The Big Test: Gamo Phox
PUBLISHED: 16:48 26 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:47 04 November 2016
Is this PCP package a game changer for the industry?
When I first heard about this Gamo project, I confess I didn’t believe it would ever see the gun shops. An English-made, high-quality, pre-charged pneumatic rifle – a magazine-fed, multi-shot bolt action fitted with a scope and silencer – ready to shoot from the box for under £500? You’re pulling my leg!
Well, I’m here to say that my disbelief was unfounded. I still find it hard to believe the Gamo Phox is in your local gun shop, but it’s true. With £500 in your pocket, you could become the proud owner of an English made, pre-charged pneumatic.
It’s not news to anybody in the industry that BSA and Gamo share a parent company, so technology would logically be shared between the two. The Phox has the latest BSA self-lubricating magazine and I’m pretty sure it has a cold-hammer forged barrel, as only BSA can offer.
Easy to shoot
Perhaps I should explain why I find this package so exciting and appealing. Pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles have one important and unavoidable advantage over spring/piston guns – they’re plain easy to shoot, which translates into better accuracy from the average airgunner.
Now I didn’t say ‘more accurate than springers’, because there are plenty of very accurate ones out there. It’s what I call accessible accuracy that interests me. There are people who could shoot the eyebrows off a gnat at 50 yards with a competition spring gun, but I can’t and nor can the majority of us. The problem is the gun recoils before the pellet leaves the barrel and unless your technique is spot on, you can pull the shot off your intended target without ever knowing what happened. This isn’t an issue with a PCP as it recoils so little.
In the past, the complaint about PCPs was they were too expensive. A high-quality rifle might cost you £600, then add a scope and mounts, at say £150, a silencer for £25, and a pump at perhaps £150, and suddenly you’ve got a rig costing nearly £1,000. In recent times, however, PCP prices have dropped as more people buy them and production costs fall.
Gamo’s own Coyote can be bought for around £400, which is great value for money. So the Phox package is competing directly with good spring guns in terms of cost whilst delivering all the PCP advantages.
And it gets better. PCPs, like the Phox, offer many other advantages near the top of a wish list for any hunter. The recoilless action allows you to shoot from any position without a change in impact point and you can even rest it on solid supports, such as a fence post or branch, without affecting accuracy.
Next, we have the Phox’s inbuilt silencer. The discharge report is so quiet that from 20 yards away, you’d hardly know the rifle had fired. Keeping stealthy is vital for successful hunting.
The final icing on the cake is the 10-shot rotary magazine. With a quick cycle of the substantial bolt handle, you have a second shot ready if another opportunity arises. I hunt with multi-shot PCP today and nothing else.
The Phox’s action sits inside a heavily stylised synthetic stock with a very large thumbhole to offer a distinct pistol grip and, as with almost all modern guns, it’s ambidextrous. It wears a slightly textured finish, eliminating reflections and adding grip, plus there are stippled grip panels in the key contact points. Strangely, I felt the pull length was long, yet the tape measure showed it to meet the 14 1/2” industry standard.
The pistol grip feels quite slender but placed the pad of my index finger nicely on the CAT trigger blade. Gamo’s developed the Custom Action Trigger a few years ago to offer an improved action, whilst keeping the safety features of older models.
In the American market, rifles have to pass a drop test before they can be sold, where a loaded gun is dropped hard onto its butt pad without firing. This is why the CAT trigger blade is made from a lightweight synthetic material and drilled to save weight. The safety is manual and sits directly in front of the blade, making it easy to disengage with your trigger finger whilst on aim. I was pleased to see it disengages by being pushed away.
The action has a good solid feel to it and the barrel has a welcome thickness on such an inexpensive rifle. There’s nothing flimsy about the way this rifle is engineered. Along the top of the action is a pair of well-formed rails that accept the scope and because the magazine sits low in the action, there’s no cut-out to compromise the position or height of the scope, so mounting is a breeze. This might not sound like a big deal, but I promise you it is.
The well-proven BSA magazine the Gamo uses has a self-lubricating drum to hold the pellets. I have plenty of field experience with them, so I can tell you they’re bombproof.
I was deeply surprised and pleased to see the Phox has a pressure gauge fitted. I believe all PCPs need a gauge so we can see just how much air remains and when we’ll need to top up the reservoir. Behind the gauge is the filling port that accepts the probe on the end of the pump’s hose. This is wisely covered by a sliding collar to keep and dust or dirt away, which could damage the rifle’s internals or driven inside by high-pressure air. The collar detaches completely and fits back with an audible snap when it’s properly back in place.
While we’re at the muzzle, we find the Whisper Maxim silencer. It is quite wide, providing a large internal volume to capture and decelerate the high pressure air that exits the muzzle as the pellets leaves, and is made from a synthetic material to keep the weight down, meaning the rifle’s natural balance is hardly affected.
On top of the action, we find a 3-9 x 40 Gamo branded scope in a rather smart one-piece mount, locking it down solidly. Inside,we find the classic 30/30 duplex reticle, which has served the shooting community well for decades. There’s no parallax adjustment, but costs had to be saved somewhere.
Every rifle needs a gun slip to transport it safely and legally and the one included was a good fit and had nice dense foam padding to offer protection from knocks and bumps.
The item completing the package is the pump. This is substantially built, which felt reassuring, and the thick rubber grips made it comfortable. Cleverly, the feet you stand on whilst pumping fold flat to make storage easier. Another high-quality touch is that the gauge is oil-filled for accurate readings. I also liked the steel braiding around the hose to offer it protection. A large kit of spare parts, lubrication, and tools come with the pump, allowing us to service it at no cost when needed. All in all, this is a comprehensive kit and well thought through.
A couple of people have asked why the Phox is only available in .22. The simple answer is – it’s the calibre most people buy. Many still believe that .22 is more powerful and is the only calibre for hunting. Perhaps they’ll offer .177 in the future, but not yet.
Gamo recommends a 232 bar fill, which is much higher than the industry standard 190, and this will deliver over 85, full-power shots. The pump worked with a smooth action and, like they all do, worked best with a slow, deliberate action, ensuring each downstroke is fully completed. Going slowly reduces the waste of energy that is heat build up.
My first job as tester is to run a gun over my reliable SKAN chronograph. As ever, I used the Air Arms Diablo Field pellet, weighing 15.9 grains in .22, and I delivered an average of 570 fps, with a velocity spread of just 16fps over the full 85 shots.
That’s serious performance from any PCP, and I take my hat off to Gamo. Good consistency helps accuracy, and it showed. After a few minutes zeroing, I was getting some great groups at 20 yards, so I moved the target back to 30 yards. This excellent little gun rewarded my efforts with excellent groups. Ten shots inside 1/2” is right up there with much more expensive guns.
I almost envy people coming into our sport today. The Phox is an excellent hunting rifle, ticking all the boxes with top-class accuracy, near silent report and a slick multi-shot action. What’s more, you can have all this for a price I couldn’t have imagined just a short while ago.
The airgun scene has just changed forever.
Distributor: BSA Guns
Country of origin: England
Type: Pre-charged pneumatic
Action: Multi-shot bolt action
Length: 39 3/4” (101cm)
Weight: 7lbs 12oz (3.5 kg)
Trigger: Gamo CAT
Fill pressure: 232 bar
Shots per fill: 85
Retail price: £499.00
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