With .22-cal. rimfire ammunition still in short supply, and with pricing of the once universally inexpensive cartridges inflated to historic levels, many a plinker and small-game hunter has had to resort to scouring gun show tables and online sources or standing in lines at stores-and some have been sidelined altogether. For the frustrated masses seeking a solution to their ammunition woes, one option worth serious consideration is precision, high-powered air rifles.
To anyone who hasn't recently walked the airgun aisle of their local sporting goods store, modern air rifles are not the BB guns of "Christmas Story" fame. Development by companies such as Gamo, the largest airgun manufacturer in Europe and a leading distributor of airguns throughout the world, has brought these air-powered arms into the realm of legitimate hunting tools. Indeed, it is perhaps the need to cement this modern reality in the minds of American sportsmen that generated the company's latest offering-the Gamo Buckmasters Squirrel Terminator. Both by partnering with Jackie Bushman and his well-known hunting organization, and by choosing the designation, "Squirrel Terminator," Gamo leaves no question as to its purpose; this is a gun made for small-game hunting.
At a quick glance, the Squirrel Terminator could be just another large-caliber center-fire rifle in the gun rack. The matte-black synthetic stock with elevated cheek pad for ambidextrous shooting, the Shock Wave Absorberz (SWA) buttpad, stout fluted barrel and 4X 32 mm mounted Gamo optic give it a beefy look that transcends the more common stripped down and simplistic sculpturing of most air rifles. Unlike a variable pump rifle that requires multiple pumps of the cocking device in order to charge the gun, the Squirrel Terminator is a break-barrel, single-cocking spring-piston model that is charged by simply grasping the pistol grip or fore-end in one hand and swinging the end of the barrel down and then back into battery. In the hand, it feels like a true rifle. It weighs a solid, but comfortable, 6 lbs., 1 oz., with a balance that compares to any quality long arm, either center-fire or rimfire.
At the heart of the .177-cal. Squirrel Terminator's technological advantages is the incorporation of Gamo's Turbo Stabilizing System. The system is designed to bring the spring to a controlled stop within the chamber upon firing and thus generate more velocity, less vibration, less recoil and, ultimately, at least in theory, better accuracy. In fact, the Turbo Stabilizing System purportedly generates an additional 25-f.p.s. velocity to the flight of the pellet when compared to standard spring-powered air rifles.
The Buckmasters Squirrel Terminator is billed to deliver 1275 f.p.s. of velocity when shooting Gamo's PBA Platinum Ammo. (Gamo is also the largest manufacturer of pellets in the world.) For some perspective, 1275 f.p.s. compares to the muzzle velocities produced by most .22 Long Rifle loads and exceeds the velocities of common .22 Short loads and even many full-size handgun calibers.
Shooting this air rifle is a pleasure and, quite honestly, a lot of fun. Gamo touts that it takes32 lbs. of cocking effort to charge the gun-a simple task for any adult with average strength, but too difficult for a child. This of course is not designed to be a child's airgun, though in the company and guidance of an adult, and with that adult's help, it's as great a training arm as any rimfire and has the added advantage of being permissible to shoot in most suburban back yards.
The two-stage adjustable Smooth Action Trigger (SAT) is kept in check by a safety tab mounted on the underside of the receiver and inside the trigger guard just in front of the trigger. It is engaged by pulling the tab rearward and released with a simple flick of the finger forward. The trigger itself has about 1/4" of free travel before building resistance and then breaking cleanly. The adjustable trigger is factory-set at just under 4 lbs. of pull.
On the range, the Squirrel Terminator was tested using three different pellets-Gamo's Platinum 5.4-gr. PBA Raptor Power, Gamo 7.1-gr. PBA pellet and RWS 8.2-gr. Meisterkugeln. The rifle was chronographed for velocity and tested for accuracy at 50 yds., a distance at which one would typically test a firearm that boasted rimfire-like abilities. And this is where the comparison between rimfire and air rifle destabilized a little-but just a little.
The flat-nosed Meisterkugeln pellets, more typical of a standard pellet, were predictably the slowest out of the Squirrel Terminator with an average measured velocity of 929 f.p.s. The PBA Copper Bullet, a hunting-specific pellet designed with a rounded nose and longer skirt for more terminal impact on squirrel- and rabbit-size game flew at a slightly higher velocity at 943 f.p.s. Lastly, the Platinum Raptor PBA pellets averaged 1100 f.p.s. with the highest measurement in the strings tested launching at 1111 f.p.s. and the lowest at 1069 f.p.s., not quite the 1250 f.p.s. stamped on the barrel, but impressive nevertheless. The standard deviation between shots for the Platinums and the Meisterkugelns was only12 f.p.s., meaning this rifle is one very consistent shooter.
Five, five-shot groups were fired with each pellet type from sandbags at the noted distance of 50 yds. The tightest group fired was 1.25" using the PBA Platinum pellets, but that one was almost an anomaly as the next smallest groups fired were 2.5" with the Platinums and a 2.12" group with the Meisterkugelns. The largest group recorded was a dismal 6.25" with the PBA Copper bullet, which as a whole shot the worst groups of the three pellets with the tightest of that line being a 3.25" group. Most of the groups overall fell in the 3"- and 4"-realm, making this gun too inconsistent for shooting game reliably at 50 yds. Bringing the targets in to 25 yds., however, brought the groups closer to the 1" (Meisterkugeln) and 2" (PBA Platinum) sizes. That should allow for making accurate shots on squirrel-sized game and enable this latest offering from Gamo to live up to its name.
Gamo Buckmasters Squirrel Terminator Importer: Gamo USA, 3911 S.W. 47th Ave., Suite 914, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314, (954) 581-5822 gamousa.com Caliber: .177 Action Type: spring-piston-powered, break-action, single-shot air rifle Receiver: steel Barrel: 18"; fluted, polymer-jacketed steel Rifling: two-groove, 1:18" RH twist Sights: none; comes with Gamo 4X 32 mm air rifle scope Trigger: two-stage adjustable; 3-lb., 12-oz. pull Stock: black synthetic Overall Length: 45" Weight: 6 lbs., 1 oz. Accessories: owner's manual MSRP: $220