By Jeff Johnston, American Hunter
“Rats!” I murmured as I poked an eyeball over the stall door and spied a housewife’s nightmare. A gang of hidious, brown-haired vermin, unaware of their forthcoming demise, gathered under the oat bucket like thieves in a welfare line. Not on my watch. I threaded the Gamo’s plastic-coated barrel through the iron bars as silently as a cobra on carpet and slowly brought the scope to my face. I gasped when the beady, magnified eye of the disease-ridden rodent met mine. Centering the crosshair on a whisker, I began the slow squeeze. Pow! The Gamo lurched, leaving two fat rats scurrying for cover amid their convulsing compadre. Hathcock-like, I withdrew the rifle, stoked it with another 4.5-grain pill and stalked the next stall.
Whether for pest control, cheap practice or just plain fun, everyone needs an airgun. Gamo’s latest “adult precision air rifle” is called the MRA Showstopper Shawn Michaels edition. I found the name to be a little ironic because Shawn Michaels is a former WWE wrestling star-turned Outdoor Channel hunting host of MacMillan River Adventures, and I normally don’t think of wrestling fans as being adults. (Of course, most grown men don’t hunt rats in a barnyard as if they were Peter Capstick, either.) At any rate, this .177-caliber, spring-piston air rifle is touted to shoot a 4.5-grain PBA Platinum pellet at 1400 fps, or about 1100 more than your kid’s Red Ryder, so it can do some dropkick-like damage to anything it hits. Another reason it’s for adults is that its cocking lever requires 41 pounds of effort. Like most spring-piston guns, its barrel breaks open to cock it and to expose its chamber for loading one pellet at a time.
The MRA’s black plastic stock is desirable, because who wants fine, figured walnut on a pellet gun that will likely be propped behind the basement door? Rough panels on the pistol grip and fore-end lend purchase to an otherwise slick finish. Flat black is the camo of choice in shadowy havens where vermin loiter.
Gamo touts its new recoil pad as reducing recoil by 74 percent, and at first blush this claim seems silly given the popcorn-like recoil forces of an airgun. I don’t know about “74 percent,” but the fact is, the force of the piston slamming forward against the cylinder creates a lurching sensation, and while the resulting recoil doesn’t hurt at all, serious spring-piston airgun shooters frequently cite a soft recoil pad as an accuracy enhancer.
Other features include its SAT (Smooth Action Trigger), an in-the-trigger-guard-mounted safety and a 7/8-inch dovetail scope mount that quickly accepts the included 4x, 32 mm scope. As for the “Smooth Action Trigger, it’s not terribly smooth. In my opinion few spring-piston guns at the Showstopper’s price own even a decent trigger. This one surprised me: Its factory pull-weight averaged 3.9 pounds—which is much better than most recreational airguns—but it’s as creepy as a centepede. I like the safety; it’s quick, tactile, silent and safe. Concerning the dovetail system, it mates with the supplied bases and scope easy enough, but I wish airgun makers would switch to a Picatinny rail system like the rest of the adults.
The most important aspect of any gun, however, airgun or otherwise, is its performance. I was skeptical of the 1400 fps claim so I tested it. It averaged 1358 fps according to my chronograph, so I give Gamo due credit. Another 42 fps could come from variable atmospheric conditions, temperature, or maybe Gamo just rounded up. No big deal.
Finally, I tested accuracy. In my experience, no spring-piston airgun with a creepy trigger has performed as well as I’d like. This is likely due to the tremendous vibrations caused by the spring and piston being released before the bullet leaves the barrel. Nonetheless the Showstopper’s accuracy was on par with most spring-piston airguns. It delivered a few groups that’d shave a mouse’s ear, but sent a few flying like the Macho Man over the top rope. In all, this $250 tool will afford you more fun than, well, shooting rats at the dump. Plus, purchasers can go to mrahunting.com and enter to win two tickets to WrestleMania and a chance to meet the Heartbreak Kid himself. If I win I won’t be taking a child, but rather myself and a child-like compadre.
Gamo MRA Showstopper
Type: single-shot, spring-piston air rifle
Caliber/Velocity: .177 cal./1400 fps
Barrel: 18″ fluted, rifled barrel
Trigger: adjustable pull weight
Sights: none; 7/8″ dovetail for scope
Safety: manual, mounted in trigger guard
Stock: polymer; material; length of pull 14″
Dimensions: length 43.5″; weight 8 lbs.
Metal Finish: black polymer
Accessories: 4x32mm scope