Tech Force 87 underlever – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The Tech Force Contender 87 is a big, powerful underlever.

Before we start, I wanted to remind you that I’ll be in the hospital today and for the next few days due to surgery. I’d appreciate it if the regular blog readers could help by answering the questions in my absence. Edith will also help answer questions.

You guys have been very good to me this year, which is why I didn’t mind putting in the extra time with this gun. Too much.

In all my years of shooting pellet rifles, I’ve never worked harder to get a good result. The Tech Force 87 underlever has the potential to shoot pellet after pellet through the same hole, but only if you know what you’re doing and you never deviate from the right procedure. If you are a casual deer hunter, better stand inside a barn and be satisfied when you hit one of the walls. But if you can be an anal jedi/ninja sort of guy, you can get this rifle to perform.

Three separate days I shot the rifle. I shot it with so many pellets that I’m just going to list them for the record. I can’t even remember what they all did, because I spent so much time with the one pellet I finally got to shoot well (sort of) that I forget the rest.

The first thing I discovered was that the gun shot low. Okay, there’s a simple solution to that. A BKL drooper mount was installed. At first I selected the BKL one-piece mount with .007 drop compensation and a short clamp base, because there isn’t enough room to clamp the 4-inch BKL mount to the rails with the scope stop mounted. Well, it didn’t work. The mount actually walked forward under recoil! So, off came the TF 87 scope stop and what a surprise — it’s not anchored to anything. In other words, it doesn’t work!

But that cleared enough space to mount the longer BKL one-piece mount with .007 drop compensation. That one has 6 clamping screws and held just fine.

The scope I used was Leapers 3-9×40 mil-dot with red/green reticle. The one I used was an older scope than I’ve linked to, but the specs are the same. The BKL mounts lifted this scope high off the spring tube so a 50mm objective would even be possible. I found this scope to be very bright and clear throughout the whole test.

Problems, problems
Then, I turned to shooting and encountered problems. Three pellets would land in the same hole, then two would stray one or two inches away, then another would go through the hole, again. Experience has taught me that this is usually due to technique if the vertical reticle in the scope isn’t adjusted up too high, which, due to the drooper mount, this one was not.

I began experimenting with my shooting technique. By technique, I mean different variations of the artillery hold. Oh, in case you’re wondering, I did try the gun directly on the sandbag, too. Shooting it that way, the pellets didn’t even hit the pellet trap at 25 yards!

By this time, I had two different mounts on the gun and tried about 12 different high-quality pellets. Here’s the list of what I tried:

Air Arms 8.4-grain Diabolo Field domes
Air Arms Falcons Too light! Supersonic!
Beeman Kodiak copper-plated pellets All over the place!
Beeman Kodiaks
Beeman Kodiak HP
Beeman Kodiak Match
Crosman Premier heavies
Crosman Premier lites
H&N Rabbit Magnums Off the target!
JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes
JSB Match Exact RS domes Supersonic!
RWS Superdomes

Success, sort of
And then I found a pellet that the rifle likes, more or less. Actually, the rifle really likes the JSB Exact 10.2-grain dome a lot, but you have to use the right technique if you want to get it to shoot. And the right technique is this:

Hold the rifle dead, dead, dead! What that does is ensure a perfect follow-through. Now the regular artillery hold normally accomplishes this for me, but this time it wasn’t enough. Instead, I slid my off hand out as far on the forearm as I could reach and rested the rifle on my palm. Everything about that hold was dead calm. Then, I had to consciously relax with every shot. I’m going to show you exactly what happens when you don’t consciously relax. The following targets will not impress anyone, so please take the time to read the lengthy captions, because they explain what you’re seeing.

These were shot off a rest at 25 yards on a calm day.

This is the target that showed me what this rifle needed! I know it looks terrible, but look at the five shots in the black. They’re not too bad for 25 yards. At nine o’clock in the white are two shots — numbers three and five. With three, I wasn’t fully relaxed. With five, I tried to hold the rifle exactly the same as for shot three. The pellet went through the same hole! The three shots above the black are all when I didn’t relax completely. I figured out enough from this target to shoot a better one.

