Posts Tagged ‘silencer’
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.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Oh, boy, do I have a lot to tell you today! You’re reading this while Mac and his wife (Elissa), Edith and I are attending the 2013 SHOT Show. I did the testing for this blog back in November of last year. See? I can keep a secret!
There are many new things coming from AirForce, and today they’re showcasing them to the industry at the 2013 SHOT Show. Subscribers to Shotgun News got a sneak peak at them last week when the SHOT Show issue hit the newsstands with a full report.
There’s a new trigger and safety that will appear on all the sporting rifles. Then, there’s the new Condor SS and an updated Talon SS — both of which I will report for you today.
I was actually testing the new AirForce trigger and safety for them, to see if I could break it or make it malfunction. Then, at the end of my test, I visited AirForce for a day and got to see and hear the new Condor SS and Talon SS. And when I say hear, I do so only as in using a common phrase because you can’t actually hear the discharge of either rifle!
How much better is the new trigger?
I’ll never forget the day blog reader Kevin was visiting me and tried the trigger on my Wilson Combat 1911 CQB Light Rail pistol. He guessed it let off at one pound and simply refused to believe it was really three pounds. I got the trigger-pull gauge, and we tested it right there! Three pounds and an ounce or two, as I remember.
Well, that’s what the new AirForce trigger is going to feel like to veteran AirForce owners. The trigger on my vintage Condor breaks at about the same 26 oz. as the trigger on the new gun, but what a difference it is! First of all, the new gun is a brand-new gun. My old Condor has an untold number of shots out the muzzle, all of which helped to smooth up the trigger parts. And I never took it apart, because I used to build these guns and I know they do not tolerate lubricants, dirt or modifications to parts.
The other thing the new trigger does is stop right after it releases. It’s like a perfectly adjusted trigger stop, only there’s no stop. It comes that way from the factory.
The new trigger cannot be exchanged for the old. The pins are in different places, and the parts are completely different. This was not done to make you buy a new rifle. It’s just a fact that the new parts are all different and fit together differently.
This new trigger and safety will become the standard of the AirForce sporting rifle line, so you’ll find it on all three rifles — the Talon, Talon SS and Condor. And, of course, the new Condor SS will also have it when it comes to market.
All the new parts were designed on a CAD system that lets the designers play with different configurations without having to cut any metal. Only when they feel the design is right do they make the parts for testing.
The new safety operates differently than the old one. It does not allow the rifle to be uncocked. There’s an additional safety built in so the gun will not function until the bolt is almost closed — so no longer can you release the safety, pull the trigger and ride the bolt down slowly to uncock the gun. Once cocked, the trigger must be fired. To avoid exhausting any air, I found that if I unscrewed the air reservoir and held my hand behind the bolt cocking knob to catch it as the striker hit it I could avoid exhausting any air while uncocking the gun. This takes some practice, and you don’t want to do it indoors the first time — don’t ask!
Blah, blah, blah! Everyone knows I like AirForce guns, so what can I say about them that you haven’t already heard? Those who agree with me don’t need convincing, and everyone else believes I’ve sold out to the Dark Side. But — what if the new gun really shoots? What then?
So, I went to the range and shot it. And I did something that you haven’t seen me do before — at least not with an air rifle. You all know what I mean by a “group.” I mean 10 shots in succession, one after the other, and let the chips fall where they may. If 3-shot groups are like riding the bumper cars and 5-shot groups are like a drag race on city streets, then 10-shot groups are like Formula One racing.
I already knew the old Condor was an accurate air rifle, and I’ve shown that to you on several occasions. On this perfect, cold November day, I did something a little different. First, I shot 10 JSB 18.1-grain Jumbo Heavy pellets at 50 yards and got a group that measured 0.508 inches between centers. That’s pretty darned good. In fact, that’s a screamer in my book. And, in deference to people like my brother-in-law who thinks the shots must be centered in the bull to be good, I also centered them.
Normally this is where I would load a different pellet and shoot another 50-yard group, but on this day I didn’t do that. Instead, I walked out to the 100-yard berm and put up another target. Then, I shot another series of shots at that target. I’d elevated the scope by what amounted to several inches of elevation above the 50-yard zero, but the shots still fell below the bull. But they fell in a group that measured 1.003 inches between centers. Instead of 10 shots, there were 11 because I was so wrapped up in the shooting that I lost count of my shots.
