by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report is an important one, but it may be confusing until you hear the whole story. The last time I reported on this Tech Force M12 combo was back on November 19 of last year. A lot has happened with this rifle since then, and I’ve kept daily readers informed of what’s been going on, but it would have been easy to overlook and even easier to forget. So I’ll summarize.
The M12 I’m testing is a drooper, and I first had to solve that problem. Once I did, I noticed it threw fliers. I cleaned the barrel — but it got no better. I tightened all the screws — again, no change. I cleaned the barrel with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound — and still there was no improvement. Then, I shot the gun just to break it in — again, no change.
All of this work took a lot of time, as I was testing and reporting on other guns. I also set the rifle aside for weeks at a time out of sheer frustration. In late January of this year, I decided to have another go at discovering what the problem was. I had to locate a drooper scope because, by this time, I’d used the scope that was on this rifle for other tests. I reread the early reports and discovered that this rifle had shot very well at 10 meters with JSB Exact RS pellets. So, that was the pellet I tested, but at 25 yards.
At 25 yards, I got several groups that had a bunch of shots close together and then some fliers. But one group stood apart as extraordinary. Seven of the 10 shots were in an extremely small group, and 3 others were huge fliers. This was what I had been looking for. When you see something like this, it tells you the rifle wants to shoot, but something is interfering intermittently.
The group at the top left with the one shot that isn’t quite touching is 7 shots from 25 yards. That’s a 0.439-inch group. The other 3 holes are fliers shot at the same time. This is a clear indication of a problem.
I looked down through the muzzlebrake with a powerful flashlight and saw the real barrel muzzle deep inside. It appeared very rough, plus I could see bright bits of lead clinging to the inside rear edge of the muzzlebrake. I showed this to Edith, and she confirmed what I was seeing.
Apparently, the crown of the muzzle of my rifle was uneven and was causing pellets to wobble just a tiny bit when they left the barrel. A few of them were hitting the inside rear edge of the muzzlebrake, causing them to destabilize in a big way. Those were the random fliers I was seeing.
I communicated this to Pyramyd Air. Gene, the tech manager, took apart an M12 to look at the crown. He said it looked rough to him, as well. He crowned it and sent me the barrel to exchange with the barrel in my rifle.
The barrel Gene sent is .22 caliber, while my rifle is .177, but that makes no difference. One barrel works as well as another, as they’re the same size on the outside. I followed Gene’s instructions and switched barrels in 15 minutes. I didn’t have to disassemble the rifle because of how it’s made.
Once I got the original barrel out of the gun, I could see that the muzzle wasn’t as rough as I’d thought. I had seen grease on the end of the muzzle when I looked down inside, and it looked like rough metal to me. The muzzle is finished rather well, but the actual crown, which is a chamfer cut into the bore, is cut on an angle rather than perpendicular with the bore. It allows compressed air to escape the muzzle on one side of the pellet before the other.
The muzzle of the .177-caliber barrel that came in the rifle was crowned lopsided. The chamfer appears narrow at the bottom of the muzzle. That’s not an optical illusion — it really does grow narrow there!
Following the assembly of the barrel to the rifle, I remounted the scope and proceeded to start my sight-in. I decided to test the .22 barrel with JSB Exact RS pellets, as well. One shot at 10 feet was all it took…and I was on target. Two more shots at 10 meters and I was sighted-in. Next, I shot a 10-shot group. The rifle behaved very stable and did not appear to throw any wild shots.
The 10-meter group I shot was consistent, if not terribly small. But the lack of fliers, even at 10 meters, gives me hope that the crowning of the barrel has solved the problem.
Test is not finished.
By no means is this report finished. I still need to shoot several groups at 25 yards to see what the M12 can really do. I have no idea what the best .22-caliber pellet might be. After rereading the first two parts of this report, I see that I very much liked the way the gun handles. That’s still true. It lacks the two-bladed Mendoza trigger — and that’s a shame, but the trigger it has isn’t that bad. Obviously, I’m able to use it.
I now have both a .22-caliber barrel and a .177-caliber barrel that fit on the same powerplant. If I can hold onto them both, I may be able to get a little more milage from this gun. First, I could do a redneck crowning job on the .177 barrel and report how well that works.
