Gamo Swarm Fusion 10X Gen II air rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight in
  • Falcon group
  • Discussion
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets
  • Discussion 2
  • JSB Exact RS dome
  • Discussion 3
  • Second group of JSB Exact RS
  • Third group of JSB Exact RS
  • Summary

Today I mount the 3-9X40 Gamo scope and shoot the Fusion 10X from 25 yards. It will be an interesting test.

Mounting the scope

The scope that’s bundled with the rifle comes with a one-piece mount already attached. All you have to do is loosen the three Torx screw on the scope mount base with the wrench provided and clamp the mount to the 11mm dovetail base on the rifle. The mount has a scope stop pin that fits into the rear hole in the base and locks the mount from moving under recoil. I had the scope on and ready to go in 10 minutes.

The test

I shot off a rest at 25 yards. I used pellets that showed potential in Part 3’s test with open sights, except I had run out of H&N Match Green pellets, so I substituted something else. read more


Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE: Part 5

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE
Hatsan’s AT44S-10 Long QE is packed with features for airgun hunters.

This report covers:

• Inconsistent shots?
• Most accurate pellet?
• 100 yards means scope adjustments
• JSB Exact Jumbo heavy pellets
• Crosman Premier pellets
• H&N Baracuda Green pellets
• Gamo Hunter pellets
• Call it a day
• Conclusions
• Pyramyd Air sale

Today is a test of the Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE at 100 yards. I don’t do this very often for many reasons; but when I find a PCP that’s exceptionally accurate at 50 yards, I feel it’s worth testing at the greater distance. It takes a perfect day for this test because any wind will push the pellet around. We don’t get many windless days here in Texas, but this past Wednesday was one of them. It was so calm that dandelion fuzz would fall straight down.

You also know from reading this blog that groups do not always open in linear fashion as the distance increases. A rifle that shoots a half-inch group at 50 yards will not automatically shoot one-inch groups at 100 yards — even though the day is perfect.

Inconsistent shots?
While testing this rifle, I’d seen that the first 10 shots could be less accurate than the second 10. They sometimes contained fliers that didn’t seem to exist in the second group. Yesterday, blog reader Jerry in Texas asked me why one shot out of 10 from his Benjamin Marauder was dropping in velocity by over 250 f.p.s. I told him I thought some PCP guns do that in certain places in the power curve. I saw evidence of that on the 50-yard range and again at 100 yards, as I’ll show you.

Most accurate pellet?
I also hedged my bets by taking several pellets to the range that hadn’t been tested in this rifle before. I was getting such great performance at 50 yards from one pellet in particular — the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy — that I sort of stopped testing other pellets. That’s not very scientific of me, though it’s very much in keeping with being a gun crank. So, I took some other pellets along and gave them a try at 100 yards — even though they’d not been tried by me before in this rifle.

100 yards means scope adjustments
I knew the pellet would drop a lot going from 50 yards to where the rifle was sighted to 100 yards. I guesstimated the drop would be at least 12 inches, which would be 48 clicks on the quarter-minute elevation knob to bring things back up. But when I adjusted the scope, I stopped at 40 clicks because you never know if the clicks are exactly quarter-minute or if that’s just an approximation. As it turned out, both my guesstimate and the adjustments were close to correct, and I had to adjust the scope another 16 clicks up to get close to the point of aim.

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets
The first pellet up was the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jubo Heavy that had given me a group of 10 in 0.522 inches at 50 yards. If any pellet was going to excel in this rifle at 100 yards, I felt this one had the best chance. Alas — the best-laid plans….

The best I was able to do with this pellet was 10 in about 3 inches. I shot the same pellet in both the first 10 shots and the second 10 shots per fill with pretty much similar results, except there was a flier in the first group. I’m not going to show you those groups because they don’t help the report and also because the first group fell below the target paper and hit the 2×4 backer paper I always use when I’m not sure where the pellets are going.

At this point, I decided to punt — as in testing something I hadn’t tried before. One reader had recommended trying the 15.89-grain JSB Exact Jumbo pellets, and I thought it was a good choice. It happens to be one of my favorite .22-caliber pellets, and I normally would have tested it at 50 yards; but when the heavier JSB did so well, I decided to just shoot it to the exclusion of all others.

I refilled the rifle with air and loaded 10 JSB Exact Jumbos into the circular clip. The first group was very telling. Nine out of 10 pellets landed in a 1.668-inch group, but the first shot hit about 4 inches above the top of this main group. Remember what I said about inconsistencies in the first 10 shots after a fill?

