Pneumatic Pnews

Monday, March 27, 2006

How good is the BS4 target rifle?

by Tex Force

Tech Force BS4 is a sidelever spring air rifle with a Chinese copy of German engineering that removes all felt recoil. It's an intriguing air rifle, but is it a good one?

If you're a target shooter, you've probably wondered about the Tech Force BS4 target rifle (last rifle on the page) from Compasseco. You know it's made in China, but the price tells you it's not a standard Chinese air rifle. So what is it, and how good can it be?

If you're gonna copy an airgun, copy the best!
The BS4 is an almost exact copy of Feinwerkbau's classic model 300 target rifle. Feinwekbau spent more than a decade perfecting this model, which progressed through the models 110 and 150 before arriving at what the company felt was the pinnacle of design. It remained at the top for the better part of two more decades, the standard against which all other target air rifles were compared. The 300 has a unique system that allows the rifle's action to recoil inside the stock in isolation from the shooter. Each time the gun is cocked, the action moves forward into position. When the gun fires, the action is free to slide rearward in the stock. It rides on steel rails in the stock, and the shooter feels no recoil. This works best when the rifle is held level, which it is during a shooting match.

Can a Chinese copy really be any good?
When the Chinese copy an air rifle, they often get the general look of the gun they are copying but not the function. Not so with the BS4! With this rifle, they got almost everything correct. For starters, the trigger on the BS4 is light, fully adjustable and can be set to be as nice as an FWB 300 trigger. It has the same vertical target profile and feels just as nice as the German trigger. The rifle also cocks as easily as the FWB 300 - which is legendary for how easy it cocks. Though the sidelever is short, the effort needed to cock the rifle is easy enough that it can be cocked from all three shooting positions in a 10-meter match (standing/sitting or kneeling and prone). The shape of the stock is also nearly identical to the one on the German rifle. It's big, thick and squared off, like target shooters demand. There is a rail on the bottom of the forearm for a hand stop and sling swivel. The curved rubber buttpad is adjustable up and down to suit the individual shooter's taste.

The front sight on the BS4 is a globe-type that accepts different inserts, just like the German sights. And, the rear aperture sight on the BS4 (third item from the bottom) is such a good copy of the FWB 300 sight that people have been buying it when they need a replacement for their FWB aperture sight. In the 1970s and '80s, a lot of FWB 300s were sold for a lower price without sights to shooters who wanted to mount scopes on them. Therefore, it's not uncommon to find the gun without sights today. Fortunately, the BS4 sights are every bit as good and sell for a lot less money!

All the fine little touches mean nothing if the rifle isn't deadly accurate, and the BS4 is! Surprisingly it shoots just as accurately as the FWB 300 - a real feat, considering that rifle was at one time the world standard for 10-meter air rifles. The BS4 will never cost you a single point in a match. As long as you do your part, you might as well be shooting an FWB 300! I used to use Tech Force Chinese wadcutter match pellets, but they don't seem to be available any longer, so I would recommend trying the Beeman H&N High-Speed Match pellet. You must use wadcutter pellets when shooting target, because they are the only pellets that leave a crisp hole for scoring. Of course, you can use any shape pellet in this rifle if you want to plink at things. I would recommend using lighter weight pellets, though, to match the lower velocity of the rifle.

It comes in a special hard case!
When you receive the rifle, it's in its own special hard case that looks like luggage. It shocked me to see how nicely this rifle is presented - especially when the FWB 300, which costs three times as much, came only in a cardboard box!

Where are the drawbacks?
I said earlier the Chinese got ALMOST everything correct - what did they forget? I can sum it all up in a single word: finish. The wood is not finished as nicely as the wood stock on an FWB 300. The stippling (rough areas around the pistol grip and forearm) are cruder on the BS4, and they do not grip your hands like the FWB stock does. The metal preparation before bluing isn't as fine as the metal prep on an FWB 300. Even though the metal is equally dark and even, it looks less smooth and shiny on the BS4. The rear aperture sight seems rough on the outside, though it adjusts and returns to zero just as accurately as the FWB's sight. So, finish is the great separator between the German and Chinese target rifles. Finish and price. The FWB hasn't been made for many years, so now it is only sold used. It's starting to pick up some collectable status, which will surely drive the price higher. The BS4 is still being made - for now.

