Gamo Whisper: An indepth review (January 2009)

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by Tom Gaylord (January 2009) Copyright ©2008. All Rights Reserved.

The Gamo Whisper Air Rifle

The Gamo Whisper has some of the nicest handling characteristics of their entire line-none of which they advertise.

The lightest air rifle in its clas

For starters, this is the lightest spring air rifle in its power class. The Gamo Shadow has long been a lightweight, powerful air rifle, but this air rifle is even lighter. It weighs just 5.3 lbs., which is almost a full pound lighter than the lightweight Shadow. If this were a bicycle, it would be a high-tech, 16-lb. carbon-fiber road racer that enthusiasts would pay thousands for!

What makes it so light is the extensive use of synthetics. Instead of a fat steel barrel, they have a thinner rifled steel tube surrounded by a plastic jacket. They have fluted the jacket for style points, and it does look attractive. The silencer is a hand-filling plastic muzzlebrake with plastic baffles inside. It makes cocking the rifle so much easier.

The spring-powered Gamo Whisper has five great features

  • It cocks like a dream! This rifle cocks with 35 lbs. of effort, but the large muzzlebrake and long cocking stroke fooled me into thinking it was 10 lbs. lighter. The rifle’s specifications on the Pyramyd Air website reflect Gamo’s published effort of 30 lbs., so this will probably improve with time. At any rate, this is one easy-cocking breakbarrel!
  • Great scoping option It has a separate scope rail atop the spring tube. They’ve come out with a design that should really work. It’s long and has two vertical scope stop holes-one at either end for putting the scope stop pin where you want it. I can’t wait to try it, but the open sights are too nice to pass up. I’m going to test them first and then scope the rifle. Of course, this model is sold with a scope that comes unmounted, so I will use it to start my scope mounting series for you.
  • Nice trigger Gamo air gun triggers have been getting nicer with each passing year. They still have an inordinately long second-stage pull and will never be confused with Rekord triggers; but for the price, they’re very acceptable. Thankfully, the safety is still manual and you can shoot as soon as the rifle is loaded. The length of the first-stage pull is adjustable, but not the pull weight and not the overtravel.
  • A well-rounded stock It’s a black synthetic stock with a fairly wide forearm and a deep pistol grip. The cocking slot is short because the rifle has an articulated cocking link I’ll talk about in a moment. The Monte Carlo cheekpiece is low, and the cheekpiece is on both sides of the stock. In all ways, this rifle is ambidextrous. The thick, black rubber buttpad is very nicely contoured to the butt and looks terrific. The pull is slightly short at 13-3/4 inches, so the rifle is well-suited to shooters of smaller stature.
  • What’s behind the easy cocking? Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand, and I’ll move the world.” He was referring to the ability of levers to multiply force. That same science works on breakbarrel air rifles. The length of the barrel (the lever) and the location of the fulcrum (the cocking link pivot point) determine how easy or hard a gun cocks to a greater extent than the power of the mainspring. Gamo designed the Whisper right, in this respect. On close examination, I see they’ve reduced the baseblock by a huge amount, so they can place the anchor point of the linkage exactly where they want it.

The Gamo Whisper Air Rifle Cocked The barrel breaks back an incredible distance. This is relaxed. It comes back another 4-5 inches!

They also employ an articulated two-piece cocking link that’s longer than a single piece. It allows the barrel to pivot more on the pivot pin, which means they use the cocking force over a longer distance. The net result is a lighter effort.

Whisper detent There’s that small steel barrel I mentioned earlier. Note the chisel detent. The easy cocking includes breaking the barrel open.

The Whisper has a nice set of fiberoptic open sights

A nice set of fiberoptic open sights The front is a post and bead that’s hooded for protection. The rear sight is fully adjustable and is fiberoptic as well. Both windage and elevation adjust in smooth clicks, and the windage has a reference scale. They’re so nice that I thought it would be nice to test them first before mounting the scope that comes with the rifle.

Whisper front sight A red fiberoptic post and bead front sight is protected by a steel globe.

Whisper rear sight The rear sight is fully adjustable and also fiberoptic.

