Posts Tagged ‘air rifles’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
“Have a wonderful summer.”
Great words, but not when they’re in my high school graduation yearbook. We were all going our separate ways. Some of us were going to southeast Asia and might never come back. Others were going on to colleges to become doctors, lawyers, nuclear physicists and accountants. A couple went to Hollywood and were never heard from again and at least one went on to win several Super Bowls and become a household name — actually two names. I went to high school with Larry Csonka in Stow, Ohio, and Craig Morton in Campbell, California.
So, why didn’t they write, “Since I’m never going to see you again, have a nice life.”? I’ll tell you why — because people don’t know how to say goodbye. So now, 48 years later, I have someone wishing me a perpetual good summer of 1965. I was never quite sure about what that meant, either. Was it just the one summer, or were all of them implied?
Know what else people aren’t good at? Visualization. Like what to pack for a vacation. Oh, the old swimsuit is easy enough, but what about taking an airgun?
Well, gee, I did just get a .50-caliber Dragon Claw. Wouldn’t that be neat to have along at Yellowstone?
Not unless your fantasy is to be the focus of a SWAT team attack! Unless you’re vacationing at a rifle range or somewhere very remote, a big bore airgun is not ideal. Nor is anything that requires a large support base such as scuba tanks, hand pumps, CO2 cartridges and ancillary stuff like that.
While you’re at it, leave your 4-foot gun bags and hard cases at home with the aquarium and the garden tractor. The last thing you want or need on a vacation is a lot of baggage.
My pick for you is the Beeman P17 single-stroke pistol and as many tins of pellets as you think you’ll need. Or, if you don’t like Chinese airguns, spend the money and buy the German-made Beeman P3 that it was modeled after. Both guns are quiet, accurate, have adjustable sights, great triggers and are very portable. Sure, they’re single-shots, but that’s part of their attraction — they slow you down and make you pay attention to what you’re doing.
Oh, you don’t absolutely have to stick with a single-stroke pistol if you don’t want to. A nice pneumatic like the Crosman 1377C or the .22-caliber 1322 would be fine. They’re larger pistols, but still self-contained, requiring only pellets for fun.
If you want a springer, might I suggest the Browning Buck Mark? It’s reasonably accurate, easy to cock and the price shouldn’t break the bank. If it does, you aren’t going on a vacation; you’re just staying home from work.
What about a rifle?
For an air rifle, I recommend the Diana 27; but since none of you were far-sighted enough to get one back when I was touting them, now you have to live with what’s available. Well, that was why the Air Venturi Bronco was created — for all those who should have bought Diana 27s but never got around to it. For a lot less money than a Diana 27 costs, you can get a brand-new Bronco and have the same fun with it. It’s a little larger and heavier, but just as accurate, just as easy to cock and quite the little all-day plinker.
I could go on and on with this — recommending multi-pumps and other springers, but that’s not the point of today’s blog. The point is that when you’re on vacation, take along something simple and fun to shoot. It doesn’t need to be your most powerful or most accurate airgun — just one that you like to shoot.
And travel light. Vacations are not the time to stress about air supplies or where to buy more CO2. They’re times when you want to be free and unencumbered by stuff, so you can have some fun.
And, one more thing. You guys all say that I’m an enabler who spends your discretionary money faster than your wives and girlfriends can account for it. But did you notice that the guns I chose for today were mostly inexpensive? You don’t have to spend a lot of money on an airgun to have fun with it. A $40 P17 or a $45 Buck Mark should certainly be affordable. And that was my criterion for selection — good airguns at good prices.
Keep things simple when you’re away from home and your support base. If you have to buy pellets from a discount store, even the cheapest ones should shoot okay in the guns I’ve recommended. In fact — that gives me a great idea for another report. I will test inexpensive pellets like you’d find in a discount store (and Pyramyd Air sells these, too) against the best pellets I can buy.
Yeah! I like that!
Oh, and have a wonderful summer….
