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November 16, 2007

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Air Time: Five Pellet Guns Reviewed Head to Head

Editor’s Note: Dave is out of the office today, and so I thought we’d post something a little different on the blog. The air rifle reviews below also appear in our latest issue (the December/January double), in the FieldTest section.

Why get an air rifle? Because in a time when places to shoot are growing scarcer, these guns are quieter than .22s, and their pellets travel only one-quarter the distance. Because a box of 50 .22 Long Rifle rounds costs around $2.60, but a tin of 500 .177 pellets goes for $6.30. Because good .22s now cost as much as big-game rifles did a few years ago, but good pellet guns can still be had, with scope, for less than $300. Because you need the practice, and an air rifle can give it to you.

Airgun

The Test
All five guns tested were hunter-plinker models, not target air rifles, which are a different breed altogether. I shot them from a benchrest and offhand at 15 yards. Most air rifles require that you run 500 to 1,000 rounds through them before they really start to shoot, so I’ve omitted anything specific about accuracy. I used a variety of pellets; just like powder-burning rifles, air guns are particular about what they eat. There is no shortage of pellet types, either. RWS alone makes five varieties.

Hammerli Storm .177
($180; $225 with 4X scope)

THE LOWDOWN: This comparatively inexpensive model comes in .22 as well as .17 and has a synthetic stock with an ambidextrous cheekpiece, praise be! It’s a single-stroke break-barrel, with the usual fine fiber-optic sights that one comes to expect from Hammerli. The Storm requires a bit less cocking effort than the other guns tested, and therefore isn’t quite as powerful.

HITS: It’s very, very, accurate. At 15 yards, shooting offhand, I put five shots in a group you could cover with a nickel.

MISSES: It didn’t have the greatest trigger pull of the guns tested, but on the other hand, so what?

CONTACT: Umarex USA (pronounced OOM-a-rex); 479-646-4210; umarexusa.com


Hammerli X2 .17 and .22
($275; $315 with 4X scope)

THE LOWDOWN: Now here is a good idea—a switch-caliber air rifle that lets you swap back and forth between .17 and .22. The X2 is very well made, with a hardwood stock, open sights with fiber-optic inserts, and lots of power. To change caliber, you flip down a locking catch, unscrew the muzzle weight, drop out one barrel sleeve, drop in the other, screw back the weight, and flip up the catch. It takes 45 seconds and it works.

HITS: The X2 has lots of power, a top-flight trigger that’s very reminiscent of the Savage Accu-Trigger, and excellent iron sights.

MISSES: It’s kind of on the hefty side for a kid to use.

CONTACT: Umarex, yes, the same people as above.

RWS Model 34 .17
($250; $295 with 4X scope)

THE LOWDOWN: This single-stroke break-barrel comes in both .17 and .22. It’s a wood-stocked rifle with good iron sights (not as easy for my geezer eyes to use as the ones with fiber-optic inserts). The Model 34 is a solid gun, from a highly respected name.

HITS: It has lots of power, and it’s accurate.

MISSES: To cock it, I had to smack the barrel on something hard; after that it was easy. I’m told that this was one of a batch of stiff-opening rifles, and not normal for a Model 34. It all comes from the German love of screwing guns together tightly.

CONTACT: Umarex

Sheridan Blue Streak CB9 .20
($190)

THE LOWDOWN: I’ve owned a Blue Streak since 1958, which is just about as long as the gun has been made. It’s a multistroke gun, which means that you can pump it for as few as three strokes or as many as eight, depending on how much power you want. It’s a good design that has been continually improved over the years. The weight is 6 pounds, the stock is hardwood, and the sights are open.

HITS: Of these five guns, this is the best bet for a small or young shooter because of its compact dimensions and its ease of cocking. If I haven’t had a problem with my Blue Streak in 49 years, you probably won’t either.

MISSES: It’s not quite as accurate as the other guns, and its iron sights are primitive compared to theirs. You will shoot much better if you get a Williams peep sight, or a scope.

CONTACT: 800-724-7486; crosman.com

Walther Talon Magnum .17
($250 with 3X–9X scope)

THE LOWDOWN: Brand-new from Walther, this is a spring-powered single-stroke model, and the one I shot was the first to make it to the United States. It’s large and very serious, with a muzzle velocity in .177 of 1250 fps (there will be a .22 and a .25 later on). The black synthetic stock has a recoil pad that is adjustable for length of pull. If you’re looking for an air rifle to hunt with, this one is tough to beat.

