I had the opportunity a while back to get my hands on the Hunter Extreme rifle, and used it for several small game hunts this season. Gamo makes a lot of different rifles for the general market, some I like a lot and some not as much. I guess if a company has an extensive product line this is to be expected, but I like to approach any new gun with an open mind. In the past I have really liked the underbarrel CFX rifles and how they perform on small game, and the Gamo Stutzen is one of my favorite springers. So the chance to evaluate the Hunter Extreme with a blank notebook and a few tins of pellets was something I looked forward to. When I opened the shipping box I found myself looking at a pretty substantial piece of hardware. Here’s a fundamental truth about very powerful springers: they come in large packages (about 9 lb sans scope). The rifle’s overall length is 48.5″ with an 18″ bull barrel. But I have to say that the gun balances well and is not hard for the average sized adult shooter to handle. This rifle sported a Monte Carlo beech wood stock with a well shaped cheek pad, and a checkered pistol grip and forestock. The butt of the rifle wore a ventilated rubber recoil pad, which along with the weight of the stock helps tame the recoil generated. While both .177 and .22 versions are offered (and recently .25), I opted for the .22, if I am going to use an heavy weight uber magnum airgun for hunting it makes sense that it delivers the most energy possible down range. Packaged with the gun was a BSA 3-9×50 scope with illuminated reticle and mounts which I installed and zeroed at 40 yards. The scope was serviceable, but not up to the quality of the gun, and at a later stage it was swapped out with other optics that served better.
The Hunter Extreme does have a pretty heavy cocking effort, which the specs say is 55 lb. I found the cocking action was a little rough at first, but as I worked my way through the first tin of pellets could feel it smoothing out. This is not the gun I’d want to spend all day at the range shooting because it takes so much effort to cock, however the same could be said for most of the very powerful magnum guns, and in a hunting gun is a non issue in my opinion. The two stage trigger on my gun was a bit over 4 lb and the pull a little mushy, but it was not a detriment to accurate shooting. I have said on several occasions that I don’t like the trigger too light on my hunting rifles, though at some point I might drop an aftermarket trigger into it. I shot a number of groups at 30 yards with JSB Jumbo Exacts and with Raptor PBA pellets, and averaged slightly under ½” with the former and about ¾” with the latter. Frankly I was surprised by the Raptors printing in ¾” as a few years ago I had done pretty exhaustive testing with them and not gotten very good results. After punching holes for a while I set up 2×2″ steel plates at 30, 40, and 50 yards and started shooting 5 shot groups with the Exacts and Raptors. With the Exacts I averaged 5/5 hits at 30 yards, 5/5 at 40 yards, and 5/5 at 50 yards. With the Raptors I averaged 5/5 at 30, 3/5 at 40, and 3/5 at 50 yards. So while the accuracy was good with Exacts, it wasn’t too bad with the PBAs either and at 30 yards the results were similar. I shot several pellets over the chrony, but did not achieve the advertised velocities with either standard or PBA pellets. This is the case with just about every new springer I shoot; they never seem to achieve the specified velocities. This doesn’t matter too much in my opinion, as I am more concerned with accuracy and terminal performance than whether a gun generates 1000 or 1100 fps. I made an interesting observation when comparing the performance of pellets at different ranges; at 30 yards the PBA generate significantly higher velocities than standard lead pellets and slightly higher energy (with about 3 FPE difference). But at 40 yards the lead pellets delivered more energy (6 FPE difference), though the PBA had slightly higher velocity. The reason is that the heavier (18.1 grain) lead pellets don’t shed velocity as rapidly as the light (9.9 grain) alloy pellets, and this is exactly the reason I don’t obsess at getting the highest possible muzzle velocity and rather opt for best overall performance. From my perspective, these results indicate that the .22 PBAs in the Hunter Extreme might be the right combination for pest control on coyote out to 25 or 30 yards if head shots are taken. You’d get pass through on the skull and brain while opening a good size wound. A .25 caliber would be better. To test the rifle in the field, I carried it on several squirrel hunts and a jack rabbit shoot out west. The pellets I opted for hunting purposes were the JSB Jumbo Exacts as I wanted to generate maximum power and accuracy down range. While there is no way you can call the Hunter Extreme a target rifle, it will drop a pellet into the kill zone of a squirrel at forty yard without problem.
When I started hunting this rifle, the fall woods were still fairly dense with under growth, and I spent a lot of time carrying the gun at port while creeping through the underbrush listening for fox squirrels cutting in the trees above. This gun is heavy, but didn’t slow me down. A few weeks later while out in the Mojave Desert, where I hiked many miles per day after jackrabbits, it was more of an issue but not insurmountable. Again, if you want an extremely powerful springer it is going to have some heft to it. Another potential issue for some shooters (and in some applications) is the 55 lb cocking effort. While I have to admit the heavy cocking effort was a bit of a strain at the range, it was a non issue for me in the field. But this is a hunting gun, not a plinker or target gun, and for the 20 or so shots used on a day of hunting would not be difficult for most average sized shooters to cope with.
I was very happy with the terminal performance of the gun / ammo combination. A big desert jack hit with a chest shot at 60 yards would typically be knocked off its feet and anchored. And the accuracy obtained let me thread shots through the dense branches to drop squirrels from up high in the canopy. I found the stock design of the gun allowed it to be mounted and shot quickly and from almost any position. The only thing that would have made the gun better in the field is if I could have mounted a sling, but the bull barrel was too big for the barrel band swivels I could find.. I’ll get that worked out eventually.
So in the end what did I think about the Hunter Extreme? It is a very powerful springer that works well with heavy pellets, it offers good accuracy for hunting purposes, it is shootable, and the stock design helps mitigate the substantial recoil. The gun is heavy in weight and in cocking effort, but manageable I think for most hunters. In my hands the hunter Extreme proved a real game getter for small and medium sized quarry, and one of a handful of springers that I’d use for predator control in the right circumstance. I want to get this gun in .25 next, and think it would be an absolute sledgehammer