Sig Romeo5 XDR red dot sight

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sig Romeo5-XDR
Sig Romeo5-XDR.

Sig Virtus MCX PCP air rifle: Part 1
Sig Virtus MCX PCP air rifle: Part 2
Sig Virtus MCX PCP air rifle: Part 3

This report covers:

  • XDR?
  • The big deal!
  • Long battery life
  • A compact sight
  • Manual
  • Illumination
  • How bright is the light?
  • LED versus holographic dot
  • Top of the line
  • Mounting
  • Overall impression
  • Summary

I have linked this report to the Sig Virtus report because this sight is going on that rifle for the next test. I should have mounted the Romeo5 on the Virtus for the first accuracy test, but I discovered too late that I hadn’t.

But maybe that is a blessing in disguise, because I will now review the sight by itself before putting it into use. Pyramyd Air doesn’t currently carry the Romeo5 line but I received an email from a blog reader who goes by the handle SqueezeBox. He owns two of them. He was glad I was reviewing the sight because in his opinion it is the best dot sight on the market. Let’s see what he feels that way.

Sig Romeo5 Super Target
SqueezeBox mounted a Romeo5 on his Sig Super Target. He loves the sight!

XDR?

I conversed with Sig representatives as I was researching this report and they told me what XDR means. The X stands for extended battery life and the DR stands for dual reticle. I’ll cover both today.

The big deal!

Okay, the reason I don’t like sights that use batteries is I believe the batteries always go dead at the most inopportune times. I remember the days when the Tasco Pro Point that uses two CR2032 button batteries would eat them up in just a few hours — maybe 20! Now quick, try to find two CR2032 batteries in the gift shop at Tanana Adventure Sports trading post at the end of the Alcan Highway, just north of Delta Junction, Alaska! No? Too bad! I guess you don’t get to hunt on this trip.

Not realistic? Maybe not, but that was always my fear. Sure you can carry spares and of course you do — but they were in the pack you left back in Seattle. With your camera, extra clothes and spare water jug? I know a lot of you feel the same.

Long battery life

The Romeo5 uses one triple A battery that you can find almost everywhere — even in the GUM department store in Novosibirsk. Better yet, that one battery gets over 50,000 hours of operation under normal use. The sight has what Sig calls MOTAC — motion activated operation that powers the sight off when it doesn’t sense motion for a period of time and back on when motion is detected. Of course I had to test that and found that the sight I am testing turned off after 220 seconds of inactive time. A slight jiggle turned it back on. MOTAC works. I know — this is a tough job but somebody has to do it! If it wasn’t me it would fall to one of you.

A compact sight

The Romeo5 is considered a compact sight. It’s certainly smaller than the large tube dot sights you see these days. It’s 2.5 inches long by 1.4 inches wide and 2.6 inches high — though some of the height is reduced by the amount of sight that clamps around the base it’s attached to. It weighs 5.6 ounces with a battery installed.

Manual

I know — manuals are for beginners, right? Well, color me new because I read it! I had to, to find out how to turn the thing on. I installed the battery they sent and pushed one of the two illumination adjustment buttons on top of the sight and nothing happened. Oh, oh! Did BB get a bad one?

No, BB got a good one, but there are several things he needed to know when turning the Romeo5 on. First and most important is — the sight does not turn on by just clicking one of the adjustment buttons! You have to hold either one of the adjustment buttons down for longer than one second to turn the sight on. I would estimate that it takes close to 1.5 seconds for the sight to respond to these buttons. The same to turn it off. The manual tells you that.

Sig Romeo5 buttons
The two buttons on top of the Romeo5 increase and decrease the illumination of the reticle. They also turn the unit on and off and they toggle between the two reticles.

Sig Romeo5 battery and adjustment
The battery goes in under the cover located in the front of the sight (yellow arrow) and the windage is adjusted by the screw on the right rear (blue arrow).

Illumination

Next — what level of illumination was the reticle set at when it was turned off? Because that will be the level when you turn it back on. There are eight levels for daylight operations and two for night vision. If it was set very low you may not be able to see it when it comes on again. That was the problem I had, because, before reading the manual I fiddled with the buttons for quite some time. I’m an airgunner — so of course I did! The solution is to hold the button down long enough to turn on the sight, then keep toggling the plus button while looking for the dot. If you are not sure whether the sight is now on or if you just turned it off, repeat the process until you see the dot. Then leave the dot on max until you need to use the sight. The good thing is when you get to the top it doesn’t drop back to the bottom. You need to push the other button for that.

How bright is the light?

One concern I have, being red/green colorblind, is seeing a red dot in bright light. But the designers thought of that. First, they didn’t make the dot pure red, but skewed it to the orange like a traffic light to make it stand out. And second, at its brightest setting I can see the dot against the clouds on an overcast day. I can also see it against my neighbor’s spotlight on their house about 100 yards away. Then I shined a 120-lumen flashlight into the front of the sight from 8 inches away. I could see the dot right up to the point it entered the bright light that was shining back. I have never done a test like this before, but this is such a serious sight that I wanted something to express the brightness of the dot. I will do this when testing all dot sights in the future.

