I promised some controversy didn’t I! I’m going to put all my cards on the table right up front. I was an early adopter of the Gas Ram / Nitro Piston technology. I have a special edition Gamo Whisper Camo .22 with a Nitro Piston upgrade, GRTIII trigger and awesome BSA Scope. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of that airgun gun. The gas ram conversion completely transformed it from a buzzy, twangy, airgun into a smooth shooting critter getter. Day one, I was hooked.
I also had an early model Trail NP .22 cal that shot incredibly well and also an early NPSS that was impressive. But, then my first (and third) Remington NPSS along with my Trail NP went flat while just sitting in the shop and my perspective began to change. During this “gas ram is better” bubble burst, I began shooting some German and British made airguns such as the RWS 34, 350, 48, Beeman R9 & R7, and the AirArms TX200 MKIII. Even some of the Chinese imports like the TechForce 89, Xisico B26/B28, and the Beeman RS2/RS3 series spring guns seemed to be pretty darn good. Now I was as confused as ever and I bet some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The gun that defied it all…
One day I picked up my Beeman Silver Sting, essentially a Beeman S2/S3 variant Chinese import in composite and nickel, from storage in Texas only to find out that it had been left cocked for over a year. Surely the spring was dead as a doornail, as that’s what we’re told to believe about “springers”; and why we are pointed to the “better” gas ram option, right? I drove back home to my shop in Arizona. I was expecting to have to get on the phone with Beeman and try and round up spare parts to resurrect my airgun. To my surprise however, the rifle was passing lead over the chrony at the same velocities as it did the day I reviewed it a year earlier. How was this possible? The spring should have been a limp spaghetti noodle after a year of being cocked, right?
Again, here are all my cards on the table, I’m not an engineer. I didn’t even finish my first year of college. I’m a card carrying member of “The School of Practical Experience,” also known as “The School of Hard Knocks.” Over the years I’ve noticed a few important determinate factors to a spring’s longevity that I’d like to share with you all.
The first is the base materials and overall construction. The higher the quality of the steel and the level of the manufacturing consistency, the better the product will be. That’s an easy one. It’s also critical how the springs are tempered in the final stages. Hatsan for example, has a proprietary hardening process which greatly enhances the life of their springs.
The second factor, and this is my theory through practical experience, is the amount of preload tension the spring is under while not cocked. There are various aspects that go into this. Here are a few that I have observed; the amount of compression when not cocked, the overall length of the spring, and the strength and gauge of the wire used to make the spring.
Preload is the amount of pressure that the spring is under when not cocked. Brands like Hatsan, Beeman RS2/RS3, the old TechForce 89, etc. use a lot of preload tension on their springs. The Beeman Silver streak has a lot of preload. This means that the spring is always under a lot of pressure. It goes from a lot of pressure to a ton of pressure; never really being at rest. The Hatsan line of springers has some of the highest levels of preload that I have ever experienced working on airguns, especially the 135 and 155 variants. If I were to assign a “how hard are they to work on” level from 1 to 10 they would fall in around 7 or 8. By contrast Gamo and Crosman spring guns would be a 2 or 3.
Let’s take a breath.
I have just begun to make my case here about springs vs gas rams and I’m positive that it won’t be the last article, and certainly not the last opinion on the subject. In part 2, I am going finish up talking about preload tension as it relates to spring longevity. I will also be talking about where the industry is going with this new technology and why. As always, we love interacting with our readers. If you have questions or a different opinion on the subject, go ahead and jump in, the water’s fine!