The Squirrels Win Another Round / Need Air Rifle Scope Advice

” I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.” Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks, 1990.

I’ve been jonesing for a new air rifle ever since I picked up a battered $25 Chinese air rifle a few years ago. That ham handed beast, when sighted in, did OK. I dropped a few chipmunks who were messing with my pig feed and ventilated many soda cans with it. It was far more fun than any $25 object should be. I wanted more.

I planned to get myself a “real air rifle” for Christmas. Alas, you know how it is. You fret over kid’s stuff, trees, decorations, keeping the pipes thawed, whatever… you never treat yourself. Plus I started to drive yourself nuts trying to make the “best” choice within my given price range (which is cheap). I thought too much about it. Soon my head was swimming with $1000 match grade whatzits and versus $300 super gadgetroids and all the fun was gone. I wanted to drop a C-Note and ploink dastardly squirrels, not train for the Olympics. So I tabled it.

But the idea was still there. In fact, once in March I saw a squirrel going to town on my feeder and reached for my new Christmas air rifle… only to realize I hadn’t actually gone beyond the planning stage.

Last month I was rocketing down the highway when the words of Dale Cooper prompted me. It took the next exit and, in less time than I’ll take to choose between a Big Mac and Chicken McNuggets, picked a Gamo Big Cat in .22 caliber. (I bought mine in person but the link goes to about the same thing in Amazon. Also, I note mine says 950 FPS in big sexy letters on the box, but Amazon says 1200… which just explains why I got confused and didn’t buy one over Christmas. Also if the Gamo Big Cat is the Edsel of air rifles, that’s too bad. If I shoulda’ bought the Shoot-O-Matic X-37 in .177 caliber, it’s already water under the bridge. The die is cast. Etc… Also don’t tell me that a $800 rifle would be better. I know that and will ponder it when/if I’ve got the cash burning a hole in my pocket; which is probably never.)

First impressions? All in all it’s pretty nice for a $100 +/- object. It pumps pretty easy for all that energy it’s storing, it’s not too heavy, and aside from being a bit more “plastic” than I’d like, I can’t see any flaws.

The trigger pull is not great, but did I mention it was a $100 air rifle. Also I’m still not used to the funky “recoil” of an air rifle. I fire it and think “what the hell was that”? It’ll take some getting used to.

There were lots of “suppressed” rifles but I didn’t like their heavy barrels. This one is rather loud. Pros and cons to everything, right? Also the barrel is flouted which is amazingly pointless. I’ll admit it looks cool though.

Also the included 4×32 scope has me chasing my tail. Easy installation and OK sight picture but I’m still not pleased. Then again I’m uptight about optics and no “free in the box” scope is perfect.

As for the overall concept of a .22 “hunting” air rifle? Holy shit is that cool! Air rifles ‘aint the toys from when I was a kid. This bastard hits the target hard. Or at least it hits hard compared to what I was expecting. I did get it for hunting; small game of course (mostly for squirrels who are meddling in the world of mind control or stealing chicken feed). As far as I can tell this little rifle will take out anything smaller than big game. I did go for .22 over .177 and maybe that matters a lot? The box (and we all know they’re truthful right?) tells me it shoots 950 fps with “Platinum ammo”.

I’ve been noodling around with various ammo. I need to test a bunch more to find what the rifle likes. I tried some Gamo Platinum Raptor (which came with it) and I inadvertently bought some Gamo Raptor Real Gold. The latter is plated in real gold, which about the stupidest thing ever… but it caught my eye enough that I bought it. (I thought it was “copper jacketed”.) Both of those are expensive, which ruins the fun of air rifles. Later I bought a huge tin of 500 pellets of Benjamin 14.3 grain hollow point lead and the price was cheap enough that each shot is virtually free. Part of the fun is pellets at a few pennies a shot. As expected, the point of aim changes dramatically when I switch ammo. I think I’ll buy some “sample packs” of pellets once I sort out the scope.

Alas, I have one issue and maybe my readers know something and can help?

I installed the 4×32 scope and started slinging pellets at a measured distance. I picked 60′. It seemed that the rifle was fairly precise. Given time the rifle seems up to being a tack driver (within it’s reasonable range). I also got the scope on target in a few shots. However, the way I hold the stock and my eye position has a huge impact. I’ve never had this issue with regular rifles. Is this the parallax effect? Was I sighting in at the wrong distance? Or is it just a crappy scope? Am I doing something wrong?

