Pros: Impressive accuracy. Near-elegant fit-and-finish. Automatic safety engagement. Heavy.
Cons: Flimsy plastic rear notch sight. Disconcerting internal commotion-cum-recoil when fired. Long break-in period. Heavy.
[First update: 12/24/2011] I'm upgrading this rifle to 5 stars because of its value. You could spend several hundred dollars more for a real German shiowpiece but not do much better unless you routinely line up some pretty long shots.
Recently I set up a target at 62 feet. With five shots, 3 went in the same hole about a quarter-inch from dead center; the other two were within a quarter-inch of that hole.
That's fine by me.
I bought this kit for $140 (tax included) to replace a Benjamin 392 (reviewed elsewhere in Epinions) because despite the brand's renowned durability, my Benjamin failed under moderate use.
Grackles have begun to frequent my back yard again. That calls for action. I love my doves, robins, cardinals, jays, chickadees, sparrows & others. . .but I won't abide grackles.
Since I had been using the 392 until it crapped out, I have a good variety of .22 caliber pellets on hand. I may never even fit the .177 barrel (especially since re-fitting any barrel requires re-sighting the rifle each and every time).
Pumping up a multi-stroke gun like the 392 is cumbersome (especially dealing with live targets), so I decided to try a springer, which is also supposed to be quieter than a multi-pump. We'll see about that; if it pans out, so much better for not alarming the neighbors. This new kit lists the muzzle velocity in .22 caliber at 850 feet per second (presumably with standard wadcutter or diabolo pellets weighing around 14 grains), up from the sub-700 fps range of the 392.
The box reads "Sportsman Series Air Rifle, RS1 Dual Caliber Air Rifle Combo." However, the top of the receiver bears the legend "Sportsman RS2 Series." I cannot account for the discrepancy.
This kit comes in a soft black nylon case measuring 33.5 x 8 x 3" with nylon-strap handles. The discreet size of the case is a plus because it might contain pool cues or a saxophone or an oboe (whatever); it's not an item that somebody across the street will spot and think "Oh man, that's a gun." A zipper (which I found can balk on closing) bisecting the ends & side of the case allow you to fold it out book-style; in one half you've got the stock & receiver plus the scope (with mounting rings and lens caps) held down by velcro straps; on the other half behind a vinyl flap are the two barrels (also snugged down with velcro).
The scope is a 4 x 32 with a gold Beeman logo on it.
Fitting a barrel is easy: just insert it in the forward block of the receiver, align an indentation on the bottom of the barrel with a set screw and snug that screw with the supplied hex wrench. The kit also includes a spare o-ring for the breech and a spare set screw.
At ten pounds this rifle is about as heavy as an M-1, but it has a nice balance. (I have listed its weight as both a pro & con; take your pick.) It is 45.5" long from the soft rubber butt pad to the muzzle. Total barrel length (including the segment locked into the receiver) is 18.25". The receiver (a cylinder 15.25" long and 1.25" in diameter) is as massive as that on a 12-gauge shotgun; that must contain the pneumatic reservoir.
The front sight is a hooded high-visibility orange-pink plastic bead; the rear sight is also plastic and--despite vertical and lateral rotary adjustments--that rear sight seems cheap and non-rigid. The transverse blade is a bit thicker than a playing card--about the same kind of plastic you'd find in a pub's house set of darts meant for drunks to hurl, with yellow-green dots flanking the slot so you get a yellow-pink-yellow sight pattern. I am told that these sights are variously called fiber-optic or TruGlo.
The stock and forearm are a stained smooth hardwood ("European hardwood," according to the write-ups, although--surprise!--the rifle was made in China) absent any checkering or ornamentation. I'd call the depth of hue somewhere between mahogany and cherry. The stock has a Monte Carlo cutout but no cheek piece--fine with me, since I shoot a rifle left-handed, and most factory cheek pieces accommodate righties. The springy rubber butt pad is fitted smoothly to the stock.
The trigger is a curiosity: a bright silver plastic almost like chrome. I'll report back on that when I look into it further; I have read online that it is a 2-stage adjustable job, although any description of that adjustment is noticeably missing from the owner's manual.
The trigger guard is a matte-black plastic; the safety lever is metal.
Without yet having fired a single shot, to this point I like what I see and feel.
Soon the grackle holiday will end.
Down on the Range: Shooting with Open Sights
The cocking force for this break-barrel rifle is listed at 35 pounds. That is a conservative figure--but maybe the required effort will lessen as the compression spring breaks in. At any rate, it takes muscle. There is a definitive snap when the spring is properly cocked; only then will the barrel stay open.
Loading is simple: Insert a pellet into the back end of the barrel, then swing the barrel back into position to close the breech.
The safety engages automatically when you cock the rifle. I applaud the designers of this airgun for that feature.
You disengage the safety by flicking forward a small lever just in front of the trigger beneath the trigger guard.
