Real world Airgun Reviews – "Facts not Fluff"

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Compasseco’s TechForce® Contender 89 Break Barrel Rifle, .22 Caliber and 3x12x40 AO Scope.

In the world of mediocre air guns it is a real joy to get my hands on a really excellent product. From the first shot, I knew this rifle had a lot to offer. But before I get into the review, let me say a quick word about Compasseco, the exclusive distributors of the TechForce® Contender series. Compasseco has invested a lot of time and money in producing high quality, yet cost conscience air guns. Yes their TechForce® line of guns are made in China, but under stringent quality control and continued high expectations from Compasseco and their customers. If it has the TechForce® name on it, it will be a high quality gun. Compasseco has worked very hard to make this a reality and we have all benefited from their efforts, whether we realize it or not. By them requiring better quality products, those factories are producing higher quality products overall. What’s more important is Compasseco’s dedication to their customers. They work to make sure you are satisfied with their products. Lastly, I want to personally thank Compasseco for their help in getting off the ground. They were the first vendor to agree to send us products to review and I’m thrilled to finally put their Contender 89 through the paces!

Right side view of the Contender 89 on my MTM shooting rest.

The first thing that I noticed when I pulled the Contender 89 from the box is just how large the rifle is. It is 46.5 inches long, and with the included scope, weighs nearly 10 pounds. This is a big gun and best used by adults. Compasseco sent the 89 matched with their TechForce® 3x12x44 AO scope and a set of high scope rings. The cost of this combo will run you about $269. At first glance, this rifle reminded me a lot of the Beeman GH950 that I have, but once the shooting started the comparisons stopped. The 89 shoots with a lot of force, nearly 800 FPS with RWS 14.5 grn. pellets and right at 800 FPS with Crosman Premier Hollow Point 14.3 grn. pellets. The 89 makes my GH950 feel like a pop gun by comparison. The “out of the box” accuracy was exceptional. I make my own targets and they have a 1/8″ black dot for a bulls-eye. It is an amazing thing to sit back at 20 yards, and with little effort on my part, drive pellet after pellet through nearly the same hole. Wait until you see the groups….

Left side view of the Contender 89 on my MTM shooting rest.

Now that you’ve got a quick overview of the rifle, let’s talk about some of the aesthetic qualities of the 89. First of all I noticed just how dark the wood stock was stained. It gives the rifle a nice warm look and the highly detailed checkering just adds to the look and functionality of the rifle. Another nice feature are the screw covers for the front of the barrel. They really add to the quality “fit and finish” of the 89.

Nice checkering for the grip

Again, nice checkering makes for a sure grip. Notice the screw cover at the front of the picture.

The 89 ships with a decent set of open sights, but I would have liked to have seen some fiber-optic inserts instead of just metal sights. In fact the sights are my only complaint about this rifle, and that needs to be put into perspective. I’m nearly certain that this next issue is unique to THIS gun and not typical of the Contender 89 line, but my 89’s rear sight had some lateral movement to the tune of about 1/16th of an inch. As you can expect ANY movement on fixed sights makes them basically unusable. I noticed that when I cocked the barrel the adjustment screw hit the wood stock. I’m not sure if this caused the problem, but if you look at the picture below, you can see the notch in the stock. Now to put this into perspective, the 89 is just itching to have a scope mounted on it. So I’m not sure how important the open sights are to begin with. I’m sure that Compasseco would replace the sight without question if I simply asked.

Rear sight, notice the little “notch” in the stock just ahead of the barrel joint.

Simple front site on the 89

Compasseco included their 3x12x44 AO scope for this evaluation. This scope is only an $80 upgrade when you purchase it with the rifle. The optics are very clear and getting your eye in the right spot for a clear picture is really easy, as this scope seems to be fairly forgiving. By contrast, the scope on my B26 is really picky and you have to be in JUST the right spot to get a good picture. The AO feature worked really well and the 12x magnification is a must with this rifle. Because of the power in the 89, you will find yourself taking shots that you may not otherwise take. For example we setup targets out to 60 yards and at that distance the 12x really helps. I would not call this next comment a “complaint” but rather a suggestion. With a rifle like the 89, that has such a long useful range, a mil-dot scope would be a real help for shooting at various distances. The optics in the TechForce® scope are really nice and clear, add a mil-dot reticule and you’ve got a deadly combination. As it sits, you’ll need to do a lot of shooting to get the right “hold over and hope” for various distances. Not that shooting this rifle a lot is a bad thing, I found that it was rather fun. And if you shoot it a lot, you can skip that trip to the Gym. I’m beginning to think that my wife has figured out a way for me to exercise. The 89 takes a fairly strong person to cock the gun. I’m not sure of the exact cocking force, but if I cock the 89 for a while and then switch to my Gamo 440, I about snap my 440 in half.