There are eight levels of daylight illumination. I can see six of them in a darkened room —  five in a room that’s well-lit. I can’t see the two lowest levels at all, nor can I see either of the two night vision levels below that. I don’t own a night vision device so I’ll take Sig’s word they are there. Having them might sound silly to you, but there are airgun hunters using night vision right now for things like rats and feral hogs. So, this feature has value to some, if not to all. And you get it in the Romeo5.

LED versus holographic dot

One big reason the dot is so visible is it is an LED that’s reflected off a specially coated glass screen instead of a laser that’s run through several lenses before it gets to your eye. The additional lenses the laser uses make the dot less bright and also more susceptible to parallax problems. With the 20mm Romeo5 you give up a larger window for improved clarity and less parallax.

Sig Romeo5 dot on driveway
This driveway is about 40 yards away. As you can see, the reticle can be seen easily against a light background.

Top of the line

The Romeo5 exists in several versions. The high mount version is on sale at this time for $159.99. The Romeo5X, Romeo5 TREAD and Romeo5 standard height sights are all retailing at $199.99. The Romeo5 XDR that I am testing for you retails for $299.99. So — what is the difference? The choice of two reticles.

Circle dot reticle

The XDR has a choice of two reticles. One is a conventional 2 MOA red dot and the other is a 2 MOA red dot inside a 65 MOA circle. You would use the circle for faster target acquisition in operations like clearing buildings and so on. When I was in the Army my tank had what we called an infinity circle sight for our coaxial machinegun. Put your target in the circle and hold down the trigger. It’s like spraying wasp and hornet spray on a nest — gets rid of everything it touches. For hunters and precision shooting, use the dot by itself.

Sig Romeo5 reticles
The two reticle choices.

Mounting

The Romeo5 XDR comes with an additional plate to increase the mounting height. Folks with AR rifles care about that — airgunners don’t. We want our sights as close to the boreline as we can get it.

Sig Romeo5 plate
The plate and screws to raise the sight, the Torx driver and screwdriver and the bikini lens caps.

Along with the plate come 4 longer screws to attach the plate to the sight, plus a Torx wrench and flat-bladed screwdriver in the shape of a key, for mounting the sight and adjusting the reticle. You also get nifty bikini lens covers. 

Overall impression

I haven’t mentioned the lifetime warranty on the aluminum case or the 5-year warranty on the optics and electronics. Sig has you covered.

There is more going on with this Romeo5 XDR than I have ever encountered in another dot sight. It was built for high-end applications and we just lucked out that Sig chose to send it to me for testing both the Virtus pellet rifle and the Virtus airsoft gun that I haven’t started yet. We’re going to have some fun.

Summary

That’s it for the sight. The next time you see it, it will be atop the Virtus pellet rifle and we will be testing it for function during an accuracy test.


Meopta MeoStar 10-42 binoculars

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

MeoStar binoculars
MeoStar 10X42 HD binoculars.

This report covers:

  • Top quality optics
  • The binoculars
  • Zeiss binoculars
  • Lighter and smaller
  • Flouride objective lens
  • Focus is fast!
  • Case
  • Summary

Top-quality optics

Meopta MeoStar 10-42 binoculars are not a piece of equipment most of you will every buy, but I want to talk about them today. I have been looking at them for the past three years — ever since seeing them at the SHOT Show in 2016. You may recall I did buy the MeoPro 80 HD spotting scope after seeing it at that show, and I am still impressed by its sharpness and clarity. I can see .22 caliber bullet holes in a black bullseye at 200 yards with that scope — admittedly on a sunny day — but just try doing that sometime.

I wrote a feature article for Firearms News about that spotting scope, and in the process of researching I learned a lot about Meopta. They started making darkroom equipment in the 1930s, and made military optics during World War II. When the Iron Curtain went up in 1945, they were behind it. The communists had them continue to make optics for the military and they made the finest quality possible. When the wall fell down in 1989 and it was “anything for a buck” throughout the eastern block nations, Meopta suddenly found a market for their high-end optics that was then being served by Leica, Swarovski, Steiner, Zeiss and others.

In 2007 they added a sport optics line, using the same high precision equipment they were using for their military contracts, and scheduling their production for the times when the contract work was lax. As a result, they created the “best optics you never heard of,” according the Meopta USA Chief Operations Officer and general manager, Reinhard Seipp.

The binoculars

Enough background — on with the report! I tell you guys in my reports that I examine my targets downrange with a spotting scope, but the truth is and always has been that under 50 yards I use binoculars. Spotting scopes are too much to set up unless I really need one.