Did the new rifle shoot that well just because of the new trigger? Of course not. A Condor with the old trigger could shoot just as well. All the new trigger did was make it even easier to shoot that group.
Uniformity is king
What are your chances of getting a trigger just as good straight out of the box? They’re excellent because one of the things the design of this new trigger does is make it easier to control dimensions and tolerances during manufacture. Each and every trigger should feel the same straight from the box. Even more important than how good the new trigger feels is the news about the uniformity.
On to the new quiet guns
I went to AirForce for a day to witness the new Condor SS and Talon SS upgrade perform. When I got there, we grabbed a Condor and immediately went outside where a chronograph was waiting. Why a chronograph? Because the new Condor SS is so quiet that it sounds like you’re shooting a Diana 27 breakbarrel. No — it’s not even that loud. All you hear is the click of the striker hitting the valve — and they’re talking about how to make that even quieter!
The new Condor SS has an 18-inch barrel, compared to the 24-inch barrel of the standard unsilenced Condor. It’s a little slower, but not much. They get about 1,200 f.p.s. with .22-caliber 14.3-grain Crosman Premier pellets, where the unsilenced gun gets around 1,250.
Imagine a 55 foot-pound air rifle that’s so quiet you have to watch your breathing. As I said about the Benjamin Marauder and thousands of shooters now know: When the rifle fires, it’s the sound of a ballpoint pen falling onto a deep-pile carpet.
Like the current Talon SS, there’s space ahead of the Lothar Walther barrel in the Condor SS. However, unlike the current guns, there’s now something in that space. There are are 3 Delrin baffles designed to turn around the compressed air and direct it toward the rear of the gun. By the time it finally gets past the end cap, it has lost all its pressure and therefore makes no sound.
I’d love to show you those baffles, but they were still tweaking the design when I was there. All I can say is that the ones I saw looked a lot like large black diabolo pellets seen from the side. And they’re separate and individual. There’s also a spring that presses them tight so they don’t rattle.
Here’s some very good news for owners of the current Talon SS. These baffles will be sold separately so you can install them in your gun. Yes, I did get to hear a standard Talon SS with the new baffles, and it’s quiet. But since it’s impossible to be quieter than nothing, I can’t really give you a rating. It sounds just like the new Condor SS.
I asked them to put a standard air tank on the new Condor SS to see what I would do. We saw Crosman Premiers going 970 f.p.s through the traps, which is 100-120 f.p.s. faster than the standard SS. The benefit of that is that, instead of about 20 good shots on one tank, you get up to 40 shots — and the longer barrel gives you performance in the 30-40 foot-pound region. They have no plans to build that gun (standard tank with an 18-inch barrel and new extended Condor SS frame), but any owner can just put a standard tank on a Condor SS and get it for themselves.
This report is just Part 1 of what I hope will be a complete series on the new Condor SS. That’ll include the new trigger and safety, but I feel like I’ve already addressed that completely in this report. The gun will hit the market in 2013, hopefully sooner rather than later. As soon as it does, I’ll be on top of it for you.
This report is about a single family of new airguns at the 2013 SHOT Show, but it doesn’t really cover the show, so there will be several more SHOT reports coming.
by B.B. Pelletier
If you guessed that this was what I was going to write about today, good for you. I certainly left enough clues. And by “clues,” I mean hitting you over the head until you were bloodied by all the obvious references to what I am about to show.
The Talon SS stock DOES NOT have to be modified
But before we get to that, I told you back in Part 1 that I would be showing you things about the .22 caliber AirForce Talon SS that have never been seen before. Here’s one of them now. You know how people are always inventing things to “fix” AirForce airguns because the factory isn’t smart enough to do it right to begin with? Well, I used to stand in their booth at both the SHOT Show and at the NRA Annual Meetings; and whenever someone would come up and complain about how they couldn’t get their head down far enough on the stock of one of these rifles, they didn’t want to run into me! But some of them did, to their misfortune.