Next, I could test the .22 barrel for velocity and then swap barrels and retest the .177 barrel to get a comparison between calibers from the same gun. I’ve always been able to do that with my Whiscombe, of course, but this is more of a real-world air rifle to which many can relate.
I know there are several shooters who wanted the M12 to be a great buy, and my early tests didn’t bear that out. If they’ve continued to follow this blog, they’ll get the chance to see how the story ends!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Well, today is do or die for the Cometa Fusion Premier Star air rifle. The last report was back in early November of last year, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on the gun. Several times, I’ve started a test, thinking that I finally got the scope movement problem resolved — and each time a problem has cropped up. If I didn’t believe this rifle had potential, I would have given up long ago; but the .177 version of the rifle — the regular Cometa Fusion air rifle, was so accurate that I felt this one had to be, as well. Today, we’ll find out if it was worth the effort.
Thanks to Kevin
I want to publicly thank blog reader Kevin for all his help with this troublesome test. He sent me an adjustable mount that unfortunately did not hold on the test rifle, but he made a special scope stop pin that will be used today. If you read the past reports, you’ll discover that this rifle has a severe drooping problem. It needs as much scope alignment correction as you can possibly get. I used a special UTG drooping scope base that’s a prototype you cannot buy for today’s test, but I only did so to accommodate Kevin’s stop pin. You should be good with any droop-compensating mount as long as you have the right scope stop pin to fit the gun. I’ll say more on that in a moment, but first let me admit this is the very first air rifle I’ve seen that could defeat the BKL mounts. The one I tried slipped off the gun in five shots. In fairness to BKL, though, this rifle also broke other scope stop pins — and in one case dragged one through the top of the spring tube until it popped free. So, this is a special case.
Those are NOT scope stop pin holes!
Well, excuse me! Those four holes on top of the spring tube that I thought all along were scope stop holes must not be there for that purpose; because if you insert a stop pin too far through any one of them, you’ll bind the action. The gun will not cock! So, not only are they too small in diameter, they’re also very critical of the depth to which the stop pin is inserted! I took some pictures to show you what I mean.
Looking down through the rear “scope stop pin” holes, you can see parts that move when the rifle is cocked. You can also see where, in an earlier attempt to anchor a scope, a pin ripped out of the rear hole.
Nevertheless, I was able to engage one of the front holes enough to finally anchor the scope base, thanks to Kevin’s pin. Now, it was possible to do some shooting.
Is the bore too large?
I did several things to prepare the Fusion Premier Star for this test. I cleaned the barrel with J-B bore paste. I also tightened the barrel in the fork, so it’ll stay wherever it is put after the rifle’s cocked. That’s the test of a properly tight pivot point — one that will keep the breech sealed upon firing. But since none of the scope mounts have worked until today, none of my shooting before today has been successful.
I also began to wonder if Cometa had used a .22 rimfire barrel for this rifle. That would explain the failure to group because the bore of a .22 rimfire is about 5 thousandths too large for normal pellets. A .22-caliber pellet rifle bore is supposed to be no larger than 0.218 inches in diameter, where a .22 rimfire barrel is 0.223 inches across. It makes such a huge difference that there is no chance of shooting well with the rimfire barrel and standard pellets.
H&N Field Target Trophy
Because of that, I decided to test the rifle with overly large pellets, as well as normal-sized pellets, to see if there was any obvious difference. The first pellet I tried at 25 yards was the H&N Field Target Trophy with a large 5.55mm head. Pyramyd Air has these pellets with head sizes of 5.52, 5.53, 5.54 and 5.55mm.
I was using the pellets with the 5.55mm head. They loaded very tight in the breech, as you might imagine. The first group of 10 I shot was large, but inside the main group were 5 rounds in a smaller hole. That prompted me to shoot a second 10-shot group, which showed me what this pellet is capable of.
JSB Exact 15.9-grain
Next, I tried the 15.9-grain JSB Exact dome that often does so well in .22-caliber spring-piston rifles. I stopped after just three shots, and I’m showing you those shots so you know why I stopped. I know many of you feel that the barrel needs to be “seasoned” with each new pellet — meaning that a number of pellets must be shot before any official recording can be done — but this spread is already larger than 2 inches, and I’m saying that seasoning isn’t going to help things that much.