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE JSB Exact group 1 100 yards
Nine of the 10 JSB Exact pellets landed in this 1.688-inch group at 100 yards. The first shot was 4 inches higher. This is a very good group for any pellet rifle at 100 yards.

After that group, I refilled the clip and shot a second group with the same pellet. This time, all 10 went into 2.385 inches. I know that doesn’t sound very good, but I ask you to reserve your comments until you have shot some 10-shot groups of pellets at 100 yards. It isn’t easy! And guns that group in a half-inch at 50 yards do not necessarily group in one inch at 100 yards.

Look at the shapes of these holes. Many are oval in shape, which indicates they didn’t go through the paper straight-on.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE JSB Exact group 2 100 yards
Here are 10 of the same JSB pellets in a 2.358-inch group. These oval holes show some evidence of a tilt on axis. read more


Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE
Hatsan’s AT44S-10 Long QE is packed with features for airgun hunters.

This report covers:

• Fast becoming a favorite
• Accuracy test
• Stunning first group!
• Tried RWS Superdomes
• Finish with JSB pellets
• Overall evaluation
• 100-yard test

Fast becoming a favorite
Today, we’re back at the 50-yard outdoor range with the Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE rifle — an air rifle that’s fast becoming a favorite of mine. I think you’ll see why in this report.

Last time, I showed you some excellent 10-shot groups from this rifle at 50 yards. That day was perfectly calm, and by chance the second pellet I tried turned out to be the one to shoot. The 16-grain Air Arms Diabolo Field pellet delivered some great groups, including one 10-shot screamer that was just 0.624 inches between centers. I resolved to return to the range another day to see if this was just a one-time thing or if the rifle could deliver such stunning accuracy all the time.

Accuracy test
This day was not perfect. There was a little breeze sometimes, but in the beginning it could be waited out. It was only 1-3 m.p.h. when I began shooting. Last time, I learned that the first 10 shots on a fresh fill weren’t as accurate as the second 10, so I filled the rifle to 200 bar and loaded ten 18.13-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets, thinking that I would save the sure-thing Air Arms pellets for the second 10.

Stunning first group!
But my first group was stunning! Nine of the 10 pellets went into 0.552 inches and only shot 8 strayed from the main group. It enlarged the group to 0.916 inches, which is still commendable for 10 shots.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE JSB Jumbo group 1
Nine JSBs in 0.552 inches! Shot 8 opened the group to 0.916 inches, which is still excellent.

Now that the first 10 were shot, I thought the rifle was going to give me a wonderful second group with the Air Arms pellets — but for some reason, it didn’t. Ten went into 1.434 inches, with 5 of them clustered in 0.212 inches. How do I make sense out of that?

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE Air Arms group 1
Five shots in that tiny (0.212 inches) hole, but the other 5 went everywhere else (1.434 inches)!

The Hatsan is short of breath, and there are only 20 good shots per fill if you’re shooting groups at 50 yards. I filled the rifle, again, and once more I shot the first group of 10 with the JSB Exact Jumbo Heavys. This time, they were a little more open than the first time, but they still managed to all be within 0.676 inches. That’s actually smaller than the first group was, and it’s close to the size of the best group from the previous session (0.624 inches).

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE JSB Jumbo group 2
The best group of this session! Ten pellets went into this 0.676-inch group.

The second group I shot was 10 Air Arms pellets, and this time they really opened up. Ten went into 1.334 inches, with 8 of them in 0.824 inches. Apparently, Air Arms pellets were not going to do as well on this day as they had during the previous session!

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE Air Arms group 2
For some reason, the Air Arms pellets didn’t want to group together on this day. Ten in 1.334 inches with 8 in 0.824 inches. read more


Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE
Hatsan’s AT44S-10 Long QE is packed with features for airgun hunters and long-range shooters.

This report covers:

• Most accurate test ever conducted!
• Scope and mounts
• Scope base design
• On to the range
• Airgunners…just like golfers!
• What happens next?

You waited for this report. I told you it was going to be a good one. I even advised a couple people to just buy this rifle if they wanted a quiet and powerful PCP that was also accurate. Today, you’re going to see why I said that.

Best test ever conducted!
To cut to the chase, this was the best test of an air rifle I’ve ever conducted at 50 yards. I won’t go so far as to say that the Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE is the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever fired, because you’ve seen in recent days that I seem somewhat variable. I refer to yesterday’s good test of the Air Arms Shamal after a pervious mediocre test.