TechFoce 3x13x44 AO scope

All the pretty wood and checkering don’t amount to much if the gun can’t hit the target. That is most certainly NOT the case with the 89. Not only does it hit the target, it does it with a lot of force. Because of the weight I did not find the 89 that hold sensitive.  It does recoil a bit so this rifle has a noticeable kick to it. I had many people shoot this gun and they all shot it reasonably accurately. I found shooting this from my MTM shooting rest was the best way to go. I spent two full days on the range shooting several air guns. The Contender 89, BAM B40, and BAM B26 were all fun to shoot. As far as break barrel rifles go, the Contender 89 is by far my favorite. It is amazingly accurate and generates 800 FPS with the most accurate pellet, which turned out to be the Crosman Premier Hollow Point 14.3 grn. The RWS “Super” line of pellets were also decent, but the Crosman beat them out. Here are some tables for your review:

RWS Super Point 14.5 grn
High – 788, Low – 782, Average -784, Difference – 6 FPS

Crosman Premier Hollow Point 14.3 grn
High – 800, Low – 793, Average – 797, Difference – 7 FPS

As you can see, the Contender’s power plant produces good consistent velocity, contributing to its accuracy. Another important point about accuracy, and a topic of some of our most recent articles, deals with the trigger. The Contender’s trigger is a lot like my Beeman GH950. It is not like the Crosman or Gamo triggers. While it is not as smooth as the BAM B26 or BAM B40, it does not seem to hurt the shooting characteristics of the gun. It is a nice wide trigger with its own “checkering” and it has a positive release that is very predictable. It is not my favorite trigger, but it is a nice trigger for this gun. There is an adjustment for the trigger, but I did not find that it made that much of a difference. The safety system is automatic and engages each time you cock the rifle. I used to find this annoying, but I’m beginning to see why it is standard on many rifles. Safety is important. And on guns like these, they generate almost as much velocity as an actual firearm and safety is critical.

The Contender 89’s trigger guard and trigger.

Finally, we get to the good stuff. How did it shoot!!! As I mentioned above, I knew this rifle was going to shoot well. After I mounted the scope and got it basically sighted in, the 89 seemed to hit the target all on its own. By comparison, the Crosman 800x is fatiguing to shoot, when shooting for accuracy, (take into consideration it costs 1/2 as much), while the TechForce® Contender 89 takes little or no effort. Just put the crosshairs on the target and squeeze the trigger. The 89 will do the rest. During my shooting sessions with family in VT we shot at everything from paper targets at 10, 20, and 30 yards, to eggs at 60 yards. The Contender was up for any challenge. The most fun were the eggs. Boy did they go splat when they were hit head on. Here is a shot pattern from 30 yards using RWS Super Point pellets. I did not have a dime on me, so I used a quarter for comparison. I’m guessing that is at or less than .5″ c to c?

RWS Super Point pellets at 30 yards

I wanted to do more shooting in VT but the weather did not cooperate. I got this next grouping at 20 yards when shooting at my home range in SC.

Crosman Premier Hollow Point, 20 yards

That group says it all. I had been shooting for about 20 minutes with the RWS pellets when I decided to shoot the Crosman Premier HPs. When the first, second, and third shots went nearly in the same hole, I knew I had found the “magic bullet” for this particular rifle. I’m not sure how the hollow point will do at ranges beyond 20 yards, so I guess I’ll have to hold on to this Contender 89 for some “extended” testing! I don’t think the folks over at Compasseco will mind.

Ok, so let’s wrap this review up. The TechForce® Contender 89 starts at $189 and is available in either .177 or .22. I specifically asked for the .22 version because all the other reviews on the 89 were the .177. I like .22 caliber better and I like to be a little different from everyone else, so that is why most of the reviews you will read here will be on .22 caliber and above. Anyway, the Contender sells for $189 with open sights. In the realm of guns just under $200, the Contender has a lot of company, but not a lot of competition. This rifle is effortless to shoot, is extremely accurate, and generates 800 FPS in .22 caliber. Head shots at 30 and 40 yards should be easy with a good scope. Because of the weight, shooting without a rest will take some practice and patience, but I’ve got a tin can in a tree about 40 yards away with a lot of holes in it from this Contender, all shot from the shoulder. When choosing a scope for the 89, make sure you identify your shooting purpose. If you will always be shooting from a fixed distance, i.e. 20 yard range, then the TechForce® scope in this review is a great choice. If you are going to be using the 89 for hunting at all distances, consider something with a mil-dot reticule. Either way you go, you should set aside about $90 for a decent scope and mounts, putting your final cost at $279.00. If you look at the Beeman GH950 combo from Pyramid air selling at $269, the Contender is a hands down better deal. I want to thank the folks over at Compasseco again for allowing us to review this product. I look forward to bringing you more reviews on their entire TechForce® line.


Written By,
Rick Eutsler
Editor / Owner
Copyright 2007, Dog River Design, LLC – All Rights Reserved.

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