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Airforce airguns: match sights.

AirForce Airguns has been developing the Edge, a Sporter-class target rifle, for the American 10-meter youth market. They'll bring it to market in 2009. Their knowledge of pneumatic airgun technology and modern manufacturing approach have been put to work to update the state-of-the-art in youth target rifles.

Along the way, they discovered that there are no decent target sights for youth target rifles. There are plastic aperture sights with sloppy mechanisms selling for under $75 and there are Olympic-class target sights that sell for over $400 a set, but there isn't much in-between. And none of what exists in the spotty middle ground is made in America. Until now.

If you can't buy it, build it!

If they weren't able to put a decent target sight on their new Edge, they might doom it from the start. It would be like building a sexy new sports car and putting an economy car engine under the hood. Performance would be lost.


On the other hand, if they designed a world-class sight set for the Edge, might some of those hundreds of thousands of owners of existing youth target rifles consider trading in their plastic sights for a quality metal unit that eliminated the adjustment slop they've had to deal with? Probably some of the 700,000+ kids who compete annually in 10-meter three-position air rifle tournaments around the U.S. might like to get the upper hand by installing a sight set that works exactly the same as a costly European system. Surely their competition will!

Not only is there a market for the new sights on every Edge they build, but also for the hundreds of thousands of existing target rifles that are owned by clubs and individuals around the nation. Furthermore, because these new sights are just as precise as European target sights, there are additional sales to the tens of thousands of precision target rifle owners whose sights have been separated from their airguns. All in all, it's not a bad market.

But first you have to make a sight that does all the right things. That's often an afterthought in the high-speed world of modern business; but when you're on the hook to produce, the reality overwhelms. AirForce looked at the designs of most of the top aperture sights as well as the foibles of the plastic ones and decided they could build a unit that would challenge the leaders for a lot less money. What they built is the subject of this report.

The front sight

Front sights aren't as sexy as the sights in the rear. They lack the fine adjustments and most of the features that target shooters get jazzed about, but they're actually half the sighting solution. Like plumbing, you don't notice them until they don't work and everything turns to--well, you know. As long as they were designing a front sight from scratch, AirForce decided to see what innovations they could build into it.

Adjustability was the answer, and they made this new sight variable for height. As a result, it can be adjusted to work with a wide variety of rear sights. The front globe containing the sight element goes up, down and in the middle. You can also select either side of the barrel for the post that holds the globe.


The front sight shown here isn't the same unit that's going on the new Edge rifle. The Edge doesn't need this kind of adjustability because it only has to work with a single rear sight. But the new front sight in this set will adapt to many different target rifles from other makers. As long as they have an 11mm male dovetail base on the muzzle, any rifle should be able to rise this new sight.

Rear aperture sight

The rear aperture sight is what'll cause the biggest fuss in the 10-meter air rifle world, because there isn't anything like it in its price range. Let me give you the tour.

The entire sight is clamped to a vertical post on the left side of the mount, so, like the front unit, this aperture has it broad range of gross vertical adjustability. And that's before the adjustment knobs are used.


It was very easy to match the height of the rear sight to the HW55 target rifle I used for testing, and it was using the rifle's own front sight. The base fits a standard 11mm airgun dovetail and there is no provision for a mechanical stop.

The click adjustments are one-eighth minute of angle, which is half the distance found on current plastic sights. Shooters will be able to move pellets around the target by hundredths of an inch. Certainly, they'll have more control over where they're sighted than is humanly possible to use, which is reassuring for a competitor.

I counted the number of clicks up and down and side-to-side. There were 245 clicks from one side to the other and 254 clicks from top to bottom. That works out to just over 30.5 minutes of horizontal adjustment and 31.75 minutes of vertical adjustment.

The clicks are more tactile than audible and can easily be felt throughout the entire range. They never became harder or easier to adjust at any point in the test, all the way to lock at both ends of the range. The knobs were easy to turn, but stopped positively in every detent, so there's no chance of accidental movement.

Shooters will want some kind of sight movement directions on the knobs that were not on the pre-production prototype I tested. A simple arrow that indicates one direction should be sufficient for each knob.

The knobs do have index numbers around their periphery. A dot for each knob is located on the sight body to be used as the point of reference. These are the smallest adjustments that will be made after all gross adjustments have gotten the rifle in the black.

How does it compare?

This new sight is a positive step forward from the plastic aperture sights that come on youth models today. It has sharp, positive adjustments with no backlash or slop. I'll show that in a moment.


Compared to the expensive target aperture sights, the AirForce sight feels less crisp when adjusting. That's due to the lack of audible clicks, I believe, because on paper it's just as positive as any of the big boys. The broad range of movement gives you a sense of security, knowing that once you're in the neighborhood, you'll never run out of adjustment.

Aftermarket accessories, such as the Gehmann adjustable aperture and various optical aids, will fit the same hole as the removable aperture disk. And AirForce may bring out a range of apertures for shooters to adjust to different lighting conditions.

The test

Whether testing a scope, dot sight or an aperture like this one, there's one way to positively determine whether the click adjustments are precise or not. That is to adjust the sight in a box pattern and see where the final shots go.

Begin by making a group at some spot on a target. It doesn't have to be centered on the 10-ring, but that does add visual effect. Then turn one of the adjustment knobs a specific number of clicks to the side, then up, then to the other side, then down. The last group should land exactly on top of the first group. If it does, the sight is returning to the exact same place after being adjusted away.

For my test, I centered the first three-shot group. While a three-shot group is not statistically sound for accuracy testing, it will work for this procedure.

After the first three shots, I adjusted the sight 40 clicks to the left and fired a second group. The distance was only 10 meters and these are one-eighth-minute clicks, so 40 isn't as big a move as you might think.

Following that, I adjusted the sight 40 clicks up and fired a third group. When that was finished, I adjusted the sight 40 clicks to the right to cancel the initial 40 clicks to the left. After another three shots, the sight was adjusted 40 clicks down to cancel the 40 clicks of elevation put on the sight for the third group.

The final group of three shots was then fired. If you've followed my directions, the sight should be back where the test began and the last group should fall on top of the first.

As you can see, my last group of three shots did fall exactly on top of the first at the center of the bull. The upper two groups are more open than the bottom two, which is due to my own shooting error, but the sight tracked the way it was supposed to. So this sight works as advertised.

Final thoughts

I've been waiting for this sight set for more than 30 years. Ever since the days when Air Rifle Headquarters and Beeman sold expensive target rifles without sights, starting back in the 1970s, I've seen too many great airguns sold sans sights. Sure, the initial buyers saved a few bucks and it was possible to use small scopes on them; but when someone wants to put one of these vintage beauties back into serious service today, they're always shocked by the $400-$500 cost for a new set of precision sights. Until now, the only alternative has been the inexpensive sights used on youth rifles.

Now, thanks to AirForce Airguns, you can afford to put a real target sight set on your heirloom rifle. This set will have an MSRP of around $170 and the aperture sight alone will sell for $140. Because this sight is budget-priced, it qualifies as a Sporter-class sight, so competitors can give their target rifles a new lease on life. Best of all, this one is made in America!

My thanks to AirForce Airguns for the loan of this early set of sights that made this report possible. Visit them online at www.air or call 877-247-4867.
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Title Annotation:AirForce Edge
Author:Gaylord, Tom
Publication:Shotgun News
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Jan 20, 2009
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