However, if I can repeat today’s results at some future date, then I’ll conclude that this rifle is the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever tested at 50 yards. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. Let’s see what happened.

If you’re a regular blog reader, you already know that I was having a good day because the Shamal had just turned in several great groups — including one stunner that measured 0.818 inches for 10 shots at 50 yards. Now, it was the Hatsan’s turn on the bench, and the weather was still perfect.

Scope and mounts
I had mounted an AirForce 4-16X50 scope on the rifle using UTG 2-piece Max Strength high Weaver rings for a 1-inch scope. One of our readers heard that the Hatsan scope base that allows both Weaver and 11mm scope rings to be mounted has problems with Weaver rings, so he asked me specifically to use rings that have a Weaver dovetail on their base. I did, and the UTG mounts fit well, though I will say that the Hatsan base is at the wide end of acceptable width.

But I think I see what the reader has heard about, and I want to share it with you. There are some shooters who feel that all mounts must look attractive and squared away or they don’t fit right. What these people don’t understand is that mount makers use base jaws that will fit as many different configurations of dovetail cuts as possible — because gun manufacturers do not use many standards when making their cuts.

Scope base design
I’m going to explain something here, and I want you to try to understand it because it will make all the difference if you do. Weaver bases are a standard that specifies the width and height of the dovetail, and the width of the cross groove that accepts the locking bar on the mount. But the angle of the cuts that shape the dovetail grooves are not as certain. No doubt, Weaver specifies them, but mount makers don’t always conform to that spec. They use dovetail cutters with varying angles. To deal with this inconsistency, many mount makers, including Leapers, cut the jaws of their ring base clamps with rounded points, so they’ll grip most dovetails, regardless of the angle of the cut.

If there was only one rounded point on the clamp base, the ring would sit cockeyed on the rifle; but when the other end of the same clamp also has a rounded point that engages a special cut in the scope ring and the two cockeyed points cancel each other. The result is a scope ring clamp jaw that looks cockeyed, yet the ring sits squarely on the gun.

In the 1990s, B-Square owner Dan Bechtel and I did a project to determine the standard width of 11mm airgun dovetails. This is where we discovered that those dovetails vary between 9.5mm and almost 14mm in width. The angles of cuts ranged from 45 degrees to 60 degrees. The Weaver base is more standardized, but the cut angles still vary and have to be addressed.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE scope ring base
Here you see how the rounded point of the scope ring clamp jaw allows it to fit into a wide variety of rifle dovetail base cuts. Having a rounded point on the other end of the same clamp will cancel this odd angle and allow the scope ring to sit squarely on the rifle.

The genius of this clamp design is lost on many people who see the cockeyed part as a flaw or mistake. Actually, it’s a compensating part that assures an exact fit on a variety of different gun bases. The picture shows this clearly.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE scope ring base on rifle
This photo shows how the compensating clamp jaw works. The jaw sits at an off angle, but the scope ring is perfectly level. read more


Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE: Part 2

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

Part 1

 

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE
Hatsan’s AT44-10 Long QE is packed with features for airgun hunters.

This report covers:

• First pellet
• What to look at
• Next pellet
• Last pellet
• Quattro trigger
• Discharge noise

Remember this report because I’ve done something with this rifle that I don’t normally do. To save some time at the range, since good airgun range days in Texas are often hard to come by, I’ve already tested the Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE at 50 yards. I took it along last week when I was testing the Shamal, and the day was perfect for 50-yard shooting. I’m not going to tell you the results today; but when I do show them, a lot of you will be impressed.

Today is velocity day. Normally, I would have already tested velocity when I went to the range, but this time when I shot for accuracy I had no idea how fast this rifle was shooting. You can’t tell from its muzzle report, either, because the AT44-10 QE is as quiet as a Benjamin Marauder. When I tested it today, Edith thought I was shooting the Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 in my office, instead of a powerful PCP.

First pellet
The first pellet I tested was the 16-grain Air Arms Diabolo Field pellet, which is a dome. I’ll show you the first 20 shots, then explain what I’m doing. The rifle was first filled to the recommended 2900 psi (200 bar).

Shot    Vel.
1………1003
2………1019
3………1018
4………1009
5………1003
6………1002
7……….994
8……….991
9……….987
10……..975

The average for this first string of 10 shots was 1000 f.p.s. The high was 1019, and the low was 975 — so the spread was 44 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 35.54 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

The next 10 shots with the same pellet, and still shooting on the same fill, looked like this.

