Beeman Chief PCP Air Rifle Test Review
13 March 2017
S/R Industries (Beeman US distributor)
SHOT Show demo gun.
Not pellet picky.
Predictable shot curve.
Limited pellet-loading space.
Not much else for the price.
(We're assuming the stock comb and pressure gauge issues will be fixed for production guns).
VALUE FOR MONEY
With an MSRP of $199.00 for a single shot, PCP air rifle, the Beeman Chief air rifle obviously has the Benjamin Maximus for its direct competitor.
While both models give excellent shooting at a budget price, the Chief benefits – in the HAM Team’s opinion – from a superior trigger. The pull weight is lighter. It’s metal and the Chief’s trigger is also adjustable. Pellet loading is easier in the Chief than the Maximus and the bolt is easier to operate, too. The Chief feels more substantial than the Maximus, but it also weighs 2 Lbs more. And the Chief we tested had a flatter shot curve than the Maximus – although that’s not a completely “apples to apples” comparison as the Maximus we tested was in .22 caliber: a .177 cal. Maximus would have a flatter shot curve too.
Overall, it has to be said that the Beeman Chief air rifle offers pretty outstanding value for money in the current (early 2017) market. Yes, you need to add a scope, together with a pump or SCUBA tank system to charge it with High Pressure Air. But that’s the case with any PCP. Based on the HAM test results, the Beeman Chief is a definite “buy”!
SPEED AND ACCURACY
The Beeman Chief air rifle tested by HAM produced a maximum average muzzle velocity of 1,117.27 FPS using light Gamo Platinum alloy pellets. Maximum muzzle velocity with lead pellets was achieved – unsurprisingly – with the 7.0 Grain RWS Hobby pellets. This averaged 1,032.21 FPS across the 10-shot test string.
Probably most knowledgeable owners of the Beeman Chief will choose to shoot mid-weight domed lead pellets in the approximately 8 to 8.5 Grain range. As we can see, the Beeman Chief air rifle tested by HAM gave muzzle velocities in the 960 – 990 FPS range with these pellets. This gives a Muzzle Energy (knock down power) of around 18 Ft/Lbs.
As would be expected with any PCP air rifle, Muzzle Energy increased with pellet weight, peaking at just about 20 Ft/Lbs with the heavy, 10.65 Grain Baracuda match pellets. This is strong performance for a .177 caliber air rifle!
The pre-production Chief tested by HAM was fitted with a hammer spring tension, power adjuster at the rear of the tube. However, Beeman tells us that final production guns will almost certainly drop this feature in favor of a degassing system.
Accuracy was also very with 6 out of the 7 pellets in the standard HAM test suite. Only the ultra-light Gamo Platinum PBA alloy pellets failed to group well in the Beeman Chief tested by HAM. All the other pellets tested gave very good or excellent accuracy in our 10-shot groups. Best performing pellet – just – was the H&N Field Target Trophy Green alloy. Although it was a damned close run thing (as the Duke of Wellington said about the battle of Waterloo)….
|Pellet||Average Muzzle Velocity||Average Muzzle Energy||Accuracy|
|Gamo Raptor Platinum 4.7 Grain||1117.27 FPS||13.03 Ft/Lbs||Poor.|
|H&N Field Target Trophy Green 5.56 Grain||1077.42 FPS||14.34 Ft/Lbs||Very Good. Best Tested.|
|RWS Hobby 7.0 Grain||1032.21 FPS||16.56 Ft/Lbs||Very Good.|
|Crosman Premier HP 7.9 Grain||996.62 FPS||17.43 Ft/Lbs||Very Good.|
|JSB Exact Diabalo 8.44 Grain||982.85 FPS||18.11 Ft/Lbs||Very Good.|
|H&N Field Target Trophy 8.64 Grain||960.29 FPS||17.7 Ft/Lbs||Very Good.|
|H&N Baracuda Match 10.65 Grain||916.40 FPS||19.86 Ft/Lbs||Very Good.|
BUY FROM PYRAMYDAIR
H&N Field Target Trophy Green pellets, .177 caliber
BUY FROM AIRGUN DEPOT
H&N FIELD TARGET TROPHY GREEN PELLETS
TRIGGER AND COCKING EFFORT
The trigger pull weight of the Beeman Chief air rifle tested by HAM averaged 3 Lbs 11 Oz. Being familiar with the QB78-type trigger that’s used in the Chief, we know that this is a conservative setting. But, as always, we test with the trigger as received from the factory.