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Let’s look at the Walther 1250 Dominator accuracy at 25 yards. In deference to the 8-shot clip, I’m shooting 8-shot groups rather than 10. The way this rifle loads, with the clip almost disappearing in the receiver, it’s too difficult to keep track of those 2 extra shots.
I’ll be honest — I stalled testing this gun in the house because of the noise. It’s one of the loudest airguns I’ve ever shot indoors.
I said last time that I would give you a shot count once I filled the rifle to 4,350 psi (300 bar). Well, that didn’t happen. I filled it as far as my freshly filled carbon fiber tank would go, but that was only to 4,200 psi on the tank’s gauge, which seems pretty accurate. The rifle’s gauge showed a lower fill pressure, but I chalk that up to small pressure gauges never agreeing.
I didn’t get a complete shot count. I did, however, fire about 40 shots in the test and still had air remaining for at least another 15. If you can get the gun completely filled, there have to be at least 55 full-power shots available. Probably more, but at least 55.
I mounted an AirForce Airguns 4-16X50 scope on the rifle in a BKL 1-piece cantilever mount. The scope was low over the receiver, even though the BKL mount is a high one; but because the circular clip is entirely contained within the receiver, there was no interference.
I shot from a sandbag rest at 25 yards off an MTM Case-Gard Predator shooting table. In a moment that will become important to know.
I sighted the rifle in and started shooting with the H&N Baracuda Match pellet. It was accurate enough, but I felt the rifle could do better. Eight shots went into a group measuring 0.597 inches between centers.
The Baracuda Match pellets didn’t give me what I wanted, so I switched to 10.34-grain JSB Exact Heavy domes. They started out doing better than the Baracudas and produced a 0.522-inch 8-shot group. But two pellets strayed from the main group. I called the one that went to the left, but not the other one that went high. So, as good as this pellet is, it isn’t the best pellet in this rifle.
Then, I tried RWS Superdomes — a pellet that many of you favor over just about all others in .177 caliber. And this is where I had an epiphany with this rifle. The first 8-shot group measured 0.461 inches, but it was full of wild shots that went off when I wasn’t on target. That was both the fault of the trigger and the rifle’s light weight. I’ll address it in a moment. But this target told me that this rifle could shoot much better if I really tried.
The Walther 1250 Dominator is a very light rifle, and the trigger isn’t that light. As a result, the gun moves more than a little as the trigger is squeezed. This can be overcome by paying extreme attention to detail on each shot, but it’s something I normally don’t need to do when shooting an accurate PCP.
That’s why I mentioned the shooting table and sandbag rest. Normally, such things are an absolute lock for the guns, but this time the rifle is so light that it still moves around too much. You’re only going to solve that with technique.
The next group was shot with as much concentration as if I were using the artillery hold. And the payoff is a 0.404-inch 8-shot group. That represents the best I can do with this rifle and pellet at 25 yards.
The bolt is hard to cock and sticks when pushing it forward to load the pellet. It isn’t much of a hinderance, but you do notice it. I did discover that if the bolt is worked fast and with authority, it does become smooth. So, the rifle likes to be treated like an SMLE.
Opinions thus far
I found things to criticize on the Walther Dominator 1250. No. 1 is the need to fill it to 300 bar. That’s just too much pressure, and it uses all the air I can get. The rifle is very loud, and I’m no longer used to pneumatic air rifles being so loud. The trigger is too heavy and long, and the rifle needs to weigh at least 2.50-3.00 more lbs. to be stable. However, all that pales when we look at the accuracy.
This is an accurate air rifle — make no mistake. Today’s test was at 25 yards, so it’ll be very interesting to see what happens when we move to 50 yards.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
…to have some fun. I mean, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Don’t we all shoot airguns for fun?
So, there I am at the range last week with the new Walther LGV, and I’m shooting these groups on a perfect day and all the time I’m wondering the same things most of you wonder right back at me. Things like, “I wonder what my R8 would do at this distance? Could it really group this far?”
But you don’t want to hear about my R8, because you can’t have one of your own. They’re rare birds and hard to come by these days. And, heaven forbid, they cost money — something that makes airgunning a real drag. But I still want to shoot something fun, instead of sticking to the script.