Plastic in triggers

I’ve heard the usual anti-plastic remarks made by airgunners. What I wonder is how do those wood-and-steel types every buy a modern car? When I have a choice, I’ll pick steel over plastic every time. That’s why I’m a 1911 fancier and don’t care for Glocks. But, I would never make the mistake of thinking that just because an airgun has plastic it won’t work well. I like the synthetic-stocked RWS Diana 34 Panther over the traditional wood-stocked 34, and I’m hoping this Whisper will show me the same great traits.

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Let’s go to the range Let’s take the Gamo Whisper to the range. On this day, I had a gallery of four other airgunners to watch me shoot and handle the rifle. To a man…even though one was a woman, they liked the light weight. She was surprised by the light cocking, so it wasn’t just my imagination.

One person, who’s in advertising, was most impressed with the TruGlo sights. He said he would feature them plus the light weight in an ad.

I tried to sight-in the rifle, and I had it on at 10 feet, but at 20 yards the wind blew the pellet clear off the paper. It’s not fair to the gun to report the groups I got, so I’ll return on a better day. But from what I saw at 10 feet, my gut tells me this rifle can shoot..

Velocity was a pleasant surprise! Gamo advertises the Whisper at 1,000 f.p.s. with light lead pellets and 1,200 f.p.s. with PBA Gamo Raptors. So, I shot it with Crosman Premiers (7.9 grains) and Raptors (5 grains), and I’ll be darned if it didn’t get pretty close! Raptors went an average 1175 f.p.s. and Premier lites went 918. So, Hobbys might go 950 or so, and that’s pretty close to the advertised velocity.

The silencer has been vetted A class three dealer examined it and said, in his opinion, it could not be removed and attached to a firearm with success. Gamo has taken pains to make the outer case tapered front-to-rear, plus they’ve molded two huge flutes into the side of the case. They’ve also made holes in the flutes that expose the sides of the baffles to the air. He thought the silencer would be too difficult to remove from the rifle without destroying it, and the baffles would blow out the sides if exposed to even the low pressure from a .22 rimfire cartridge. In other words, it wouldn’t silence a firearm for even one shot, which is what BATF&E looks for.

Whisper silencer Photo clearly shows the lengths Gamo engineers went to ensure the silencer could not be removed and used on a firearm.

Cleaning the bore Cleaning means a brand-new bore brush laden with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. I use a one-piece Dewey cleaning rod with ball-bearing handle so the brush will follow the rifling. Twenty strokes of the brush in each direction with the brush leaving the bore on every stroke. Clean the residue with dry patches shoved breech to muzzle until they come out clean.

This was an easy job! The brush fit the bore looser than most, and there wasn’t as much resistance at the start. That could be due to a smoother bore or a larger one, so I’ll try fatter pellets when I shoot. I was worried the baffles would bother the patch because I use a cleaning jag, not a loop. But the patch stayed on every time. After cleaning, the bore is still dark, so it’s either the color (reflectivity) of the steel or the surface left by the rifling button.

Scope considerations For the Gamo Whisper, the scope needs to be powerful enough for the air rifle’s capability. I would estimate a rifle like this to be good out to 50 yards in the hands of a good marksman. At that range, it should produce 2-inch groups or just a little better. The rifle doesn’t recoil a lot, so the scope can be large, but not overly long, because it has to allow the breech to rotate up when the barrel breaks. The good built-in scope rail has two stop holes, though neither is located far enough to the rear to allow mounting a compact scope. Yes, cantilevered rings are a possibility, but I like to keep things simple. Taking all of this into consideration, I would select a standard-sized variable scope in the power range of 3-12x. That means a 3-9x, 4-12x or 3-12x scope is what I want.

This is a general-purpose air rifle, not well-suited to field target or silhouette, so the reticle should be a duplex with thicker crosshairs. Thick crosshairs allow the reticle to be acquired faster, making a good all-around scope that’s also good for hunting. Mil-dots are not required, but I’ll take them if they come with the scope. An illuminated reticle is nice if you’re a real hunter who hunts during the fringe times of the day.