Over the years I have used Bausch and Lomb 7X50 binoculars from World War II and a set of Agfa 10X30 commercial binocs from the 1960s. They both did the job, but then some really great binocs became available — the East German Zeiss 7X40 NVA border guard binoculars. Compared to everything I had seen until that time, these binoculars had it over all the competition.

Zeiss binoculars

When mine were purchased in 2003 they sold for $225. By 2006 they had climbed to $600 on ebay. They were coming out of the former East Germany, and people around the world were snapping them up.

Zeiss binoculars
These Zeiss NVA East German border guard binoculars were my best pair for years.

They have a filter that detects infrared light and they have various filters for the eyepieces, but this feature is of no use to sportsmen. If you have never been in the military you probably think infrared light allows you to see in the dark, but the truth is it isn’t very bright and it doesn’t go very far. A sportsman is better off with low-light optics than trying to use IR illumination.

These binoculars also have a mil reticle for adjusting indirect fire like artillery rounds. I used to need that, but I don’t have much call for it these days. You can also estimate range with this reticle, but I can do just as well by guesstimation at the short distances I shoot, so it’s another feature that’s not needed.

The clarity of the Zeiss optics, though, is great. These are military glasses made with top-quality optical glass. The only drawback is the eyepieces focus individually, so adjusting them for objects at different distances is slow. I don’t hunt much so for many years I was satisfied that these would be the last binoculars I would ever need.

Then I looked through the MeoStar 10X42s at SHOT and became dissatisfied once again. They are both sharper and clearer than the Zeiss binocs to the same degree the Zeiss were over the binoculars they replaced. And they weigh less! I fell in love with them the first time I saw them, and was set to buy them until I learned the street price — $1,300. Knowing I was buying the spotting scope at the timne I thought these would have to remain on my bucket list.

Lighter and smaller

Even though these binoculars are more powerful than the Zeiss binos, they are both smaller and lighter. The Zeiss weigh 2 lbs. 8 oz. The Meostars weigh 2 lbs. 2 oz. The Meostars are a little taller, but nowhere near as wide. Both have rubber armor on the outside.

MeoStar and Zeiss
The MeoStars (left) are smaller and lighter than the Zeiss binos, even though they are more powerful.

The MeoStar binos have Schmidt-Pechan roof prisims, while the Zeiss have porro prisims. Roof prisims allow the objective lenses and eyepieces to be in line. They are more difficult to make well, but a high-end builder like Meopta can make them as bright and sharp as possible. They are also more rugged than porro prisims. Porro prisims reflect the light less than roof prisims and are easier to make clear and sharp. So porro prisims are typically found in less expensive binoculars.

Flouride objective lens

The MeoStar objective lenses are flouride. That’s one of the secrets of the brightness. Meopta doesn’t specify, but if it’s calcium flouride, which is widely used in high-end optics, it doesn’t need the coatings that normal glass lenses do, because calcium flouride has a low refractive index. So, an anti-reflectivity coating is not needed. Such lenses are extremely expensive in their raw (unground) state, but they give performance that can be seen in the end product.

calcium flouride lenses
Calcium flouride lenses are superior, but they cost over $100 apiece in the unground state.

Focus is fast!

I can focus the central-focus MeoStars with one hand in seconds. The Zeiss take two hands and each eyepiece has to be covered during focusing, because you can only focus one eyepiece at a tile. This is a major drawback.

Case

The Zeiss binos have no case. They are made to not need one. Armored eyepieces and objective lens covers, coupled with the rubber armored body make them very rugged.

The MeoStars come with a carrying case whose quick-disconnect carry strap detatches and attaches to the binoculars in seconds. The binos have captive protective cups for all lenses, so they can be safely carried outside the case, but for storage and long transportation the case is used.

Summary

I’ve been using these new binoculars for several weeks now and can give a good assessment of their use in the field. They are bright enough for all my uses, and they allow me to leave the larger spotting scope home much of the time. They may not be able to see .22 holes in a black bull at 100 yards on an overcast day, but arrows from things like the Sub-1 crossbow can be seen at that distance easily.

I would like to tell you that was the reason I bought them, but the truth is, I am just fascinated by superior optics and could not resist them! Think biker in a Harley store.

Airgunning is about more than just the guns. I use my equipment all the time, and today I wanted to share with you a new favorite that is fast becoming essential to the way I operate.


Umarex Forge combo: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Forge
Umarex Forge.

This report covers:

  • Different
  • Ballbearing detent
  • Power
  • Stock
  • Size
  • Picatinny rail
  • Scope included
  • Open sights
  • Trigger
  • TNT
  • Synthetics
  • Where is it made?
  • Many good things

Today we begin looking at an air rifle I have been waiting to review since first seeing it at this year’s SHOT Show. Every SHOT Show has dramatic new products that all writers scramble to review. Then there are the quiet new products that don’t seem to attract as much attention. But some things I am always looking for fall into this quiet group, and the Forge from Umarex is one such gun.

