Me and My Gamo Shadows: An Airgun Trifecta
I grew up with the excellent Benjamin pump-up air rifles that were manufactured by the Benjamin Air Rifle Co. in St. Louis, Missouri. These guns performed well for me during my teens through my early thirties, but as my cerebral palsy began to progress, I found that I did not want to subject my lower back to any more strain than necessary. Therefore, it seemed logical to give a spring-piston airgun a try. As it turned out, a Spanish-made Gamo airgun got me back into airgunning and into the shadows.
The Gamo Shadow 1000
In the early summer of 2003, I succumbed and ordered a refurbished Gamo Shadow1000 airgun combo in .177 caliber from the now defunct Airgun Express. After a lengthy conversation with one of that company’s sales representatives, I arranged for the gun to have non-standard Loctite mounts and 1” Accu-Shot medium scope rings fitted to the included BSA 2-7x32mm AO air rifle scope prior to shipment. The rifle was to arrive with everything fully mounted and ready to shoot. I had no experience with airgun scopes of any kind, so BSA airgun optics were, as yet, a mystery to me.
When the rifle came in, it delighted me. The first thing that impressed me about the Shadow was its light overall weight, barely over the seven pounds with the scope attached. The synthetic stock was well-designed and came easily to my shoulder. A bit of “pebbling” on the forearm provided a more secure grip.
Once I sat down on my patio, using my quad cane as a shooting rest with the muzzle of the Shadow pointed toward a secure 20-yard paper target, I got another surprise. The scope's windage and elevation turrets were finger, rather than screwdriver, adjustable. I appreciated this, because of the ease with which the windage and elevation could be set. After about 10 minutes of familiarizing myself with the Shadow’s rather heavy, creepy trigger, I began to settle down and put shot after shot into the black bulls-eye of my Birchwood Casey “Shoot N’C” Target. Time after time, the Shadow rewarded my efforts consistently, provided I fed her a steady diet of Crosman 7.9 grain Hollow Point Hunting Pellets.
As the months and years went by, the rifle’s cocking action and trigger began to smooth out with regular use. By the way, the amount of force needed to cock this rifle is about 25 lbs. For my part, I was always careful to provide occasional but thorough maintenance for “Tick Licker.” I named her after Daniel Boone’s best known Kentucky Rifle, with which he claimed he could shoot a tick off of an animal’s back at several yards without harming the tick’s host. I have not attempted this legendary feat with “Tick-Licker,” but she has already accounted for her share of paper targets and pest birds in the decade that has passed since I first acquired her. She has been the rifle that I “go to” which instructing more than one newcomer to airgunning in the art of spring-piston shooting.
“Tick Licker” has some age on her now, but she still cocks as shoots as well as ever and my original BSA scope is still clear and sharp. I would not trade her for any other airgun made by any other manufacturer. According to the Review Centre website, the Gamo Shadow 1000 in .177 caliber is currently first among the five most popular airguns worldwide, and with good reason. Light weight, tack driving accuracy and ease of shooting make for a deadly combination.
My only regret is that Gamo has ceased to import this easy-to-shoot, steel-barreled gem into the US for about five years now, preferring to “upgrade” a proven design and powerplant with polymer-sleeved barrels and more “exciting” looking stocks. Why mess with perfection? I certainly won’t!
Gamo Shadow Supreme .22—Accuracy Over Velocity
Having been intimately acquainted with the quality and value of vintage Gamo airguns for some years now, I well remember the day when I saw a listing for the above airgun advertised in American Airguns classifieds, the longest-running such entity in the United States. An individual in Tennessee had this gun available for an excellent price, so after a quick consultation with my wife, I eagerly snapped it up. I named her “Mathilda,” after the highly accurate double rifle used by the character of Allan Quatermain (portrayed by Sir Sean Connery) in the popular film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
I live in southwestern Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun country. Although my suburban subdivision is well-populated and well-kept, the occasional armadillo or cottontail rabbit still sneaks into my backyard. I am not above from either protecting my dogs from contracting leprosy or enjoying a properly prepared rabbit stew in season, and my neighbors do not appreciate the discharge of a firearm larger than a .22 rimfire near their domiciles. Although an airgun is technically not a firearm and legal to possess and use in my state and town, I am a diplomatic sort and would rather not endanger my relationship with my fellow suburbanites, unless it is absolutely necessary. I cherish my ability to practice the sport of airgun shooting in my backyard and will defend this privilege to the bitter end.
The .22 Shadow Supreme represents the pinnacle of old-style Gamo craftsmanship in a steel-barrel with synthetic stock configuration. The ersatz noise suppressor at the end of the barrel serves no function, except as an aid in cocking. In spite of this, the sound of the gun has yet to incur the wrath of any concerned neighbors. All that is really audible upon firing is a moderate “twang” and the sound of the pellet smacking an appropriately rated steel target backstop at 20 yards.
I will never understand why Gamo discontinued this gem. At an advertised 750 fps, it has all the power needed to dispatch small game cleanly, although I suspect its actual velocity is closer to 720 fps. Accuracy should be the prime concern of airgunners, and 750 fps is more than adequate to dispatch grackles, rabbits, squirrels and other small game. The larger size of the .22 pellet also makes the rifle easy to load as well as to provide a larger hole that is easier to see on paper targets and tin cans by plinkers.