Sometimes I’d have it dialed in with several shots in a row near perfect. I’d be like “I’ll hit not just a squirrel’s head but pick the eyebrow hair I’ll split… I’m awesome!” Then I’d shift and the sight picture would go all wonky and I’d be “I’ve turned into Mr. Magoo. Why?” What’s causing the “Mr. Magoo” effect? Is it me, a shitty scope, or something I’m doing wrong?

If the solution is a new scope I’m open for recommendations. Keeping in mind this isn’t a “freezer filler and zombie defense” I’d like to keep any new scope in the $50-$75 range. For a big game rifle that’s unreasonable, but hopefully an air rifle in .22 doesn’t need a $900 Swarovski?

If I don’t get that scope figured out, I lose and the squirrels win!

I could use some air rifle scope advice. I defer to those who know more than me… which may be everyone. E-mail me advice or just drop it in the comments. Thanks,


P.S. Heed the valuable life advice of Dale Cooper:

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.
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21 Responses to The Squirrels Win Another Round / Need Air Rifle Scope Advice

  1. czechsix says:

    Welcome to parallax. Run a quick test on it, next time you’re proned out or on a bench with a decent range target in front of you. I’d be surprised if that’s not what it is, the other thing that you’ll find out is scopes for air rifles need to be rated for air rifles. Do not run a regular firearm scope on an air rifle, especially a springer rifle. Unless you really don’t like that scope, in which case, slap it on there.

  2. eli says:

    ill be following this, as I am in the disgusted with the whole $100, 1200FPS in .177/800 FPS in .22 air rifle.
    The GAMO drove me bonkers. Ditched the scope, went “iron” sights at 25 feet on an improvised bench. Same story as yours.
    I’ve got no fewer than six different brands/models of pellets on hand from bouts of “dammit, 800 FPS and $100, dammit!!”
    Now have a Benjamin of the same type, the one with interchangeable barrels.
    Same story.
    Until I found a pellet that was heavier than the rest. Not consistent, but consistenter. Nothing long range. Walnuts at 50 feet every time, no scope.
    My brother (yea, no. Really.) has an archery shop, runs his own archery range, and has a safe full of fireams from his days as an ffl. He and his boys say that its a crap shoot, from time to time they run across one that shoots straight.

  3. When you install the scope, be sure to use some thread-lock or super glue so the scope never creeps on you.

    Found this on the amazon comments. First one. Always read the comments before buying.
    TSK TSK!

    READ the comments!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. ***UPDATE***
    The scope is indeed garbage. The crosshairs are rotating inside the scope body!

    i did replace the scope with a Tasco I picked up at a gun show and that has been an improvement over the included scope.

    As just about every review has already stated, the scope it comes with is absolute junk. Get rid of it AND the rings it comes with. A good airgun mount and scope will only set you back about $50, and it’s money well spent.

    A lot of the review say the scope is junk. I agree. Throw that pos away. It’s a shame such a nice gun has such a pos mated with it. I went and mounted a Bushnell ar223 scope to it. Hits dead on @ 30 yards which is about how far I’m taking all my shots.

  5. Mark Matis says:

    Oh, surely the Gamo Big Cat is not the Edsel of air rifles. It is instead the Gremlin of same.

    And whilst a .22 air rifle can probably deal appropriately with thespian squirrels, it ain’t gonna do jack shiite to their bear body guard. Even if he IS bombed out of his mind on cheap beer.

  6. Don Squirreleone says:

    Listen, I want to say something, from my heart. You’re a great guy, AC. I mean you are one of a kind. And that’s a nice attic you have there. Would be a shame if it was packed full of someone’s nuts and late night hours of Sciuridae amore, eh? Let there be peace between us.

  7. Wolfman says:

    I’ve not delved too far into it, myself, but friends have told me that one is wise to select a scope designed specifically for air rifles- Apparently there is enough difference in the manner of recoil to cause trouble with scopes designed for cartridge firearms. Something about the spring vibration, I don’t recall.

