March 2009

First-Ever Airgun Shoot-Off: Gamo, Walther, and Norica

Tested: Walther’s $325 Falcon Hunter, the $319 Gamo Whisper Deluxe, the $220 Norica Dream Rider, the $290 Norica Marvic Gold. Winners? Any of the four might be worth the money.

According to a search of our website,, we have never tested air rifles. Then again, we’ve never seen the cost of ammunition rise the way it has in the past year. Air rifles are commonly used in competition and as a training device for young shooters, and also for killing small game and pest control where firearms would overpenetrate. So we thought it might be worthwhile to try some air rifles to see if they were an economical vehicle for sharpening our skills. In this test we evaluated four single-shot pump-action air rifles. They were the $319 Gamo Whisper Deluxe No. 611006754, the $325 Walther Falcon Hunter No. 225226, and two Spanish-made rifles by Norica, the $220 Dream Rider and the $290 Marvic Gold.These rifles are new imports available to retailers through Camfour, Incorporated ( Both the Walther and the Norica Dream Rider were 22-caliber rifles. Our Norica Marvic Gold fired 25-caliber pellets, and our Gamo rifle shot the popular .177-inch-wide pellet.

With little precedence for test procedure we went about making a list of what we would be looking for and how we would judge each product. Reliability is always our first concern. Even a weapon that fires five shots into one hole and then quits running is going to get a failing grade. Next to reliability was ease of operation. Specifically, would working the pump be so tiring that shooting wouldn’t be fun anymore? We also wanted to know if the sights on these rifles were reliable and easy to adjust. Would mounting a scope be worthwhile, and how secure was scope placement likely to be atop the smallish rails? Would the triggers prove to be precise or fatiguing? Could these guns actually supply us with valuable practice time?

When it came to setting up accuracy tests we had to determine what distance we should shoot them at. Olympic air rifle distance is 10 meters or, about 33 feet. But given the fact that these rifles were shipped with scopes ranging in magnification from 3X to 9X, we concluded that none of our rifles were designed for that distance. We also considered that the lead text for the Whisper Series rifles on the website reads, "This New Models, [sic] will change the way you think about hunting with airguns." In preliminary tests we had fired standing from 36 feet and using only the open sights each of the rifles seemed capable of near perfect accuracy. To determine which rifle or rifles were superior, we would have to fire from a greater distance.

Through research we learned that in England organized competitions for air rifles such as those ruled by the UK Association of Rimfire Benchrest Shooting specify targets set at 25 meters. We decided to collect data by firing from a distance of 25 yards with scopes in place utilizing a setup for rifle we’ve used many times. This meant a Ransom rifle rest beneath the fore end and a Protektor rear bag underneath the stock. In this manner we collected data for our accuracy chart. To satisfy our curiosity about the efficiency of the open sights on each rifle, we removed the scopes and fired a single six-shot group from the bench. From this pattern we calculated an average five shot group size. Would this test prove too severe? Let’s pump up the action and see what we learned.

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