really is because the pellet on the right tore the target wider than where it penetrated.

The El Gamo 300 is not a poor man’s R7. It is what it is — a nice, inexpensive spring rifle that offers a lot of value for the price. Even today, when the used guns sell for $50-100, they’re still a bargain. But they’re not in the same class as a CZ Slavia 630/631, which really is a poor man’s R7.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to test several air rifles in this same vintage class over the past few years. Some of them, like the Diana 25 with the ball-bearing sear, are superlative airguns that withstand the test of time. Their very design makes them perform at a higher level than most guns. Others, such as the Falke model 70, promise the moon but fail to deliver. This El Gamo 300 is closer to the latter guns, although its low price does make it an ideal candidate for home gunsmithing for the careful hobbyist.

No doubt the 300 can be modified and tuned to be a wonderful air rifle; and when it is, it’ll have the accuracy needed to carry it off. But there are other airguns that are inherently nice just as they come from the factory. A 300 is probably the cheaper way to go, but expect to spend some time and sweat equity to turn it into what you really want.

El Gamo 300: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

El Gamo 300
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced, quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.

I’m out of the office for the next couple days. Will the veteran readers please help the newer readers with their answers while I’m gone? As always, I’ll see the blog early in the morning and, again, late at night. Thanks! On to today’s report.

This report covers:

• A little more history of the 68-XP
• Velocity testing
• Breech seal
• Retesting velocity
• Cocking effort
• Trigger-pull
• How my life has changed

Today, I’ll test the El Gamo 300 velocity. I see that many of you were surprised to learn these were made in both Spain and Brazil. Furthermore, a number of newer readers had missed the 6-part report on the El Gamo 68-XP and were surprised to see it referenced in Part 1 of this report. Here’s a little more on that subject.

There was a repeating version of the 68-XP that had the same mechanism as the El Gamo Expomatic. It was a tube above the gun that fed pellets into the breech one at a time as the barrel was broken during cocking. It didn’t work too well, and Air Rifle Headquarters refused to carry either repeater. They tested them and found that they jammed too easily. I’ve tested other air rifles that have a similar repeating system, and that was my experience, as well. That must mean that the repeating version of the 68-XP is very rare because few were ever sold.

Back to the 300. According to the ARH catalog, a broken-in 300 should shoot about 665 f.p.s., and one that’s been accurized gets up to 680 f.p.s. They don’t mention what pellet was used in testing to obtain these numbers; but given that it was the 1970s, we know it had to be a lead pellet. Lead-free pellets were not on the market at that time.

Velocity testing
The first pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier. They averaged 503 f.p.s. for 10 shots. The velocity ranged from 490 f.p.s. to 511 f.p.s., so a 21 f.p.s. spread.

I thought that was low, so I tried 10 more that were deep-seated with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater. This time, the average rose to 506 f.p.s., which is hardly worth the effort. The spread went from 496 f.p.s. to 519 f.p.s., so the spread opened to 23 f.p.s. Deep-seating doesn’t seem to be worth the time and effort with this rifle.

The next pellet I tested was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. These averaged 539 f.p.s. The Hobby was the lightweight lead speed demon of its day, so this rifle is not performing to spec. And yes, I did oil the leather piston seal before testing. The spread for Hobbys was from 524 to 547 f.p.s., so 23 f.p.s.

The final pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain Air Arms Falcon. They averaged 519 f.p.s. with a spread from 510 to 523 f.p.s. So the spread was only 13 f.p.s. Falcons fit the breech loosely, where the other two pellets fit snugly.

Breech seal
That puts today’s test into perspective. I don’t think my test rifle has been shot very much, if at all, because it doesn’t have the bluing wear that’s usually found on guns that have been used, and the bluing is original. I looked at the breech seal, which looked okay, but it’s very difficult to tell by just looking. There was no puff of air to be felt at the breech, but sometimes that isn’t conclusive, either.

While the seal looks like an o-ring, it’s really a tall synthetic seal that’s proprietary. When I removed it, I could see that nothing I could make would work as well, so I made a spacer to fit under it, raising it for a tighter fit.

Gamo 300 breech seal
The breech seal (right) and the plastic shim I made to fit under it to raise it higher at the breech.

Gamo 300 making breech seal
I made the breech seal spacer from a coffee can lid by using hole punches.

Re-testing velocity
The spacer did increase velocity a little. Premiers went from an average of 503 to an average 522 f.p.s., and the spread that had been 21 f.p.s. dropped to 15 f.p.s. Hobbys went from 539 to 568 f.p.s., and the spread went from 23 f.p.s down to 15 f.p.s. Falcons jumped from an average 519 f.p.s. to 553, and the spread that had been 13 f.p.s. dropped to 6 f.p.s.