Different

The Forge is a different breakbarrel. For starters, although it develops an advertised 1,250 f.p.s. with lead-free pellets, it’s relatively easy to cock! Of course I will measure the effort in Part 2, but I’m estimating something around the specified 30 lbs. For a gas piston, that is remarkable! Easy cocking is one thing I am always looking for.

At present the Forge comes only in .177 caliber.

Ball bearing detent

The breech is held shut by a ball bearing. It’s got a powerful return spring, so you do have to slap the muzzle to open the breech, but it closes smooth and easy.

Forge ball bearing detent
The breech is held shut by a ball bearing.

Power

Pyramyd Air shows the Forge as a 1,050 f.p.s. rifle, while the box states 1,250 with lead-free pellets. I guess I will have to sort that out for you in the velocity test. Really, with this kind of power available, I’m more interested in what it will do with heavier lead pellets.

Stock

Then there is the all-wood stock. Yes, at a retail price of $150 the Forge has a wood stock, and it’s not what you typically see on a rifle at this price. Typically a wood stock on a $150 rifle is smooth and has an opaque finish over some nondescript hardwood. The Forge stock is dark beech with some grain showing, and the forearm is a semi-beavertail (flares out). There are panels of sharp checkering on both sides of the forearm and pistol grip. This stock has some shape to it, and it feels nice when shouldered.

Size

The Forge weighs 7.8 lbs., according to the specs. The rifle I am testing weighs 7 lbs. 10 oz., which is close to the advertised weight. The overall length is 44-5/8-inches long. Those dimensions make the Forge a large air rifle, but not a heavy one.

Picatinny rail

A full-length Picatinny rail that runs along the top of the spring tube. Actually the spring tube sits inside what Umarex calls the Nucleus Rail System. This will make mounting a scope much easier because these days Weaver rings (that fit a Picatinny base) are very common.

Scope included

The rifle is sold as a combo, so a 4X32 scope is included with the package. It may not be the last word in optical sights, but it comes bundled with the rifle, so you have a head start on scoping your new airgun.

Open sights

The Forge also comes with adjustable open sights! That’s another thing I look for in an inexpensive air rifle. And these sights appear to adjust very precisely. They do have fiberoptics on both front and rear, but the profile of the front blade is square, so with the right lighting (to kill the glow from the fiberoptics) I think I will be able to do some good work. We will find out in the first accuracy test. Open sights are another thing I want on an inexpensive air rifle.

Forge rear sight
The rear sight is precisely adjustable.

Trigger

The 2-stage trigger has an adjustment for the length of the first stage, but nothing for the pull weight. I will test the pull for you in part 2 and report on the trigger in greater detail in the accuracy tests.

The safety is automatic, unfortunately. But it is easy to release by pushing the lever forward, so it’s not a big distraction.

TNT

The gas piston in the Forge is something called Turbo Nitrogen Technology, or TNT for short. The name tells me they used nitrogen (instead of plain air) to pressurize the gas-spring piston unit and that’s what reduced the cocking effort.

Synthetics

There is a lot of synthetic material on the outside of the Forge. Besides the scope base rail that encloses the spring tube, the barrel ends in a huge synthetic muzzle brake that’s an easy grip for cocking. I looked inside the brake and I think I can see baffles. The sights are mostly synthetic and the triggerguard is, as well. The trigger blade is metal however.

I think the synthetics on the Forge are well done and suit the rifle very well. But I know there are some who will not tolerate any plastic on an airgun, so I’m telling you what’s there.

The buttpad is the strangest one I’ve ever seen. It is triangular in shape and occupies a significant portion of the rear of the stock. It’s covered with thin rubber that’s very grippy, so it accomplishes everything we want from a buttpad. And I think it looks sharp!

Where is it made?

To come in at this price the Forge has to be made in China. That used to be the kiss of death for an airgun, but in recent times airgun importers have learned that price doesn’t sell guns by itself. They have to work o0r they will tank. I won’t cut the Forge any slack in the test, but on first examination it appears someone who knows the market has had a hand with this development.

Many good things

The Forge has a lot going for it. The price is great; it has adjustable sights; the power is good; cocking is easy and the feel and aesthetics of the rifle are very stylish and nice. It looks and feels like a lot more than the retail price. There is just one more thing this rifle needs.

If it also turns out to be accurate, I think Umarex will have knocked it out of the park! I’m rooting for it!


Revisiting the BSA GRT Lightning XL SE

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This is a guest blog from reader Dennis. He may have a handle, but I don’t know what it is.

Today he presents an air rifle he really enjoys. If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Now over to you, Dennis.

Revisiting the BSA GRT Lightning XL SE

By Dennis

BSA GRT Lightning XL
BSA GRT Lightning XL SE.