Shot    Vel.
11……..970
12……..960
13……..961
14……..953
15……..950
16……..948
17……..931
18……..930
19……..928
20……..923

The average for this string of 10 shots was 946 f.p.s. The high was 970 and the low was 923, so a spread of 47 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the pellet generated 31.8 foot-pounds on this string.

The spread for the entire string of 20 shots was from 923 to 1019 — which is 96 f.p.s. We will look at where the pellets impact on the target with this pellet for both strings in the next report. And, yes, I have focused on this specific pellet.

What to look at
I showed you these 20 shots for a reason. What you see is that the velocity drops from the first shot to the last, with a couple exceptions. Perhaps the maximum fill pressure of 200 bar is understated for the rifle I’m testing, or maybe my gauge doesn’t agree with Hatsan’s gauge for the starting pressure. Some shooters would be tempted to fill to a higher starting pressure to see how the power curve might change; but since I’m at the recommended maximum, I’ll stay where I am.

The air reservoir had 1750 psi remaining after these 20 shots. That’s about the maximum number of shots you can get with this pellet if you’re looking for the best accuracy at 50 yards. If you confine your shots to 35 yards and less, I’m sure there are another 10 shots in the reservoir. The shot count depends on how you’re shooting the airgun. Please keep this velocity relationship in mind as we proceed because I’m not going to record the velocity of the other pellets 20 times. But you know that the velocity will continue to drop with them just as it does with this pellet.

Next pellet
Next up were 28.4-grain Eun Jin domed pellets. We know that these heavy pellets will probably be the most powerful in this rifle because it’s a pneumatic. Pneumatics usually do their best (achieve the most power) with the heaviest pellets.

This is a very long pellet that just fits in the circular clip, but it did fit and functioned fine. I filled the gun to 2900 psi, again, and shot 10 pellets that did the following:

Shot    Vel.
1……….892
2……….886
3……….882
4……….876
5……….869
6……….867
7……….863
8……….850
9……….852
10……..836

The average for these 10 pellets was 867 f.p.s. The high was 892, and the low was 836 f.p.s. — so the spread was 56 f.p.s. Again, the velocity dropped almost linearly; and at the end of 10 shots, the reservoir was holding 2250 psi. This heavier pellet used more air than the lighter Air Arms pellet that shot 20 shots and ended at 1750 psi. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 47.41 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Remember that number.

Last pellet
The final pellet I tested was the 11.9-grain RWS Hobby. The gun was filled to 2900 psi once more, and another string was fired.

Shot    Vel.
1………1128
2………1128
3………1123
4………1114
5………1110
6………1107
7………1103
8………1090
9………1087
10…….1078

The average for this string was 1107 f.p.s. The high was 1128 f.p.s., and the low was 1078 f.p.s. The velocity spread was 50 f.p.s. As with the first 2 pellets, the velocity fell off linearly. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 32.39 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The reservoir pressure after this string was 2500 psi.

We’ve learned that lighter pellets will use less air than heavier pellets. If you just plink at distances below 35 yards, you can probably extend the number of shots per fill to 30. Hatsan says you should get 30-40 shots per fill, and that’s about what I see from this test. I’m probably going to test it at only 50 yards, although I haven’t yet made up my mind on that.

There doesn’t seem to be a flat spot on the power curve. The velocity just drops from the first shot to the last. We’ll see next time how that affects accuracy.

Velocity and power
Hatsan says you’ll get up to 38 foot-pounds from this rifle in .22 caliber. In fact, I got over 47 foot-pounds, so they’re being very conservative. They also say the top velocity with lead pellets should be 1070 f.p.s., yet I saw over 1100 f.p.s. with RWS Hobbys, which are lead. Again they are conservative. Hatsan has the reputation of advertising realistic velocities and power for their PCPs by using only lead pellets, and this test confirms that.

Quattro trigger
I adjusted the Quattro trigger and got it to my liking. Stage one now requires 1 lb., 3 oz. and stops at stage 2 most of the time. Stage 2 releases at 3 lbs., 4 oz. There were a couple times when the rifle fired before I could feel the trigger stop at stage 2. I think that may have been partly my inexperience with this trigger, but it made me more cautious. At any rate, the trigger is very adjustable and should please most sportsmen.

Discharge noise
The AT44-10 Long QE is an extremely quiet air rifle — especially when you consider the power. Stay away from pellets that go supersonic and you won’t bother too many people when you shoot. It’s quieter than most breakbarrel rifles. You should be able to shoot it without bothering the neighbors, unless they’re listening for you to shoot.