5.56mm Eley Wasp
Was this a .22 rimfire barrel? It was starting to look like it, because the larger H&Ns did well and the JSBs did so poorly. But the proof of the pudding is to shoot the largest pellet of all and see what happens. That would be the obsolete 5.56mm Eley Wasp. If it also shoots well, then I’m thinking the barrel is a rimfire barrel.
Well, Wasps were not good. They made the same 2-inch spread the JSBs did with only three shots, so I stopped shooting them. I won’t show the shots because you know what a 2-inch group looks like. But at least I believe this barrel is not from a rimfire.
Next, I wanted to try a heavy pellet that’s not necessarily a large one — the Beeman Kodiak. They fit the breech well — neither too large nor too small. And the first three shots were looking good, but shot 4 went to the right. In the end, I had a horizontal group that was a little large, but stayed at the same height for all 10 shots. I don’t think the Kodiak is the right pellet for this rifle.
I was disappointed by the .22-caliber Fusion after the .177 had done so well. In the end, I did get the rifle to shoot, but it took every trick in the book to get there. I can recommend the .177 version of this rifle, because I really like the adjustable cheekpiece and the adjustable trigger. But the .22 took too much to get it to shoot.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Okay, today I want to try to finish my 2012 gift list.
Pneumatic air rifles
I have to list the Benjamin 392 and 397 rifles. Even though the price is rising steadily on them, they both still represent some of the best values in the airgun market. I’m specifically not recommending the Blue Streak because it’s now the virtual twin of the other two rifles, and I feel that its .20 caliber limits the availability of premium pellets too much.
The M4-177 is another great multi-pump gun. It’s not as powerful as the first two, but it’s even more accurate at short ranges. If you want a cheap target rifle, this could be the one!
What about CO2?
Don’t I have any CO2 recommendations? Well, I have just one, and it’s not cheap. The Walther Lever Action Rifle is a copy of the Winchester 1894 lever action that the world knows so well. It’s an 8-shot repeater that can take a scope, if you need one, but in my opinion deserves to be used as it comes — with open sights! This rifle is slick to operate and deadly accurate at close range (to 25 yards). It isn’t a hunting airgun; but for shooting targets or just plinking, there aren’t many better — especially repeaters.
Let’s look at some pistols for a moment. I must include the Beeman P17 single-stroke pneumatic on this list because it delivers several hundred dollars of value in a $40 package. Yes, it’s made in China, but it’s so close to the Weihrauch HW40 PCA that costs $200 more (sold by Pyramyd Air as the Beeman P3) that Weihrauch repairs them in Europe under their warranty. Hans Weihrauch, Jr. told me he has to stand behind the gun because everyone thinks of it as something he makes! How’s that for copying?
Another air pistol that made my list is the IZH 46M single-stroke pneumatic target pistol. It’s accurate, powerful and easy to pump. It’s on the heavy side, so some shooters may not be able to hold it in one hand. Besides that, there’s a lot going for this air pistol. It has one of the nicest triggers you’ll every find — short of a real world-class target air pistol.
The Beeman P1 spring pistol has so much going for it that it deserves to be on my list. It’s accurate, powerful and has a wonderfully adjustable trigger. Although it comes in three calibers (.177, .20 and .22), I can only recommend the .177 because I think it’s perfect for the power level of the pistol.
How about some stuff that isn’t an airgun? It’s stuff you also need.
Let’s start with Ballistol. This stuff is so useful that I’m planning to do a whole blog about it. Removing rust is just one of its handy tricks. I have so many uses for Ballistol these days that I don’t know what life would be like without it. My friend Mac had his house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore flood a couple months ago, and water got into all three of his gun safes through the holes in the bottom of the safes that are used for anchor bolts. All of his firearms and airguns sat in several inches of water for a straight week, yet there wasn’t one sign of water damage on any stock, nor was there any rust on any gun! How’s that for a Ballistol testimonial?
