Friday, November 2, 2012

GAMO Whisper Silent Stalker IGT (.177) Review

UPDATE: Click here for The Smashing Coconut Test!

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I discovered an impressive lineup of airguns at the Willi Hahn Enterprises booth at the gun show earlier this year.

Three things about their new airguns grabbed my attention:
  1. It could shoot a lead .177 pellet weighing 7.66 grains at nearly 1000 FPS
  2. It has a built-in "sound moderator" or silencer that greatly reduces the noise
  3. These rifles did not need to be charged with CO2, the break-barrel cocking system powers the gun for each shot
After a lot of research I came back and bought my first break-action air rifle. Its been an interesting 3 months in the making.




 
click to zoom


I. VITAL STATS

Mechanism
  • Velocity: 1300 feet per second (fps) with PBA Platinum 
  • Single Shot 
  • Break Barrel: Single Cocking System
  • Automatic Cocking Safety system 
  • Barrel: Fluted Polymer Jacketed Steel with ND52 Technology 
  • Cocking Effort: 32 lbs 
  • Trigger: Two stage adjustable SAT (Smooth Action Trigger) 
  • Manual Safety 
  • Rated for about 150,000 shots before changing the piston
Stock
  • Stock: Tough All Weather molded Synthetic 
  • Butt Plate: SWA (Shock Wave Absorber) Recoil pad with up to 74% recoil absorption 
  • Cheekpiece: Thin cheekpad molded on each side for both Right hand and Left hand shooters Checkering: Non-Slip texture design on grip and forearm 
Optics
  • Scope Ramp: Raised Rail 
  • Scope: 3-9x40 air rifle scope with rings.
  • Fiber-optic iron sights
Specifications
  • Weight: 7.15 lbs 
  • Length: 43’’ 
  • Ammunition: Any .177 Pellet 
  • Caliber: .177 
  • Trigger Pull: 3.74 lbs 
  • Barrel Length: 18 in

II. General Impressions
The gun is sturdily built and looks fantastic. I love the texture of the rifle and its contours. The stock has a openings that enables a light but solid grip. These also reduce its overall weight, and its easy to carry around.

The moving parts of the cocking mechanism does not wobble. The barrel is jacketed with polymer so it won't rust.

The cocking mechanism is very smooth and feels lighter than the published 30 pound effort when you get the technique right.


III. Smooth Action Trigger
The "SAT" can be adjusted to make it lighter. I've read that this has made significant improvements compared to previous models.

You can "stage" the trigger it near the end as it travels a small distance as you squeeze it, and then it gives just enough resistance before it breaks. I did not have difficulty getting used to this mechanism.


IV. Not So Silencer
The ND52 noise moderator thingamajig reduces sound "by nearly 50%". It actually is a lot quieter than the unsilenced airguns that I used to own.

Thing is, they are not as quiet as those high-end PCP airguns which really are stealthy. I can shoot those without waking anybody up! I was hoping that this air rifle would have similar performance but they are still loud for indoor shooting.

The good news is that the sound moderator becomes far more effective outdoors. I am happy to say that it then becomes quiet enough for me to practice at my back yard without irritating my neighbors. Outside it sounds like someone firmly closed an aluminum sliding door. It is important to note that most of the noise from this gun comes from the gas piston, not the muzzle.



V. Sights & The Scope Mount Debacle
The fiber-optics on the front and rear sights are very good. The front is orange while the rear are "Luke Skywalker" green. My only problem is that I need to crank the rear sights as high as possible to shoot properly. 

The basic scope that came with the gun is a bit of a disappointment. I can only get a good focus at 4.5x even if its highest magnification is 9x. If you could get a scope with an adjustable objective, you'll be making the most out of this gun.

A big problem came after I shot about 80 pellets. The scope mount that came with the gun was made of soft cheap alloy. The screw that joins the scope mount to the gun was also of similar sub-standard material. 

Due to the recoil being generated for the whole length of the rifle because of its compressed gas piston, the scope stop slowly destroys the restraining screw and damages the cheapo scope mount. It gets pushed backward until the screw is deformed.

As of this writing, GAMO seems to be unaware of this problem. 
Probably because it is new in their lineup.

I had to visit Hahn's excellent gunsmith twice just so we could discover that using a scope mount of higher-quality steel and a screw made of harder material is needed to keep the thing from creeping backward after each shot. This was a frustrating problem before it was resolved. 

Out of the dozens of reviews I've read on this gun on the internet, I've only read just two user comments that identify this problem. Those professional reviews were good, but they did not mention this issue. 

All good now. No more problems.

VI. Shooting, Power, & Accuracy
The gun is both powerful and accurate!

I've blasted pellets through a lot of fruits, water jugs, and various hard objects. I've even killed a large rat with a center-mass shot that was unlucky enough to wander into my back yard.  

Mrs. Zombie Hunter was my excellent spotter that evening.

At 15 meters, the bullet hit its lower chest and then it went straight out its back. The impact was a "thump" as if I punched it with my fist. You know you hit good with that sound. It hobbled a few meters before expiring. I suppose a larger caliber would have dropped it cold with the same gut shot.

Tip: head shots for any target are the way to go. I've also seen a video of this taking down a fox with a well-placed head shot. This is not ideal with .177 caliber ammo because you cannot guarantee a humane kill. The video only shows that it can be done. 

The proper targets for .177 are smaller critters like rabbits, birds, chickens, rabies-carrying squirrels, etc.

When I got the scope problem licked, I could land shots in 2 inch groups at around 25 yards away from the standing position. From a bench I could tighten it to under two inches at nearly 30 yards, ideal for eyeball shots on the walking dead. With a better scope I'm sure I can take it further.

Good news: Unlike spring-powered air guns, you do not need to use the "artillery hold". You just need to make sure to not grip it too tightly and use the same technique all the time. 


VII. Chronograph Test
I've measured the speed of these two pellet types:
  • Gamo Magnum Pellets (designed to deliver more energy on impact) averages 975 feet per second 
  • Gamo Pro Magnum (has an extra lining/reinforcement inside the pellet to improve penetration) averages 955 fps.

VIII. Ammo Variety!
What I dig about air rifles is the wide selection of pellets for all kinds of applications, and there are just as many brands.

There are steel tipped armor-piercing pellets which let them punch through light sheet metal, hollow-point ammo for hunting, precision ammo for competitions, heavy field ammo for long-range shots, and a lot more.  Gamo's pellets have good reviewsClick this link to check out their video that describes each one.


IX. At the Range


This is what a target looks like at 25 meters. Below is a photo of 4.5 times magnification. Gamo says that this is the gun's hunting distance sweet spot for hunting because penetration power decreases further away.


I have shot up to 50 meters and they still perform pretty well with good bullets. Quality stuff means having no defects and good aerodynamic properties. Take note that strong wind will greatly affect those tiny but potent 7.66 grain pellets.


X. OVERALL RATING
Everything about this gun is great once you get a high quality scope and scope mount. Hours of fun and thousands of pellets await!

I score this 8/10 after solving those 2 problems (w/o fixing a 5/10). The score could have been a 9/10 if it was quieter.


XI. Six reasons why this will help you survive the Zombie Apocalypse
  1. hunt small game with this gun and feed your family. 
  2. quiet enough to do whatever you want without attracting zombies!
  3. no need for gunpowder or CO2
  4. ammunition is very cheap & lightweight
  5. costs a lot less compared to those fantastic PCP "pump" air rifles.
  6. affordable backyard training is priceless

And I've also done a few very interesting penetration tests. Stay tuned for those.


Stay vigilant!


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