While these are all improvements, I don’t think they’re large enough to warrant the work that was done. I would leave the rifle where it is; but now that the spacer is in place, I won’t remove it.

Cocking effort
I measured the cocking effort on my bathroom scale. It topped out at 19 lbs., making the 300 a youth rifle by my criteria of a cocking effort of 20 lbs. or less. But the large size of the rifle means that it is for older kids or adults.

The trigger was releasing at 3 lbs., 2 oz., with the second stage being very creepy. I adjusted the one screw behind the trigger in both directions. Turned all the way in (clockwise), the first stage is removed entirely, and the pull remained where it was. Turned out as far as it will go, the first stage becomes light and stops positively at stage two. Stage two releases at 2 lbs., 14 oz., so a 4-oz. decrease from where it was.

The rifle is now ready for 10-meter accuracy testing. I may do something about the narrow rear sight notch so I can see some light around either side of the front post. If I do, I’ll tell you and show you what I do.

How the blog changed my life
I initially published this section on the May 30, 2014, blog. I’m going to repeat it at least once a week during June and July so it doesn’t get lost or forgotten.

From the comments many of you make, I believe the blog may have positively impacted your lives. I invite you to send me an email telling me about that impact.

Were you a firearms shooter who accidentally discovered airguns through this blog? If so, tell me how this blog has helped your understanding of airguns.

Were you already an airgunner, but you thought what you saw in the big box stores was all there was? If so, how has this blog helped you understand more about airguns?

I’ve gotten quite a few responses already, but I want to make sure you know that I’m not looking for “attaboys,” pats on the back or personal recognition. I’m looking for real feedback on what you’ve learned so I can target my blogs to what you feel is important, what you’d like to know and what you’re still unsure of. This blog is written for its readers, and I want to share your stories with others who may be where you were before you found this blog.

Pyramyd Air has created a special temporary email address for this. I’ll be the only person to get these emails, and we’re not going to generate any lists from the addresses.

My plan is to publish one or more blog reports with the more interesting comments. If you want, I will use your real name or blog handle; but you can be anonymous, too. I won’t use your name or handle unless you give me written permission to do so.

This email address will be live for only a few weeks. We have tens of thousands of readers worldwide. Even if you’ve never commented on the blog, you can email me your message if you like. If you’re reading this blog after July 2014, email submissions will no longer be forwarded to me, and you may get an auto-reply email stating that or your email might bounce back to you.

El Gamo 300: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

I asked you last week to send me an email about how this blog changed your life (see last subhead). The special email set up for that didn’t work after that blog went live, but we’ve just tested it — and it’s fixed. I look forward to hearing from you.

This report covers:

• History of the gun
• The rifle
• Firing behavior
• A poor man’s R7

El Gamo 300
El Gamo 300 was a low-priced quality breakbarrel from the 1960s and ’70s.

I told you that I bought an El Gamo 300 at this year’s Toys That Shoot airgun show in Findlay, Ohio. And those readers who have been with me for a couple years know why I wanted this rifle — I said it was the conventional version of the El Gamo 68-XP breakbarrel that I bought from blog reader David Enoch at the 2012 Arkansas airgun show. I wrote 6 reports on that rifle, which today lives in my collection as a fine example of an airgun from an earlier time.

The recent passing of Robert Law caused me to read a 1979 Air Rifle Headquarters catalog yesterday, and I looked at the El Gamo 300 writeup very closely. Apparently, it isn’t as much a conventional version of the 68-XP as a variation on that powerplant. The two rifles do share the same velocity and accuracy potential; and even though their styling looks different, I believe they have a lot of the same parts. When I examined the triggers, I could see that the 300 trigger is much simpler than the one on the 68-XP. So, what I said about their similarity needs to be better defined. The two rifles are closely associated, but the 300 is not just a 68-XP in a conventional stock.

El Gamo 68-XP trigger
The 68-XP trigger has three adjustments (behind the guard).

El Gamo 300 trigger
The 300 trigger has a single screw behind the trigger blade for adjustments.

History of the gun
Robert Law, the owner of the original Air Rifle Headquarters, was the George L. Herter of the U.S. airgun world. He published a large black-and-white catalog in the 1960s and ’70s that got thousands of people started in this hobby — including me! He wrote tons of descriptive information about each gun, and he made you salivate over the thought of acquiring them. Here’s what he wrote about the 300.

“An opportunity to buy a match profile rifle at a price typical of the 1960’s era might seem a little too much to ask in this day and age. Yet that is just what the ElGamo people have accomplished in their remarkable 300 model! The remarkable price breakthrough has been made possible by eliminating expensive frills, using mass production, and the use of less expensive labor.”

