Air Venturi Avenger repeating air rifle: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Air Venturi Avenger.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Test strategy
  • Why was it showing higher?
  • Adjusting the regulator
  • Are you following this?
  • The test
  • Beeman Kodiak pellets
  • The regulator
  • JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy
  • Beeman Kodiaks
  • The last string
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Test strategy

Today I will begin the velocity test. The Air Venturi Avenger is so adjustable that it will take several reports to cover just the velocity. Not only is the hammer spring adjustable — the regulator is, as well. In fact, that presents a challenge for how I will test the rifle. The rifle came out of the box with a charge of 3,600 psi and the regulator set to 3,000 psi. That means that until the internal pressure falls below 3,000 psi, the pressure that the valve “sees” will always be 3,000 psi. That is the highest pressure to which the regulator can be set — at least accurding to the manual. read more

Air Venturi Avenger repeating air rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Air Venturi Avenger.

This report covers:

  • The Avenger
  • The lowdown
  • Features
  • Performance
  • Description
  • Fill
  • Two gauges
  • Manual
  • Where is it made?
  • Silencer?
  • Summary

You readers know that I select the topics I write about and the guns I test. Pyramyd Air who owns this blog has given me great latitude to run the show as I see fit. And that arrangement has worked well for 15 years.

However, every once in awhile Pyramyd Air gets a product they would like me to test. They are taking a risk, because they know that I will test it and report whatever happens — both good and bad. I try not to insult anyone when I write about a product, but I also tell the truth as it unfolds, because I worry about the guy who can only afford that one airgun and may base his decision on what I write. Pyramyd Air knows that and trusts that I will be as honest as possible. read more

Benjamin Fortitude PCP air rifle Gen2: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The Generation II Benjamin Fortitude.

This report covers:

  • Fortitude Gen II
  • Back to today
  • What is the Fortitude?
  • Accurate
  • Crosman barrel
  • Lightweight
  • Trigger
  • Cocking effort
  • Longer series
  • Summary

Some days are funner for me than others, and this is a fun day. I have waited a year and a half to do the test that begins today. For starters I will show you what I said about my first experience with the Benjamin Fortitude Gen 2 . The following is extracted from Part 1 of the 2019 SHOT Show report.

httTom and Rossi
Rossi Morreale (right) was at the Velocity Outdoors event. Yes, BB (second from left) now has a white beard — ho, ho ho! (photo from January, 2019.)

Fortitude Gen II

Okay, you readers have been jazzed about this. I shot the new second generation Benjamin Fortitude. The short story is that a few of the original guns had leaking issues and many owners felt the rifle was too hard to cock. I tested the Fortitude for you and mine cocked easily enough, plus it held air fine, but Crosman took your comments seriously and took a second look at the gun. read more

AirForce EscapeSS: Part 3

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

AirForce Escape: Part 1
AirForce Escape: Part 2
AirForce Escape: Part 3
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 1
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 2
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 3
AirForce EscapeSS: Part 1
AirForce EscapeSS: Part 2

This report covers:

• 50-yard accuracy of Predator Polymags on high power.
• JSB Exact Kings accuracy.
• Kings on high-fill pressure.
• Benjamin domes.
• Kings on max power.
• Observations so far.

AirForce EscapeSS

If you’re seriously interested in one of the AirForce Escape survival rifles, this blog series should be very beneficial. I’ve tested each rifle and attempted to get the best accuracy possible, using the best pellet. Last time, we looked at the rifle at 50 yards with the Predator Polymag pellet. Today, we’ll look at the EscapeSS accuracy at 50 yards using different pellets with the gun set to higher powers and greater fill pressures. Today’s test was an eye-opener for me.

The day at the range was windy, with a 5 m.p.h. breeze blowing all the time and gusting to 20 m.p.h. I waited for the wind to get as calm as possible, but all shots were in the wind. Sometimes, I took shots with the wind blowing up to 10 m.p.h. I think you can get away with that when shooting a .25-caliber pellet gun, though it’s not ideal.

Predator Polymags at higher power
In Part 2 of the EscapeSS, I shot the rifle at power settings 6 and 7 and with the reservoir filled to 2000 psi and 2200 psi. That was done because testing with both the Escape and the EscapeUL rifles demonstrated that the Predator Polymag pellet was the most accurate. Those rifles also seemed to be most accurate with their reservoirs filled to 2000 psi.

I said at the end of the last test that the Predator Polymag pellet still had to be tested at higher power and with a 3000 psi fill, so that was the first test on this day. I filled the gun’s reservoir to 3000 psi and dialed the power to 8. Then, I shot 5 Predator Polymags.

