The Hercules XS-B18 Air Rifle

By Brad Troyer


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By and large the majority of airgunners here in the United States use their airguns for backyard plinking, hunting or pest control. A lot of the email I have received over the years is from airgunners looking to upgrade to adult model airgun. Most are looking for a powerful airgun that is accurate yet low cost.

For that reason I try to stay on top of what low cost airguns are available on the market. A relative new comer to the airgun community is the B21/SM1000 air rifle that is a copy of the Diana 48/52 action. While investigating the B21 on the Fun Supply website, I discovered that Xifeng Industrial (the Chinese manufacturer) also makes a break barrel rifle called the Hercules B18.

The B18 is a light weight, break barrel rifle with a nicely figured hardwood stock and decent trigger. The rifle has a parkerized finish (like on many military guns) rather than the more costly blueing. It comes standard with iron sights and the action has pretty short grooves for mounting a scope. The scope rail doesnít have an integral scope stop of any kind however.

An examination of the trigger unit made me suspect that it was a copy of the Gamo trigger. I removed the action from the rifle to inspect it further and found that the whole action is based on the Gamo 220/440/880 airguns, which shouldnít be surprising since the Gamo rifles are well made and reliable rifles with a proven track record.

After cleaning the stock bolts and reassembling the rifle, I proceeded to start the shooting and break-in of the rifle. I had hoped that the reproduction of the Gamo trigger had left out the milling on the lower sear that makes the trigger pull unnecessarily long, but alas, the B18 has the same long trigger pull.

This rifle arrived with plenty of extra lubricant in the compression chamber as it dieseled heavily for nearly 1000 rounds. For the first few shots of each days shooting session, the dieseling was so loud I had to wear hearing protection. It sounded like a .22 rimfire rifle rather than an airgun. It took a few weeks of steady shooting before the dieseling stopped and things smoothed out.

The trigger broke in nicely and I found it was actually smoother than the triggers on the two Gamo rifles that I own. It feels like the springs used on the trigger are a bit lighter that the Gamo rifles. Either way I found it more controllable and very acceptable for a backyard plinking or hunting rifle.

There is one adjustment to the trigger that pre-compresses the second stage travel of the lower sear, it doesnít change the travel of the trigger blade itself. The manual safety is located in the trigger guard right in front of the blade. The safety on the test rifle is a bit hard to apply but flicking it off with the trigger finger is pretty easy.

Being that this is an economy model the sights are a little less robust than most airguns. The front sight is hooded but is made completely from a plastic while the rear sight is composed of both plastic and metal parts. The test rifle arrived with the front hood broken along one side where it contacts the base. The front blade is a square target post while the rear sight uses a square notch. I found that the rear sight could use a bit more height adjustment as it ran out travel when trying to sight-in past 35 yards. Although the sights are less robust than others available on the market, they work fine and I didnít have any problems with them moving during my testing.

Cocking the rifle was a bit rough for the first couple hundred rounds but smoothed out significantly after it broke-in. The lock up of the barrel to the action was very positive and appeared to be rugged and tough The B18 is rated at 20 lbs of cocking effort which would explain why I found it easy to shoot for extended shooting sessions.

Like the Gamo rifles, the B18 is well balanced and fits nicely into the shoulder. The firing cycle is also typical of the Gamo rifles, plenty of vibration and noise. The spring if fairly twangy and there is a good bit of vibration because of it. However, with the proper hold the rifle shot pretty accurate groups.

I shot several pellets brands through the B18 during testing, most of which were pointed or hunting type pellets. Most of the pellets simply didnít shoot well in the rifle. I think that is more the pellets than the rifle though as I havenít had much luck shooting pointed pellets in higher powered airguns.

I fell back to my testing standard, the Crosman Premier 7.9 pellets. With them, the B18 averaged just under around ĺ" group at 35 yards from a bench with the smallest being 0.51". I think if Xifeng would modify the lower sear of the trigger and a minor tune it could do even better. From a field target shooting position I could hit a 2" square target at 50 yards without any difficulty using the Tasco 2-7x airgun scope that I mounted on the B18 for testing. I was pretty impressed at the performance of this inexpensive rifle.

The B18 advertises its velocity as 860 fps using 7.6 grain pellets. With Premiers it averaged in the lower 800 fps while it was still dieseling but once it broke-in it averaged around 780 fps. The rifle performed well with a standard deviation of 7.84 fps and an extreme spread of 26. Not bad for an $80 airgun!

Internally the B18 sports a high grade synthetic piston seal. Many of the Chinese rifles use the old fashion leather seals. I think this has a lot to do with the improved performance when compared to other Chinese brand air rifles.

The Hercules B18 was a surprising rifle. I generally havenít been impressed with other Chinese made rifles but this rifle performed and handled well while shooting accurately. The only compliant and suggestion I had is with the trigger, the lower sear need to be modified to remove the unnecessaryily long blade travel. Other than that I was pretty pleased with this rifle. The Chinese have found out one of the most guarded secrets in the airgun industry, which is, see what other airgun companies are doing and copy it (they are pretty good at doing that in all of their industries!) They did a good job of it with the B21/SM1000 and now they appear to have done it again with the B18.

Hercules XS-B18 Specs

Manufacturer Xifeng Industrial
Importer Xisico
Weight 6.5 lbs
Length 42"
Barrel Length 16.75"
Action break barrel
Stock Hardwood
Length of Pull 14.5"
Sights Iron, adjustable
Safety Manual
Trigger two stage adjustable
Rated Cocking Effort 20 lbs.
Rated velocity 860 in .177 w/ 7.6 gr., 710 in .22 w/ 14 gr.

 

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