BAM B-26 – Weapons Grade Fun
BAM B-26 .177
Writer / Contributor www.AirGunWeb.com
Okay, not to come off as some sort of European snob, but I’ve always wanted a Beeman Precision Airgun product. Visions of R1s, R11s, Crow Magnums, and “Rekord” triggers have floated through my dreams for better than fifteen years now. Unfortunately, my discretionary income has seemed to perpetually tail Beeman’s price increases over the years. I’m not saying they don’t deserve what they charge, just that I’ve never been able to afford one yet. Until now. That might sound like a a load of bull manure, but believe me, once you’ve tried the B26 air rifle from BAM (Xisico USA) visions of European supremacy quickly begin to fade from your mind. Can a Chinese-made air rifle be this good?
First, don’t be scared off by the orange-looking photos online; it’s actually a nice combination of tan and light brown. The streaks in the grain are quite attractive. The lighter hue is a satin finish and if there are any flaws or wavy areas in the woodwork, we couldn’t find them. A generous rubber butt-pad graces the end of the Monte Carlo combed stock, and you’ll find it necessary when you fire it. The bluing on the barrel and chamber/receiver is excellent and even all over. Wherever metal edges meet, there’s hardly a visible gap to be found. This sort of precision assembly has long been the mark of the Europeans who seem to feel it’s their life purpose to create flawless forms from metal. The BAM factory is reputedly one which has manufactured rifles for the Chinese military, and to judge by the grade of metal and assembly found on the B-26, this may indeed be fact. Where most springers are content to have a stamped steel cocking arm, this one’s made of machined steel, and has an articulated joint in the middle, so that the slot in the bottom of the wood stock can be much shorter. There’s a synthetic seal glued into a groove on the breach. The trigger is an aluminum blade, attached to a replica of the famed Weirauch “Rekord” match trigger. It’s a four-sear assembly with adjustments out the ying-yang, which means it’s also easy to screw up. There are plenty of online tutorials available if you wish to customize the feel of this piece so we won’t cover the fine points here. Suffice it to say that it’s exceptionally-smooth straight from the factory. This is a part of a minor bone of contention, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The main trigger spring screw can be accessed through a hole in the trigger guard, but if you set it to “feather touch” the screw will back all the way out from the vibration. Replacement parts are available from BAM, but losing a screw in the woods sure would ruin a nice day of hunting.
Cocking is a stiff but long sweep of the barrel almost all the way back to the knurled metal trigger guard. It may be only 28 lbs of force, but you have to keep it up for quite a distance! There’s a big spring in there which can drive lighter pellets over 1000 feet per second. It’s definitely the “velocity king” in my small arsenal (as my wife calls it) in my garage at the moment. While I don’t have the exact figures for this tested rifle, I think Rick might have some laying around to satisfy the bench testers in the crowd. I’ll go out on a limb and say that an honest 925 fps is probably a realistic number with middle-of-the-road pellets. It’s a noticeable measure faster than the TF-89 .22 we tested, and the TF-59 .177 (even shooting lighter pellets in that rifle). The scope rails are grooved into the top of the spring chamber and are precisely machined just like the ones on the tip of the barrel. Three scope stop holes are drilled back by the stout, tight-fitting chamber mounted safety. This rifle does reset all of the sears and the safety every time it’s cocked. With that big safety at the rear locking the piston release sear, we don’t see the accidental drop or bump setting this one off ever. Partially pulling the trigger, then backing off does appear to allow the sears to reset, though we haven’t confirmed this by removing the unit and testing it. Taking up the trigger a second time still moves all of the sears right up to the point of release. When you’ve been practicing on cheaper triggers, then are suddenly exposed to this unit, you WILL over-pull the first shot or two accidentally. Every time. Period. It is that much different in feel.
Beeman has always described the R9 as an exceptional all-around rifle, perfect for hunting, with a short lock action to aid accuracy. The B-26 appears to share this trait when fired. It has a quick, violent, vibration-free firing cycle. If you don’t have the stock placed firmly against your shoulder, this one will kick you hard enough to leave a mark. You won’t forget that many times! With a Crosman Centerpoint 3x9x40 scope on it the weight’s a manageable nine and a half pounds. This is comparable to the 3.75” longer TF-89. The weight feels centralized around the middle of the stock and there’s no muzzle brake covering the barrel crown. There is, however, a very nice front sight which mounts to grooves in the barrel. The front and rear sights have fiber optic Dayglo Green pieces in them, but truthfully we’d prefer it if BAM saved the money and skipped these completely. Toss them in the tackle box full of empty pellet tins, mount up a nice scope, and you’ll never look back! In this price range (around $190 from most retailers) these details become more commonplace… among the European-built rifles. Dayglo or not, no one goes hunting with the open sights when they can have 9 or 12x magnification for under $100 with mounts. Better scopes are available too, but as I demonstrated to my neighbors, as long as you can see it through the scope, the B-26 will put a pellet through it!
