By Paul N.
Some background on Chinese Air Rifles:
Many people have a negative view of anything made in China. Considering the past history of Chinese made products, much of this reputation has been well earned. However, things change, and nowhere is this more evident than in the evolution of the Chinese air rifle market, and the AR2000 Jet is an excellent example.
Shanghai Air Gun Factory has been making airguns for just about 55 years. In that time they’ve been responsible for a huge variety of air rifle models, with almost as much variety in their level of quality from model to model as well. For many years, the rifles turned out by SAG gathered a justified reputation for cheapness and poor to moderate performance. However, the last decade or so has seen SAG take a much stronger interest in bringing the quality of its offerings up to a level competitive with other airgun manufacturers. Particularly with their cloning of popular rifles such as the Crosman 160, SAG has managed to produce guns that very often hit the mark for performance that matches or exceeds the originals. This is of course not to say that SAG has finally achieved an overall quality level matching the above mentioned brands, only that they have come a long way indeed.
Having owned and or modified several Chinese rifles, most notably the B19, XS25 (RWS 34 clone), and XS28M (Diana 350 clone), I’ve come to get a feel for the current level of quality SAG has managed to reach. First and foremost, most of the rifles coming from SAG have at the least the potential to perform as well or better than many of the more “accepted” brands or the originals they copy. The fit and finish on internals is nearing the same level as that of brands such as RWS, and the materials now being used are several orders of magnitude better than they were they were as little as ten years ago. While it is still very much possible to get a lemon when purchasing a Chinese air rifle, there is a much better chance you’ll get a rifle that performs to expectations if not better. We can say the same about most other brands as well!
The fit and finish of SAG made rifles has likewise been improved by leaps and bounds, and it is not at all uncommon to receive a rifle that for all intents and purposes looks as good as many higher priced offerings. Again, this not to say that bluing and wood finish quality is fully on par with top tier brands, only that SAG guns are now looking respectable if not downright attractive in most cases. For the most part, the bottom line is that these Chinese airguns have truly become an excellent value for the money. Often costing half the price of rifles they copy, with performance that matches the originals and appearance that won’t embarrass, it is probably safe to say that the guns coming out of the SAG factory are now very much acceptable to even the more discerning shooter. Given time and continued efforts to improve, it’s likely that SAG will eventually rival the originals they’ve worked to emulate.
The AR2000 Jet Review:
With all of that said, and given my previous experience with SAG rifles, it was with a lot of eagerness that I accepted delivery of an SAG AR2000 Jet from Mike Melick. Before I go into all the details about this gun and how Mikes’s golden touch has worked to improve it, it’s important that I note this gun is a demo. As such, it’s been handled a little rougher, worked over a bit, and some of the work done on it has been geared more towards finding what works with this particular model than extracting the most performance possible. In other words, it’s got dings, some things could probably use more work, and the Jets Mike turns out after this one will probably reap the benefits of the testing he’s done on this mule. Regardless of this, the Mike Melick tuned AR2000 Jet I now have in my possession is nothing less than impressive. And it’s no clone of anyone else’s proven model to boot.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Jet is that it is a big rifle. It measures in at exactly 48 inches long, and the hardwood thumbhole stock is a substantial piece of wood. As will be expected with a rifle this big, it is heavy as well. Weighing in at 10 lbs, it’s no all day carry rifle. With an added scope, expect the AR2000 to weigh in the neighborhood of 11lbs. This one comes in at 10 lbs 10 oz with the basic scope I mounted for testing. However, although this rifle is heavy, it is very well balanced, which has the effect of making the gun seem lighter than it really is when pulled to the shoulder and surprisingly easy to shoot with offhand. Unlike the XS28M, (the most popular of the Chinese magnums), which feels nose heavy making a steady offhand aim a challenge, the Jet feels like it settles right in and will hold wherever you point it. You won’t be able to hold it on target all day, but for the several seconds it takes to make the shot, you’ll be able to line up the crosshairs fairly easily.
The stock is wide with a 1 ¾” cross section at the forearm and a 2” cross section at the cheek rest. From the bottom of the forearm rest to the top of the receiver the gun is 3 ¼” tall. As I said, this is a substantial stock. The thumbhole grip is ambidextrous and a good fit for an average sized mans’ hand. It holds comfortably when shouldered and there is no struggle to reach the trigger or safety release. Bigger guys should find it a good fit as well, but smaller folks might find themselves having to do a little shifting to get things just right. Releasing the safety is as easy as flicking your trigger finger forward, and the trigger fits right in the flat area before the crook of the finger.
The flat shelf on the forearm is well placed as the rifle seems to prefer being rested on the palm farther back nearer the trigger area. Better stability can be had by placing the palm a little farther ahead, but the most consistent shooting I achieved was with my palm farther back on the shelf, or with the gun rested nearer the rear of the shelf when benched.
The wood and finish on the stock is just plain attractive. Even though this particular Jet has cosmetic damage in the form of scratches from being handled a lot during tuning development, the grain, lines and finish are clearly above average. This is the best looking Chinese rifle in factory form that I’ve seen. It has a deep dark stain that still allows the grain to show well, and a pretty deep clearcoat that gives a nice shine without looking tacky. It’s not a perfect gloss, but not satiny either. The checkering is sharp and well defined, and in my opinion is some of the best on any chinese rifle. The rubber butt pad is pretty standard fare, and I would say something vented and made of softer rubber would be better suited to this rifle given its level of power and recoil.