The most popular cleaning and maintenance product at Pyramyd Air is Crosman Pellgunoil. Readers of this blog have witnessed hundreds of old guns rescued by its application over the years. At least you have if you get all the comments sent to you. This stuff is magical! I fixed the neighbor kid’s Daisy 880 a week ago with it! If you shoot CO2 or multi-pump pneumatic guns, you need this stuff!
Another cleaning product that almost every airgunner will eventually need is a jar of J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. Only those who shoot guns with brass barrels don’t need this product to clean their bores. You know that I use it on new guns to simulate a long break-in, and it does work for that. I also use it to scrape copper fouling from the bores of my centerfire rifles. Benchrest shooters use the stuff, so it’s got to be pretty good!
I won’t put brass bore brushes on my list, but they’re wonderful if you need them. But I will put what they go on — a .177-caliber Dewey 26″ coated cleaning rod. I used to buy el-cheapo rods that were made in sections. They were aluminum, so of course they bent and their threads stripped with use. Then, one day at AirForce Airguns, while I was cleaning a couple hundred Lothar Walther barrels that had just returned from the bluer, I suddenly realized that the rod I was using — a Dewey — had cleaned a good many thousand airgun barrels by my hand, and who knows how many before me? And, although it was slightly bent and showed some age, this rod was still going strong. My aluminum rods would have given up many times doing the same work. That was the day I became a believer in the Dewey solid cleaning rod. I linked to the .177/.20 caliber rod, but you also need one for your .22 and .25-caliber guns. Like pellet traps and chronographs, this is a bullet you bite if you’re a shooter.
One more thing I won’t do without is my ATK Weaver Gunsmith 36-piece Tool Kit. I actually have six or seven similar kits because the smaller blades do break with use. But when you need that perfect screwdriver to fit a screw on a very expensive gun, nothing else will do.
Well, that’s my list for this year. I hope this has been of some use to you, because it’s one of the most tedious reports to write and create. These are all things that I would recommend to you personally if you asked. I’ve used and/or tested everything on this list, and I believe they’ll satisfy you exactly as advertised.
by B.B. Pelletier
This is part 5 of what would normally be a three-part test. If you’ve followed it, you know all I’ve gone through to let the Hatsan 95 combo breakbarrel look its best. And today’s report was no exception. I spent more time with the rifle than I usually do in part 3 of any other airgun. I guess I had a burr under my saddle blanket about this rifle from the start. It was so nice-looking, and it was also a spring rifle that most adult men can cock, which isn’t that common when it comes to Hatsan breakbarrels. So, I wanted it to succeed.
Cleaned the barrel
The first step for today’s report was a thorough cleaning of the barrel with J-B Bore Paste on a brass bore brush. From the way the friction lessened the more times I brushed the bore and the black gunk that soon filled the bristles, I knew it was the right thing to do.
Mounted a scope
After the barrel was clean, I set about mounting a scope with droop to compensate for the barrel droop the test rifle has. I had planned to mount the Hawke Sport Optics 4.5-14×42 Sidewinder Tactical rifle scope, but it has a 30mm tube and nowhere in my inventory of available scope rings could I find a droop-compensating mount with 30mm rings. I have them, but they were all doing other jobs. Fortunately, when I was working with Leapers to create their UTG droop-compensating base for RWS Diana spring rifles they sent me a couple samples without the recoil shock shoulder, so I can mount them on any conventional 11mm scope dovetails. Since the Hatsan 95 comes with a scope stop plate already installed, I just backed the base up to it and I was done.
Because the UTG base raises the scope high above the spring tube, I used a set of the lowest Weaver rings I have. With them I was able to mount the AirForce 4-16×50 AO scope with plenty of room to spare. This AirForce scope is the brightest of my one-inch tubes. I don’t usually have it available because it’s mounted on my Talon SS, but the recent test of the Micro-Meter tank has freed it up.
Time to test!
Then it was time to test the rifle at 25 yards. I can report that the droop-compensating scope base did its job and put the scope’s adjustments down into the bottom quarter of the travel range. That means there was more than enough tension on the erector tube return spring, so that can be ruled out as an excuse for inaccuracy. After a quick sight-in at 10 feet, I went back to 25 yards and started shooting.