When I asked them to demonstrate the problem they shouldered the rifle with the buttplate squarely in their shoulder joint, like they would hold Winchester 1894. But the AirForce rifles are not Winchester 1894s, and they don’t respond to being held like one. If you try to hold one of them that way, the scope doesn’t come up high enough and you have to lean your head way over to the side to see the scope picture. The only time holding like that works is when you’re seated at a bench.
But if you hold it the way I’m going to show you today, you can mount the scope as low as possible and still have plenty of elevation for your sighting eye when shooting in the offhand position. It’s all in how you plant the butt on your shoulder.
Just above your collarbone, there’s a small pocket of meat that will hold the toe of the AirForce buttplate very nicely. If you learn to plant it there instead of holding it like a recoiling deer rifle, the scope then comes up to your eye naturally.
“But that’s so unnatural!” comes the complaint from the now-backpedaling shooter.
“What?” I ask in mock amusement. “You never shot a Light Antitank Weapon (LAW) or a Redeye missile?”
The funny thing is — most of them never did. These are the same guys who will try to use the sights on an M3 grease gun and then complain loudly that they don’t work. Of course they don’t! Nobody in their right mind would try to use them to begin with. You want to use sights on an SMG? Get an H&K MP5. The M3 is like a very nasty garden hose, on which, coincidentally, there are also no sights. Yet, somehow, people manage to get the hang of using a hose without taking extension courses or watching a video, and the same can be said for the M3 grease gun. All it takes is some time and enough ammo to waste to find out how the bleeping thing works.
So it is with the AirForce air rifles. When a serious shooter is shown the correct positioning of the butt, he grouses about it for a moment, then proceeds to shoot the lights out of all the targets. After that, there’s no more discussion. That’s one of the tips about these rifles you’ll never see anywhere else. Since I no longer work in the AirForce booth, you’re not in danger of being exposed to my shenanigans if you do go to a show.
How accurate can the Talon SS be?
I have already shown my unclothed body in today’s report, so I think I’ve stepped boldly over the line. Nothing else I say today will damage my reputation any further. So, here it goes. The Talon SS will out-shoot a customized Ruger 10-22 upon which a lot of time, talent and money have been expended. It doesn’t just out-shoot it by a small margin, either. It buries it! There! (Let the letters and emails start to fly!)
Several years ago, I wrote a series of four or five feature articles for Shotgun News about the Ruger 10-22. Each article was 4,500-5,000 words long and had about 20 photos, so they were pretty detailed. The title of the series was, What can you do with a 10-22? The goal I was working toward was to find out how hard it is to obtain a legal silencer and also how a silenced .22 rimfire rifle compares to a quiet air rifle. I haven’t finished that series yet, and perhaps I never will, because the reader reaction seemed to be, “Who cares?”
But while doing the series, I had the opportunity to have my own 10-22 gunsmithed in several important ways. I had the trigger lightened to 1.5 lbs. with a crisp letoff and an adjustable overtravel stop. The barrel was rechambered with a target chamber, which is much tighter than the rifle comes with, and the headspace was made tighter and more precise. I also had a bolt hold-open device installed and the magazine release made simpler to use. Then, I created a custom rifle on that customized action by adding a custom stock and a 20-inch bull barrel from Butler Creek.
I tested the rifle out of the box, the same rifle after modification and the all-out custom rifle with about 100 10-shot 50-yard groups shot by about a dozen different .22 rimfire cartridges. I wanted to see how accurate my factory barrel was, then the same barrel with a target chamber and custom headspacing, then the same rifle with the Butler Creek barrel and the custom stock…and, finally, I conducted a two-gun shootout between my now-$800 custom rifle and a Ruger 10-22 Target model straight from the box.
Ruger also sells the 10-22 in this Target model. It has a hammer-forged barrel and many of the modifications that had to be done to the factory rifle, and the cost is about half of what a custom job costs.
Please bear in mind that I was shooting 10-shot groups — not the five-shot fluff groups that many gun writers get away with today. Well, the absolute best 10-shot 50-yard group of that entire multi-part series was fired by my customized rifle and measures 0.537 inches between centers at 50 yards. To get it, I used Aguila Standard Speed ammunition. And, yes, I bought plenty of the expensive ammo for this test, as well. It simply did not measure up to what the Aguila standard speed rounds could do in the three rifles I was testing.
