Pneumatic Pnews

Monday, October 30, 2006

AirForce Talon SS - Part 1

by Tex Force

AirForce Talon SS is a powerful precharged air rifle with more features than any other rifle. Shown here with optional scope and bipod.

With the holidays coming, many of you are thinking about that next big airgun. Perhaps, some have thought about getting into precharged guns. There has never been a better time, and one of the best rifles is made here in the U.S. I'm talking about the AirForce Talon SS.

The Talon SS has too many features for me to cover in a single blog, so this will just be the first part. When it was invented in 2001, there wasn't another air rifle like it. Although its looks have been copied, there still isn't another air rifle with its performance.

A lightweight classic!
The Talon SS weighs just 5.25 lbs., yet it is more powerful than most magnum spring-piston air rifles. It is made of aircraft aluminum and steel and has a distinctive tactical look. The air reservoir is also the butt, and it unscrews to make a portable rifle package under 28" long - even with a large scope! The rifle is finished in a beautiful matte black that doesn't reflect any light, which is one reason America's exterminators and the U.S. Department of Agriculture use it to eliminate pests. Another reason is adjustable power.

Adjustable power
A convenient thumbwheel on the left side of the receiver lets you adjust the power up for hunting or down for shooting targets, plinking or for those tight shots at pests inside buildings. Before the Talon SS came on the scene, very few air rifles had adjustable power, but now they almost have to in order to be competitive.

The power adjustment wheel makes it easy to change power. Dial it down for indoors or targets, up for hunting.

Before we look at the rifle some more, let's discuss the No. 1 reason that holds shooters back from precharged guns: concern about the technology. That's why every AirForce rifle comes with a one-hour DVD describing the entire operation and maintenance and tips, such as how to mount a scope and sight-in. It's more than the owner's manual set to video - it's an education in precharged operations. And, it comes free with every AirForce gun. No other airgun maker in the world offers a video about their gun! If you buy just the video (under $10), you can look the gun over to see if it's something you want to get into. It's a heck of a good way to shop for airguns.

All AirForce air rifles are designed as modules. What that means is that owners can make some changes and modifications to their guns without sending them anywhere. Take calibers, for instance. Let's say you bought a Talon SS in .22 caliber (the No. 1 seller), but now you'd also like to have a .177. All you have to do is buy an optional 12" .177 barrel for under $100 and put it in yourself. It takes about five minutes to change calibers this way. But, there's more! Let's say you want a more powerful rifle than the .22 SS. It produces 25 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, but what it you want 40 foot-pounds? All you have to do is install an optional 24-inch .22-caliber barrel (in just five minutes), and your rifle will produce up to 45 foot-pounds. Just by swapping barrels! Even that's not where the modularity payoff ends.

Micro Meter tank
This year, AirForce came out with the Micro Meter tank. It's identical to the standard tank that fits Talons and Talon SS guns and the Condor tank. It can be used on any of the the three models. What this tank does is make it possible to shoot with very controlled power at low velocity. It's perfect for shooting indoors and for eliminating tiny pests, such as birds inside buildings, where over-penetration can damage the building. For just the cost of a spare air tank, you get an entirely different air rifle. That's what AirForce has done with modularity!

We're just getting started with the features of the Talon SS, so come back next week and see the rest!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Daisy's Avanti 853 Legend

by Tex Force

Daisy's 853 is the perennial favorite target rifle for NRA youth competition. The inset shows the three butt spacers that allow the rifle to grow with the shooter.

With the holidays coming, many shooters are thinking about that big gift they want. If you like to shoot targets with the best accuracy possible, Daisy's Avanti 853 Legend is a rifle you should think about.

A classic!
The 853 has been around for decades. It's a true classic, and the No. 1 choice of over 700,000 junior shooters enrolled in NRA shooting programs each year. Clubs and individual shooters all over America have been using this rifle to set records. Despite the relatively low price, the 853 is deadly accurate!

Two models: a single-shot and a repeater
The 853 is a single-shot rifle, which is what you must use in all formal competitions. There is also a more expensive 853C 5-shot repeater. To make it meet the regulations, the C model can also be used as a single-shot. But the basic 853 is the model most competitors choose, and it's the one that Compasseco sells.