Beeman Kodiaks are out!
The first pellet I tried was the Beeman Kodiak. But no matter how I held the gun, they simply would not group. I fired about 30 rounds, trying all sorts of holds without success. I tried the Kodiak first because back in Part 3, they seemed to do well at 10 meters. I’d hoped that solving the scope problem would also make them group at 25 yards, but no dice.
So are JSB Exact 15.9-grain domes!
Next up was the JSB Exact Jumbo that weighs 15.9 grains. Like the Kodiaks, these had done well at 10 meters, and I just knew they would shine at 25 yards. But, once again, in hold after hold, they disappointed me. I would put three pellets into the same hole, then throw one an inch away. That could not be blamed on the scope this time.
I even tried shooting the rifle with the forearm resting directly on the bag. Though that seldom works…when it does, it works quite well, and it was worth a try. Once more, the groups were large and open. The shot count was now above 60 without success. I began mentally composing the report that was to say I had failed to get the Hatsan to shoot at all, but something inside kept me at the bench.
Perfect artillery hold is required
By shooting so many pellets, I did discover the best place to put my off hand. The heel has to touch the rear of the cocking slot. If I can feel that, I know the stock is always in the same place. Also, there can be absolutely NO tension when shooting! I have to be entirely relaxed and my shoulder cannot put any pressure against the buttpad. If there’s any tension or if I am holding the rifle in place instead of letting it just rest on target with me relaxed, the shot will always go wide in the direction the rifle wanted to go as I was holding it.
The next pellet I tried was the JSB Exact Jumbo that weighs 18.1 grains. This pellet often shines in certain PCPs, and I wondered if it might make a difference here. But when shot two landed two inches from shot one, I stopped.
Next up was the RWS Superdome that has surprised me in the past. Several readers say this is always a good pellet for them, and I thought it needed to be tried. I got 8 shots into 1.164 inches between centers, but that just wasn’t good enough to satisfy me. So, they were out, too.
While I was looking through my .22-caliber pellets I saw a fat tin of RWS Super-H-Points. This is a 14.2-grain hollowpoint pellet that also cuts a hole in the target like a wadcutter. It shouldn’t be accurate in a spring rifle of this power, but nothing else was working so I decided to give it a try. When the third shot made a cloverleaf with the first two, I felt this might be the one. And it was! Ten shots gave me a group that measures 0.792 inches between centers. Looking at this group, I see the promise of even better grouping once I become more familiar with the pellet. But even if this is the very best it can do, it’s good enough for me.
There is the 25-yard group we have been looking for! This Hatsan 95 likes RWS Super-H-Points. Ten made this 0.792-inch group. See the two holes made by the 18.1-grain JSB? No wonder I stopped shooting it!
The last word
So, what do I think? Well, the Hatsan 95 is definitely an accurate spring-piston air rifle at a great price. BUT — and this is a big “but,” — if you want it to perform you’re going to have to learn how to shoot a rifle. And I don’t mean shooting Uncle Jim’s 30-30 a couple times, either! You’re going to have to learn how to apply the artillery hold to the very best of your ability because this rifle does not forgive laxness.
Cosmetically, this rifle will give you more than any other air rifle in its price range. The trigger is disappointing, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just not real good. But you can adapt to it and if you learn to hold the rifle right and use the right pellets, it will perform. Based on this test, I think the Hatsan 95 is one of the best buys in a spring-piston air rifle today.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of this new Browning Buck Mark URX pellet pistol. I didn’t know what to expect, but I sure hoped this little gun was accurate! In many other ways, it’s so nice — it cocks easily, holds like a dream, has adjustable sights and is very quiet. So, if it’s also accurate as well, this will be a good one!
I always worry
It’s always a little scary when I shoot a new airgun for accuracy, because I’m wondering whether it will hit the target, the trap, the backstop or the wall. In the case of a few guns, the worst has happened; and since I shoot indoors for most of the closer tests, I always worry.
Typically, I try a rested shot from half the distance to the target, just to make sure the gun isn’t scattering its shots too wide. This time, I shot 20 feet from the Winchester Target Cube, and the shot went low and to the left. I thought there might have been some interference from the makeshift rest that was used, so I backed up to 10 meters (33 feet) and fired another shot. Nope! It was even lower and left-er! The sights did need to be adjusted.
