A few bricks short…

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

This report addresses:

• The .22 rimfire ammunition supply problem in the U.S.
• One possible solution for an ammo supply
• A great substitution for .22 rimfire

22 bricks
Bricks of .22 rimfire ammo usually have 500 rounds, except the value packs that contain a little extra loose ammo.

The rest of the world may not be aware, but there’s an extreme shortage of .22 rimfire ammo in the United States at the present time. In my 66 years, the last two are the only time I could not walk into a gun store or even a discount store and buy a brick of .22 ammunition.

What’s a brick?
A brick is a carton of 500 rounds. It holds 10 boxes of 50 rounds and is called a brick for the general size, shape and weight of the box. There are also loosely packaged value packs that contain a few more than 500 rounds.

In 2012, a brick of inexpensive .22 ammo cost around $9 to $10, depending on the sale. The nominal price was about $20, but everybody knew that was too much to pay, so we all waited for the sales. Only when our backs were up against it did we bite the bullet (pun intended) and pay full price.

Today, the street price of a brick is $50, but that’s only when you can find one for sale. Many of the stores are now rationing sales with limits on the number of smaller boxes you can buy at one time. Buying whole bricks is pretty much a thing of the past.

I’ve purchased single bricks from Midway for $29 in the past year, but they limit your purchase to just one; and when they add the mandatory $27 HAZMAT fee and shipping, the price increases greatly. If they would sell entire cases of .22 (5,000 rounds), the fees and shipping would disappear in the volume. But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Plenty of .22
There’s no shortage of .22 rimfire ammo in the U.S. The ammo plants are working 3 shifts each day to supply all they can. And the government is no longer buying everything they make. What we have is a run on ammo that cannot be satisfied in the near term. The so-called shortage is being caused by hoarding. This is the reason I reload. I can load .45 ACP rounds for much less than the current cost of .22 long rifle. But .22 is a lot of fun to shoot!

Strategies for getting bricks
You can watch the obituaries and attend the estate sales, but that’s where everybody goes. I would make friends with the supply sergeants! That’s what I did in the Army. Supply sergeants are in control of everything, so go right to the source!

In the civilian world, the supply sergeants are the clerks who work in the gun stores and sporting goods departments of the larger stores. Cozy up to them, and they may let you jump to the front of the line when ammo comes in. I’m not talking about stealing here — I’m talking about being first in line — even before the line forms! When you want something that’s hard to get, this is how it’s done.

But wait — there’s hope!
Actually, this report isn’t about .22 ammo at all. It’s about what can substitute for it. When I was at the Flag City Toys That Shoot airgun show last Saturday, a lot of people were talking about it.

If you just shoot to plink, an air rifle is just as good as a rimfire out at 75 yards. You can go out even farther, but I’m trying to stay conservative. Yes, a lot of air rifles are single-shots, but there are also a lot that are repeaters. And the cost, while higher than the cheap rimfire rifles, isn’t that bad. Especially, since the guns you get for that price will shoot rings around most rimfires out to 50 yards.

A couple years ago, I remember listening to some airgunners bemoan the fact that Crosman Premiers in the cardboard box cost more than $20. You get 625 pellets in that box if they’re .22s and 1,250 if they’re .177s. That was when budget bricks were still selling for $9-10. But those days are over and will never return. When this shortage is finally over, I predict the price of a budget brick will be somewhere around $29-$36, and the sales may lower that to $25 on occasion. That’s just a prediction, of course.

Can a pellet rifle equal a .22 long rifle?
The answer is both yes and no. The new Escape survival rifle from AirForce Airguns produces almost 98 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle when the heaviest .25-caliber Eun Jin pellet is used. That compares favorably to a standard speed or subsonic .22 long rifle cartridge. It’s not quite as powerful, but it’s very close. So, yes, a pellet rifle can equal a .22 rimfire.

But, when you drive that pellet that fast, you don’t get all the accuracy that rifle has to offer. You saw that when I tested the Escape. At max power, that large pellet gave me a 2.48-inch 5-shot group at 50 yards. But when I throttled the gun back and shot JSB Exact King pellets, 5 of them went into 0.715 inches at the same 50 yards.

The fill pressure for that smaller group was just under 2,000 psi, and the power was set at 6 — so the rifle was probably producing around 40 foot-pounds. Before you sneer with derision, because that’s less than half what the gun can do at its best, remember that 40 foot-pounds is still more than a lot of PCP rifles can get when they’re shooting full-out. And that’s my point. Understand what it is that you’re talking about. Yes, a pellet rifle can meet the power of a .22 long rifle, but no, it can’t do it with the same accuracy. Maybe someday in the future, but not today.

Do you really need all that power, or have you fallen into the trap of defining your minimum shooting experience based on what’s out there? Are you a guy who just has to hunt deer with a .30-06 because that’s what “everyone” does, or are you someone who thinks a .28-30-120 might just be the best deer cartridge ever for shots under 100 yards? Don’t ask me what a .28-30-120 is — look it up on the internet and gain some wisdom.

Do airguns replace rimfires?
No! And they never will. There will always be a place for a rimfire or two (or more) in my gun closet. But I’m not going to go out and shoot up all my ammo and then whine about it when I own a battery of fine pellet rifles.

I shoot from 100 to 1,000 shots each and every week of my life, with few exceptions. Most of those shots are with airguns. I do enjoy firearms and I frequently shoot them, and rimfires are among the most fun of all; but I don’t allow the current ammunition shortage to hinder my shooting one bit. I’m an airgunner!

