We pitted two high-dollar 10-meter air pistols to see which one offers the most pop for the buck.
In the rarefied confines of international 10-meter air pistol competition, a number of brand names stand out: Pardini, Morini, Hämmerli, Steyr, and Walther. All of these products are made in Europe, with the Pardini hailing from Italy, the Steyr from Austria, the Walther from Germany, and the Morini and Hämmerli from the home of fine watches, Switzerland. All have great bloodlines, with top shooters using each of the products to win medals at the highest levels of competition. All also have stiff price tags, with a Pardini K60 C02 gun running $795, the Steyr LP1CP Scuba selling for $1,295, the Walther LP200 compressed-air match pistol costing $1,295, the Morini Deluxe Compensated Air Pistol 162E tagged at $1,201, and the Hämmerli 480K selling for $1,155.
We acquired two of these 4.5-mm (.177-caliber) pellet guns for a head-to-head matchup of accuracy, ease of use, and features. Initially, we pitted the two Swiss products, the Morini Deluxe Compensated Air Pistol 162E and the Hämmerli 480K. What we found were two superbly accurate guns that will outshoot the skill level of all but the best air-pistol competitors, but we liked the Morini better because of its superior set of features. We detail below our reasons for making this choice.
How We Tested
To begin, we purchased a $150 80-cubic-foot scuba tank from Houston-based Universal Scuba Distributors, and had the tank fitted with a DIN valve rather than the normal U.S. scuba valve. (DIN is an acronym for a German industrial thread specification). The DIN valve allowed us to easily refill the airgun’s air cylinders on both models. Neal Johnson’s Gunsmithing and Champion’s Choice sell 13.3-cubic-feet scuba bottles for around $120. We filled the tank with 3,000 psi of air pressure, slightly above the service pressure maximum of 200 bar (2,900 psi) in the Hämmerli cylinder, but well below the 300 bar (4,352 psi) service pressure max on the Morini.
To charge these guns’ air cylinders, the shooter inserts a threaded male DIN nipple into a female valve on top of the tank. For the Hämmerli, the shooter takes a brass nipple and screws it into the tank valve. It firmly seats in the tank valve with hand pressure, and a light rotation with a wrench seals the rubber O-ring in the bottom of the tank valve. Then the shooter screws the Hämmerli’s air cylinder on the tank by removing a black-plastic thread guard on the forward end of the cylinder, exposing a threaded male connection. This connection fits into the brass DIN nipple on the scuba tank. Once it is seated into brass DIN nipple, the shooter opens the scuba tank main valve slowly, to allow air to enter the gun’s air cylinder. He then allows air to fill the cylinder for about 10 seconds (the cylinder gets warm), then closes the main scuba tank valve, and unscrews the gun’s air cylinder. The shooter then checks the air charge in the gun cylinder with a supplied screw-in dial gauge, measured in bar. A green charge from 50 to 180 bar is the working pressure on the Hämmerli, and full charge of 200 bar is good for about 180 rounds. The low air-pressure indicator on the Hämmerli is a signal pin located inside and in front of the trigger on the trigger guard. The Morini has a lock-out lever which will lock the loading lever down when pressure is low. Once the lever is activated, the shooter can still get 20 good shots by manually releasing this lever.
In filling the Morini cylinders, we encountered problems. The Hämmerli brass DIN nipple worked well without any modifications. However, to get the Morini brass DIN nipple to work, we had to take the piece to Briley Manufacturing and have Chuck Webb machine part of the hex head metal away, which allowed the DIN nipple to seat to bottom on our DIN valve. We wonder if all the Swiss-made nipples will exhibit this problem because a similar aluminum piece from another airgun made in Switzerland also had to be cut down in the same manner. Otherwise, filling the Morini air cylinders with the modified DIN nipple follows the same procedure as the Hämmerli, except for measuring the air charge in the cylinder. The forward end of the Morini cylinders incorporates a gauge that shows working pressure up to 300 bar. At a charge of 200 bar, the Morini shoots 220 rounds.
Once we had them filled, we ran a series of tests on these guns that centered on their ability to shoot accurately at 10-meters (or 33 feet for you ugly Americans), the international air-pistol distance. Also, while we shot the guns, we assessed how easy they were to use on the line, and off the line, we determined which gun offered the better value for the price.
In terms of accuracy, we couldn’t choose one gun over the other. Unlike in most other pistol tests, we weren’t able to use the Ransom Pistol Rest to compile comparative accuracy data, because Ransom doesn’t make grip inserts to fit either gun. Even if inserts had been available, we couldn’t have made them work on the Morini because of the way power is supplied to the electronic trigger. A Varta 15-volt photocell battery is inserted into the bottom of the grip, and the trigger circuitry runs into the action. If you detach the grip, then you remove the power. The gun doesn’t go pop.