I cranked in a lot of right adjustment into the rear sight and let fly with a third shot. Still low and left, but closer to the mark this time. More right and some up into the rear sight and the next shot went pleasingly into the black bull. That was followed by nine more RWS Hobby pellets and the first group was finished. It measures 1.582 inches between centers.
I’d commented before on the weight of the trigger. Well, it isn’t such a problem in the two-handed rested shooting position. It actually helps to stabilize this very light air pistol, and I do like feeling the second-stage pull through some stiff travel before the sear releases. I got to the point of knowing when the gun was about to discharge, so the trigger is very predictable.
JSB Exact RS
The next pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS. They fit the bore looser than the Hobbys but were not what I would describe as too loose. I expected good things from them; but as you can see, they didn’t print as well as the Hobbys. Ten made a 2.043-inch group.
The Buck Mark bounces in your hand as it shoots. That’s typical of a spring pistol, but it can be disconcerting to those shooters who feel the need to control the gun. If you’ll just relax and use the same hold every time, the pistol will do its best for you. I promised a blog about how to shoot a recoiling Webley pistol, and I’ll do it soon for you.
I also tried RWS HyperMAX non-lead pellets for the velocity test, and I thought I would continue them today. In the past, these pellets haven’t done very well, but all the guns I’ve tried them in were so powerful that they drove them very fast. Worse than that, they probably all had the wrong vibration range. The Buck Mark is certainly not a magnum air pistol, so let’s see what they can do.
Wonder of wonders, the HyperMAX delivered a 10-shot group that measured 1.802 inches between centers. They were better than the JSBs and not quite as good as the Hobbys. They also made a different sound on target and certainly got there a lot faster.
H&N Baracuda Green
Since I was already shooting lead-free pellets, I couldn’t fail to try our new friend, the H&N Baracuda Green dome. They fit the breech extremely tight, so I made sure to seat them as deep as possible with my finger. That pushed the lip of the skirt past the entrance to the barrel, which was all they needed. Ten Greens delivered a group that measures 1.392 inches between centers. That’s the tightest group of the test, so I’m glad I included this pellet.
What’s the verdict?
From what I see here, the Buck Mark is reasonably accurate. True, it’s not in the same class as the Beeman P17, but this is a spring-piston pistol that’s easier to cock than the single-stroke P17. I like the hold, the sights, the power level (for indoor target) and the low noise. I think the pistol is worth the money if you want it for informal target practice. The trigger is a bit heavy, but you can get used to it.
No airgun made like the Buck Mark should be considered to be an heirloom gun. The construction just doesn’t support hundreds of thousands of shots. But I’ve never fired any air pistol that many times, including the 10-meter pistol I competed with for several years. So, the Buck Mark makes good sense to me.
by B.B. Pelletier
There’s lots of interest in the Browning Buck Mark URX. Some have already purchased it because they didn’t want to wait for the report, so that tells you what people are thinking about the gun.
There was some confusion about the advertised velocity in Part 1. I mentioned the velocity (320 f.p.s. with lead pellets and 360 f.p.s. with alloy pellets) that was printed on the package, but there’s a different number in the owner’s manual and still a third number on Umarex USA’s website. So, which is it? We’ll find out today.
The velocity is published for both lead pellets and lead-free alloy pellets, so that’s how I tested it — with three different lead pellets and with a lightweight alloy pellet.
The first pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby — that all-time standard lightweight lead pellet. This 7-grain lead pellet averaged 334 f.p.s. The slowest pellet went 319, and the other nine in the string ranged from 329 to 340 f.p.s.
After the first string I tried a second one with the same pellet seated deep into the breech, using the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet. Seated this way, they averaged just 320 f.p.s., so it wasn’t an improvement. Hobbys fit the breech a little tight; so when I seated them by hand, they popped into the barrel. But deep-seating just pushed them forward and didn’t improve on the terminal velocity, so the tight fit is important. The range with the deep-seated pellets was 316 to 322 f.p.s., so the velocity spread was tighter.
