Mat Manning heads out onto the garden range for some serious fun-gunning with the AirForceOne Tornado N-RAM
Distributor: The Shooting Party
Model: Tornado N-RAM
Type: Break-barrel gas-ram pistol
Calibre: .177 (tested) and .22
Overall Length: 458mm
Weight: 1.46kg (unscoped)
Safety: Manual, resettable
When it comes to enjoying the pure simplicity of airguns, backyard plinking really does take some beating – and the new Tornado N-RAM pistol from AirForceOne seems to have been designed with that job in mind.
Affordable, robust and surprisingly powerful for its size, this is an airgun that promises many happy hours of fun-gunning on the garden range – something that countless shooters will no doubt be turning their attention to as the evenings gradually stretch out over the coming weeks.
Straight out of the box, the Tornado N-RAM immediately comes across as a robust pistol that’s going to stand up to heavy use. It feels extremely solid in the hand and, much to my delight, there are no concerning rattles or clanks when you give it a shake – an extremely unscientific test, I know, but it’s a habit I’ve picked up while testing spring and gas-ram airguns.
At 458mm long, it is a relatively large pistol and, tipping the scales at just shy of 1.5kg, it’s also no lightweight. I wouldn’t describe it as a noticeably heavy pistol, though – it’s just reassuringly sturdy.
The Tornado is a pistol that really does need to be shot two-handed, and that is very much assisted by its sculpted hardwood stock. Profiled with curvy lines and varnish-finished, it’s kind on the eye and also very functional. The thoughtfully designed ambidextrous grips are sculpted to comfortably cradle adult-sized hands, and three panels of chequering on either side ensure a secure purchase.
Engineering appears to be tidy throughout, and the metalwork has a neat and even black finish. The Tornado’s aesthetics are further enhanced by a chunky sleeve at the front of the barrel. Apart from looking very purposeful, the grooved shroud also houses the foresight element and serves as a sound suppressor and cocking aid – more about that later.
SIGHTING AND SHOOTING
The foresight is a red fibre-optic element. Barrel-mounted foresights are notoriously vulnerable: I’ve seen many knocked off centre or smashed completely free from the gun by careless handling. That’s not going to happen with the Tornado, because the fibre-optic aiming point sits safely between two raised walls that make up part of the barrel sleeve.
Sat at the very rear of the cylinder is the rear sight, which comprises two green fibre-optic elements. Line up the red foresight dot between the two green ones, then place it just below your target and you’re on for the shot. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation to ensure correct zeroing. You need a small screwdriver to make elevation adjustments (clockwise for up and anti-clockwise for down) but windage can quickly be tweaked (clockwise for right and anti-clockwise for left) by means of small dial on the right-hand side. The dial turns smoothly, and with clear stops.
Dovetail rails machined into the top of the cylinder mean this pistol can be fitted with a scope via 9/11mm mounts. The PAO Topaz Long Eye Relief Scope, also available from AirForceOne distributor The Shooting Party, is made specifically for pistol use and should be a good match.
The N-RAM in the Tornado’s name refers to its ‘Nitrogen-Ram’ gas-ram powerplant. Gas-rams are known to produce faster lock times than conventional mainsprings, and the Tornado’s firing cycle certainly feels quick. It’s also pretty smooth and doesn’t feel half as snappy as a lot of gas-rams I’ve used.
Apart from being quick, the N-RAM’s firing cycle is also pretty punchy. The pistol is available in .177 and .22 calibre, and the .177 test gun was producing around 5.3ft-lb, which is close enough to the 6ft-lb UK legal limit for my liking.
Being quite powerful, this pistol does take a fair amount of effort to cock, but it is an adult-sized gun and the strain shouldn’t feel excessive to adult-sized shooters. It is a smooth stroke, and the deep grooves along the barrel sleeve really help by providing a very secure hold.
There’s a distinct click as the piston locks into the position at the end of the cocking stroke; then it’s simply a matter of loading up by thumbing a pellet straight into the breech. Snap the barrel back up into the closed position, where it’s held in place by what feels like a very secure retaining system, and it’s ready to shoot.