This report covers:

  • Introduction
  • The rifle
  • The optics
  • The shooter
  • Issues and solutions
  • Results
  • Conclusion

Part Two

Introduction

The BSA Lightning was reviewed a few times a few years ago [However, not on this blog — as far as I can tell, Ed.]. The results were mixed. One had no idea whether or not the gun was a keeper. Well, she is for me, and I want to tell you why.
I love this gun! It is beautiful and accurate. It is light and ergonomically designed. Yep, I love her, but getting to this point was difficult. The courtship was long and tortuous. Let me take you instead by the straight and narrow path directly to the end which is quite good.

The rifle

The BSA GRT Lightning XL SE is a gas-piston springer with a shrouded barrel and a beautiful ambidextrous beech stock. My model is the .22 caliber version, as I felt it would be best for poppin’ squirrels in the backyard.
The gun is short (37.5 inches) and light (7 pounds), so she comes to the shoulder and points easily. She is a joy to shoot. I ordered my rifle with the Pyramid Air ten-for-ten and she registered 767 f.p.s. with 11.9-grain pellets, for a muzzle energy of about 15.5 foot pounds.

The optics

The Lightning comes without sights, so one needs to mount optics. I mounted the 30 mm UTG 4-16X44 AO Accushot Swat scope.

UTG 4-16X44
UTG 4-16X44 AO scope.

It’s a fine scope, but perhaps a bit heavy for the gun. It seems to adjust consistently and to hold its settings. I don’t use the illumination feature on the reticle, and would be happy to find a scope of similar quality without this feature, but there it is!

The shooter

It might help you understand my odyssey with this little gun if you know a bit about me. I am a sixty-eight year-old, soon to be 69 (hold the jokes), who just started shooting about one year ago. I started with inexpensive, box-store guns, but soon became frustrated with the accuracy and ‘graduated’ to this mid-priced springer. I had a lot to learn! This little Lightning lead me by the hand along a learning curve that included most all of the issues one can encounter. These included dealing with loose bolts, finding Mister Right Pellet, developing shooting technique, and shooting around floaters in the eye. It’s been a journey!

Issues and solutions

In the course of shooting some three thousand rounds through this gun, the various issues have conspired to thwart my quest for accuracy. I couldn’t tell you which issues were most important, but I can assure you that they all contributed, and I can also tell you what seems to be working for me right now.

Trust me when I say that you will keep much more hair on your head and rest much easier at night if you loctite (blue Loctite) every bolt securing the stock and scope to the action. Do this as soon as you get everything properly mounted and tightened.

The lightness of this rifle is a double-edged sword. It makes for easy shouldering and shooting, but allows for significant recoil. The kick is not a hard smack, but it can be a very noticeable jump, and it is sufficient to repeatedly loosen every bolt on the gun.

Mister Right Pellet for my rifle has turned out (so far) to be the 14.66-grain H&N Field Target Trophy. I have not yet extended the range beyond 15 yards, but at 15 yards the accuracy is quite impressive, as you will see. The next best pellet to date is the 15.43 grain Gamo Match Diabolo. Several other pellets have been okay from time to time, but have fallen out of favor. Perhaps this is the result only of bolts loosening up. I’ll be going back to test a few of them in the future. For now, the H&N FTT is the best.

My shooting technique has varied as I have experimented with various holds. In the end, I find only that it seems best to hold as lightly as possible so that my unsteadiness creates the least disturbance during the shot preparation and execution. I find that the gun actually shoots quite well rested on a BOGgear BOG-POD Xtreme Shooting Rest. I shoot from a seated position. Here is my setup:

BOG-POD Xtreme Shooting Rest
BogPod Xtreme Shooting Rest.

Results

Accuracy! Accuracy! Accuracy! In the end what we all want is accuracy and here are the results. I have settled on shooting three shot groups so that I can discern most shots. (Sometimes the shots are through the same exact hole and are indistinguishable.) Based on 27 shots taken at 1-inch targets at 15 yards, I calculate an average center-to-center displacement for the nearest two shots in each group to be about 0.04 in. The average extreme c-t-c spread for the nine three shot groups is 0.18 in. The calculated repeatability for this rifle in this shooting system is less than one minute of angle. Here is an image of the target set.

BSA GRT Lightning XL targets
My targets show why I’m excited about this rifle.

I suppose that the flyers in these groups are the result of my poor technique, probably shot anticipation or poor follow-through. I hope to do better with practice. Further analysis will have to wait until I zero the scope and take shots at greater ranges.

Conclusion

The BSA GRT Lightning XL SE is an excellent gun that undoubtedly exceeds my personal shooting capability. It has great accuracy if one takes the time to tighten ‘er up and find her preferred pellet.

I hope this revisit of this outstanding rifle will help someone choose to work with the gun and hopefully shorten the path to success.


Air Arms Galahad: Part 6

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Galahad
Air Arms Galahad PCP in walnut is a striking looking air rifle!