Is the BS4 worth it?
The BS4 is one of the best values on the airgun market today. Twenty years from now, people will lament its passing and wish they had bought one. Unless you just have to have an FWB 300, this is the target rifle for you!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Walther's Nighthawk

by Tex Force

The Walther Nighthawk is dressed for action!

Walther pedigree
If you're an action pistol shooter, you're probably already familiar with Walther's exotic Nighthawk tactical pistol (second gun down on page). At its heart is the Walther CP99 (fourth gun down), the CO2 version of the P99. This is Walther's popular law enforcement pistol and the current sidearm of the world's most famous secret agent - James Bond. The CO2 version is an 8-shot pistol that fires with each pull of the trigger.

Something special
When law enforcement and special operations agents go on really exotic missions, they outfit their weapons specifically for the force they expect to encounter. That's where the Nighthawk comes in. On top of the standard CP99, which is pretty edgy to start with, they added a compensator to deflect muzzle gasses away from the base of the pellet. The company says this gives you better accuracy, which is the only reason for a compensator. It's not a silencer; it's an accuracy enhancer. But there's more. On top of the slide, they mounted a red dot sight to make target acquisition is faster and more precise in all kinds of light. Once you get accustomed to using the dot sight, you'll never want to go back to open sights again. Lastly, a tactical flashlight is mounted on the left side of the special wraparound mount attached to the frame. The thumb switch is located where your thumb rests, so switching on is a breeze. And, yes, all this can be easily moved to the other side of the gun for left-handed operations.

Really a revolver
The slide of the Nighthawk springs forward to allow the loading of a special 8-shot rotary clip. The gun comes with three clips, plus they are available in packs of three if you want to keep on shooting. A single powerlet located in the grip provides enough power for at least 6 clips, and up to 8 IF you give the gun a chance to rest between bursts of fire.

Get a Speedloader to keep on keeping on
The ease with which this pistol can be loaded and shot puts pressure on your ability to load more rotary clips. Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of the Diabolo Speedloader. Diabolo is simply what the rest of the world calls a pellet, so this is really a pellet speedloader that loads 7 rotary clips in a minute or so. If you own a fast-shooting gun like the Nighthawk or any other gun that uses the Walther rotary clips, you'll want this accessory to keep up with the action. It uses the "pour and shake" type operation that releases you from handling individual pellets. Compasseco lists the guns that can use it, so there's no question if it will work for your gun.

Things to shoot
For targets, you'll want to shoot at things that tell you instantly when they've been hit. The Daisy Shatterblast target system (fourth item from the bottom of page) does that with a satisfying burst of the biodegradable non-toxic target disk! Four target holders can be stuck into the ground anywhere you want, to hold the disks in positions that can be changed in an instant. Order two systems to match the 8 shots in your gun, and be sure to stock up on replacement disks, too (third from bottom). For even faster action, tether small balloons on a 3-foot string and let them blow around the yard on a breezy day. The random action will challenge the best shooter's skills!

A remanufactured Nighthawk is an affordable choice for those on a budget.

Can you build a Nighthawk from a CP99?
This question comes up a lot. CP99 owners wonder whether they can buy all the accessories to turn their pistol into a Nighthawk. While it is possible to accessorize a CP99, the wraparound mount that holds all the sighting equipment is not available separately, so it's not possible to build a Nighthawk from scratch, however, there is another solution! Compasseco also sells a remanufactured Nighthawk at a great price. All it lacks is the tactical flashlight. Don't let the remanufactured part frighten you. Each pistol has been inspected and returned to new operational condition by factory-trained experts. Many of these guns are unfired and were simply returned because the customer wanted a different model!