The single stage trigger needs some slack taken-up at first. And the point of release is just a little uncertain compared to more expensive triggers. But at the price being asked, the Chief’s trigger will probably satisfy the majority of its users. And this trigger is easily adjustable for pull weight, sear engagement and overtravel. Setscrews controlling these adjustments are easily accessed by the knowledgeable user after the action is removed from the stock.
The Beeman Chief air rifle has a cock-on-opening action. This is not hard to pull back and the forward push to chamber a pellet is very easy and smooth to operate. However, as with some other cock-on-opening bolt actions – the Benjamin Discovery/Maximus is another example – there’s relatively little space in the pellet loading trough for longer pellets. It works, but more space would make loading easier.
COMPARISON TO MAKERS CLAIMS
The manufacturer claims a maximum muzzle velocity of 1,000 FPS for the Beeman Chief air rifle in .177 caliber. The sample tested by HAM easily exceeded this claim, not only with alloy pellets, but also with RWS Hobby lead pellets. Even 7.9 Grain Crosman Premier Hollow Point pellets missed the claim by less than 4 FPS. So it has to be said that – as usual – the FPS claims for Beeman air rifles produced by the Shanghai Airgun Factory (as this gun is) are comfortingly conservative.
Beeman also claims “up to 50 shots per fill” for the Chief. As you can see from the shot curve in the next section, the Beeman Chief air rifle does indeed give 50 shots from one 2,000 PSI fill of High Pressure Air. However, the shooter will experience vertical stringing down the target as the FPS drops with every shot. This is the common performance of un-regulated PCPs, of course.
If you’re willing to accept muzzle velocity falling by 35% compared to that of the first shot, then – yes – the Beeman Chief does offer “up to 50 shots per fill” as the manufacturer claims. But most shooters will choose to top-up the tank pressure long before that, probably after 20 – 25 shots.
The HAM team found consistency to be a strong suit for the Beeman Chief air rifle.
Accuracy was great with all except one of the standard HAM pellet test suite, meaning that it’s definitely not “pellet picky”. And the trigger pull weight was extremely consistent, varying by only an ounce or two from its average of 3 Lb 11 Oz in HAM testing.
It has to be said that the Standard Deviation (shot-to-shot variation in FPS) is somewhat higher than ideal. It averaged 11.8 FPS across the HAM tests. But, there again, this is a characteristic of unregulated PCP air rifles and the fall of pressure (and muzzle velocity) with succeeding shots was pretty predictable. The “shot curve” for the Chief was closer to a straight line than the more extreme curves produced by some other unregulated PCPs. So, the level of shot-to-shot variation is, at least, quite consistent and predictable.
The Beeman Chief air rifle is not fitted with any form of sound suppression system. Given the power level of the Chief, there’s only one outcome. The Chief is loud by air rifle standards!
As the test gun was in .177 caliber, muzzle velocity did exceed the speed of sound (approximately 1100 FPS) with light alloy pellets. The HAM testers wore ear defenders to shoot in our indoor range. So, using alloy pellets, the Chief can be as loud as a .22LR firearm. That’s another reason to use mid-weight domed lead pellets in the Beeman Chief air rifle. It keeps the muzzle velocity down – and the noise level with it.
If backyard-friendly noise levels are a priority, the Beeman Chief air rifle is not a strong contender. But, to be fair, neither is the Benjamin Maximus, it’s closest competitor in price, features and performance. And fully-silenced PCP air rifles are generally 50% more expensive that the Chief’s MSRP of $199.00.
SIGHTS AND SCOPE
The Beeman Chief air rifle is supplied with fiber optic open sights. The rear sight is adjustable for elevation and windage, as you would expect. However, the vast majority of owners will choose to maximize the accuracy potential of the Chief by fitting a scope. The breech is grooved with standard airgun rails for this purpose.