Then it dawned on me. I’m shooting an LGV. And I shot another LGV very recently. Both rifles were great fun. and fun is what I’m looking for today.
But I have another LGV that I haven’t shot in over a year. That LGV is the original LGV Olympia target rifle that was popular back in the 1970s. I reported on it two and a half years ago, but back then I was looking at it solely as a target rifle — lumping it in with the HW55 and the FWB 300. It was a target rifle, to be sure; but in light of the new LGV sporting rifles, might it also be something more? Might it be a low-powered sporting rifle that can shoot at 50 yards? It would certainly be fun to find out. There’s that word, again — fun.
Walther LGV Olympia target rifle was a top-quality 10-meter rifle from the 1970s.
What would be fun about shooting a 10-meter rifle at 50 yards? Well, first, could you do it? Of course you could. I know the gun will shoot that far. I even tried shooting my most accurate 10-meter target rifle — an FWB 300S — at 50 yards once. Remember that? It was in Part 5 of the report on the FWB 300S. In fact, it was also in Part 4 of the same report.
But when I reread that report, I discovered that my mindset wasn’t how accurate the rifle could be. It was more like, “How accurate could a 10-meter rifle BE at 50 yards?” (Said with sarcasm) I see that I didn’t even try to pre-qualify pellets at 25 yards before moving out to 50 yards. I went straight from 10 meters out to half a football field in one jump.
But the recent test of the two new LGVs included a 25-yard intermediate stage where I was able to qualify certain pellets and let others fall by the wayside. Shouldn’t that be done for the 10-meter rifle, as well? And that doesn’t even address the possibility of deep-seating the pellets, which we’ve seen in other recent tests can have a profound effect on accuracy.
The LGV Olympia
The Walther LGV Olympia is a vintage wood and steel airgun that does have a plastic triggerguard, but no other plastic on the exterior of the gun. The design is a conventional breakbarrel spring-piston powerplant with one of the lightest cocking efforts and softest recoils ever produced in a factory air rifle. The test rifle cocks with just 13 lbs. of effort. I measured it at 15 lbs. in the lest test, so perhaps my technique has changed or maybe the mainspring has weakened, but I’ll test the velocity and we can make a comparison.
Speaking of comparisons, how does this vintage LGV stack up against the modern rifles? Well, it’s about a pound heavier, and has the capacity for being even heavier by inserting lead weights in the stock. The barrel is enclosed in a heavy steel sleeve that adds about 2 lbs. to the overall weight. And it was weight that Walther used to temper the recoil when this gun was new.
The LGV represents the high-water mark of recoiling spring target rifles from Walther. They built several models in their 50-series, with the model 55 being the last and most well-developed. Then the LGV topped them all. After that, Walther moved into the single-stroke technology that they developed in their LGR rifle and LP II pistol.
Like the modern LGVs, this vintage target rifle has the same barrel latch that locks the barrel shut during firing. It works the same way as the modern barrel latches do; but since it has probably unlocked the gun several thousand times more, it’s a little smoother.
Like the current LGVs, the target rifle has a barrel latch.
Shooting the LGV Olympia will come as a bit of a shock to anyone unfamiliar with the golden age of spring rifles because there’s almost no recoil. A tuned HW55 can be very calm, but the LGV has no equal when it comes to soft recoil. You feel a pulse but are hard-pressed to say that the rifle actually moves. There’s a very subtle spring twang that will remain on my rifle forever, ’cause ain’t nobody gonna see the insides as long as she’s a-workin’.
The trigger on the Olympia is lighter than the sporting trigger, but not by that much. And the wider trigger blade on the sporting guns makes their triggers feel lighter than they are. So, the triggers are a wash between the vintage guns and the modern sporters. Both are great.
The sights on the Olympia are target aperture sights — front and rear. I plan on keeping the peep sight mounted for this test, as I demonstrated with the FWB 300S that I can shoot just as well with a peep as with a scope.