EscapeSS power 8
The power was set to 8, but as you can tell from the dial on the left, this is not a precision setting.

The results were not very promising. Instead of the 3/4-inch to 1-inch groups I got last time, this time 5 Polymags went into 1.526 inches. While that’s acceptable for hunting at 50 yards, I’d hoped to get better accuracy from this rifle.

EscapeSS Predator target power 8
When the power and pressure were raised, the Predator Polymag pellets started to scatter at 50 yards. Five went into 1.526 inches.

JSB Exact King
For the next group, I wanted to try something that was way out of the box. I filled the reservoir to 3500 psi and left the power setting on 8. That’s more pressure than the factory recommends, but I’ve read some reports from other shooters that say the gun does well with this kind of fill. I wanted to see. This was the first time I was trying JSB Exact Kings in this rifle.

The impact point shifted up about 4 inches, and 5 Kings landed in 1.387 inches. The rifle actually shot better with this pellet at this higher pressure; although, with a 12-inch barrel I doubt that there was much more velocity.

EscapeSS JSB King target 1 power 8
Five JSB Exact Kings went into 1.387 inches at 50 yards on power setting 8 and a fill of 3500 psi.

Having one good target, I decided to try it again with the same setting and fill pressure. This was to see if the first group was a fluke. This time, 5 Kings landed in 1.588 inches, which is close enough to the first group to say this is about what the rifle can and will do with these settings. This time, though, I adjusted the scope to get the pellets on target.

EscapeSS JSB King target 2 power 8
The second try with Kings at a fill of 3500 psi and power 8 gave me this 1.588-inch group. read more

AirForce EscapeSS: Part 2

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

AirForce Escape: Part 1
AirForce Escape: Part 2
AirForce Escape: Part 3
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 1
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 2
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 3
AirForce EscapeSS: Part 1

This report covers:

• How loud?
• Experience with .25-caliber Lothar Walther barrels.
• First accuracy test of the Escape SS.
• What’s next?

AirForce EscapeSS

Today, we’ll start looking at the accuracy of the AirForce EscapeSS. Unlike other accuracy tests, this one didn’t start at 10 meters or even at 25 yards. I went right out to the rifle range and shot the rifle at the 50-yard backstop.

When you have an air rifle with the power of these Escape rifles, you have to take it outdoors. Unless you have a very special place to shoot, this is an outdoor air rifle.

How loud?
But with that said, the EscapeSS is also the quiet version of the rifle. So, I didn’t wear hearing protection at the outdoor range. I knew the gun wouldn’t be loud enough to hurt my ears, and I wanted to be able to tell you how loud it is. I did not fire the rifle on full power for today’s test, but all the shots sounded very restrained. I would say it was louder than a Benjamin 392 on 8 pump strokes, but not as loud as a Benjamin Discovery in .22 caliber. It’s a sound you can hear, but it isn’t as sharp as a .22 long rifle or even a .22 short.

Experience with AirForce .25-caliber Lothar Walther barrels
To this point in time, I’ve tested the Escape and the EscapeUL — both in .25 caliber. The .25 caliber doesn’t have many accurate pellets, but testing these rifles and the TalonP pistol has revealed a few. One of them stands out as the absolute best. The Predator Polymag pellet in .25 caliber is hands-down the most accurate pellet I’ve tested in these Escape rifles, and my observation agrees with the Escape’s co-developer — Ton Jones.

I cut right to the chase and used the Predator Polymag pellet exclusively in today’s test. I’ll try other pellets in future tests — but, for today, I shot only this one.

The other experience I have with the Escape rifles is that they’re most accurate with fill levels of 2,000 psi and a power setting of 6. That’s how I set up the rifle for the first group.

I removed the Bushnell Banner 6-18X50 scope from the EscapeUL and mounted it on the EscapeSS in a BKL 1-piece mount and, without even sighting in, I started shooting at 50 yards. I’d planned on sighting in, but my first pellet struck the bull I was aiming at, so there was nothing more to be done. Apparently the EscapeUL and EscapeSS are very similar!

I shot 5-shot groups, because I have found the Escape rifles to be most accurate within a 5-shot band. Sometimes, this will stretch to 6 or even 7 shots, but that’s about all if you’re shooting groups at 50 yards. And I’m shooting groups so small they prove the rifle for hunting purposes! This is not some generalization or extrapolation of accuracy. I’m reporting what these rifles can do in the field.

