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March 22, 2007

RWS/Hammerli 850 AirMagnum

Are you looking for an airgun that is easy to use, gives you multiple shots from a magazine, and is both accurate and powerful enough for small game? Then take a look at this new airgun called the 850 Magnum, from Hammerli/Umarex, imported by RWS. (Note: Future offerings of this gun will be marketed solely under the Hammerli name.) With the 850 you get German engineering and manufacturing for a great price. This model comes in the following configurations:

I was given the .22 cal version of this gun for testing and this review is based on that model. Everything but the FPS stats will also correlate to the other versions of this gun.

There are many CO2-powered guns on the market, but in my humble opinion, this gun is one of the nicest offerings with many desirable features not found on other airguns. First, let’s start with the overall feel of the gun.

The Model 850 is a solid gun, even though it has a synthetic stock. There is a solid feel to this gun that you don’t get when you pick up other, synthetic-stocked CO2-powered guns. Most other guns feel like children’s toys, far too light, but when you pick up the 850, you get a solid handful of airgun. It is 41” long, with a trigger pull length of just under 14”. Even with the synthetic stock, it is slightly heavier than my wood-and-metal QB-78. I would not call this a child’s toy….it is meant for adults.


If open sights are your chosen method of acquiring your target, you will find the fiber-optic sights easy to use and accurate, as well as adjustable. And if precision shooting is the order of the day, mounting a scope on the 11mm rail brings out the true potential of this gun. The magazine is located under the scope rail, so any type scope mounts you wish to use will work fine. I tried a few shots with the open sights and found it quite easy to roll cans across the yard with no effort at all. Then I mounted a scope and began to try and wring out some accuracy by testing a variety of ammo. I was given several different brands of ammo to try, but found that the 850 gave the best results with RWS Superdomes and RWS HollowPoints. I was able to cover my patterns using these pellets with a dime at 20 yards. JSB exacts shot well enough, but the pattern opened up a bit with this pellet, requiring a quarter to cover the pattern.

The magazine on the Model 850 is a bit finicky. Longer pellets such as the RWS Superpoint tend to extend too far out of the magazine and cause cycling problems when you work the bolt action. And for some reason, Crosman Premier’s tended to jam the mechanism as well. However, using RWS Superdomes and RWS Hollowpoints resulted in smooth cocking, no-jam shooting pleasure. Not once did the magazine jam when using the Superdomes or Hollowpoints. It is obvious the magazine was made with those pellets in mind.

The stock is ambidextrous, though the cocking mechanism isn’t. I do not know if it comes in a left-hand configuration at this time. The synthetic stock is black, with a pebble-like finish on the sides of the forearm and pistol-grip area. The trigger is adjustable and easily accessible with a screwdriver through the trigger guard. I was happy with the setting on the test model I was sent and did not do any adjusting for this report.


Let’s take a closer look at the power source and loading mechanism of this gun. First, remove the cover found at the end of the stock near the muzzle. Push in to disengage the cover from the rest of the stock. See the picture below.

Once it comes loose, slide it forward to remove it, exposing the hidden 88 gram CO2 cartridge. This cartridge provides quite a bit more gas than the 12 gram commonly used in many other CO2 guns, but if 12 gram cartridges are all you have, there is an adapter available that allows you to use a pair of 12 gram cartridges.

The 88 gram CO2 cartridge simply screws into place, and once you’ve replaced the cover, you are powered up and ready to go. Be sure to screw the CO2 cartridge in until it stops. If you don't you won't get a tight seal.

Now let’s load and shoot this thing! Pulling back the bolt action, use your finger to slide the magazine lock to the rear.

Remove the magazine to the left of the action. It won’t come out to the right, so there is only one way to remove it.

Place your pellets into the magazine from the rear, dropping them in nose first. Be careful, for if you tip the magazine backwards, the pellets will drop out the rear. Now, slide the magazine back in place, then close the magazine lock. When you close the bolt, the magazine will rotate and a pellet will be inserted into the barrel ready for firing. The safety on the Model 850 is found at the rear of the action, and is automatic, resetting each time you cycle the bolt. With a simple push, the safety disengages and you are ready to shoot! You can also re-engage the safety is you decide not to shoot at that time….a welcome feature.