UTG 8-32 SWAT Mil Dot
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

This report covers:

  • JSB Exact Jumbo
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • H&N Baracuda Match with 5.53mm heads
  • Crosman Premiers
  • UTG 8-32 SWAT scope
  • Summary

This final report has taken two months to complete. I went to the range one time and shot the rifle at 50 yards, but the wind was blowing on that day and the groups were not good. I felt that was due entirely to the wind, so I needed to try it another day. It took me most of the time to get that second day — a combination of other business and a lot of windy Texas days!

Today I am reporting on the .22 caliber Galahad-rifle from Air Arms at 50 yards. Naturally I shot off a rest. The rifle was shot on power setting 4 (there are 5 settings) and I refilled after every second 10-shot group. Let’s get right to it.

JSB Exact Heavy

The first pellet I tried was the 15.89-grain JSB Exact Jumbo dome. They landed high and to the left of the aim point, but I wasn’t worried about that. Ten of them went into 0.92-inches at 50 yards, which isn’t too bad!

Galahad JSB Jumbo target
The Galahad put 10 JSB Exact Jumbo (15.89-grain) domes into 0.92-inches at 50 yards.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

I didn’t think the 15.89-grain pellet was the best for the Galahad, so next up was the 18.13-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy. This was the pellet I had the most hope for. The first 10 grouped in 0.741-inches, which is pretty spectacular. So I shot a second group at the end of the test, just to check.

Galahad JSB Jumbo Heavy group
The Galahad put 10 JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy (18.1-grain) domes into 0.741-inches at 50 yards. That is a group!

I adjusted the scope a little for this second group, although it still isn’t centered or quite low enough. This time 10 pellets went into 1.239-inches — BUT — one shot was a called pull! I saw the sight move to the left just as the rifle fired. The other 9 pellets are in 0.926-inches.

Galahad JSB Jumbo Heavy Group 2
On the second attempt the Galahad put 10 JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy (18.1-grain) domes into 1.239-inches at 50 yards, but one shot was a called pull. The other 9 are in 0.926-inches.

H&N Baracuda Match with 5.53mm heads

The third pellet I tried in the Galahad was the H&N Baracuda Match with 5.53mm heads. This pellet did not do as well at 25 yards, and I wanted to test it at 50 to see if the relationship held. It did. Ten shots at 50 yards went into 1.608-inches, with 9 in 1.35-inches. That’s not good, in light of what both the JSBs did.

Galahad Baracuda Match group
Ten H&N Baracuda Match domes made a 1.608-inch group at 50 yards. Given what the two JSB pellets did, this one isn’t for the Galahad.

Crosman Premier

The final pellet I tested was the .22-caliber Crosman Premier. Ten went into 1.46-inches. This is another pellet that isn’t well-suited to the Galahad.

Galahad Crosman Premier group
Ten Crosman Premiers made a 1.46-inch group at 50 yards.

UTG 8-32 SWAT scope

Remember that I linked to the UTG 8-32 SWAT scope that I mounted on this rifle. This rifle was also a test of that scope, and several readers asked to see what the rifle looked like with that large scope mounted. So I took a picture for you.

Galahad UTG scope
I don’t think the UTG scope looks too large on the Galahad.

This UTG scope is very clear, as all UTG premium scopes are, these days. It is exceptionally bright on 32 power and it is a scope I can always recommend. It is large, but look at it on the rifle to see how it compares.

Summary

The Air Arms Galahad that I tested is remarkable in several ways. First, the bullpup design shortens it without loosing precious barrel length. Next, it cocks via a paddle on the left side of the gun. Several readers like that placement, though I didn’t find it any easier than a conventional bolt.

The uniformity of velocity at all power levels is perhaps the best feature the Galahad offers. It is very consistent, plus it gives you lots of shots at the higher-power settings. You can thank a regulator for that. Remember, though, that the full fill on this rifle is to 250 bar (3,626 psi).

Finally, I think the accuracy speaks for itself. While other premium PCPs are capable of these results, only the top airguns can do it. I think the Galahad is a rifle you should consider when you move up to a top-class PCP.


Some frank talk about optics

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Dot sights — the good and the bad
  • The downside of dot sights
  • Dot sight summary
  • Compact scopes
  • Compact scope summary
  • High magnification
  • Summary of high magnification
  • Know the limitations of your equipment

Last week I asked for help determining how to test and evaluate a set of scope rings and a new scope. I got some good suggestions, but there was also a lot of discussion about optics that I would like to address today. I’m calling this report “Frank talk about optics” because this is what I would tell you if we were speaking privately. I’m not trying to sell you anything today. I just want you to consider some fundamentals when you select an optical sight.

Dot sights — the good and the bad

A dot sight shows an illuminated dot inside an optical tube that can be placed on a target of your choosing. Let’s start with the good stuff. I am preparing to demonstrate the Air Venturi Air Bolt system to the public at the 2016 Texas Airgun Show this coming Saturday, and I mounted a dot sight on the Sam Yang Dragon Claw 500cc rifle I’m using. I needed a sight that is quick to acquire the target and also very reliable, so I selected a red dot sight.