That group represents the best of dozens of similar groups under the best of conditions. There were many 10-shot groups under seven-tenths of an inch extreme spread and several that were under six-tenths, but none were better than the one mentioned above.
And, now, the Talon SS
But last week, when I sighted-in the Talon SS at the range with 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets for this report, the sight-in group measured 0.734 inches between centers. It was just the sight-in group that I fired in haste to see where the scope was shooting! I have so many pellet guns that scopes are mounted and dismounted all the time for tests, so practically nothing is ever sighted-in when I begin a test. Six of the ten shots in this hasty group went into a smaller group measuring just 0.275 inches, or just larger than a quarter-inch!
I was bucking the wind during sight-in and several of the stray shots were taken when I shot before I should have. I was just anxious to get the rifle sighted-in and didn’t think this first group would amount to anything. After seeing where the center of the group was, I made the appropriate adjustments to the scope and moved the point of impact closer to the point of aim, but still far enough away that I didn’t shoot out the aim point.
This is getting to be a very long report, so I won’t keep the results from you any longer. The best 10-shot group I obtained with my Talon SS shooting JSB heavies measures 0.431 inches between centers and puts the entire Ruger 10-22 test to shame! Yes, the day was perfect; and, yes, I did everything right to get that group, but that was also true for the 10-22s on every one of the 10 range sessions I had with the three different rifles.
This may be the best group I’ve ever shot with this air rifle, but I simply don’t know because I don’t keep such records. What I do know is that I can sit down on any calm day and do something very similar. Now that I’ve discovered the best pellet for this rifle, I have even greater confidence in the gun.
I shot two other groups with the Heavy JSBs. They measured 0.476 inches and 0.494 inches, so all three beat the very best my 10-22 custom rifle was able to do.
Then, I tried 14.3-grain Crosman Premier domes. I shot only a single group with them because they measured 0.559 inches for 10 shots at 50 yards. For most air rifles, that would be a screamer for a 10-shot 50-yard group, but not for my SS.
I followed that with the heavy Eun Jin 28.4-grain domes, which produced almost 42 foot-pounds in the velocity test. Again, I shot only one group and it measured 0.935 inches at 50 yards. That’s good, but nothing to write home about. It seems that the 18.1-grain JSB Exact is the pellet of choice for this rifle.
Ten 28.4-grain Eun Jin pellets went into this group, which measures 0.935 inches. While not as tight as the others, this pellet generates almost 42 foot-pounds in this rifle and retains that energy better than any other pellet.
While many of you might be surprised by what this rifle can do, I was not. I’ve grown accustomed to results like this from my long-barrel Talon SS. That’s why I don’t bother to save the targets. I know I can always do it again on any calm day.
So, my statement remains — the AirForce Talon SS out-shot the Ruger 10-22 customized rifle and a factory Target model. And, I shot all of the guns in all of the tests.
One of our readers said in the comments of an earlier part of this report that a CZ 451 American was cheaper in the long run than a Talon SS when all the support equipment gets tossed in. I won’t argue that point until it comes to buying the ammunition. But can the CZ keep up with my Talon SS downrange? Maybe it can. I know CZ makes a great barrel, but there’s still the difficulty of finding the rimfire ammunition that really works well in your particular gun. Having done an exhaustive test with the Rugers, I don’t know if I have the energy to do another one equally as exhaustive. Especially not when I know that all I have to do is pick up my Talon SS with its optional 24-inch barrel and start shooting.
I believe today’s blog is the longest one I’ve written to-date. It had to be this long, because I had to tell you everything at the same time so you could appreciate what I have known for years. I guess I became very accustomed to the high accuracy of AirForce rifles when I tested so many of them years ago. I don’t think about it very often, but we have enough new readers who need to know what I know about these airguns, so it was high time to speak up.
This isn’t the end of our look at the Talon SS. Oh no! This is just the beginning. Now I have a baselined PCP air rifle against which I can test .22 rimfires. I’m looking into such things when shooters make the statement, “I don’t need an air rifle to eliminate pests. My 10-22 with CB caps is just as quiet and just as accurate and whole lot cheaper in the long run.”