Airsoft primer: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

• Learning to work on airsoft guns
• Components of airsoft guns
• Parts commonality — the airsoft way
• Various upgrades to components
• Need for a systematic approach to upgrades

This report is the beginning of the second installment of a promise I made to some of our readers. They wanted to know how to upgrade and work on airsoft guns, and I said I’d show them. The last report was written half a year ago, but I’ll get the next one out a bit faster. In fact, I’ve already written it!

How do you learn?
If you think there’s a lack of information about working on pellet guns and BB guns — you should experience airsoft! Not only is there very little information, much of it suffers from poor translation from various Asian languages to English. If you persevere, though, there are places to find this information — and, today, you can add this blog to the list.

I had to learn the hard way — on my own by doing it. I think that’s a rite of passage among airsofters. Most of this work is not that difficult once you know what you’re doing, but there are so few places that tell you how to begin. I was fortunate to have an airsoft store owner advise me when I first learned, so I’ll pass along a lot of what he taught me.

Airsoft parts groups
The first thing to learn is that there are several components in any airsoft gun that can be upgraded. They are:

• Barrel
• Gearbox
• Powerplant (usually sold as a kit but sometimes can be purchased separately)
• Batteries and motors — applies only to automatic electronic guns (AEGs)
• Accessory components (these are not what you’d think)

A universal truth
There are many airsoft guns and many airsoft manufacturers, but there is a very high degree of commonality throughout the industry. If we were talking about cars, it would be the equivalent of Ford making all the engines for all cars, regardless of what name was on the car. There would be no such thing as a Corvette engine. It would be a Ford engine with the Corvette name on the outside.

airsoft parts
A small assortment of airsoft parts. These parts are available from online sources to upgrade most guns.

While there are dozens of different models of sniper rifles, there might be only 2 or possibly 3 really different designs. In some cases, there’s just 1. I’m not just talking about sniper rifles now — I’m talking about all the different families of airsoft guns. You look at M4s, for instance, and you’ll find 15 different names on the outside. That doesn’t mean anything. There might just be 2 different M4s that everybody makes into their own proprietary rifle. So, in the world of airsoft, there’s no such thing as an Armalite M4. The Armalite M4 is the same as the Olympic Arms M4 and the Colt M4, etc. Get it?

aorsoft illustrated parts breakdown
Unlike most airgun manufacturers, airsoft manufacturers freely publish their illustrated parts breakdowns and schematics like this. They’re protected from American liability laws by their U.S. distributors.

The first thing you have to do, therefore, is discover which parts will fit on your specific model. Don’t expect to find a universal Rosetta Stone with all this information! It’s not the same as going to the auto parts store and looking in that thick book of parts applications. What you have to do is converse with the manufacturer/distributor or go on the airsoft forums and ask questions. Let me give you a specific example.

Barrels
Sniper rifle barrels are nothing but smooth tubes. If you paid $99 for your sniper “rifle,” the tube that came on it is probably quite a bit larger than most 6mm airsoft ammunition. Why? Because the sniper rifle manufacturer knows you are a cheap person — having spent only $99 to buy a sniper rifle, when you could easily have spent 3 times that amount. Because you are cheap, you will probably also buy and use cheap airsoft ammo, and that’s the stuff that is oversized and not uniform. It will work much better in an oversized barrel — where the term “work” means continue to come out the end of the muzzle when the trigger’s pulled.

airsoft barrel
This is a typical airsoft barrel.

But…if you actually want to hit a man-sized target at 50 meters with the first shot, a cheap sniper rifle is not the gun to use. For that, you need a rifle with a tighter barrel (which is still a smooth tube), and you need to find and continue to use only the one correct round in your gun. In other words, you need to become what many will call an airsoft “snob.”

As surprising as it may sound, you can buy a tighter barrel for your cheap sniper rifle — often from the company that made the rifle! You see, they didn’t actually make that barrel. They bought it from 1 or 2 barrel makers who supply barrels to all of the airsoft community (the Ford engine in the Corvette). And there are different grades of tightness among barrels! This is where the airsoft forums come in handy. Someone will tell you that to upgrade your $99 Whango Tacticool M40, you need a Sho-Lin barrel that’s only 0.20mm larger than 6mm. It will work on your rifle, but you have to shoot 0.24-gram Black Mambas through it because everything else will jam.

If you can follow this advice to the letter, you can make a nice sniper rifle. And, when you’re done with the barrel and all the rest of the modifications, the price of your upgraded rifle will have about tripled! Small world, no? But, if you’re the guy who constantly wants to substitute Owl Sweat for Kangaroo Juice, because there’s a sale on it at a store near you, don’t even think of modding an airsoft gun! All you’ll do is spend money on a pile of parts that will never work together.

Gearbox
The Asians call this the Mech Box or Meca Box. It took me several months to figure that out the first time, and it’s important to know if you want to find them on the internet.

The $125 M4 AEG often comes with plastic gears. If you plan on shooting it only on holidays and at family gatherings, buy one and be done with it. By the way, if there’s a brand name like Colt on the outside of the gun, plan on spending 3 times as much and still getting plastic gears (sometimes)!

If you want to go into battle and have the gun continue to function for several days and thousands of shots, think about metal gears. But it doesn’t end there. There are also special shim spacers to keep the gear wheels aligned under a load, and there are special reinforced metal gearboxes that don’t wear like the cheaper gearboxes do. At the top of the list are the gearboxes that are built with pins (gear axels) that have been align-bored by a custom builder. A gearbox upgrade kit in a blister pack can cost you $68, or you can spend $400 with a custom builder who makes the gearbox specifically for your gun.

So, you see the Super Zombie Black Ops (a name I just made up) M4 AEG selling online for $99msays it comes with steel gears on the outside of the box! Big deal! That’s the airsoft equivalent of a pellet rifle manufacturer saying their rifle shoots at 1,400 f.p.s. In other words, although it sounds like it implies quality, what they don’t tell you is that those gears are not aligned properly and are set inside a cast pot metal gearbox.