This is a two-stage trigger: The initial creep is very light, and then you reach a point when it becomes heavier. Nonetheless it is reasonably smooth. (The trigger is also adjustable, although I had to go online to get the instructions.)
As I have learned, springers jump when fired; the recoil is unsettling until you get used to it, because the thing moves forward and backward in rapid succession. The rifle also makes an impotent noise in there--a sound I like only slightly better than an aluminum bat hitting a baseball.
All this commotion is part and parcel of the springer's design. From what I have read, that is so even for the thousand-dollar jobs. But the recoil is light enough--more of a nuisance than a real factor--that anyone who concentrates on the target should not find it bothersome. This ain't no .44 magnum. There's no muzzle flip and it won't slam your shoulder; nonetheless the rifle does come to life.
I did my initial shooting at a local indoor shooting range with my rifle on a rest and my targets 45 feet away. After putting about 100 rounds through the bore, the accuracy did not impress me.
Even my first groups were small enough to cover with my hand; after the first 45 minutes and some sight adjustments, using a variety of pellets I printed several patterns that would fit in a 3-inch circle. In the best group, 8 of the ten shots would have fit under a silver dollar (for those of you old enought to remember that coin). So that's generally tight enough to bag a bird as large as a grackle.
And I used the rifle with open sights for several weeks--making progressive adjustments to the sight as the spring wore in--and dispatched a number of grackles.
Re-learning to Shoot
Basically, springers are entirely their own breed. Nearly everything I had learned previously about how to hold a rifle--snugly and firmly, in order to follow through and dampen the recoil--is all wrong for a springer.
With a springer, you hold the rifle lightly--basically, you cradle it, with a gentle touch with your trigger hand, the stock resting against your shoulder but not planted, your cheek easy against the stock, and your forearm hand supporting the rifle from beneath but not restraining it. Technically this is called the "artillery hold," because you adopt the stance of an immobile gun carriage while the piece itself moves. Guys who teach the hold demonstrate it with a flat, open palm under the forearm, extending their fingers horizontally to emphasize the lack of a grip.
It takes a while to get the hang of it. If you fired a high-powered powder burner this way the rifle would get away from you. But springers require a light touch.
I was surprised at how choosy the 1073 is about its ammo. I got reasonably tight and very consistent groups at 15 yards feet with Beeman Kodiaks; the pattern is even better with the copper Kodiaks, so I do an occasional round of practice with those, and if I'm lining up on a grackle I always load a copper Kodiak.
Since dialing in the open sights for the Kodiaks, I tried a round with Crow Magnums, and again I was disappointed. Not that the C-Ms are a bad pellet; they just don't give me the accuracy of the Kodiaks. I'd prefer to use the C-Ms for the grackles, what with all the C-M's great expansion & knockdown. . .but if I don't always get the round on target, it doesn't matter whether it's a hollowpoint or not. (I may eventually fill the expansion cups on a few C-Ms with wax to see if that improves their ballistics.)
I also tried Beeman Silver Arrows, Silver Stings, Crosman Premiers, Benjamin Discoveries, Daisy pointed field pellets and several others. None of them work as well as the Kodiaks.
I don't have a chrony, so I'm not sure what sort of velocity I'm getting with the Kodiaks--probably fairly slow, probably not anywhere near the 850 fps listed on the 1073 box--but again, I bought this rifle to thin out the grackle population and put them on notice to stay away.
Eureka! The Scope Is Okay
Almost on a lark I set up a 107' outdoor range and mounted the scope.
I did it as an afterthought because i figured that if they skimped anywhere it would be with the scope.
I was wrong. And I'm delighted.
After a few dozen rounds and progressive adjustments to the scope, we printed 1.5" groups.
For Its Intended Purpose
Although I have had to make some minor adjustements as the spring has worn in, this rifle continues to put the rounds on target. I want to hit the grackles and dispatch them in an instant with clean one-shot kills. Generally that is exactly what happens.
I did well with the Benjamin, but over the last few weeks my hit ratio has improved considerably. On two separate Sundays I have killed 3 grackles.
My experience has been that I take out a few of these flying demons and they seem to pass the word. They are vicious but very intelligent birds; I kill them because of the former trait, and because of the latter they seem to understand that my yard is a perilus locale. That's what I want.
The racket I mentioned when this thing fires is confined almost entirely to the immediate area--that is, right next to the rifle. When a friend shot it, I got a few yards away and was pleased to note that its report is no louder than a kid's BB gun. Other than that, there's a little thwack if you hit a solid target (and we were punching right through a piece of 3/8" plywood at 107'). In fact I have taken out grackles across the yard and squirrels relaxing just a few feet away have barely flinched.
I am quite staisfied. However--in part because re-sghting is necessary every time you remove and refit a barrel (even the same barrel you just removed)--I think this dual-caliber feature is a gimmick.
I probably could have done better by finding a dedicated RWS or Beeman .22--and I would have preferred an underlever rifle--but I would have paid considerably more.
For a $140 grackle-killer, I don't think I did too badly.