The HAM reviewers attached a Leapers 3-9 x 40 AO scope to the Chief for our tests. This is representative of the typical sort of scope that would be chosen by many Chief owners and the result worked well.
In order to fit the bell (front) of the scope above the rear sights, we used Leapers High Rings to mount the scope. However, if this were our own gun, the HAM testers would remove the rear sight and use Medium Height Rings to bring the eye line of the scope down closer to the barrel. It’s not too difficult to remove the rear sight from the Chief, but we know from experience that it’s rather more fiddly to re-install. So regard rear sight removal as a “one time” event if you choose to take that route.
The Beeman Chief air rifle tested by HAM was very difficult to shoot with consistent accuracy as the stock comb was extremely low. HAM Tester Stephen Archer found he was getting “chin weld”, not “cheek weld” when shooting with the scope! However, Beeman tells us that this will be changed before volume production begins and that users can expect to have a much higher comb. That will be a big improvement.
The HAM score for this section is given with the assumption that the higher comb at least matches that of the factory’s QB78 Deluxe model. If that turns-out not to be the case, we’ll revise the score in future.
The Beeman Chief feels pleasingly substantial to handle, but not too heavy. The total weight of the gun/scope combination tested by HAM was just 8 Lb 6 Oz, which is reasonable for an air rifle of this power with a typical 3-9 x 40AO scope.
The low, 2,000 PSI fill pressure used by the Beeman Chief air rifle makes it one of the easiest PCP out there to fill with a hand pump. This is a big benefit to many shooters who struggle to make a more usual fill of 3,000 PSI (or more) required by most other PCP air rifles.
One other feature that we expect to see changed before volume production of the Chief is the ambiguous pressure gauge. The green sector of the gauge plate indicates that it’s OK to fill the gun to 2,500 PSI, in spite of clear indications that 2,000 PSI is the maximum fill pressure. But this is a very simple modification.
The very low (good) RateAGun score of just X.X confirms that the Beeman Chief is easy to shoot.
APPEARANCE AND FINISH
The Beeman Chief air rifle tested by HAM had a very good finish for the price range. Lots of handling at the 2017 SHOT Show by many people had not made any impact on the surprisingly deep bluing and stock finish. Those are MY fingerprints you see on the air rube in the photo below!
Both metal and wood parts have good surface finish, with only a couple of machining marks being visible on the breech. For a pre-production gun, that’s pretty good!
With a wood stock, appearance is more attractive to traditionalists than the current vogue for black synthetic stocks. To our eyes, the Beeman Chief air rifle looks quite sleek and stylish – particularly when we remember that the stock comb will be higher on production guns.
BUYING AND OWNING
As the Beeman Chief is a new model, it’s not yet clear where it will be sold. However, it’s likely to be available from the usual sources such as Airgun Depot and Pyramyd Air. Although Beeman air rifles are found in big box sporting goods stores too, it may turn up there in future as these outlets take up the PCP air rifle market opportunity.
Beeman tells us that the Chief will have the company’s standard one year warranty, of course.
Filling with High Pressure Air is by means of a standard quick disconnect fitting in the end of the air tube. As the Beeman Chief uses a relatively low maximum fill pressure of just 2,000 PSI, it’s relatively easy to fill with a hand pump. It can also be filled from a 3,000 PSI SCUBA tank, which is a much lower cost alternative than the 4,500 PSI tanks that really are necessary for filling a PCP air rifle with a 3,000 PSI fill pressure.
The ability of the Beeman Chief air rifle to shoot a wide range of pellets accurately is another practical ownership benefit for this gun. Many owners of the Chief will undoubtedly call-in at their local Walmart to buy the Crosman Premier Hollow Point pellets that are always in stock there. The fact that the Chief shoots well with these pellets will be a big ownership benefit for them!
As the instruction manual for the Chief has not yet been printed, we can’t comment on it. But, the good folk at Beeman tell us that it will be similar in content to the manuals that ship with their other models, so it should be fine – but in English only.
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