What do you think?
by B.B. Pelletier
My rifle is a lot longer than the standard Talon SS. It has a 24-inch, .22-caliber barrel and an aftermarket silencer tube that extends the frame of the gun past the muzzle. I’ll tell you about the scope in part 3 of this report.
Today, I’ll sample the velocity of my .22-caliber AirForce Talon SS with its optional 24-inch barrel. I cannot do a complete velocity test on this rifle, and neither can you. There aren’t that many years in any of our lives. This rifle has adjustable power and can therefore be “tuned” to do a remarkable number of things. And, with the 24-inch optional barrel, it becomes even more powerful and flexible.
This will just be a sampling to demonstrate the broad flexibility of this air rifle. I started with my favorite setting, which I cannot tell with any precision because my frame has no power scale. That drives airgunners nuts, because they like to trade “favorite” power settings for AirForce airguns like kids with baseball cards. You read on the forums that so-and-so shot well with the power set to 10.12. What that means is the gross power setting was at power level 10 and the power wheel scale was on the number 12. Too bad that information is next to meaningless!
My power adjustment has no scale. It’s the slot on the right with the Allen screw showing. The center of the screw head is the power setting, and this is about on the number 4, if the scale was there. The numbers on the wheel at the left are for smaller adjustments and there would be an index line at the left of the power window.
It’s almost meaningless because these guns are all individuals. They develop vastly different power when set to the same settings. But my gun is a very early one that never had the power scale engraved on the side of the frame, so I simply guess where the gun is. I’ve gotten to know this rifle so well over the years that my guess ends up within about 20 f.p.s. because I know how my particular rifle performs.
Therefore, what I’ll now tell you will relate to a gun that does have a power scale, because I’ve memorized the positions of those numbers over the years. I just don’t use them.
When the 12-inch barrel is installed, I like to leave the power setting at around the number 4. That gives me about 750 f.p.s with 14.3-grain Crosman Premier domes that I shoot a lot. If I were to increase the setting to the number 10 with the same short barrel, my rifle would get around 830 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 21.88 foot-pounds.
When the 24-inch barrel is on the gun at the same power setting, the velocity of the same Premier pellet averages 840 f.p.s. and the velocity spread spans from 833 to 845 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy is 22.41 foot-pounds at this level. So, right there the gun is slightly more powerful on the low number 4 setting with the 24-inch barrel than it is on the high number 10 power setting with the 12-inch barrel. I’m saving a lot of air by making better use of it with the long barrel.
That’s about as fast as I like to go with Premiers because of barrel leading. Next, I boosted the power setting up to 10 to shoot the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy dome that could prove to be the most accurate pellet in this rifle. I’ve never tried them at distance in this rifle, so I’m learning right along with you as we go. The velocity at this power setting averaged 968 f.p.s. with a spread from 965 to 970 f.p.s. That means the rifle is now putting out 37.59 foot-pounds of energy on average. That could prove to be a very good place for this rifle, but I’ll need to get out to the range to see for sure.
The best it can do
Everybody wants to know how absolutely powerful this rifle can be with this longer barrel, and I’m sorry to say I don’t have the right pellets to test it. Eun Jin makes a 32.4-grain pointed pellet that would produce more muzzle energy than the Eun Jin 28.4-grain domes I have on hand. But even they averaged 822 f.p.s. with the rifle set as high as it would go. That’s an average of 42.62 foot-pounds. So, I think there’s little doubt that with the heaviest pellets this rifle will just top 45 foot-pounds. That’s what it did about six years ago when I tested it for AirForce. The velocity spread with the gun running wide open went from 812 to 832 f.p.s.
This is where those who’ve never owned an AirForce rifle get confused. They wonder what they should do or could do with a rifle that can go from very low to very high power. And, by the way, I didn’t show you how low this rifle can go, did I? With Crosman Premiers again on the lowest possible power setting, I get an average velocity of 474 f.p.s., ranging from 465 to 489 f.p.s. That’s an average muzzle energy of 7.14 foot-pounds. In my opinion, that’s not a valuable number because I’d never shoot this rifle that slow. It isn’t as consistent down there and what’s the point? I have Diana 27 rifles that will do the same thing. I just tell you because people want to know.