Like everything else, in airsoft there are things that do work well and then there are the retailers who trade on the general ignorance of the buying public. They use buzzwords like metal gears to suck in the beginners. To mean something, the metal gears need to be run on pins of the correct size, have thrust washers to hold them in alignment and be inside a gearbox that can take the strain — and the whole reason for all of this is so you can get some benefit from that high-torque motor and uprated battery you also installed. If you aren’t going to do this in a systematic way, you might as well eat the metal gears, for all the good they’ll do by themselves.

Summary
I’ll stop here because this report is getting long. In the next installment, we’ll look at the airsoft powerplant, upgrades to batteries and motors, and the best way to get started working on airsoft guns.

Getting things clean

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is a guest blog from reader duskwight. It’s about how and why to clean airguns. It’s longer than our usual blog posts and filled with lots of info you’ll need.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

by duskwight

What we put into our airguns — and what it puts into their barrels
Everybody knows we shoot lead. So-called “ballistic alloys” are a poor substitute for it, so let’s all pretend that we shoot lead.

Lead is a soft, malleable metal — so malleable that a pellet’s skirt blows out when hit by compressed air and presses into rifling. It’s also so soft that during the Middle Ages it was used for pencils, as it leaves dark lines on paper or parchment or human hair! Yes, people made lead combs to dye their beards and hair while combing them — they didn’t live that long back then, anyway. Remember that, though, and wash your hands thoroughly, especially when you’re covered with a lead and oil cocktail, because it’s readily absorbed.

So, lead leaves traces of itself on things. Sometimes, it leaves even more than traces — as in whole deposits of lead. Just imagine a lead pencil drawing a line all along the inside of your barrel, and you’ll get the picture. Freshly exposed lead is so shiny and bright — it’s also quite sticky and shaves off your pellets to form thin (foil-like) deposits inside your barrel. It looks like tiny shavings or scales, pressed and stuck onto the metal.

Of course, that’s not all. Some pellet makers use graphite dust to prevent pellets from sticking to each other inside their tins. Some use different types of grease (e.g., tiny amount of petroleum jelly dissolved in a good amount of solvent to form a thin coat after a short wash) to prevent them from oxidizing while being stored. Some use both. There’s all sorts of lead dust and tiny shavings of lead coming off pellets. The better the quality of your pellets, the less dirt they bring with them. But they’re all dirty. And compressed air, especially in a magnum springer, carries tiny amounts of grease, fat and oil to combust — creating different sorts of tar and carbon for the barrel.

And there’s other bad stuff inside, but only for CO2 guys. Carbon dioxide cools as it expands rapidly in the barrel, and it condenses out some tiny amount of water from the air. It can also contain some water of its own. Carbon dioxide plus water is unstable carbonic acid H2CO3 (fizz water anyone?). It is a rather weak acid; however, it’s still an acid.

What it means for your rifle or pistol
The rule is simple. You shoot, and you foul your barrel. It’s inevitable, just like every breath you take brings some very strong oxidants into your lungs.

Then comes the next rule — dirty barrels tend to make you miss. This is simple, too. Compare it to driving on a highway or autobahn (in case you use German-made barrels) — that’s a clean barrel — versus country roads beaten up by tractors and ill repairs — that’s a dirty barrel. Deposits in your barrel make your pellet’s ride unstable. What’s worse is when the deposits collect near or on the crown. They force the pellet to leave your barrel with an unequal force on all sides, making it prone to tumbling, less stable and imprecise. They can also deform or mar the surface of your pellet, affecting aerodynamics and hurting accuracy.

Match-grade barrels with polished grooves collect less lead. Poorly manufactured barrels with “cheese-grater” surfaces scrape off more. Polygonal or segmental rifling tends to catch and hold less lead than classic Ballard rifling because of fewer cutting edges, lower lands and less spaces for lead to stick. The smoother your airgun shoots — the less brute force is applied to the pellet, the less fouling is left. Springer super magnums seem to be the champions of brute force (which makes them lose accuracy soonest). Choked barrels tend to catch more lead in the choke; barrels that are straight cylinders tend to get dirty more uniformly.

The main thing to learn from all this is that there’s no certain equation between the number of shots and aforementioned effects. Every barrel and every rifle has its own character and own number of shots to get dirty. For example, my Feinwerkbau C62 Luft needs 2,500 shots to get dirty, while my modified Gamo CFX with Lothar Walther barrel gets 500-520 shots before it needs to be cleaned. My Feinwerkbau 300S likes to be cleaned every 1200 shots (although I suspect that’s me being paranoid, not exactly the rifle’s barrel). An IZH 60 I have seems to have no limit at all. That’s what you get with segmental rifling and low power. However, the same modified Gamo CFX with the same Lothar Walther barrel (except for the wood) I made for my friend wants to be cleaned after every 550-600 shots. And another buddy’s FWB C62 wants cleaning after 2,000 shots.

Keep in mind that I use just 4 different types of pellets for my fleet – all of them are .177. Multiply that by the number of rifles — each of them can (and probably will) like its own sort — H&N, JSB, CP, Eun Jin, etc. — and calibers — .177, .20, .22, .25, .30. Don’t go crazy doing this. Learn your guns, get intimate with them and know their habits and likes.

Getting dirty
Oh, you’ll know when the barrel finally gets dirty! Your perfectly tightened, perfectly tuned and sighted airgun starts to spit like a mad camel! Pellets start to fly chaotically, hitting where you don’t want them.