  8. Mark Matis says:

    And by the way, on the search for improved optics, I’m sure you understand that the “what the hell was that” which you experience when firing the gun is also experienced by the optics attached thereto. I would expect that the optics provided with the firearm were designed for use with an air rifle. Whatever you get as a replacement should also be so designed, if you wish for it to last more than a few shots. But then I expect you already knew that and I am merely preaching to the Hoity-Toity Coastal Binkys what comes here for a good laugh about how stupid the Deplorables are today…

  9. John says:

    That funky thwock of airgun reverse recoil is havok for conventional scopes. Airgun scopes are designed to deal with it without shaking the reticle loose. I suspect that’s near the root of the problem you describe.

    I don’t think you will be happy with a $75 airgun scope. That same $75 spent on a red dot like the little Bushnell 1×25 should put you right in there without shaking apart. I use one on a slide ride 9mm mount and it does ok.

  10. Ayleward2 says:

    It may be the scope; it also could be the mounts to the rifle. Shooting air rifles growing up (starlings around the barn, other pests) we had trouble with Gamo rifles holding a scope and not recoiling and moving the mounts relative to the rifle.
    Still my favorites are an old Chinese lever action (pawn shop) and an older Daisy 881. The Daisy was good out to about 40-50 yards, the Chinese I kept to 20 yards or less.
    On pellets, my preference was Beeman Kodiak Extra Heavy pellets, reduced wind effects and with proper placement definitely would knock down targets.

  11. Pissed-off Old Guy says:

    You need to keep the same cheek weld, where your face makes contact with the stock, each shot. You said this happened when you changed position, so it makes sense that you are not in the same position and therefore are looking down the scope from a slightly different perspective. I suspect that some scopes may be less tolerant than others, but I’m not sure about that part. Some shooters actually put something on the stock that they can fell with their cheek, so it helps them get that same cheek weld each time. You could try a small strip of duct tape with something small under the tape, like a little (very little) ball of tape, kleenex, anything to make a bump. Give it a try and let us know how it works out.

  12. JD says:

    Ok, here’s what I have, YMMV. I have a couple of the Lepers/UTG air rifle scopes, one 4×32 AO Bug Buster (mounted on my 10/22) and the same in 6×32 mounted on my RWS 34. Both work wonderfully. They both are adjustable objective, which allows you to tune the scope to the distance you’re shooting. They adjust from ~10 feet to infinity. You’re looking at around $80-90 for either of those models. They have the red/geen illumination of the reticle (if you want it), I usually leave that feature turned off. 1/4″ MOA adjustments.

    Good luck and enjoy shopping. As you mention, there are ‘rabbit holes’ in the scope world and it’s easy to fall into them. 🙂

  13. Max Damage says:

    First, on the scope start by re-mounting the thing and torque it to spec. Probably won’t help but will eliminate the mounts as an issue. Use a rest (just a couple of sandbags will do), squeeze the trigger by pinching the trigger and trigger guard between thumb and finger while just verifying the sight picture. In other words, make certain it’s shooting straight without you holding it and the scope is staying on target. This is all just eliminating the obvious. Now shoot from the same rest but get a decent cheek weld to the stock and operate it like normal so you’re placing the same stress on the stock. If you can do three or four into the same spot with the same sight picture, it’s likely parallax and you need to concentrate that your cheek is on the same spot at the same height for normal use. (You could have skipped right to this part, but you’d be wondering.) You might pick up another set of mounts to get the scope higher or lower on the barrel to make it easier, or move the scope forward or back for better relief.

    If your sight picture is the same and it’s not shooting to the same place, something is loose or flimsy and your grip is flexing the stock, barrel, or receiver enough to throw off the shot. This is most commonly found in a rifle that has a thin plastic stock and the receiver and barrel end are firmly attached. Floating the receiver (or barrel, whichever seems to be mounted the firmest to the stiffest part of the stock) may help.

    As for the best air rifle, the Giradoni is second to none but well outside my price range. Pretty much tamed a continent through intimidation alone.

  14. Phil B says:

    Air rifles,, eh? Me, I have four and am eyeing up some others … Ahem! They are addictive and not that expensive either. I started shooting them in the UK and although I own cartridge rifles here in New Zealand (both centre fire and rim fire) still shoot my air rifles. Usually in the house when there is nothing on TV and I want to keep my eye in.