The first 5 shots went into 1.197 inches at 50 yards. The group was off to the left of the bull, with just the first shot in the black.

EscapeSS first group
First 5 Predator Polymags at 50 yards went into 1.197 inches. This was without sighting-in the rifle — just mounted the scope and started shooting!

With these same settings, the worst group of 5 went into 1.341 inches, and the best 5 went into 0.975 inches. That’s 3 groups that average 1.171 inches. That is about what the rifle does on this setting.

EscapeSS second group
Second 5 Predator Polymags at 50 yards went into 1.341 inches. Of the 3 groups on this setting, this was the worst.

Next, I boosted the fill pressure to 2,200 psi and left the power setting at 6. I got 2 groups — one that was 0.903 inches and the other that was 1.63 inches. That’s a big difference.

EscapeSS third group
Bumping the fill pressure to 2,200 psi and leaving the power set on 6, I put 5 Predator pellets into 0.903 inches — the second-best of this test. But the very next group using the same settings opened up much larger. read more

AirForce EscapeSS: Part 1

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

AirForce Escape: Part 1
AirForce Escape: Part 2
AirForce Escape: Part 3
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 1
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 2
AirForce EscapeUL: Part 3

This report covers:

• Summary of the AirForce Escape report up to this point.
• There are three different air rifles.
• EscapeSS is quieter.
• EscapeSS description.
• How does the EscapeSS differ from the TalonP pistol?
• What comes next?

It’s been a while since we last looked at the AirForce Escape air rifles. To date, we’ve seen the power, accuracy and general characteristics of the AirForce Escape and the EscapeUL, which is the ultra-light version. Today, we’ll start looking at the EscapeSS, which is the version of the rifle with some sound muting.

We’ve seen that the Escape rifles can generate tremendous power — up to 97.88 foot-pounds of muzzle energy from the Escape rifle when the heaviest .25-caliber pellets are used. We’ve also learned that the Escape rifles are at their most accurate when the fill pressure is lowered and the power is dialed back. That held true for both the Escape and the EscapeUL, so it seems to be a trend; and I’ll use that experience when testing the EscapeSS.

There are three rifles!
Before moving on, I want to emphasize there are three different air rifles. The Escape, EscapeUL and EscapeSS all have different specifications and deliver different performance. I’m telling you this because customers are starting to run the model names together and getting confused over which rifle does what.

EscapeSS three rifles
The three Escape rifles are the Escape (top), the EscapeSS (center) and the EscapeUL (bottom).

Each of these air rifles is unique and different from the others. The Escape is the most powerful of the bunch. The EscapeUL is the smallest and lightest, and the EscapeSS that we’re looking at today is the quietest of the three.

If you forget how the first two rifles performed, I urge you to go back to the reports linked above and catch up. I intend reporting on just one rifle in this report — the EscapeSS.

The EscapeSS is a smaller rifle with a 12-inch barrel inside a frame that acts as a shroud.

Quieter rifle
The SS is the quiet version of the Escape — just like the Talon SS is the quiet Talon and the CondorSS is the quiet Condor.

To achieve this quieter report, the EscapeSS has three baffles ahead of its muzzle. They’re held tight in the frame by a Belleville washer ahead of the last baffle and behind the end cap.

EscapeSS baffles
Inside the EscapeSS shroud/frame are three Delrin baffles and a Belleville washer to keep them from rattling.

I’ve already been to the range and can report that the EscapeSS really is quieter than either the Escape or the EscapeUL. It has the same recoil of the other two, which is greater than the recoil of a medium-weight .22 rimfire rifle, but the sound is greatly reduced.

However — just because the muzzle report is greatly reduced from the Escape does not mean the EscapeSS is a quiet rifle. While it’s much quieter outdoors than a .22 rimfire, it’s also louder than a Benjamin 392 pumped 8 times. The EscapeSS is not for suburban backyards! It’s more of a quieter hunting air rifle for public lands. I doubt it would be noticed beyond a half-mile away.

The EscapeSS description
The EscapeSS is a precharged pneumatic air rifle that comes in both .22 and .25 calibers. It has a 12-inch Lothar Walther barrel; but like all AirForce sporting rifles, it can accept barrels of any length. It can also accept other calibers, but I don’t believe I’d try one in .177 caliber because this powerplant is so overwhelmingly powerful that it would be hamstrung by such a small bore size.

The rifle weighs 4.3 lbs., and its length varies from 27.75-inches to 32.25-inches — depending on how the shoulder stock is adjusted.