The front sight is a hooded globe with inserts.
The rear sight is a precision adjustable aperture sight.
Finally, the finish on the vintage Walther is the one place where hand work shows. The metal is polished smooth and deeply blued in the manner of fine firearms. And the stock is made of walnut rather than beech. It harkens to an earlier time when such things were both possible and expected.
What I plan to do is shoot the rifle at 25 yards to find the best pellets for long range. I’ll try them both seated flush and deep, and we’ll hopefully get one or two that really shine. Then, we’ll take those to the 50-yard range on a perfect day and see what this baby can really do.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is a fun one. The idea came from blog reader John, who said this:
“I’m starting to think we have reached the very end of what is possible with airguns. Looks like the average high end of what they can do is 1000-1200 fps. I’m seeing most guns look the same, function the same, even fire practically identical to every other gun there is. In fact I haven’t seen very many new offerings in the airgun market. So, I’m wondering, is this it? Have they reached the edge of the envelope of what can be done now? About the only guns that have come out that really got a rise out of me are the new Condor SS, the MK-177 and the MSR77. Other than that I have not seen one gun that wouldn’t get lost in my armory.”
I had to smile when I read that because it reminded me so much of something someone else once said:
“It may be assumed, therefore, that the spring-air design has about reached the perfection of its form. However, combination systems utilizing the good spring-air characteristics of a single cocking stroke, combined with an air storage chamber giving the good release characteristics of the pneumatic type, offer considerable possibilities for future development, as the interest in these arms and their form of shooting increases.”
That last one is a quote from W.H.B. Smith’s book Smith’s Standard Encyclopedia of Gas, Air and Spring Guns of the World, published in 1957. The mechanism Smith alludes to is what we now call the single-stroke mechanism, which would be introduced by Walther several years after he wrote about it. He doesn’t say it will be more powerful — just easier to cock and as smooth-shooting as any pneumatic.
What is progress?
The question we have to answer before we can make any sense out of all of this is what makes an airgun “better?” What does “better” mean?
Does an airgun have to shoot faster to be better? In 1957, the upper limit for a straight airgun (i.e., one that did not rely on a chemical explosion to boost velocity, like the Weihrauch EL54 ether-injected gun) was somewhere in the low 700s. Smith thought they had reached the limits of possibility at that speed. Fifteen years later, 800 f.p.s. was the magic number. There were four famous models in the 1970s that could do 800 or just a little better — Diana 45, BSF S55/S70, HW 35 and the fastest of all…FWB 124. The HW 35 was a sometimes thing that varied gun by gun. Most of them were just below 800 f.p.s.
The rise of velocity
Then, in 1982, the R1/HW80 hit the market at 940 f.p.s. and the horsepower race was on! Today, we’ve reached around 1,350 f.p.s., with lightweight lead-free pellets boosting that number just a little and ad copy boosting it a little more — up to 1,650 f.p.s. That’s a velocity that no spring gun has ever achieved without a chemical explosion. But it still doesn’t answer the basic question: Is velocity the single criteria determining the “goodness” of an airgun?
Most people would say no after some consideration. Things like smoothness of the shot cycle, accuracy, ease of cocking, great triggers and perhaps some other things are also part of what makes airguns what they are. And these things are in constant flux. One example I can give is the new Walther LGV breakbarrel rifle. It cocks smoother and shoots better than many tuned air rifles. It’s very accurate, as we’ve seen in our tests, and offers a superb package of handling, weight and styling. It isn’t as fast as the mega-magnums, but all it takes is one shot to know it’s a superior air rifle. And it was launched in 2012! So from that standpoint, good airguns are still being made.
I can cite other examples of fine airguns that have emerged in the recent past — the TX200 in the late 1980s, the Talon SS in 2001, the Condor in 2004, the Benjamin Discovery in 2007, the Benjamin Marauder in 2009 and the Bronco in 2009. And this totally disregards the ergonomic advancements made by certain 10-meter target guns.