    The El Gamo rifles are good kit – not the worlds best but certainly not bargain basement budget models either. They are a good choice for a first air rifle and with minimal care will last a long time (likely a lifetime – most air rifles are destroyed by neglect and abuse). There is not a lot to go wrong with them and an overhaul kit consists of a mainspring, a breech seal and perhaps a pison seal too. Kids pocket money type costs, which should warm your … errr … budget minded heart. >};o)

    OK let me try to persuade you NOT to put a cheap scope on a spring powered air rifle.

    Let’s see what happens when you pull the trigger. Firstly the piston doesn’t want to move so the spring pushes the receiver back as it accelerates the piston. The piston compresses the air ahead of it until the pellet starts to move when it hits a cushion of air which slows the piston and pushes the receiver away from the butt. The piston ejects the rest of the air and slams into the breech end of the barrel/receiver, giving a further jolt to the receiver. In a short period of time, the rifle moves rearwards and then as the piston reaches the end of its travel moves forwards. This salt cellar shaking WILL cause the scope to become deranged (I like that word, it means that it will be shaken to bits). This is unlike a cartridge rifle which is much less arduous in its firing cycle, even high powered rifles. Scopes on air rifles creep backwards out of the dovetails in the receiver and need some kind of “stop” (normally a screw that halts the rearward travel). If it is a cheap scope on the rifle, you neeed to check out the make and if it isn’t specially made for an air rifle, it is likely to have the internal parts shaken up and loose, hence it failing to hold zero. I suspect that this is what’s happened to your scope. Pay the money for a scope designed specifically for an air rifle and you won’t regret it.

    Leapers scopes are designed for air rifles and range in price from $100 or thereabouts upwards. Try Pyramid Air for good prices. I’d recommend starting here:

    They are air rifle specialists so won’t sell a scope that they know will shake itself to pieces. Avoid the “toy” 4×15’s and other $20 scopes. They are too dull for hunting in trees on a dull winters day. This starts off with the toys …

    They also have a very good blog and article index which will help you get the best out of your rifle:

    Air rifle scopes are usually used at much closer ranges than other rifles so parallax adjustment is nice to have but not essential. Variable power (for me at least) is a Meh! sort of thing. A good 4x is good enough though I do like a 2 – 7 variable dialled way down for tricky shots into branches and foliage – makes the prey easy to spot and track in the crosshairs while being able to “see” through the twigs.

    The massive dials you might see on some of the scopes for the air rifles are for field air rifle shooting at varied ranges (it is meant to replicate hunting) and needed for adjusting the scope elevation for different ranges. Not really necessary for a decent hunting rifle.

    Air rifles are like cars – they have a piston in a cylinder – and just like an engine need run in. It will take about 1000 to 1500 rounds to bed the seals in and polish the inside of the compression cylinder so stick with it. Browse the articles on Pyramid Air for advice on tuning and improving the rifle. These guys know their stuff.

    Pellets are just like cartridge rifles (more particularly like .22’s). You will find that your rifle will prefer certain brands than others. A good quality pellet will shoot well from an inexpensive rifle wheras a poor pellet will not shoot worth a tinkers cuss from one fo the Olympic type free rifles. Pyramid Air lists some of the Walther Olympic rifles. Make sure you are sitting down and have strong drink to hand before you click this link:;NB:1&saSearch#q=Walther&sort=salepricedesc&hawkmm=1

    The prices are high but there again, to be fair, these things will outgroup a benchrest rifle.

    You selected the .22 as your hunting one which is the best choice. A good, powerful air rifle does not approach the power of even a .22 LR BUT it needs to use the power wisely. The .177 sells on velocity but the pellet is extremely light, doesn’t carry well and gives a “through and through” shot on vermin. The .22 is slower (hence the 1200 fps for the .177, about 900 to 950 at the maximum for the .22) but generally stays inside the animal at reasonable ranges and expends all (or the vast majority of) its energy in the target.

    So, buy up several makes of pellets and see which one your rifle prefers. The cost isn’t great and unless you set out to buy the absolute cheapest, will give decent to excellent results. Treat them gently as the skirts of the pellets (which seals the bore like a Minie ball) are easily damaged. Get Mrs Curmudgeon to make you a small drawstring pouch out of suede or heavy canvas to carry them around in, not the tin (quieter too).