If you’re lucky (which means you have a “predictable” barrel), the accuracy fall-off will start sharply — just 5 or 10 shots, and it’s shooting horribly. If you’re not so lucky, it will drag along for 50 or more shots, with some being better and others worse. Up and down you’ll go — getting tighter then trashier groups. Anyway, it will happen. That tells you things got dirty, and it’s time to clean.

Some shooters clean after every session. Some clean according to a regular preventive schedule — when the shot count comes to the predetermined number of shots. And others just wait until the inaccuracy gets obvious. I’m somewhere between the second and third type. I don’t like to disturb barrels too often.

What we clean
Airgun barrels are made of steel or brass. Steel is tougher, yet it’s not the same kind that’s used for powder-burners. It’s softer and of a simpler composition, not chromed and so on. Brass is even softer and less durable, but it has a lower friction coefficient with lead and tends to collect less lead than a steel barrel.

A good clean airgun barrel looks like mirror — shiny and amplifying light. Dirty barrels look dusty, and their insides look smoky and blackened. Some even drop lead dust when shaken.

What to use for cleaning — and what not to
The rule in this case sounds like that – nothing can enter the barrel that’s harder or as hard as the barrel metal. The worst thing that can happen to your barrel is a damaged crown. That’s a death sentence for your barrel’s accuracy.

So, steel rods and steel brushes go directly to trash for both steel and brass barrels. [Note from B.B.: Some gunsmiths recommend a one-piece polished steel cleaning rod for cleaning steel barrels. They claim it doesn't harm the barrel because it's smooth.]

Steel rods coated with plastic are good. Brass rods are good for steel, but not for brass. Wooden rods — if you can find one in .177 caliber — are ok. Plastic rods are ok too. Different kinds of cloth “snakes” are also ok.

Brushes are usually made of one of three materials — brass, plastic or cotton (they call the cotton ones mops). Brass on brass doesn’t play; save it for your steel barrels. The rest are OK.

Patch-holding tip — get a brass one for steel barrels and aluminum alloy for brass barrels.

Felt patches — I use them for quick cleaning or refreshing the barrel on the range. I load 2 dry with 1 wet between them, and a pellet behind all of it to give a springer something to push against and save the optics — or nothing in case of a PCP. But that’s not proper cleaning, no matter what the ads say.

Thin cotton cloth — clean old t-shirt is quite ok; special wads are too posh for true tough guys (any dry cotton is OK).

As for oil — I prefer Ballistol. Nothing too special, and it does the job right. I also use WD-40 for CO2 guns — as a preventive to get rid of water.

A word of caution about oils. Make sure they don’t get into any place where there’s compression, especially when it comes to sprays. In the case of springers, they can cause intense dieseling — or even detonation — and broken seals and springs. In the case of single-strokes or multi-pumps, you can get yourself a very nice tiny working diesel engine — and some purple-black blood-blistered fingers for your troubles.

Do not use silicone oils. Just don’t — they’re simply not for cleaning metal. [Note from B.B.: Silicone oil is used to seal pistons. It doesn't lubricate, it seals.]

Ah, and one more thing. You need a tiny and very bright single, white LED flashlight to check the barrel’s condition. This is a useful amateur gunsmith tool.

Getting things done
Brass barrels are exotic these days. If you have one — use a plastic brush.

Steady your rifle, preferably in the horizontal mode. The less bend you’ll give to your rod, the better.

Close all the glass optics with covers. Should I remind you that your rifle must be uncocked, unloaded, de-pressurized and checked twice for maximum safety?

It’s best to clean the barrel from breech to muzzle. Well, I think that’s a bit of a superstition. With good equipment and steady hands you can clean it in the reverse direction — and you often have to. Especially, since some guns do not give you easy access to the rifle’s breech.

Let’s say we have a VERY dirty steel barrel on our hands. Don’t laugh — it happens! Put a brass brush on your rod. For brass barrels (they’re hard to get this dirty), use only plastic brushes. Spray it with Ballistol to wet the brush.

Drag your brass brush along the barrel 5-10 times. Not fast, not slow — just calm and steady. The brass brush will scratch all the big lead deposits off barrel walls and won’t hurt your steel barrel.

WATCH OUT FOR RUBBER RINGS AND OTHER DAMAGEABLE STUFF INSIDE THE BARREL AND PAST THE BREECH.

Now, wait for a couple minutes. Then, screw your patch-holding tip onto the rod. Get some cotton onto it or use a patch of cotton cloth. It must sit tight inside the barrel. Spray some Ballistol to make it wet. Run it 5-10 times through the barrel in both directions. Take it out and say, “Eek!” It should be black with some tiny, shiny flakes of lead.

Change the cloth or cotton and repeat 5-10 times. Aaah…now it comes out dark grey. Change patches again. This one comes out light grey. Change and clean until it comes out white. This alone works fine for regular cleaning if your barrel doesn’t tend to get extremely dirty.

Congratulations, you just got yourself a nice, clean barrel. However, you must finish the job.

Use a loosely woven dry cloth or cotton on your patch-holding tip or use a cotton brush to dry the barrel. Don’t be afraid. One run will not leave the barrel dry, it will leave just the right amount of oil that you need in metal pores and on its surface. You’ve heard the expression, “A light coat of oil?” That doesn’t refer to a wardrobe choice.

Then, if you like — shoot 3-5 pellets into a pellet trap to season the barrel. This will give you a thin film of lead that gives the barrel its standard accuracy and voila! Your barrel is ready to punch hundreds more precise and clean holes in paper.

For polished match barrels that are not very dirty, I use the method of some Olympic airgun shooters. It puts minimal (well, they are prone to overplaying safe) influence on the barrel and makes things extremely right and tender.

