PLEASE note that the opinions expressed here are my own personal opinions.
Also, that what is written here applies to ONE rifle, other specimens may behave better, or worse.
Extra care was put in NOT voding the warranty of the gun for the reasons that will be obvious once you read the article, so this entry is somewhat atypical for this blog in the sense that no alteration to the gun was made, or even tried.
Having said that, let's get on with the write-up.
A bit of history
As a matter of fact, Sig Sauer hired a headhunter to look for a technical person to take charge of the airgun side, don't ask me how I know ;-) .
Now, Sig-Sauer is part of L&O group (Luke & Orteiler), which is a powerful group within the German industry. With two basic "branches": non-woven textiles and weapons.
We have already discussed a little of this in a previous entry, so I won't repeat it again.
A few months before, L&O group had decided to purchase DIANA through the majority owned subsidiary GSG, so, the ASP20 project took a special turn.
It was important for the Sig-Sauer management to make the ASP20 a totally American project. And so, everything was designed from scratch.
As such, it is the first American designed piston airgun in MANY years.
Some may remember the failed Sterling venture, but that design was a joint English-American design and the idea was to produce the airguns on both countries. When Sterling Armament (UK) folded, the whole project was moved to Wisconsin, USA. Some airguns were built, but not a lot, and the project failed altogether.
The current Sterling Armament company tried another airgun design a few years ago, but it failed again.
All above is to illustrate how complicated and difficult it is to bring a new piston airgun to the market.
PCP's are easy, it's only high level plumbing. And you can realize how true that statement is when you note that 15 years ago you could count with the fingers of one hand the serious, solid, industrially made PCP brands and, of those, the majority were dedicated to Olympic Match airguns.
Now a days, you don't have enough fingers/toes in your body to count the number of companies making PCP's.
A lot has to do with the market: "We the people" like things that are not that complicated. So, there is a preference for PCP's; that drives the demand, that drives the creation of new models, companies and brands.
The ASP20 was announced almost three years ago, I saw the first prototype (part of the "run of 10's") at 2018 IWA (8th picture down from top on the above referenced entry). At first sight it was a completely foreign object to a traditional airgunner.
The stock didn't make sense, the scope rail was a picatinny not a dovetail, the gun was LONG, even longer than the DIANA 350 (and THAT is saying something!), after a few years of coming out with short, light, special production airguns, to ME, it was a trainwreck waiting to happen.
So, we waited for a year, but no production models were available.
Reviews went out as a result of the invitation to the official unveiling in NH in April 2018, of those reviews, the most informative is Stephen Archer's
And another year passed, and still only first specimens from the "run of 100's" went around to established writers/reviewers/u-tubers/press.
We started seeing articles in HAM, Websites, u-tube, and the Fora. I am only linking those I think are really useful, original, and truthful.
The HAM one is particularly interesting to me because the tester was my friend Eric Brewer. And I know he can shoot. ;-) He is a regular placer and oftentimes winner in his Division of FT (Hunter) and he has the same passion as I do for piston airguns.
I will not repeat all the descriptions and detailed analyses that these fine gentlemen have done for you, so, please read and/or watch them.
Now, where did the ASP20 that is being tested here came from?
It was a prize.
No gift from the manufacturer to a writer, in order to elicit good press.
No "perk" to a writer to get a review.
I placed 3rd at the Pyramyd Air Cup and when my time came to choose, I chose the ASP20
In here I have to thank Pyramyd for the whole Cup, an Sig-Sauer for supporting that effort; THANKS!
Life has kept me busy since the PAC, but now I can share a few insights with you all.
As you can see, out of the bag and with the Whiskey scope, the rig weighs in at 9# 13oz
If you want a detailed description of the running in process I have settled in after almost 20 years of airgunsmithing, you can read it here. It is important to mention in a gun of this power, to ALWAYS start the running in with the heaviest pellet you can find that will not overstress the rifle. That will prevent dieseling, carbon deposits from forming in the mechanism and barrel, and will prevent undue wear and tear in the parts before they have had the time to "mate into each other". You do not need to do this in piston airguns of around 12 ft-lbs, but for high power airguns, this is a must.
Testing pellets for accuracy
The H&N Baracuda Hunter, and the Baracuda Hunter Extreme proved to be "inefficient" in the barrel , as they required 5 mrads of additional holdover as opposed to the JSB's.
The Sniper Magnum and the Sniper Lilght proved to be more efficient, but the grouping is not as good, DO NOTE that there MIGHT be a chance that, with the right lubrication, the Sniper Lights might make an excellent pellet (different from the prospective buyer instructions), but in the interim of getting the prize and running these tests, the rifle had been spoken for, and the objective of the new prospective owner was not an FT gun, but a Metallic Silhouette gun. Under those conditions, it is far wiser to use the heaviest pellet that shoots well, as hitting the 1/10th scale rams at 50 meters (Mexican Rules) shoting offhand with no jacket, nor other aids, is hard in the wind.
For the sake of illustration, I shot a silhouette card with results that are as good as with my match guns, meaning that if I did not make any mistakes, the rifle can shoot a perfect score in ideal conditions.
A look into the rifle-market fit
What makes the ASP20 an airgun for powderburners?
IMHO, two things:
a) Emphasis is placed on energy delivered, not on accuracy.- Not saying the guns are not accurate, they can be, but, as an airgunner, apart from searching the "magic pellet", you cannot do anything about it.
The gun you get either is, or it isn't.
b) Self-Service is not an option.- In the world of firearm shooters, there are relatively few (in comparison with the overall number of firearm owners) with the wherewithal to tackle a problem in the accuracy department of a powderburning rifle. You can load your own ammo, and tailor the ammo to the gun, but very few can embark on a rebarreling job, a bolt blue-printing, a refacing of the bolt, a re-chambering of the barrel, the installation of a harmonics tuner, or any other major accuracy-related surgery.