    Holding the rifle – you need to develop “The Artillery hold”. The problem I described about the rifle jerking back and forth means that you will find it impossible to hold the rifle rock steady during recoil so don’t bother trying. Once again, Pyramid Air has an explanation:

    Buying your next one (and you will, these are addictive) then for me, I like the Dianas (I have two, one I bought new in 1977 and still going strong with nothing spent on spare parts etc., the other more recently in 2012) here:;NB:1&saSearch

    Some of the Dianas have a ball bearing release trigger which is light, positive and never wears out – you can e-mail me separately for an explanation if this intrigues you. All Dianas have, for me, superb trigers. Though personal preference and cash will influence your decision.

    Weihrauch are good and their Rekord trigger is well thought of – Beeman had them manufactured by Weirauch under the Beeman name and sold as such – they are the identical rifle.

    One thing I would NOT recommend is buying the most powerful one you can lay your mitts on. About 25 to 28 pounds foot power in .22 is about the most you want as it becomes hard to cock and jumps around. 20 Pounds Foot is a nice compromise. Powerful enough to do the job, smooth and pleasant to shoot. Avoid the .20 calibre, it is a compromise and satisfies neither hunters or target guys. Pellets are harder to find, less choice and more expensive to buy too.

    Avoid pre charged pneumatics (PCP) – the metering system has delicate valves and is easily damaged. You will need a SCUBA tank too to recharge the rifle so it is a bit more awkward. CO2 is out on cost and convenience grounds alone. The barrels on springers are steel – the compressed air warms as it is compressed and therefore dry but with a PCP, as the air expands, it cools so they tend to have brass barrels to prevent the condensation causing rusting. A small but minor point.

    You can buy supressors for air rifles to quieten them but being the States, I am not sure of they come with the Bureaucracy and expense of a silencer license. Worth checking Pyramid air again for advice. I note that some are already fitted with silencers so might be wirth bearing in mind if you want to upgrade.

    Ok – I think I have covered most of what you were asking but by all means coment and if you want more info, then I’ll try to answer your questions.

    • Max Damage says:

      $3500 for a precision rifle, air or rimfire, isn’t terribly out of line. My old Anschutz wasn’t much less 30 years ago. 20 years ago when I was still single (which means I still had money) I spent considerably more on a used McMillan Bros light benchrest rifle. Turns out the rifle was the cheapest part of the rifle-scope-ammunition combination.

      To truly make your eyes water, simply look at the prices of the finer used Holland and Holland rifles available in New York or Dallas.

  15. Spring powered air rifle scopes are a tough nut…that odd back and forth recoil that you notice as so obvious plays Holy Hob with standard riflescopes. Most are built to take the recoil one way, and putting even an expensive riflescope on spring air rifle will shake the internals apart in short order. I would suggest you look at the scopes made by an air rifle company, like Gamo. I know Gamo puts out a fixed forcus 4X scope for less than $50, and if it goes belly up after a few hundred rounds, your price per round is still lower than the ruinous prices they are getting for .22 LR these days.

  16. ILTim says:

    I bought almost the same Gamo, but in .177 with the suppressed barrel. The 1200 vs 950 is .177 vs .22; since they use the same mechanism and the pellet weights vary the smaller caliber achieves higher velocity. Same muzzle energy. Different retained energy at distance due to pellet dynamics, obviously.

    I immediately swapped the scope for the unit below and just love it. Its easy to choose which eye to shoot through at distances around 50-60 feet. I also added a bipod. Its the scariest looking gun in my possession, which I find hilarious. People look right past the kalashnikov and the 12ga section and point to the pellet gun with horror.

    Leapers 3-12×44 AO SWAT Accushot Rifle Scope, EZ-TAP, Illuminated Mil-Dot Reticle, 1/4 MOA, 30mm Tube

    • ILTim says:

      Oh, and I heard that the spring action is hell on scopes. Almost as bad a magnum caliber fire breathers. I bought probably $300 in pellets and for a while put a couple dozen through the gun every day.

  17. Educated Savage says:

    You may be doing more than just moving your eye around with a cheap scope. Are you using a sling or some type of rest? A high quality rifle won’t move around much when you hold it differently, but you did mention this one being kind of “plasticky”. You may be torquing the barrel/receiver a bit differently when you change positions is what I’m getting at.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Free in the box scope is full of “Parallax” rather than “Parallax Free” (relatively speaking)

  19. Chris says:

    Definitely a parallax issue. Invest 100-200 in a decent scope

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