There were two bird seasons when I was a young teenager: grouse in the fall and starlings in the spring. The starlings would invade as soon as the weather started to turn, congregating in noisy flocks near the corncribs on my grandparents’ farm. My brother and I would hide out in the haymow, poking the muzzle of our shared 10-pump BB gun through the ventilation slots of the barn a scant 15 yards from the corncribs. As long as our iron-sighted aim was true—only head or neck shots guaranteed a kill—it was a deadly setup. We fed the carcasses to Grandpa’s rough-and-tumble coonhound, Highball, who crunched feathers and all with delight. Three or four birds in a sit was a good day for us, although now I realize we would have easily doubled the hungry Highball’s starling intake had we been shooting the type of air rifles currently on the market.
Starlings, squirrels and even larger game are well within the capabilities of today’s high-power air rifles, and hunting with these pellet guns seems to be enjoying a growth in popularity. Both fueling and responding to this trend, Gamo offers a number of models designed as much for the field as the firing line. One of the most powerful is the .22-caliber Whisper G2.
The Whisper G2 is a spring-piston, break-barrel air rifle: One downward stroke of the hinged barrel/cocking mechanism compresses a spring, which powers a piston. When the rifle is fired, the spring drives the piston forward within a compression chamber, forcing air through a narrow transfer port at high pressure and against the rear of the pellet to send the projectile out the bore. It’s an effective system that produces squirrel-slamming velocities, but it’s simple enough to keep the cost of many Gamo air rifles at about $250.
One drawback to conventional spring-piston air guns is recoil. For obvious reasons it’s not enough to cause discomfort, but the sudden stop of the piston at the end of the firing cycle is manifested in vibration at a level and duration great enough to affect accuracy. It can also damage riflescopes with the brutality of a big-bore magnum centerfire. Pronounced follow-through is the textbook solution to keeping spring-piston recoil from ruining a shot, but Gamo includes Turbo Stabilizing System technology in the Whisper G2 to help.
Sandwiched between the spring and piston is a pair of T-shaped bumpers. The tail of the front bumper includes a set of three O-rings and nests inside its counterpart. Together, the two bumpers act as a shock absorber to soften the stop of the piston and reduce vibration imparted to the shooter—certainly a benefit when taking shots at game from field positions.
Another feature air-rifle hunters will appreciate is the advancement that gives the Whisper its name. A sound-dampening chamber integral to the muzzle contains a series of baffles similar to a suppressor to quiet the report. While Gamo says the technology reduces noise by up to 52 percent, it’s a stretch to call the rifle “whisper” quiet. Still, the Whisper G2 makes less noise than a rimfire with subsonic loads, so unless your small-game rifle is outfitted with a bona fide suppressor and you’re shooting loads that don’t break the sound barrier, you’re not going to get much quieter. No hearing protection required.
The thumbhole-like synthetic stock includes a height-adjustable cheekpiece, a fitting complement (pardon the pun) to the 4X-32mm scope that comes with the rifle. Since the included rings position the center of the scope’s eyepiece about an inch above the receiver, raising the comb lets you get a solid cheek weld behind the optic. Bottomed out, the comb height is just right for aiming with the Whisper G2’s adjustable, fiber-optic sights.
A good trigger is as necessary for hunting with an air rifle as it is for shooting targets at extreme range with a precision centerfire. The margin for shooter-induced error is slim in both pursuits. Compared to a rimfire, the power produced by a .22-caliber air rifle is relatively low, which makes shot placement even more critical. Gamo puts its two-stage Smooth Action Trigger in the Whisper G2, and while the trigger in the test rifle broke at a pull weight of 3.75 pounds, it took me some time to get used to the amount of travel during the second stage. It forced me to apply slow, steady pressure, which probably wasn’t a bad thing.
Accuracy testing from the bench at 25 yards proved the Whisper G2 can readily place pellets within an area the size of a squirrel noggin, but I had to take steps to get that kind of performance. First, I replaced the 4X scope that came mounted on the rifle with a Vortex Viper after it was apparent the included optic would not retain its zero. Then I tried four Gamo pellets of varying weights and profiles before finding one that the rifle liked, much like narrowing down loads for a rimfire or centerfire.
With three of the pellets, most three-shot groups included a flyer that added as much as 1.5 inches to the group size. A fourth shot would cluster nicely with the two impacts that were on the mark. However, the Gamo PBA Platinum pellet was steady throughout testing, producing a five-group average of about 1 inch.
I was at a loss to explain the erratic flyers until I took a closer look at the pellets. A micrometer revealed the skirts of the non-lead PBA Platinum projectiles were much more uniform than the other three pellets, which most likely resulted in more consistent seating—and travel—in the bore. It seems the flyers can be blamed on the pellets, and the Whisper G2 with the right ammo is plenty accurate should your plans include a springtime starling shoot.
Type: spring-piston single-shot air rifle
Caliber: .177, .22 (tested)
Barrel: 18"; fluted, polymer-jacketed steel; 2 grooves, 1:18" RH twist; integral noise dampener
Trigger: two-stage, adjustable SAT; 3.75-lb. pull weight
Sights: red fiber-optic front, fully adjustable green fiber optic rear
Safety: 2-position lever in front of trigger
Stock: black synthetic thumbhole-style with adjustable cheekpiece; LOP 14"
Metal Finish: blued
Overall Length: 46"
Weight: 8 lbs.
Accessories: Gamo 4X-32mm scope, rings