REVIEW: Stoeger Airguns

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Accurate and fun to shoot for all ages

Airguns have been a part of my life for longer than I care to admit. From the time when I envied a fellow kid down the block that had one, to purchasing a top-of-the-line airgun that cost me more than most of my centrefire rifles did. They are a blast to shoot and I have spent countless hours with them, punching holes in paper in an effort to keep my shooting skills sharp. Needless to say, I’m not alone as the interest and, if I may say so, the growth in popularity of airguns has been nothing short of remarkable and of keen interest to me. This, in part, has been spurred on by manufacturers who have developed a whole array of new airguns that cover the potential interest of everyone from young shooters to those who want to hunt small game with them. Not to mention those airguns designed for competitive shooting, which are built with the same precision and quality as the finest competition guns in the world. Mind you, don’t expect to purchase one for any less either.

This burgeoning industry certainly captured my interest some years back, but it wasn’t until 2013 when Stoeger introduced their latest model, the ATAC, that I felt a detailed review was long overdue. Stoeger Canada sent me three airguns to review: the X5, the X20 and the new ATAC. This trio is no doubt an excellent cross section of their guns, covering the interest of entry level/young shooters, to those who want a gun for small game, to those who are seeking the latest in a tactical model. I will cover off the basic design features, as well as the comparative test results of all three.

 

The Stoeger X5 and X20

It is my intention to discuss the X5 and X20 together, as they offer many of the same features and where they deviate I will mention those differences. Both the X5 and X20 use a spring piston and are of a break action breech loading design. They both have rifled steel barrels, fibre optic front and adjustable rear sights, integral dovetail scope rails, Monte Carlo-style stocks with an ambidextrous cheek piece, ambidextrous safety (both are ideal for a lefty), are available in either hardwood or synthetic stocks, ergonomic cocking grips and rubber butt pads. But that is about where the similarities end, as the X5 is only available in a .177 calibre, whereas the X20 is available in both a .177 and a .22 calibre. The Canadian version of the X5 is also considerably slower at its advertised velocity of less than 500 feet per second with lead pellets than the X20 at 1,000 feet per second (see test results for actual velocities).

Both guns can be purchased with or without a factory-mounted scope, however the scopes vary between the two. The X20 came with a factory mounted 3-9x40mm parallax adjustable scope, whereas the X5 was equipped with a standard 4x32mm scope. The X5 is a bit smaller and lighter in weight than the X20 and is considerably easier to cock, making it ideal for a young shooter. My grandson loved the X5 and I could barely drag him in off the range I had set up, despite the cold weather that left him all but hypothermic.

 

Stoeger ATAC

The ATAC is quite a departure from the X series airguns. It looks every bit the part of a tactical rifle. But before I get into that aspect of its design, I best talk a bit about its Gas-Ram Technology (GRT), a significant departure from the spring piston of the X series. The GRT system replaces the coiled steel mainspring with a sealed gas spring unit. It is designed to reduce the vibration and sound of the traditional spring-driven airgun, as well as improve accuracy due to less vibration and more repeatable gas-pressure releases. They also last longer, are lighter in weight, seldom leak and are faster. But they do have a couple of disadvantages, as they are a bit harder to cock and, most importantly, while they don’t vibrate like a steel spring, the jolt when they fire is quick/sharp and can be hard on scopes and scope mounts. In reality, what this meant is that I took extra care when mounting the scope that came with the gun by ensuring that all the screws were locked down tight with an application of Loctite, and I never encountered a problem. It comes without sights, but has integral Picatinny rails for mounting a scope, bipods or even lasers/lights. The scope is a 4-16x40mm with a Mil-Dot reticle and an adjustable objective, and, as I mentioned, requires mounting. It is equipped with an ambidextrous safety that is located at the rear of the receiver, making it readily accessible to both right and left-handed shooters. It is, as are the X series, of a break action breech loading design with an ergonomic cocking grip on the barrel.

The stock is synthetic and pure tactical in design, but it fit me like it had been custom fitted – it even surprised me how well a stock of this design fit me. But it has spacers that can easily be added or subtracted for specific length of pull requirements. My test gun needed no adjustment. It is also designed to accommodate both right and left-handed shooters. I must admit that I really liked the stock, primarily because of its fit and ease of sight alignment. In fact, there are a couple of target rifles in my gun safe that I would like to put this stock on.

 

Test results

Scopes: All three were value for their money and each provided a good sight picture and reliable windage and elevation adjustment. The parallax and the windage and elevation (target style) adjustments on both the X20 and ATAC were a plus and easy to use. I would, however, add that I never used the full range of magnification on the ATAC scope as I found about 12x was all that I needed at 50 feet. Of note: before shooting your gun, check the screws on all the mounts as I found that a number had loosened during shipping and required tightening. And please refer to the section on the ATAC for scope mounting information for that model.

Triggers: The triggers on the ATAC and the X20 are adjustable for second stage length, whereas the X5 is not. However, I found the trigger on the X5 to be smoother, and at three pounds, 12 ounces, to be lighter than either the X20 at four pound, two ounces, or the ATAC at four pounds, 12 ounces. The X5 trigger was the best of the three, which was a bit of a surprise, but none were what I would refer to as “target quality” triggers. However, that being said, I have to admit that I’m a stickler on triggers and once I got used to the pull weight and release point, they did not impact my test results.

User-friendly performance: I found the fit of all three to be user friendly, with the stock on the ATAC being a standout. I would also suggest that the X20 (weighing eight pounds, eight ounces) and the ATAC (weighing nine pounds, two ounces) might be too heavy for a young shooter, whereas the X5 (weighing six pounds, two ounces) was about ideal. While I tried to determine the cocking weight of each gun, I could not and would provide an educated estimate of the X20 and ATAC being at somewhere in the mid to high 30-pound range, once again a bit heavy for a young shooter, whereas the X5 at somewhere around half that weight and with its shorter stroke was no problem for my 11-year-old grandson. The ergonomic cocking grip on all three was a real asset in cocking these guns as well. Last, I really liked not only the location of the safety at the rear of the receiver, but also its ease of use as well. It automatically engaged when the gun was cocked and was easily moved forward into the fire position with my thumb.

Pellets: While one might think any old pellet will do, this is not so, as I found that the accuracy of each gun was very dependent on the pellet fired. In fact, not unlike most rifles that can be picky when it comes to ammunition.

Test results: While many airguns are tested at 10 metres, I felt I wanted to expand that distance to 15 metres (50 feet) in order to fully ascertain the accuracy of each gun. To push the accuracy test even further, I used three, five-shot groups and then averaged the results of each gun and pellet. For the most part, I used the same pellets when testing for accuracy and velocity.

One of the first things that I noted was the overall fine accuracy of all three guns and that the X20 and the ATAC, with Stoeger X Magnum pellets, were denting the back of my steel pellet trap to the point where I just had to determine their penetration potential. So I set up some one-inch-thick spruce boards. Needless to say, they passed through the first board with ease and were embedded in the second. Certainly a pellet design and weight that would be fine for some small game and pests. Last, as expected, velocities in the ATAC were slightly higher than the X20 and none quite matched their advertised velocities. But they were close and no doubt if I had tested the lightest lead pellets on the market, they may well have duplicated the advertised velocities. I only tested the velocity of two pellet types/grain weights in each gun, the Stoeger X Match at 8.1 grains and the Stoeger X Magnum at 11.57 grains.

For their price point, these airguns certainly exceed their dollar value and, with the right pellets, offered surprisingly good accuracy. They certainly offer shooters of all ages or potential interests the opportunity to get into the airgun game without spending into the four figures, as I did for my European-built gun.

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