” 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: