Stylish, ergonomic, easy to charge, and capable of minute-of-squirrel-head accuracy, the Swarm Viper 10X GEN3i air rifle may be the best bargain on the block
by Rob Reaser
I’m going to be completely honest (OK, we are always honest here at Shoot On, but I’m talking cross my fingers, hope to die honest). I have never pulled a break-action, sub-$300 air rifle out of the box, walked directly to the shooting bench, and not experienced some measure of frustration and/or disappointment.
Since I’m usually more focused on centerfire rifle accuracy, I’ve always had a tough time accepting the limitations of off-the-shelf, box store air rifles. Too often the kit scopes just aren’t up to snuff, the trigger action will be long and squishy, ergonomics aren’t quite there, and then there is the accuracy component. It usually takes a lot of load testing with pellets of various weights and profiles to find the one that ends up being “just satisfactory” to my mind. Not “Wow!” good, but more like, “Well, it is what it is.”
The first thing that struck me was the air rifle’s snazzy appearance. The black glass-filled polymer stock is elegantly accented by gray rubber insets along the buttstock, grip, and forearm.
Visually striking, these panels offer real function as well. One of the issues I’ve long had with most of the air rifles I’ve shot is that they were too slippery in the hand. Lacking the weight of a conventional steel barreled action long arm, the lighter weight of an air gun demands a bit more grit to manage—something that proves even more challenging when wearing gloves. The Swarm Viper, though, sticks tenaciously to your support hand and gives a solid purchase for your firing hand. The result is a gun that is easy to wield on the bench or in a field position.
A pronounced cheek pad, also made of the same rubber, not only offers a cheek weld that helps set the eye smartly behind the scope, but it is also comfortable for extended plinking adventures. Bearded folk will also appreciate that the cheek stays firmly planted against the stock rather than slipping and sliding around, as is often the case with slick polymer stocks.
The butt pad is standard equipment found across much of the Gamo air rifle line. It is thick, pliant, and I’ve not found it to create hot spots on the shoulder during long shooting sessions.
Another thing I like about the Swarm Viper is that the stock features a more conventional grip. All other Gamo air rifles in the Swarm series have either skeletonized stocks with integrated vertical grips or are a type of Monte Carlo stock and vertical grip hybrid. I’ve shot both styles with no complaints, but the more slender, angled grip of the Swarm Viper has that comfortable, worn-in-boot feel that, for me, offers the kind of tactile familiarity that aids in marksmanship.
The Swarm series hit the scene several years ago boasting Gamo’s 10X technology. This refers to the auto-loading, inertia-driven magazine system. As the name implies, the GEN3i is the third iteration of this 10-round autoloading system. Although I have never experienced any issues with the first- and second-generation 10X magazine systems, the GEN3i version does seem a bit sleeker and lower-profile than its predecessors.
One thing that is a notable improvement reveals itself during the magazine loading process. Prior 10X magazines required constant rotation pressure with your thumb and index finger to load the pellets. The GEN3i model has a lock mechanism similar to that found on an SD card. When engaged, the lock holds the magazine at the next empty pellet slot, making it easier to load.
One of the big “oh yeahs” I found with the Swarm Viper was its ease of cocking. I’m not sure what the engineers did to reduce the cocking effort compared to other Swarm models, but it is a big-time difference. I would have to cock my Swarm Magnum for my wife whenever we engaged in backyard walnut plinking. With the Swarm Viper, she can run it solo.
The hallmark of all Swarm series air guns is their fast loading. With the magazine loaded to its 10-pellet capacity (hence the 10X nomenclature), recharging the air rifle is as simple as breaking the barrel. When you reset the barrel, the next round is positioned in the breech. Inertia from firing the shot indexes the magazine and the next pellet is ready for loading when the action breaks. As with my past experience with the previous 10X iterations, the GEN3i performed without malfunction during testing.
Although I did not do a comparative dB test, the Swarm Viper seems notably quieter than all other Gamo Swarm models I’ve tested. My test model being chambered for .177 instead of .22 pellets, it should have been louder than my .22 caliber Swarms. Nevertheless, the gun seemed to run more quietly. Much of that is attributed to the Whisper Maxxim sound suppression system, Gamo’s mid-level noise suppression technology. This system comprises a dual-chamber suppressor and barrel shroud that does a remarkable job of managing and stifling noise expansion.
As with many of Gamo’s top-tier air rifles, the Swarm Viper includes the company’s Custom Action Trigger (CAT). This is a two-stage system that allows the shooter to adjust the travel length of both the first and second trigger stages for custom performance.
The safety is located fore of the trigger shoe. Push the safety lever forward to fire, back to return to safe.
The Swarm Viper comes with Gamo’s standard 3-9×40 air rifle scope along with ring mounts and the Recoil Reducing Rail to secure it to the receiver. This system uses a recoil lug and a polymer shock absorber to keep the scope solidly mounted and to absorb much of the recoil shock that is inherent with springer-type air rifles such as this.
Mounting the rail and scope took less than minute. Afterwards, I removed the forwardmost rubber inserts on the forearm to access the left and right action screws. This is something you should always check with an air rifle before sighting in to ensure everything is tight and you won’t find yourself chasing the zero. Once on the bench, the scope zeroed in just a few shots.
It was on the bench where the Swarm Viper held its big surprise. As usual with air rifle testing, I set up my MTM Case-Gard Jammit Target Stand and Target Backer in the back yard at 20 yards. For ammo, the only .177 pellets I had were some 7.4-grain pointed tips I got at Walmart a few years back — not a selection of high-end, fancy imports that serious air gunners would use for load testing. As such, my expectations for making ragged holes were not very high.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Swarm Viper absolutely crushed it. Shooting off my rolled-up shooting mat and contending with unpredictable 15mph crosswind gusts, the Swarm Viper sent the flyweight lead projectiles downrange with authority. Multiple 10-round groups averaging 1-inch proved that this air rifle was going to change my mind about break-action accuracy. While the .22-caliber Swarm Viper would be the best bet for small-game hunting, there is no doubt the .177 model will deliver all the umph needed for around-the-house pest control and hours of tin can fun and marksmanship practice in the back yard.