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The Bronco from Air Venturi.

Airgunners have their favorites! Some of mine are lightweight spring guns that are easy to cock, soft-shooting and accurate. The poster child of my fancy is the Diana Model 27, which most will agree is all of those things and something more--it's an honest airgun.

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How does an airgun become "honest"? For starters, it must be made of wood and steel, because those are the materials we venerate. Two centuries from now, perhaps collectors will look fondly at the vintage late 21st-century military weapons that were made from real engineering, plastic instead of bio-petro buckeyball materials with ceramic reinforcements.

But not today. Today, we love wood and steel. And I love a gun that's easy to cock, has a great trigger and is accurate. Is that asking for too much? You would think so from the new models pouring onto the market. Why can't "they" just make what I want?

I become they!

I work closely with Pyramyd Air, which also distributes airguns under its own Air Venturi brand name. I see many different airguns all the time. One day, while daydreaming about my ideal springer, it hit me--there will never be another Diana 27. And, when you think about its complex ball-bearing trigger and the muddy brown beech stocks, is that so bad? If someone built a Diana 27 today, wouldn't they update those elements?

I realized that through my association with Pyramyd Air that I might be able to influence the design of a new air rifle--a rifle I would like to own. My dream rifle would be easy to cock, have a great trigger, be very accurate and be priced so most shooters could afford it. It wouldn't have to be powerful because I would just Use it for plinking. But, it should look different than all the Chinese mega-magnums. Maybe a Western look would be nice--like the Beeman C1.

Now, if you understand how mass production works, you know that the last thing you want to do is start with a clean sheet of paper. Doing things that way costs so much that the risk is usually too great to justify the project. So, any new airgun has a far better chance of succeeding if it descends from a product already being made. Hence, the Benjamin Discovery that Crosman used to enter the world of PCPs was sired by the Crosman 2260.

And, the Bronco is the offspring of a variation of the Mendoza RM-10 youth rifle. Since it's designed for kids, if has a light cocking stroke and almost no vibration or recoil. However, the Bronco is not just a restocked RM-10. The Bronco is, in fact, a rifle originally designed by Mendoza on the RM-10 powerplant.

It had a dog-ugly stock with a 10-inch pull, and a kidney-shaped cutout in the butt. The stock was kindling, but the-action was a fine youth air rifle with a great two-stage Mendoza., trigger arid an accurate Mendoza barrel. In other words, large part of my dream rifle already existed. It was even called the Bronco, which inspired the Western-style stock.

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I presented the idea to Pyramyd Air and was given the green light to develop the new rifle. First I sent the action off to a stockmaker who restocked it in a beautiful maple stock that looked just like it came from a Beeman C1. Then that rifle was sent to Mendoza for quotes on building it in quantity.

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But the design work was far from complete. For starters, since this was to be a new design, why not fix some troublesome things? No. 1 on the list is the oil hole on the left side of all Mendoza spring tubes. The oil can symbol invites owners to over-oil the piston seal, and dieseling is one of Mendoza's bad traits. So, we did away with that hole. If you ever need to oil the seal, do it through the transfer port like all the other breakbarrels.

Next came the sights. We got rid of the fiber optic sights that break too easily and don't allow for precise aiming. In their place are a plain post on a ramp in front and a simple, adjustable rear notch. There are 11mm dovetails cut into the top of the spring tube for a scope, but this way the rifle can be shot right out of the box.

The pull on the stock was shortened from 14.75 inches to a more youth-friendly 12.75 inches. That's short enough for older kids and still comfortable for most adults.

The Bronco name was perfect, so we kept it, but it got me thinking. If this gun is for older youth (we made it for ages 12 and older), then what about a "father" gun to go with it? Lo and behold, we had a 10-times bigger project here. The Air Venturi Mustang will be out later this year. It will be more powerful than the Bronco, a little larger but the same Western styling.