I fired literally hundreds of shots in .22 caliber through the test gun I was sent. And with some practice, I was able to work the bolt action, disengage the safety, and subsequently fire an entire magazine in less than 12 seconds. (We won’t talk about my accuracy shooting that way!) So if you like to hunt, this gun will provide you with a fast follow-up shot.

In .22 caliber, using 14.5 grain RWS Superdomes, I was able to achieve 600 fps easily….and this was in 55-60 degree weather. That’s about 12 fpe, great for pest control and small game hunting. It will also allow you to shoot at FT targets without damaging them. Once it warms up, higher velocities should result.

I tested a brand-new CO2 cartridge in this gun and started shooting to determine the number of shots I would get from one canister of CO2. I was able to get 23 magazines through the gun before a noticeable change in velocity registered. There were a few more magazines of lesser-powered shots after the velocity changed, for a total of 25-26 magazines available from one 88 gram cartridge. Again, this is in 55-60 degree weather, and I’m not sure how temperature will affect the available number of shots.

There are some attractive accessories for the Model 850. You can fit a compensator to the muzzle, and there is a Weaver mount available for this model as well. I wasn’t able to test these accessories at the time of this report, but hope to report back at a later date concerning their performance.

No gun such as this one escapes my hands without being tried out on local pests. I am plagued with sparrows and starlings, and as you can see, this gun did a fine job on these ever-present pests. I was able to take this starling with confidence in the gun I was using….no guesswork….point, aim, shoot….and the target falls over. Just like it should be!


Would I buy this gun? Yes, and I consider the price a bargain for all you get with this model. I have bought cheaper CO2 guns and spent additional funds modifying them to get to the place where the Model 850 is just beginning! And none of the guns I had modified were bolt-action repeaters! They were all single-shots! So I put this particular gun in the “acquire” category for my collection. And if you like all the features we just discussed, then you should too.

Calculating the Power of Your Airgun

When it comes to airguns, many people regard the airgun as a toy. However, as I and many others can attest, the airgun is a very viable tool for hunting and pest control. And one of the things that concerns a hunter the most is the power available from their airgun.

There is a simple mathematical equation that you can use to determine the power that your airgun develops. Here is the equation:

Mass (in grains) X velocity (in feet-per-second) squared, divided by 450240 (gravitational constant).

Now what does that mean? Simply put, you multiply the speed of your projectile by itself, then multiply that answer by the weight of your projectile. Then divide by 450240, and you have your fpe (foot pounds energy). Here’s a test for you:

            What is the fpe of a 14.3 gr Crosman Premier pellet going 800 fps?

            Answer: 20.32 fpe

You really need a chronograph in order to determine the accurate speed of your pellet. Many airguns are tested with the lightest ammo available, and the advertising will state the speed as an impressive marketing tool. However, with some reason on your part, you can get a more accurate idea of how powerful your airgun really is, and then determine if it is suitable for the purpose you have in mind.

Now lets assume you know the energy of your projectile at the muzzle, and you want to know how fast that little pellet is really going. Here’s the equation for figuring out the answer:

Take the foot pounds energy (fpe) of the gun, and multiply it by the 450240 we used above. Then divide that answer by the weight of your projectile. Then calculate the square root of that answer (I just hit the square root button on my calculator!), and you have your answer.

            To test yourself, figure the fps of an 8 gr. pellet that yields 8 fpe at the muzzle.

            Answer: 671 fps

Here’s another little gem that helps you with quick calculations. There is a magic number of 671 that assists  the  shooter with figuring fpe. If you have a projectile that is going 671 fps, then the fpe that projectile develops at the muzzle is the weight of the projectile. So, if you are shooting a 14.5 gr RWS Superdome from a .22 air rifle, and the chronograph tells you it is going 671 fps, then you know the fpe is the weight of the pellet….14.5.

Just a few things to help you enjoy your airgunning a little more each day. 

March 14, 2007

Getting Started with Airguns

If you’ve just found your way into the world of airguns, you might be asking yourself “What airgun should I get first? A springer? Maybe one of those really expensive, new-fangled scuba-tank guns? What about CO2?”

If you look around the website here at Airgundepot.com, you’ll find several kinds of guns with many different powerplants. The pros and cons of those powerplants are briefly discussed in an earlier article based in part on what you want to do with your airgun. However, let’s assume that you just want to get an airgun that you can enjoy, and you have little or no experience with airguns or firearms. Let’s also assume that you want to start small and work your way up the scale of airgun usage and possession.

