I've had this gun for about half a year now, and it has only gotten better since I bought it.
When I first saw this gun at the store it seemed so small and meant for a child that I didn't even think about buying it. But then I saw pictures of hunters sporting their 397's and 392's with successful kills and the rifle grew on me. It looked more like a no-nonsense rifle, classically styled and rugged. It is short, but utilizes a barrel over 19 inches long. It is heavy, but not overly so. The stock is a single piece of American Walnut, and it is handsome. This is a unique and classic air rifle.
The best part about this gun is that it is self-contained and has great performance. I decided to go with the .177 397 as opposed to the .22 392 because it shoots flat and fast. As far as hunting, It hasn't let me down a bit and lately I've been pushing the range out to 50yds. although it's not a magnum powered rifle, it packs the most punch out of any pumper that I know of, shooting 780fps with RWS Superdomes.
But the most important thing is that it is consistent. The groupings aren't perfect, but are predictable and leave you a comfortable margin of accuracy. In addition, loading the rifle using the bolt action is simple and can be loaded from either side of the gun. I don't mind loading one shot at a time, but a magazine would be great. Still, you have to pump the gun 8 times for full power anyways, and the extra time spent loading a pellet is negligible.
But you might not see any of this until you look into at least one key after-market part, which is the Williams Peep-sight.
The stock sights on the gun were absolutely horrible, I couldn't even sight in the rifle because the rear sight was completely out of whack. And the sight picture through these standard open sights was very vague and imprecise. The rear sight had to go, and I replaced it with the Peep sight specially made for this gun which improved things drastically. With the peep sight I went from being able to hit the target paper, to being able to group around the bullseye. However, getting this peep-sight is an additional $30 but is very well made and worth it. But still, the front sight post is wide and blocky, it could use a replacement as well but is permanently attached to the barrel. If I went back to using iron sights, I would file down the front post to a sharp point.
But since I switched to a scope I've gained even more accuracy and am able to get every ounce of performance out of the gun. But putting on a scope isn't as easy as it sounds on this particular rifle.
Because the 397's and 392's have no built in rails, simply a round-topped receiver and barrel, I had to buy special mounts for the gun before I could think about adding scopes/optics. These mounts clamp around the barrel and are very secure once mounted. These cost about $25 to get. But putting these on aren't the end of the problems, once you actually put the scope on you have to place both scope rings on the front half of the scope, otherwise the scope is too far away to see through. This is true unless you have a scope with a giant eye relief. The scope rails even at the closest position are abnormally far away from your eye so I had to mount the scope oddly to be able to use it.
Once on, the scope is secure and I have not had any problems with it. But then using the scope magnified problems in my shooting. Not all of these problems were due to my skill either, because you'll notice that the trigger has a long, somewhat heavy pull. Through 9x magnification you can really see how the trigger pull affects the shots, and although I've learned to deal with the trigger, it could use some work. But, the trigger does provide decent feedback and lets me know where it catches and breaks.
Another problem is the fact that the butt of the stock is pretty smooth and provides no traction against my shoulder. I fixed this by buying a cheap, slip-on rubber recoil-pad. This pad fits perfectly around the stock, grips my shoulder, and only cost $10. You can see this in the previous picture as well.
On the topic of loading and preparing the gun to fire, there are two problems for me. The first is that the pump is stiff and requires quite a bit of strength to pump up to full power (8 pumps). Doing this for a couple hours of target shooting is tiring, but I've gotten stronger and the pump has also broken in and gotten a little easier. The stiffness of the pumping action motivated me for a while to only shoot targets using 4 pumps:lol:
The other problem is that the pumping action is LOUD. There is a small buffer between the wooden pump-arm and the metal tube of the rifle, but it does nothing to dampen the sound. I ended up gluing in some soft material to pad the arm so that it doesn't make a loud CLAP every time you pump it.
Lastly, this rifle works well with RWS superdomes and super hollow-points, but works great with crosman premiers and premier hollow-points. It gets along with JSB predators and crow magnums, but not quite with as good of accuracy.
The 397 is easily capable of hitting inside the 1" circle at range and making the kills without any doubt.