However, this version of the Gamo Shadow has not been imported into the US for over three years! The trigger is a bit creepy, but this model has a small attachment at the bottom of the trigger blade that, in my experience, helps the trigger pull seem smoother. I don't have a pull gauge, so I can't verify this with any numbers. I only know what my trigger finger tells me. I would estimate that my .22 has a trigger pull of between 3 and 4 pounds, which is more than adequate for the purpose that it serves.
The light weight and easy cocking of this rifle makes it very easy to shoot offhand or from a rest. The force needed to cock the gun is approximately 27 lbs. Its accuracy is excellent, although I think the original Gamo Shadow 1K in .177 might be a bit more so.
This Shadow .22 needs a good scope to work well, as it has no iron sights. Accordingly, as the rifle was being shipped to me from Tennessee, I purchased a Bushnell 3-9X40mm AO airgun scope in anticipation of good results. I also purchased a goodly supply of Crosman .22 caliber Hollow Point Hunting Pellets, thinking that this rifle might like them as much as my first Gamo, the Shadow 1K, did. Luckily, this rifle really loves Crosman Premier Hollow Point 14.3-grain Hunting Pellets.
Yet, all was not smooth sailing when the rifle and scope arrived and were initially mounted. I was surprised to discover that my new gun needed a special compensator mount to compensate for barrel droop. This is the first experience I'd had with a Gamo rifle that suffered from this malady. Luck was with me again, however, because I was able to locate and purchase a now-obsolete Gamo adjustable mount that was made to solve this problem. If you are lucky enough to find a .22 Gamo Shadow Supreme languishing in a pawnshop or on the Internet, check with RWS or B-Square to see if they make a compensator mount for it. You’ll probably need one, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“Mathilda” has already accounted for a few pest birds in the backyard, so I doubt she’ll be leaving my house anytime soon. With less noise than an actual .22 rimfire and adequate punch, she’ll be providing me with many hours of shooting pleasure for many years to come.
Gamo Hunter 890—Rounding Out the Trio
Okay, I admit it. I have always had a desire to own a"‘matched pair" of some type of gun. My three Mauser hunting rifles come close to fitting this description, but they are all of different makes and model years, and the phrase matched pair” implies the existence of an exemplary duo. I finally got the chance to own such a pair a little less than a week ago, when I purchased the above rifle, a vintage lube-tuned Gamo Hunter 890, from an individual in New York. This rifle is the twin to the synthetic-stocked Gamo Shadow Supreme in .22 caliber. Her name comes from a reference to David Crockett’s favorite hunting rifle. While Gamos are not necessarily legendary in and of themselves, they are capable of fine accuracy given the right circumstances.
This rifle has a bit more heft than (and the same power plant as) the Gamo Shadow 1000. Overall weight, including the scope and mounts, comes in at just shy of 7-1/2 lbs. The ersatz noise suppressor at the end of the barrel serves as an aid in cocking. The amount of force needed to cock the piece is approximately 28 lbs. It is in the traditional wood and steel configuration of earlier Gamo models such as the Hunter 220 and 440, but it has been discontinued in the United States for about a year.
My version is in .177. I can consistently hit the bulls-eye at 25 yards with this rifle and my scope of choice, the BSA 2-7X32mm AO. The beech stock is beautiful, being well-finished, comfortable and warm against the cheek when the rifle is shouldered. About the only thing I don't like is that its report is a tad loud, but luckily my neighbors in my home state of Louisiana don't seem to mind. When you see a single ragged hole in the middle of the bulls-eye after five shots, you'll fall in love with it and soon forget this minor shortcoming. The 890 is definitely capable of stellar accuracy. As with my Gamo Shadow Supreme .22 and .177 caliber Shadow 1000, the pellet of choice is the Crosman Premier Hollow Point Hunting Pellet.
The Hunter 890 has plenty of power for small game hunting and plinking in the backyard. If you don't find one under the Gamo Hunter 890 name, you should know that the Gamo Silver Shadow Supreme is basically the same gun. The rifle comes with a scope stop; I would recommend a sturdy set of adjustable mounting rings, such as Beeman’s 5030, which fits the 11mm dovetail mounting grooves on this weapon, as recoil can be substantial.
In recent years, the Gamo Hunter 890 has been marketed in the United States as a combo and sold with a BSA 3-12x50mm AO scope. This is a great optic, but in my opinion, it is a bit too large for the Gamo 890. If you intend to use this scope, please do yourself a favor and buy a steel 1-or 2-piece scope mount for the 11mm dovetail on this rifle. While we’re on the subject of mounts, try to find an adjustable mount that can compensate for barrel droop. The 890, like the .22 Shadow Supreme, has been known to suffer from this problem and the additional expense of purchasing a special mount is negligible, compared to the personal frustration you’ll feel when your scope runs out of room for adjustment.
Overall, this is an excellent airgun for general purpose use, whether that use be hunting or target practice. If you find one at a decent price, buy it. You won't be disappointed!
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