 For a fast, enjoyable experience with your first airgun, and for a good experience in hitting your target right away, consider a recoil-less airgun such as the Chinese-made QB-78. This gun is a copy of a no-longer manufactured American-made gun from Crosman.  It uses CO2 as a power source, and is a straightforward, bolt-action design that is easy to understand and use. It comes in both .177 and .22, and gives amazing accuracy for such an inexpensive airgun. It is almost all metal and wood, with a bare minimum of plastic, and will last for a lifetime with proper care and the occasional renewal of the seals on the gun. And once you get more into airguns, you’ll find the QB-78 a modifier’s dream. There are lots of after-market add-ons and upgrades available for this little gem from China, which explains the devoted following this airgun enjoys on the internet airgun forums.

If pistols are your thing, then the Crosman 2240 would be a great choice for a first airgun. It is the pistol equivalent of the QB-78 in terms of having a cult following that loves to modify and bring out the best in this little pistol. However, in stock form, the 2240 is no slouch in accuracy or plain fun. Using one CO2 cartridge for power, it delivers can-crunching power that will give you hours of fun as you plink at targets or roll cans across the yard. It is also a bolt-action single shot, and is easy to use and understand.

Once you’ve been bitten by the airgun bug, and you feel you want to take on another kind of airgun to enhance your airgunning experience, consider a spring-piston airgun. In this category, there are an enormous selection to choose from. From the inexpensive Tech Force line manufactured in China, to the Gamo airguns from Spain, on up to the more expensive models from other European countries…..there are a lot of choices. Spring-piston airguns can take some getting use to, but once you’ve mastered the art of shooting a springer effectively, they offer one of the greatest sense of achievements to be found in the world of airgunning.

Pre-charged pneumatics are often the last step in an airgunner’s journey, simply because they require some extra gear and accessories in order to enjoy them. You have to have a source of air, which is an investment you must be willing to make in order to enjoy these airguns. But the accuracy….oh, the accuracy you can wring out of these guns is phenomenal! And the power levels achievable will leave some of your firearm shooting friends amazed! There are many quality airguns available in this category, from the American-made Air Force line of guns, to European models that exhibit some true Old World craftsmanship, and finally on to the powerhouse models from Korea.

So, if you want to dive into the world of airguns, and don’t know where to start…..try these suggestions. You should be able to have immediate gratification, as well as a plan for further airguns to enjoy.

March 09, 2007

Air Rifle Scope Mounting Basics

Scope Mounting Basics

Your brand-new airgun just arrived, and you are eager to try it out. You also purchased a air rifle scope (make sure it's airgun rated if you plan to install on a springer) and the recommended mounts and rings that fit, and all you need to do now to enjoy your new acquisition is to install the scope on the gun. So go ahead…..install the scope and get shooting!

What do you mean you’ve never put a scope on a gun before? Really? Oh….okay. Well, it isn’t hard, so let’s just walk through it together.

Airguns come in many shapes and sizes, and different manufacturers use different mounting systems. As a general rule, you will most likely find 3/8" (11 mm) dovetail grooves machined into the top of the receiver on the majority of airguns. However, some manufacturers use a different system that installs a rail on top of the receiver. Be sure to check the width of the rail so you can order the proper-sized mounts. If you come from the firearm world, and are used to Weaver-style mounts, there are adaptors that convert from dovetail to Weaver, allowing you to use mounts you already possess.

Now consider the air rifle you have purchased. Is it a heavy-recoiling springer? If so, you will want to take advantage of the scope stop that hopefully came with the gun. Often, you will find scope stop holes already provided by the manufacturer on top of the receiver between the dovetails. If the scope mounts you purchased have a scope stop pin, the pin goes in the hole to prevent the entire mount and scope from creeping back on you when shooting. If there are no holes provided, then you can install a scope stop near the rear of the dovetail that will provide that function for you. A one-piece mount is often a good investment if you have a heavy-recoiling airgun, in that it provides a longer gripping surface than a two-piece mount. They aren’t quite as flexible as a two-piece mount, but they are very stable, and lessen the need for a scope stop. If your airgun is a lower-recoiling type, either a low-powered springer or a PCP/CO2-powered gun, a scope stop is rarely called for as the recoil isn’t enough to cause your scope to creep.