Scope & mount choice I would have selected a 3-9x full-sized scope with duplex reticle. Gamo provided a 3-9×32 scope with a duplex. It has a 1″ tube, which I would have chosen for this rifle. There are no mil-dots, nor is the reticle illuminated. They put it in a nice one-piece mount that has the proper scope stop pin. Just put it on the mount base on the rifle and tighten the clamping screws. They’re Torx screws, by the way. Gamo may have a good idea here because I have certainly rounded a number of Allen wrenches (hex wrenches) over the years while tightening scope clamp screws. Just don’t lose the Torx wrench!

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The right hold What a wonderful airgun this is! It’s lightweight, easy to cock, not too fussy about hold for a breakbarrel. This rifle can really shoot, too! The stock has a raised ridge on the underside, just in front of the triggerguard. If I could feel that ridge, the rifle was properly balanced for good shooting. Don’t even try another hold-this is it.

Average with Kodiaks, but Gamo Match is another story Beeman Kodiaks were okay but not great, so I switched to Gamo Match and right away I knew this rifle was a winner. I shot the second-best group of the session with Gamo Match, and no matter what I did, they wouldn’t shoot poorly.

At 25 yards, 5 Gamo Match pellets went into this 0.346″ group.

This 5-shot group with H&N Match pellets went into a 0.325″ group.

Even Crosman Destroyer hollowpoints made this respectable 0.398″ group at 25 yards.

More air gun pellets I also shot the rifle with H&N Match, Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed and the new Crosman Destroyer. It was great with all three air gun pellets, though the H&N Match were the best pellets of all and Crosman Destroyers were ahead of the Premiers by a small but noticeable amount. In fact, I’m very impressed with the accuracy of the Destroyer pellet. I need to test it at long range next.

Can a tuned air gun be even quieter? How much noise reduction could be made by a good tune? The Whisper buzzes and rattles with the normal sounds a breakbarrel makes-all of which destroy any advantage that big fat silencer has. After testing the Whisper, I brought out my tuned Beeman R1. It’s a .22 and makes substantially more noise on impact than the .177 Whisper (I used a silent pellet trap), but its discharge is noticeably quieter.

Bottom Line: The final rating for the Gamo Whisper

I came into this review itching for a fight because the Gamo hype about the silencer got to me. Okay, so it doesn’t do much because the gun is loud in other ways. I’m forced to overlook that in light of what a wonderful air rifle this is! It’s lightweight, accurate, not particularly sensitive to how it’s held and very easy to cock. The downside is a poor scope, a heavy, creepy trigger, and the vibration of the powerplant. In my final assessment, this is a seriously nice air rifle that you should buy if you are at all inclined.

An exciting new development for the Gamo Whisper

Now, there’s a gas spring for the Gamo Whisper. Please hear me out all the way, because there are some ramifications almost nobody knows about.

Whisper gas spring The gas spring is made as one self-contained unit.

What is a gas spring? A gas spring is a sealed, unitized device that replaces the coiled steel mainspring and piston in a spring-piston air gun. The gas spring unit uses compressed gas to power the piston. You’re more used to gas springs than you may know, because they’re all around you. They hold up the back deck lid on your SUV or minivan, and they make your desk chair adjustable for height. Gas springs have replaced coiled steel for a lot of applications where the spring has to last for years in a fully compressed state. Get it? You can leave your gas-spring-equipped air rifle cocked for hours and even days without degradation of power. Heck, your office chair stays compressed for years and still works-and the gas spring unit that’s in an airgun is quite a bit more robust than the one in a chair.

How do gas springs differ from gas rams & gas struts? They’re the same thing. Gas spring is the correct generic term and “struts” or “rams” are slang terms, but they all refer to exactly the same thing. Instead of a coiled steel spring to push the piston forward, a gas spring uses compressed gas to do it. The gas remains captive inside the sealed unit, so you don’t lose it as the gun is shot.

How does the Whisper like its gas spring? I pushed for this conversion because of the Whisper’s built-in silencer. I figured a gas spring would cancel all powerplant vibrations, giving the silencer a chance to work. Well, it does cancel all vibrations, but the powerplant noise sounds the same. So, this conversion does nothing to quiet the rifle. HOWEVER, the Whisper air rifle with a gas spring is a transformed air rifle! It’s so dead-calm that most shooters will not believe it! In fact, although I have owned numerous gas-spring air rifles, I still have a hard time believing how absolutely smooth this one is. If it turns out to be accurate, as well, I might have to add it to my growing collection (hint to wife).