The rifle is made on an aircraft aluminum frame that houses all the parts, including the barrel. The 213cc air reservoir can be filled to 3,000 psi, nominally giving about 10 powerful shots. Like all AirForce sporting air rifles, the EscapeSS has adjustable power via an adjustment wheel located on the left side of the frame.

How does the EscapeSS differ from the TalonP pistol?
I have to address this issue before the questions start flooding in. Sharp observation will notice that both the EscapeSS and the TalonP have the same 12-inch barrel (that comes in both .22 and .25 calibers), and they share the identical powerplants. So, what makes them different?

First, the TalonP frame is shorter. This makes the gun smaller, but it also means there’s no room for the baffles. The TalonP is louder than the EscapeSS at the same power.

Next, the TalonP comes without the extendable shoulder stock. You can purchase one as an accessory if you like, but the basic pistol comes without it. The EscapeSS is a rifle that comes standard with the shoulder stock.

The EscapeSS and TalonP should both develop comparable power when they’re set up the same way. But the TalonP is more compact, and the EscapeSS is more of a carbine-length rifle. You have to decide which is best for you. You can always add the shoulder stock to a TalonP, but you cannot make it as quiet as an EscapeSS.

As I said, I’ve already been to the range with the EscapeSS. I used the experience obtained when testing both the Escape and EscapeUL rifles instead of testing every pellet in the rifle. And I knew beforehand that the fill pressure and power settings needed to be lowered, so I started low and worked around until I found the best combination.

EscapeSS power
We know that the EscapeSS has a 12-inch barrel. Knowing how barrel length affects velocity, we know that the velocities for this rifle are going to be lower than for either of the other 2 rifles. But when I tested the rifle, I discovered something I didn’t expect.

All these tests used the 43.3-grain Eun Jin pointed pellet. On high power with a 3,000 psi fill, the first 5 shots gave the following results.

Shot Vel.
1     785
2     776
3     763
4     749
5     739

This gives an average of 763 f.p.s for the first 5 shots. At the end of the shooting, the tank pressure still read 2,500 psi. At the top velocity (shot 1), this pellet produces 59.26 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. At the average velocity, this pellet produces 55.99 foot-pounds.

I then dialed the power setting to 8 and refilled the tank to 3,000 psi. That gave the following results.

Shot Vel.
1     784
2     763
3     759
4     748
5     736

That gives us an average velocity of 756 f.p.s. Not very different, is it? The tank pressure after these 5 shots read 2,400 psi. At the top velocity, the muzzle energy was 59.11 foot-pounds. At the average velocity, the energy was 54.97 foot-pounds.

Then, I dialed down the power to 4 and got a huge surprise. That gave the following results.

Shot Vel.
1     801
2     779
3     767
4     758
5     741

The average velocity for this string was 769 f.p.s. — the highest in the test! At the top velocity, this pellet produced 61.70 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. At the average velocity, it made 56.87 foot-pounds! So, the rifle was more powerful on power setting 4 than it was with the power wheel dialed up as high as it will go. The rifle’s ending tank pressure read 2,500 psi.

The 12-inch barrel is showing up in these results. Clearly the rifle is wasting air with this pellet when the power is set above a certain low number. I think the number is around 4, but it would take more testing to know for sure.

That’s as much velocity testing as I’m going to do now because it isn’t helpful. I’ll come back and do a more thorough velocity test when I know which pellets this gun likes. With this gun, it isn’t just about power. Accuracy is also very important. The best combination of both is what we’re looking for.

In my next report, I’ll show you the results of the first accuracy test, which are very encouraging.

The next step in testing the Escape rifles
After we complete testing the EscapeSS rifle for accuracy, we’ll start the next phase of testing for all 3 rifles. That will be testing their velocity at the most accurate setting with the most accurate pellet or pellets. read more

Air Arms TX200 Mk III air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Air Arms TX200 Mark III air rifle is impressive in its optional walnut stock.

I’ve reviewed this rifle before, but it’s been a long time and many of you are asking about it again, plus I’m going to look at the Benjamin MAV 77 later this year, and I promised a comparison with this rifle. So, for those reasons, I decided that it’s time to look at the Air Arms TX200 Mark III, again.

Some of you may know that Bill Sanders, the managing director of Air Arms, passed away recently. Bill was very uncharacteristically enthusiastic about all the guns he made. I say that because most principals in this industry are not shooters, nor do they own the guns they make. But Bill did, and he also knew how to use them. Maybe that’s why, in the more than 20 years the TX has been around, the quality has only gone up.