A single-stroke pneumatic
This rifle is a single-stroke pneumatic. It's pumped one time to make it ready to shoot. A second pump does nothing. The pump stroke takes about 20 lbs. of effort, which years of competition have demonstrated is about right for children 12 and older. Younger kids may find it too difficult to operate. The pump lever is plastic, which turns shooters off. In my 20-year experience with 853s, I have never known of a single lever that broke through normal use. Shooters have to keep the pump head oiled to maintain compression. A drop of 20-weight non-detergent motor oil (Daisy's recommendation) or Crosman Pellgunoil (what everyone really uses) on the pump head every six months keeps the rifle shooting strong.

The rifle is cocked by pulling back on the bolt handle. A single target pellet, such as the RWS R-10 target wadcutter, is laid in the loading trough, and the bolt is pushed closed. For target use, only wadcutter pellets are used because they cut a perfectly round hole in target paper. That makes scoring easier. Nothing but wadcutters can be used in competition. If you just want to practice, a less expensive pellet is the Gamo Match wadcutter. It's plenty accurate for basement shooting, and it costs a lot less than formal target ammo.

The trigger takes some getting used to
The trigger on the 853 is one of its shortcomings, being both heavy and creepy - two things you don't want in a target trigger. With use, it wears a point, but it never becomes a fine trigger. Still, there are hundreds of thousands of kids setting records every year with the 853, so it can't be that difficult to learn!

Barrel and stock
Daisy uses a fine Lothar Walther barrel for the 853. This company makes airgun barrels that are as fine as any in the world. Most guns that have them cost about twice what the 853 costs. Such a barrel gives you a rifle capable of hitting the period at the end of this sentence from 33 feet away. The 853 stock is hardwood and adjustable for different sizes of shooters. There are plenty of adults who own these fine rifles, as well as kids, as the stock comes with butt inserts to make it adapt to shooters of all sizes.

This is not a powerful air rifle, so the construction is robust enough to last for a very long time. Daisy uses common O-rings everywhere. When the time does come for a rebuild (club guns get rebuilt every 50,000 to 100,000 shots), you won't have many special parts to buy. Most shooters don't shoot more than 3,000 shots in a lifetime; but, with a rifle like the 853, it's easy for a dedicated shooter to put 5,000 shots a year through the gun. It will still be a decade or more of hard shooting before your gun requires any attention. When it does, the parts won't be difficult to find.

An 853 is not cheap; but, with the holidays coming, now may be the right time for target shooters to announce their favorite gift this year.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hunters - spring gun or pneumatic?

by Tex Force

Thirty years ago, the choice between spring gun and pneumatic was far different than today. Springers were more expensive then; if you wanted real hunting power, you pretty much had to go pneumatic. That has all changed as spring gun technology has advanced and prices have dropped. The question that remains is this: Should you use a spring piston airgun or a multi-pump pneumatic to hunt small game?

Multi-pumps first
Airgun hunters want to use either .20 or .22 caliber for hunting. The larger pellets hit harder and don't penetrate as much as the smaller .177s. That's not to say you can't hunt with a .177; but, if you're still in the buying mode, look to the larger calibers. The Benjamin 392 should be at the top of your list. It produces around 14 foot-pounds. In the right hands, it can take game up to the size of crows and raccoons. Keep the distance to as far as you can hit a quarter, and you'll do fine.

Another good choice is Sheridan's Blue Streak and Silver Streak. Available only in .20 caliber, either rifle is virtually identical in performance to the 392. The one drawback is fewer types of .20 caliber pellets exist than .22 caliber, but all you need is one good one.

For hunters on a tighter budget, Daisy's 22SG is a wonderful bargain. It shortens the maximum range by 8-10 yards, but it's very capable out to about 25 yards. It's also the perfect tool for eliminating pests in tight spaces, such as attics, basements and barns. Key features everyone will love are the easy pumping and the fact that this rifle comes with a scope!

Let's talk springers
To keep this comparison fair, I'm going to stick with airguns in the same price range as the pumps. Obviously, there are very capable spring guns in the $200-500 range. Since there is nothing equivalent in a pneumatic, there's no choice. Spring rifles take some technique to shoot well, while pneumatics do not. A spring rifle has to be held very lightly to group its best, and this is not a natural hold for a shooter. So, shooting a springer is a learned skill.