Dot sights usually have no magnification, and if they do it is very low magnification. So finding the target is quite easy. Of course it’s hard to see something very small that is also far away — say a tin can at 100 yards — so a dot sight is not the right tool for targets like that. Dot sights are for close targets that are similar to those you would shoot with open sights.

A dot sight is faster and easier to use than most open sights because there is just one thing to look at — an illuminated colored dot. Place the dot where you want the projectile to hit and you are done, as long as the gun is sighted in. I will be shooting at a 19-inch by 19-inch arrow stop placed at 25 yards. I have discovered that the Air Bolt is accurate enough to keep the arrows within two inches at that distance (stay tuned for more reports on that!) when I shoot offhand supported by a monopod, so the dot sight is the best way to go.

The downside of dot sights

As I was sighting-in it occurred to me that the dot sight runs on batteries. What if my battery goes dead in the middle of my demonstration? That would be like loosing a battery while you are hunting. The fix? Carry a spare battery and also a means of removing the dot sight from the airgun if you have to. You might want to use dot sights on guns that have open sights (that are sighted-in), or have an alternative optical sight at the ready. If you are going out for a half-hour of shooting, a backup plan isn’t as important as if you are flying with this gun to Alaska for a $10,000 guided hunt. Use common sense.

Dot sight summary

Dot sights are quick to acquire targets and easier to use than open sights at close distances. They are not precision sights, beyond hitting what open sights are expected to hit. They run on batteries, which has to be taken into account. For all other considerations like reliability, control and visibility of the dot, ease of adjustments and precision you have to consider the specific dot sight you will be using.

Compact scopes

Reader RangeRunner talked about compact scopes last week. I want to add to what he said. Compact scopes are good for keeping weight and the overall size of your air rifle to a minimum. But they have very limited mounting options. They have short tubes that require rings that are not too wide, and they cannot slide back and forth in the rings for eye positioning. Most of them compensate for that limitation with a somewhat longer eye relief, but on some airguns they just won’t work, because of where the scope stop limits rearward movement of the rings.

Compact scopes are similar to dot sights in that they normally have low magnification. Targets are acquired quickly, but you don’t have the same precision that larger scopes can give.

RangeRunner complained about the thick reticles on compact scopes — particularly on the UTG Bug Buster line. He’s right about them being thick, but Bug Buster scopes are not intended for precision shooting. You should not use a Bug Buster scope when you try to shoot a one-inch group at 100 yards, because the thickness of the reticle will not allow you to aim precisely enough.

On the other hand, if you are hunting squirrels in the deep woods, there are few scopes that can match a Bug Buster for speed on target. That thick reticle that’s too heavy for precision is exactly what’s needed for shots that have to be taken within seconds. No scope with a hairline reticle will work in that situation unless you can convince the target to remain stationary long enough to locate the hairline reticles.

Compact scope summary

Use a compact scope when you want to limit the size and weight of the airgun. Make certain you can mount it where it can be seen. Remember that, besides positioning, a compact scope has limitations such as thick reticle lines and lower magnification. Don’t choose it as an all-around scope. Use it for the purpose for which it was intended.

High magnification

High magnification has its place, and like the compact scope, it isn’t universal. Field target shooters often use scopes that magnify 40-60 times. SWAT snipers usually stop at 10 power. Each has their reason for what they use.

A field target lane is well-defined and contains a specific number of targets. You can get away with high magnification in that situation, although I have waited for a long time for some shooters to “find” the target in a match. That’s why there is a time limit per target when the shooter sits down on a lane — to keep the duffers from wasting all day playing with their equipment! On the other hand, when you can see a blade of grass at a far distance, it is easy to focus on it and determine the range from what your parallax ring or knob indicates.

A SWAT sniper never knows where he will be deployed or under what conditions he will have to take his shot. Despite what you may believe, SWAT snipers do not have a benchrester’s mentality. They don’t shoot the smallest groups possible. They shoot to hit their target every time. There is a difference, and it shows up in the scopes they use.

I personally have a benchrester’s mentality most of the time. You see that in the reports I write. But when there is a squirrel gnawing on the soffits on my roof, I don’t need a 40-power scope to take it out. I need a scope that will give me a quick shot that I know will hit a one-inch kill zone at 20 yards. So my most accurate springers have scopes of lower magnification — scopes I can absolutely depend upon.

In my opinion, the best all-around scope is either a 3-12 or a 4-16 power scope whose point of impact doesn’t change that much when the power setting changes. A lot of my air rifles have 3-9 power scopes that I find very suitable.

Summary of high magnification

Select high magnification when precision is important and time is not much of a factor. Also make certain you can find your target. Being able to see a blade of grass sharply does you no good when you don’t know which blade it is!

Know the limitations of your equipment

This report was written in response to the discussions we had on the optics tests I asked about last week. I felt some readers are expecting their scopes to do everything, when they may not be able.