In the upper velocities, however, there’s a real benefit to my rifle. First, when set to deliver 23 foot-pounds, this rifle is quieter than a Beeman R7. Boost the power up to 37 foot-pounds, and the rifle sounds like a Sheridan Blue Streak on five pumps. When it’s running all-out, it’s still quieter than a Blue Streak on 8 pumps. So, this is a quiet air rifle. How quiet? Well, it’s noticeably quieter than most .22 rimfires shooting CB caps. That’s pretty quiet.
How many shots per fill?
This is another question whose answer depends on what you’re doing with the rifle. But for 37 foot-pound shots, I would get about 30-35 good ones before things tapered off. On 23 foot-pounds, I get about 45 good shots per fill.
How I operate the rifle is to leave it set on one power level that’s sighted-in. That way I know when I pick up the gun it’s ready to go. Based on the outcome of this particular test, I may change the power setting in the future because I may find a more accurate pellet. We shall see!
And, here’s the really good news. All this testing I’m doing here is simply in preparation for a much larger test I have been planning for several years. Had I not gotten sick last year, I would be deep into that bigger test right now; but as it is, I’m just getting started.
by B.B. Pelletier
Sometimes, I just need to blow off steam by writing about the things that interest me, and today is one of those days. There were a lot of oddball guns I could have written about, like my 1860s gallery dart gun that I showed you a while back. I took it to the airgun show at Malvern, Arkansas, this April and airgun collector/writer Larry Hannusch disassembled it as fast as I might field-strip a Garand. And almost as easily. I watched so I could do it again on my own, and I discovered that the gun is lacking its volute springs — the very things I was worrying about breaking if I shot the gun. So, I can now fix it with a coiled spring and a new cocking arm from Dennis Quackenbush. But that will be a future report.
David Lurch Primary New York City gallery gun.
Today, I want to talk about something that’s both very contemporary and yet wonderful at the same time. It’s one of those airguns that people either love or hate, though I’m about to show you some things you never saw before that might make you like it a little better.
The rifle is an AirForce Talon SS (cheers from our reader, twotalon), but it’s a look at the SS in a way that’s never been seen in print. I’m going to take you inside the walls of the AirForce company and show you what I was playing with when I was their Technical Director several years ago. This isn’t just any SS. It’s my SS.
After the Condor came out and most of the launch hooplah died down a bit, I realized that we now had a 24-inch barrel that would also fit the Talon SS. You get a 12-inch barrel with the gun when it’s new, and that barrel is totally enclosed inside the tubular frame of the rifle in the same way that a shroud fits other PCP airguns. Only, when the SS was designed, it was built that way on purpose, for those were the days before barrel shrouds became the rage. The Talon SS was the first production PCP to intentionally use a shrouded barrel to quiet the muzzle report.
But, I want to talk about the 24-inch optional barrel, because that was what was new to me in 2004. I knew that the Talon, with its 18-inch barrel was quite a bit more powerful than the Talon SS, by virtue of the extra six inches of barrel, so the question was: How much more powerful would it get if we added another six inches?
About that time, the phones started ringing at AirForce, asking the same question and I was tasked with finding out. We know that a .22-caliber Talon SS can pretty easily pull 25 foot-pounds with accurate pellets. I’m not claiming that to be the maximum power the gun can generate, but back in 2004 that was about the best we could do with accurate pellets. And, I plan to show you what “accurate” means in a future report.
Move to the longer-barreled Talon, and the same powerplant will generate about 32 foot-pounds under the same conditions. That gave me some hope that the 24-inch optional barrel might boost the SS up to 36 or possibly even 38 foot-pounds. But that estimate turned out to be conservative.
I did the testing and discovered that the SS with a 24-inch barrel could easily generate 39-41 foot-pounds of muzzle energy with good accuracy; and, if I used the heaviest pellets then available, it got up over 45 foot-pounds! Because it was capable of launching them so much faster with the longer barrel, the rifle became a good platform for the heaviest pellets. Whatever accuracy they were able to deliver that was decent — but not the absolute best — was a realistic thing for the modified rifle.
I’ll do a velocity test for you in the next part, but for now let’s just leave things there. I now had a 40-45 foot-pound air rifle that also got 35-40 good shots on a fill because I was still using the conservative SS valve. This was no Condor that blasts out all its air in 20 powerful shots. This was an air-sipper that also got great power (with the longer barrel) as well as a high number of shots per fill. It was difficult for me to justify putting the 12-inch barrel back on the rifle. Except for the noise.