IMHO, this is the single GREAT insight of the Volquartsen/Ruger 10/22 combination.
Because of these two reasons I believe the ASP20 is dedicated to Powderburners.
No parts are, nor will be, available.
No diagrams, exploded drawings, or explanations of function.
The gun is what it is. It has a great warranty for the first 5 years/original owner. If you are not satisfied, you can return the gun and get it serviced/replaced/changed, but Sig Sauer has decided that ANYTHING beyond adjusting the trigger as outlined in the owners manual, voids the warranty.
Not many airgunners are done with an airgun at year 5, ¿And then?
Airgunners are different from Powderburners. We want to be able to get inside our airguns and change springs; add, or remove top-hats and sleeves; cut coils, add spacers; and try different lubricants and seals; and of course, we know that we need to find the "magic pellet" that will shoot tiny groups at whatever distance interests us.
Experienced airgunners know that a well taken care of airgun will last many DECADES. It's part of the appeal.
Dedicated Airgunners shoot tens of thousands of pellets a year, and TRULY DEVOTED piston airgunners will do that through a SINGLE GUN.
¿Why? because if you want to be truly proficient with a piston gun you need to adapt to it. You need to "become one with the gun".
Piston guns are quasi-organic entities that have their own personality and soul. You either learn to live with, and love it, or you're better off getting a PCP.
Firearms shooters like to have a special rifle for every occasion. Otherwise, ¿How can you explain the "rift" between the 6.5/0.264, the 0.270" and the 7 mm's shooters?
Beyond all the hype of "Creedmoor" and "PRC", the ballistics of those cartridges are as old as the 6.5X57 Vom-Hoffe, or the 6.5X68 Schuler/RWS (1930's)
And we do have to admit that there is an element of marketing in all the distinctions made in the press.
These feuds are "surreal" because the difference is 0.006" - 0.007" in the calber, AND they are not working at the lowest energy level possible, like airguns.
BUT, this is the market that Sig-Sauer knows, the market where the "latest and greatest" commands a premium.
Want to buy a top-notch German bolt-action rifle? the SAME gun will cost between 15% and 30% MORE chambered in 6.5 PRC than in 6.5X68, and the 6.5X68 is a much more capable (meaning that you can upload and download it to a wider range of performances) cartridge.
So, Sig-Sauer is aiming (pun intended) directly at this market.
On the good side, the ASP20's dedication to the powderburners has also brought a rifle that is easier to use than traditional spring-piston airguns.
It benches well, and it accepts (even flourishes), with a relatively tight hold. It swings well and comes to aim in a natural way.
The ASP20 is designed to be "maintenance free" within the usage expected of this market, maybe a few hundred, up to a thousand, rounds a year.
Sig-Sauer's highly touted tests (read above quoted Stephen Archer's review) run up to 20,000 operations of the breechblock/fork assembly.
For me, that is less than a year's worth of shots.
On the aesthetic side, its stock replicates, as much as possible the firearm version, just compare them:
I had a good Email exchange with the two persons that would be most interested in increasing the appeal of the gun: The PR person in charge of all press releases/media and, therefore, the one that gets most of the feedback from shooters/testers/writers; and the head of Engineering.
We had a good, open and frank discussion, I've known both for some time and respect deeply their knowledge base and their human qualities, but they are tied to the overall strategy and when I asked if they would be interested in creating a "variant" for AAFTA FT (875 fps with good, 0.177" pellets), the response was a resounding and deafening silence.
As it is generally put in the press: "Sig-Sauer has not returned a comment up to this time"
I'll come across them at IWA 2020 and we'll have a good exchange again, let's see how the sales numbers do, if they do well, then it's logical that they will keep to the strategy, if they don't then we'll have a chance to press the point again.
Overall, I do wish Sig-Sauer a GREAT success with the strategy and the market aims.
IF they are successful (again I really wish they will be), it will mean a lot more airgunners in the world.
With more and more states and counties opening some hunting to airguns (apart from pesting), the advent of the ASP20 should open the eyes of some firearms owners that an "adult airgun" is not a toy, it is a highly specialized and useful tool in the modern day and age when urban sprawl is encroaching on everything, but the "ecosystem", as a whole, is adapting to human presence VERY WELL.
We now have cities with established coyote populations and soon we will have black bears, for sure.
In my own sub-urban sprawl we have fox, raccoon, badger, deer, woodchuck, squirrel, crow and a lot of other animals, not always of the desirable inclination.
The ASP20 is a hunting-accurate rifle for small and medium size game (no deer, nor bears, LOL!), no doubt.
In a few months, we'll know if it is also a silhouette-usable rifle, and we'll also have some detailed harmonics measurements to discuss.
¿Would I buy one?
Not really, on a personal level I would prefer a properly set-up D-54.
With the right components, the D54 is capable of almost the same ME with 18 grs. pellets (22.8 ft-lbs of the 54, vs. 23.6 ft-lbs in the ASP20) and the level of precision/accuracy is just a little bit better.
What makes the difference is that the 54 is a much more SHOOTABLE gun.
BUT, that is just me. YMMV.
And the plastic trigger?
Well, let's just say that with judicious adjustments, I got the trigger down to 1#13 oz., a far cry from the "factory" 2# 8 oz.
Hope you have enjoyed this writeup, it was a very different POV for me, when I was tied to not having any spare parts nor diagrams but, in the end, I think the ASP 20 can be a very positive contribution to the sport.
Keep well and shoot straight!