In this target, I put 6 shots into a good group in the black. But, 4 times I wasn’t as relaxed as I should’ve been. The two shots in the black at 7 o’clock are slight mistakes, and the shot in the white at 10 o’clock is when I rushed the shot because I’d just landed so many in the good group. The final shot I also rushed and got the hole at 12 o’clock in the white.

What’s the verdict?
This rifle is for the careful shooter who will take the time to learn his one rifle and what it likes. I’ve probably only scratched the surface of what can be done with it. However, it’s not a natural shooter that puts them on top of each other like they were radar-guided. The reason for that is the power.

If you remember from Part 2, the TF 87 lives up to its advertised potential. In .22 caliber, it might be a lot easier to shoot well, but in the .177 test gun, most pellets go too fast. You want to be sure to use only the heavier ammunition and use the good stuff. At this point, I’m recommending the JSB Exact 10.2-grain domes.

Tech Force 87 underlever – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The Tech Force Contender 87 is a big, powerful underlever.

Well, the first moment of truth has arrived for the big Tech Force 87 Contender. I think you’ll be surprised at what it did. I know I was.

Cocking effort
Remember in part 1 that I said I thought that the cocking effort of this rifle was at least 40 lbs.? Well I measured it this time. There are two distinct parts to the cocking effort of this rifle. The first is the mainspring compression and the second is when the rifle is setting the sear. When the lever is pulled down and back, the spring force builds rapidly after the halfway point. The force required to complete the cocking stroke increases to 39 lbs. just before the sear is set, then it stops. But it takes 43 lbs. to set the sear in a very definite second step. So make no mistake about it, the Tech Force 87 is hard to cock. And new owners are going to have problems with this until they acknowledge how the rifle works.

However, the rifle gives back what is put into it in terms of power. How much you ask? Well, let’s see.

Crosman Premier lites
The 7.9-grain Crosman Premier averaged 993 f.p.s. The velocity spread went from a low of 975 to a high of 1005. That’s 30 f.p.s., or a little faster, than we like to see. However, in a brand new rifle, it can be overlooked. At the average velocity this pellet generates 17.3 foot-pounds of energy.

RWS Hobbys
The next pellet I tested was the 7.0-grain RWS Hobby. They averaged 1151 f.p.s. at the muzzle, and all shots were supersonic. The range went from 1148 to 1161 f.p.s. At the average muzzle velocity, this pellet generated 20.6 foot-pounds of energy. That’s no small trick for a spring rifle!

Beeman Kodiaks
The last pellet I tested was the Beeman Kodiak. The pellets I used are from the newer batch and weigh 10.2 grains. They averaged 955 f.p.s. with a low of 948 and a high of 961. That made them the most consistent for velocity. The average muzzle energy was a stunning 20.66 foot-pounds, proving that the Tech Force 87 is one of the big boys. All of a sudden, 43 lbs. of cocking effort doesn’t seem all that bad.

Firing behavior
Throughout all the testing, the rifle remained smooth and calm, as though it has been tuned. I remember that the Tech Force 89 Contender felt the same when I tested it, years ago. I don’t think you’ll be able to criticize the firing behavior of this rifle.

The trigger is two-stage with a somewhat vague first stage and second stage start point. But stage two breaks fairly clean at 5 lbs., 6 oz. It feels like less because of the size of the rifle and the smoothness of the firing cycle.

In the next part, I’ll test accuracy, and I’ve already heard from one reader/owner who says the scope stop won’t hold against the recoil. So, I’ll press a BKL mount into service and still use the scope stop the rifle comes with. That’s a belt-and-braces approach that just might solve the scope-walking issue forever.

Tech Force 87 underlever – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The Tech Force Contender 87 is a big, powerful underlever.

Okay, now that Pyramyd Air also sells Tech Force airguns, I get to test them for you. Today, I’m starting to look at the Tech Force 87 Contender, a large powerful underlever that nicely compliments the TF 89 breakbarrel.