After the Hobbys came H&N Match Pistol pellets. They weigh over half a grain more than the Hobbys, so you’d think the velocity would be lower, and it was. But not that much!
The first shots were noticeably slower, then they increased and the range went from 314 to 322 f.p.s. The average was 319 f.p.s., so it wasn’t that much slower. These pellets fit the breech a little looser than the Hobbys, but were still a good fit.
I tried these with deep-seating, and once more the average velocity dropped to 312 f.p.s. The range this time went from 308 to 318 f.p.s. On the basis of velocity, alone, I wouldn’t deep-seat them.
The final lead pellet was also a surprise. The pellet was the JSB Exact RS that weighs 7.33 grains. You would expect them to be a little slower than the 7-grain Hobbys, but they were actually faster! They averaged 343 f.p.s., with a range from 339 to 346 f.p.s., so they were tight in the spread and also fast. I expect them to be accurate, as well. I didn’t deep-seat this pellet because it fit the breech a little loose.
Very clearly, then, the Buck Mark I’m testing shoots lightweight lead pellets even faster than advertised. That’s always welcome when the gun in question is a lower-powered example.
This gun is distributed by Umarex, so it was a natural decision to select the RWS HyperMAX lead-free alloy pellet. Most of you know that Umarex USA is also RWS USA, so you can see the tie-in.
This time, it took three shots before the pellets came into their range, and it was such a big jump that I want you to see it. Shot one went 347 f.p.s., followed by shot two at 348 f.p.s. When shot three went 359 f.p.s. I thought the pellet had gotten into its range, but I was wrong.
Shot four went 370 f.p.s and they went slower than that only once in the next 9 shots. The average was 374 f.p.s., and the range was from 368 to 378 f.p.s. That’s a little faster than the 360 f.p.s advertised.
These pellets varied from just loose to falling into the breech a noticeable distance. I didn’t try to seat them deep since half of them were going in deeper than that, already.
The reviews of this gun mention the hard trigger. What I see on the test gun is a single-stage trigger that’s heavier than it could be. The test gun fires at 6 lbs., 14 oz. A 5-lb. pull would be better. With a single-stage trigger, you always notice the pull weight more than with a two-stage — as long as the second stage breaks cleanly.
The Buck Mark cocks with just under 14 lbs. of effort. That makes this one of the lightest-cocking spring-piston air pistols I’ve ever tested. As previously noted, the barrel detent is not tight, though it keeps the barrel closed during firing. This will be an all-day shooter. The only small concern is that the front sight is right where you want to grab the barrel during cocking, so you have to choke up about an inch.
Possibility of modifications
The question of modifying this air pistol has already been raised by one reader. The gun is constructed (plastic shell housing, potmetal parts) will make any modifications very difficult and definitely not worth the effort. You’ll be better off buying this pistol to shoot as it comes and forget about modifying it in any way.
Opinion so far
So far, I remain impressed with this pistol. Of course, the lion’s share of the report comes during accuracy testing, but I already like the power, the ease of cocking, the ergonomic grip, the crisp adjustable sights and the low noise signature. If the Buck Mark is accurate, it’ll be a wonderful addition to a short list of great low-cost air pistols.
by B.B. Pelletier
The Browning’s Buck Mark URX is another cool pellet pistol I saw at the 2012 SHOT Show and wanted to test for you as soon as it became available. This pistol is a single-shot breakbarrel (the packaging says it has a “one stroke cocking mechanism”) that has the same general profile of the Browning Buck Mark .22 rimfire pistol, but it is not an exact copy. The single thing that attracted me to this pistol is the velocity — an advertised 320 f.p.s. with lead pellets and 360 f.p.s. with lead-free alloy pellets. That tells me the gun cocks easily and should have a very smooth firing cycle, and that, in turn, promises good accuracy! I can only hope!
This is an inexpensive air pistol. It comes in a blister pack that’s designed to hang in a standard store wire rack. The appearance may put off some shooters who feel that they can’t get quality in an airgun this inexpensive, but we have the Beeman P17 single-stroke as an example of one that does deliver. So, I’ve learned to reserve judgement until all the testing is completed. The recent lesson of the Winchester M14 rifle reminded me to hold my opinion until all the cards are dealt!