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The cocking stroke changes When they’re cocked, gas-spring rifles have a noticeably different feel than steel-spring rifles. Instead of a little slack after the barrel breaks open, then a slow build to the maximum effort around three-quarters of the cocking stroke, you’ll feel the full resistance from the start with a gas-spring rifle. It feels like it never changes throughout the stroke, though it really is a few pounds lighter in the beginning. Compared to cocking a rifle with a steel mainspring it feels like a lot more effort until you get used to the difference. If you recall, the cocking effort of the Whisper I tested with the steel mainspring was 35 lbs. With the gas spring conversion, the effort is 34 lbs. But honestly-it does feel like more.

Firing When the air gun fires, there’s a solid thump like a bank vault closing. There’s no vibration. And, the firing cycle seems quicker than with the steel spring, though that may be due to the abrupt end of the cycle. Once that piston stops moving, everything goes dead. Recoil is greatly reduced with the gas spring installed, and that’s something not common to all gas springs. Recoil is a function of piston weight, and this conversion uses a lightweight piston so there’s very little felt recoil. That should help with accuracy, and we’ll test for it.

Velocity test This is a comparison test between the gas spring and a factory steel spring. The table below gives velocities for each spring type. I retested the steel spring gun because I had only tested a couple of pellets before.

Steel spring

The benefits of gas springs Gas springs act quicker, which some shooters feel helps with accuracy. Maybe it makes them less hold-sensitive (but it doesn’t cancel it altogether). Gas springs can be left cocked for hours without losing energy. This is a real plus for hunters. This particular gas spring unit has the surface of its internal moving parts finished to 4 microns, an incredibly smooth finish. That will help maintain the gas seal for a long time. A gas spring often reduces the weight of a rifle, though in the Whisper’s case, it does not. The weight remains the same. Gas springs reduce felt recoil. Gas springs shoot with unbelievable smoothness. I cannot emphasize this benefit enough. If I were to let you shoot both guns together, you would want the one with the gas spring.

Accuracy test with the gas spring I moved outdoors for this test so I could shoot at 25 yards. The most accurate pellet with the factory rifle was the Gamo Match, which grouped as tight as 0.325 inches. Well, the gas spring shot the same pellet into about one inch. So, I switched to the new Air Arms Diabolo Field domes, which we know are really JSBs. The description says they weigh 8.44 grains, but mine averaged 8.3. They grouped only a little better than the Gamo Match, so I switched to Gamo Master Points. They were all over the place, with three shots going into 2 inches, so I stopped without finishing that group.

I started fooling around with the placement of my off hand. Resting it out by the forearm tip gave me 3-inch groups, so that was out. The flat of my palm in front of the triggerguard gave me three-quarters of an inch, but no better. Then I remembered the backs of the fingers. Success!

Finally! The first group measured 0.614 inches and was strung vertically-an indication that the hold is not quite right. I found a slightly different way to rest the rifle on the back of my hand and voila-a group measuring 0.469 inches. After that, I shot group after group under a half-inch. Best group of the day measured 0.441 inches. Not bad for outdoors with gusty winds at 25 yards. The sweet resting spot on a Whisper has a ridge in the center of it, so you can feel when you’re in the right spot.

Whisper forearm The forearm has a raised area in front of the triggerguard that helps you locate your off hand. I balanced it on the backs of my fingers for best results.

A nice target with some vertical stringing. Measures 0.614″. Still need to adjust the hold a bit. Shot at 25 yards with 5 Baracuda Match pellets.

With the hold adjusted, the rifle groups like this in a stiff breeze-0.441″ at 25 yards.

Nothing says I’ve found the absolute best pellet for this rifle. All I do know is that it’ll probably be a heavy pellet or one made from hard lead. Maybe 10.5-grain Crosman Premiers will be best. This rifle is a sheer joy to cock and shoot. The cocking is so smooth that I don’t have the words to describe it. And, the firing is light, quick and as smooth as any tuned spring gun you’ve ever shot.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>