Taking the top of the rings off the scope mount, place the mount or mounts on the gun and fasten them to the gun. Don’t bear down on the fastening screws yet, as you may need to make some adjustments.

Place your scope in the rings, making adjustments for a good fit, and place the top half of the rings on the mount.

Fasten the top of the rings just enough to hold the air rifle scope in place, yet allowing you to still be able to turn and slide the scope forward and back. Now position the scope so that the eye-relief is to your liking, perhaps 2” to 4”. (Eye-relief is the distance from your eye to the rear of the scope, the part that you are looking through). Once the correct distance is obtained, rotate the scope in the rings so that the scope is level in the rings. The vertical reticle in the scope needs to divide the gun in half when you look through it. Now that you have the correct eye-relief adjusted, and your scope is mounted evenly in the rings, fasten the rings down on the scope by alternately tightening the screws. On a four-screw ring mount, I normally do two on the front (diagonally positioned from each other), then two in the back. I then fasten down the others, alternating from front to back. It’s sort of like changing a flat-tire….you tighten the lug nuts alternately, not the ones next to each other.

Be careful that you don’t bear down too hard on the ring screws….you can damage the tube of your scope, which certainly isn’t your intention. After the rings are tightened down, go back and tighten the entire mount to the gun.

There is an issue that affects your scope-mounting procedures. It is called barrel droop, seen mostly in break-barrel designs. Since the open sights on an air rifle are on the barrel, shooting with open iron sights will not affect your point of aim. However, when you place a scope on the gun, the scope is mounted on the receiver, not the barrel. To compensate for the barrel droop found in some airguns, you must sometimes shim the scope in the rear mount to more closely align the scope with the barrel. There are different materials you can use, from tape to strips of aluminum cut from a drink can. However, to avoid having to shim the scope, an adjustable mount can be purchased that will allow you to make adjustments to the mount itself in order to compensate for barrel droop. The RWS C-Mount is a terrific mount. It is fully adjustable for windage and elevation and makes sighting in a scoped air rifle a breeze. You might think that you can just sight your scope in with the adjustments on the scope itself but sometimes the barrel droop is too severe for this and the scope will not have enough adjustments to get you on target. RWS air rifles are know for this and, therefore, the RWS C Mount is recommended for them.

Another option is to buy pre-compensated mounts that have a built in droop allowance already machined into the mount itself. It isn’t an adjustable mount, but the mount was purposefully machined with a slightly higher rear scope ring to allow the scopes normal adjustment knobs to be able to adjust enough within their normal working range to get you on target.

The following link will give you another visible demonstration of how to mount a scope, closely following the steps I outlined above.


Once you’ve mounted your scope, grab a piece of paper or cardboard, some pellets, and let’s go sight in your scope-mounted air rifle. Place the target about 10 yards away. Since we are so close to our target, protective eye wear would be a good thing to have in the event of a ricochet. Take a few shots at the center of the paper, seeking to just get on the page. Using the scope's horizontal adjustment knob, get the point of impact horizontally centered on the target. Once you’ve accomplished this, work on the vertical adjustment to bring the point of impact to about 1” or so below the point of aim.

Now move the target out to 30 yards away and shoot a group of 4 or 5 shots. Don’t worry about flyers that differ from the group at this point, concentrate on the group itself. At 30 yards, you should be close to dead on for most airguns. This will vary from gun to gun depending on the power of each gun. Don’t forget that if you shoot a different pellet than the one you used to sight in with, you will have a different point of impact due to the weight of the pellet and the fit of the pellet in the barrel. So sight in your gun with the pellet you intend to use. Mounting a scope isn’t hard, and the method described above will suit the vast majority of airgunners. There are more advanced methods for FT shooters and accuracy devotees that involve using a level, working up a chart to plot the impact point of each type of pellet, and adjustments to the scope for each shot that occurs at a different range. I’ve never used that method myself, finding the above method of scope mounting more than adequate for hunting and plinking.So now you’re ready to go shooting. Enjoy!