From the standpoint of refinement and innovation, airguns are continually improving. Triggers get better, powerplants get smoother, sights improve and accuracy increases all the time. But you won’t see it if you don’t look at the entire market. If you only concentrate on lower-priced guns or only the guns of one powerplant type, or if your sole criteria for advancement is velocity, then the picture becomes skewed.
Taking the same viewpoint, hybrid cars aren’t advancing, either, because the Toyota Prius has remained pretty much what it was when it was launched in 1997. The Tesla car that has all the big auto manufacturers so concerned isn’t seriously regarded, yet, because it has a starting price above $62,000 — and who’s going to pay that for a hybrid car? But don’t give up on it. In 10 more years, there may be a host of affordable cars that get the same 80-100+ m.p.g. that the Tesla gets now.
Back in 1967, the electronic calculator we had in the San Jose State College Psychology Department cost over $2,500, and students had to schedule time on the machine in 30-minute blocks. We each had signed out mechanical Munroe calculators to do chi-square problems that were assigned as homework. In 1974, I went to Germany with a $100 pocket calculator to make monetary conversions. Three years later, gas stations were giving away calculators with a tank of gas. Today mechanical calculators are cheap — even the ones that do advanced math.
My point is that prices drop as popularity increases. Technology that was once reserved for only the best products becomes affordable as time passes. If it doesn’t seem to happen as fast with airguns as it does with cell phones, there’s a reason. Airguns sell in the tens of thousands; cell phones sell in the hundreds of millions. The scale of the market drives the speed at which advancements trickle down.
I think the trick is to go at this with imagination. What would you like to see, and how can it be accomplished? Don’t ask for the impossible, like a 1,000 foot-pound big bore that shoots half-inch groups at 100 yards, is filled from a bicycle pump and sells for $100. That’s impossible on a number of levels. But what about a real PCP rifle that retails for $150? Is it possible? I don’t know, but if it could be done and if the accuracy was equivalent to that of a good springer (inch groups at 35 yards), I think you would have something.
When I became serious about airguns for the second time in 1993, modern PCPs were still very new. The HW77 was a world standard and the TX200 was the fresh young interloper. The FWB 124 and 300S were still available brand new. In those days, spending $600 to get a used single-shot PCP was considered a good deal.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m an old-timer who has lost touch with reality. Yes, I’m old and yes, none of the guns just mentioned are as hot as they once were — except for the TX200 — but all that’s really changed are the names. The logic remains unchanged, and it will still be the same a century from now.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll report the velocities I got with the new AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank, as well as the shot count per fill and some other interesting things. Yesterday, I spent some time informing you of how the baffled silencer system works in this rifle. Today, that becomes important to understand.
Before we begin, let me clear up some things. Blog reader RidgeRunner thought the reservoir of the Condor SS looked smaller in the photo than the old reservoirs on the other two rifles. It isn’t. It is exactly the same size. The foam that surrounds the tank has changed, and that might give the illusion that new tank is shorter, but that’s just an illusion.
Blog reader Bob from Oz asked for a diagram that shows the flow of air because he was confused by my textual description. That’s where the photo of the silencer parts comes in. The end of the barrel, the true muzzle, is buried deep inside the frame of the rifle. The frame is tubular in front, and many people might think that it looks like a bull barrel, but it’s actually a hollow tube that has an inside diameter of one inch. The baffles fit inside that hollow tube exactly as shown in the photo, except that they are touching each other when they’re installed, so they’re not spread out like they appear in the photo.
When the pellet and compressed air exits the muzzle of the barrel (deep inside the tubular frame of the gun), it passes through the first baffle and much of the air is stripped off. It passes through the open slot of the baffle and is deflected backwards by the wide flange of the next baffle. Then, it passes back through the holes in the front barrel bushing and into the open space between the barrel and frame behind the front bushing.
As the pellet passes through each baffle more of the compressed air gets stripped off and reflected backwards. This all happens in miliseconds and the air is still under pressure, so it eventually comes out the end cap of the rifle.
Why am I telling you this?