Let's start with the Tech Force 97 in .22 caliber. This is the flagship of Compasseco, and one of the more highly developed Chinese air rifles. Hunters will find it plenty powerful for the same game they hunt with the Benjamin 392 and at the same range. Because it's an underlever spring gun, it's much easier to mount and use a scope than any pneumatic, because the scope doesn't get in the way of cocking the gun. The trigger is also much nicer and lighter than those found on multi-pumps.

Stepping up in both price and power, the Tech Force 99 is the real powerhouse in the line. It's a much larger rifle than the 97 but just as smooth and just as nice. It also accepts scopes very well - even big ones - and the extra power (in .22 caliber) stretches the maximum range out even farther than the Benjamin 392. Keep it to the maximum distance at which you can reliably hit a quarter.

Winchester, Remington, Crosman, Beeman and Gamo have spring rifles in this price range that are available only in .177. As I said earlier, you can hunt with a .177, but you are limiting yourself if you do. Your shot placement must be exact, or the pellet will pass through the animal while inflicting a non-lethal wound. If you want to try, there are a great number of models to choose from. All are breakbarrels, which means they will need the maximum technique for accuracy. With practice, a shooter can do well with any of them.

Recent years have seen big changes in spring-piston air rifles that make them competitive with multi-pump pneumatics in the same price range. But, for hunters who want the heavy calibers, Tech Force seems to be leading the way.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Repeater vs single-shot

by Tex Force

Which to buy? A repeater or a single-shot? In the past 15 years, the number of airgun repeaters has increased dramatically, and the buying public's response has been great. But, is a repeater really what it's cracked up to be? Let's discuss some things about repeaters and single-shots that you may not get to read on the airgun forums.

Load perfect pellets for best accuracy
For maximum accuracy, a few things are necessary. One of them is that an undamaged pellet be loaded into the breech the same way every time. With most single-shots, you place the pellet directly into the breech when you load the gun. You control how far it goes in and if it is a perfect pellet when it is loaded. Not so for all repeaters! A repeater takes over the loading function from you, and that's where damage to the pellet can occur. If the repeating mechanism bends the skirt of the pellet before it is loaded, you will not get a consistent shot. This can happen in a number of ways. Guns that have a circular magazine can bend the noses of pellets that are slightly longer than the magazine. This means every pellet will be damaged before it is shot. The FX precharged guns from Sweden that are also sold under the Webley and Logun brand names have this problem. The manufacturer highly recommends that only JSB pellets be used in their guns, because they know these pellets fit the magazines. Even then, the shooter doesn't load the pellet, a bolt probe does it, thus removing one of the controls shooters have over consistency.

Don't get me wrong, FX airguns are very accurate! But they are not more accurate than American-made AirForce single-shots that cost hundreds of dollars less. Both guns use the best barrels, but the AirForce rifles let you load pellets directly into the breech the same way every time. That does make a difference.

Single-shots have few ammunition limits - repeaters have many
A case to illustrate this point. There are presently two Korean 9mm air rifles on the American market. Both are made by ShinSung, a Korean maker with a good reputation. The Career Ultra is a lever-action repeater, and the Fire 201S is a single-shot. The Ultra is extremely limited as to the pellets it can feed through the magazine. They must be very short to work. That limits the shooter to pellets weighing only 60 grains! There's a place on the opposite side of the Ultra where a single pellet can be loaded, but it, too, is extremely short, and the pellet cannot be pushed into the barrel by hand. The bolt probe must do it. The single-shot 9mm barrel, in contrast, can be directly loaded with pellets of all weights, including 9mm lead pistol bullets up to 130 grains! That gives the single-shots far more effectiveness, because a heavier pellet or bullet means more power. The complicated Ultra repeater weighs over 9 lbs., while the sleek Fire 201S weighs less than 7.5 lbs.!

Repeaters can jam
Some repeaters, such as the Korean repeaters that use a linear (inline) magazine, jam if the length of the pellet does not exactly fit the space into which the pellet is pushed prior to transport to the breech. They will also jam if the nose of a pellet sticks too deeply into the skirt of the pellet in front of it. The feed mechanism strips off each pellet sideways, and pointed pellets will jam every time. Gamo had a repeating breakbarrel rifle for several decades that they simply could not get to work correctly. It started as the Expomatic in the late 1960s and matured into the larger, more powerful Shadowmatic that was sold until a few years ago. It was so picky about pellets that almost nothing besides the one pellet they recommended would work...and that only part of the time.