My rifle is a lot longer than the standard Talon SS. It has a 24-inch, .22-caliber barrel and an aftermarket silencer tube that extends the frame of the gun past the muzzle. I’ll tell you about the scope in part 3 of this report.
Because the 24-inch barrel sticks out past the frame, the SS is no longer quiet when the longer barrel is installed. But fast-forward a couple more years and that problem was solved. A device that at the time I bought it was called a “frame extender” became available. It was now possible to again enclose the barrel. When installed it, I discovered that this rifle is even quieter than the stock Talon SS, while producing about 10 foot-pounds greater muzzle energy.
I had my cake and was able to eat it, too! Except for one thing. The modified rifle is now very long. Many people said it was too long in this configuration. Well, excuse me, but I am the guy who also shoots a Trapdoor Springfield and a Remington Rolling Block rifle. Don’t tell me how a long a rifle should be!
The rest of my Talon SS is absolutely stock — most of it the way it came from the factory back in 2001. You would think that working at AirForce, where I had access to all the very best parts, I would have built up a special rifle for myself, but that wasn’t necessary. The parts they produce are all so uniform that I never had to do anything to my rifle in thousands of shots. I did replace the striker and its two bushing/bearings with a newer version, but that was only so I could test it extensively before AirForce started shipping it in guns. After the test was finished, I was too lazy to change back, so my rifle has a striker from 2004. The valve is untouched, just the way I got it back in 2001, and I used to build the valves when I worked at AirForce. If there was something better, I would have had one.
The trigger in my rifle has never been apart, let alone worked on. I learned very early that AirForce triggers are best left just as they come from the factory. One of my jobs was to spray the various trigger and safety parts with a dry-film moly that lubricates them for life. If you put oil or grease on an AirForce trigger, it will attract dirt — and that’s the quickest way I know to foul it. Trigger parts inside the frame channel have to be able to move as the gun is cocked and thus they need to be left absolutely dry.
So, my rifle is stock except for the addition of a long silencer on the end. Does the silencer work? Yes, it does! When my SS is generating over 25 foot-pounds, it makes the same noise discharging as a relatively weak breakbarrel like a Bronco.
What makes me like this air rifle so much? Well, I hope to demonstrate that to you in the coming reports. You’ve heard of a busman’s holiday? Well my Talon SS is the rifle I built for myself when I could have had anything I wanted, and I want to show you how well it works. The cool thing is that you can have one just like it, because my gun is entirely off-the-shelf!
by B.B. Pelletier
Many years ago, I was of the opinion that a silenced handgun made virtually no noise when fired. Then, I bought a legal silencer and discovered that silencers do not completely silence the report of firearms. Since then, I’ve researched the silencer issue in much greater detail and have come to the conclusion that what a silencer can really do is often offset by the false expectations of shooters without previous silencer experience.
After that, you might think that today’s report is about silencers, but it’s not. Instead, I’m going to talk about what the word “quiet” means and how it fits into airgunning. Silencers (or moderators or any other word that means the same thing) never completely silence the report made by a gun. Some of the best ones do a lot, but none of them are ever entirely silent.
But for airgunners, that isn’t the entire question because our guns make noises that a silencer cannot address. To put it simply, no matter how good your car’s muffler is, it still won’t do much about the noise made when the doors slam shut.
Spring-piston guns generate more noise in their powerplants than they do at the muzzle. Trying to silence a springer is pretty futile. On the other hand, a PCP powerplant makes very little noise at all. So, this is an airgun that can be silenced most effectively.
Some specifics, please
The TX-200 Mark III is a very quiet spring-piston air rifle. The muzzle report is silenced by a baffled shroud that the barrel sits in. But that addresses only about one-quarter of all the noise the rifle produces. The remaining three-quarters of the noise comes from the piston slamming forward inside the compression chamber and the coiled steel mainspring rattling around when it does its thing. A TX-200 has a very close-fitted powerplant, whose parts have very little room to move around, apart from the room they must have to push the piston forward, so they don’t have any room to make a lot of extraneous noise. That’s the real reason why a TX-200 Mark III is so quiet.