HITS: The Talon has excellent open sights, with fiber-optic inserts. It comes with a terrific little scope. The accuracy is good, and the overall quality is very high. It feels like a full-size big-game rifle. Did I mention that it’s powerful?

MISSES: Cocking required considerable effort. Where do you think all those feet per second come from? Also, the trigger pull is long and mushy.

CONTACT: Umarex

A Note On Air Rifles and Safety
Air guns are not considered firearms because they don’t use gunpowder, and therefore are not subject to the regulations that govern firearms. There are, however, all sorts of local ordinances governing who can buy and use them, so it behooves you to check first. All the major dealers that I know will not sell to anyone younger than 18.

Pellets are dangerous out to 500 yards, which is one-quarter the distance that .22 Long Rifle bullets travel. They’re just as deadly as rifle rounds inside that distance. If you shoot someone with an air rifle, they’ll go to the hospital and you’ll go to jail.

These guns are strictly short-range propositions. Olympic air rifle competition is staged at 10 meters, and I found that 15 yards, which is practically the same distance, is about the limit for good accuracy. At 25 yards, you’ll wonder if there’s something wrong with the gun.

And a Note On Scopes
Spring-powered air rifles will wreck a conventional riflescope in short order. That’s because a regular scope is designed to withstand recoil that moves from front to rear. Air rifles of the type tested recoil back and then forward, which is enough to churn the guts of any optical sight that’s not made to withstand it.

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Comments

WA Mtnhunter

Re: My comment on another post:

I can't wait for one of our correspondents to reveal which airgun he used to take elk or cape buffalo.

My hip waders are at the ready!

Good article, Dave. I need to replace that old Daisy.

jstreet

Quote from article:
These guns are strictly short-range propositions. Olympic air rifle competition is staged at 10 meters, and I found that 15 yards, which is practically the same distance, is about the limit for good accuracy. At 25 yards, you’ll wonder if there’s something wrong with the gun.


Let's see, I'm gonna spend $190-$275 for a 15 yard pellet gun to practice with. No, I think I'll pass.

If owning a gun for me becomes owning a pellet gun because I have run out of places to shoot I guess I'll sell my guns and be done with it (except for a handgun for home protection).

Jim


Scott Mahl

Some of the spring action pellet rifles can only achieve good groups at 25 yards but some of the pre-charged air rifles can group 1" at 50 yards. The Air Force Condor can be shot at up to 100 yards and if you think that it is not powerful take note: one of the writers who tested it cracked a cinder block with it.

I think that with the progressive urbanization of our society these rifles are a good alternative to not shooting at all.

WA Mtnhunter

I live where I can legally fire a high powered rifle or .22 off the porch anytime I please (with utmost regard for safety and consideration of neighbors). However, I use a decrepit old Daisy pellet gun to dispatch garden variety pests when appropriate.

It's good target practice!

By the way, does CB .22 Long mean "cat bullet"? Just wondering.

Ben

I'm not sure what the "CB" stands for, I do know that if you fire them out of a gund with a longer barrel - say 24" - they're quieter than a pellet gun. Its what I use to dispatch rodents in the back yard.

WA Mtnhunter

I can shoot CB's from downstairs and the wife doesn't hear it upstairs! Does make a good feline fixer.

El-Wazir

What kind of scope is that shown on the rifle in the picture? Looks like a Leupold because of the golden ring, but what model? Very nifty!

Dean

For all you air gun enthusiasts (if any) reading this, head over to http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/ for a dedicated blog on the subject.

Don

I too have an old Sheridan Blue Streak. It now needs to be repaired because it won't pump up. Does anyone have a suggestion as to where I can have it rebuilt?

Dr. Ralph

"At 25 yards you'll wonder if there's something wrong with your gun." Are you serious? I have owned an RWS 34 for over 10 years and the damn thing will still shoot 1" groups at 60 yards, which is how far my target is from my garage door. I have killed many blackbirds at the tree line which is 80 yards away but I normally aim an inch above their heads... Either you people have not experimented with these guns or you are very poor shots. You must have an RWS mount for an RWS rifle or the scope will literally back off the rail. Perhaps this is the problem. Round nose pellets are also a must. Flat nose go everywhere... I recommend Beeman Diablo's.

Scott Mahl

Don:

Contact George Pena at 512-863-2951. I have been informed that he works on Sheridans like yours. Good luck!

alabamahunter

Where has that lucky SOB ya'll call a rifle editor hunting now. It seems like every other week he's out of the office on some hunt I wish I was on. Lucky b*&***d!