This isn’t to say the rifle’s not without flaws. There are a couple flies in the ointment. First, the trigger arrived with no distinction between the first and second stage, making it unnervingly-smooth but leaving the shooter unable to tell when it’s about to fire. Jumping from the straight-shooting Tech Force Contender TF-89 to the B-26 would invariably surprise my trigger finger! This even after reminding myself repeatedly to “watch that trigger”! Mike over at Flying Dragon Air Rifles has a tuning service for his B-26 customers, and part of that includes setting the tricky four-sear “Rekord” trigger up for correct operation, something I believe the Chinese haven’t mastered yet. I finally set the trigger up to require a stronger pull, finding it easier to control the point of aim that way.
The main issue I have with this rifle is the stock though. Ideally, the distance from the “pistol grip” to the trigger should be a comfortable, easy reach. I have very large hands, and I found the angles and distances to be daunting! The trigger sits straight up and down, so its motion is straight back. The angle your hand is forced to mimic in order to align with the stock just doesn’t permit the trigger to be pulled straight back. In essence, the angle forces your fingertip to slide along the trigger’s smooth surface, pulling it awkwardly in order to get the trigger to release. Why is this important anyway? Springers are supposed to like a loose hold, right? Keep reading.
The second stock flaw is that the bottom of the stock is very rounded. You CAN cradle it in your hand, but that’s about the only comfortable way to hold it. If it rests on anything else then it wants to tilt. If you have a sizeable scope perched on those rails it becomes extremely “tippy”. So how do you keep it from rolling over? Grip it with your trigger hand. See the problem now? If you do that, your trigger finger isn’t in an optimal position for that Rekord trigger. I’ve never held a Beeman R9, but the overall shape from the photos is very similar. Only someone who actually has spent the $600 (current pricing) needed to obtain one can say for certain whether these issues apply to the original model. As closely as it looks to an R9 I feel it’s likely that even the Beeman would disappoint me in these areas. Match up a great field target stock design to this wonderful B26 action, and the result would likely be an outstanding product! Evidently, someone at BAM was thinking the same thing, as there’s a “thumbhole stock” variant available. While really this is only a reworked stock from the trigger back, there’s a substantial change to the trigger-to-grip relationship which could possibly relieve the hand strain I was feeling during an several hours long shooting session.
We found one pellet to be the B-26’s favorite food, the Crosman Premier Hollow Point. Heavier and longer pellets like the RWS SuperDome and Crosman Premier Rounded Dome all roughly grouped within an inch at 20 yards from our test bench but we didn’t nail down one hole groups until we switched to the HP. We have to give a hearty thanks to Mike from Flying Dragon for the advice to “grip it firmly and try the HP pellets”. Perhaps it’s the quick lock cycle or the powerful spring, but leaving this rifle loosely held causes the groups to open up. It’s counter-intuitive to traditional springer thinking. With trying to make sure you’ve go the grip just right, the long, time-consuming stroke, and the funky stretch to the trigger, it was actually more tiring to shoot accurately than the bigger, harder-to-cock TF-89.
The B-26 is great rifle. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. Beautiful in its proportions with a full-size stock and comb. The quality of the machining, woodworking, and fit and finish just embarrasses the competition, dollar for dollar. This is the first air rifle I’ve held below $600 dollars which feels indestructible. Not to pull any punches, but it politely places the other Tech Force rifles, the Spanish-built Gamo rifles, and the Turkish or other Eastern European offerings on notice that they’d better step up their manufacturing quality if they want to compete. I personally paid for this rifle in order to have my own “benchmark“ trigger and accuracy, yet I found myself reaching more for the TF-89 .22 when I wanted to knock consistent half-inch holes through the bottom of soda cans. There’s the rub I have with the B-26. It’s strong-shooting and accurate, but there are other just-as-accurate rifles which are a bit more relaxing to shoot. I rate this one “Weapons-grade fun” as it’ll reward the consummate perfectionist with reliable performance for years to come. Bring your A-game though because the B-26 won’t accept anything less than YOUR best performance too!
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