Monday, August 8, 2011

UMAREX Steel Storm

Just look at what 80 bucks can get you these days! The UMAREX Steel Storm is a fully automatic airgun (up to 6 shot burst fire) at a very attractive price point. It would seem UMAREX is trying to capitalize on the success of the Drozd by offering a similar product at about 1/3 the price. Well, that seems just fine to my wallet, but let's dig into the Steel Storm and see how it measures up against the competition.

Out-of-the-box impression: Okay, this thing does not feel as cheap as one might think. For 80 bucks I expected a housing barely better than those translucent water pistols we all shot at the cat's fart-hole back in the day... yea, you know you did it. Anyways- not bad: it could be heavier, but the housing does have weight to it, it is reasonably rigid, and the fit in my hand is pretty good. Maybe it's a little small, but what doesn't feel small to my lumberjack man-mitts? Integrated Picatinny rails on top AND bottom? No batteries to mess with? Already I like this more than the Drozd!

I'm holding the Steel Storm 30 seconds, and I can no longer resist the urge to shoot and destroy something. This speaks well of the airgun... or maybe it's just part of being a dude. "Mmmmmm f**k-s**t-up" spoken so eloquently by SoulFly is indeed ringing through my head as I reach for the CO2 cartridges. I pop the CO2 holder out of the handle using the 2 releases for the pistol grip's CO2 holder. One drops the gas unit far enough to disconnect it from the airgun internals, and the other keeps the gas unit from shooting out the bottom of your pistol grip if it was pressurized when you released it... slick.

TWO CO2 CARTRIDGES! The Drozd with only one cartridge would suck the gas and leave you limp just when the party started, but UMAREX steps up the game with double gas bulbs in the Steel Storm. Way to go guys! Lube and install both cartridges, snug one up, pierce the other, then pierce the first. You need to use the small included wrench to tighten the piercing screws, which I don't like, because I will eventually loose this thing. You'll need to make an effort to keep track of this sucker; don't drop it in the pine straw as you frantically reload gas in hot pursuit of a squirrel through the back yard. How many of those Crosman rotary mags have I lost?

Air Venturi Steel Storm CO2 Bulk-Fill AdapterAnd what is this? I see an affordable Steel Storm bulk CO2 adapter is available! So when I loose that stupid plastic wrench I can just replace it with a bulk gas system. Bonus!

Now load your BBs of choice. I have always used the Daisy silver BBs; the Crosman Copperheads do shoot slightly faster, but their coating quality is not nearly as consistent as Daisy's. So slide the front site rearward, and pour in a bunch of BBs into the hopper thingy atop the gun. It holds about 300. Now, you can't just blow through 300 BBs Predator-style, you have to load the internal magazine first and shoot 30 at a time. All you have to do is push this little side lever forward and maybe give it a shake to load the 30 BBs. Not bad guys and gals... way easier than loading the Drozd magazine.

So far so good. Safety ON, semi-mode, charge the cocking lever, aim at target, safety OFF, trigger. BAM! It actually has some recoil... and it's loud! Set to burst-mode: BRRRRRUP! The rate is a little fast, but this is FUN! It feels like the old T2 Judgement Day vibrating-gun arcade games. So it feels good to shoot, and I have already destroyed a coke can, but what kind of velocity are these steels a-stormin'? I'm measuring 420-430fps! That is respectable at this price point, and this is only about 100fps less than the Drozd (75% the velocity for 33% the cost ain't bad). Accuracy: good enough, but with no shoulder stock it is hard to hit targets past 20 yards.

To be honest, I'm actually impressed, and not at all let down like that first shot with the Drozd. I WANT to shoot this airgun, and for only 80 bucks, I could buy 2 of them plus ammo and CO2 for less than a Drozd. I think the biggest advantage the Steel Storm has over the Drozd (besides price) is that the gas input is separate from the ammo. As I discussed in that previous blog, to add a bulk gas system to the Drozd you must attach a hose to the magazine which holds the BBs. This means that your ammo magazine is now connected to your gun with a hose, and you must stop shooting to reload that one magazine. Having a second magazine loaded at the ready is not an option with a bulk gas Drozd. The Steel Storm takes that hassle completely out of the equation with its internal magazine... which is not only easier to load than the Drozd's, but also its operation is not hindered by a bulk gas addition. And with its upper and lower pic rails, lack of complicated electronics, availability of a bulk gas adapter, and even full-auto mods out there... the Steel Storm is a winner.

The only big negative I see in this airgun (keeping the price in mind) is the lack of a shoulder stock and the inability to easily add one. That would drastically improve the accuracy and allow you to use a red-dot site on that beautiful upper pic rail. Have you ever used a red dot on a pistol? It's darn near impossible to keep the dot in view. Actually, the best thing you could do without a stock is add a cheap laser to the bottom rail... or a bright flashlight for 'point and shoot' night fun... or both if you like to be audibly and visually obnoxious while you kill the neighborhood's rodents and drain batteries.

So how does this Steel Storm measure up to the Drozd? No contest, UMAREX set out to compete with the Drozd and they have absolutely made a better product for a lower price. Gotta love free enterprise! Now, is the Steel Storm as good as the GMG? No, it's not even in the same ballpark. But, for $80, the UMAREX Steel Storm is a hell of a lot of fun.