Shaky

When I read the article in the mag.,I thought Dave had completly run out of matereial to write about. Then I remembered I have an old Sheridan BS. So I dug it out, and tried to pump it up. Had the same problem Don has. Turned it over with the pump lever open and saw a small hole over the piston. I retrieved a bottle of Outer's gun oil and pumped much oil into that hole,worked it a few times, pumped in more, worked it a few more times, it started to resist,pumped more,fired it,hunted up the pellets, loaded it,pumped it up to 8 and shot a 5/8"plywood board and the pellet went all the way through it at the incredible range oh 10'.
Try oiling that piston,Don, maybe you'l save a repair bill. But I dought it will be any more accurate than it was before.

O Garcia

I hope I'm not offending some people when I add that "if you accidentally shoot someone in the forehead - or any part of the head with brain behind it - with these rifles, they'll probably die or suffer some horrible vegetative state fate."

Let's all be careful. If you can kill a feral dog with these, you can kill a person, too. Regard these with the same respect and care as firearms.

OK, I'm off the pulpit now... Have fun everyone.

Michael

I've got a Gamo Cammie 1 stroke pellet rifle that I took squirrel hunting a couple yrs ago w/ some freinds. They all gave me the usual shit about bringing a knife to a gunfight, but I did get two of them. (the squirrels that is). I've taught my 7 yr old to shoot it. Maybe I'll start my 5 yr old soon. They are fun to shoot.

SilverArrow

Daisy Red Rider!
SA

Gary Mc

Look at the RWS 460 Magnum in .22

This is a very nice springer airgun with a lot of power.

Ricardo Rodríguez

Editor, Which air rifle is featured in the picture?
It looks to me as a Mendoza, that scope rail cut off the main body, that ambidextrus safety lever and that rear end are quite unmistakable. And they have a switch barrel model too, so I wonder if they are partners with Hammerli now.

I own a RWS 48 with RWS base and BSA scope and it is quite accurate at more than 50 meters, althoug I need to make more adjustments than with a .22LR.

Jim

I have always used the GAMO Air Rifles and have had ggod results out to 35 yards, but then that is as far as my backyard range is. Squirels are no prolem, but I have to be sure of the area behind them. 1,000 FPS Rifles and up are killers. The GAMO Hunter Extreme at 1,625 FPS would easily kill a human and has hogs and other game that size.

Many a metal barn has had to have patches when pests were shot frominside the barn. I've patched a few of my own holes.

Thomas

I personally have a old crossmen that I have to pump up 8,10 or 20 times. I give it a shot of WD-40 when I want the extra power. The WD will act like Diesel Fuel in a diesel engine and makes a satisfied pop when using steel BB's. I use it to dispatch feral cats that get in to the garbage and kill my wifes song birds that she feeds. 1 shot one kill.

Chev Jim

You just ruined it when you talked about shooting dogs and cats. It's illegal to do that in most jurisdictions, and your "feral cat" may be someone's roaming tomcat. I do not shoot domestic animals. I feel that to do so violates the "contract" mankind made with dogs and cats eons ago. If a dog or cat is running around loose, it's some human being's fault, and it's not right to kill a domestic animal unless your life is in danger. Right now we're feeding two "feral" cats that were abandoned by some stupid human. They don't bother anybody. Do they eat birds? Probably--but so do we. But please, please, please don't shoot "stray" dogs and cats, because they may be someone's pet, and there's just a better way of taking care of that problem. All you will do is play into the antigunners' hands. And perhaps break some child's heart.

Mike Strehlow

These guns do about 80% of what you now do with your .22, only better. They will kill rats, bunnies, birds and squirrels at 25 yards or more, if you can make head shots. They are a lot quieter and cheaper to shoot, and safer (much easier to trap pellets than bullets) than any rimfire. I can shoot targets with my air rifle and handgun in my garage, something I can't do with my .22s. You really learn to follow through on your hold when shooting an air gun. Finally, a box that could hold 500 .22 Long Rifles will hold several thousand pellets. They are not a replacement for a .22, but a great addition to any shooter's battery. If you are a shooter and don't live on a farm or a ranch, you need one of these.

Blue Ox

These air rifles sound pretty nifty, but i think i'll stick with my .22 for now.

liston

CB stands for "conical ball", the type of bullet used. ive killed squirrels way past 15 yards with my gamo. rocket pellets by gamo are a must have though

Clay Cooper

Several months ago on one of the outdoor channels. They had a special on large caliber air rifles around 30 to 357 calibers that did some serious damage to water melons like a center fire.




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