Wednesday, 28 January 2015

ASI Sniper Vs The SMK 15, A Comparison Test.

Comparing two cheap youth air rifles made 30 years apart.

The ASI Sniper is a youth air rifle also known as the Gamo Expo. It was popular during the late 70's and early 80's. This model is .177 which was capable of reaching power levels of around 9.5 ft/lb; mine is currently happily reaching 6 ft/lb since I dropped some oil down the transfer port to put a bit of life into the leather piston seal.

ASI Sniper, i really like the feel and looks of this rifle.

Just shy of 6 ft/lb.

The SMK 15 is aimed at the same age group and with a bit of tweaking could reach 9 ft/lb, though at the moment is fine knocking out .177 pellets at around 6 ft/lb. 

More like 5 ft/lb but does do 6 ft/lb with Hobby's.

Like ASI, SMK is an import company which buys up air rifles from different parts of the world, re-brands them in their company name and sells them on at a cheap rate compared to rifles with a well recognised brand name. They have been doing this from the late 80's onwards and are still doing it today.

SMK 15, quirky little thing that it is.

ASI took Gamo and El Gamo rifles and sold them on cheaper than their competitors, and SMK took cheap massed produced Chinese air rifles and sold them on at, in some cases, a considerably cheaper price. Recently, SMK have been given the import rights for air rifles from big names like Diana, Remington and Gunpower, to name but a few. But my favourite at the moment are Swiss Arms and Cybergun which make the .177 BB replica pistols, though if truth be told they're actually made by KWC and re-branded. Since then, Gamo have grown larger and now own BSA, and have an extensive range of air rifles and pistols on offer.

So there you have it, two similar imported air rifles made three decades apart. I plan to do a comparison test between them to see which one out performs the other, if indeed one does out perform the other. Two air rifles imported by British companies who buy cheap air rifles and put them on the British market cheaper than other brands - one is Chinese, one is Spanish.

Chinese made especially for SMK.

Gamo mark and country of origin. Rick Lamphere of Rick's Shop blog told me this was also sold as the Daisy 120 in the USA.

The open sights on both are pretty solid with no slackness to them and almost identical in looks; front square post with a hood, and rear square notched sights, click adjustable for windage and elevation.

Rear sights for the ASI Sniper.

Rear sights for the SMK15, both mostly plastic but pretty solid all the same.

Both are break barrels and their power plants produce roughly the same power. Cocking effort for both feel the same, though the SMK spring is stiffer and slammy on firing and the Sniper is softer with more pre-load. The trigger on the Sniper feels noticeably lighter than the one on the SMK, but neither are what you would call light triggers by a long shot.

The ASI Sniper trigger has adjustment for sear contact, but a long pull.

The SMK 15 rigger has a long pull and a stiffer break.

Both rifles are pretty much the same in size, looks and weight, and most importantly both rifles are in a .177 flavour which, with all factors combined, make them perfect for this comparison test.

Two rifles ready for testing, (and the SIG Sauer X Five pistol for a bit of fun after the test)

For this test, all shots were taken while sitting, with the air rifle supported in front of the trigger guard at their points of balance. The pistol grip was held as lightly as possible and the butt plate gently rested in my shoulder, giving both rifles chance to recoil freely and (hopefully) in the same way for each shot. Both rifles were tested with the same four types of pellets at 12 yards, once with open sights and once with a 4 x 32 scope with five shots per group to give a general idea of performance and accuracy.

So from 12 yards I sat down and shot at a paper target with the ASI Sniper, with just the open sights as I had forgotten to bring the allen key to take the SMK 4x32 scope off the SMK 15. Using RWS Superdomes, AA Diabolo's, Geco Wadcutters and H&N FTT's, I shot groups of five. The trigger was heavy and this was the first time I had really fired this rifle, but despite that it was very comfortable to shoot.
Not a brilliant set of groups for the Sniper but they will tighten up with practice, besides i'm short and long sighted so open sights are a bit of a chore. Also it was 12 yards not 10 like it says on the target paper

Then, using the same pellets in the SMK 15 with the 4x32 scope, I shot five of each at 12 yards. I had to remember to take the safety off and the trigger was a tad stiffer, with the rifle being a lot harsher to shoot. Even with the scope, the groups were larger than the ASI with open sights. I would say the fact that the ASI was well run in helped out here, and again it was the second time I had ever shot the SMK.

The SMK with a 4x32 sights was no better than the Sniper without, but Superdomes and H&N's seem the way to go if i'm going to try and improve on this.

Days later when the weather had settled down again, I swapped the scope over to the ASI and took both rifles out again. I had ran out of Superdomes but I did have a new tin of JBS Exacts to try instead. I gave the SMK 15 a go with open sights first, but the spread was that bad that I gave up and didn't even bother recording the results.

After three days of howling winds we're back out with the scope swapped over to the Sniper and a brand new tin of JBS Exacts.

However, when it came to the ASI Sniper with the 4x32 scope, the results were a lot better - remember this was only the second time I had fired this rifle. The Diabolo's and Exacts gave amazing groups considering, but it didn't seem to like the H&N's. The Geco's were not too bad and they are pretty cheap pellet, so a decent Wadcutter could give results as good as the Diabolo's and the Exacts.

The line of shots at the top left are sighting in shots, but on the whole i'm pretty chuffed with these results and with the JBS Exacts as well.

So there you go, two cheap air rifles from decades apart and it looks like the Spanish Gamo won hands down. With a little fettling the ASI could have the power brought up, the trigger made lighter, and still be a smooth shooting accurate air rifle. The same could be done for the SMK 15 as well, but to me it sounds a bit like polishing a dog turd, afterall you can only do so much with cheap air rifles.


Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe

PS. Please don't think that I am of the opinion that all Chinese air rifles are crap. Some are pretty good. You just get what you pay for really, and with a bit of time and effort working on them some people have achieved amazing results.

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