So far, the AT44-10 Long QE is living up to its advertised potential. I just happen know the rest of the story as well; so, although I’ll make you wait a while longer, this is going to be a story you will want to read. If you’re looking for a quiet, powerful, accurate hunting air rifle, watch this test closely.


Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE: Part 1

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

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE
Hatsan’s AT44-10 Long QE is packed with features for airgun hunters.

This report covers:

• Lots of interest
• Description
• Firing and the report
• Sight options

One air rifle that surprised me at this year’s SHOT Show was Hatsan’s new Hatsan AT44-10 Long QE. Boy, what a mouthful! But, what an airgun, too! The way it was described to me, it seemed too good to be true.

Description
The AT44-10 Long QE is a 10-shot repeating precharged air rifle that comes in .177, .22 and .25 calibers. In .25 caliber, the circular clip holds 9 pellets, but in the other two calibers it holds 10. I’m testing a .22-caliber rifle, which they say produces up to 38 foot-pounds of muzzle energy on a 2900 psi fill that’s good for 35-45 optimal shots. It has a 2-stage adjustable Quattro trigger that they say can be adjusted very light and crisp.

They also said the rifle is both quiet and accurate, but I don’t need anyone to tell me that. I saw host Rossi Morreale shoot one on the set of the American Airgunner TV show; and, at 35 yards, the pellets went into the same hole. The discharge sound outdoors was very quiet — sounding like a medium-powered spring rifle.

To see how accurate the rifle is, I watched a video of Rick Eutsler shooting it at 50 and 75 yards. The groups he was getting were impressive and exactly what I’d like to get with an accurate PCP at those distances.

The rifle I’m testing has a black synthetic stock — and, yes, it’s hollow. The serial number is 1213 21135. It’s huge! The overall length is 48.90 inches and the weight is 8.60 lbs. without a scope. The barrel is 22.80 inches, which is where the power comes from; because, as you know, a pneumatic always benefits from a long barrel. The length-of-pull measures right at 14 inches and isn’t adjustable for length.

The buttpad is black rubber and can be vertically adjusted for a better fit. The butt has a Monte Carlo profile with a rollover cheekpiece, and the automatic safety is centered at the back of the receiver, making the rifle almost 100 percent ambidextrous. The only thing that favors right-handed shooters is the sidelever bolt handle on the right side of the receiver (it can’t be moved).

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE butt pad
The buttpad adjusts up and down.

The black synthetic stock has a rough matte finish that does not slip in your hands. The metal parts are also finished in black matte, so the rifle has the traditional “hunter” look to it.

The 10-shot circular clip (it has no spring, so it isn’t a magazine) fits into the top of the receiver and is locked in place by a brass bolt located on the right side of the receiver. The gun comes with two clips, and each one has a raised central section at the back, preventing it from being installed backwards. An anti-double-feed mechanism also prevents loading more than one pellet into the barrel, which is very handy for a repeater.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE circular clip
The 10-shot circular clip will fit in the rifle only one way.

The air cylinder unscrews from the rifle and can be replaced in the field. That means you don’t have to carry a scuba tank with you when hunting. Just remove the empty cylinder, screw in a new one and you’re back in the game. Each air cylinder has a pressure gauge in its end. The dial is calibrated in bar, and the rifle fills to 200 bar, which is 2900 psi. You’ll spend some time over a chronograph to refine this to every air tank, as each gauge may read a little differently when full. I’ll show you how that’s done in Part 2 of this report.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE air cylinder gauge
The pressure gauge on the end of the air cylinder is calibrated in bar.

The rifle fills with a proprietary Hatsan fill probe that inserts into the end of each air cylinder. The other end of the probe has standard 1/8″ BSPP threads that should fit most fill hose connections.

The rifle also comes with a set of o-rings and one seal to rebuild the air cylinder. A degassing tool is supplied, so you can empty the air cylinders without shooting the gun. There are 3 Allen wrenches for adjustments to the trigger and the buttpad.

The rifle comes with installed front and rear 3/4-inch sling swivels. In front of the forearm, there’s a short section of Picatinny rail that will serve as a mounting point for a bipod.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE Picatinny rail
A Picatinny rail at the end of the forearm is perfect for mounting a bipod.

Firing and the report
I couldn’t resist firing the gun, so I loaded and shot five pellets. The report is very quiet, especially when you consider the power this rifle is generating. I won’t chronograph it today because that would be cutting into the next test, but I can tell you that the rifle is very quiet. I heard the pellets breaking the sound barrier (I think), so I’ll have to watch what I shoot.