There are a few repeaters with very few feeding problems. They are the rifles that use a "harmonica" type clip that slides sideways in the breech, such as the IZH 61 and Daisy's Avanti 853C target rifle. As long as the pellets aren't too long (use flat-nosed wadcutter pellets in these target guns), they'll feed reliably all the time. Other airguns with circular magazines, including the Crosman's 1077 and all CO2 pistols and rifles made by Umarex, work fine if you use shorter pellets.

Single-shots, in comparison, usually have no feeding problems whatsoever. Some, such as the Benjamin 397, do use a bolt probe to seat the pellet in the breech. Others...such as all Tech Force spring rifles...allow the pellet to be handloaded directly into the breech. This allows you to experiment with all kinds of pellets without worrying about jamming. The only thing you must always do with a breakbarrel is seat the pellet deeply into the breech so the skirt doesn't bend when the barrel closes. If you remember to do that, the rifle is far more flexible than any repeater.

The choice is yours. Repeaters do offer faster second shots, as long as you learn their quirks. For the ultimate in accuracy, however, you should look to the single-shot.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A top-quality target pistol at an affordable price!

by Tex Force

IZH 46 is a wonderful value in a target air pistol.

Here's a real deal for you. The IZH 46M pistol is more accurate than many air rifles, and it's easy to use. For the power and accuracy this pistol delivers, you would normally have to pay three times the price, so this airgun is a real standout!

It's a single-stroke pneumatic
That means you have to pump the gun only one time to make it ready to shoot. However, it is a pneumatic - not a spring gun that some people mistakenly call a "one-pump gun." This one really is! With a spring gun, you are compressing a powerful mainspring when you cock the gun. That's usually hard to do. With the IZH 46M, you're actually pumping compressed air into a reservoir to power the shot. And, the manufacturer has designed the pump mechanism (the lever that forms the triggerguard) with a movable fulcrum, so the pumping is easy by comparison.

It's very powerful
This pistol generates about 500 f.p.s. with lighter target pellets. That puts it into the magnum class of air pistols. Single-strokes aren't usually this powerful, but this one and the FWB 103 that costs over $1,700 are exceptions. The power isn't quite enough to make this a hunting air pistol; but, besides the 10-meter competition it is designed for, it's also a wonderful silhouette pistol. It cuts perfect round holes in target paper when you use wadcutter target pellets such as Gamo Match and Beeman H&N Match.

General specs
Perhaps, I should have mentioned this earlier, but the 46M comes only in .177. That's because .177 is the only caliber allowed in 10-meter competition, and this is a competition pistol. It is fully capable of competing and winning at the regional level, but it lacks the sophistication for national and world-level competition. Even the Soviets never used this gun in World-Cup competition, though their top arsenal (Ishmash) made it...and still makes it today. However, no pistol shot who ever lived can out-shoot the pistol's capability. It weighs 39 oz., which is a little heavy for smaller shooters. The trigger is a match-type target trigger that can be set to the international specification of 500 grams (1.1 lbs.). The all-steel pistol has hardwood adjustable grips. The pump stroke takes about 16-18 lbs. of effort, making this one of the easiest-pumping single-stroke pistols.

The trigger adjusts for the length of the first-stage pull, total pull-weight, trigger position and overtravel. The owner's manual (written by Americans who have never competed in 10-meter matches) says to not adjust trigger-pull to less than 24 oz., but that is absurd, as 18 oz. is the weight at which most competitors shoot. Those who have never used a target trigger will find this one to be very light and crisp.

The rear sight has two different notch widths, is adjustable for both windage and elevation, and the clicks are fine and repeatable. A word of caution if you attempt to reverse the rear notches...the rear blade is held by two screws that have LEFTHAND threads! Be warned before you twist off the tiny screw heads.

The 10-ring of an international 10-meter pistol target is almost exactly the size of the skirt on a .177 pellet. This pistol will hit it every time from 33 feet! That's the equivalent of a half-inch group from 50 .45 ACP rounds at 50 feet! No one in the world can hold a pistol steady enough to extract all the accuracy this pistol has to offer. So, no matter how good a shot you may be, you'll never keep up with the potential in this pistol. How do they do it for so little money? I have no idea. But you would have to pay a lot more to find another target pistol with all this one has to offer.