Get a fishing line – very good stuff to clean match barrels. I prefer 0.40mm Japanese line. Get 5-6 feet, fold in two, knot, pass through the barrel, loop outside the breech, knot outside the muzzle. Put a narrow strip of cloth into the loop (in my case — 6″ long, 1/5″ wide, 2 loops for .177), soak it with Ballistol, put the rest of the cloth over your fingers (as fishing line DOES cut!) and just pull steadily and slow. This will drag the cloth through the barrel and clean it. Repeat with wet cloths until it comes out white. Finish with one dry patch. Perfectly clean!

There’s another kind of problem with CO2 guns that I mentioned before — water and carbon acid. To maximize your CO2 gun’s service life (don’t consider it to be just a plinker — FWB and Walther made some Olympic CO2 match rifles, and the Hämmerli 850 AirMagnum is a serious piece even by today’s standards), depressurize it and apply some WD-40 into the barrel with a cotton brush or patch-holding tip and cotton cloth after every session. This will get the water out of the pores and preserve it from rust. The same goes for shooting PCPs and springers in misty or high-humidity outdoor conditions.

And a finishing touch — gently rub your rifles steel parts with a soft cloth, slightly wet with oil. Congratulations — you’re done!

All .22 rimfire ammo is not the same!

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Does the pellet matter? Part 1

Today’s report is a continuation of the test we started last week, when I asked if the pellet matters (as far as accuracy is concerned). That test wasn’t quite as dramatic as I would have liked, and several readers chalked it up to my Beeman R8 being an inherently good shooter. No doubt it is, but that still doesn’t explain the good results I got with pellets that I wouldn’t normally recommend for that rifle.

Today, I’m using a target rifle that’s hands-down the most accurate .22 rimfire I’ve ever owned, seen or shot. It’s a Remington model 37 Rangemaster from before World War II, and it’s fitted with the “miracle trigger” that Remington once sold. This trigger has no perceptible movement and releases with just an increase in finger pressure. It’s much like an electronic trigger, only this one is all mechanical.

The rifle has a Redfield 3200 target scope. It magnifies 24X and has parallax corrections down to extremely small increments out to 50 yards.

Remington 37
Remington’s model 37 is a world-class target rifle.

I’ve put 5 shots from into a quarter-inch at 50 yards with this rifle using peep sights.

But this time, I’ll shoot 10-shot groups because they’re the ones that show a rifle’s true potential. For this test, I used 13 different .22 rounds. Most of them weren’t target rounds, but that doesn’t matter. They’re all different, and that will address today’s title question.

Best round first
I had no idea how this test would turn out. I knew certain ammo shot well, but this was the first time I’d shot 10-shot groups with the rifle at 50 yards. The best round turned out to be CCI’s .22 Subsonic Hollowpoint. Ten of them went into a group that measures 0.504 inches at 50 yards. That’s as good as some top-quality air rifles at the same distance, and I was pleased with it.

CCI Subsonic group
Ten CCI Subsonic HPs went into 0.504 inches at 50 yards.

Worst round
The worst round was Remington’s Target ammo — a standard-speed round that Remington recommends for formal target shooting. How’s that for irony? Ten of them went into 1.766 inches at the same 50 yards from the same super-accurate rifle! If that doesn’t make believers out of you, nothing else I can say will. Look at this group. These bullets didn’t even attempt to go to the same place!

Remington Target group
Ten Remington Target rounds went into 1.766 inches at 50 yards.

Another poor round was Winchester’s Wildcat high-velocity ammo. Ten of them went into 1.395 inches at 50 yards.

Winchester Wildcat group
Ten Winchester Wildcats went into 1.395 inches at 50 yards.

Surprise!
I expected the high-velocity ammo to do worse in this test because that’s what everyone says. They say once you break the sound barrier, .22 rimfire ammo loses its potential. So, the large Wildcat group didn’t surprise me. But the Remington Viper group that measures just 0.924 inches does. Vipers are hyper-velocity rounds whose 36-grain lead bullets leave the muzzle of a 24-inch barrel at 1,410 f.p.s.

Remington Viper group
Ten Remington Vipers made this 0.924-inch group. This was not expected.

Remington Cyclone rounds are also hyper-velocity. They leave the muzzle at 1,410 f.p.s. — yet, 10 of them went into just 0.882 inches. According to popular belief, these should have been among the least accurate round in any .22 rimfire rifle.

Remington Cyclone group
Ten Remington Cyclones made this 0.882-inch group. Another unexpected result!

Close, but no cigar
Another subsonic round almost made the second-best group. Ten Remington Subsonic Hollowpoints went into 1.206 inches, but 9 of those bullets made a 0.548-inch group. The one round that’s not in the group is below it, and this tells me what probably happened. Rimfire ammunition has one big weakness. The priming material is sometimes not evenly deposited around the rim, and that causes misfires and poor ignition. This shot looks like it came from a round that wasn’t ignited well and probably went slower than the others. Of course, I can’t prove that without velocity data that I don’t have, but poor ignition is the bane of .22 rimfire target shooters.

Remington Subsonic group
Ten Remington Subsonic Hollowpoints went into 1.206 inches, with 9 of them going into just 0.548 inches.

The Subsonic was the most accurate round in my 10/22, which I tested for Shotgun News years ago, but the Remington Target round that was the worst in this rifle was also among the top 5 in that test. So, each rifle is different, and the ammo definitely does make a huge difference!

I shot a total of 13 different rounds in this test. I’ve shown you the best and worst in today’s report. Besides the 3 bad groups I have shown, there were 4 other rounds that made groups larger than one inch. One inch for 10 shots is small for most .22s, but not for a Remington model 37. Of 13 different rounds, 7 made groups larger than one inch, leaving 6 that made groups under an inch.