You have to understand how this works, or nothing I say will make much sense. The key to quietness is the volume of empty space inside the frame of the gun and the length of time it takes the compressed air to exit the gun. You don’t notice anything, of course. You shoot and hear the report at the instant of firing. But there really is a small lag time, during which the compressed air expands and loses its energy. That energy is what makes the noise, so the greater the expansion, the less noise there is. And the less compressed air that’s used with the shot, the lower the noise will be when everything else remains the same.
I told you this because, when I began testing the Condor SS for velocity, I was surprised by the noise. I was testing inside my office, which is 12 by 15 feet, and the last time I heard the rifle was outdoors back in November of last year. I knew this gun I was testing was louder than what I’d heard back then. So, I went to AirForce yesterday and we conducted some tests to determine where the production Condor SS is sound-wise. I’ll get to that after we look at the velocity, so let’s do that right now.
Like all the sporting precharged rifles AirForce makes, the Condor SS has adjustable power and interchangable barrels. There’s no way I can test every possible combination of pellets, calibers and power settings, so I selected spots in the power spectrum that I’ll report today. I will report each pellet at all the power settings and give you the shot count for each one.
Eun Jin domes
The first pellet I tested was the Eun Jin 28.4-grain dome. While there are heavier pellets that will generate greater power in .22 caliber, I believe this one will do well in the accuracy test, so it’s a reasonable top-end pellet to test. On the maximum power setting, this pellet averaged 892 f.p.s. I shot it 20 times and the high (shot 3) was 912 f.p.s. The low (shot 20) was 814 f.p.s. Yes, that is a 98 f.p.s. spread; but out to about 35 yards, this pellet will hold zero for those 20 shots. If you plan on shooting at 50 yards and farther, stop at around 10 shots. Your average then climbs into the low 900s and the max spread is less than 30 f.p.s. At the average velocity for the 20 shots, this pellet generates 50.19 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
The power band is more or less a straight declining number from start to finish. Starting at 3,000 psi, you finish at 2,200 psi. A Hill pump then takes about 100 strokes to fill the tank again. So, there are 5 pump strokes per shot on max power.
The rifle was very loud, so I told Edith to change the sound rating in the description to a 4 because this gun is louder than a Sheridan Blue Streak on 8 pumps. It’s quieter than a Condor running at the same power, but still loud enough to notice. In fact, when I was testing the velocity in my office (with the door closed), Edith was in the living room and thought I was shooting a Quackenbush big bore because it was so loud.
Now, let’s look at the performance of the same pellet at different power settings.
On power setting 10, there were 20 total shots at an average of about 878 f.p.s. (48.63 foot-pounds).
On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 868 f.p.s. (47.52 foot-pounds).
On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 858 f.p.s. (46.44 foot-pounds).
On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 830 f.p.s. (43.45 foot-pounds)
The power spreads from the first shot to the last were closing up as the power was dialed down; but even at setting 2, there was still 80 f.p.s. variation, start to finish. The beginning and ending air pressure was always the same for each string. Even on the lowest power the rifle sounded just as loud.
Then, I tried the Crosman Premier pellet that weighs 14.3 grains. The Condor was the first air rifle to get this pellet supersonic in .22 caliber. In the Condor SS, the average on high power was 1076 f.p.s. It ranged from a low of 1029 f.p.s. to a high of 1117 f.p.s., so, once again, a large spread. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 36.77 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. And there were the same 20 shots per fill, with the same starting and ending air pressures. There was no noticeable difference in the report between this pellet and the Eun Jin.
On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 1067 f.p.s. (36.16 foot-pounds).
On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 1062 f.p.s. (35.82 foot-pounds).
On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 1033 f.p.s. (33.89 foot-pounds).
On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 1010 f.p.s. (33.70 foot-pounds)
As with the heavy pellets, the power spreads were closing up as the power declined; but even at setting 2, they were still 60 f.p.s. from start to finish. The beginning and ending air pressure was always the same for each string. Even on the lowest power, the rifle sounded just as loud.
