This morning I rose with a bit of excitement, looking forward to giving the XL-1100 its first workout. The first task was to make a new pellet trap. I know metal traps and other types are readily available but I fabricate them by simply layering sheets of card board and heavy cloth (denim) with sheets of hard board (the material clip boards are made from). This pack is then placed in a 12X12 cardboard box and any remaining void stuffed with old news paper. Takes less than an hour to make and will last several hundred rounds. Its advantage over the metal type traps is simply that its quiet. As I live in the city noise is a major factor to take into consideration when engaging in backyard shooting activities.
With the trap made and my targets (from Targetz.com) printed I set up my simple shooting bench and placed the trap 10 meters away. I ordered RWS Superdomes (14.5 gr) and JSB Exact Jumbo's (15.9 gr). I thought I was going to be able to pick up a tin of Crosman Premiers (14.3 gr) at the local outdoors store but alas I could find none.
The literature that came with the gun stated at least 100 rounds might be required for break in. Between 10:30 pm and noon I pumped at least 120 rounds through the gun. That's quite an arm work out! I had to alternate left arm to right arm to get it done. I am 6' and 195 lbs and would consider myself above average strength for my size. I my opinion its a pretty stiff gun to cock, quite a bit harder than other 1000 fps + air riffles that I have shot.
The GRT III trigger definitely feels better than the original. While I do not have a force gauge to measure I would estimate its close to half the draw weight and about half the second stage pull length. I think its a big improvement.
Despite its weight, the gun feels good to hold. I found it to be well proportioned. The noise level it much lower than other springers that I have shot. Sort of a quiet thump sound with a slight whistle imposed on top. The "jerk" is also markedly lower than other the lightweight magnums I have shot although the recoil remains high. By recoil I mean the aft motion of the gun alone excluding movements forward or torque moments. I was watching my 17 year old son shoot and noticed that the gun displaces aft by what appears to be maybe as much as 1 inch. It has a pleasant "feel" when you squeeze the trigger. There is no buzz sound or sensation in the stock; its a smooth, powerful, satisfying "thump".
I ordered the Superdomes with the gun and since I did not specify the quantity the distributor was kind enough to assume I would want the 500 count package so that's what he sent. As I had more of these than the JSB's I decided to use the Superdomes for the break-in work. Though I was shooting rather indescribably the Superdomes did not seem to group well. While I would not consider myself a marksman I can consistently shoot 5 shot 1-inch groups at 33 feet with a Gamo Shadow Sport. Lunch time was drawing near and my arms were getting sore so I decided to take a break and pick it up later in the afternoon. I was hoping that the heavier JSB Exact Jumbo's would settle it down a bit and let a descent group materialize. I also realized that it could be my hold and grip.
Returning to the shooting bench I started to work on scope adjustment and switched over to the JSB's. The gun sounds different when shooting them as opposed to the Superdomes; deeper thud without the higher pitched metallic whistle sound. As I shot the next 50 rounds or so I began to get a little bit frustrated. The gun would group three shots adjacent to each other (overlapping edges on the target) and then the pattern would suddenly shift an inch or more in one direction or another and I was getting quite a few fliers. The more I shot the gun, however, the better it performed. As I approached shot 200 I started to see things settle down a bit.
I worked with several different hold techniques beginning with the artillery hold as taught by Tom Gaylord. While this hold has worked well for me on pretty much every air gun I have ever shot when I used it on the XL-1100 I would get a flier about every 3rd or 4th shot. I moved my forearm grip out about 6-8 inches forward of the front face of the trigger guard. This put my palm pretty much centered on the forearm checkering. This seems to be the balance point for the gun, which might explain the position of the checkering. This position seemed to make a noticeable improvement. I then realized that this gun does not like to be held loosely. I began to hold the forearm firmly and used the thumb-hole grip to pull the butt snugly against my shoulder. I was rewarded with consistently tight groups thereafter.
I was able to finish up the afternoon with two 5 shot groups of less than 1/2-inch at the 10 meter range. The 5-shot group on the right edge was the best of the day, though the shot at the center 1-inch circle was not bad for a hack like me either. I was shooting outdoors, ambient temperature was around 55 F with a lite breeze. I put a little over 200 rounds through the gun so far and from what I can gather an air rifle is not really broken in until you approach the 2,000 round mark. It is my hope that the performance will continue to improve with time and use. I have every reason to believe this will be the case. Tomorrow I plan to extend the range out to 20 meters and see what the gun will do. With another hundred rounds its my guess that I should be able to keep the same grouping at the longer range. I am beginning to believe that the XL-1100 will turn out to be an impressive riffle that is note for being accurate, quiet and powerful.
I did notice something peculiar today while adjusting the scope. I observed what I would describe as hysteresis in the adjustments. It seemed that when I turned the adjustments CCW the impact point would creep in that direction over the next several shots and then stabilize. However, when I turned the adjustments CW I could "walk" the pellet in the direction of adjustment about a pellet diameter at a time in a very consistent manner; click for click. While I am not familiar with scope construction I suspect a spring is employed in the design and set in opposition to each of the adjusting screws. When the screw is backed out (CCW) the alignment system depends upon the spring to keep the optic mount in contact with the end of the adjustment screw. I am not sure if this is normal for an air rifle scope or if it is an indicator that there is a problem with the scope. I would appreciate any feedback on this matter.