The TX200 came about in the late 1980s as an improvement on the design of the HW77, which was considered the best spring rifle around at the time. The first model was simply called the TX200. But after several years, Air Arms added a ratcheting catch to hold the sliding compression chamber from slamming closed during loading. That rifle was called the Mark II. I bought one and competed with it in field target for a couple of years, until I switched over to a PCP. My rifle was tuned first by Jim Maccari and then by Ken Reeves so I could write about each of the tunes. In truth, the TX was pretty smooth right out of the box, but the Reeves tune did make it just a bit smoother.

When the TX200 Mark III came out, I bought one to test for The Airgun Letter. I found that rifle to be just as smooth as the Reeves-tuned Mark II, plus it had a shrouded 9-inch barrel, which made it very quiet, to boot. I didn’t need two perfect guns, and the Mark II was sold. I still have the Mark III, which is the gun I’m testing for you here.

I recently had the opportunity to shoot a brand-new Mark III, and I see that the performance and looks of the gun are unchanged, except for better checkering on the new model. Instead of diamonds, they now have a fish-scale pattern that usually comes only on very costly guns.

Hump-backed look for high-tech design
When Beeman Precision Airguns started selling TX200 air rifles in the U.S., the first thing I noticed was that the rifle had a definite hump-backed profile. Why? Remember I said the barrel is 9 inches long? Guess what? All the science you have been reading about on this blog really works. And Air Arms applied it to its maximum in the TX200.

They put the center of the barrel in the center of the compression chamber, so the air transfer port aligns with the bore. That gives the most efficient airflow, but it also means the barrel, which is a smaller diameter than the spring tube, has to be mounted lower than the top of the spring tube. Hence, the hump-backed profile. Study the first photo, and you’ll see what I mean. Look at the place where the barrel connects to the spring tube. On most other guns, they’re level.

A 9-inch barrel prevents friction from slowing the pellet after it’s accelerated to maximum velocity. A spring-piston gun develops maximum velocity in the first 6-9 inches of barrel. After that, the pellet is just coasting. The baffled shroud that houses the short barrel is much longer and gives the appearance of a bull barrel, hence the barrel length is often listed as longer than it really is.

Air Arms has used everything that’s known about spring-piston guns to wring the maximum performance from a relatively short stroke and small piston bore. They do it without fanfare, but anyone who works on spring guns knows what they’ve done.

The rifle
The TX200 Mark III is an underlever spring-piston rifle that has a sliding compression chamber. The chamber slides back, giving access to the rear of the barrel for loading. Then it slides forward again, once the anti-beartrap latch is held down. The old Mark II has many stops in the ratchet, causing it to click loudly when cocked. Shooters objected to that noise. The Mark III has just three notches and is much quieter.

All metal parts, except the trigger and safety button, are highly polished and deeply blued, resulting in one of the finest finishes in the airgun world. The standard stock is beech, but the wood is shaped very sharply for either a right- or left-handed shooters. No compromise here. Fish-scale checkering roughens both grip panels and the forearm. The optional walnut stock is a good choice because it subtracts weight from the gun as well as adding interest. Blog reader Jerry got a walnut stock on his TX, and it looks very similar to the rifle pictured above.

The stock is sharply profiled with crisp edges and a classic shape. The standard beech stock is shown.

The long lever, located behind the silver sliding compression chamber, is the beartrap release. After cocking, this lever is held down to close the sliding chamber, as the cocking lever returns to the stored position.

The trigger
The TX trigger is not just an improved Rekord, it’s a new design that offers greater flexibility when adjusting, so you can get the pull weight and release down to a finer, lighter value than with a standard Rekord.

The TX trigger closely resembles the Rekord, but it’s simpler and more adjustable. The larger parts are machined.

Years ago when Ivan Hancock was still building airguns, I bought one of his Mach II trigger, which are handmade copies of the TX trigger to replace the Rekord unit in my Beeman R1. That trigger cost half as much as the entire rifle, but it was very finely adjustable. The current trigger in my TX200 is the standard one that comes with the rifle, yet it’s just as fine. When I report on its performance, I think you’ll be surprised.

Several “truths” negated
The success of the TX200 reminds me of a friend who built engines for Formula Vee racing. Those cars look like Formula 1 racers, but they’re much slower. However, this builder’s engines were always in demand because they out-performed the others. Everybody was always looking for his “secret.” The secret, of course, was that there was no secret! What he did was pay scrupulous attention to detail when building his engines. All parts were balanced to the last gram, and all tolerances and torque specifications were followed. The engines were what racers refer to as blueprinted, and that, alone, gave them their edge. read more