A Hot Pair of PCPs

.177 Backyard Plinker or .25-Caliber
“Hushed Horsepower?

The Umarex Gauntlet is a discreet, quiet .177 plinker combining a high level of accuracy
with a top-end velocity of 1,000 fps. The pre-charged air reservoir is in the forend.

Want regular or super-sized? Normally the question is a surefire way to add some unwanted pounds but I’ve got good news. This choice will add exactly zero inches to your pants size. In fact, the only harm in ordering both will come to your wallet, but I guarantee you’ll be happy about it.
First, what’s a PCP? It’s an acronym for “Pre-Charged Pneumatic.” As you’re reading this magazine, you already know gun people have to make things way too complicated. You know — like naming cartridges that use the same diameter bullet, such as the .38 Special and .357 Magnum. Anyway, a PCP is an airgun packing a reserve of air onboard so you can fire multiple shots without cocking the dang thing.

To illustrate the usefulness of the concept, imagine SCUBA diving but having to come to the surface for every breath. I guess most people call it snorkeling but you get the idea. It’s the same with airguns. Since a PCP stores a bunch of breaths in its tank, you get to spend more time shooting and less time going for air between every shot. The real innovation is the inclusion of regulators in these rifles. Rather than hook a tank of air, which outputs decreasing pressure (and lower velocity) with every shot, a regulator meters doses of air so every shot leaves the muzzle at the same pressure.

You may be thinking, “Hey, that sounds more complicated, and as we all know, ‘complicated’ translates to ‘expensive!’” A few years ago, you’d be right but now, not so much. Airgun manufacturers have been on an affordability bender the past couple of years and now PCP technology is economical — like big-box super-store economical.

You can buy a nice PCP rifle for less than $300. This is important because now that the basic technology guts are cost-effective, your premium product dollars go towards things we can all appreciate — fancy stocks, upgraded sights, precision accuracy and other features separating the $99 shooter from a $3,500 luxury model.

I’ve been working with two modern PCP rifles that are rock stars of the new generation of air power: the Umarex Gauntlet and the AirForce Condor SS. I wouldn’t say these are comparable, or examples of “basic” and “fancy.” They’re different. Kind of like pistols and revolvers.

In wind-free conditions, Tom was able to coax quarter-inch 25-yard clusters out of the Gauntlet.

The Umarex Gauntlet is a discreet, quiet .177 plinker combining a high level of
accuracy with a top-end velocity of 1,000 fps. The pre-charged air reservoir is in the forend.

Umarex Gauntlet .177

Umarex turned the industry on its ear with the release of the Gauntlet family of air rifles. While the company has since added more powerful .22 and .25 caliber models, the original was a standard .177 pellet offering. It’s perfect for safe and quiet backyard fun. The first thing you’ll notice about the Gauntlet is the generous 13 cubic-inch air tank in the forend. This is important as the 90-shot per charge capacity means more fun and less filling. The air cylinder is also removable, so you can pack a pre-charged spare or two for your shooting session.

With an MSRP of $200, you get a lot of bang for the buck. This rifle is regulated, so all those shots per tank are a consistent 900 to 1,000 feet per second depending on pellet weight, which leads to solid accuracy. Outdoors in the wind, the Gauntlet puts five shots into a quarter from 25 yards, even in windy conditions. When I bring the shooting indoors to my high-tech 10-meter range (read: garage) I get 5-shot groups of about 0.20. If you do the math, you can see the effect of the wind when outdoors. On a windless day, those 25-yard groups should be about 0.50.

Oh, last but certainly not least, did I mention the Gauntlet is quiet thanks to its shrouded barrel? If you live under the iron-fisted rule of an oppressive homeowners’ association, they’ll never know you’re shooting in the backyard.

These are .25-caliber 48-gr. HP bullets from Hunters Supply.
If you want heavier, you can order varieties up to 105 grains.

The large air reservoir of the AirForce Condor performs double duty as a stock. Total efficiency!

AirForce Condor SS .25

From the “Protect Your Nuts!” people at Airforce Airguns comes the Condor SS Air rifle. Like the Gauntlet, I love this one because of its generous 490cc, 3,000 psi on-board air reservoir. I also love it for its flexibility. Hold this thought for a hot second.

The Condor SS features a shrouded 8″ Lothar Walther barrel. Even though airguns don’t use fire and brimstone, like a popping balloon they make noise when all the air pressure is released at once. Hence the prevalence of perfectly legal silencers and shrouded barrels on rifles like the Condor SS. As for barrel quality, when I dodge the wind, I can shoot 0.25″ to 0.45″ 5-shot groups from 25 yards. At 50 yards, under an inch is easy.

All the AirForce rifles look space age, and it’s intentional, but not for cosmetic reasons. The big air reservoir I mentioned also doubles as the buttstock so there’s no portly object hanging under the barrel up front — the rifle balances and handles well. The tank is also removable, so like the Gauntlet, you can keep a pre-charged spare on hand. One nice feature of the Condor SS is the adjustable pressure. Using a simple dial you can change the amount of oomph you want to deliver to the pellet. Depending on ammo type and weight, you can shoot from a leisurely 600 feet per second up to about 1,300 fps.

Speaking of ammo, this is where the Condor SS shines. It’s a breechloader. It may sound like a drawback if you’re into big magazines, but in this case it’s a benefit. Having the ability to load singly into the breech means you can shoot just about anything .25 caliber. Standard pellets? No problem. Where things get interesting is with .25 caliber lead slugs. Talk to the folks at Hunters Supply and you can get your hands on some slugs weighing 48 grains all the way to 105 grains. This versatility, plus adjustable air pressure, makes for a lifetime of tinkering and fun.




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