The metal on the barrel is smooth and very well blued. It’s deep, with no obvious imperfections, banding or light spots. The receiver has a slightly rougher, more machined feeling surface, but is equally deeply blued and looks good with a coat of oil. The metal will not be mistaken for any German gun, but it won’t disappoint either. The barrel from where it meets the breech block to where it ends inside the front sight assembly is 14 1/2 “ long. From the loading port to the end is 19” long. The front sight is a fixed fiber optic and fitted with a metal guard that simply pops on and off. I found the guard interfered with the sight picture when using the scope and so simply popped it off, which cleared the problem up pretty well. The front sight is welded to a metal barrel brake that is small in size, and adds a nice aesthetic appearance with a heavy gloss black finish. The rear sight is fully micro-click adjustable and fiber optic as well. I found the sites to be unobtrusive and quite effective without any noticeable shifting or movement once dialed in.
The receiver is where it becomes obvious what the Jet is capable of. Once I got a good look at it, particularly when placed next to my Hatsan 125’s, it became clear where all the power is coming from. A lot of folks still think the Jet is just another version of the popular AR1000, and I can tell you unequivocally, it most certainly is not. The overall length of the Jets’ receiver from the end of the forks to the front of the rear receiver cap is 17 inches. The length from the transfer port to the end of the receiver is 15 1/4”. For comparison, the Hatsan 125, widely regarded as the most powerful springer available, has an overall receiver length of 17 ¼” and transfer port to end is 15 ½. And like the 125, the Jet has an inner receiver diameter of 29mm. The dimensions suggest 27+ FPE potential as with the 125’s, but without stroke length numbers I can’t be sure of the actual swept volume. Judging from the cocking stroke and the speed of the shot cycle, it does seem to have a short stroke. Suffice to say, it’s certainly big, and it moves some air quickly. It also, from examination of the piston and cocking assembly, seems to have some room for more indepth modification if someone were to decide to increase the stroke for example.
The Jet has a standard 11mm dovetail cut into the receiver, and comes with a one piece adapter/scope mount and clamp on scope stop. This set up has proven very stable, particularly so given the strong recoil of the Jet. Even though the cheap Beeman scope and rings I mounted are inadequate on a rifle like this, there has been no movement after 300+ rounds. The scope stop is a nice piece really, outfitted with a metal body and what seems to be a nylon bumper, and completely eliminates the chance of shearing off a simple stop screw.
The trigger on the jet is not the same as the “RS2” trigger commonly found on Beeman Dual Calibers, or the Tech Force 89, both of which are SAG AR1000’s. Their outward appearance is very similar what with the chromed waffle design trigger blade and front safety release lever, although the lever on the Jet is straight and the lever on the AR1000 bent. The trigger is decent, but somewhat tricky to adjust to a clean pull with a light break. Perhaps due to the very strong piston spring in the Jet or maybe the angle of the first stage adjustment screw relative to the sear, the first stage is heavy regardless of how it is adjusted. However, by setting the first stage close to breaking and shortening the second stage a great deal, it’s possible to produce a trigger with a fairly short but heavy first stage that stops positively at the second stage and breaks easily and very predictably. Mike Melick at Flying Dragon Air Rifles tuned this rifle, and while he was able to get the trigger to a very nice break, I found that the fit of the adjustment screws was such that they lost tension and came out of adjustment after about 100 rounds. Some blue locktite quickly cured this problem, and I’ve passed the information on to Mike so perhaps he can deal with the issue in his following Jet tunes. As I’ve noted, this is a test mule.
The cocking effort of the AR2000 jet is very stiff. I’d put it easily at 50 lbs after break in. The cocking stroke is fairly short, and breaking open the breech does not require a great deal of effort. The cocking cycle is very smooth, most likely thanks to attention from Mike, and the ball and detent lockup works quite well and provides a solid and positive close. After 300+ rounds the pivot has remained very smooth with no noticeable loosening, again probably a result of Mike’s lubing the working points with moly. The loading port has a very slight chamfer and is well centered, and a variety of pellets, including H/N Barracudas, Crow Magnums, Crosman Premier Domed and Hollow Point, Air Arms Field Heavy, and JSB Monsters loaded easily. In fact, some, like the Air Arms and JSB’s loaded too easily, and this loose fit showed itself on the chronograph as lower than expected FPS and FPE numbers and at the target as poor accuracy. The Crosman’s and H/N’s fit with a distinctly tighter fit and provided some of the best performance as well, which tells me this particular rifle prefers a pellet with a tighter fit. I’ll be trying a wider variety of pellets in the near future as I don’t feel as though I have found the ones to bring out this guns full accuracy potential just yet. The breech seal is a beefy unit and looks like it should provide a very nice seal for quite some time before needing any attention.
The shot cycle is amazingly fast and smooth with this Mike Melick tuned Jet. There is no spring twang, and the recoil is less than would be expected from a rifle with a 50 lbs cocking effort. This is again probably due to a short stroke which allows a fast cycle and less buildup of piston momentum. There is no discernible piston slam or bounce, and recoil while heavy is certainly manageable. Despite the size, weight, and cocking effort, shooting the Jet is really enjoyable and you end up wanting to empty a full tin before you put the gun down.
To be Continued……
Due to length we’ve broken this review into two parts. Part two will be posted within the next few days and will contain chrony and accuracy testing results as well as a bit of explanation as to what makes the Flying Dragon tuned Jet different from the stock version.
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