Phill Price recommends a basic, wellmade springer - the Hornet from Gamo
When you’re thinking of getting into a new sport, it’s quite natural that you wouldn’t want to spend too much. It’s possible that you won’t like it and your money might be wasted. However, experience tells us that buying things of poor quality is a bad idea because you soon learn to dislike them and replace them at more cost. Anybody considering getting into the fine sport of airgunning is well advised to buy a simple, yet well-made break-barrel, spring-piston rifle like the BSA Hornet. These rifles follow a time-honoured design that has been the mainstay of our sport for decades and shows no sign of changing. The spring-piston power plant is easy to make and service, and is highly reliable, qualities we can all enjoy.
Loading is simple; the barrel is pulled down and a linkage attached compresses the main spring, whilst cocking the trigger mechanism. With the barrel in this position, your pellet is easily pressed into the breech with no complex mechanisms to learn and operate. This is why the layout has been so massively successful and continues to be today.
Although the Hornet is simple, it has a few very worthwhile upgrades that add to its value. The first is a nicely-made synthetic stock that will be highly durable as well as a pleasure to hold. It’s ambidextrous, so left-handed shooters are properly catered for and this also adds to the rifle’s resale value if you ever decide to trade up or feel like a change.
The next upgrade is to the fully adjustable open sights. These have been enhanced with fibre-optic elements that make them brighter and clearer than standard ones. The rear sight shows two green dots, whilst the front one has a bold red element. To make this brighter still, the metal hood that protects it has ‘windows’ machined into it that allow light directly onto the fibre-optic, so that it appears to glow. By adding the fibre-optics, these sights are very easy to align and accuracy is improved.
Those looking to upgrade the Hornet will be able to fit a scope to the dovetail rail machined into the top of the cylinder. This is the industry standard, 11mm width, so almost any scope and mounts combination will fit. I was very pleased to see that Gamo have drilled a hole in it to accept a recoil arrestor stud designed to lock the mount securely and resist the rifle’s natural recoil.
A nice touch I noticed was that the rifle is built with Torx-head bolts, rather than the old-fashioned, slot-head screws that you used to find on less expensive rifles. The Torx bolts are much less likely to slip and become marked, so are a welcome addition.
Although the Hornet has full adult proportions, it’s quite light at just over 5½lbs,
“I don’t think that I’ve ever felt a trigger this good in a rifle of this price”
so isn’t tiring to use for a long plinking session. Cocking effort was average for a gun in this class, helped by the longish (18”) barrel that affords good leverage. The cocking action was pleasantly smooth with little spring noise to be heard, but it did feel a little bit tight. I’d expect that to ease after a couple of tins of pellets have been fired.
What was really impressive was the trigger. Most guns designed for beginners and the less experienced are engineered to be heavy, and have a very long travel before they break, but the Hornet is not that way. It’s a two stage affair; the first stage is light and smooth, stopping cleanly against the heavier second stage. This is where the real surprise came. The amount of movement needed to release the shot was impressively short and therefore easy to manage and predict. I don’t think that I’ve ever felt a trigger this good in a rifle of this price.
In front of the trigger is a manually operated safety that is pulled backward for ‘safe’ and pushed forward to ‘fire’. In this position it works equally well for right- and left-handed shooters, adding to the rifle’s ambidextrous credentials. Because of its position, your trigger finger will feel immediately if it’s on as you come on aim, so there’s no concern about trying to fire with the safety engaged.
I ran my usual power test using the excellent Air Arms Field Diablo, which gave an average velocity of 539fps. This calculates to 10.2 ft.lbs, ideal for plinking, casual target shooting and even close-range vermin control. Also impressive was the firing cycle, which although lively, was smooth with no noticeable spring noise.
Whilst I said the Hornet was a typical break-barrel, I also have to say that I think it’s a little gem. Despite its entry-level price, it has a few upgrades that make it more attractive than most, including a nice, smooth action and a superb trigger which is perhaps its best feature of all. I
Despite its light weight, the Hornet has full adult dimensions.
The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation.
A thick rubber butt pad grips the shoulder well.
By situating the safety in front of the excellent trigger, it’s very easy to use. Cutting windows in the fore sight hood makes the fibre-optic appear to glow.
An articulated cocking linkage keeps the fore end slot short. This hole in the scope rail accepts a recoil arrestor stud.