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Breakbarrel Airguns – Are They Reliable?

Gamo Hunter 440

Gamo Hunter 440

I often tell people that my first break barrel airgun was the Gamo Hunter 440. Truthfully however, my very first airgun was the Remington Genesis. This was my first introduction to airgunning and I was initially thrilled with my purchase. Unfortunately it was short-lived. The Genesis, which started out extremely accurate, turned out to be impossible to shoot as it had developed lateral movement in the barrel joint. Now while I could take it out of the stock and tightenit to resolve the issue, I found that I was having to do it every 5 to 10 shots. Obviously that was not going to work.

Because of this experience I developed a perception many new airgunners face every day. This is the perception or belief that all break barrel airguns are, or are going to become, inaccurate. I would like to set the record straight on this misconception.

First of all, lets take a look at things logically. Our day is surrounded by mechanical devices operating within high tolerances over thousands, even millions, of repetitions. Simply consider the automobile engine and all of its moving parts that have to operate within very tight mechanical constraints to provide the power to get us to work every day. The idea that all break barrel airguns will be inaccurate because the barrel joint cant be made secure, is simply not the case.

So if it can be done why is it that my Remington Genesis developed this issue? Well, each manufacturer will have its good days and its bad days. My particular rifle mustve been built on a bad day, as I know of others that have worked flawlessly for years. There is another facet to this discussion; the old adage you get what you pay for really applies to airguns in the same way it applies in so many other instances.

There are various materials and mechanisms that manufacturers use to secure this critical joint and some work better than others. Airguns that are built to meet the needs of consumers looking for something in and around the hundred dollar price point, are more prone to quality control concerns and weak points than are more expensive airguns.

RWS 350 Ball Detent barrel joint

RWS 350 Ball Detent barrel joint

There are a couple important pieces to the puzzle that determine if the barrel joint is going to last over time. The first part that Ill look at, is what holds the barrel tight inside the receiver. Some manufacturers will use plastic bushings, others will use metal bushings, and yet others will use a combination of both. In my opinion, using plastic bushings invites inevitable failure. I prefer to see metal bushings in this area to ensure a tight fit for many years.

The second area that we’ll look at is how manufacturers lock the barrel tight into place. The most common way a manufacturer will secure the barrel joint is by using a spring-loaded wedge and a bar. When the barrel is closed, the spring behind the wedge pushes it forwards, grabs the bar, and is supposed to hold the barrel securely in place. While this seems like a good idea on paper, its easy for this type of joint to wear out.

Another method is by using a spring-loaded ball detent on the barrel and a wedge in the receiver. Youll see this setup used commonly with RWS airguns like the RWS 34 and the RWS 350 Magnum. Youll also find this on guns like the Ruger Talon and some of the Chinese Beeman imports. Having owned these guns for many years Ive yet to have one develop lateral slop due to a poorly designed barrel joint.

Remington Vantage - Dual wedge barrle joint

Remington Vantage – Dual wedge barrel joint

The final method that Ill talk about today uses a spring-loaded wedge in the breach block and a fixed wedge in the receiver. When you close the barrel the wedges engage under pressure and hold the barrel securely in place. My Beeman R9 uses this design and it is perhaps the most accurate spring gun that I have ever shot.

Regardless of how things are held into place, there needs to be a high level of consistency and quality control at the manufacturing level. Any of the methods discussed today can be effective if executed properly by the manufacturer. I would encourage anyone experiencing issues with movement in the barrel joint to contact their airgun manufacturers service department for assistance before attempting any self repair. Most of the time, if given the chance, they will want to make sure that their customers are happy and correct the situation.

While my first airgun may have started me down the road of hating all break barrels, years of experience has taught me otherwise. Break barrel airguns represent a very cost-effective, accurate, powerful, and fun shooting experience. If you know what to look for, its easy to make a good choice in a quality airgun that will serve you now and years in the future and the folks at can help you make the right choice.

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