Conclusion
Obviously, the ammo does make a difference in .22 rimfires — just as pellets make a difference in pellet rifles. I’m still going to do the test of discount-store pellets versus the best premium pellets. From the comments I’ve received, I believe I’ll test them in 2 different rifles. It should be interesting.

2014 Toys That Shoot Airgun Show: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Best airgun show I have been to in a very long time! Not because I sold a lot — I didn’t. But I met a lot of nice blog readers, got to see some airguns that are extremely rare and got to acquire a couple nice vintage guns for future blogs.

Dennis Quackenbush told me this show would be a good one, and he was right. As soon as the doors opened to the public, the place was packed. From what I saw, people had money to spend and weren’t afraid to pull it out.

The Findlay show is very heavy into vintage BB guns; so if that’s what you like, it’s one of the 2 best shows for that. But they weren’t all Daisys. There were many other rare models, including a super-rare Quackenbush Lightning.

Quackenbushes
A table loaded with Quackenbush airguns! John Groenewold, who wrote the book “Quackenbush Guns,” had tables at the show.

Quackenbush Lightning
The Quackenbush model zero, also called the Lightning, uses rubber bands to power the sliding compression chamber that moves on the fixed barrel. It’s the rarest model, with fewer than 10 complete guns known.

I mentioned there were rare airguns at this show. That Quackenbush Lightning was one of them, but there was another that I was shown privately. It is a Giffard Deluxe Target model that, until I saw it, was unknown to me. The owner, who is an advanced collector and asked for privacy, graciously allowed me to photograph the rifle.

Giffard Deluxe Target
You’re looking at the action of an 8mm Giffard Deluxe Target rifle that may be the only one in the U.S. Giffards are not common, but this one is virtually unknown!

This rifle is almost entirely hand made. Gold inlays on the barrel tell you the care they put into it. A rifle like this cost three times what a regular Giffard cost at the time (1870s & ’80s)!

Giffard Target Model The bottom of the triggerguard of this special target rifle is actually a palm rest for offhand shooting!

They went on and on…
Being at this show was like taking a stroll through Dr. Arni Dunathan’s book, The American B.B. Gun. At every turn, you saw cast iron and folded-metal BB guns from the genesis of the sport/hobby! You had to be there to appreciate it completely, but trust me when I tell you this show was a treat for the American BB gun collector.

BB guns
Atlas, Matchless, Columbians — the guns in this photograph are worth a fine used car!

Not everything was old
Toward the end of the show, Dennis Quackenbush asked me to come to his table and photograph a rifle he had just delivered. When I got there, I saw a rifle unlike anything Dennis has ever made. It’s a muzzleloader that he usually will not produce for reasons of safety — a slight air leak at the breech could fire the bullet into the shooter as he is loading it in the barrel, or anytime afterward.

Quackenbush muzzleloader
This muzzleloader by Quackenbush is stunning! The owner put a vintage-looking Malcom scope on top to complete the image.

Old friends
I recently shared with you a story about my first AirForce rifle. It had no power adjustment wheel, so I put an o-ring under the top hat to “tune” it. Those were the days. Well, imagine my surprise to see the old girl on a friend’s table at this show! He had added a wood stock to her, and it was like seeing your old girlfriend necking in the back seat of a convertible with somebody else!

AirForce rifle
This was my first AirForce rifle. It has no power adjustment and the wood stock parts are new; but underneath, I still recognize her.

Then, my friend told me something wonderful. He said that I could have my old Air Arms Schamal back for what he paid! Some of you know this rifle is one of the most accurate air rifles I’ve ever shot, plus it has a gorgeous walnut stock with presentation grain.

My wife, Edith, has promised that she will buy back the Shamal for my birthday later this year. Naturally, I’ll give you a complete report!

Good friends
Besides the guns, the best thing about this show was the people I met. When he introduced himself as Twotalon, I walked around the table and hugged the man we all know so well through the pages of this blog. He was there with Mrs. Twotalon, who was gracious enough to smile and put up with the boring minutiae us two old codgers shared.

the Twotalons
Twotalon and his wife stopped by my table and introduced themselves.

That triggered a rush of blog readers, who came so fast and furious that I failed to keep track. But Derrick is one reader I met years ago at a Pyramyd Air function. He updated me on what he’s doing these days. Before he left the show, he laid two air pistols on my table and told me to give them to young shooters! Shades of my late friend, Mac, who often did the same thing.

Derrick — I gave those guns to the show organizer, Dan Lerma, who knows a lot of deserving young people, several of whom were helping run this very show! I know they will find a good home.

As the crowd was building at my table, Mitchell from Dayton came by and introduced himself. He wanted an autograph on his Blue Book of Airgun Values, which I was happy to do. But he told me he was at this show to find his longtime dream gun — an FWB 300! There were several on different tables, and I pointed him toward them; but when he returned in half an hour, it wasn’t an FWB he was carrying. He had an Anschütz 380 in his hands! Now, that’s a fine target rifle, as well; but then he flipped over the rifle and showed me the real reason he bought it. Someone had skillfully carved a ram’s head on the right side of the butt, and he was completely taken with the art!

carving
This ram’s head carving on the stock of the Anschütz 380 clinched the deal for Mitchell of Dayton. I can understand the attraction!

Before I go…
There will be at least one more section of this report, but I want some time to process all that happened at the show. However, if I can leave you with one key memory, it would have to be just prior to the opening of the doors when all the dealers stood as the Boy Scouts installed the National and Ohio State flags in the hall — and then several hundred Americans pledged allegiance to the flag. That was followed by a brief prayer of thanksgiving for this wonderful event that was about to unfold.

Sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

Airgun lubrication — spring guns: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Today, I’m starting a long series on lubricating airguns. Blog reader Joe asked for this; but as I was researching the subject, I stumbled across another request that came in through the customer reviews on the Pyramyd Air website:

“I wish that RWS or Pyramydair would explain the process and frequency of oiling these RWS rifles in particular the RWS mod 48. Everyone I talk with says the RWS owners manual is outdated and that with the new seals they use does not need to be lubed maybe for years….I purchase the RWS chamber and cylinder oil at a cost of almost $30.00 and now am told I probably will never need it? This topic should be cleared up once and for all by the manufacturer.”

Perhaps this customer is referring to RWS Chamber Lube and RWS Spring Cylinder Oil as the two products he purchased. And they do add up to $28 before shipping. Are they necessary? Should he have bought them? That’s the question I’ll start answering today.

This subject is so vast and complex that I cannot address it in a single report. In today’s report, I’m only going to look at lubricating the piston seal. That constitutes about half of the lubrication requirements for many airguns, in my opinion. In the next installment, I’ll address all other spring gun lubrication, including the mainspring and piston.

Leather piston seals
In a spring gun, the piston seal is what compresses the air when the gun fires. As the piston goes forward, the seal keeps the air in front of the piston, where it gets compressed because the only escape is blocked by the pellet sitting in the breech. If the gun’s working properly, all other avenues for the compressed air to escape have been blocked.

In the past, pistons were sealed with a leather pad or cup. Leather is an ideal material for this job. It’s rugged, lasts a long time and will conform to the shape of the compression chamber after a few shots — much like a leather shoe that eventually fits your foot perfectly.

leather piston seal
This cup-shaped leather piston seal is for a Chinese spring rifle.

To do its job, a leather seal has to stay soft and pliable, and oil is the best thing for this. As the spring gun operates, a little of the oil is consumed with each shot, so a leather seal needs to be oiled frequently to stay soft. How frequently? In some older guns, I’ve found that oiling every few weeks is necessary if they’re shot a lot. Certainly, all guns with leather seals need a couple drops of oil at least once each month if they’re to be shot. You can leave a gun with leather seals unoiled for years if you don’t shoot it; but before you start shooting it again, that seal needs to be oiled. When I start shooting an older gun that I know has leather seals (I use references for finding out things like this), I put about 10 drops of oil through the air transfer port and let it soak into the seal for at least an hour, although a half day is even better.

What oil to use?
The type of oil you use depends on the velocity of the gun. Guns that shoot less than 600 f.p.s. in both .177 and .22 caliber will be oiled with regular household oil. Any petroleum-based lubrication oil will do. Yes, gun oil will also work. For guns that shoot faster than 600 f.p.s., I use silicone chamber oil, like the product listed above. The spring cylinder oil is not for chambers and should not be used on the piston seals of these guns.

Synthetic seals
Starting in the 1950s, manufacturers began experimenting with piston seals made from synthetics. Some of them, like the ones used by Anschütz and Falke, worked well and lasted for many decades. But others, such as the seals used by Walther on all their airguns and the seals that Feinwerkbau used on the 121 and 124/127 sporting rifles, were made from a material that dry-rotted within about 20 years. If they were oiled by anything, they failed even faster. These seals started out as a light beige color, but as they absorbed oxygen and oil, it turned them dark yellow and brown until they began to break apart in waxy chunks.

Diana was one of the last companies to switch from leather to synthetic, and they had the benefit of watching the others. They were still using leather seals in their powerful model 45 rifle in the late 1970s, at a time when that airgun had broken the 800 f.p.s. “barrier.” When they started making synthetic piston seals, they used a blue-colored material that was tough and long-lasting. It’s interesting to note that the others adopted similar piston seal material when they finally realized their seals were perishing in use.

Diana piston seal
The blue Diana parachute seal is so rugged that hobbyists use it for many other airguns. It needs very little oil!

modern FWB piston seals
These 2 FWB 124 seals are made from modern synthetic material, yet they look like the original ones. The one on the right has been inside a rifle for a few thousand shots. It looks bad but is still in great shape and will last for many decades.

Don’t fixate on the color blue for piston seals! These synthetics can be colored any way and still be fine. I have modern FWB 124 seals that look similar to the old seals in color, yet they’ll last indefinitely. It’s the material, not the color.

Which oil to use?
With synthetic seals, I always use silicone chamber oil. That’s SILICONE CHAMBER OIL — not brake fluid, silicone spray lubricant or any other concoction. Chamber oil is for piston seals. It does not lubricate metal parts because the viscosity is too low. It’ll ruin metal parts if you use it that way. On the other hand, nobody knows what will happen to a gun that’s lubed with anything other than SILICONE CHAMBER OIL.

Diana recommends using two drops of chamber oil on the piston seal every 1,000 shots, and one drop on the breech seal at the same time. That’s it. To answer the person who asked if he needs the chamber oil, the answer is yes. But one small bottle will last a long time. I’ve observed that most Diana airguns can get by with even less oiling than what’s recommended. One diagnostic for when a gun need its seal oiled is when the seal honks like a goose as the gun is cocked.

Silicone chamber oil has a high flashpoint. Since the air in a spring-piston gun reaches about 2,000˚F with every shot, this is important. This heat is adiabatic — it doesn’t heat the gun because the interval is too brief.

Overlubing vs. underlubing
It’s almost impossible to overlube a leather piston seal. And it does not harm the seal if you do.

On the other hand, overlubing a synthetic seal can start the gun detonating. Not dieseling — most spring guns diesel. When you smell burning oil, your gun’s dieseling. Dieseling is just a few oil droplets vaporizing with each shot. It’s perfectly normal in a spring gun.