The Tornado’s trigger is a two-stage unit. While I would have preferred a metal blade to a plastic one, I will concede that its shape is very good for a plinking pistol. Its wide, flat face provides plenty of contact to spread the load, and its distinct curve gives a decent amount of feel.
In practice, the first stage is fairly light and short and the second stage is quite heavy. I don’t have a problem with its substantial pull-weight though – the last thing you want on a plinking pistol is a hair-trigger. Apart from being weighty, the second stage on the test gun also had a noticeable degree of creep to it. It wasn’t unpredictable, though, and I was soon able to pre-empt its break-point.
A button-type safety catch sits just above and behind the trigger blade – perfectly positioned for fast and reliable operation with thumb and index finger. Click it in from the left and the gun is safe; snap it back from the right and the pistol is ready to shoot. It’s a manual setup, and AirForceOne recommends pushing it into the safe position before cocking, which I think is very sound advice.
HANDLING AND PERFORMANCE
The combination of comfortably profiled grips and a decent bit of weight ensure that the AirForce One Tornado stays on aim as you line up on your target and pull through the trigger. It’s a well-balanced pistol, and comes on aim very naturally.
If I could change anything about the sighting system, I’d make the rear-sight notch narrower and have the green elements closer together, as the current setup allows the foresight to wave between the rear elements when it appears to be lined up. I soon got used to it, though, and just had to remind myself to not just place it between the two rear elements, but also to ensure that it was in the dead centre of the notch.
The cocking stroke soon became second nature, and I certainly wouldn’t describe it as fatiguing. As gas-rams go, perceivable recoil from the firing cycle was very smooth and the SuppressedAIR baffling system inside the barrel sleeve did an impressive job of stifling muzzle crack. Use a padded backstop to muffle the sound of pellets hitting home while shooting paper targets, and backyard plinking sessions are unlikely to irritate your neighbours.
Pellet-fussiness is nothing unusual, and the Tornado really does need to be combined with ammo that suits it in order to extract full accuracy potential from its rifled steel barrel. My initial tests with normally reliable domed pellets, including Air Arms Diabolo Field and RWS Superdomes, yielded accuracy results that were disappointing to say the least.
I’m not usually a fan of pointed pellets, but RWS Superpoints performed very well through the Tornado’s barrel. Shooting rested, I was able to print 35mm groups at 15m. Freehand performance was almost as good, and tin-toppling (or more specifically tin-ragging, thanks to the N-RAM’s substantial power output) was an absolute cinch at the same range. Those results were achieved using open sights, and was able to further improve my grouping by switching to a scope – especially when the initial dieseling had calmed down.
Once I was on the right kind of ammunition, the Tornado N-RAM proved to be great fun to shoot. It really does make mincemeat of tin cans, and it’s also got plenty of punch to flatten your knockdown targets over sensible ranges.
At £119.99 it’s not particularly cheap, but I think its price tag still keeps it firmly at the affordable end of the air pistol market. It’s an ideal garden gun, and its rugged build quality should ensure hundreds of hours of happy plinking.
PAO 2×20 Pistol Scope
While open sights are arguably the purest way to shoot a pistol, more accuracy can be squeezed from your handgun if you use a scope. This fixed 2×20 optic offers minimal magnification – which means reduced wobble.
PAO Topaz 1×30 Red/Green Dot Sight
Dot sights were developed for the military to provide quick target acquisition – and there’s no reason why you can’t let rip on your spinners, knockdowns and tin cans in the same way.
PAO Topaz Airgunner’s Laser Sight Set
A laser can be a fantastic tool to check your range when it’s been co-witnessed with a telescopic sight – but lasers are also superb fun when used as a sighting system in their own right.
Look & Feel: 8
Build Quality: 8
“The AirForceOne Tornado N-RAM is a solidly-built plinking pistol that should last for years. Equipped with an integral sound suppressor and a gas-ram powerplant that’s smooth to cock and shoot, it packs a serious punch without making a racket”