The Walther Nighthawk is the most accessorized action pistol available on the market, and it even has the mounting points for a laser, at the owner's discretion. No other action air pistol comes close to what's in this package. If you are an action pistol shooter, this is your gun!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Gamo's new Raptor hunting pellet!

by Tex Force

Gold-plated pellets! Do they shine as much in the field?

Advertising being what it is, it's surprising when a new product lives up to its claims, but the new Gamo Raptor pellet seems to do at least part of that! The claims are 25 percent higher velocity, increased energy with double the penetration on game animals and ballistic media, and match-grade accuracy. (As I write this, Compasseco doesn't have it in stock, yet. Read more about it through the link I provided above.)

What IS the Gamo Raptor?
For starters, it's a non-lead pellet. They are only available in .177 at present and they weigh only five grains, so whatever they are made of is lighter than lead. The Performance Ballistic Alloy, as Gamo calls it, is plated with 18-carat gold for barrel lubrication, and Gamo claims the new pellet has "match-grade" accuracy. They call the nose semi-pointed, but it looks more like a round-nose to me. It reminds me of the nose on a Beeman Kodiak pellet (bottom of the page). The Raptor is sold strictly for hunting. Gamo even warns not to use them with an airgun pellet trap, undoubtedly thinking of the ricochet problem.

New packaging
The Raptor comes 100 to a pack, in two 50-pellet clear plastic tubes. They will seem very pricey compared to lead pellets; but, if Gamo's claims hold up, they will be worth it. As hard as the alloy is, these pellets should not deform when carried afield.

Let's put them to the test!
What does 25 percent more velocity really mean? Well, Gamo published the following numbers to help you understand. They say pellet guns that get 650 f.p.s. right now will get about 813 with Raptors. Guns that get 1,000 f.p.s. should get 1,250 f.p.s. with Raptors. And Gamo's own Hunter 1250 (second rifle down on the page) gets 1,600 with Raptors! They had a segment on the American Hunter TV program that showed them going through the chronograph at 1,608. So, for that claim there's supporting evidence.

Actual velocity
I tested them in a Beeman P1 pistol (third pistol down on the page) and a TX200 rifle. The P1 gave an average of 565 f.p.s. with 7-grain RWS Hobby pellets (second item down on the page). With Raptors, the average jumped to 633 f.p.s., a gain of 68 f.p.s., which is an increase of almost 13 percent. Muzzle energy with Hobbys was 4.96 foot-pounds and with Raptors 4.45 foot-pounds, which is a loss instead of a gain. The TX 200 averaged 1018 f.p.s. with Hobbys and 1,205 f.p.s. with Gamo Raptors, for a difference of 188 f.p.s. That's an increase of more than 18.5 percent. Muzzle energy with Hobbys was 16.11 foot-pounds and with Raptors it was 16.13, which is almost no difference. They didn't quite make the full 25 percent velocity increase, but the increase they did achieve was still very impressive! Being much lighter, they actually lost muzzle energy or remained the same. And, yes, the Raptors did break the sound barrier in the TX, which is cool until your neighbors start coming out of the house to see what's going on.

Gamo says the pellets fly true at supersonic velocities. I shot them in a Gamo Shadow 1000 (third and fourth from the bottom of the page) at 30 yards. The Shadow likes Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets and delivered five-shot groups of a little less than 1" at that distance. With the Raptors, the groups were all between 2.5" and 3". Hardly "match-grade" accuracy! That's just one test with just one rifle, so I'm not ready to say they don't group - but in that gun, they sure didn't.

I read a report last year about shooting pellets into clear bars of soap for comparative penetration testing, so I tried it with the Raptor. The soap bar shows the results. The Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellet penetrated the bar slightly deeper than the Gamo Raptor, when both were shot from a Beeman P1.

The Crosman Premier 7.9-grain on the left, Gamo Raptor on the right. This was shot from a Beeman P1 with the muzzle almost touching the soap bar.

