I bought my first B20 a few years ago and thought it was a good rifle, a little rough out of the box, but all in all a very satisfying hunting rifle for little cash out. I took it with me on several hunts for squirrels in the Midwestern woods and rabbits in the Southwestern deserts, and found that it performed very well for the intended purpose.
Jump ahead a few years, and I was looking through some factory literature that had been sent to me for an article I was working on, when I came across a notice on a rifle being readied for release to the market. It was called the BAM XS B26, and like the B20 it was based on the renowned Beeman R9, although the literature claimed it was a significant improvement over the B20 due to better manufacturing and quality engineering processes, along with a couple of design changes such as a larger chamber (25-26mm) and a much more ergonomic stock (even though the B20 is not too bad either).
The gun was shipped to me double boxed, with adequate bubble wrap padding. Included in the box was a 3-9×32 variable scope, a couple of Allen wrenches for mounting it, and a users manual. The gun did not have too much oil or grease externally, and though there was a bit of dieseling on the first few shots the gun settled in pretty quickly.
The B26-2 is a break barrel spring piston airgun which is available in .177 or .22; I selected the . 177 as this is my preferred caliber in springers. The gun is outfitted with a thumbhole stock, a Monte Carlo cheekpiece with a rather high comb. The wood has a nice grain and is free of blemishes or filler, and is equipped with a ventilated recoil pad. I really like the thumbhole and pistol grip finding it allows a very comfortable grip and positioning of the trigger finger. I have to say that the comb is a bit too high for me when the scope is attached with low profile mounts; however this can be addressed by using a higher profile mount or removing some of the height on the comb and reshaping it to a custom fit. The gun is 4′ in overall length with a 1′ barrel capped with a muzzle brake that attaches with two set screws. The rifle weighs 7.3 lb without the scope, but to me feels lighter as it balances so well. I found that I could shoot this gun well from standing, prone, and sitting positions once Iâ€™d worked out the scope mounts.
The gun features a two stage trigger with a second stage adjustment, which the manufacturers states is a clone of the Rekord trigger. My gun is set up with a 3lb pull (which is my preference in a field gun) that breaks cleanly without noticeable creep (donâ€™t confuse the first stage with creep) or over-travel. It is not exactly as crisp as a Rekord trigger, but certainly one of the nicer triggers Iâ€™ve seen on such a low cost gun. It does benefit from a cleaning, polishing, and application of lubrication; which is not difficult for the competent amateur gunsmith.
The gun performed quite well on the bench; I set up on my 20 yard range with the pro chronograph about a foot from the muzzle. The gun shot well from the start, but really smoothed out after the first tin of pellets had passed through it. The firing cycle is equal to my more expensive guns, quite a surprise in an inexpensive import. To test performance I shot several 9 shot strings using three pellets; Gamo Hunter, Crosman Premiums, and Predator Polymags. The highest velocities were obtained with the hunters which averaged 970 fps, the Predator Polymags averaging 850 fps, and the CPs at 790 fps. The best 20 yard groups were achieved with the CPs that averaged about .3′, though did produce a few single hole groups, followed by the Hunters at just under .4′ and the Polymags at just over.
I had the opportunity to take the rifle out to hunt cottontails shortly after my bench testing, and managed to bag a few bunnies at distances from 20 to 40 yards using the Polymags; and found that the gun/pellet was a very effective game getter at these ranges. I liked carrying this gun in the field, and once the scope height was sorted out with higher profile mounts, found the gun was quick to shoulder and bring on target.
So what do I think of the B26-2? I have to say that the Chinese airgun quality seems to be getting better with each gun that comes out. The B50 started it off as the first quality pcp produced in Cathay, then the B40 came along to show that the improved quality extended to their springer production, with the B26 continuing the trend. I think the B26 represents an excellent hunting rifle at a reasonable price (the retail price is approximately $160.00 for the B26-2 and $140.00 for the B26). Another plus in my mind, is that there is a plethora of tuning information available on the B20, which is applicable to tuning the B26. I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if this becomes a popular project gun. Iâ€™m going to order a couple more to start tinkering with!!
The newest spring piston air rifle out of China is reviewed on the bench and in the field. This second generation clone of the venerable R-9 is the evolutionary followup to the B20, and has been impressing airgunner with its performance and value.