Instead, we shot these guns as they would be in competition, and learned that each one can easily put any number of shots into the inner 10 ring of the B-40 international target. The inner 10 ring measures 5 mm (0.197 inches), and the 10-ring itself measures 11.5 mm (0.453). However, because it was easier for us to collect our data on single sheets, we employed the 11-bull A-17 smallbore target, whose 10-ring measures 0.150 inch—0.047 inch smaller than the inner 10 on the B-40. As the accompanying targets show, we were able to place five-round training groups into the bullseyes of the A-17 with either gun. Any blown shots were the fault of the shooters, not the guns.
In sum, both guns were fabulously accurate. That meant we had to choose between them based on other factors.
The Morini 162EA comes in a foam-lined hard-plastic case with cutouts for a second air cylinder, assorted allen wrenches, sight-adjustment screwdriver, a nipple for releasing air pressure out of the charging cylinder, and a DIN filling nipple. It weighs 1,020 grams (2.26 pounds) and measures 410 mm in length (16 inches). The manual says the Morini is 180 mm tall from the top of the rear sight to the bottom of the grip, which would be 7 inches. However, we determined that dimension to be 5.5 inches. The widest point of the gun at the base of the grip is 50 mm (2 inches), the maximum allowed. The sight line length (sight radius) can be adjusted between 300 mm to 360 mm (12 to 13.5 inches). The barrel measures 240 mm (9.4 inches), and a compensator adds another 1.75 inches. It features a Lothar Walther barrel with a 1-in-17.5-inch, 12-groove rifling. It operates off compressed air. It has a two-stage electronic trigger adjustable in the first stage between 70 to 500 grams (2.5 ounces to 17.6 ounces) and between 50 and 400 grams (1.8 to 14.1 ounces) in the second stage. The trigger is mounted on a micro-roller bearing and is driven by a 15-volt battery good for about 15,000 rounds. The front-sight blade ranges in width from 4 to 6 mm, in half-millimeter increments. The rear sight slot is adjustable in micrometer increments. The adjustable walnut grips come in left or right-hand models and are stippled in the palm and finger areas. There’s also an adjustable hand shelf at the bottom of the grip and a thumbrest at the top.
The Hämmerli 480 K Match Air Pistol comes packaged in a foam-lined cardboard box with cutouts for a second air cylinder (not supplied), a tool pouch containing allen wrenches and a multi-prong screwdriver/adjustment tool, a brass nipple for releasing the charging cylinder’s air pressure, a pressure gauge, and a DIN filling nipple. It weighs 1,110 grams (2.4 pounds) and measures 420 mm in length (16.5 inches). The Hämmerli is 200 mm tall from the top of the rear sight to the bottom of the grip, which would be 7.8 inches. The widest point of the gun at the base of the grip is 50 mm (2 inches), the maximum allowed. The sight line length (sight radius) is fixed at 340 mm (13.4 inches). The barrel measures 250 mm (9.9 inches), and there’s no compensator. It operates off compressed air. It has a two-stage mechanical adjustable trigger. The front-sight blade widths range in size from 3 mm to 5.5 mm, in half-millimeter increments, with 4 mm as the standard supplied sight. The rear open-sight notch can be changed by replacing a metal insert which snaps into a groove on the rear sight. The available slot dimensions are 3.2, 3.6, and 4 mm, but they must be purchased separately. The adjustable plastic grips (walnut is an option) come in left or right-hand models and are stippled in the palm and finger areas, and there’s a small right-hand version available. There’s also a 7-degree rake adjustment at the bottom of the grip and a thumbrest at the top.
Feature Comparison: Grips
In our view, the Hämmerli’s stippled, synthetic grip material is less comfortable than the Morini’s. The Morini’s walnut grip has texture where the hand meets the stock, but it doesn’t feel as rough as the Hämmerli. Of course, the shooter could sand down the Hämmerli’s roughness to meet his or her taste. Also, we think the Morini has an edge because of the thickness of the grip between the fingers and the thumb joint. In this dimension, the Morini grip measures 51 mm (2 inches) between the top finger groove and the edge of the grip where the thumb rests. The measurement between the bottom finger groove and the edge of the thumbrest is 64 mm (2.5 inches). These same dimensions for the Hämmerli are 32 mm (1.25 inch) and 51 mm (2 inches). This beefier gripping surface felt better to our long-fingered and ham-handed male shooters as well as thin-fingered female shooters. Additionally, the finger grooves on the Morini were more comfortable than the ungrooved frontstrap area of the Hämmerli, we thought. The hand shelves on both adjusted satisfactorily, we thought, allowing plenty of room for big hands, but still moving far enough upward for small-handed shooters to fit the grip to their hands better.