I’ll tell you how engaging this pistol is. When I first picked it up, it wasn’t 5 minutes before I’d cocked it and fired the first shot. The barrel breaks open easily, and no cocking aid is required. The piston stroke is longer than you might think, and the barrel keeps on coming down and back for a long time. That tells me the piston stroke is where the power comes from, so the mainspring can be relatively light.
The cocking link is in two pieces, which allows the cocking slot to be very short. In the case of this pistol, it’s non-existent, as the link feeds straight back through a slot in the frame. That gives the frame more rigidity, which in turn reduces any vibration. This gun is low-powered, so there won’t be a lot of vibration to begin with. And with this design, it should be very smooth.
The safety comes on every time the pistol is cocked, and the lever is placed perfectly for right-handed shooters to release it with their thumb. In every other way, this pistol is entirely ambidextrous; and I went so far as to cock and shoot it in my left hand! The safety comes off easily with the trigger finger of a southpaw, so I don’t want to hear any complaints to the contrary.
Naturally, the exterior of the gun is all plastic except for a metal trigger, a metal safety switch and a couple screw heads. You have to accept that in an airgun at this price level; but as the Beeman P17 taught us, it doesn’t mean the gun can’t also be a great target pistol.
The sights are traditional (aka not fiberoptic — thank you, very much!) and the rear sight adjusts for both windage and elevation. Neither adjustment has a detent, but the windage adjustment does have a small scale for reference. You can watch the sight elevate simply by looking at it from the side as you adjust it.
The top of the gun has a Weaver base molded in. It looks like a Picatinny, but the cross-slots are 3.5mm instead of 5mm, so it’s definitely Weaver, only. That means you can mount optical sights, of course; and if I see the accuracy to warrant it, I may try that.
The pistol grip is raked back at a good angle for pointability, and there are finger grooves at the front. I find that a good hold is gripping the gun naturally and hooking my thumb over the safety switch — not unlike the hold I would use for a 1911 pistol.
The pistol weighs a pound and a half, which is on the light side for best accuracy, but I’ll know more about that when I shoot it. For now, all I can say is that it’s a very light air pistol.
What appears to be the barrel from the outside of the gun is actually a plastic shell enclosing a thin steel tube. I have no problem with that, because many air pistol barrels are similar; but this one ends six-tenths of an inch before the end of the jacket. There’s no “technology” (baffles or compensator) forward of the true muzzle, so this step was obviously taken just for looks.
For some reason, the barrel of the test pistol is very dirty. I look at a lot of airgun barrels, and it’s rare to see a dirty one like this. I will definitely clean it with a brass bore brush and some JB Bore Paste before doing any further testing.
Everywhere I look on this pistol, I see the thought that went into the design. For instance, the spring-loaded detent that locks the barrel shut is located above the breech rather than below. It’s a cone-shaped detent that seems to combine the smoothness of a ball bearing with the more positive lock of a chisel detent. The important point is that it doesn’t take a slap to open the breech for cocking the gun! It’s the detent we all like.
And the innovation doesn’t end there. The breech is relieved with a leade (taper) for easier loading! This, on an air pistol that sells for under $50 — but you won’t see it on some air rifles costing $350 and more. It’s a small thing until you try to load the gun 200 times in one session. Then, it spells the difference between a numb thumb and one that feels normal.
Another hint of someone who cares is the fact that, the moment the breech is opened, there’s spring tension on the barrel. There’s no fraction of an inch slop between opening the barrel and where the cocking arm is under tension. It’s a small thing; but in many spring-piston rifles, it can cost a lot of money for a good tuner to get the same thing.
Yes, I already know what the trigger pull feels like and how the shot cycle feels, but you have to wait for them. All I can tell you at this point is that I am smiling!
The days of airgun choices limited to single-shots and wood-stocked guns are over. Take a look at the GTK290 semiauto air rifle. Its big 290cc reservoir delivers about 40 useful shots per fill. Load the clip and commence to shootin'! Hunting is probably the main reason people want the GTK290, but there's also a whole lot of fun in store if you just like to plink. Avail. in .177, .22, .25 and 9mm.
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