March 02, 2007

Tech Force Contender 89

Tech Force 89

The newest series of guns from Tech Force has arrived on American shores, and this Chinese-made powerhouse compares very nicely with many European models. At 46” long and weighing in around 7.5 pounds, it is a full-size airgun meant for the adult shooter. Click here to view product details and pricing.

Fit and Finish

Below you see the Contender 89 to the right of the RWS 350. Notice the checkering is comparable in quality and placement on the gun, with the RWS 350 being the longer of the two guns by about an inch. It sports a very nice hardwood stock that really fills the hand of the shooter. A nice rubber buttpad with an excellent fit finishes off the attractive hardwood stock.

The forward stock screws are hidden behind a plastic cover that gives the appearance of a spanner screw head, but if you remove the cover, you’ll find the standard Phillips-head screw where you would normally expect it to be. Keeping these screws tight proved to be a deciding factor in gaining accuracy during the test firing.

The trigger and trigger guard are both plastic. However, I noticed in the side-by-side comparison to the RWS 350 that the 350 also sported a plastic trigger guard. The safety is located in front of the trigger, easy to reach with your trigger finger.

A well-fitting rubber buttpad adorns the rear of the gun, assisting in controlling the recoil of the magnum springer.

Shooting the Contender 89

Upon first receiving the two Contender 89’s for a test (one in .177, the other in .22), I cleaned out the barrels, removing the oil and grease used for a preservative by the manufacturer. As you can see, it is a good idea to clean the barrel before ever firing the gun. However, this isn’t just found on Chinese guns…..my Beeman R-9 had similar deposits in its barrel when I first received it.

The front and rear sights are quality metal, not the cheaper plastic affairs of years past. They are adjustable in both elevation and windage, and work very well if you choose to use the open sights.

In the event you choose to use a scope, the Tech Force 3-12x40 is an excellent choice for this gun. Tech Force scopes are built rugged, and for the money, are some of the best deals on the market today. The Contender 89 comes with a scope stop already installed which you will need to help the scope holds its grip on the scope rails. As I mentioned before, this is a powerful springer, and the scope will creep on you if you don’t fasten it down firmly. Place the scope stop behind the rear mount if possible to keep the mounts from shifting during firing.

So how does the Contender 89 fare against other high-powered spring-piston airguns? I’ve owned the RWS 48, and have fired the Gamo 1250 and RWS 350. In terms of power, the Contender ranks right up there with the two of them in ease of use and firing behavior. It takes roughly 40 pounds of effort to cock the models I tested, but the firing sequence did not have nearly the spring twang I was expecting. Rather, it was within the expectations of such a powerful airgun to my way of thinking, perhaps a little better than expected. I ran a few hundred pellets through both calibers and then proceeded to try and stay on target with a new gun that was still breaking in. The .177 quickly proved to be very accurate, but I had problems getting the .22 to like any pellet I used. I went through my mental checklist of what could be wrong….scope, ill-fitting pellets, loose stock screws….oh, that was it. I had some loose stock screws on the .22 model. Once I tightened those, the target began to look more like it was supposed to. Remember, these are guns that are still breaking in, and accuracy will improve as the parts mesh and the last imperfections are worked out.

.177 cal at 20 yards

.22 cal at 20 yards

After a couple of hundred rounds, I began to record the velocities over my chronograph. The .177 caliber shot medium weight pellets (8.3 grains) right at 1000 fps, for an energy rating of 17 fpe, with lighter pellets going even faster. The .22 caliber hit the high 700’s with 14.3 gr Crosman Premiers, yielding slightly over 18 fpe. These figures will change as the gun continues to break in, but it is plain to see that the energy is there for small game hunting and pest control.

If I were to criticize the Contender 89, it would be over the lack of an integral scope stop machined into the receiver. The scope stop supplied with the gun works, but because it also uses a clamping design, it can occasionally slip as well. Perhaps the manufacturer will address this in future upgrades to this line of airguns.

Final Thoughts

So, would I recommend this gun to the end user? With a 15” trigger pull length, this gun is not for kids or adults of smaller stature. It is a large gun, and if you are larger in build, this gun is for you. It completely fills the hands of the user, and at 7.5 pounds it's sturdy and well built. The firing behavior is pleasant right out of the box, and the more you shoot it, the more you will like it. And at half the price of the RWS 350, this gun should go far at pleasing the budget-minded shooter.

Click here to view product details and pricing.

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