I noticed that the trigger-pull was heavy, so I took the opportunity to adjust it. The manual was written by someone who understands our language and also understands airgunners. I would have described things in the same way. It made the trigger adjustment very quick and easy.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE adjustable trigger
The trigger adjusts easily with the provided wrenches. You can adjust the weight of the stage-two letoff, the length of the trigger-pull and the weight of stage one.

I’ll save the specifics on the trigger for the next report, but I’ll comment that the Quattro trigger adjusts precisely. I was able to quickly get it where I wanted.

Sight options
This rifle comes without open sights, which is common for powerful PCPs. So, it needs a scope. And the circular clip sticks up above the top of the receiver, so you either need a 2-piece mount or a mount that will fit on the space behind the clip. I’m thinking that the rifle deserves a really powerful scope, so I’ll probably use a 2-piece mount.

One nice thing about the scope bases on Hatsan PCPs is that they accept both 11mm and Weaver mounts. The way they’re constructed, either type of ring base will work.

Hatsan AT44S-10 Long QE scope base
The scope base fits both 11mm and Weaver mounts. Watch out for that circular clip, though! read more


Airsoft primer: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

• The spring-piston powerplant
• How an AEG works
• Upgrading an AEG
• The problems with upgrading
• How to upgrade safely

When we last looked at airsoft upgrades, we talked about how the tuner has to look at the gun as a system. Improving one part of the gun without regard to the others usually won’t make much of a difference. In some cases, it may even make the gun prone to fail much faster. I told you about barrels and gearboxes last time. Today, we’ll look at the powerplant, itself.

Powerplant
The powerplants of spring-powered airsoft guns are identical to the powerplants of spring-powered pellet guns. They have a piston, a mainspring and a compression chamber. The piston has a seal that’s most often just an o-ring. That’s no different than the BSA Meteor Mark IV I’ve been reviewing for you.

The big difference is that airsoft powerplant parts are most often made of tough plastic instead of metal. And the coiled steel mainsprings found in airsoft guns are wimpy compared to the springs found in pellet guns.

Airsoft piston and mainspring
Here’s an AEG airsoft piston with its mainspring. Note that this piston is made of nylon. Also note the piston’s final gear tooth is made of steel.

Compare springs
Compare a stock AEG mainspring (bottom) to an upgraded spring (middle) to a middleweight pellet rifle mainspring (top). Airsoft powerplants are weak, compared to pellet gun powerplants.

But they work! And they can be upgraded. You can install a heavier mainspring and a piston that fits the compression chamber tighter. These will boost your muzzle velocity. With some upgrades, it’s possible to boost the output so high that you have to use a heavier airsoft BB (plastic ball) to keep the gun shooting accurately.

We overlook what too much power does to our pellet guns, but it’s hard to ignore it when all your airsoft BBs are curving hard to the left, no matter how much you adjust the Hop Up! They go so slow and are so visible that you pay attention to them — like tracers in the nighttime sky — especially when you’re shooting a stream of shots on full-auto. So, you switch to the heavier BBs and find they’re even more accurate in that tight barrel you just installed.

My point is this — you upgraded your guns to get more velocity, but when you got it you lost accuracy. You had to switch to heavier ammunition to do what? Lower the velocity, again! Is that crazy or what?

Upgrading an AEG
While any type of airsoft powerplant can be upgraded, the most common type by far that people upgrade is the automatic electronic gun, or AEG. An AEG is a spring-piston gun that has a small high-torque motor to cock the piston. Because it’s electronic, a switch can be turned to make the motor operate just one time with every pull of the trigger — giving you semiautomatic fire — or to keep cocking and releasing the piston as long as the trigger is held down, which gives full-auto fire.

Unlike a firearm, the gun is not powered by the ammunition. It runs on electricity that powers a motor. As long as there’s juice in the battery, the action will cycle without regard to the presence of ammunition.

How an AEG works
The AEG has a large gear wheel that meshes with the piston. As the gear wheel turns, it draws the piston back until it reaches the spot on the wheel where there are no gear teeth. The wheel keeps turning; but when the teeth no longer hold the piston, the mainspring pushes it forward, firing the gun. The wheel continues to turn to the point that the gear teeth re-engage the teeth on the piston’s gear rack once again. The cycle repeats itself.

cocking gear 1
The AEG cocking gear is about to engage the first tooth on the piston gear rack. (Next photo shows this in detail)

cocking gear 2
The first tooth on the cocking gear is about to mesh with the first tooth on the nylon piston. read more