Feature Comparison: Triggers
Hämmerli’s two-stage mechanical trigger has several adjustments that give it a slight edge over the Morini. The Hämmerli trigger, like the Morini electronic trigger, is adjustable for length of pull. The Hämmerli’s trigger shoe rides forward and backward on a dovetail-style metal rail. The Morini has a similar adjustment. Also, the Hämmerli’s trigger post, onto which the trigger shoe fits, can be canted 15 degrees left and right, an adjustment the Morini lacks. Additionally, the trigger shoe can be rotated on the trigger post’s axis left or right and moved up and down on the trigger post. The Morini also doesn’t incorporate these features. In use, the Hämmerli’s extra adjustability helps shooters get exactly the trigger feel they desire in both stages.
With the trigger fitted properly, the shooter can then assess the quality of the let-off, which is more of a factor in these guns that the weight. UIT rules specify that the trigger draw weight must be 500 grams. Most shooters will adjust the first stage to take up as much of this weight as possible, without making the let-off point unstable. This will vary from shooter to shooter. We noticed no difference in the adjustability of either trigger in either stage. However, the fairly complicated balancing act of getting the let-off right is nicely covered in the Hämmerli’s supplied manual. On page 10 of the Hämmerli’s manual, the shooter finds a flowchart detailing what steps can be taken, and how to execute them. The Morini has clear text descriptions of how to adjust the trigger in section 3 of its manual, but the Hämmerli’s treatment is better, in our estimation.
How quickly the trigger releases a shot (lock time) is where the rubber hits the road in air pistol shooting. But in our testing, we couldn’t determine any advantage the Morini’s electronic trigger had over the Hämmerli. However, the Morini did have an advantage in dry-firing drills. With the electronics turned on, the Morini trigger resets itself after each pull. That means the shooter can easily perform dry-fire drills without wasting time to operate the action, as is necessary on the Hämmerli. To dry-fire the 480 K, the shooter moves a button under the pellet ramp from left to right. This prevents air from being discharged, and allows the shooter to concentrate on trigger-control performance. After each shot, the Hämmerli shooter must work the action to reset the trigger, however. Of course, many shooters would point out that in match drills, the shooter should work the action anyway, even when dry firing—to simulate the experience more accurately. They have a point, but we still like the Morini arrangement better.
Feature Comparison: Sights
Both guns offer a selection of replaceable front-sight blades that range in width from 3 to 5.5 mm on the Hämmerli and 4 to 6 mm on the Morini. Also, the sight radius is adjustable on the Morini from 300 mm to 360 mm (12 to 13.5 inches), an advantage not available on the Hämmerli product.
On the Hämmerli, the rear-sight slot size can be adjusted by lifting out the rear sight blade (there are blades with three slot sizes) and snapping in another one. Each blade is marked for easy identification. For our tests, we used the 3.2-mm standard size supplied with the Hämmerli. In contrast, the Morini’s rear blade allows the shooter to open or close the slot-aperture width in 0.1-mm increments with a screw located on the right side of the rear sight. Counting adjustment clicks (50), we estimate the rear-sight slot size can range from a slim 2.3-mm-wide aperture to 6.5 mm. We think this feature will give the shooter an easy way to fine tune the sight picture when light conditions or other range factors dictate.
Windage and elevation adjustment increments on the Hämmerli are set at 2 mm for each click at 10 meters. Hieroglyphic markings on the Hämmerli rear sight included a target icon, bullet-impact location, and an arrow. It was unclear to us which way to turn the sight to move the bullet impact up. Once we consulted the manual, however, we learned that turning the sight-adjustment elevation screw counterclockwise moved the bullet impact up. The same situation was true for the windage adjustment. Turning the windage adjustment screw clockwise moved the bullet impact to the left. In contrast, the Morini’s sights were marked with a U for up and an L for left. By turning the appropriate screw, the shooter could move bullet impact where it needed to be. The Morini’s elevation is set at 3 mm for each click and 1.5 mm for each windage click.
Performance Shooter Recommends
The Morini Deluxe Compensated Air Pistol 162EA came with an extra air cylinder as a standard item, and the Morini’s pressure gauges were built into the cylinders. This makes them much easier to fill and monitor than the Hämmerli’s set up. However, Morini needs to mark the gauge face better to show the ideal service pressure range. The current markings show relative pressure, but the markings aren’t quantified except at 0 and 300 bar/4300 psi. We also liked the Morini’s grips better, the sighting system better, and we enjoyed the ability to dry fire its electronic trigger repeatedly.
That said, the Hämmerli 480 K Match Air Pistol is still a fine product. In particular, the Hämmerli’s trigger offered many more adjustments, and the trigger shoe had a better feel than the Morini, we thought. Also, the Hämmerli was as accurate as the Morini, and its air-pressure fittings worked flawlessly with our tank, where the Morini required modification. Additionally, the Hämmerli’s air cylinder can be filled on the gun (using optional part number 1.409.900, a flexible air adapter), whereas Morini’s cylinder has to be removed for filling.
In this matchup of the $1,201 Morini Deluxe Compensated Air Pistol 162EA and the $1,155 Hämmerli 480 K Match Air Pistol, we would pick the Morini for $46 dollars more.