Let’s look at that price a moment, for I have the price list that came with this April 1979 catalog. The 300 (he called it the 300 Target in the price list) sold for $82.95. The 68-XP brought $89.95. At the same time, a Weihrauch HW30S (the model with the Rekord trigger) was bringing $114.50, and a deluxe FWB 124 right-hand rifle went for $209.50. In today’s dollars, the 300 would fetch around $225-250 because the HW30S is now bringing $329.99. But in 1979, Law felt that $100 was a price point that a rifle like the 300 could not top.

The rifle was actually discontinued in 1975 because of the increasing price, and then brought back when a large purchase was made by a single customer, dropping the production cost. The 68-XP and the 300 were made in both Spain and Brazil. When you bought one from ARH, it could potentially come from either country.

The rifle
The El Gamo 300 is a breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle in .177 caliber that I believe is the only caliber it came in. It’s midsized, at 42-7/8 inches overall and weighing 6 lbs., 12 oz. The barrel is 17-1/2 inches long. The length of pull measures 14-1/4 inches.

Cocking is light and easy. I’ll measure it in Part 2. The barrel is held shut by a chisel detent that’s easy to open. For the modest power the rifle develops, the detent is sufficient to keep the barrel closed during firing.

The stock is a dark blonde-stained beech with almost no grain. The forearm is tall and narrow, having a boxy cross-section and pistol grip. The butt has El Gamo’s “melted” look, where the raised cheekpiece barely stands out from the stock. And the comb has a Monte Carlo profile. The buttplate is hard plastic with some anti-skid lines and a bullseye mark and nothing else.

There’s also some other plastic on the gun. The end cap, trigger blade, triggerguard, as well as some front and rear sight parts are made of plastic. The metal parts are blued steel that, by today’s standards, is quite good. In its day, the 300 wasn’t finished better than any other airgun in its price range.

The sights are a fixed hooded post in front and a rear notch that’s click-adjustable in both directions. El Gamo made the notch too narrow, so the front blade fills it completely, making this rifle difficult to sight. A pair of 11mm dovetail grooves will handle a scope, but no provision for a scope stop. Remember, this rifle comes from a time when scoping an air rifle was considered a novelty.

El Gamo 300 rear sight
The rear sight adjusts in both directions with light, smooth clicks. The rear notch is too narrow for the front post.

El Gamo also put a hole in the spring tube that allowed the direct oiling of the piston seal. I guess they wanted to keep the leather seal supple. I have only seen that on the Mendoza rifles of a few years ago.

El Gamo 300 scope grooves
Two 11mm dovetail grooves allow a scope to be mounted. That hole is for oiling the piston seal.

Firing behavior
I’ve shot the 300 several times just to get a sense of how it feels. There’s a little buzzing upon firing, but it isn’t objectionable. Compared to my tuned 68-XP, though, I did notice the difference. The breech seems to fit most pellets well, so I hope that the accuracy Robert Law promised is achievable. He said I could expect to put 5 shots into 0.21 inches at 25 feet. I’ll be shooting at 33 feet (10 meters), so I’m hoping that means I can expect a quarter-inch group. Then, again, I’ll shoot 10 shots instead of just 5, and use today’s super-accurate pellets. So, all bets are off.

Air Rifle Headquarters said to expect a velocity of 665 f.p.s. after conditioning, which is the combination of a break-in and initial lubrication. They said to expect 680 f.p.s. with their accurization. I don’t care what my rifle does in the velocity department, but I do want it to shoot smoothly.

It isn’t fair to compare this rifle to my 68-XP because I tuned and adjusted that rifle extensively. Maybe if I see enough potential from this one, I’ll do the same.

At the time when the rifle was initially being sold, there was probably talk about whether or not a Brazilian model was as good as a Spanish model. I have no way of knowing whether there’s any basis to that — both of my rifles were made in Spain.

El Gamo 300 logo
The El Gamo logo and the country of manufacture are stamped on the spring tube.

A poor man’s R7
Whenever there’s a rifle like this 300 that embodies a lot more quality than the price signifies, it gets labeled as a “poor man’s something.” In this case, given the size, accuracy and power, I think the Beeman R7 is the comparison. I do remember thinking back when this catalog was new that there was no way I would ever want either the 300, which looked cheap to me, or the 68-XP that looked like a kid’s gun. But the long lens of time has a way of distorting things.

In light of the air rifles being offered today, the El Gamo 300 seems to offer a lot more than it did 35 years ago. I don’t need the supersonic velocities being offered today, and will trade them in a heartbeat for a cocking effort that’s lower. The questions that remains are how well the trigger performs and what kind of accuracy I can get.

El Gamo 300 two rifles
The El Gamo 300 (top) is a conventional breakbarrel, compared to the 68-XP.