Bear this in mind — a Rolex watch is a fine piece of jewelry that also keeps time reasonably well. But a quartz watch — even a cheap one — keeps much better time. Explorers and outdoorsmen choose the Rolex because they know it will keep running when they are far from home. They don’t care if they are 30 seconds off on the exact time. But astronauts do care! That’s why they wear quartz watches with batteries, and the space agency provides backup support for their watches to the extent possible.


Optics test — please help

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • P.O.I. rings
  • What do you want to know?
  • Not cheap
  • New scope
  • That’s it

Today will be different. For once I am stymied how to test two new products in a meaningful way. Maybe I’m biting off too much to test them together, but they do seem to compliment each other, so this seems to be the thing to do. I’m hoping some of you can help me decide how to proceed.

P.O.I. rings

The first product is a set of the new UTG Precision Optics Interface (P.O.I) rings from Leapers. I saw these rings at the 2016 SHOT Show and told you about them in the Day Two report.

P.O.I. rings
P.O.I. rings are very stout, and come with a torx wrench for installation.

These rings are supposed to be more accurately aligned, and have tighter tolerances than other rings. They are made thicker, so the appearance is one of strength, but how do I test strength and precision? I want you to tell me what you think I should do. Remember that I am not a tsting laboratory. I have to test in the same way you would.

What do you want to know?

I’d like to know what you expect from rings. These have Weaver bases, so they fit both Weaver and Picatinny rails. But I can always install them on a rifle that has 11 dovetails by using the proper adaptor. One thought I had was to mount the rings on my super-accurate AR-15 for one test. How easily do they mount? How readily do they align with the bore? I already have a jumbo scope on that rifle, so there is a baseline for comparison. I know what the rifle can do; can it do it any easier or better with this scope?

AR-15-on-range
My AR-15 currently has an 8-40X56 Tasco Custom Shop scope. I set the power at 30X because the optics get hazy and dark fast at higher power.

The joint where the caps meets the ring base is very smooth. You can barely feel it. So the scope tube is surrounded more completely for better purchase.

The bottom jaw that clamps to the rifle’s scope base is guided by two steel pins that keep the jaws in perfect alignment. This jaw is spring-loaded, so it backs out smoothly when you loosen the Torx screw with the wrench that is provided.

P.O.I. jaws
The spring-loaded jaw is guided by steel pins, to move effortlessly and stay in perfect alignment

I also want to test the rings on an accurate air rifle. My TX200 is the most accurate springer I own and my Talon SS is the most accurate PCP. I know I should test the rings on the TX, but it doesn’t recoil very much, so I’m not sure what that would prove.

Not cheap

Just because these new rings have the UTG name, don’t think they will be cheap. The advance literature has a suggested retail price of $64.97. They may not cost quite that much, but they will never be budget rings. I hope to discover if they are worth the expenditure.

New scope

The other item I need to test for you is a new UTG scope. It’s the Accushot 8-32X56 with a G4 illuminated dot reticle. It looks similar to this scope. This is a large scope for target and long-range shooting, but the feature you will like most is the G4 reticle. There is a 1/2-mil dot at the center of the reticle that is the only thing that illuminates. Like all UTG illuminated reticles, it has 36 colors/degrees of brightness. That comes in very handy when you are colorblind as I am. I can barely see the red dot, but there is a purple color that stands out for me! When the only light is a 1/2 mill in diameter, you need all the help you can get!

This scope is made for long-range precision, and that is exactly how I intend testing it. But once again, how do I do that? My AR-15 should be involved, I think. But what air rifles? Should I use one of the the two already mentioned? What about something else?

UTG scope
The new UTG Accushot 8-32X56 scope with illuminated 1/2-mil dot at the center of the crosshairs. This is a large scope!

UTG reticle
This is what the G4 reticle looks like. The tiny dot is illuminated in this image!

Another feature this scope offers is one I have never noticed before, because I don’t typically use the illumination feature on a scope. With one click you cal recall the last color and brightness setting, rather than having to toggle through a menu of colors and brightnesses. I plan to learn how that works, because with a dot of light this small I’m going to need a lot of help!

The scope comes with a set of 30mm rings that have Weaver bases, but I will be setting them aside to test the new P.O.I. rings, instead. It also comes with batteries — one for the illumination and a spare. The reticle is etched into glass, so there is nothing mechanical to fail.

All lenses are emerald-coated for maximum light transmission. They are protected at both ends of the scope by spring-loaded lens caps.

The scope has side-mounted parallax adjustment. And it focuses from 10 meters to infinity — making this a fine scope for field target. Naturally an optional larger UTG sidewheel can be slipped over the focus knob for better acuity in determining distance (i.e. — a rangefinder).

It will be easier for me to evaluate the scope, because I know things to do to test it. But I still want to hear what you have to say. Sometimes I’m too close to these things, or I don’t think the way some of you do.

That’s it

There you go. That is your assignment. Help me make sense of this pair of product tests for you.