So, what do I think?
The Raptor is a new type of pellet that significantly increases velocity in airguns. The claim for good accuracy needs more testing. To be accurate, I think the pellet will have to stay below 1,000 f.p.s. The claim for increased penetration appears to be not true - at least in a bar of soap. Nevertheless, the Gamo Raptor was made for hunting and that's where the most important test will come. Please comment if you have had some experience with this new pellet.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Walther's PPK/S

by Tex Force

There are a few airguns that are going to be classics from the start, and today we're looking at one - the Walther PPK/S (last three pistols on the page). This is a BB gun - not a pellet gun, so it has a smoothbore barrel and the spring-loaded inline stick-type magazine that holds 15 steel BBs.

A REAL airgun!
The gun's initials stand for Polizei Pistol Kurtz/USA (small police pistol made to U.S. specs). Secret Agent James Bond carried a Walther PPK for many years. The /S was added when the Gun Control Act of 1968 forbid the importation of pistols smaller than a certain size. Walther used the standard PP frame with the PPK slide and produced the PPK/S just for America. A benefit of this conversion is that the PPK/S does not bite the web of the shooter's hand the way the PPK often does. And, Walther makes the PPK/S, so this BB gun isn't a copy of anything. It is a genuine PPK/S in BB caliber!

Powered by CO2
The pistol draws its power from a 12-gram CO2 Powerlet that fits neatly out of sight in the grip. The left grip panel pops off to reveal where the powerlet goes, and the gun gets almost 100 shots from a single powerlet! It's not a magnum, but at the close ranges it's designed for, it does very well. However, shooting the gun reveals a big surprise! It recoils!

Blowback action!
Each time the pistol fires, the slide blows back, imparting a bounce that feels just like the recoil of a small-caliber pocket pistol. You can read about it all day long, but the first time you actually shoot the gun - you'll understand. In fact, the gun is so much fun to shoot that you may take out the magazine just so you can shoot it to feel the recoil! I'm serious! I know a gun store that sells these by simply letting their customers shoot them without BBs. If an empty magazine it in the gun, the slide remains open after the shot, so you must remove the magazine to keep firing.

How to have some real fun with a PPK/S
Because the gun isn't too powerful, you can use a cardboard box stuffed with crushed newspapers as a safe backstop. If you also put some whole newspapers in the back of the box, it will last a lot longer. Tape a Shoot-N-C target to the box and shoot it from 15 feet awat. Watch as each BB rips through the target, turning the bullseye from black to bright green. Or try Daisy's Sound Blaster target (third item down on page). It makes a realistic sound when hit, which you'll be able to do very rapidly with this pistol! Another target that would be fun is Daisy's ShatterBlast target (fourth item down). They break into pieces when hit; with a fast-firing gun like the PPK/S, it will be fun to see how fast you can break them all.

Don't forget the Pellgunoil
people always ask me how long these guns hold up. Well, I own two and the oldest one is five years old. I've never had a moment's difficulty with either gun because I use Crosman Pellgunoil on the tip of each new powerlet that I load. The oil gets blown through the gun and oils every seal, keeping the gun sealed for a long time. I can't recommend this product too strongly. It's cheap maintenance that keeps a gun running for a long time.

Disassembly is different
The PPK/S pistol used to disassemble just like the firearm, by pulling straight down on the triggerguard, but Wal-Mart started returning too many guns that owners had taken apart and could not put back together. At Crosman's request, Walther put a pin in the front of the triggerguard so the gun doesn't disassemble easily any more. There is nothing to do to the disassembled gun anyway, so there's really no need to disassemble it.

Remember safety
Because it's a BB gun, you have to be extra safe when shooting a PPK/S. Steel BBs bounce back from hard targets, so everyone in the shooting area must wear safety glasses. Also make sure your target area is free from hard things like trees, boards and metal objects. An aluminum pop can is okay, but a steel can is not.

If you like a fast action pistol, the PPK/S is made for you. It's a blast to shoot, plus the realistic blowback action is addictive. Be sure to buy plenty of BBs and CO2 if you get one.