Gamo Viper Express: Spring Piston Shotgun
Jim Chapman
I hiked along the edges of the field where the grass grew long
and provided habitat for a variety of birds, when one popped
up in front of me. Swinging my scatter gun in an arc and leading
ever so slightly, I squeezed the trigger and watched the male
bird crash to the ground. As I moved between a couple old
sheds a small covey popped up with one bird perching for a
moment on a rain gutter, a crack of the gun and another bird
down, a hen.

Wait a minute you say, you shot a bird off the roof? And it was
a hen!? Well my quarry was of the sparrow variety, and the
scattergun was a Gamo Viper Express. I received this gun for
evaluation recently and wanted to bring it out for a test of its
intended use, close in pest control. I don’t typically go out
with the objective of shooting sparrows or starlings these days,
but this gun cried out to be used on flying critters.

Ever since this gun was first discussed in public: there has been
no shortage of outspoken critics saying the gun/concept was
worthless, the performance terrible,  and that it would be a
waste of money. The irritating thing is, they had not shot one,
seen one, or had any first hand knowledge before solidifying
their positions. I have to admit I also had my doubts that a
spring piston scattergun would have any use (or even work),
but thought I’d give it a try before drawing a conclusion.
But it seemed like the airgun gods were aligned against me, and
it took a very long time to get an example for testing. So when
I finally had a chance to get my hands on one, I immediately
took it out for shakedown and to develop an informed opinion..

Shooting at a plain sheet of butcher’s paper to pattern the
gun at 10 yards, I found that the scatter was confined within an
area of 6� diameter. Several of the #9 pellets hit in an
approximately starling sized area, and hit with enough umph to
penetrate a coke can. I followed up this session by taking some
balloons from my six year old daughter’s toy chest,
blowing them up, and letting the gentle breeze blow them
across the yards while I shot at them. I was having big fun now!

OK, so I proved to myself that this gun was fun to play
shooting games with, but I was curious about the manufacturers
claim that this gun could be used for pest control at close
range. There is a factory by my house that has overgrown fields
with sheds and equipment juxtaposed with the thick brush
surrounding it in jumbled heaps, the sparrows and starlings
flock to the area in search of food and shelter. I decided this
would be the perfect place to try some pest bird wing shooting,
which is where we entered this mini-review.

By the time I’d wrapped up this unique shotgunning
session I’d taken a half dozen sparrows and starlings, even
managing to hit a couple of them on the wing. The gun was
effective on these light bodied critters, though I was pretty strict
about keeping all shots inside of 10 yards. A couple of times I
missed and hit the roof of a shed or the rain gutters around the
wooden shack used as an office, without causing any damage.
I think with a light attached this gun may be adequate for a
night time ratting session at one of the local farms I shoot over.
My longest shot was at a starling up on a phone line, that was
up staright overhead. He came crashing down, having caught a
couple pellets to the head, a couple to the chest, and a couple
more to the belly.

So what do I think about the Viper Express? I think you have
to look at this gun in context: does it do what a real shotgun will
do? Absolutely not, but it does give the shooter the flavor of a
scatter gun. It was fun to play with, and it was effective at close
range capable of cleanly killing small pest inside of ten yards.  
Would I buy this as a primary hunting gun? No, the Viper
Express could not be used as a general hunting arm. But if I
had other guns to meet  other hunting needs and wanted
something different to shoot for small vermin, such as small
rodents around the barn or sparrows and starlings around an
industrial building, well yeah it’s a fun and different airgun.
As a kicker, there is an insert that allows the gun to shoot
standard pellets when you get tired of using it as a scatter gun â
€¦â€¦.. if you get tired of it!
This interesting new offering is the first spring piston airgun
configured as a scattergun! The loads are light and the
power low, but there is enough gun to use it for close range
pest control.

Added: I've included a section below in which I answer
questions and post additional comments as I get more
experience with this gun
The light weight synthetic stock on this gun is easy to mount, and the
bead sight permits fast target acquisition.
The unique ammo for this gun comes packed 25 rounds to the box. The
load contained in the plastic shell  is 17 grain or approximately 24 #9
pellets.
The action is a standard break barrel, and the shell slips into the rear of
the barrel just as a pellet would. There is a brass insert that will house a
standard .22 pellet if you want to use the Viper Express in rifle mode.
This target was shot at ten yards, with all pellets falling within a
6" diameter. The starling show on the right, was shot at 31
feet, and was struck twice in the head, twice in the chest, and
twice in the abdomen. My next step is to try this gun out on
some mammilian pest control!
Initial Experience
On another day out with the VE scattergun I was working a factory
complex that was just covered with pest birds. In one stand where I
could watch a hole in the roof of a shed being used for nest building, I
hit four starlings in a row as they glided in. I would never have been
able to acquire the target fast enough with a standard rifle, even one
wearing a red dot..
NOTES: Added 03/20/07

I received request  asking me for some specific information on the mini-
review. I’ll post my response here;

There was some information I initially omitted, because I didn’t or do not
have the answers, but I’ll give it a try.

Are shells reloadable and how much do they cost? The shells are designed to be
one time use. I am currently trying to reload, and I think it is do-able but it is not
sanctioned by the company or proven yet.

How much do the shells cost? I received a case with the test gun before they were
released to market, and did not know the suggested retail price. The going price
now that they are on the market is $7.50 per box of 25. This may be prohibitive
to some, especially younger shooters.

What were the chronograph results? I didn’t post this initially as quite
honestly I don’t know how to interpret the results. The shells contain 17 grain
of #9 shot, I measured an average velocity of 530 fps. This would indicated
around 10-11 fpe at the muzzle, which I don’t think translates into meaningful
information as  compared to a standard pellet  performance. I don’t know
what it means in terms of terminal performance at 10-12 yards (my maximum
range with this gun). Instead I shot cans and phone books to get an idea of what
the penetration would be on light bodied pest birds before taking it into the field.

Is it adequate for this type (pest birds) quarry? I have taken approximately 40-50
starlings, sparrows, and grackles at a pest control site. I have only had 4 or 5 birds
that required a follow up shot. I think at the right range and the right quarry it is
perfectly acceptable. I think it is perfect in some instances. It would not be
appropriate for anything much further out.

Is the gun hard to cock? No, it is lighter than many of my magnum springers.

Does the gun kick? No

What about the trigger pull? It is heavy like most Gamos. I don’t mind it as
you know I like a heavier pull on my hunting guns. If you intend to use a Gamo
on target games, you might want to replace the trigger, if it is problematic for you.
It’s a typical Gamo trigger, thousands shoot well with it, a few can’t.

How does it shoot pellets? It has an insert for shooting pellets, but it is a little
clumsy to use and the gun has a smooth barrel. I did not try it but don’t
expect that it would be very good. I’ll send you the gun to have a look at
before it goes back if you want to give it a go. (to a friend, not an open invite to
borrow the gun!).

Would this be a good small game gun? I think that it is appropriate for starlings
and pest birds close in, but would not use it for squirrels, it does not have the
power at any range. You might kill some, but I think you'd wound more.