But the average springer is not built to the same tight specs as a TX-200. A powerful spring rifle made for hunting will have looser tolerances, and a much louder discharge sound, as a result. However, I’ve done some testing in the past that reveals some very enlightening results. When I was testing the Beeman R1 rifle for the chapters of the R1 book, one of the things I did was tune the rifle several different ways. The most powerful tune I installed was also the quietest, as it turned out. The Venomac Mag 80 Laza Glide tune produced over 22 foot-pounds in my R1, yet it both felt and sounded as though it was far weaker. However, that tune also removed almost all vibration from the powerplant, and that afforded me the chance to see what a difference a tightly fitted powerplant can make to the noise issue.
Most of today’s super-magnums have lots of play in their powerplants, with the result that they make a lot of noise when firing. And, it’s noise that cannot be silenced by anything. Before you buy a spring-piston airgun, thinking that it has to be quiet just because it is a springer, consider what I’ve said here.
On the other hand, a weaker spring gun powerplant makes less noise just because the parts inside the powerplant are not making that much racket. They don’t have to be fitted tighter to do this, either. So an IZH 60, and an Air Venturi Bronco are both very quiet airguns, just because they don’t rattle violently when fired. They aren’t fitted tighter than the big magnum rifles, but their parts just never get thrown around as harshly, which makes all the difference in the world.
Crosman Corporation did something very important in reducing the noise a powerplant makes. They used a gas spring they call a Nitro Piston in place of a coiled steel mainspring. They also put the barrel inside a baffled shroud. Instead of tightly fitting all the individual moving parts, Crosman went with a technology — the gas spring — that by its very design is fitted tighter and is therefore much quieter than the conventional spring-powered piston gun. The epitome of their efforts can be found in the Benjamin Legacy, which uses a Nitro Piston, has a shrouded barrel and is also low-powered. So the best of all three design aspects went into one airgun, with the result that the Legacy is quieter than even the TX-200, but costs a lot less, too!
Of course the Crosman Nitro Piston Technology works for all the rifles they make, so even a Benjamin Trail NP XL is relatively quiet for the power that it has. But the Trail NP they used to sell with reduced power was always the quietest of all the guns they normally sold. Only the special-order Benjamin Legacy was quieter.
PCPs are the best
However, talking about silencing a spring gun is like talking about how fast a Honda Civic can go. Yes, you can improve the performance, but a Civic will never be a Ferrari…and a spring gun can never be a PCP, where quiet is concerned. The PCP is hands-down the easiest and most effective airgun to silence.
Let’s begin with the Benjamin Marauder as an example. Crosman didn’t invent the barrel shroud, but they did use it to the max on the Marauder. And, no, the Marauder isn’t completely silent, but it is one of the quietest over-the-counter airguns you’ll ever see.
A silencer can be made that will take the noise of the gun down to the point that all that can be heard is the sound of the hammer spring when it fires. That’s the best I’ve seen, and it’s pretty effective, but it’s also a special-build thing, in my experience. I’ve heard a few British silencers that were almost that quiet, but a special-built silencer is always quieter if it’s been built right. You cannot hear a gun like that shoot from 50 feet away, even though it’s putting out 30 foot-pounds.
I own an Airhog bloop tube for either an AirForce Condor or a Talon SS; and when the gun is set at 30 foot-pounds, the report is almost as quiet as a silenced .22 pistol shooting CB caps. The pistol generates less than 20 foot-pounds, so the airgun is more than 50 percent more powerful. Even so, it can be silenced to almost the same level, which is about as loud as the snapping of fingers.
The Ruger Mark II shooting Super Colibri CB cap ammo is extremely quiet. It generates maybe 18 foot-pounds.
The Talon SS with a 24-inch barrel and a bloop tube makes well over 30 foot-pounds. It’s nearly as quiet as the pistol.
So, quiet has several faces, and the prudent airgunner learns to understand them all. A silencer fitted to the muzzle can either be a blessing or a joke. It all depends on what you’re trying to quiet.
Don’t be lulled into believing that all airguns can be silenced to nothingness, because that’s impossible. But also understand that nothingness is way more than you usually need. A little quiet goes a long way.