The Bronco

This is a 6.5-pound carbine that comes in .177 cal. only. It's a tad shy of 40 inches with a pull that older kids and adults will enjoy. Cocking effort is 19 pounds. Although the barrel looks like it's 16.5 inches long, it's really just 9 inches. The rest is bored out, which gives the maximum velocity from the short stroke of the piston.

Did I say the stroke is short? When you cock the rifle, the barrel passes 90[degrees] by only a hair, where most breakbarrels today go on to 120-140[degrees]. Yet, because of the light mainspring, you get used to it within five-shots, after which you just enjoy it.

The trigger is a special two-bladed affair that probably looked odd to many shooters before the Savage AccuTrigger became common. As the forward blade comes back even with the rear blade, the first stage transitions to the second and you can feel it in your trigger finger.

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The release on my test rifle is repeatedly 30 ounces, and though there's no overtravel adjustment, the increase in trigger return-spring tension makes it feel as if there is one. It's crisp enough to cause a firearm shooter to take notice.

The sights are simple and entirely adjustable, as mentioned. The front is a square post, and the rear notch has a stepped slider for elevation. For windage, simply loosen the both screws and slide the blade from side to side.

What's different?

The blonde stock was my idea. I pushed for it because I'm tired of the muddy brown finishes on today's inexpensive rifles. We could have opted for paint, but I figure that if you really don't like it you can always refinish it to your tastes. I think the light wood contrasts well with the deep, polished black of the metal.

Note that the butt pad is a matching black, and also that it's not a recoil pad meant for a shotgun. It's for keeping the rifle tight on your shoulder without the need to press back and for standing the gun in the corner.

The hood over the front sight has a large open area to let light fall on a fiber optic element that the Bronco sight doesn't have. Take it off and the gun looks even better. The long muzzle brake in front is there to provide an extra handhold that is twice the length of other Mendoza brakes. It isn't needed for leverage, but for younger hands it provides a more secure grip when cocking.

Speaking of cocking, the Bronco has both an automatic safety and an anti-beartrap device that prevents uncocking the rifle. If you cock it, you have to shoot it. Always keep that in mind. This was done for safety considerations, which, given the intended users, is not a bad idea.

The safety lever is on both sides of the end cap, making the Bronco entirely ambidextrous. Lefthanders will find the Western-style stock just as comfortable as their right-handed counterparts.

How does it shoot?

The shot cycle is pretty close to perfect. Because the powerplant is so moderate, there is no vibration to deal with, so it shoots quick and smooth. As you get used to the gun, you'll reload often just to experience both the feeling of the shot and the light trigger.

Power is exactly what you want in a plinking rifle. Seven-grain RWS Hobbys averaged 558 fps and stayed in an 18 foot-second total spread fop 10 shots in my test rifle. Crosman Premier lites averaged 528 fps with only a 7 foot-second spread over .10 shots. So, the Bronco is slightly slower than a fresh Diana 27, but about even with a Diana 25. Given the low pretension on the mainspring, you can expect that performance to last for many years--especially since there will be no unwanted dieseling due to over-lubrication.

The 7.9-grain Premier pellet also produced some great groups using the open sights. I would choose it if you are concerned with ultimate accuracy. And if you buy your pellets only at discount stores, the Crosman Premier hollow-point is often just as accurate as the 7.9-grain Premier dome, plus it's the same weight.

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Gamo Match is another great pellet for the Bronco, and they're also found in most discount stores. If you want to dispatch pests up to the size of small rats, wadcutters are the best bet out to 15 yards or so.

The bottom line

The goal was to build a youth-oriented air rifle with a decent price that would also have features shooters would enjoy. Things like accuracy, a light trigger, good open sights and a smooth shot cycle. I think we hit the nail on the head. While there are cheaper spring rifles available, that's all they are--cheaper. There's nothing around with the combination of features the Bronco has.

If you thought the good old days of wood-and-steel airguns are over, check out a Bronco. It's a new classic.

Thanks to Pyramyd Air for providing the test rifle.
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Author:Gaylord, Tom
Publication:Shotgun News
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 20, 2010
Words:1685
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