Detonation is when a lot of droplets vaporize and cause an explosion. That will damage your piston seal if it’s allowed to continue for a long time. It can also break your mainspring.

So, dieseling is okay, but detonations are bad. And overoiling synthetic seals causes detonations.

Do you see why I had to cover just the piston seals today?

.22-caliber Lightweight Disco Double: Part 7

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Disco Double new stock
The Lightweight Disco Double in its new stock looks striking!

This is a third look at the Disco Double shooting at 50 yards. All I’ve managed to do so far is demonstrate the Disco Double is very consistently mediocre with the best pellets — JSB Exact Jumbo RS domes. However, the last time I was out at the range with this rifle, I finally did what the builder, Lloyd Sikes, has been telling me to do all along. He said to tighten the 6 screws on the 2 barrel bands or hangers, and this time I followed his directions. Guess what? Four of the 6 screws were loose! Imagine that! I tightened them and knew the rifle would reward me for the effort.

It was no surprise when shot the best 10-shot group ever with the rifle. Ten RS pellets went into 1.195 inches at 50 yards. But I was 3 shots into a second group when the bolt handle broke off in my hand during cocking. That ended the day for this rifle.

Disco Double new stock 50 yard group 1
Ten shots went into 1.195 inches at 50 yards. This is the tightest group this rifle has fired to this point, and all I had to do was tighten a few screws.

Disco Double new stock bolt broken
The bolt handle broke off during cocking. This isn’t common, but it can happen.

As soon as I returned home, I emailed Lloyd, who put a new bolt and handle in the mail right away. I really wanted to finish the test before leaving for the Ohio airgun show (which is this Saturday), so I disassembled the rifle. I ran into a problem getting the old bolt out, but a call to Lloyd set me on the right path and soon the job was done.

The new parts arrived the following week, and I had them in the rifle inside an hour — though another call to Lloyd was necessary. He was most helpful, and I resolved my problem with a minimum of fuss. The rifle went back together, and I was ready to return to the range.

This time, I took the opportunity to mount a new UTG 6-24X56 scope scope in place of the UTG True Hunter 3-9X40 scope I took off. Naturally, the target image was much larger with this scope, which just made my job easier.

I tried several pellets that I’ve tried before, but once more this rifle demonstrated that it likes the JSB Exact Jumbo RS pellets the best. Since the rifle had been taken apart for the bolt repair (i.e., both barrel bands had been removed), I was back at the beginning on the first group. I had the front band about where it had been before (from the screw marks in the paint), and the first group of 10 went into 1.28 inches at 50 yards. That was marginally better than the 1.317-inch group I’d gotten during the previous full test, but not quite as good as the one group I shot just before the bolt broke (1.193 inches). All the screws were tight, so now it was time to move the front barrel band.

Disco Double new stock 50 yard group 2
After the barrel bands were reinstalled but before the front band was moved, I put 10 JSB RS pellets into this 1.28-inch group at 50 yards.

Harmonics
In case you don’t understand what moving the front barrel band has to do with accuracy, it comes down to harmonics. By changing the location of where the barrel is anchored, I changed how the barrel vibrates during the shot. I did a huge 11-part test of this effect a few years ago. You can read about it here.

I moved the front barrel band backwards about a half inch and tightened the 3 screws once more. Then, I fired another group of 10 shots. This time, 10 RS pellets went into 0.816 inches. That’s pretty telling, don’t you think? Of course, I have no way of knowing if I have the barrel band adjusted perfectly — all I know is that it’s better than it was before.

Disco Double new stock 50-yard group 3
After moving the front barrel band, I put 10 RS pellet into 0.816 inches at 50 yards.

A second 10-shot group went into 1.506 inches. Oops! Was that supposed to happen? Its difficult to say, but perhaps I wasn’t concentrating while shooting this group. I simply don’t know. Stuff happens to me, just like anyone else!

Disco Double new stock 50 yard group 4
The next 10 RS pellets made this 1.506-inch group.

So I shot a third 10-shot group. This one measures 0.961 inches between centers. That’s better.

Disco Double new stock 50 yard group 5
A final 10-shot group of RS pellets went into 0.961 inches.

The results
What I can tell you now is the that Disco Double is able to put 10 pellets into less than an inch at 50 yards under ideal conditions. I’ve shown you everything that’s happened, and I could go on and continue to test this rifle until I have it shooting its best. I probably will, in fact. But the lesson is what I’ve shown you today.

The Benjamin Discovery is an inexpensive PCP that can put 10 pellets into less than one inch at 50 yards under ideal conditions. The Disco Double I am testing for you here has a lot of extra work done to it and is not as inexpensive as the basic Discovery. However, this is the air rifle I wanted. It’s small, it’s accurate, it has a wonderful trigger and this one gets a load of shots on a fill of just 2,000 psi. That’s everything I wanted in a PCP.

Best of all, this rifle weighs no more and is no larger than a standard Discovery. Despite the additional air capacity, I had to sacrifice nothing. That was the real reason I had this air rifle built. Lloyd Sikes has a wonderful thing going here. If you’re interested in what he can do for you, find him at Airgun Lab.

Swiss Arms P92 replica pistol
Swiss Arms P92 CO2 BB pistol

More and more, we're hearing that airguns are ideal for firearm training when it comes to improving trigger control, acquiring a target and increasing accuracy. While all those are big pluses, let's remember the other reasons: (1) Save a fortune on ammo (if you can even get firearm ammo!). (2) Shoot at home. (3) No hearing protection needed. (4) Airguns are a fraction of the cost of firearms. So, click on the image & add this to your gun vault.

New .22-cal. Sheridan!
Sheridan 2260MB CO2 rifle

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