JSB Exact Heavys
Next, I tried the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Heavys. I expect this pellet to be matched well to the power of this new rifle. On maximum power, they averaged 1004 f.p.s., which generates 40.52 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. The high was 1059 f.p.s., and shot 20 was 962 f.p.s. I still got 20 shots per fill, and the muzzle report was identical to the others.
On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 988 f.p.s. (39.24 foot-pounds).
On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 981 f.p.s. (38.69 foot-pounds).
On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 970 f.p.s. (37.82 foot-pounds).
On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 966 f.p.s. (37.51 foot-pounds)
Notice that these pellets seemed to do very well on the lower power settings. That is important because the shot count increases with very little loss of power. The total velocity spread on setting 2 was 69 f.p.s. I think this may be the best pellet for this rifle, but accuracy testing will have to prove it.
The last pellet I tested was the Beeman Kodiak that weighs 21.1 grains in .22 caliber. Many will select this pellet for a powerful rifle like the Condor SS. On the maximum power setting, these pellets averaged 970 f.p.s. The high was 1017 f.p.s. The low was 908 f.p.s. Like the other 3 pellets tested, a large velocity spread over the 20 shots; but as I pointed out before, out to 35 yards it won’t make much difference. At the average velocity, this pellet generated 44.09 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
On power setting 10, there were 20 shots at an average of about 965 f.p.s. (43.64 foot-pounds).
On power setting 6, there were 22 shots at an average 952 f.p.s. (42.47 foot-pounds).
On power setting 4, there were 23 shots at an average 936 f.p.s. (41.06 foot-pounds).
On power setting 2, there were 25 shots at an average 920 f.p.s. (39.67 foot-pounds)
Summary of power performance
The Condor SS I’m testing seems to work best at power setting between 4 and 10, with the lower setting being better. The shot count increases, and the velocity spread gets a little tighter, plus not much power is lost. Let’s keep that in mind, and I’ll get back to it in a moment.
Sound testing at AirForce
I took my rifle out to AirForce Airguns and tested it against a production gun, another gun that had a pre-production prototype barrel and a .22-caliber Benjamin Marauder. I had said in Part 1 of this report that the Condor SS set on maximum power was no louder than the Benjamin Marauder when I saw it shoot last November. The one I now have for testing certainly seems to be louder.
We shot outdoors but next to the steel building, so there was some sound reflection from the building walls. Clearly, my Condor SS is just as loud as the current production gun, and both are louder than the Benjamin Marauder dialed up to its maximum power. But here’s the difference. The Benjamin Marauder shot Beeman Kodiaks between 801 f.p.s. and 828 f.p.s., and both Condor SS rifles shot the same pellet at an average 920 f.p.s. when set on power setting 2. So the Condor SS is putting out about 40 foot-pounds when dialed down low, and the Marauder is putting out around 30 foot-pounds with the same pellet when it’s adjusted as high as it will go. That’s a big difference.
So, why was the Condor SS I had heard back in November so much quieter than this one? Well, for starters, back then the baffles had smaller holes through them. Now, they’re able to safely handle calibers .20 through .25; but back then, they were still experimenting with the hole size. Also, the barrel in my test rifle is 16mm diameter. The prototype rifle had used a 12mm diameter barrel; so AirForce installed a 12mm diameter barrel in their production rifle that we tested yesterday, and the sound went down a little. The 12mm barrels are being processed now for production.
Then, we installed a standard SS tank on the Condor SS that now had the 12mm barrel and dialed the power down to 838 f.p.s. with the Beeman Kodiak pellets. That was as low as we were able to go when the 3,000 psi fill was fresh. Now, the Condor SS was only a little louder than the Marauder that was shooting just a little slower. We shot them side by side several times to make sure. There’s a difference you can discern when testing side by side, but outdoors it isn’t that great.
Remember, this is shooting outside but close to a building, and the standard tank is being used instead of the High-Flo tank that comes with the rifle. You can buy a standard tank as an accessory, but they aren’t going to sell one with the rifle instead of the High-Flo tank, so don’t even ask!
