TIM FINLEY END IN SIGHT
Tim Finley concludes his extensive tests with a brace of break-barrel springers
To find out in real-world airgun shooting if open sights are just as good, or not, as red-dot optical sights has been a fascinating and fun journey. The last test phase involves break-barrelled, spring rifles, and the testing process took much longer because the hold and aim was broken, unlike all the previous tests. To date, I’d used either a CO2 rifle, or CO2 pistols, and they all were shot on the four 75mm testing target discs without breaking the hold or having to reload; shoot at a disc, move point of aim to another, shoot, and so on.
With a springer I’d have to shoot, break the hold and aim, cock and load the gun, then aim and shoot at the next 75mm disc. I’d still use the 75mm discs, but move them out to ten yards and have three discs; one shot on each, rather than the normal two. This would force two re-loads because I’d begin with a loaded rifle from a 45-degree start, the same as all the other tests. As always, I’d shoot open sights first, then the red dot.
Test rifles needed to have open sights, then be capable of fitting a red dot, and thankfully, I have a few rifles in my armoury to choose from. I came down to a 1980’s vintage .22 Webley Vulcan, and a bang-up-to-date Crosman .177 MTR 77 NP. You really couldn’t get two more different rifles, and that was the point. The Vulcan has traditional, notch sights, and the Crosman with its black styling has a peep sight at the rear. I have used red dots on rifles before and generally fit them to .25 calibre ratting guns, although I fitted one to a .22 multi-shot PCP when I had been asked to clear feral pigeons from inside a massive barn.
So to the test, Vulcan up first with open sights, and the initial run was 13.41 seconds. From then on, I had a good rhythm and smashed in an average of 11.46 over 18 runs – that’s three aimed shots at the three 75mm disc with two reloads, and quite quick, really. I bolted on the red dot, but found I was distracted by the large front sight, so I had to take it off. The Vulcan is in .22 calibre, and has a large tapered breech, so loading is very, very fast with the Vulcan. When using the red dot, the times came down almost a second to 10.64. With a fumbled load
“When using the red dot, the times came down almost a second to 10.64”
it went out to 12.17, but I had already decided to discount bad loads because this has nothing to do with the aiming process. I used a neck pellet pouch for the tests.
I knew the Crosman would be slower – loading tiny .177 pellets would be a challenge – the breech disappears into the fore end upon cocking, and the loading gate is in the wrong place. You have to move the barrel back partially, to line it up on the cut-out. Also I couldn’t alter the sight low enough at ten yards to be able to aim dead centre on the 75mm discs. The initial run was disappointing at 19.82 seconds, but it settled down to 13/14
seconds then to an average at 13.86. I fitted a red dot and took off the front sight to remain consistent with the Vulcan test, and it came down to 12.29 seconds.
For those who don’t know, the Vulcan has form when it comes to speed-shooting. Top FT shot, Richard North, used a Vulcan in the 1980s to dominate speed shoots at FT events, and I owned a Vulcan back then, and used one to win pigeon decoy shoots. They are an awesome break-barrel air rifle, and one that is a classic and stands the test of time, so I knew it would be quick – even with open sights it beat the ultra-modern Crosman. There was not a lot of difference in the speed of the Vulcan with either the open sights or optical sight. Getting the open sights lined up when in the ready position has a massive effect in speeding things up. The peep sight on the Crosman was a hindrance also. If you have decent open sights on a rifle, then short-range shooting is entirely possible with them. As the range gets longer, the open sight will mask the target, and that’s why telescopic sights are needed on rifles.
A full round-up next time of all the types of gun; CO2 rifle, CO2 pellet pistol, CO2 BB-firing pistol, and break-barrelled rifles, with some interesting conclusions.
POINT OF INTEREST
The Vulcan might be an old gun, but boy can it shoot! Don’t discount an old rifle – there were some brilliant designs back in the day
Fitted with red dots, they look very different.
In the wrong ‘ready’ position with open sights. I’m looking at the target, not lining up the open sights.
The Vulcan is a fast-shooting rifle.
Don’t underestimate an old gun.
Looking good with the black rifle.
Another perfect ‘ready’ position; lining up the peep sights on the Crosman.
The peep sight on the Crosman really slowed me down.