This is a very large spring-piston rifle. Dare I say huge? It weighs more than a Beeman R1 and is longer, too. According to the power level advertised, it should get 1100 f.p.s. in the .177 caliber I’m testing and 950 f.p.s. in .22. I’m excited to test this rifle; because when I tested the TF 89 breakbarrel that resembles this rifle so much, I found it to be an exemplary modern spring-piston airgun. I’m hoping this underlever will be the same.

As an underlever, this one has the sliding compression chamber that pushes the piston backwards to sear lockup when the rifle is cocked. Then, the shooter loads a pellet, taking care to restrain the underlever in case of a possible beartrap accident. You wouldn’t want your thumb in the way if the sliding compression chamber decided to suddenly close. But, the anti-beartrap mechanism is there to prevent any such accident. It’s the reason for three levers hanging down in the triggerguard.

Three levers in the triggerguard. The silver one is the trigger and the one in the middle is the automatic safety. The one on the left is the anti-beartrap sliding compression chamber release. When you’re done loading and want to slide the chamber forward, that lever must be pulled to the rear.

The stock is hardwood, stained a dark chocolate brown. The finish is even and without blemish. Uncharacteristically, there was absolutely no wood putty to be found anywhere. From past experience with Chinese-made argues, I looked at the alignment of the action in the stock, as evidenced by the position of the coking lever in the cocking slot. It was perfectly centered! And the checkering, while pressed and too slick to hold the hand, was also flawless. Somebody’s paying attention to this rifle at the factory!

The buttpad is a dark gray rubber pad meant to keep the rifle from slipping against your shoulder, but also from slipping when rested on the butt in the corner. It’s fitted as well as any European pad. A raised cheekpiece and Monte Carlo stock profile lift your head up for scope use.

The stock is not ambidextrous, but it looks like it could be shot by a lefty easily enough. The loading and safety are centered and don’t favor either hand. And the stock isn’t shaped to discourage a left-handed shooter.

Metal finish
The bluing isn’t as even as that found on a European gun, nor is the metal as well-polished. But the black oxide is very deep, which makes these criticisms difficult to see in anything short of bright sunlight.

The gun comes with a set of adjustable open sights with fiberoptics front and rear. But there’s also a scope rail, and it has a scope stop built in. So, you don’t need to worry about scope stops when you buy your scope mounts.

The scope stop comes with the rifle, so you don’t need to give it a second thought.

The rear sight adjusts in both directions but has an index for windage, only. It’s fiberoptic to compliment the front sight.

The underlever is held in place by a keeper that does not need to be released to pull down for cocking. Just grab it with your hand, and it comes away as it ought to. It also closes the same way, with no locking latch being required. There does appear to be an adjustment for the latch tension at the end of the fitting into which the lever fits.

I had to know how it shot
Part one of any test report is supposed to be about the features of the gun, but I was curious. I couldn’t wait to see how this rifle shot, so I fired it once. The feeling was remarkable, in that there was no great vibration or recoil. Just the smooth feeling of a powerful shot. And the trigger released reasonably, though with a little felt creep. I do believe I’ll enjoy testing this rifle.

The only drawback appears to be the cocking effort, which I’ll estimate to be 40 lbs. or so. I’ll weigh it when I test velocity for you. I also noted that when cocking this rifle, an extra pull is needed at the end of the cocking stroke. You’ll hear a definite click when the sear catches the piston.

Now for something completely different
Pyramyd Air no longer carries Ballistol, so what I am about to say will not benefit them. I’ve accidentally discovered a wonderful use for the stuff. Spray it into the bore of guns you have shot but not yet cleaned. It won’t remove copper or lead deposits, but it raises powder fouling like magic!

Spray it generously into the bore, then leave the gun alone for a week. When you return, you’ll discover that all the powder fouling has been raised up out of the metal and can be wiped out with just a cloth patch. It’s the easiest cleaning method I’ve ever seen, and these days I’m definitely looking for more of those!