As far as the Spin-Loc tanks are concerned, they’re the new design. Pyramyd Air has opted to phase out the version with the old-syle quick-detach tank and stock only the versions with the Spin-Loc tank. The quick-detach tank that screws in is also available as an accessory in both the standard and High-Flo configurations.
Observations so far
Wow! This has to be one of the longest reports I’ve ever written. And the first part of it was yesterday, in Part 3. I hope this addresses your concerns about this rifle, and that you now clearly understand what you’ll receive when you order a Condor SS. It’s quiet for the power it generates, but it’s not whisper quiet like I originally said.
There’s still so much ground to cover with this test rifle. Accuracy testing comes next at 25 yards and then 50 yards. And after that, I’ll install a standard tank and do today’s test again. Stay tuned!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report is going to be a long one! There is so much to tell about the AirForce Condor SS rifle with Spin-Loc tank that I can’t pack it into the usual 3-part report. But today I’m going to start the velocity report and I’ll finish it tomorrow. I’m doing it that way because there are so many things to see and talk about before I get to the velocity test, plus the velocity test revealed some interesting things. And, since today is Wednesday, I really do mean that the second part of this report will come tomorrow.
A longer frame
Let’s start with a question that was asked by several people. What differentiates the Condor SS from the standard Condor? I told you about the barrel length differences (standard Condor = 24-inch barrel; Condor SS = 18-inch barrel) and the different frame lengths (the Condor SS has a longer frame than the Condor so it can hold the baffles), but several people asked me to show it. And I did promise to do that when I first reported on the new rifle, so here you go.
Here you can see the Condor SS (top) has the longer frame to hold the baffles. Under it is the Condor and then the Talon SS on the bottom. Note that both those rifles frames are the same length. The Condor end cap is slightly longer than the Talon SS end cap, so it looks longer,
Inside the frame — the technology
This is what you have been waiting to see. The Condor SS has 3 Delrin baffles, held tight between a bolt and a Belleville washer, so there’s no rattling of parts. The baffles fit close inside the frame, which AirForce reams for precision. That’s the only way this can be done because a raw extrusion will have a certain amount of size variation.
But there’s more than just the baffles. The front barrel bushing has air holes that allow the compressed air that’s reflected by the baffles to pass through.
The front barrel bushing has holes that allow the compressed air to pass through — giving more room for it to expand inside the frame. That robs the air of its energy and lowers the report at the muzzle.
And the changes don’t even stop there. The rear barrel bushing now has an o-ring around its circumference to help stabilize the barrel inside the frame without transmitting any sound. When you change barrels now, you’re going to have to push the barrel out of the frame instead of it dropping out like it did previously.
I’m going to discuss the sound of the rifle tomorrow, but there are several technical things you need to know before we get to that, so we’ll look at those today. First, there’s the size of the hole through the baffles. The pellet needs room to pass through the baffle without touching the side as it goes through. The larger the hole through the baffle, the less risky it is…but the more compressed air can also pass through and the less quiet the gun will be.
Remember that all AirForce sporting rifles allow you to change barrels, so the baffles have to accommodate all calibers. Or, in this case, the largest 3 calibers — .20, .22 and .25. The .177-caliber Condor SS has its own baffles that cannot be used on the larger calibers.
Then, there’s the power the gun generates. The more power you are dealing with, the greater the volume of compressed air that has to be quieted. Reduce the power, and the sound also goes down.
That’s all for today. Tomorrow, I’ll give specific velocities with different pellets, shot count and pressure curves. I’ll also discuss a strategy for using this rifle in the most effective way, as I believe I’ve discovered that for you. After that, but not tomorrow, we’ll advance to accuracy testing at 25 and 50 yards.
But that will not complete this report. After I wrap up this test of the factory rifle, I’ll install a standard Talon SS tank and run more velocity and accuracy tests. That will probably complete what I’ve planned. I could easily go on and run tests with a Micro Meter tank, a CO2 tank and so on, but I think what I have planned will give all of us a good look at this remarkable new air rifle.